Music by Michael McLean
Book and Lyrics by Michael McLean and Kevin Kelly
Musical Arrangements and Orchestrations by Joseph Baker
Artisan Center Theater
Cast for reviewed performance:
Noah: Mark Winter
Eliza: Judi Conger
Ham: Kyle Holt
Egyptus: Shaneen Smith
Japeth: Joshua Smith
Sariah: Jacey Lett
Shem: David Seil
Martha: Meredith Taylor
Director: Dee Ann Blair
Assistant to Director: Megan Guerra
Music Director: Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer: Eddie Floresca
Stage Manager: Miranda Rangel Di’Amaro
Set Design: Eric Luckie
Illuminations Design: Doug Vandegrift
Lights: Wes Taylor
Sound/Illuminations Programming: Chris Speer
Costume Design Nita Cadenhead
Costume Assistang: Jai Lynn
Props Design: Heidi Diederich
Floor Painting: Connie Sanchez
Reviewed Performance: 8/31/2019
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Upon entering the Artisan Theater Center main stage, one is instantly transported inside Noah’s famous Ark. The premise is that the audience makes up the cadre of animals saved from the great flood. To that end, some audience interaction is required, and in one case was a pleasant surprise. The ambiance was set with authentic barnyard and bird sounds in the place of preshow music.
Eric Luckie’s beautiful set included a gathering of bird cages and chicken coops, a number of rooms, a rather temperamental door, and an all-purpose room. The faux-wood walls and Connie Sanchez’s brilliantly painted floor served to immerse the audience in the experience.
Director Dee Ann Blair used every inch of the set, plus quite a bit of the house, bringing Noah’s story to life. Staging in the round is by definition tricky, but Blair managed to keep each section of the audience entertained throughout. Between taking the cast into the audience, and total lack of a fourth wall, the audience became part of the presentation.
The acting was very well done. Emotions were appropriate and lines were clear and on cue. Gestures and facial expressions added another level of interpretation, and planned ad libs were spot on and funny.
Mark Winter and Judi Conger made a charming Noah and Eliza. Their duet on It Takes Two was adorable, and Eliza’s Breakdown/Hold On was heartwarming. Kudos to Kyle Holt (Ham) and Shaneen Smith (Egyptus) for dealing with an obvious technical glitch and maintaining the flow. The tension between Ham and Egyptus was evident, as was their love for each other.
As newlyweds Shem and Martha, David Seil and Meredith Taylor were delightful. Martha’s frustration was apparent when Eliza’s needed Shem’s help, pulling his attentions away from her. Joshua Smith’s portrayal of Japeth the tinkerer was delightful, and Sariah (played by Jacey Lett) was the perfect fashion plate wife.
Eddie Floresca’s choreography was entertaining, but not necessarily outstanding. It was simple enough that the entire cast could master it, but there were no “wow” moments in the dancing. During If You Want Your Man, there was a blurred line between choreography and stage direction, which served very well in the context of the song.
Music Direction by Richard Gwozdz was artistry at its finest. The cast’s voices were well blended, except in the case of mic malfunctions. Particularly easy on the ears was Shaneen Smith, as Egyptus, Ham’s wife. Her pure and clear soprano voice floated above the others like whipped cream on a pie.
Costumes by Nita Cadenhead and Jai Lynn were beautifully done. They may not have been exactly period, but they were close enough they served to enhance the story. Sariah’s dresses were the most ornamental, and Noah wore the most stereotypical Biblical garb.
Props were simple but effective. Mops, a woven basket, wooden buckets and wooden bowls were most notable, but there were also some unexpected treasures.
Sound design was superb. Besides the aforementioned barnyard and bird sounds, there was lightning, rain and various animal sounds. The balance between music and voices was nice, except when the mics were out of range and weren’t picked up.
The Ark runs through September 28 at the Artisan Center Theater main stage, 444 E Pipeline Rd, Hurst, TX 76053. The Ark will be interpreted for the deaf and hard of hearing by Whitney Ellis and Alyssa Mattingly on Tuesday, September 15, 2019, at 7:30 pm.
Ticket prices range from $14 to $28. For tickets and information go to www.artisanct.com or call 817-284-1200.