RAZZBy Mitchell Parrack
Ochre House Theater
Director - Matthew Posey
Stage Management - Carla Parker
Composer & Music Director - Justin Locklear
Choreographer - Mitchell Parrack
Set Design - Matthew Posey
Scenic Artist - IZK Davies
Costume Design - Amie Carson
Lighting Designer/Board Operator - Kevin Grammer
Bob Mitchell Parrack
Joan Elizabeth Evans
Gwen Beth Gilvie
Ann Lauren Massey
Bert Chris Sykes
Paddy Brian Witkowicz
Keyboard Kate Fisher
Percussion Tanner Peterson
Guitar Gregg Prickett
Reviewed Performance: 11/2/2019
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Ochre Theater is offering yet another vision of this tormented man in RAZZ, written and choreographed by Mitchell Parrack, who also offers to us his version of Fosse in music snippets and short scenes that capture many of his important relationships and influences at just the time his heart was about to give him up. The show, not really a musical, but a play with music, allows the instrumental (with accompanying song) to carry the action along. But it is not a musical in the expected sense. Ochre Theater, situated in Deep Ellum, seats only 50 patrons in a space the size of a small ice cream parlor. The stage is small, so no traditional MUSIC MAN here. Instead this theatre has committed itself to theatre, the art, theatre the edgy, theatre from the "other side." And this is SO rare, but so welcome in the Dallas art spectrum.
The actors here are part of a company of dedicated artists and it is apparent in this production. Michal Parrack not only wrote the script but also choreographed and appeared in the show as the lead, Bob Fosse. Parrack is obviously a talented dancer and physically bears a great resemblance to the subject of his musings. He is basically dying as the main character but at the same time, being pulled in many different artistic and business directions. He has a movie to direct and a show to get ready to open on Broadway. The physical pain, the frustration, the effect of the "lid on the pressure cooker" is deftly conveyed by Parrack. His work in the production is truly that of a professional artist. In conceiving the show, he obviously had unfinished busiess with his physical and artistic doppleganger.
Fosse's women are portrayed by Elizabeth Evans as Joan (Joan McCracken in reality). Beth Gilvie as the famous Gwen Verdon and Lauren Massey as Ann Reisling, Fosse's partner later in his life who went on after his death to carry much of his legacy forward. All are beautiful, convincingly danceworthy subjects who occupy much of his thoughts as his heart is whirling through relationships: sex, cigarettes and dancing were Fosse's drugs. All three bear some physical resemblance to their real life counterparts, particularly Gilvie as Verdon. The three actresses have many more opportunities to explore the real life characters in the stage scenes rather than the musical scenes. All have good voices, good harmony, but their "trios" become a bit artificail and trite by the second act, though all have very good vocals. The staging is contrived and doesn't seem to fit into the scheme of the show.
Chris Sykes as "Bert" (dare we conclude Bertoldt Brecht?) leads us into the narrative of the show, He is quite stilted and convincingly "epic" even though German dialect is often difficult to carry off. Later, we are introduced to Paddy (Chayefsky we assume), played by Brian Witkowicz, who is absolutely charming and subsequently dark as Fosse's best friend. (Fosse danced at Chayefsky's funeral) Both artists struggle in different ways with the commercialism of film, Broadway and their art. Not only does Witkowicz very much physically resemble Paddy Chayefsky, but he captures the essence of the man and the artist both at once.!
The music for this show is so integral, one hardly notices when it begins and ends. In such a small space, actors and musicians manage to share that space in a seamless way.
I wonder if program notes might have been helpful, as the audience seems to be expected to recognize the character's even though complete names are not provided. I would have enjoyed knowing both Posey and Parrack's insights into the creation of this show. That notwithstanding, it was a thought provoking, insightful and enjoyable evening of theatre and I am anxious to experience what Ochre may have for their audiences in the coming future. My first time there--I WILL be back
Ochre House Theatre
825 Exposition Avenue
Now playing through November 16, 2019
Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:15
Gen Admission Wed/Th [$17.00]: Fri/Sat [$20.00
Senior/ 65+ Wed/Th [$12.00] :Fri/Sat [$15.00]
Student w/valid student id Wed/Th [$12.00] :Fri/Sat [$15.00]
OCHREHOUSETHEATER.ORG or 214-826-6273