REVIEW: Chapin Theatre Company's Shrek: The Musical is an Ogre-Sized Delight by Frank Thompson

 

As the song goes, “it’s not easy being green,” but Clayton P. King manages to make it look effortless. Surrounded by a large cast of veterans and newcomers, King’s portrayal of the grumpy and reclusive title role in Chapin Theatre Company’s Shrek: The Musical is not only enjoyable, but also could serve as an unofficial master class for aspiring character actors. Expertly costumed and clad in full body padding, latex hands and headpiece, and a thick layer of makeup that would make The Wicked Witch Of  The West pea-soup hued with envy, the well-known local singer/actor is almost unrecognizable, but brings his usual flair and knack for interpreting a part to the Harbison Theatre stage. There’s a hint of Mike Meyers’ original screen incarnation in King’s portrayal, but he definitely makes it his own, presenting the audience with a slightly gentler, yet still comically fierce Shrek, who never relies on imitation. While some cartoon characters work splendidly when embodied by real-life actors, others falter somewhere in translation. (For every You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, there’s a Doonesbury, which proves that simply plonking down the inhabitants of a successful ink-and-paper universe onstage isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success.) Luckily, Shrek: The Musical makes the leap with room to spare, with its charm and middle-school affinity for the hilarity of flatulence fully intact. Indeed, one of the show’s highlights is a belch-and-poot contest duet between Shrek and Fiona (Korianna Hays.)

As Fiona, Hays matches King’s expertise with a skill set honed through years of experience ranging from Shakespeare to Something Very Fishy, an original musical for children which teaches marine conservation through song and dance. Though she may have grown up in a tower, awaiting her knight, this Fiona is no fragile flower, and Hays artfully creates a spunky, self-sufficient young woman who can clearly handle herself in any situation. On a side note, the next generation of stage performers is well represented, with adult Fiona singing a trio with herself (herselves?) in childhood and teenagerhood. Katy Grant and Abby Tam play Young and Teen Fiona respectively, and are in fine voice, blending perfectly with Hays in their musical growing-up montage. Carter Tam makes a brief but noteworthy appearance as Young Shrek, as well.

The supporting cast is uniformly strong, with Major McCarty handing in a hilarious and over-the-top camp turn as the diminutive tyrant, Lord Farquaad. As he clearly revels in the distinction of being one of the only characters to break the fourth wall, McCarty’s performance brings to mind the delightfully shameless mugging of a young Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly, complete with demands for applause and cheeky asides to the audience. Along for the ride is first-timer Gerrard Goines, who keeps up with his more experienced co-stars in the role of Donkey. As does King, Goines takes a pinch of the film character (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and then puts his own spin on Shrek’s ever-faithful, if beleaguered best friend and traveling companion. A splendid singer with a natural comic’s timing, Goines will most certainly be seen again on local stages.

Other standouts include powerhouse vocalist Jas Webber, who brings the Dragon to saucy, sassy life, and Michelle Strom as Gingy, the Gingerbread Man of nursery-rhyme fame, whose scene with McCarty veers rib-ticklingly into the waters of British pantomime as they transform the lyrics to “Do You Know The Muffin Man” into mock-serious banter. Similar nods to multiple pop culture phenomena throughout the ages, from Monty Python to Friends, are peppered throughout the show, including a second-act opener featuring Busby Berkeley style tap choreography, a trio of Motown-esque Blind Mice, and a final line plucked straight from the pages of Dickens. (There are other Easter Eggs as well, but I’ll let you enjoy looking for them.)

The ensemble is the backbone of any musical, and this one does not disappoint. There isn’t a weak link to be found, and the script provides plenty of opportunities for all, with pretty much every cast member having a spotlight moment or two. The commitment to the wacky reality of their world is clear, and in-jokes abound, from a mid-thirties Peter Pan needing a shave to a wisecracking, beehive-haired Sugar Plum Fairy. There’s no official Costume Designer credited, so I’ll offer kudos to the show’s Co-Directors, Tiffany Dinsmore and Meesh Hays, who managed to bring just about every character from the Mother Goose canon to the Harbison stage, in authentic and easily identifiable outfitting, with a color palette of bright primaries and soft pastels that perfectly reinforce Shrek: The Musical’s cartoon pedigree.

