Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Theater review: Plaza Theatre Company cleans up [Title of Show]
The "Apropos" (or clean version) has been modified for a more family-friendly audience.
CLEBURNE [Title of Show] is the mostly true story of two writers in New York, attempting to create a new, original musical in three weeks. They recruit two lady friends to help bring the show together. When the show is accepted to the New York Musical Theatre Festival and later produced off-Broadway, tensions rise between the four friends as artistic choices are weighed against commercial success.
[Title of Show] Apropos at Plaza Theatre Company is excellently presented and will make new fans out of anybody who hasn't experienced the original, salty cast recording. For those who have experienced the original version, changes made in the script can prove irritating.
The "Apropos" (or clean version) has been modified from the original by the authors for general audiences. However, there are some mis-steps made in the modifications. Clean up the language, of course, that's understandable. Take out Heidi stripping down to her bra in the Festival Medley, that's acceptable. However, the choice to leave in the reference to whores in "Nine People's Favorite Things," while cutting any reference to the main characters' homosexuality is baffling and offensive.
The implication is that whores are apropos but homosexuality is not. That decision, plus the irony of even putting on a show where the main theme is to not compromise integrity, highlighted in “Die Vampire, Die!” and “Nine People's Favorite Things,” that is compromised for the sake of selling tickets to delicate audiences, is aggravating.
It is understandable a theatre in a small rural town in Texas would choose to play it safe and do a show that is more accessible to the local population. However, [Title of Show] is not a show that should be used in this way. If Plaza Theatre Company feels their audience could not accept the full version of [Title of Show], they should have chosen another show for their season rather than present the watered down version of an otherwise great musical.
Play choice and writing aside, [Title of Show] is excellent in every way and what we've come to expect from Plaza Theatre Company. The performance area is near vacant, as the script calls for only four chairs and a few props to be used in the most technically simple musical ever written. I wonder if giving G. Aaron Siler a set design credit in the script is meant to be an industry joke.
The direction is wonderful & uses every part of the space effectively. Even the most abstract scenes are choreographed simply but potently.
“Monkeys and Playbills” is the stand-out scene of the show, with Heidi and Susan taking on ethereal qualities, influencing Jeff and Hunter's creative process.
The use of lighting, a multi-media video presentation, and modern dance elements come together to create a memorable scene.
As in most productions with sparse scenic elements, the lighting for [Title of Show] takes on an even greater role. With well-defined play areas, allowing different scenes to happen simultaneously as in “What Kind of Girl is She?” and exceptional color choices highlighting the moods and themes of the scenes demonstrated in “The Tony Award Song” and “Dream Sequence,” the lighting is the true technical star of the show.
The actors each perform their roles masterfully, pulling the audience in to their characters' world and not letting go until the finale. They inhabited the roles so well it was easy to think they were actually playing themselves.
David Cook and Jonathan Metting as Jeff and Hunter, the writers, are completely natural in their interactions with each other. Their jokes and arguments are as realistic as would be expected from the original cast members. Their hope is palpable in “Part of it All” and frustration is crystal clear in “Awkward Photo Shoot”.
Daron Cockerell and Milette Siler play Heidi and Susan, Jeff and Hunter's friends brought on to round out the script.
Siler, as Susan, voices concerns of not being able to measure up to the musical talent of the rest of the cast, punctuated when she demonstrates her inability to find a note in a harmony during “Filling Out the Form.” However, she is given great opportunities to shine with “Die Vampire, Die!” and a featured section of “September Song.” These opportunities are not wasted, and Siler displays greater confidence in her performance than does her character.
Cockerell comes into the part of Heidi confident and capable. Her grand finale of “I am Playing Me” is stunning. She nearly brings the house down, both musically and comically, stopping the show in her duet with Siler in “Secondary Characters.” “A Way Back to Then” is touching and heartfelt. It seems there is nothing this woman can't do on stage.
Diane Stewart is in a quiet corner of the stage, alone for most of the show. Her main purpose is to provide the musical accompaniment on the piano but every once in a while her character, Mary, is given a line to participate in the scene. As the musical director, Stewart has ensured all the actors sound incredible and she is flawless on the piano.
It is worth the drive to Cleburne to see [Title of Show] Apropos no matter where in North Texas you call home. The production features fantastic performances that keep the audience engaged. Plaza Theatre Company has a reputation for putting on some of the highest quality shows in the region, and with this musical they continue building that reputation.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
- Theater review: Passion covers many sins in Cleburne's floundering Over the River
- Theatre review: Plaza Theatre reaches for the stars with The Sound of Music
- Theater review: Plaza Theatre Company's See How They Run leaves you rolling in the aisles
- Theatre review: Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players fling frisky fun in Babes in Toyland
- Theater review: Only a scrooge couldn't love Plaza Theatre Company's classic take on A Christmas Carol