BROKEN, THE MUSICAL(World Premiere)
Book and Lyrics by Monica Martino
Music by Aaron Fryklund
Martino Ventures, LLC
Direction by Peg Waldschmidt
Music Direction by Aaron Fryklund
Choreography by Paula Morelan
Scenic Design by Peg Waldschmidt
Costume Design by Amanda MacArthur
Lighting Design by Russ Bockenmuehl
Sound Design by Alexander Herndon
Fight Choreography by Rhonda Durant
Stage Management by Abigail Guerra
Molly Pope as Mona
Jonathan Hardin as Jason
Kim Pine as Helen
Stuart Charles Neef as Dirk
Brigitte Goldman as Carla
Ian Patrick Stack as Steve
Melissa Couture as Shari
Walter Lee as Troy
Regan Pharris as Alicia
Daniel Dean Miranda as Fred
Rhonda Durant as Gayle
Benjamin Stidham as Greg
James Worley as Matthew
Ensemble: Glenn Averoinge, Michael Childs, Quinton Jones, Jr., Genevive Khuong, Tori Micaletti, Taylor Nunn, Joshua Sherman, Jessica Leanne Martin-Winter.
Conductor - Aaron Fryklund
Percussion - John Allnutt
Piano - Laura Allnutt
Saxophone - Noelle Fabian
Bass Guitar - Craig Green
Guitar - Kurt Hollabaugh
Cello - Benjamin Katzen
Violin - Oleg Larson, Michael Maike
Viola - Imelda Tecson
Keyboards - Erin McGrew
Flute - Mark Trimble
Reviewed Performance: 7/27/2014
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Broken is a story about justice and tragedy, but most of all a story about the power of the human spirit to overcome one of the most damaging events one can endure - rape. The musical follows the path of Mona as she suffers a sexual assault then contends with that reality in order to trust again, develop a renewed sense of intimacy, and put her life back together.
Let me begin by saying “Bravo!” for producing a new stage work. I have a lot of experience acting, directing and producing new works and know firsthand just how mammoth a process it can be. This new musical boasts twenty five new songs/reprises, twenty one performers, a twelve piece orchestra, and over sixteen designers and operators making it all come together. Everyone involved in Broken deserves many rounds of applause for their effort and dedication, especially for an independent, locally produced production.
The production is being played at the highly unique, Lonestar Room at Gilley’s-Dallas. I hadn’t been there in almost ten years and forgot what a wonderful performance space it can be. The producers and designers use the uniqueness of the hall when designing the staging which allows for an equally unique presentation of a musical.
The book, lyrics, and orchestrations are generally good, but each in their own aspect needs a bit more tightening. The dialogue drags a bit in some of the scenes and sometimes isn’t necessary to move the story along. The orchestrations are wonderful in moments but have too many musical interludes within vocal numbers, causing some awkwardness for the vocalists. The lyrics do support the story but often go on too long, making the songs lengthy. World premieres always have things that work and things that don’t, and in Broken, the good does outweigh the bad.
Direction by Peg Waldschmidt is hit or miss throughout the show. Utilizing three separate stages, aisles in the audience, and entrances all over the hall presented a problem for Ms. Waldschmidt. Credited as Scenic Designer also, it surprises me that her actors’ entrances are awkward at times and scene focus tends to be pushed and detached from the story. Set transitions on individual stages are delayed and very loud which distracts from action happening on a different stage or location in the space. There are times when scenes are well staged, the actors comfortable, and focus on the character and story done well. The opening scene and song “Party Tonight” have two groups preparing for a night out on a split stage representing two different apartments. Ms. Waldschmidt freezes her actors at moments, allowing the ability to see the character and his/her meaning in the story developing.
Musical direction by Aaron Fryklund really showed in the quality of the performances. He was given a highly talented, young cast to work with vocally and uses each of their individual skills to make the music soar. The full company numbers are amazing in the space, with great vocal blending and superior harmonies. Some individual solos and duets falter a bit but seem to be more about not being able to hear the music more than a talent issue. Overall, his music direction is spot on and the score a joy to hear. Also conductor for the orchestra, his skills really shine. The music is perfectly played by the orchestra, following the singers well and never producing an off note or rhythm.
The technical side is the weakest part of the production and causes some major issues in driving the story forward. Ironically, before the show began, I commented to someone sitting next to me how much equipment seemed to be on-the-ready to support the show and was pleasantly surprised and waiting to enjoy how they’d be implemented. There are large quantities of LED lighting, automated fixtures, speakers located throughout the space, sound baffle panels and PZM floor microphones everywhere. There is a large disconnect, however, between all the high end equipment used and the designers/operators’ experience level running it. Great effort is obviously given to the technical design but, unfortunately, its execution isn’t successful.
