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Atlanta Lyric Theatre1
Average Rating Given : 5.00000
Reviews in Last 6 months :

The Lyric Continues To Get It Right
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Disclaimer: I have done volunteer work with this company, but I have had zero involvement with this show.

For some years, Atlanta Lyric Theatre's reputation has been that of a company with a whole lotta "Lyric," but not much "Theatre." In other words, you could count on hearing great music in Lyrc productions, but the acting, lighting, sound, costumes, and other theatrical elements just weren't anywhere close to being at the same level.

"Forever Plaid" isn't the most complicated show in the world. High schoolers can do it well. It is mostly a musical revue. So even though I had been blown away by EVERY element of the Lyric's "Little Shop of Horrors" this fall, I feared that this might be a return to the old "we're a bunch of great singers" ways of the Lyric.

I needn't have worried. Oh, the "Lyric" was there, alright. I am a singer myself, and I will admit to being downright persnickety about other singers (this being why I have usually enjoyed Lyric productions, even when unimpressed with the "theatre" - their singers are always great). From that perspective, believe me when I say HOLY COW!! THESE GUYS ROCKED!! Four beautiful voices, and absolute precision in the difficult harmonies. Music Director BJ Brown is to be congratulated, with extra kudos thrown in for his hilarious "union break" and "siesta" acting moments.

But the "Theatre" in this production was equally as impressive. The Lyric's Byers Studio Theatre is an intimate and somewhat quirky venue, but the set was beautifully designed to use every inch, with hilarious props popping out of unexpected places and lighting elements (the starry backdrop, the roll-out fiesta lights) included in very clever ways to enhance the story and the action. Even the lobby became part of the set! Although I know that some amplification was used, it was used to perfection to enhance and clarify, never becoming so evident that it intruded upon the audience's consciousness. I found myself forgetting the theatre that I was in and instead being drawn into the reality being created on the stage. This was only enhanced by the sincerity emanating from the actors in their interactions with each other and the audience. With such strong performances, it's difficult to single any one of them out, but certainly a special "bravo" should go to Craig A. Meyer, who not only shone in his role as Francis, but also directed and choreographed this outstanding production.

With new Artistic Director and General Manager Brandt Blocker at the helm, it seems that Atlanta Lyric is rapidly setting the gold standard for musical theatre in this city (the place it always strove to occupy, without success). What remains to be seen is whether Blocker will be able to continue this success when mounting larger-scale productions (Peter Pan, complete with flying, in February, and dance-intensive Anything Goes in May, both at the much larger Ferst Center). Those in the theatre community who have dismissed this company should watch carefully - because if these shows continue the trend shown by the Lyric so far this season, then there will definitely be a new major player in town.

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