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Monday, August 29, 2011

Theatre Review by Todd Zeigler: Krapp's Last Tape & Happy Days presented by Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company and Masterworks Theatre



Krapp’s Last Tape directed by Alec Volz
Happy Days directed by Michael Harris


It’s part of the legend of Waiting for Godot that an early review of the play summarized it thusly: “Nothing happens, twice.” While it might sound snide, this comment came from one of the foremost scholars of Beckett’s work during the writer’s life.

So while it may sound like a swipe, take it as obeisance to the bravery and audacity of producing two of Beckett’s plays in the same evening when I report that, in this inaugural production of Michael Harris’s new Masterworks Theater company done in conjunction with our resident classical theater group, nothing happens three times.

Samuel Beckett
A novelist and playwright, Beckett’s theatrical legacy is of being perhaps the most anti-dramatic dramatist of all time. Over the course of his career, he sought to demolish most every convention of the stage. His characters wander about aimlessly, speaking half-finished thoughts, engulfed in lives of misery occasionally illuminated by memories (delusions?) of better days past. He went so far in his deconstruction of theater that one of his plays is nothing more than a woman’s mouth in spotlight. Early productions of his work inspired everything from near-riots to walkouts. He was no friend to the audience.

To an actor of sufficient skill and fortitude, however, he can be Santa Claus. It’s appropriate that Barrett Cooper and Alec Volz, the actor/director team responsible for Krapp’s Last Tape, are members of the educational team at Walden Theatre. One can imagine their students receive a fairly substantive immersion in Beckett, as they deliver a seminal performance of one of Beckett’s most famous works (behind Godot, and perhaps Endgame).

Briefly, Krapp’s plot is the titular character, at age 69, listening to tapes made on birthdays decades before, reflecting on recent events in his life and their rapturous and deleterious effects. In one act, Beckett runs the gamut of human experience with a simple premise and the power of suggestion through words, actions and the lack thereof.

The key to playing Beckett is that everything, every single thing, the actor does is important. It is so because he is called on to make so much seem like so little. As Krapp, every twitch Cooper makes is loaded with meaning. He is the prototypical Beckett man through and through: hobbling, wheezing, profane, impish, reflective, pained, sad, defiant, defeated...he is everything a man can be, and the wear and tear is all there on the stage. Volz and Cooper play the wonderful comedic ironies for all they’re worth: Krapp holds scraps of writing and keys an inch from his eye to register them, then unnervingly eyes an audience member as he demonstrates the more obscene qualities of a banana. Krapp may be one of the most difficult roles I have seen performed, as so much of it is rendered in helpless pauses and misdirected business. Cooper leaves the audience completely affected as the lights go down on him, his recorded declarations juxtaposed against all we have seen of this poor soul. Breathtaking work.

The two-act Happy Days is the more difficult piece for a variety of reasons. Michael Harris’s director’s note explains that Beckett sought to dramatize the life of a woman as he saw it. Thus we have Winnie, trapped beneath a mercilessly pounding light, kept awake by the unyielding ring of a bell, with only her spare collection of personal effects to sustain her existence and a barely-present husband with which to share the collapsing house of cards that are her thoughts. She is buried up to her waste in act one, to her neck in act two. And as all women are expected to do under impossible circumstances, she is to remain a lady. Trapped as she is, she attempts to find joy in memories, playing with her properties, and idle talk. It is a desperate struggle.

Whether intentionally or not, pairing these pieces gives a stark insight into the difference between men and women as Beckett sees it. Brevity and gender serve Krapp well. Beckett made his point in one act. Krapp is a man. To deal, he does. As Winnie, Laurene Scalf cannot move. So to deal, she talks. She thinks aloud, her thoughts ricocheting around in the manner that may have indirectly influenced Durang’s Bette. While Cooper plays Krapp’s every flinch with a focus and decisiveness, Scalf glides through Winnie’s struggle. Her affectations are more muted and tentative: eyes downcast, somewhat monotone and over-pronounced in delivery. Watching her becomes tedious, but then, this is Beckett. That may just be the point. It is when Scalf pulls inward that her emotions become a desperate hiss, like a gas leak in search of a flame.