A wide swath of choreographic styles, from traditional “old school” musical theatre to contemporary, intertwine throughout, courtesy of Choreographers Meredith Boehme and Katie Hilliger, who have taken a group with varied levels of experience and made them all look like trained pros. While some routines are more complex than others, there’s no hint of anything being simplified or watered down. Boehme and Hilliger have obviously choreographed to the strengths of their cast, allowing dancers and non-dancers alike to move with what looks like effortless ease. Musical Director Mary Jo Johnson has clearly worked the vocals well, with soloists and group numbers both coming in strong and solidly supported.

On the technical side, Danny Harrington’s set design is whimsical and fully realized, often operating in an almost Transformers style, with a series of hinges, individual pieces, and large units blending nicely with flown-in backdrops. All scene changes are done in full view, allowing the show to progress uninterrupted, which adds a touch of magic to an already enchanting production. Laura Anthony’s light design is subtle and most effective, utilizing shadows and isolated sections of the stage to create everything from the suggestion of overhead foliage to a starlit night, blending nicely with Harrington’s set.

Flaws are few and far between in this production, but if one must be nit-picky, there were a couple of  less-than-perfect moments in Sunday’s matinee performance. The show moves at a comfortably brisk pace, but the trade-off is that a few lines and bits seemed rushed, and a couple of the higher-pitched speaking voices were slightly difficult to understand, especially with the added challenge of using distinctive speech patterns to create fairy-tale characters. The large ensemble numbers in the first act seemed a bit vocally muddled, but clear diction prevailed by act two, so perhaps it just took a little time for my hearing to adjust to the combination of character voices and sometimes- intricate wordplay within the lyrics.  The set, while sumptuous, has clearly been nicked and scratched in a few spots during what must have been a demanding tech week, but there’s nothing that a couple of dabs of paint here and there wouldn’t fix.

Shrek: The Musical is a massive undertaking, and Chapin Theatre Company has risen to the challenge with high production values, a sleek and streamlined visual quality, and a uniformly talented and capable cast who are clearly having great fun with the material. This isn’t a deep, thoughtful, drama, but it never pretends to be anything it isn’t. It’s a funny, lighthearted, and joyful confection which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Get ready to laugh, enjoy the inherent goofiness of it all, and make the short drive out to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for a winning performance. The production continues its run with shows this Thursday and Friday at 7.30pm, and 3.00pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

-          FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as Theatre Editor for JASPER.

 

REVIEW: Chapin Theatre Company's Into the Woods by Melissa Ellington

intoTheWoods Chapin Theatre Company presents an outstanding production of Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College. The musical debuted in 1986 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, followed by a Tony Award-winning Broadway production in 1987. Numerous other versions of Into the Woods have emerged over the years, including Broadway and London revivals as well as the 2014 film adaptation. (This reviewer first fell in love with the musical through the PBS American Playhouse filming of the original stage production. Into the Woods became the first of many musicals I would direct with high school students, and I have fond memories of problem-solving its trickier production demands with energized and optimistic teenagers.) The Chapin Theatre Company succeeds in producing a musical with considerable history through an innovative and fresh approach.

Into the Woods weaves together familiar fairy tales in clever and surprising ways. Key characters are drawn into the woods in pursuit of their dreams and desires: the Baker and his wife seek items needed to lift the Witch’s magic spell and cure their childlessness; Cinderella travels to her mother’s grave for advice on how to attend the prince’s ball; Jack (of eventual beanstalk fame) must sell his beloved cow Milky White in a desperate effort to alleviate his family’s poverty; and Little Red Riding Hood sets out for her grandmother’s house, only to be waylaid by the Wolf. While Act One traces the journey towards wish fulfillment, Act Two takes a darker turn as the characters face what happens after “happily ever after.” As Cinderella sings to a heartbroken Little Red Riding Hood: “Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the wood. Others may deceive you. You decide what’s good.”  Recognition of human imperfection and finding hope amid bleak circumstances provide thematic cornerstones that are as timely now as ever.

