The Column Best in DFW Theater 2016

 

 

 

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COMPANY COMPANY
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth

Brick Road Theatre

Directed by Linda Leonard

Assistant Director – Noelle Chesney
Technical Director – Bryan Douglas
Music Director – Pam Holcomb- McLain
Choreographer – Linda Leonard
Costume Design – Gary James
Set Design – Linda Leonard, Bryan Douglas, Noelle Chesney
Projection Design – Linda Leonard, Noelle Chesney, Thorn Chesney
Properties – Jill Lightfoot, Linda Leonard, Noelle Chesney
Light Board Operator – Mitch Crossley
Stage Crew/ Waiter – Collin Curry
Spot Light Operator – Hunter Douglas


CAST

Robert – Jason Bias*
Sarah – Elizabeth McWhorter
Harry – Steven J. Golin
Susan – Keeli Kelley James*
Peter – Ken Orman*
Jenny - Sarah Powell*
David – Cody Dry
Amy – Janelle Lutz*
Paul – Keith Warren
Joanne – Andi Allen
Larry – Dan Servetnick
Marta - Whitney Rosenbalm
Kathy – Bethany Lorentzen*
April – Danielle Estes*

*Denotes Actors Equity Membership Candidate






Reviewed Performance 2/4/2016

Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The story of Bobby never gets old for me. Bobby is surrounded by all of his friends that are married, getting married, or splitting up and Bobby tries to figure out his direction in life. Stephen Sondheim wrote this little gem back in the late sixties and finally got it on Broadway in 1970. To no one’s surprise it received a whopping 14 Tony Nominations and won six of them including Best Musical and nobody can forget the first “Ladies Who Lunch” with the late Elaine Stritch. This turned out to be the first professional show in my career to do and I fell in love with it. Sondheim is one composer that you either love his work or you hate it. No Sondheim show is easy to do as Brick Road Theatre found out. I was extremely interested in seeing this production with the cast that was put together by Linda Lenard. Half the cast was AEA Membership Candidates so for a new theatre company to come up with a professional cast like this is rare. With that my expectations were extremely high and I was truly sitting in the house shaking with anticipation. The curtain opened to expose Linda Leonard, Bryan Douglas, and Noelle Chesney’s stark set comprised of black platforms in a u shape around a leather sofa. There was a raised platform in the center that stood about six feet in the air and the band was placed on stage behind the set. Projections were used on the cyclorama with scenes of New York that would scroll throughout the entire show for different scenes. The set, being what it was, made it easier for choreography. Linda Leonard used that to her advantage throughout the show. During the large numbers the ensemble used every inch of the set making the show visually pleasing to watch. Everywhere you looked there was action being played. Leonard showed her dance skills in the choreography during the bedroom scene with Bethany Lorentzen which was incredibly complicated but done extremely well. On top of the dance the fight choreography during the karate scene was incredible. Elizabeth McWhorter and Steven J. Golin go at it for a good five minutes. The scene was extremely physical and I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t permanently bruised from it. The costumes were done by Gary James and were interesting to say the least. I couldn’t figure out what time period he was going for in the show. It was a little eclectic and all across the board. From Bobby’s leather jacket which looked 70’s to Jenny in black stretch pants and a green shimmering top which looked to be from the 90’s. I just couldn’t figure out where he was going with his design. That’s not to say the costumes were bad just not all in the same time period. The one place that the show took a down turn was tech. I wrote six pages of notes and out of the six five were of tech issues. They started from the beginning of the show and followed through to the end. The audio was the first issue for me. Nothing is more distracting than microphones popping and hissing through a show. It generally happened during the bigger scenes but in the end we lost several of the singer’s mics through the show. The entire scene between April and Bobby was marred by bad sound. The lighting was just stale through the show. There was blue and amber down lights and that was it for most of the show. Several scenes had a lack of front light so the actors were constantly in the dark through scenes. The moving lights that the Cox has came on during “Ladies Who Lunch” which is basically the