Sound design by Alexander Herndon disappoints me the most technically. I was not able to hear a large part of the dialogue and vocals. No one wears body microphones, forcing me to strain to hear much of the dialogue. The actors are projecting well, but the performance space being quite large, it opens and swallows sound badly. I could also tell the actors are having difficulty hearing each other over the orchestra, especially in numbers where they are separated by the audience on opposite sides of the space.
Russ Bockenmuehl’s lighting design does nothing to support the production either. Many times the actors are in complete darkness, the focus points are off, primarily lighting the floor but not the actors, and transitions are badly executed. His use of moving gobo patterns and automated lighting are distracting, cutting in and out, and in some cases are visually jarring.
Costuming by Amanda MacArthur is a great highlight of the musical. She has a young, vibrant cast and outfits each character with individual style and visual excitement. You see the “personality” of each character defined through their costumes, each piece fit well and looked comfortable. Even when actors play other roles, you easily transform with them, thanks to Ms. MacArthur’s great designs and skill.
The talent in Broken is young, exciting, refreshing and makes the musical work. The large cast features great, local DFW artists and showcases them in wonderful ways. Every actor understands their character and performs in a way that moves the story along with a unique style and flair.
Molly Pope plays Mona and carries the show on her shoulders like a seasoned professional! Her vocals are strong and her acting ability even stronger. Her demeanor physically changes after the rape scene to a “broken” young woman struggling to put her life together. Ms. Pope is perfectly cast in the role and never misses a beat in her performance.
Kim Pine plays the role of Mona’s best friend Helen perfectly. She carries her own with great vocals and portrays Helen with the right amount of strength and compassion. Going from the happy-go-lucky best friend to an almost motherly figure, Ms. Pine gives great depth and passion to her role every moment she’s onstage. Her solo, “Can I Help” is so moving and powerful it puts you on the edge of your seat.
Dirk, played by Stuart Charles Neef, is probably the most difficult role, next to Mona, to portray. He’s the rapist, the arrogant, macho man that “doesn’t give a sh*t” about women. Playing such a dark role requires finesse, and Mr. Neef balances that aspect successfully. An audience can’t viscerally hate such an evil character from the beginning or they’ll separate from the storyline and turn off. Mr. Neef slowly takes you to that place with great courage and strength.
Jonathan Hardin, as Jason, is a true pleasure to watch. His vocals are powerful, his acting strong and precise, and his presence on stage is wonderful. He portrays the supporter of Mona with a unique, delicate intimacy. In his duet, “Why Do I Feel Helpless”, his vocals shine and are truly moving. He makes you feel his character, not simply watch from afar, as he, like Mona, tries to put his life back together and understand the meaning his actions and own life.
Brigitte Goldman plays Carla and is a pure-power performer on stage. Her vocals are strong, her confidence as an actor is obvious and you are involved every moment she’s on stage. Even with all that strength as a performer, Ms. Goldman never pulls focus and supports the storyline with true professionalism and grace.
Walter Lee, in the role of Troy, is another powerful performer in this show. In his solo, “I Trusted Him”, the exquisite, unabashed passion in his vocals tells the story of his own experience with abuse. Singing with pure emotion and showing his character’s strength and vulnerability throughout the song, you are simply moved. His acting ability is on par with his vocals and you are always engaged with his performance in telling the story.
Ian Patrick Stack plays Steve and brings great depth to his role. You are drawn to his character and are always engaged when he is performing. His vocals are strong, with a wonderful unique quality to the tone of his voice. Mr. Stack brings another great piece of depth and professionalism to the musical.
As the inaugural production for the producers and writers at Martino Ventures, LLC, Broken, The Musical’s talent and its story make it an overall success. It struggles a bit technically but still puts on a strong production with a subject that needs to be addressed and a message that needs to be heard.
On a personal note, I felt it was imperative to include references and contacts below for anyone who has been, or may know someone victimized by this type of crime or violence. While artistic interpretation in telling a story is inherent in the arts; reality, unfortunately, can be even more powerful... and painful.
Martino Ventures, LLC
Performed at Gilley's Dallas
1135 S. Lamar, Dallas, TX 75215
Runs through August 17th
** CONTENT WARNING: Broken, The Musical contains material and language that may be sensitive for some audiences. No one under 17 is admitted without a parent or guardian present.
Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday-Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Tickets range from $17.50 to $39.50 based on performance day and seating location.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.brokenthemusical.com or call Ticket Sales at 877-987-6487.
The Women’s Center (Tarrant County): 24-hour hotline: 817-927-2737
Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center: 24-hour hotline: 972-641-RAPE (7273)
www.dallasrapecrisis.org. They also have a detailed listing of resources on their page at: www.dallasrapecrisis.org/what-we-do/get-info/resources
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
Men Can Stop Rape: 202.265.6530
National Online Resource Center on Violence against Women