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Heidi the Musical

a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL PUPPET
by Martha King de Silva (book) and Joan Cushing (songs)

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Peachtree Playhouse
ID# 5200

SHOWING : December 08, 2017 - December 31, 2017

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Heidi brings joy to everyone she meets, from her small Alpine village, to the bustling city of Frankfurt, Germany, and back home to her beloved Alps. A heartwarming musical retelling of the treasured classic by Johanna Spyri, with book by Martha King De Silva and music & lyrics by Joan Cushing (PETITE ROUGE).


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Julie Skrzypek
Ensemble Jake Krakovsky
Mayor Strasser/Father Robby Owenby
Clara Emily Stembridge
Aunt Dete/Frau Rottenmeier Julie Trammel
Grandfather Alex Van
Peter Patrick Wade
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REVIEWS

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InSpyriAtional
by playgoer
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
3.5
"Heidi the Musical" translates Johanna Spyri’s beloved story to the musical stage, simplifying it in the process and removing the overt Christian moralizing in the original. The emphasis is on Heidi’s sunny personality and how she brings joy to all she encounters (with the exception of Julie Trammel’s delightfully sour Frau Rottenmeier).

Elizabeth Jarrett’s set design features two mountains that double as houses, with one rotating to show the interior of Heidi’s grandfather’s cottage and the other opening up to show Clara’s house. The backdrop is fairly crudely drawn with color blocks of other mountains, and the edges of the proscenium are painted with Swiss floral folk art patterns. There’s a city-like segment on a flat up stage right that may be meant to complement Clara’s house, but which is pretty much wasted. The set definitely gives the flavor of Switzerland, as do Derrick Vanmeter’s colorful costumes.

Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design nicely transitions between day and night, lowering a round lantern to represent the moon. Other visual technical elements are also attractive, especially Cody Russell’s props and Derrick Vanmeter goat puppets. Ricardo Aponte’s choreography isn’t extensive, but adds sprightly energy to group numbers.

Sound, however, is another story. Either sound designer Rob Brooksher or sound engineer Preston Goodson has decided to pump up the volume on musical numbers to ground-thumping levels. Christopher Cannon’s orchestrations come through loud and clear, but the voices blended in with this overpowering music get distorted, especially for the singers like Julie Trammel and Jessenia Ingram (Heidi) who project strongly. The sound is, quite frankly, dreadful and a blot on this otherwise pleasant production.

Joan Cushing’s score is bright, tuneful, and nicely sung. I found it much more appealing than her songs for "Miss Nelson Is Missing!" The book, by Martha King de Silva, plucks memorable moments from the novel, with sometimes abrupt emotional transitions from one to the next. The outlines of the story come across, but not the subtleties. Puppet characters Dusty and Daisy give the goats a bit of extra personality and provide some of the most charming movement in the show.

Director Julie Skrzypek has blended her cast into a smooth-working ensemble. Jessenia Ingram gives us a cheery, apple-cheeked Heidi, while Emily Parrish Stembridge imbues Clara with a sweet sadness that Heidi’s presence turns to unbridled joy. Patrick Wade charms as sturdy Peter, while Robert Owenby impresses as Mayor Strasser and Clara’s father, his wonderful singing voice among the best of the cast. Julie Trammel is a delight in whatever character she is portraying, and Taryn Janelle and Jake Krakovsky fill their ensemble roles with strong stage presence and terrific vocals. Alex Van has to contend with a storyline that makes his character of Heidi’s grandfather alternately mean and sweet, rather than transitioning between them with any subtlety, but comes across relatively well.

One rather unsuccessful directorial choice is to have the actors try Swiss/German accents, using the assistance of dialect coach, Jan Wilkstrom. Only Mr. Owenby has a consistent, believable accent, and even he fails to take the umlaut in "fräulein" into account. Everyone else puts a little stilted spin on an occasional phrase or two with a vaguely German accent. Given the obviously Swiss scenery and costumes, the use of any accents at all seems unnecessary.

Ms. Skrzypek has created a swiftly-moving show that barely pauses for applause after the frequent musical numbers. The energy and commitment of the cast join with the charm of the staging to provide a delightful hour and a half of entertainment. This production of "Heidi the Musical" speeds through Johanna Spyri’s story and leaves a happy feeling in the heart, with cheerful memories of the songs and dances and performances. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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