More than a few people have called Winnie “an actress’s Hamlet.” The role is one in which to show one’s skill. I would suggest the role is even more of an endeavor than The Dane. Winnie is a thankless role, almost designed to lose the audience, and Scalf plays her with conviction to the final blackout. Michael Harris plays Willie, Winnie’s husband, with the sluggishness and pained exasperation Beckett demands. Though the audience grew restless, Willie’s final action drew the welcome release of laughter at precisely the right moment. As exasperating as Happy Days is, it may be indicative that Beckett knew exactly what he was doing.

It’s difficult to say a Beckett double bill is an evening to be enjoyed. More to the point, it is to be appreciated. Savage Rose and Masterworks are to be commended, if for nothing else than gamely staging material few would dare to touch with so much theater to choose from in Louisville. Perhaps the best ending would be to leave the lights down after curtain call. I suspect few will see these plays, but on those that do, they will leave their mark.

Krapp’s Last Tape & Happy Days
August 29, September 1-3 at 7:30 p.m.
September 3 at 2:00 p.m.
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
589-0004
www.savagerosetheatre.com

Entire contents copyright 2011 Todd Zeigler. All rights reserved.

Television Review by Keith Waits: KET's The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc.'s "Why Quilts Matter" begins September 5 at 7:00 p.m.


The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc. presents
Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics
Executive Producer and Host Shelly Zegart
Produced and Edited by Doug Jefferson
Shelly Zagat hosts "Why Quilts Matter" on KET
beginning Monday, September 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Written by Ann E. Berman



It seems hard to believe, but once upon a time Shelly Zagat knew next to nothing about quits.  After nearly a lifetime of collecting and studying them, the Louisville resident is now one of the foremost authorities on American quilts, and has sought to communicate her passion and respect for them in a fascinating nine-part series that will begin airing on KET on Monday, September 5 at 7:00pm

The first episode, “Quilts 101”, provides a brisk introduction to both the basics of quilting, from the traditional definition of a quilt as a 3-layer, functional, hand-made textile piece, to the broader, envelope-pushing contemporary identity of art, or “studio” quilts. The other episodes explore various themes and sub-texts related to the world of quilts, but the question of this artistic identity seems a crucial question for so many mediums in the contemporary art world, but perhaps none more than quilters such as Tom Pfannerstill, Valerie White and C.J. Pressma, all Louisville artists. By the fourth episode, “What is Art”, the archetypal debate is given full measure in one of the high points in the series. 

The series does a good job of balancing a wider overall perspective on the subject with specific and vivid details when the story merits. The wide array of experts called upon to contribute, including William R. Ferris, Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Niloo Paydar, Textile Curator, Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN, deliver broader based observations about trends and provide proper historical context concerning the changing role of the quilt in the developing American cultural landscape, while collectors contribute colorful anecdotes about the perils of not taking a closer look at the bargain bin offerings that turn out later to be rare, highly-appraised treasures.

There is also good use made of commentary from various Louisville-based experts, (Jim Grubola and John Begley from the University of Louisville) and artists (Kathleen Loomis, Valerie White and Kay Grubola), that reinforce the local nature of the production. The very nature of the subject provides rich and varied visual material, so it is a little disappointing that the musical score is left to a generic synthesizer offering that more often than not fails to rise above a monotonous muzak-like background; undercutting the well-paced juxtaposition of panoramically photographed quits and authoritative talking head interviews. 

Ms. Zegart’s narration is well-constructed, from a script written by Ann E. Berman, and her delivery is solid, so if the choice to consistently cut to her as an on-camera presence seems an over-used device when there is such a rich treasury of quilt images to explore, it does serve to underscore the highly personal nature of this project for Ms. Zegart.

Ultimately, it is that near-obsessive passion and enthusiasm for her subject that links the various and sometimes unexpected themes and sub-headings that are explored in considerable depth throughout the series. When Ms. Zegart exclaims in unabashed tones, “It’s been a blast!” it is a heartfelt invitation to the viewer to join her in her quest. Whyquitlsmatter.org
Fault Lines 3 by Kathleen Loomis

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Keith Waits. All rights reserved



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Theatre Review by Kate Barry: Ten-Tucky Festival




There seems to be a new short play festival in town. The Bard’s Town is currently producing an evening of new works created by playwrights, directors and actors from the Bluegrass state cleverly titled The Ten-Tucky Festival. Within the festival are eight ten minute plays that cover themes from Girl Scout cookies to internet elections to biblical marriage counseling; all guarantee a night of unique performances.

