Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just Singin'and Dancin'

                                      Just Singin' and Dancin'

                The other night my wife and I had the great opportunity to attend St. George Musical Theater's production of Singing in the Rain. And, as many of you know Roger Dunbar usually reviews the plays in the St. George area, and he does a fantastic job. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy reading †hose reviews Roger is in Singing in the Rain. So I've decided to unleash my secret desire to be a critic and attempt to tell you what I thought about the show. I feel like I should precede this with a disclaimer: I am not a professional. Anything I say is my opinion and nothing more; it's very possible that I'm wrong. I apologize that this took my so long to get to, since the show has since closed everything I say is mostly irrelevant anyway.

                Community theatre is an interesting creature. And as I think about attempting to review this show part of me feels a bit cold hearted. With a few exceptions, most of the members of the cast are not professionals, or even want to be professionals. Many cast members are without any formal acting training at all…  They're all volunteering their time, and essentially doing the community a service project by sharing their talents.  So I'm hesitant to be too critical. However, whenever I'm doing a show I only want honest feedback, because I can't learn from 'polite' feedback. Therefore I'll do my best to provide those involved with my honest opinion, because they deserve it.

                Overall I was very impressed with the hard work and dedication of the entire cast. I really felt that everyone involved must have worked their hearts out to get to the level that they achieved. The dancing was definitely not easy, and there are a lot of numbers. If I'm picky I have to say that the big group numbers seemed a bit sloppy… but this is tap dancing… we get to hear every mistake. All things considered I have to say that I looked forward to every dance number, and I was pleasantly surprised with the skill and energy.

                Speaking of skill and energy; Roger Dunbar, who played Don Lockwood, was fantastic. It was interesting to see him in a new type of role for him, and when I watched a dress rehearsal earlier I could see some ‘uncomfortable-ness’ in his character, but by the time I saw him the second time around he had mastered the charming yet sensitive character of Don Lockwood. His voice sounded great, though I would’ve liked a little more punch. Or, to be simpler, volume… and his dancing was out of this world. If it weren’t for a few (and only a few) moments where I could see the concentration on his face, I would’ve believed that he had been dancing all of his life. Roger continues to be one of my favorite actors to watch on stage and I can’t wait to see his take on Thomas Putnam in DSC’s production of The Crucible.

         I think that I can put Kyle Turman in the same vein of skill and energy. Here is a kid that I can tell loves the stage and is willing to work hard to be there. He appeared very comfortable on stage, and most of the time had good energy. His dancing was also extremely impressive, though sometimes his arms were a bit crazy. His character was sometimes too casual, and I think I caught him playing for laughs once or twice, but most of the time he was great. One of my least favorite moments of the night however was the song “Make em laugh”. But I don’t believe that it is Kyle’s fault... he sounded fine. First of all a joke rarely flies when you say, “I’m going to make you laugh” first. Secondly I just did not think the blocking/choreography was… well… funny enough. It was cliché and punchy and the audience didn’t fall for it. I congratulate Kyle for committing to what he was given.   

         Tazia Marie (Is that her last name?) was also very good. Her voice was beautiful, her dancing was spot on, and her character was adorable. She really did a good job of capturing that ‘up and coming’ desperateness. If I have to be picky there were a few times when I felt that her responses were ‘pre-planned’ and so I missed some spontaneity. However Taz has always been someone that I love to listen to. Her musical numbers were great.

         The last person that I’m going to single out is Sally DeMille who played Lina Lamont. There is a fine line that has to be walked when you’re playing an ‘annoying’ character because you can’t be so annoying that the audience hates it when you come on stage… I think Sally did a great job of walking this line. Her facial expressions were priceless; she got the most laughs out of me because she was actually ‘in the moment’ instead of playing for laughs.

         The ensemble / “smaller roles” are so important to a show and they really help to flesh out the stage and create a believable world for the story to take place in. The main note I have, especially to those with lines, is to pick up the pace. Try thinking ‘on the lines’ not in between the lines. Close those gaps, and speed up the dialogue.        

         Layers, and depth… this is a note for every person in the play. With a story so happy, cheerful, and musical theatre-y I can see how it would be hard to find some depth. But most of time I didn’t believe that these characters on stage were real people. I saw just a little too much of ‘I’m on stage! Laugh here! Clap here!’ I saw really good versions of ‘I’m on stage.’ But those layers would’ve brought this show to a whole new level.

         Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the level of discipline required by all members of the cast. And I was very entertained by the show. There will always be picky things, but especially for a community theatre show I think that everyone involved should be very proud of their work. Great job everybody! And thanks for working so hard so that we could enjoy it!

 

I give it a B- 

4 comments:

Tamari said...

Thanks for reviewing the show!! I guess we have a lot in common because for me this review was spot on! It is nice to have someone review a show that is actually in theater because they can appreciate all the hard work that goes into a production. I am so proud of the cast and crew, this is a big show and very technical.

Speaking of which I want to give a shout out to the team who produced the films featured in the show, they were very well done and most enjoyable to watch.

I also enjoyed the intimacy of the theater itself. After working for months at Tuacahn (which has it's good points, but intimacy isn't one of them) it was nice to see a production and be totally caught up as an audience member. To feel like I was part of the production and its' energy.

Bottom line, this show made me happy and the lead guy is someone very special to my heart! :)

Trav said...

You're absolutely right! I can't believe I left out the movie making crew. That was one aspect of the show I think people took for granted. The quality was very professional. Well done to everyone involved.

Thanks for bringing that up Tamari!

Roger said...

Trav, thanks for the review! Like Tamari said, it was spot on. She and I often talked about certain points at home, most of which you mention. Community theater always takes a grain of salt, particularly with a show like this with so many technical elements (read: dancing). I think that you "get it" in your review.

I was talking to another friend of mine who saw the show. He has an intense acting mind. Where most of St. George would see Godot or Betrayal and say "WTF?", this friend of mine totally gets those shows. However, with "Singin' in the Rain", I don't think he got it. He seemed to have a hard time with many aspects of the show (character motivations and other subtle depths). He just over-analyzed it, in my opinion.

I was once just like my friend. Everything had to have deep motives and subtext. I was unbearable to see any play with because I was so dang critical. But as I've gotten older I've chilled quite a bit. I recognize that different audiences enjoy different things. There are shows for different seasons, and sometimes you just have to turn off your brain and smile.

The common-man got this show. The sweet little old ladies got this show. If you could go and just not think for 2 hours, then you left with a perma-grin on your face. It changed the outlook of a lot of people I talked to (the less analytic folks).

Trav said...

Roger, it's true that sometimes you just can't think that much. I sometimes can be over-analytical as well. Especially when I watch movies. But there are different levels of entertainment. That doesn't mean one is better or worse than the other. Sorry this review came so late.