SHOWING : April 08, 2004 - April 26, 2004
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Ice cream sodas and Teddy Roosevelt, immigrants on Ellis Island and the Fourth of July, music halls, vaudeville and ragtime – all typify this musical tribute to America. Audiences will be treated to a refreshing brew of America’s most popular music from 1890 to 1917, including “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” “Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “You’re a Grand Ole Flag,” and many more. This musical promises to be a thrilling finale to our 11th season.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
a terrific ensemble makes a mediocre show worth the trip|
|by Okely Dokely
Friday, April 23, 2004 ||
Aside from The Fantasticks and Forever Plaid, I have been consistently baffled by the kinds of musicals Georgia Ensemble chooses to put on. The ones they do are not only off the beaten path, but border on downright obscure, i.e. Diamond Studs, The Taffetas, Always Patsy Cline, and now Tintypes, which even my voice teacher had never heard of. In the style of Red, Hot and Cole, The 1940’s Radio Hour, or for that matter, Forever Plaid, Tintypes is one of those musical revues where the plot – if there is one at all – serves as nothing more than a clothesline from which to hang all the songs. Those who know me or have read my past reviews will know that this is a hit-or-miss genre for me. This time around, it mostly hits.|
The 5 cast members worked their asses off. They were absolutely great together, and deserved better applause than the kind they got the night I was there. The set was top notch, and finally there is a show out there with body mics that WORK, even if the sound may have gotten a little fuzzy when the performers were belting out long notes. The lighting was incredible, except for there being too many light cues during the “Wait for the Wagon” number, where I felt like I was seeing a light show at Stone Mountain. All in all though, I was so captivated by the whole look of the show that I never wanted to take my eyes off of it, not even to take notes for this review.
As the musical director, Patrick Hutchison continues to demonstrate that he is one of the best MDs in town and probably beyond. The harmonies were wonderful. The show starts off sluggishly, but finally picks up steam when Winnie Dunham leads the company in the number “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” Ms. Dunham was a pleasure to watch and hear, but aside from her other highlight, which was “Nobody”, I felt like she was mostly on the sideline. She got to be featured on “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, but the superfluous monologues from the ensemble (the same downfall that plagues Smoke on the Mountain and The Sanders Family Christmas) drug the number down into Snoozville.
Judy Fitzgerald, I felt, was also brushed aside, but she was very pleasant and got a nice show-stopping number with Tony Hayes in “What it Takes to Make Me Love You – You’ve Got It.” Lisa Parks has the looks and the voice that would melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. She is an absolute knockout and showed amazing versatility that I didn’t know she had, and I have no doubt that she’d be an asset to any cast. She not only distinguishes the otherwise tedious Anna Held sequence, she lights it up with her dead-on French accent and her natural stage presence. Eric Catania’s voice is smooth as silk, and he’s got some nice chops as a dancer (although I couldn’t figure out why he had his tongue sticking out all through the Ragtime Dance) and a mime, with two stellar bits: one involving a balloon, the other involving an apple. He lets the focus remain on the balloon and the apple, while making us want to watch him at the same time. He made “Then I’d Be Satisfied” look so effortless, and got to shine in a hilarious extended vaudeville stand-up monologue, which makes him the best potential Harold Hill I’ve seen in a long time. Catania owns the vaudeville sequence; it wears out its welcome and becomes excruciatingly overlong from about the 4th or 5th joke told by the Tony Hayes character.
Georgia Ensemble Theatre definitely has it goin’ on, but leaves something to be desired with the confusing selection of their musicals. I owe my love affair with my favorite musical (The Fantasticks) to them. Their production exposed me to the show for the first time, and now they usually stick to unknowns, but maybe that’s the point. They’ve got the talent and the fine production values, and I’m not saying they have to turn completely traditional and do a Sound of Music or an Annie or an Oliver. But how about something fairly traditional, but obscure enough that most will be unacquainted with the material, like a Closer Than Ever, a Falsettos, or maybe even a Baby.
I can dream, can’t I?
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Show choices by cathead67|
| I know what you mean about their choice of shows and am equally baffled. I just looked at their 2004-2005 season, and just couldn't get excited about it.|
| || Broaden your horizons by Sports|
| In regards to your review of Tintypes at the Georgia Ensemble Theatre and your comments of their musicals "bordering on the obscure", I disagree. As a professional performer, I am aware that these musicals: The Taffetas, Always Patsy Cline and Tintypes all enjoyed successful runs off-broadway and, believe it or not, Tintypes moved to Broadway and was nominated for several TONY awards. I would be a bit concerned if I were taking voice lessons from a teacher, who I assume is instructing you in Musical Theatre, who had never heard of a TONY nominated Broadway show. I realize that Georgia Ensemble, like all other theatres in the country at this difficult time, must choose productions that will enhance their ticket sales and appeal to their audience base, which I believe The Taffetas, Tintypes and Always Patsy Cline have successfully done. And one final note, if you thought that Judy Fitzgerald and Winnie Dunham were "brushed aside", I simply don't understand that. You must be a personal friend of Lisa Parks and Eric Catania. I felt all five performers: Eric Catania, Winnie Dunham, Judy Fitzgerald, Tony Hayes and Lisa Parks were all equally highlighted in this ensemble piece.|
| || points taken by Okely Dokely|
Thank you for your comment. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on several things, but I definitely respect your opinion. While I do know both Lisa and Eric, I tried not to just mention them, and attempted to make the point that I enjoyed Winnie and Judy so much that I wish I had seen more of them. To me, it seemed like they were more on the sidelines than Tony, Lisa, and Eric, which I thought was a shame. While I happened to write absolutely glowing things about the two cast members I know, I have done that in the past with people I didn't know at all, including a director who I auditioned for once but didn't cast me.
