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Miss Nelson Is Missing!

a Children’s Show
by Joan Cushing

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 5172

SHOWING : October 28, 2017 - March 17, 2018



Miss Nelson’s class is the worst-behaved in the whole school. But the students of Room 207 are in for a surprise when Miss Nelson turns up missing and is replaced by Viola Swamp, a scary substitute teacher. In desperation, the students set out to find their beloved Miss Nelson...but will they ever get her back?

Director Erin Leigh Bushko
Allison Shelli Delgado
Gregory Robert Lee Hindsman
Pop Hanson/Mr. Blandsford/Detective J D Myers
Miss Nelson/Miss Viola Swamp Angelica Spence
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Confusing Miss Nelson
by playgoer
Monday, November 6, 2017
The children’s musical "Miss Nelson Is Missing!" tells the story of a sweet teacher who is cursed with a class of misbehaving children (a.k.a. brats). When substitute teacher Viola Swamp shows up in place of Miss Nelson, the children are forced into obedience that continues once Miss Nelson returns. The musical score starts and ends with a paean to the children’s school (Horace B. Smedley Elementary School), with a number of sprightly numbers in between.

The twist in the show is that Viola Swamp is really Miss Nelson (Angelica K. Spence) in disguise. That’s not entirely clear in the script, as evidenced by a talk-back session after the show in which multiple children in the audience seemed confused by this plot point. Part of the problem is that one actor (JD Myers) plays multiple distinct roles, so the theatrical assumption would be that even if one actress is playing two roles, they are meant to be distinct individuals. With distinct wigs and with Mariana Wegener’s astounding costume for Viola Swamp, there is so little similarity between Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp that sung words about a "secret" as Miss Nelson shows Viola Swamp’s blouse on a hanger comes across as much too subtle.

Joan Cushing’s script shows us four bratty children (the perky, talented ensemble of Erik Poger Abrahamsen, Shelli Delgado, Robert Lee Hindsman, and Asia Howard) and threatening or ineffective authority figures. It’s not exactly filled with upstanding role models. As such, it’s got a fairly muddled message.

Erin Bushko has directed a lively production on a fairly simple set. Jon Nooner’s set design consists of fabric screens upstage, two multi-sided columns, a rolling desk chair, and gray oblong boxes that serve as desks and seating. The boxes are repositioned and the columns rotated for various scenes, as cast members clear or set Julian Verner’s varied collection of props. The action flows smoothly.

Performances are good across the board, although the antic misbehavior of the four children can become a bit grating, and Shelli Delgado’s harmonies sometimes sound a trifle off. JD Myers gets to show the most range as a series of male adult figures, which he does with energetic brio and a terrific voice. Ms. Spence creates two entirely different characters as sweet Miss Nelson and buffoonishly evil Viola Swamp, perhaps too successfully, given the confusion of some children that they are meant to be the same person in two disguises.

Arielle Geller’s choreography nicely shows off the performers’ abilities, and Spencer Stephens’ music direction gets good sound out of the actors, although song accompaniments have a bit too much of a synth sound. There’s enough noise and activity onstage to keep children’s attention, but the optimal viewer is probably someone already familiar with Harry Allard’s book, upon which the musical is based. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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