Oooooooooo, Y’all better Redneck-ignize the Great American Trailer Park Musical at STAGEright!

Entertainment Review

TPM8Y’all!  Y’friggin’all!!  Y’all gotta do one thing, if you do anything in the next week, and that’s get yourself to the Hugo House on Capital Hill to see STAGEright’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical!  This show, this gloriously hilarious show is not to be missed.  It’s got humor, it’s got great actors, it’s got epic costumes, it’s got great actors, it’s got fun music, and did I mention the great actors?!?  Cuz the actors are phenomenal!

I want to gush about every little detail of this show, but I will refrain, because I know you will go see it like I told you to do, so I don’t want to ruin all of the surprises that are waiting for you.  I will, however, tell you about this amazing group of artists who put this show together!

Let’s start with the direction.  It’s glorious!  Jay Irwin has outdone himself with this show.  He cast it perfectly, staged it beautifully, and allowed this white-trashy-fun-loving-gut-splitting script to be everything it’s meant to be, and none of it overdone!  I’d never heard of this show, but all I could think while watching it was, “Damn, why didn’t I audition for this!?!”    This script has the potential to be cheesy, but Mr. Irwin did a beautiful job of flirting with that line, and choosing the perfect moments to be over the top, adding to the  magic of this fantastic script!  It was a hilarious ride, and I thank Mr. Irwin for the experience!

Additionally, the music was phenomenal. And why wouldn’t it be, with Josh Zimmerman at the helm!  I’ve gushed about my love for Mr. Zimmerman’s work in my reviews of Next to Normal and Are You There God, It’s Me, Karen Carpenter.  I love when I see his name on a program, or in this case, on an air conditioner (and if you want to know what that means, go see this show to find out!), because I know it means I’m in for some fantastic music, both from the cast as well as from the band, and Mr. Zimmerman did not disappoint!  Loved it all!

But can we for a minute discuss the design elements on this production, because they were stellar!  The set design by John Ambos was inspired, the props by Cedric Blake Wright were perfection, and the costumes by Cherelle Ashby and Jonelle Cornwell were sheer brilliance!  Each character was highlighted and amplified so beautifully, that I was absolutely transported into this trailer park world created by writer Betsy Kelso (music by David Nehls).  The design set the tone for a raucous good time, and boy, was it ever!

And why was it ever, you might ask, well, it was because of this amazing cast put together by Mr. Irwin!  Oh, these actors, these actors!  People, this is the kind of acting I want to see every time I go to the theatre.  I want to see real characters, regardless if they’re silly, ridiculous, serious, deep, shallow, I don’t care, as long as the actor is making real choices, and oh these actors did that and then some!  Each character developed exquisitely, one more raunchy than the next.  Levels of comedy that kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what crazy thing these characters would say next was heaven to behold. I laughed, I was shocked, I was absolutely entertained!  So let’s get into these phenomenal artists, shall we?

This show is set in the Armadillo Acres Trailer park in Northern Florida, following a cast of its residents and all their late-80s-early-90s-white-trash-redneck-wrong-side-of-the-tracks antics.  Need I say more to describe the delicious vulgarity that is just waiting for you to enjoy?  I think not!  On to the actors!

TPM2The entire show is anchored by the best Greek chorus I have seen in a long time played by three of the best comedic actresses I’ve ever seen live on stage.  Tori Spero Dullenty, Loretta Deranleau Howard and Walker Caplan!  These chicks are no joke when it comes to telling a story, setting up a joke, and driving punchlines home.  Ms. Caplan is a little spitfire comedic genius!  She’s quirky, and funny, and man does she commit to this outrageous character she’s created.  My best friend referred to her as “The Next Gilda Radner,” and I couldn’t agree more!  Ms. Deranleau was mind blowing as the anchor of the trio, portraying hilarious character after hilarious character!  My fav is her Sally Jesse Raphael character!  This diva was exciting from the moment she stepped on stage to the final bow, and she cracked me up the entire way!  Ms. Spero Dullenty, however, was my favorite of the three!  Her characters, and ad-libs combined with her impeccable comedic timing had her pulling my focus in every scene, in the best way possible!  I can’t even tell you which of her characters was my favorite, because they were all unbelievably great!  Ok, I lied, I think the guy in the strip club is my fav!  I cried, I was laughing so hard!  Thank you, ladies, for your impeccable commitment to these characters, and for taking the audience on one hell of a ride!  Brava!

