Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yay Plus

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.


Thespis' Little Helper said...

I'm sorry I missed that. Sounds really fantastic! Seems like both UR and VCU are staging a lot of really interesting work. I've seen several student directed/produced pieces at VCU over the last month or so and it's been really fascinating.

Reminds me of (maybe in the spring of 2004) when I saw a musical called Murphy's Law at UR, penned by Andy Nagraj and Jonathan Spivey. It was great! Hysterical! That was the first time I saw Aly Wepplo on stage as Diane, a housewife, I think, who wanted to be a Broadway belter. Also featured Brett Ambler, Chris Lynn, Philena Gilmer, and at least one other person...anyone?

Really glad they're getting an opportunity to do some abitious work! long last...Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner in concert:

Ariel O. and I went together, got a bit lost up there, but only missed the first two numbers. We could hear Ms. Skinner doing some crazily hysterical soprano-ish thing through the door.

I went an Emily Skinner fan and left loving them both. The first song we saw was Ms. Ripley doing "Losing My Mind" from Follies. It takes it's place with Dorothy Loudon's marriage of "Losing My Mind" and "You Could Drive a Person Crazy", but in a very different way. It was ASTOUNDING! (One number she did, I realized that my mouth was agape the entire good.)

My Emily favorites were "My Brother Lived in San Fransisco" from Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens (which via a recording years ago solidified my love of her not only as a vocalist but also as an actor) and her THRILLING rendition of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from the Little Mermaid (you can hear it on YouTube set to the movie as a visual). She and Pat Carroll should do something together (The Rink, maybe?...maybe not).

Wow...this is getting long. Don't yell at me! hhahaha... was really incredible...oh oh oh...another Alice fave: "I Miss the Mountains" from Next to Normal, a musical she just did Off-Broadway. You can find a preview of the show on YouTube. It's a woman with mental illness and she's now on a cocktail of like 50 pills a day and so she doesn't have emotional ups and downs at all...WOW! Then Emily made a joke about it and Alice got all serious and it was this incredible awkward moment! AH! It was so good! that wasn't as brief as I had intended, but there it is...over a week later. BAM!

Anonymous said...

BC, I think you are remembering Jed Shireman. I think he was the NC State Police Officer. It was a great show. I remember really have fun. I still remember the chorus from the big love song, "I'll be the gin to your tonic, if you'll be the sugar in my tea..."


Thespis' Little Helper said...

YES! That's it! Oh, and another girl...