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Glimpses of the Moon

a Musical
CATEGORY : COMEDY MUSICAL
by Tajlei Levis (book & lyrics) and John Mercurio (music)

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4167

SHOWING : November 03, 2011 - November 20, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This sparkling romantic music and dance extravaganza follows the jazzy whirl of New York high society in the “Roaring 20’s.” Popular but penniless Susy and her friend Nick devise a get-rich-quick scheme to marry and live off their wedding presents while they help one another look for suitable millionaires. The plan works perfectly… until they fall in love. Based on Edith Wharton’s 1922 novel, this delightful Jazz Age romp asks the age-old question: marry for love… or for the love of money?


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Alan Kilpatrick
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Choreographer Ricardo Aponte
Ellie Vanderlyn/Cabaret Singer Mary Nye Bennett
Nick Lansing Maxim Gukhman
Susy Branch Anna Kimmell
Winthrop "Streffy" Strefford Brandon Odell
Ursula Gillow/Coral Hicks/Maid Caitlin Smith
Nelson Vanderlyn Geoff Uterhardt
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REVIEWS

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Rhinestone Jewel Box
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 1, 2011
2.5
Edith Wharton was a writer of irony. She employed irony in her novels about the early 20th-century well-to-do to give her works an undercurrent of humor and to let her not-so-wealthy readers identify with her heroes and heroines.

Now, imagine a musical version of one of her books, drained of all irony, drained of all recognizable human behavior, and layered with a few not-very-memorable songs. That was my reaction to “Glimpses of the Moon,” the Tajlei Lewis / John Mercurio musical currently on stage at Roswell’s Georgia Ensemble Theatre.

Susy Branch is a not-very-wealthy woman with a lot of wealthy friends. She lives like a parasite, going from summer home to summer home, trying to live a life she can’t hope to afford. Nick Lansing is a writer, a scholar who has become the darling of the same rich folks who have taken a liking (for no discernible reason) to Susy. The two of them concoct a scheme to marry until they meet the “right” person, that is, someone rich enough to keep them in the lap of luxury.

To say I find this set-up repellant and appalling would be an understatement. I know Edith Wharton created these characters with a spark of charm, a modicum of self-deprecation that made their dubious plot almost a lark. But here, it’s played with nary a tongue-in-cheek, with so much earnestness I can only assume the playwright heartily approves of them and their plan.

This is underscored by the opening of the second act, in which a nautical disaster is played for laughs, and a character sings a joyful anthem to the deaths of his cousins. Yes, it was (sorta) tuneful and bouncy, but how can anyone sing it (or hear it) without feeling a little dirty, a little in need of some moral cleansing?

True, the production glitters like a jewel-box – the archly beautiful deco set is able to morph from scene to scene with little effort. In addition, the lights bubble and glow, the costumes sparkle, the smiles dazzle. It all goes down somewhat pleasantly, until one realizes that the diamonds are chipped rhinestones, that the characters are greedy (and amoral) gold-diggers, and that the romantic moonlight is an unfocused smudge on the rear cyclorama.

Edith Wharton was able to comment on the upper classes by getting inside their heads and showing us their virtues as well as their foibles. Here, we’re given only the dark side. We’re told they are charming, but any real charm is provided only by the admittedly jubilant and pleasant cast (Anna Kimmell, Mary Nye Bennett, Googie Uterhardt, Caitlin Smith, Brandon O’Dell, and Maxim Gukhman), whose work provides the pleasure that justifies my perhaps too-generous grade. They are not at all served by the dreary score by John Mercurio (whose “Academy” I found equally underwhelming) that evokes more post-Sondheim disharmony than jazz age sparkle. I suppose it’s a credit to the usually fine work of the cast and of Music Director Ann-Carol Pence that I assume the disharmonies are Mr. Mercurio’s contribution – especially an off-key soprano note in the final seconds of the play.

As to Alan Kirkpatrick’s direction, I fear there was little for him to do with this material. The pace is kept lively, but the interactions are curiously cold and passionless. There may have been some tricks to be done to replace the Wharton irony lost in translation, but I can’t (or at least won’t) hold Mr. Kirkpatrick responsible.

In the final analysis, though there are a few pleasures to be found in “Glimpses of the Moon,” they are totally overshadowed by the appealing cynicism of the script and the characters. This is a shallow play about shallow people, and I find little reason to take any interest at all in their story. There is no romance, no real feeling, no glimpses of anything accept cold and greedy people in nice clothes.

And that’s the biggest irony of all, considering my fondness for most of Edith Wharton’s creations.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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Glimpses of Bedazzlement
by playgoer
Sunday, November 20, 2011
4.5
I was prepared to dislike "Glimpses of the Moon." The AJC review had been lukewarm at best, and most of the unproven scripts I've seen recently have had significant problems. What a delight, then, to see a charming, beautifully realized new musical at Georgia Ensemble Theatre!

The art nouveau set by Seamus M. Bourne establishes the time in the early 1920's. Three doorways upstage separate the excellent band from the playing area, which has a short rake from the elevated band platform down to the stage proper. It's a fairly simple, stylish background for the action. Set pieces roll on and off to suggest locales, and a crystal chandelier rises and lowers too. It's not lavish, but the designs painted on the back panels and the floor suggest lavishness. For a musical set in the quarters and meeting places of the monied upper class, it's perfect.

Costumes, designed by Alan Yeong, and wigs, designed by George Devours, are period-appropriate, but not consistently awe-inspiring. The best is a dazzling black dress for Mary Nye Bennett in her role as a blonde-coiffed cabaret singer. (Her costumes as Ellie Vanderlyn are also pretty nifty.)

The performances are all splendid. Each and every actor is a first-rate singer and dancer. Anna Kimmell brings grace and sweetness to her role as the gold-digging Susy Branch. Maxim Gukhman embues scholarly Nick Lansing with a charm that arises largely from his splendid singing and dancing. Brandon O'Dell plays well-bred Streffy with lanky insoucience, while Googie Uterhardt punches into his role as Nelson Vanderlyn with boundless energy. Caitlin Smith undertakes a few roles, making them all delightful, and getting frequent belly laughs as Nick-obsessed Coral Hicks. Mary Nye Bennett scores in her roles too. The only thing I found at all lacking in the acting was a glint of mischief in Anna Kimmell's performance. Susy plans on making a good marriage by hobnobbing with the rich and successful, but her sincerity in describing her plans could use a bit more of the devil-may-care.

The score, with music by John Mercurio and lyrics by librettist Tajlei Levis, appears to be as difficult to sing as was Aurora's "Academy" (also by Mercurio), but here the singers are all equal to the task. There are a few bouncy numbers and a few affecting ballads. Reprises in the second act do a wonderful job of enhancing the story. The title number is the only one that did not receive applause at the performance I saw, probably because it was a little shorter than most and did not end a scene. "A Weekend With Friends," near the end of the first act, brought to mind memories of "A Weekend in the Country" from "A Little Night Music" and suffered in the comparison. Mary Nye Bennett's cabaret song "Begin" was very clearly a modern theatre song, and would have set the scene better as a pastiche song in 20's style. All in all, though, the score works well to set the scenes and move action along. Ann-Carol Pence's music direction and Ricardo Aponte's choreography enhance the songs, while Bobby Johnston's band-heavy sound balance sometimes detracts from their understandability.

Director Alan Kilpatrick stamps the production with the same audience-pleasing enthusiasm he conveys as an actor. The company is firing on all cylinders, and nothing can stop them from selling each song, scene, and dance. "Glimpses of the Moon" is a triumph for Georgia Ensemble Theatre. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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