Clearly, Richmond did not get the memo that summer is supposed to be “down time” on the stage scene. Or perhaps theater companies have finally realized that a lot of the people that spend $10+ on movie tickets during the summer really just want to get out of the heat and would just as readily pay that (or a few dollars more) to see a play? Hm. Not sure about all of the motivations but there continues to be too much theater around here for me to keep up with even a fraction of it. “Midsummer” at Sycamore Rouge is ending up passing me by. “Pippin” at Dogwood Dell looks great and that’ll also fall by the wayside for me. And these are the free shows! Oy. Just because I can’t go doesn’t mean you shouldn’t so grab a lawn chair and get out there before it gets too late. I’m just glad I slipped in to “On Golden Pond” last weekend because it’s looking like it’ll be going the way of “Rent” and selling out a lot of the rest of its shows.
Opening this weekend, “As You Like It” will be the first offering from Theatre at Battery Park, also a free show and also with a great looking cast. I have hopes of getting out to my former stomping grounds on northside to take this one in…and hopes that temperatures might moderate from the forecasted upper 90s so that it’s not such a steamy evening.
While family obligations prevented me from trucking down 95 to Sycamore Rouge last weekend, they dovetailed perfectly with me going to see the workshop production of Julie Fulcher’s “Company of Angels.” One way or another I was NOT going to miss this show; I’m still kicking myself for letting one of the big events of last season – Bo Wilson’s home-grown musical “Mona’s Arrangements” – pass me by. One of the most exciting parts of this production has little to do with the show itself. As RTP’s Artistic Director John Knapp writes in the program, “RTP [is entering] a new realm in nurturing, through workshops, world premiere plays and musicals in what we promise to be an ongoing series.” Along with the Firehouse’s Festival of New Plays, this adds fuel to the growing fire of theatrical innovation and discovery in Richmond.
Of course, there’s also plenty to be excited about as far as “Company of Angels” goes. Ms. Fulcher has crafted some great songs in support of a fresh and innovative plotline. And, as the show’s director, she’s brought some great performances to the stage. This is a show that offers unexpected gifts almost constantly. Terri Moore and Scott Melton are a hoot from the very beginning and provide a solid foundation of vocal talent and comedic hijinks. They engage in a hilarious battle with Diva and her Divanettes, led by a big voice with an even bigger attitude, Chloe Williams, and supported by the energetic Andrew Etheridge, Georgi Hicks, and Leah Hicks. The Hicks girls are cute as a button with Leah in particular lighting up the stage with her animated expressions. Mr./Ms. Etheridge is just not-subtle enough in his/her pursuit of fellow angel, James.
I also loved the antic Jason Campbell as Robert (not Bob or Bobby!) But just when you think it’s all fun and games, Robyn O’Neill and Tyler Houchins (as Toby and Joey) are as honest and poignant as all get-out in their tear-jerking second-act scenes. Not every aspect of this show thrilled me but the vast majority of it did. And among the most subtle yet still delightful things was how Toby’s relationship with a female partner was kept in the background, it’s exact nature needing neither to be explicit nor hidden.
All in all, it is a very polished effort for a “workshop” and I will be intrigued and hopeful about its prospects for the future. Congrats to Julie and her whole crew!