The main relationship in the show is between Norbert and Jeannie, played TPM4tpm12by Casey Raiha and Margaret Lamb. But of course, couldn’t stop there, because Pippy, played by the stunning Cherisse Martinelli, is the third point of one of the it’s-so-wrong-it-must-be-right love triangles ever!  There are a lot of layers to the relationships between these three characters, andTPM7 each did their job so perfectly, that you’re not quite sure whose side to be on.  Ms. Martinelli has a revelation moment at the end that broke my heart!  She was so beautifully broken, juxtaposing the strong sass she has for most of the show, I was unbelievably impressed by her chops!  Well done, young lady!

TPM9Ms. Lamb’s Jeannie is the perfect compliment to Ms. Martinelli’s Pippy.  Jeannie is complicated and endearing, and also funny as hell when she needs to be!  Her journey throughout this play is pure magic, and in the hands of a less skilled actress could have been quite boring.  But Ms. Lamb was dynamic, and committed to the journey, and took my breath away with the moments she created on that stage.  She was the perfect driver of the story allowing Mr. Raiha to effortlessly take Norbert’s journey.

I’ve seen Mr. Raiha in a few plays, but this was by far the best performance I’ve seen from him.  These two fantastic actresses gave him the anchors he needed to really sink into this character.  Normally not one to sympathize with a cheating husband, Mr. Raiha was able to make me see Norbert’s plight through his clear telling of the story.  He embraced the physicality of a man much older than him, as well as took on the emotional baggage in a real and profound way.  I hope Mr. Raiha continues to work with the likes of Ms. Lamb and Ms. Martinelli, because it elevated his performance to a new level that I hope to see more of from him in the future.

TPM10Lastly, yet certainly not least, is the character of Duke, played by Kyle James Traver.  This hysterical mess of a character cracked me up every time he stepped on stage, mostly because his actions caused the most hilarious reactions from the women on stage, especially Ms. Spero Dullenty.  Much like Mr. Raiha, this is the strongest performance I’ve seen from Mr. Traver, and I look forward to seeing more performances from him at this level!

I laughed, I cried (mostly because I was hysterically laughing), and I was shocked by some of the things coming out of the mouths of this wonderfully trashy characters.  Everything I imagine Florida to be came alive at the Hugo House, and you must go experience it for yourself!  The Great American Trailer Park Musical plays for one more weekend at the Hugo House.  Ticket and show information can be found on STAGEright’s website.

I give this a rambunctious applause and a loud, southern, Bravo, y’all!!!!

Ciao for now,

M lg

Photos from STAGEright’s Facebook Page

Oh, To Be An Addams!!!!

Entertainment Review

AddamsFamily-WebBanner

So, I went back to Renton Civic Theatre to watch the last show of their season: The Addams Family, and I must say this was a much better experience than the last one I had.  This production was the Renton Summer Teen Musical program that has been a part of the Renton community for 30 years.  This program has young actors, aged 13-19, and has a strong teaching style of process over product.  The goal of this organization is if you teach the process of acting correctly, the product will be successful.  And I can say, it worked like a charm with The Addams Family.  I really enjoyed it.

The acting, overall, was consistently good, with a few standouts and a few who missed the mark.  Let’s start with the best performance of the night:  Gomez, played by Dillon Engelhart.  Mr. Engelhart’s Gomez is everything you want him to be: emotional, funny, charismatic and passionate!  A family man above all else, his scenes with his wife and daughter were both spectacular.  Brilliant line delivery, a wonderful accent, and strong character development made Gomez my favorite performance of the night!

Additionally, Wednesday, played by Jaidyn Lam was as deliciously menacing as any I’ve seen on stage or screen.  Christina Ricci would have been proud of Ms. Lam’s performance.  This kid’s voice is pitch perfect, and her commitment to the dark mind of Wednesday Addams was extremely impressive.  And shifting back an forth between the traditional Wednesday we know and love to a Wednesday who is a smitten kitten reminded me of Anna Kendrick’s performance in CAMP.  She was one scary little girl and I loved every minute of it.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Lam on stage in more productions.  She’s one to watch!

