The stars aligned in such a way this weekend that gave me almost exactly a 2 hour window of free time on Saturday afternoon and put me in the vicinity of University of Richmond. This gave me the opportunity to take in a series of one-act musicals that students were putting on as the “term papers” so to speak for their Broadway Musical Theatre Class. I went expecting rough. I went expecting off-key, stilted, awkward, and possibly embarrassing. Instead, I got 2 hours of far-from-polished but creative, surprising, and highly entertaining with a sprinkling of true inspiration.
All four one-acts were performed with only minimal sets and props; the focus seemed to be on the development of new material within the often limited stage musical format. The scripts were all derived from other sources in some way but each showed great originality. And though the performances were at times rough, there was also at least one break-out moment of hilarity or catharsis in each show. The cleverest script told the story AFTER “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” happily ever after. Among the revelations: Prince Charming is gay – explained in a riotous song that includes the only “rusty trombone” reference I’ve ever heard on stage anywhere – Snow White really lets herself go, and a few of the dwarves meet untimely demises.
The other shows were a stage version of the board game “Clue,” an adaptation of a Shel Silverstein poem called “The Perfect High,” and a musical staging of “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” I almost slapped my forehead at this last one – why hasn’t anyone done this? If they can make “Legally Blonde” into a musical, why not “MBFW”? This show also featured what I would consider the break-out performance of the whole afternoon – Jason Tseng’s side-splitting take on “the gay best friend” to marriage wrecker Julianne.
Of course, most people who read this won’t have seen the performances so it’s not really worth giving a full-blown critique of it all. But based on their work on Saturday, I’d be hoping to see more of some of the performers either on local stages or – who knows – even bigger venues outa town. Matt Plotzker made a handsome Grumpy in the “Dwarves Escape” and he also had a great voice and cowrote the script; Sarah Jackson uncorked a clear and controlled soprano anchoring a funny song where all of the female characters protest their innocence in “Clue,” Kathleen Wein was like a cross between Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon – blonde but smart with an all-American girl appeal AND an awesome voice.
Most of all, the whole thing was a testament to how much talent there is out there, how many great ideas there are to be exploited, and how many great gifts can be found in unexpected theatrical spaces all over this town.