Doug Schuttee is emcee for the
Ten-Tucky Festival at The Bard's Town,
continuing through Saturday.
As host, Doug Schutte provides comedic material as he introduces the show, humorously distracts from scene changes and concludes the evening with one of his own scripts. Schutte is co-owner and co-founder of The Bard’s Town so it’s only natural that he should play emcee. Starting the evening is Brian Walker’s Neighborly Do’s and Don’ts. A zany B-movie spin on life in the suburbs in which a housewife (Becky LeCron) has taken her hopelessly addicted neighbor (Tad Chitwood) hostage because of stolen Girl Scout Cookies. LeCron and Chitwood play off of each other well throughout their hilarious bouts of hysteria and paranoia. In Over by Alex Lee Morse, Ryan Watson and Megan Brown are childhood sweethearts in the throes of heartache.

The Intruder by Tom Kerrigan barely hits the mark with a slightly familiar situation comedy storyline. With a script that was wacky and silly concerning neighbors making themselves at home where they aren’t wanted, the antics on stage could’ve been just as over the top. Wedding for Godot places a masterpiece by Samuel Beckett in a modern day synagogue as a bride waits for her groom. As Beckett’s fools, Andy Epstein and Michael Roberts are existential, curious yet apprehensive and always tediously concise. As the bride’s father, Craig Nolan Highley represents all of us who have read Waiting for Godot only to be frustrated by Didi and Gogo’s incessant gibberish.

The second act opens with The Internet President by Patrick Wensink, a satire about internet social media and its involvement with politics. Kimby Peterson plays Sandra Warnock who is anti-internet, pro-spam and believes “kids need kitty cat blogs.” Her opponent is OW Mayo (Ryan Watson). His platform is not just pro-internet but a particularly arousing form of media involving lawn mowers. 

Conspiracy theories are thrown around in another short about a wedding called Disappearances, or the Groom’s Shoes by Nadeem Zaman. Natalie Combs plays a bride who finds her own inner strength and independence from a dysfunctional relationship after her fiancĂ© vanishes. Encounter at the Ink Spot by Nancy Gall-Clayton moves the action from the stage to the middle of the house. Nadeem Zaman is a writer looking for a muse and Jennifer Levine is the bartender who inspires him. Clever nods toward local writers within the piece added to the charm to this play as well as the festival. In Love Religiously, we see Adam and Eve (Doug Schutte and Megan Brown) in marriage counseling. Absolutely silly, this play takes one of Hades’ ferrymen and turns him into their counselor, Jesus (Ryan Watson) is a loopy, groovy dude and the serpent is a rambunctious cartoon. Indeed, this piece was a fun conclusion to the festival.

For its first festival, The Bard’s Town has put together an eclectic variety of short plays that is sure to please. As this is its inaugural season, The Bard’s Town Theater shows grand promise of great things to come.

The Ten-Tucky Festival continues through August 27 at The Bards Town, 1801 Bardstown Road. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information call 502.749.5275 or go to www.theBardstownTheatre.org

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Kate Barry. All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Music Review by Carol Larson: Baroque in the Barn at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens with Bourbon Baroque




August 18, 2011

The second in Bourbon Baroque’s summer series, Storms for String Orchestra performed last Thursday, August 18, at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, was absolutely brilliant! The program opened with the curious programmatic “battle” piece, Battalia, for string orchestra by Bohemian-Austrian Baroque composer and violinist, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. We know very little about his early education, however, Biber had an impeccable reputation and his violin performance skills were very highly regarded. From the first movement to the ending Lamento, our ears were drenched with beauty, sadness, chaos, gunfire, and even drunken soldiers.
Following the battle by Heinrich Biber was J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in D, BWV 1054 which, by the way, is a transcription of his second Violin Concerto, BWV 1042. Harpsichordist, John Austin Clark, played this piece beautifully – clean crisp runs and meticulous rhythms. The ensemble playing here was amazing – a meeting of the musical minds!