Into the Woods has been challenging and moving audiences for decades, and astute director Jamie Carr-Harrington has assembled a top-notch cast for this excellent production.  In the central role of the Baker, Clayton King provides vocal power and emotional connection through pivotal numbers such as “No More,” a poignant sequence with the Mysterious Man (aptly played by Andy Nyland, who is also the appealing Narrator.) Becca Kelly (Baker’s Wife) and Karly Minacapelli (Cinderella) create engaging characters while sharing gorgeous vocal talents.

Catherine L. Bailey triumphs in the complex role of the Witch, communicating both strength and frailty in songs such as “Last Midnight” which is performed as a beguiling lullaby that transforms into a ferocious display of power. Jackie Rowe plays Little Red with depth and compassion, making a role that could easily become a caricature into a highly moving depiction of growing up. After admiring his work on various Columbia stages for years, this reviewer was thrilled to open the program and see Paul Lindley II cast in the role of Jack. Lindley’s vocal energy and magnetic stage presence contribute to a gratifying performance. Nancy Ann Smith delivers a delightful portrayal of Jack’s beleaguered mother.

As the “charming, not sincere” Princes, Jeremy Reasoner and Kyle Neal have impeccable timing and admirable voices, especially in the crowd-pleasing number “Agony.” Ann Baggett (Stepmother), Rachel Glowacki (Lucinda), and Elizabeth Stepp (Florinda) depict Cinderella’s step-family with comedic glee, while Courtney Reasoner shares a beautiful soprano in the role of Rapunzel. Parker Byun succeeds as an appropriately sleazy Wolf and doubles in the role of Cinderella’s incompetent father. Ruth Glowacki’s fierce Granny and Giant and Joshua Wall’s sarcastic Steward contribute to the strong performance.

With superb musical direction by Christopher A. McCroskey, the cast demonstrates extraordinary vocal ability throughout the production. A first-rate group of musicians fulfill the intricate challenges of Sondheim’s score, including David Branham (Bass), Brian Lamkin (Trumpet), and Samantha Marshall (Flute). Patty Boggs’ precise work with percussion enhances the production significantly.

A substantial production staff has collaborated to bring Into the Woods to life, including Carr-Harrington, Lou Clyde (Producer), Carrie Chalfont (Stage Manager), Matt Pound (Technical Director; Set and Lighting Design), Shelby Sessler (Costumer), Kara Pound (Art Design), Diane Moore (Properties) and J.S. Lee (Sound Design and Technician). The technical demands of Into the Woods are considerable, and the production team showcases creativity and skill in staging this performance.

With Carr-Harrington’s expert guidance, the Chapin Theatre Company scores a major win with Into the Woods. For viewers who think they have already seen this material because they went to the movie version: you really don’t want to miss the opportunity to enjoy this lovely production of a musical treasure by a successful local theatre company in the wonderful Harbison Theatre facility. As the characters sing in the opening prologue, “Into the woods, it’s time to go!”

Into the Woods will be presented by the Chapin Theatre Company at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College on June 24, 25, 26, and 27 at 8 pm and on June 28 at 3 pm. The theatre is located at 7300 College Street in Irmo, SC.  For more information, visit www.chapintheatre.org.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - a Review by Jillian Owens