Lastly, the character of Lurch, played by Thomas Smith, absolutely stole the show.  To see the moments this young actor creates on stage is worth the drive to Renton, I promise you!  His commitment to this character, his ability to communicate so much through mostly grunting, well, it was reminiscent of Guardian’s of the Galaxy’s Groot, and  his amazing performance brought me to tears.  Well done, young man!!

On the flip side, the one role that left me disappointed was Morticia, played by Sam Hefford-Anderson.  There were moments of the Morticia as she’s meant to be played, all cool and collected, full of power and poise, with just enough scary edge to keep all around her in line.  But sadly, those moments were few and far between.  Ms. Hefford-Anderson’s performance was inconsistent throughout the show, with her version of Morticia being far too animated and bubbly for the dark matriarch.  Although, I will say, with her lithe, willowy frame draped in a stunning black gown, her long dark hair parted perfectly down the middle framing her pale face and red lips brought Morticia physically to life before me, and she was stunning to behold.  Ms. Hefford-Anderson is a strong vocalist and dancer, so if her acting skill would get up to the same level, this kid would be one hell of a triple threat.

As for the production, Nick Hyett-Schnell, an alumni of this program, made his directorial debut with this show under the mentorship of Vincent Orduna.  Together these two men put together a stunning production, my favorite moment of which is the opening tableau!  People, you must see this!  The moment where the right actors, in the right costumes (expertly done by Jentra Smith), in the perfect light (design by Peter King) was so spectacular that the audience burst into applause at the sight of it!  And that is how the show started, setting the tone for the rest of the show to continue to delight!  So many more moments impressed me throughout the show, that there are too many to name.  Just go see it and enjoy for yourself!

Vocally, the cast sounded fantastic, under the music direction of John Kelleher.  The music was great, the harmonies were tight, and the pacing was right where it needed to be.  Not only did Mr. Kelleher expertly conduct the performers, he also conducted the audience beautifully during the curtain call as we all snapped along to the famous theme song.  Bravo!  Choreography by Stephanie Graham was hit and miss for me.  She definitely did wonders with the ensemble, I loved every group number performed throughout the show.  There’s a tango that left me nonplussed, but other than that, it was really wonderful to see choreography done well for a group of kids with different dance strengths.  Ms. Graham showcased each cast member beautifully, and I hope to see more choreography from her in the future.

Technically, however, this show was a mess!  The light cues were spastic and distracting.  The audience was left in the dark for an awkward amount of time during the overture which set the technical tone for the show and sadly it never got better.  These amazing kids, working their asses off on that stage only to have lights go out on them before the song/scene was over, to have light cues changing on them early here or late there were so obvious it was embarrassing.  There’s a bit with the moon that left poor Fester in a lurch (no pun intended), and so many actors were halfway through speeches or songs when weird light changes would happen.  I felt for the performers, it was just so jarring to watch, but kudos to the actors for not looking thrown.  Additionally, there were sound issues with some mics, that I hope will get fixed before the next show.  However, someone should bring a venti sized Redbull in for the light board operator and the stage manager to wake them up and ensure that cues are on point going forward, because these kids deserve better than what they got on opening night.

Overall, though, this production is wonderful, and my hope is the tech issues will go away as the run goes forward.  And even if they don’t, the exceptional talent of this cast and the dedication of the artistic production staff should be seen by everyone who can make it!  These young actors were taught the acting process brilliantly creating a wonderful product, and those of us who go to experience opening night left raving about this show.  I even heard an elderly gentleman in the lobby after the show say to Mr. Orduna, “I am a season ticket holder, and we always bring friends to shows here and we all agreed this is the best show we’ve seen here in a long time.”  And I couldn’t agree with him more!  This show had the audience all loving what it means to be and Addams!  Congrats to all involved on a stellar show!

Addams Family runs this weekend and next, and I highly encourage you to go see it!  Ticket and show information can be found on Renton Civic Theatre’s website.

This one gets a resounding applause and a ‘Bravo!’ shouted to the cast as they take very well deserved bows, hopefully before the lights go out on them too early to enjoy it.

Ciao for now,

M lg