The "show choices" criticism was not meant as a dig on GET. I love this theatre, and even if they put on a musical I've never heard of and don't like (like Tintypes), it's always been an awesome production (like Tintypes). Maybe they're trying not to please the lowest common denominator of theatregoers - which is a commendable thing - by doing something everybody's heard of, but I unfortunately haven't been able to get excited about most of their selections for musicals, if I've even heard of them at all. The straight plays they choose are great, though.
I think I touched on everyting. Once again, thank you for your well-written comment.
| || curious by andy|
| I was just curious as to who chooses GET's season? I have heard it was the board and not the artistic director. Just curious.|
| || last chime in by cathead67|
| I also didn't mean my comment as a dig and have heard of Tintypes and other musicals you have done before the fact. I just, as Okely noted, couldn't get exicted about them.|
| || A little Clarification - by PattyMosley|
| After reading your review, I have the impression that you didn’t totally “get” the show. Yes, “Tintypes” is a strange hybrid – part light-hearted review, part deep historical analysis. Each of the characters is a real historical figure who featured prominently in the time: Emma Goldman, Charlie Chaplin, Teddy Roosevelt, Anna Held. Using actual people from the time period gives much more meaning to the show, as they present issues of the day: labor unrest and exploitation of immigrant workers (Goldman), the “everyman” (Chaplin), Power (Roosevelt) and celebrity (Held). The final character is a representation of African Americans during the time period – that she does not also have a specific identity is further demonstration of the racial situation of the time.|
Many of the songs are structured to further our understanding of the time period via the music as well as the choice of which character is used to sing it. For example: a love song between Roosevelt and Goldman? They hated each other – total opposites – but putting them together gives an irony to the song that wouldn’t be there if two unnamed characters sang the same duet. The same is true with the small monologues within the songs themselves – they are there to add touches of meaning, relevance or anger when the songs are put into context by the happenings of the day.
Although on the surface, “Tintypes” may seem to be a sweet little review of turn of the Century songs, it is actually a much deeper work than that. Granted, it’s certainly not my favorite book of a musical, but I think the director and cast did an excellent job of finding those moments to elevate this production into a real picture of the times. It is truly an ensemble piece – each character has his or her moment to shine. The night I attended the show, there was a good crowd and they were quite responsive – most notably a high school band from Ohio who happened to be in Roswell and came to the show. Any show that can hold the attention of 50 16 and 17 year-olds for 2 hours is obviously doing something right!
Yes, GET does shows that are not seen in other venues, often Atlanta or Southeast premieres. Perhaps that is not the norm for a theater “in the ‘burbs”, but they should be commended for that. Given that they are also trying to fill a space that seats around 600 when full, it’s quite a risk. However, I know all of their recent musicals have been extremely successful, with most having either extended runs or encore performances. Granted, I'm biased, having been a cast member of one of those "obscure" choices that wound up as the most successful show GET has ever done!
| || Thanks PattyMosley! by Girl|
| Thank you for your insight, Patty! Regrettably, I didn’t get to see the show (though after reading the reviews I really wanted to), but I found your commentary very interesting nonetheless. In fact, being a history buff of sorts, I am especially disappointed that I didn’t see it now. :(|
| || Interesting by Okely Dokely|
| I would also like to thank Patty for that insight. That was very interesting. Two more things I'd like to chime in with regarding this show:|
1. I was writing wonderful things about Eric BEFORE I met him and did a show with him. I most likely would have for Lisa, too, but I didn't see her in any shows before the one we did together.
2. If anyone got the impression that I didn't like Tony Hayes, I didn't mean for it to sound that way. The vaudeville sequence, in my opinion, went downhill about midway through Mr. Hayes's entrance, but it wasn't his fault. It was the material. He made the most of what he had to work with. I enjoyed him just as much as everyone else. Contrary to what it may look like in my review, I didn't have any one favorite. There was no star. They were all very much one unit working together, and everyone was equally wonderful.
Just wanted to clear a couple more things up.
| || Interesting.... by JasonMeinhardt|
| I love the POSITIVE banter that happens on this site. That is what the site is for. I had the wonderful opportunity to audition for this show and was honored and lucky enough to get a callback. Although not cast, I did a lot of research on this show and I must admit, even though I am a huge B-way buff, I did not know of this show. However, after research and listening to numbers off the cast album (which you can get off ebay), I was very impressed. I have not seen the show and I regret that, but I have to say, I had a very strong impression from the auditions that Mr. Farrell was going to put together a spectacular cast and what I have heard, he did. I have seen most of these actors before and admire all their work and I am sure this show is no exception. I have to agree with the obscurity of shows that GET produces, however, I think it shows courage and a refusal to go with the "safe" and the "norm" when it comes to picking a season. Many theaters in town, including reputable equity houses choose the "safe route". But then again, with the number of theaters that don't make it, who can blame them? I will always admire what Mr. Farley does at GET and even if I am not completely thrilled with the shows I see there, I still walk out satisfied that SOMEONE in this town is taking leaps more often than others. |
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