Is it possible to gain serenity by isolating and removing all that is evil and full of rage from our minds?  This is the question Dr. Henry Jekyll seeks to answer in Chapin Theatre Company’s production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  After much experimentation and late hours in his laboratory, Jekyll creates a concoction that transforms him from his kind-natured bookish self into a raging violent monster who calls himself Mr. Hyde.  In Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the famous novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, the lines of good and evil fade to grey.  In the beginning of his experiments, Dr. Jekyll remembers his alter-ego’s activities, but gradually he begins to “black out” for days at a time; as Hyde terrorizes London with violence, depravity, and murder.  Jekyll, through the testimony of his friends and colleagues is acutely aware of the dangerous and deadly extent of Hyde’s actions, but continues with his experiments regardless.  Hyde, on the other hand, becomes a sympathetic anti-hero.   Born with a rage he can’t control, we see surprising moments of tenderness to Elizabeth, a young chambermaid who falls in love with him.  He laments being unable to lament his cruel nature, and does all he can to defend himself from Jekyll’s threats to destroy him. This production of what could be a deeply moving exploration into the darkest corners of man’s soul doesn’t entirely work.  I applaud a small community theatre for attempting such a difficult production, but several elements of the show came off as hokey and/or unpolished.  Some of this is due to the challenging nature of the script.  Relying heavily on an ensemble cast, most of the actors end up playing a different aspect of Mr. Hyde -- a device that isn’t very effective, as it doesn’t really contribute to the story.   The constant “filling in the gaps” of the story by aside narrations and journal readings wouldn’t be so annoying if they weren’t so plentiful, often halting and killing any suspense that might have otherwise built up.  George Dinsmore’s performance of Dr. Henry Jekyll becomes much more powerful in the second half of this production, as we begin to actually see his inner turmoil and guilt for what he has done.  Nathan Dawson pulls of multiple roles, including the “main” Hyde well, although his Hyde is teeters on the edge of becoming a caricature, with a voice that is distractingly Tom Waits-ish.  The lack of erotic tension in the scenes between Hyde and Elizabeth (played by Emily Meadows) made their intense relationship seem quite unlikely.

This isn’t to say this production is without merit -  far from it.  The ensemble cast pulls off their rapidly-changing characters well,  changing their voices, postures, and mannerisms seamlessly and impressively.  Somehow a scene where one of the characters (played by David Reed) oversees an autopsy of the character he played in the previous scene doesn’t seem at all strange or out of place.  While the individually ever-rotating Mr. Hydes aren’t very effective, the scenes where they converge together to torment Dr. Jekyll are downright chilling.  

The set is stark, raw, and adaptive – perfect for this production.  The music plays a major part in creating this show’s haunting mood.  A few costume changes would have been helpful in establishing character changes, but became unnecessary, due to the strength of the cast’s ability to change so effortlessly and distinctly from role to role.

Chapin Theatre Company is making bold strides in moving away from being just another community theatre.  While they haven’t reached the caliber of other theatre companies in the Columbia area yet, they are well on their wayDespite its flaws, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will make a great addition to your Halloween season.

~ Jillian Owens

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, runs Oct. 19-Nov. 3, 2012 at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College St., Irmo, SC 29063. Visit www.chapintheatre.org for information on specific performance dates and reservations.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Dinsmore - a guest blog, or two

Extract from the Journal of Dr. Henry Jekyll...  As 1882 draws to a close, I find myself returned to my home in London.  The two years I spent abroad studying alternative medicines in the Amazon Basin have proven quite fruitful.  Some of the tinctures and extracts that were introduced to me by the natives are rather potent.  They provide me with a previously unimagined freedom of thought and conscience.  I can’t help but believe that I am on the cusp of something monumental.  After numerous successes, I felt it was time to move my tests from the field, as it were, to the real world where I may see more accurate results of my work in real-life environs.

No longer shall I be tortured by the darkness that hides in the deepest recesses of my mind, hinting and prodding and begging for release. I am a civilized man of the modern era, who need not be burdened by such desires.  Today marks the first substantive step of my journey toward peace of mind.  I have successfully separated my more base ambitions from my intellectual designs, thus allowing me a sense of serenity that heretofore was simply not possible.  For now, while I am able to detach these two… “streams of consciousness,” for lack of better terminology, I still seek a method to strip away the unwanted “stream” and discard it.

Naturally, my labors must be kept confidential until they can be more fully evaluated, especially from Sir Danvers Carew.  As Chief Surgeon, he holds considerable sway with the Board of Governors, and he already seeks to undermine me at every turn.  But I am hesitant to share this work even with my closest friends and colleagues.  While Dr. Lanyon is a lifelong friend, he has a tendency to strictly adhere to accepted methodologies, and my experiments are outside those standard channels.

Aside from all of my achievements to date, one thing gives me pause.  I feel as if my work is being observed by someone else; as if I am being watched.  Almost as if there was someone in the room with me, but I have shared my research with no one.  Perhaps this is simply a side effect of the treatment, yet it gnaws at me....

