Based on the Fritz Lang film, Adapted by Bill Fountain
Score by Scott A. Eckert (based on the original score by
Level Ground Arts
Director: Bill Fountain
Composer: Scott A. Eckert
Choreographer: Kelly McCain
Stage Manager: Ande Bewley
Audio Visual Designer: Charles Moore
Costume Design: Bill Fountain
Costume Crew: Emily Shaw, Katherine Anthony
Robot Headpiece Design: Michael Bacerra
Light Design: Bridgett Ochoa
Set Design: Bill Fountain
Props: Bridgett Ochoa
Fight Choreographer: Mark Dalton
Makeup Design: Emily Shaw
Dance Captain: Jessica Maxey
Warm Up Coordinator: Tiffany Riley Monday
Technical Director: Ken Long
Light Board Operator: Lee Hartsock
Photographer: Mathew Butler
Program Design: Ande Bewley
Jon Fredersen: Dick Monday
Freder: Cam Wenrich
Maria: Kate Rutledge
Rotwang: Ken Long
Josephin/Hel: Tiffany Riley Monday
Grot: Alex Wade
11811/Ensemble: D'Mozzio Matory
Slim/Ensemble: Christopher Guerrero
Darq/Ensemble: Erica Fuller
Futura/Ensemble: Julia Nelson
Reviewed Performance 4/16/2011
Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Fritz Lang's silent film, Metropolis, was released to audiences in 1927. Eighty four years later Metropolis still holds the distinction of being the most costly silent film ever made, with a price tag of five million dollars. Bill Fountain and his troupe at Level Ground Arts have resurrected and adapted Lang's story for the stage, though with a much smaller budget. This play ? no, this musical . . . that's not right either. This pantomime . . . ? (Insert audible sigh from critic.) Metropolis is part play, part musical, part pantomime, and part something else I can't quite pin down. For the sake of this review, let's call it a production.
While I didn't have to pay to use the restroom facilities in the future world of Metropolis, the theme is reminiscent of Urinetown. Metropolis is segregated into two classes of people: the planners and the workers. The workers toil and drudge underground while the planners, led by the autocratic Jon Fredersen, live high above in skyscrapers.
Like all children of planners, Fredersen's son, Freder, is strictly prohibited from mixing with the workers. An interest in a lovely female worker finds Freder mingling underground, however, and he bears witness to the inhumane working and living conditions of his "brothers." Without giving too much away, a revolution ensues.
Remaining true to the original film, all of the action in LGA's Metropolis was performed silently by the actors and dancers. Composer and Musical Director Scott A. Eckert wrote and performed a wholly compelling score (based on the original score by Gottfried Huppert) that carried the plot through its peaks and valleys. As with any memorable score, Mr. Eckert beautifully differentiated between good and evil (think Star Wars and the ominous horns that announced Darth Vader's arrival upon The Death Star). The music was lighthearted and romantic during scenes with Freder and Maria (the aforementioned love interest), and it was tense and frenzied when the workers were tending their machines. While some of the music in Metropolis might not bend to a person's particular taste, the score was balanced, well-executed, and most impressively original.
Mr. Fountain and Charles Moore designed the audio visual aids and system that were as important to the plot as the music. Screens on the left and right proscenium walls displayed bits of dialogue, as well as information necessary for the audience to move along with the story. Those of us not familiar with the original movie might've been completely lost without the benefit of the titles. I had one minor quibble with the titles in that I noted a few misspellings, but nothing severe enough to detract from the information therein.
While he's not credited with this task in the playbill, I discovered after the show that Mr. Fountain himself designed the graphics that were shown on the upstage center screen during certain scenes. From the show logo, to the images of Moloch (Freder's imagined monster), these visuals added a great deal of texture and value to the production.
Most of the action took place on and underneath a platform that ran the width of the stage. Affixed to the platform on both levels were various mechanisms that represented the machines, all of which had moving, operable parts. These machines as well as the centerpiece of the set, the workers' clock, were integrated into the choreography. Futuristic hieroglyphics were painted on the front-facing portions of the platform. The structure itself wasn't overly ornate or impressive, but the addition of a lighting scheme by designer Bridgett Ochoa helped the set come to life.
The costumes (also designed by Mr. Fountain) were simple but effective in relaying the disparity between the workers and the planners. By far the most impressive "costume" was worn by Futura, the robot created by Rotwang, Fredersen's chief scientist and rival. Clad in metallic gold spandex, gold face paint, and a myriad of gold adornments, Futura also sported a headpiece (designed by Michael Bacerra), which was the costuming standout of the show.
Dick Monday played the role of Fredersen with dignity and a slight arrogance necessary for his character. Mr. Monday's real-life wife, Tiffany Riley Monday, played the role of Hel, Fredersen's wife who dies while giving birth to Freder. Mrs. Monday also played Josephin, one of Fredersen's minions who he condemns to the underground for what he perceives as a failure on Josephin's part. This casting decision was confusing because the only differentiation between Hel's and Josephin's appearance was a robe and a turban Mrs. Monday put on as Hel to cover the suit she wore as Josephin. More than a quick change was needed to separate Josephin and Hel ? their scenes were close together, and the small transition wasn't enough.
Cam Wenrich played Freder, and he was wonderful as our young hero. Mr. Wenrich was thoughtful and inquisitive when dealing with the workers, but his scenes with Maria were his most emotive. Speaking of Maria, Kate Rutledge was a revelation as the ginger-haired heart of this production. She brought an innocent, quiet strength to each of her scenes, and her brilliant smile made even the workers' world vibrant.
Alex Wade, as Grot, had some compelling moments on stage as the cautious and semi-reluctant leader of the workers. Emily Shaw portrayed the False Maria (really Futura, the robot, masked to look like Maria) with verve, but this was another puzzling casting decision. In order to make the False Maria work as a character, she needed to genuinely resemble the true Maria. Outside of lovely long red locks, there was no resemblance between the two women. Maria wore a pale green dress throughout the show, but the dress Ms. Shaw wore as False Maria was an off-color, ill-fitting rag that didn't help the audience make the connection between the two.
Kelly McCain was to be congratulated for her original choreography. Integrating the set pieces into her dance numbers made everything feel more mechanical, and the dance of the Seven Deadly Sins was particularly creative. Dance Captain Jessica Maxey, along with Alex Valle and Haydee Vanessa, stood out as members of the talented ensemble.
Metropolis was more than a play, that's for certain. It wasn't quite a musical, though Mr. Eckert's score is visionary and integral to the action. It was definitely unique, which is what Level Ground Arts does best.
Level Ground Arts
KD Studio Theater, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, TX 75207
Through April 30th
Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:15pm
Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for students/seniors
6-pack of tickets available for $110
Go to www.levelgroundarts.com or call 214-630-5491