Average Rating Given : 4.33333
|North Spings High School Drama Department||1|
Reviews in Last 6 months :
|You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, by Clark Gessner, Andrew Lippa
Like a worn blanket|
Friday, March 14, 2008 ||
My Daughter and I were fortunate enough to have caught one of the opening weekend performances. First a few general comments and then I'll talk about the actors individually. This is a top-notch handful of performers. I felt that in general, the singing was first rate and the portrayals were delightful. I felt they fit together extraordinarily well as a cast.|
The production takes place in a black (purple?) box theater in the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts in Gwinnett county. I was unsure at first if this venue would be suitable for this production. I have to admit that I had no prior experience with this company and when I walked into the theater, the first impression wasn't the best. But they won me over as soon as the show started. This show is intimate enough that presenting it in that way worked just fine. The lighting was simple but good enough. At no point was I distracted by it. (I'm rarely conscious of lighting unless it is really bad.)
The one negative comment that I feel moved to make regarding the venue concerns the sound. The acoustics in there were less than stellar. There seemed to be some acoustically dead spots on the stage. I know that the performers were projecting plenty because I heard them well enough much of the time. But there were times when the actors' voices got lost in the ambient noise. This was a shame because there was so much good stuff to hear.
The musical accompaniment--piano and drums--was excellent.
Now let's get to the fun part: the actors themselves.
I am old enough to have seen the original off-Broadway production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," my 6th grade teacher took us on a field trip to NYC to see it. But I'm not going to try to draw any parallels between it and what I saw in the Button Theatre production because the memories are too dim. The one thing that I do remember well is that I came away from that show with an enormous, pre-pubescent crush on Lucy. This time around I would say that "crush" isn't the right word because I'm considerably older now and that would be really, really creepy. But Ms. Gebhardt did a remarkable job at capturing the essence of Lucy. Wonderful facial expressions and mannerisms. She clearly has a lovely singing voice. Lucy requires a brassy voice, and she managed to nail Lucy's character voice without losing that loveliness. "Little Known Facts" was a number that stands out in my head.
And while we're on the subject of facial expressions, the actor who portrayed Snoopy really caught my eye. His facials were terrific and I loved the character voice. Unfortunately for some of the other actors, I found that my eye was sometimes drawn to his antics when it was supposed to be elsewhere. (Not that he was upstaging them. His actions were subtle and in character. I just enjoyed his portrayal.) I confess that "Suppertime" is one of my favorites from the show and Mr. Arapoglou didn't disappoint. (Though there were a few acoustics problems during that number.) I also enjoyed the Red Baron scene immensely.
I can't put my finger on what it was about it, but the portrayal of Charlie Brown left me just the slightest bit cold. Mr. Bradshaw lists among his credits some NATS placements and I believe it. There is most assuredly many years of training in his voice. He had some lovely moments, but sometimes something was getting in the way of his obviously great singing voice. Perhaps something about the characterization. I don't know. I believe it was in "Happiness" where I heard him really shine vocally. Now, please don't get me wrong, there was much here to like, but there was something missing for me. I wish I could be more specific.
Ms Krabe is especially well known around these parts but this was my first opportunity to see her on stage. What a delight! Her voice, and characterization were first rate. Very cute portrayal. If I remember correctly, the show that I saw many years ago featured Peppermint Patty so Sally was all new to me. She did a fantastic job with it. And kudos to Ms Krabe for some fine and fitting choreography.
Mr Carter as Linus was fun; thumb sucking, blanket hugging, soft shoe and all. There were a few points where the singing was iffy, and by that I mean a loss of projection more than anything else. I attribute that to the same acoustic issues that I heard throughout the show. I'm no dancer--as anyone who has worked with me will attest--but I thought the soft shoe was pretty good. Fun stuff. By the way, what flavor is that thumb anyway?
And lastly Mr Phillips' Schroeder: his energy was high and I liked his character choices as well as his singing. "Beethoven Day" was a hoot.
In summary: Niggles aside, go see this show. There is just so much to love about it.
I hope the Button folks can find a sugar daddy because it's clear to me that there is talent aplenty here that is need of a more suitable home. They deserve larger audiences.
|Bat Boy: The Musical, by
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 ||
In keeping with the spirit of my first review, I'll again start with a disclaimer: I have no connection to or affiliation with anyone in this cast or crew. Nor have I ever set foot in this high school before this past Sunday. I found out about the show from my voice teacher who consulted with the students.|
I unfortunately did not get to see the full version of the show. By the time my daughter and I got a chance to see it they had been working to get the show under 45 minutes for one-act competition. More on that in a moment.
First I want to say that the thing that struck me the most about this show was the incredibly good wall of sound that came off the ensemble. I've seen a number of high school musical productions and while most of them have a core of good singers that cover the lead roles, often by the time the ensemble is cast, the singing suffers a little. Not so with this show. Good solid singing from all the performers. I was delighted at every turn by the singing and the dancing was generally solid too. There were performers in the ensemble who really caught my eye. I don't know them so I can't call them by name, but I think that NSHS should be proud of its ensemble.
Hats off to Greg Kamp as Bat Boy. I have no doubts that that was a tricky role to act and Greg did it with aplomb. I particularly enjoyed the acting in his early scenes. Very physical and it surely wasn't easy. His singing was very good and I liked his dance moves as well. Well rounded.
In general, I liked Robby Letzler as Dr. Parker. He had moments where his singing shined, though I'll say that he did have some issues the night we were there. It sounded to me like he was simply not hearing the accompaniment. I can't help but wonder if some of this was related to the pressure to get the show into the allotted time. They did manage to get it under 45 minutes but I'll bet some of the "burps"(not just specific to Robby) I saw were due to the efforts to get in under the wire. I wish that I had gotten to see the full show.