Today I rid myself of my inner beast!

 

 Extract from the Journal of George Dinsmore...

When I learned that Chapin Theater Company was performing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I admit I was not initially excited. Drink a potion, become a monster. It seems like everyone has taken a stab at the idea, including Sylvester and Tweety’s Hyde and Go Tweet.  Only Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is more overdone. But I read the script, which is a new adaption by Jeffrey Hatcher.  And I’m glad I did.  This isn’t the story of a good man and the evil monster inside of him.  It is a story about people in general, and the journey of self-discovery we all go through, although most people’s deep dark secrets are expressed with fewer physical manifestations

Before I even started learning lines, I started taking my own emotional inventory, looking back on my own experiences for specific emotions that Jekyll goes through: terror, self-loathing, hubris, etc.  Some were easy to draw on. Some were harder. And some I thought I didn’t possess -- at first.  But they were all there. It’s surprising what you can find inside if you’re honest with yourself.

As everyone knows, Jekyll and the Hydes’ personalities overlap as the show progresses. So, preparing for that wasn’t a case of two actors deciding something arbitrary like, “Hey, let’s both have a limp.” There are four Hydes (played by Jeff Sigley, David Reed, Nathan Dawson, and Kathy Sykes) who have their own distinct traits.  Jekyll starts as an individual, and gradually takes on some part of each Hyde. And if we don’t see each Hyde somewhere in Jekyll’s demeanor, then we have no reason to believe they are the same person.

It has been an incredible challenge for me because let’s face it, most -- not all, but most -- of my stage work has been comedy.  I had to remind myself not to “find the funny” as director Glenn Farr puts it whether intentionally or not. But harder, was to show Jekyll’s human journey, not as a candlestick, rock star, or New Jersey con man, but as a real person with whom audiences could sympathize and relate.

So did I succeed?  Well, I admit I’ve always been a little nervous before every performance, but this one is different.  Dr. Jekyll is way outside my comfort zone, and there is more of “me” in this character than I’m accustomed to sharing.  But I am surrounded by fantastic talent onstage and off, and I feel like I have grown leaps and bounds as an actor, so from a personal standpoint it is already a success.  I guess I’ll find out if other people agree when we open this Friday and audiences get their first look at the finished product.

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The “Musical” I Swore I’d Never Direct - a guest blog by Glenn Farr

When I began directing local live theatre five years ago, I intuitively knew where my strengths lay: helming casts of four to 12 players in boxed set productions, no matter whether they be comedies or dramas. After all, those were the types of shows I most enjoyed being in – plays that allowed even a supporting actor to actually have time to develop a character and present it without being interrupted by a sudden song or choreographed routine involving almost everyone else in the cast. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy musicals when they are well done, and in Columbia, now that we’ve reached a point when many who populate them have had the luxury of singing and dancing lessons, many such productions are actually quite good. For my part, in my 20s, when I lived in Newberry, SC, I so much wanted to be a part of musicals that I secretly studied with a retired voice professor who had been something of a legend during his days on the faculty of Newberry College. After a year, he had whipped me into good enough shape to score the lead in a production of Man of La Mancha. In the years since, I’ve had the opportunity to play and sing roles ranging from Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods and Scrooge to Professor Bhaer in Little Women: the Musical and perhaps the role for which I was best suited, Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

Nevertheless, that quarter century of performing in musicals taught me some things I knew I would not want to deal with as a director. First of all, you don’t really control the complete vision of the story you’re telling. You share it with a musical director and a choreographer. And the older I get, the more I find I want to tell the entire story myself, thank you very much. You also share casting decisions. I knew I’d never want to be in the position of casting an inadequate actress because she happened to be a superb singer, or not being able to cast a superior actress who happened to have two left feet.

Musicals are also logistically complex. No lights up and lights down on two acts with perhaps a maximum of two scenes per act. Instead, many lighting and set changes that must be coordinated with music and large numbers of bodies entering and exiting the stage. I feel a brain cramp coming on just thinking about it.

