Friday, August 14, 2009
bare: the musical
And here's the latest. This is a better show than my review came out. I just get really frustrated when performers aren't given a chance because technical issues prevent it.
From today's Post:
Theater isn't easy. What stage performers do every night is akin to walking naked across a bed of hot coals while juggling puppies and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Backward. In Serbian.
Oh, and do try to look more natural while you're doing it, would you?
Although besieged by the alien cruelty of economics — as foreign to art as baseball is to frogs — live theater remains important and vital today because we as audience members can sense this danger. Even if we're not aware of it, we get a vicarious thrill watching performers teeter on the edge of the abyss.
So when a fledging company like Gravity Defied comes along at the worst economic moment for theater in recent memory, with a completely mad and unique mission — plans to donate money from every show to nonprofits — you really hope that, for once, everything goes perfectly.
Alas, on opening night of "Bare: The Musical," the inaugural performance for the group, that was not the case.
First, the story: "Bare" is, frankly, a grab-bag of standard problems facing adolescents: sexual identity, drugs, teen pregnancy, parental estrangement, religion, morality, mortality. But it centers on two Catholic schoolboys who are in love, a formidable predicament indeed.
Peter (Danny Harrigan, who doubles as choreographer) struggles with his love for Jason (played by director Keith Rabin Jr.) and how it fits in with his presumed faith. Further complicating matters, Jason is a jockish, popular kid who fears ostracism and worse should they make their relationship known.
The boys and their classmates are preparing a production of "Romeo and Juliet" — star-crossed lovers, anyone? All the while, they're embroiled in the pitiless politics of high school: Jason's popular girlfriend Ivy (Suzanne Dani'l Simone) and his bitter twin sister, Nadia (Sherean Samimi), hate each other; their friend Matt (Blake Nawa'a) pines for Ivy; and Lucas (Benjy Schirm) deals drugs.
It's a powder keg, if a somewhat predictable and overwrought one. But despite the show's cult status, with nearly 40 (often repetitious, nearly indistinguishable) songs and at least 942 scene changes, creators Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo have birthed a monster that would benefit from a nip and a tuck.
Even with these challenges, the Gravity Defied cast has created some tremendous moments of beauty. The love between real-world partners Rabin Jr. and Harrigan was on display in song, in longing gazes and in stamping frustration alike, especially in the second act's "Bare."
As Nadia, Samimi lends the show some much-needed humor with her excoriations of the shallow Ivy. She shines even brighter when she lets her tough-girl shield fall away in "A Quiet Night at Home."
And as the sole voice of reason in this asylum, Sister Chantelle (Anna Maria High) brings down the house with "God Don't Make No Trash." She also has a hilarious, "Jesus Christ Superstar"-inspired turn as a hallucinatory Virgin Mary in "911! Emergency," although at that point, much of what she and her angels were singing was unintelligible.
Which brings us back to the technical difficulties.
It's not that a show must be perfect to be good, or that one can ever be perfect; it's that there was so much preventable discord marring otherwise potentially great performances.
The light cues were off. The unwieldy set proved impossible to shift either quickly or quietly, and the microphone problems grew from mildly annoying to infuriating over the course of the first act.
Newcomer to community theater Nawa'a as Matt seems to have a stunning voice, but his songs were shredded with distortion. Same with Darrell Johnson as the priest. Even the equalizer settings were flat in the first act, clearly something that should have been looked at long before curtain.
All of this is frustrating because tech week is where the myriad microphone, scene-shift and lighting problems should have been solved, not intermission. And even then, the solutions were haphazard at best.
Both Gravity Defied as a company and "Bare" in particular have tremendous potential. There is a great deal of talent in the group; here's hoping they can iron out the kinks.
"Bare: The Musical" **1/2 (out of four stars)
Presented by Gravity Defied Theatre at the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave. Book by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo; music by Intrabartolo; lyrics by Hartmere. Directed by Keith Rabin Jr. Choreography by Danny Harrigan. Starring Danny Harrigan, Keith Rabin Jr., Sherean Samimi, Suzanne Dani'l Simone, Anna Maria High, Darrell Johnson, Jia Apple, Blake Nawa'a, Benjy Schirm. 2 hours, 48 minutes. Through Aug. 22. $30 (a portion of each ticket sold for this show goes to PHAMALy.) 303-325-3959 or go to the Rocky Mountain Arts Associations website at rmarts.org