In a recent story about her imminent starring turn as Spiderman’s love interest in the Broadway musical, Evan Rachel Wood says, “Being on Broadway has been my dream since I knew how to dream.” That’s a pretty deep statement. It’s only a little bit of a shame it was in reference to this stage adaptation of a movie adaptation of a comic book.
There’s all sorts of stage news coming out of NYC these days, including word that T.R. Knight (of “Grey’s Anatomy”) has a new gig lined up to star in a “Lend Me a Tenor” revival and the impression that Anne Hathaway is pretty darn wonderful in a stellar “Twelfth Night.” If you can’t make it up to the Big Apple before July 12th, you might consider celebrating Shakespeare with Richmond’s own little delightful production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which begins a limited run this weekend. This show was a winner inside earlier this year; I’ve got no reason to believe it won’t be as good or better outside.
But don’t see that one if you haven’t seen “Summer of ‘42” yet, which as I noted in my review, is a wonderful celebration of the male preoccupation with female mammary glands (yes, you can thank me for that “Summer of Second Base” headline). The best part of this production for me was the great male-female pairs that director Chase Kniffen matched up, with each duo managing to be believably “high school” but in an on-the-edge of adulthood kind of way. Chris Stewart and Audra Honaker could have been in a show all to themselves, the kind where the distracted male character finally realizes that Ms. Right is sitting right next to him the whole time.
The Drew Seigla / Ellie Atwood pair reminded me of about half the people I knew in high school, the boys with their sights set like lasors on getting under a girl’s shirt or into her pants and the girls playing that psychological chess game revolving around their willingness to give in. I may have liked them best of the six young people just because they seemed like old friends. Jonathan Perez and Maggie Roop are delightful comic relief, my only regret being that they didn’t have more stage time together.
It’s a little weird but also entirely appropriate, I guess, that Robyn O’Neill’s Dorothy almost seems to be in a separate show. Her character actually lives in the real world with real world concerns and fears and, of course, tragedies. It’s a world removed from kids whose concerns revolve around minutes spent feeling up or being felt up. You could certainly make a case for Robyn being too old for this role. Somewhat jarring to me is the line in the show about her celebrating her first anniversary. Robyn and Fernando Rivadeneira could pass for a young married couple – particularly Fern looking so dashing in that uniform! – but newlyweds I had trouble buying.
But even if Dorothy is a character I would have pegged at being in her mid-to-late 20s, I think it works with Ms. O’Neill because she has always had the energy and a glow about her of someone many years younger. The key question for the show is: can you believe her being the object of a teenage boy’s crush? And the answer for me is unquestionably yes.
Speaking of glow, the predominant shade in the lighting for “Summer” is an amazing pale gold that is pretty enchanting. Great work by Kenny Mullens and, just to reiterate the statement in my review, excellent set by Mercedes Schaum. Almost every person I saw walking into the show was checking out the rocks and pebbles strewn all over the floor. It was a great way to introduce the audience to the show in a way that immediately grabbed their attention.
’42 has only two more weekends of shows and then it’s on to “Godspell” for Stage 1, which, now that I know who at least a significant subset of the cast is going to be, I am really looking forward to. Of course, if I’m being honest, there are few productions of “Godspell” that I don’t look forward to. It was the first musical I ever saw and, to borrow another sentiment from “Summer of ’42,” you never forget your first.