And finally, after having been in a fair number of musicals, I knew the kinds of egos they often attract, often some of the most “special” among those of us who enjoy stagecraft, many of whom have set up housekeeping at the very center of the Universe. Did I really want to deal with nursing egos to ensure the actors attached to them would give the performance they should? Could I ever develop the diplomacy such action might require?

I really didn’t know.

Nevertheless, my first directing job was Chapin Theatre Company’s A Murder Is Announced, an Agatha Christie mystery. They took a chance on me as a new director and I did everything I knew how to make sure my efforts – and the show itself – would succeed. I broke the script into French scenes, organized a rehearsal schedule that prevented actors from waiting in the wings for their scenes to begin, assembled a strong cast (with a few people playing against type), and staged a show that was well received by the theatre’s patron base. I did find myself massaging an ego or two, but nothing that compared to what I had experienced by being in musicals.

I directed a second show for Chapin, and in short order, one for Workshop, ultimately also being offered a directing opportunity at Village Square in Lexington. In a few short years, I had directed eight productions with varying degrees of success, but among all of them, there was nary a musical.

Until Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Let me be clear, the production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Chapin Theatre Company is staging at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College is not a musical. When it was announced as part of the current season, many in the community confused it with Jekyll & Hyde, the actual musical by Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse and Steve Cudin. It’s not that show.

This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a non-musical play adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was commissioned by the Arizona State Theatre in 2008 and has since become fairly popular among local theatres throughout the country.

It’s easy to see why. The show retains the essential elements of the Stevenson story, but introduces a modern sensibility in that there are four incarnations of Mr. Hyde (one of whom is a very sexy woman) and treats Dr. Jekyll’s metamorphosis into the various Hydes as something of a personality disorder triggered by experimentation with drugs. It is also economical to produce, in that there is no fixed set and uses one rolling door and a few pieces of furniture to define spaces. And, it employs only eight actors, some of whom play up to five or six distinct characters, each, with no significant costume changes.

On paper, the show looks simple. It’s just a black box staging and reinterpretation of a classic horror tale, right?

Ah, but just as Dr. Jekyll morphs into Mr. Hyde, this production began showing signs of trying to transform itself into a sort of musical in its own right.

First, it is structured so that the rolling door moves from scene to scene to define space as the characters move from London streets to Jekyll’s home to a London medical college to a slum room where Hyde lives to a police morgue to a local park and back again. Quick scene changes that must be executed flawlessly so that music and lighting match and actors don’t stumble over themselves getting to where they need to be, with the correct props in hand at the right moments – that sounds an awfully lot like a musical to me. I found as I pre-blocked the show (it is my habit to work out blocking in my head, writing it down in the script, before the first rehearsal with actors) that I had to view this show as if it were a musical. The play has a shifting foundation and its own fuzzy logic as one scene melts into another and an actor who was one character in the first scene becomes someone entirely different in the next. I know I’ve seen musicals that operated on a similar premise.

Enthusiasm about this project began to build as soon as it was announced and I subsequently learned that J.S. Lee, who was already on board as the sound designer, is also a composer. He expressed interest in creating an original ambient score for the production. He let me hear a sample of his work and I immediately saw an opportunity to make this production even more special by enhancing its scenes with original music.

In addition, the lighting designer was eager to develop an atmospheric lighting plot that would give the story the dark moods it requires while still enhancing the actors’ work on stage. Lighting is one area of stagecraft in which my knowledge is limited, and during discussions with lighting designer Matt Pound, I found my contributions to be limited to utterances such as, “Make the cyc glow red here,” or, “Make this look really dark and creepy.”

Finally, we decided to take advantage of some of the unique technical capabilities of the Harbison Theatre, which is only two years old. It can actually be used as a movie theatre due to its retractable screen mounted near the proscenium. We decided to create a video opening credits sequence that will be accompanied by an “overture” composed by J.S. Lee.

As I look at the elements we’ve added to what arguably could have been a very simple show, I see that about the only thing keeping it from being a true musical is song lyrics and choreography for the actors. Otherwise, compared to other shows I’ve directed, it’s evolved into a technical beast requiring a degree of conceptual thinking from me that, at times, has threatened to wrap my brain around a fence post.