second to last song in the show, which helped with some much needed color. I know I said the most distracting thing was sound; I’ll have to retract that. Follow spot woes took the cake here. The follow spot was all over the place bouncing around like we were doing Pippin. The dance scene was extremely hampered by the spot due to the fact that they irised down so far you had trouble seeing the dancers movements. Projections were the last area that I had a problem with. It’s not that they were bad per say. There were several scenes that took place on the upper platform that the projections shot through so actors were being bathed in projections. I only noticed it in two scenes but it was extremely noticeable. The saving points in this show were the vocals and the music. Pam Holcomb- McLain made a four person orchestra feel like a 31 piece in this show. I was so impressed with how well the orchestra was. Randy Linberg, Michael Dill, Kristen Thompson, and Pam Holcomb McLain need to get kudos for giving a flawless performance. What an ensemble! Sondheim shows are built on a strong and cohesive ensemble working well together and they were incredible. Several stand outs in this cast starting with the lead Jason Bias. I think Bobby leaves the stage maybe three times in this entire show. Two hours of singing or talking constantly will kill a voice that is untrained to do it. Mr. Bias was perfect from beginning to end. The vocals that came out of him were so strong I truly believe he could have done this role without a microphone. Mr. Bias plays off of the entire ensemble but you really get a vibe from his dealings with his three girlfriends, April, Kathy, and Marta. Andi Allen gives a powerful performance as Joanne in this production. It’s not easy to play a role that was immortalized by the late Elaine Stritch but Ms. Allen’s The Ladies Who Lunch is wonderful. What I loved about it was that Ms. Allen made it her own. She didn’t try to reproduce Elaine version of the song at all. With one of the toughest ending to any song Ms. Allen belts at the end like no other. I get thrilled every time I see Danielle Estes on stage. This woman can act, she can dance, and boy can she sing. In this production she does not disappoint. Ms. Estes portrays April, the ditzy blonde girlfriend to Bobby. Vocally she gets to stand out during her duet with Bobby called “Barcelona”. Ms. Estes does a stellar job on this ballad but truly shines in the ensemble numbers with her wonderful ability to harmonize with others. Keith Warren is no stranger to the Dallas Fort Worth theatre scene. He plays Paul with all the vigor you would expect from Mr. Warren. I think Mr. Warren is probably the strongest vocalist in the show. During ensemble numbers you don’t really notice it as much but during “Not Getting Married Today” you hear what I’m talking about. There was absolute power behind that voice. I have seen this show twenty some times in my life and never have I seen anyone do “Getting Married Today” as good as Janelle Lutz. This has to be one of the toughest songs in theatre to do. The lyrics come at you in triple time and she never missed a beat. All while dealing with a dress she was falling out of and prancing all over the stage. Talk about facial expressions. During the entire song we got a different look every time she took a breath. The audience just ate it up. At one point in the song she flopped onto the edge of the stage hanging off and looking at the audience upside down. It was truly hilarious to watch. To get away from vocals for a minute let’s talk dance. Bethany Lorentzen (say that three times fast) was exquisite in her dance routine. The Tick Tock dance takes place during Bobby and Aprils escapades and lasts a good 4 to 6 minutes. Her movement was incredibly good. I tend to be extremely critical on dance but I couldn’t fault anything here. Like a true dancer every time she kicked her toes were straight out creating beautiful lines. Ms. Lorentzen’s movements were fluid in motion and were on time with every beat. I was really impressed with that whole scene. This production had a lot of flaws but casting wasn’t one of them. The ensemble did its job and performed to the best of their ability. I saw this show on the opening night and it only ran for one weekend so I didn’t get to see any of the other performances but from what I saw I wasn’t impressed, what I heard from the ensemble did.




COMPANY

BRICK ROAD THEATRE
1509 H Avenue
Plano, TX 75074


This show will run at The Courtyard Theater through February 6, 2016

For future shows go to www.brickroadtheatre.org