Friday, November 4, 2011

Lengthy dialogue distracts from overall great performance

By Alison Haywood, A&E Reporter

I wasn’t sure what to expect my first time seeing Pacific Lutheran’s Night of Musical Theatre. I imagined it would be like a high school talent show, or at best a cabaret-type performance of a variety of songs.

What I wasn’t expecting was a unified theme, a linear plot tying each number together and a couple of witty Greek gods hosting the show.

Greek servant Xanthias, played by sophomore Sam Hosman, kicked off the night with a rendition of “Comedy Tonight.” Sophomore Taylor Capellaro joined Hosman. Capellaro played the role of Dionysus, the self-described god of “wine, theater, ecstasy and everything delicious.”

The two proceeded to engage in some lively banter introducing the show, emphasizing the importance of musical theater as an art form and introducing the theme of love.

While at first I enjoyed Capellaro’s energetic antics, I soon became bored with his melodramatic style and wished the music would start, already. One audience member, Clinical Instructor of Theatre Henry Loughman, said, “It’s a cute idea [to have narrators] but it detracts from the overall performance.”

I would tend to agree with this, although sophomore Kameron Jacobs enjoyed the way Capellaro “owned the stage” and thought the dialogue, which Director junior Jack Sorensen wrote, added to rather than distracted from the overall performance.

Ten minutes of dialogue later, the song “Invocation” from the musical The Frogs began, yet another addition to this lengthy introduction.

The show did not really gain momentum until Sorensen and a small ensemble performed the sixth and seventh piece almost a half hour in to the show, a medley of “Summer Nights” and “December 1963.”

After this, the energy level in the room slowly increased, picking up with such upbeat songs as “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” from Hairspray and “Run, Freedom, Run!” from Urinetown.

Things got sexy with a seductive yet tasteful tango, “The Club” from In the Heights, and solemn with “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” from Spring Awakening. Just before the ending of the first act, the host, Capellaro, revealed his darker side with “Hymn to Dionysus” and the plot thickened as it fell to Xanthius to teach the humans about love.

Although I was extremely impressed with the performance overall, I did have a few small criticisms.

Besides the overuse of dialogue, some of the choreography was not as original as the program claimed it would be. While at first I thought the dancing for “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago and “Mein Herr” from Cabaret came directly from the Hollywood movies, Sorensen explained to me that the copycatting was an intentional nod to Rob Marshall and Bob Fosse, the original choreographers of Chicago and Cabaret, respectively.

Although I enjoyed the variety of choreography, from simple stand-and-deliver performances to complex chorus numbers, some of the more involved dancing was a little off, and just a couple of the singers left me wanting more. However, I felt the overall performance went very well.

The second act began with one of my favorite songs ever, “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This song offers an explanation of human love based on a Greek myth, saying humans used to be four-legged, two-faced creatures that were torn in two when they angered the gods, and when humans fall in love it is because they have literally found who used to be their other half.

The beautiful student choreography of this piece by Sorensen and junior Jill Heinecke sent chills down my back and brought tears to my eyes as dancers acted out a very literal interpretation of the story. This was the first song for which the audience not only clapped but cheered.

The songs in the second act had a much clearer relation to the theme of love. As Dionysus explained, the songs followed the cycle of love, from the first meeting, to falling for each other, to deceit and ultimately death.

One interpretation I found interesting was that two songs focused on homosexual love. “Till There Was You” featured two girls serenading each other in a beautiful duet, and two sassy gay male characters performed “Take Me or Leave Me” from Reut.

While these twists surprised me, they were tastefully executed.

Sorensen said the song “Origin of Love” was the point of inception for these relationships, as it included homosexuality in the story as well as heterosexual love.

Xanthias couldn’t let the show end on that note, so senior Julia Stockton quickly followed with the more optimistic “I Still Believe in Love.”

The just over two-hour show took the audience on a journey through 32 numbers from 29 different musicals, a journey almost intense as that of a single complete musical. The audience gave the performance a standing ovation, applauding long and loud, which I thought was well deserved.