Still, I would not trade the experience. As I write this, we are a few days from our first technical rehearsal and a few more days further from our opening night. We have yet to add the music and lighting, along with the video opening sequence, that we’ve spent the past six months developing and I have no idea how well the parts will assemble into a whole. Yet, I have faith it will be impressive.

What I do know is that the actors are ready. This project attracted some of the Midlands’ most talented, if sometimes underrated, performers. David Reed and Nathan Dawson are masters of accent and character shifts; George Dinsmore moves far beyond the physical comedy for which he is known as he offers a portrait of a good, but haunted man who fears he is losing his grip on reality. Kathy Sykes makes her female version of Mr. Hyde a true vamp and Emily Meadows brings a gentle, realistic energy to her role of the chambermaid who falls for the ultimate bad boy, Edward Hyde. Jeff Sigley has grown significantly as he brings to life the paternal attorney who tries to help Jekyll as his world falls apart and Teresa McWilliams and Dennis Kacsur support the main cast as they engender a number of small supporting roles. And nowhere among them is an out-of-control ego residing at the center of the universe.

No, Chapin Theatre Company’s production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not a musical, but in several key ways, it does feel like one. Nevertheless, it has shown me that I might have to “unswear” that I’ll never direct a genuine musical.

~ Glenn Farr

Glenn Farr has acted, sung and even danced on Midlands stages for nearly 40 years. In the past five years he has directed for Chapin Theatre Company, Workshop Theatre and Village Square Theatre in Lexington.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, runs Oct. 19-Nov. 3, 2012 at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College St., Irmo, SC 29063. Visit www.chapintheatre.org for information on specific performance dates and reservations.

 

 

A Little Princess, Camp Rock, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat all running through this weekend

As I type this, the temperature has passed one hundred degrees yet again.  Wouldn't this be the perfect time to relax inside a nice, cool, dark theatre and see a live show?  If so, you have lots of chances through this weekend, as three local theatre companies present the final performances of their  summer productions. Chapin Theatre Company (aka Chapin Community Theatre) is currently  performing in the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, located at  7300 College St. in Irmo.  Currently running is A Little Princess., adapted from the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, with shows tonight (Thursday, 7/26) Friday and Saturday, and a final Sunday afternoon matinee.   This production, directed by Debra Leopard,  features Molly Corbett in the title role, with Jeff Sigley, MonaLisa Botts, and Eliza C. Spence among the adults in the cast.    From their press release:

A Little Princess is the classic story of Sara Crews, a little girl born in India who is sent to a London private school after her mother dies. After word arrives that her father has lost his fortune and disappeared, she is banished to the garret where she must use her creative imagination and spirited optimism to overcome her circumstances. Ultimately, she becomes an inspiration for girls and boys everywhere. An uplifting tale for children of all ages, NewsDay said there is "a lot of magic in it."  Visit www.chapintheatre.org for ticket information.

Workshop Theatre meanwhile is presenting three more performances of  Disney's Camp Rock - The Musical, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 PM. Read What Jasper Said about the show at  http://jaspercolumbia.net/blog/?p=1841 .

Town Theatre has four more performances scheduled for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Thursday through Saturday evening st 7:30 PM, and a final Sunday matinee at 3 PM.  Scott Vaughan plays the lead role of Joseph, Shannon Willis Scruggs directs and choreographs, and Lou Warth is the music director.   From their press release:

Based on the book of Genesis, this exciting musical follows the story of a young man with a knack for having prophetic dreams. He incurs the jealousy of his eleven brothers who sell him into slavery in Egypt where his talents eventually save the country from famine and secure him a position as Pharaoh’s right-hand man. In due time, he is reunited with his now contrite and guilt-ridden brethren.  Its catchy music by Andrew Lloyd Webber utilizes a variety of musical styles and genres including rock ‘n’ roll, country-western, reggae, disco and even a French art song. Music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyrics are by Tim Rice. Joseph… is a winning show that is ideal family entertainment. Prepare to enter a world of dreams, for – as Joseph learns – “any dream will do.”     Visit http://towntheatre.com for ticket information.