Karen Rooker as Shelley Parker and Heidi Kloster as Meredith Parker turned in strong performances. Both of them have lovely singing voices. They both brought lots of life to their roles.
The musicians were top notch. I don't know whether musicians consider this a compliment or not but I heard nothing that distracted from the production and quite a lot that added to it.
The sets consisted largely of 3 big projection TV's which were essentially used as electronic flats. I can't decide if I liked that or not. Because they were projection TV's, there were times when actors positioned themselves between the projector and the screen. This was actually quite effective. But my daughter jokingly said "They cheated." She is used to breaking her behind pushing platforms around to get in under the time limit.
If you haven't seen the show, the current run has ended I think but the director did announce that they would be running the full version of the show again some time in November. Perhaps they will update their TheaterReview entry with that information. Solid entertainment. Nice and dark in tone. If you like that sort of thing (and I sure do) it's worth a look when they reopen in November.
|Chicago, by Kander and Ebb
Razzled and Dazzled|
Sunday, October 7, 2007 ||
Yup. I've got the dreaded "new" icon. I know the TheaterReview community is a bit sensitive to "bungie" reviewers these days so I'm going to admit up front that I'm signing up to post this review. In my defense, I have been lurking here for some time and just haven't gotten 'round to signing up and this pushed me over the edge.|
And while I'm disclaiming, I'll go ahead and admit that I am somewhat of a Holly Theatre regular. I have worked with many of these performers before. But I have had nothing to do with this show aside from planting my behind in one of the seats on opening weekend. (OK, I did audition...but the less said about that, the better ;-) I hope I will show no bias because of my affiliation, but you have been warned.
One final comment before I begin. Even though I live in the area, I did *not* get to see the Rosewater Theatre Company's production of Chicago. So I have no point of comparison.
If you are not familiar with the Holly Theatre, let me say that it is a tiny venue. The stage is very small. This can be both a blessing and a curse. In the case of Chicago, if it was a curse to the Technical Director, it didn't appear that way to the audience. The set sparkled (literally) and was well suited to the action. There was no point at which I said to myself, "the set isn't working here."
For the fun of it, let's kick it off with the Ensemble instead of the leads. In this case this small group of performers covered the dancing and the bit parts. They did it with style. The ensemble for Chicago in my view needs to be talented and tight. And for the most part, this ensemble did deliver. Dancing was usually tight and I liked the choreography, though to disclaim even further, as a dancer I make one helluva singer. ;-) But I think I know good dancing when I see it. One or two of the Cellblock Tango ladies did strike me as looking a bit too young, but that takes nothing away from their talents.
There were a few performances that especially caught my eye. In no particular order:
o Dan Collins' Fred Casely.
o A surprise performance involving a stick and a plate--which may have been Dan Collins too, I didn't take notes.
o TheaterReview's own mooniemcmoonster made lots out of her time on stage. And she played the character with the Greatest. Name. Ever. Who among us wouldn't want to be known as Go-To-Hell-Kitty?
o Justin Green's weeping woman during the courtroom scene, while coming perilously close to upstaging, was terrifically funny.
A standout scene for the whole group was "Razzle Dazzle." Full of surprises and energy.
Leads....Let's start with Roxie. Stefanie has a good stage presence for one so young. She has a pretty singing voice, though I would've liked a bit more oomph out of it. Perhaps it was a trick of the sound system that night. I liked her characterization. A scene that stands out in my mind was her performance as the dummy in "We Both Reached for the Gun." Terrific facial expressions.
Velma. Wow. Look up "triple threat" in the dictionary, and there's Heatherly's picture. Her singing style was spot on. Serious stage presence. Great Velma attitude. And she put every ounce of herself into the dance that night (and every other night too, I'll bet) Standouts...well there were lots, but I particularly loved her scenes with Mama Morton. "Class" is a favorite of mine and they did it just right. Fantastic overall performance!
Which brings me to Mama. Valerie has a lovely singing voice. Which might be thought of as a handicap for Mama, but she brought the attitude too, and it worked. (I have to admit that I'm a sucker for a good singing voice.) In addition to "Class," "When You're Good to Mama" was a standout. I might have wished for a little less Queen Latifah and a little more of Val there, but that's just a nit.
As I said, I'm a sucker for singers, so let's talk about John Certusi as Billy Flynn. The man has got an incredible set of pipes on him. His bio indicates that he was a touring singer in the 70's and I believe it. His voice still has lots of clout. His acting was fine, though perhaps a bit flat at times. But his singing served him well. I enjoyed all of his songs but a standout was the last note of "We Both Reached for the Gun." It went on and on and on. All with terrific pitch and tone. (Yes, I'm jealous. ;-)
Jamie Fambrough did a good job as Amos. Amos might be the hardest character in this show to get a feel for. He has to be milquetoast, forceful and a galoot all at the same time. He managed that well. I wanted a little more "over the top" at times in "Mr Cellophane." It's a "pity me" sort of song, but there were times when I wanted more punch. But overall I liked his performance.
Last, but not at all least, of the leads was Mary Sunshine. A. Snider's performance did not surprise me in the least. I have seen "A" perform before in smaller roles and "A" has always made the most of those roles. I loved the characterization. The music written for Mary Sunshine is not easy and it was clear that they had to make some compromises to accommodate "A's" voice, which was a little disappointing. But in the end the character won the day.
The band was generally hot. I noted some issues with the trombone now and then, but most of the music was tight. Hats off to Leigh Ann and the gang. I was tickled by the fact that they had Butch, the drummer, in a cage. ;-)
Oh, and I'm here to tell you that Henry Higgins blows a mean horn. :-)
In conclusion, go see it. It's worth the drive to Dahlonega. Dahlonega's a quaint town and the view of the mountains can be breathtaking. Make a day of it and go.