Austin Clark is one of the co-artistic
directors of Bourbon Baroque.
The next delight of the evening was by Claudio Monteverdi, the composer described as marking the transition from the Renaissance style of music to the Baroque period.  His “Zefiro Tornae di Soavi Accenti”, from Scherzi Musicalli II was performed by sopranos, Youngmi Kim and Kelly Bailou. The text is very pastoral with Zephyrus returning with sweet accents and making the flowers dance in the meadows, etc. Youngmi and Kelly  performed this piece with voices of angels. They had the period style under control with straight tones, loud-soft dynamic contrasts and beautiful coloratura lines.
You can’t have a summer Baroque Music concert without playing “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. “The Four Seasons” is a set of four violin concertos published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, entitled Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention). This is probably Vivaldi’s most famous work, and one of the most popular pieces of Baroque music. It was exhilarating to hear violinist, Nicholas Fortin, in the solo role in this piece. His performance was full of excitement, passion, expression, and animation. He is an incredible musician and violinist.  
The concluding work this evening was by French composer and viol player, Marin Marais, born in Paris in 1656. Marin Marais who was a student of Lully, was an extraordinarily gifted composer and performer who left us the most important body of music for the viola da gamba in France. The Symphonies from “Alcione” is a set of dance movements that are just charming and they were” charmingly” played by this very skilled ensemble.
The audience seemed to be fascinated with look and sound of the long necked theorbo and the baroque guitar. I adore having these instruments in a baroque ensemble as they  add another tier of texture to the overall sound. David Walker did a great job juggling the two instruments and never missed a note. It was another great evening in the barn with Bourbon Baroque!


Yew Dell Gardens next concert features pianist and composer Harry Pickens and the Harry Pickens Trio. The September 15 concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members; $20 for non-members and may be purchased at www.yewdellgardens.org. For directions and more information call 502.241.4788. The property is located at 6220 Old LaGrange Road, Crestwood, KY 40014.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Audition Notice: Stage One Family Theatre Student Auditions

Stage One Family Theatre's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, 2010



Stage One Family Theatre, the new moniker for the combined Stage One and Music Theatre Louisville brands, is looking for male and female actors ages 8 to 18 to perform in the The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Number the Stars and/or Lyle the Crocodile. This is an open call to join the company for their 65th Anniversary season in 2011-2012. All ethnicities.



When: Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Where: Barnes Hall, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (1st Floor), 501 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

Callbacks for Number the Stars and Lyle the Crocodile will be: Tuesday, September 13, 6:00--8:00 p.m.
Callbacks for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever will be: Wednesday, September 14, 6:00--9:00 p.m.

Preparation: Please have a contemporary monologue plus 16 bars of an up-tempo Broadway-style song, not to exceed 3 minutes total length. Please bring sheet music in your key; an accompanist will be provided (No CDs). Please bring one (1) headshot/resume stapled together.

Appointments: Audition appointments are required. Please do not call before 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 23. Appointments may only be made by phone at 502.498.2436.

For details, including character profiles, please visit www.StageOne.org/aboutus/articles.asp?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Below is a direct transcription of the response from management of the Louisville Orchestra on Monday, August 15, 2011. Management has been reticent to make public comments about the process, preferring to treat this as an internal matter, especially as it relates to the company's contract with the musicians. 


Based on these comments, contract negotiations appear to be the most significant question left to be addressed before the season can begin. The Louisville Orchestra is scheduled to perform with music director Jorge Mester on September 10, 2011 in Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center for the Arts.


Arts-Louisville.com will have more on the Orchestra's progress as it becomes available.


The Board of Directors and management of the Louisville Orchestra are gratified by Judge David Stosberg’s ruling today confirming the Orchestra’s re-organization plan effectively ending the bankruptcy of the Louisville Orchestra. 

“At its core, this is a victory for the community,” said Board President Charles Maisch.  “Our duty as stewards of the Orchestra is to preserve symphonic music and the Orchestra’s legacy for the citizens of Louisville, and today’s ruling moves us in a very positive direction.”

Under the terms of the Orchestra’s plan, the organization will now make payments to honor the majority of its commitments to exit bankruptcy. 

“Emerging from bankruptcy is an important step,” said Orchestra CEO Robert Birman, “but it is just that – an important first step toward a vital future.  We implore our musicians to return to work so that our community can again benefit from the services of the Louisville Orchestra.”

Decisions regarding the start of the season are imminent.  The season is slated to begin on September 10.  Orchestra officials said that the musician’s interest and willingness to perform will be a deciding factor in whether its September concerts will go on as scheduled.

“We thank all of the members of the community for their ongoing support through this difficult period,” said Maisch.  The Orchestra said it would post regular updates for the community on its website, www.LouisvilleOrchestra.org.

Theatre Review by Craig Nolan Highley: "Church Basement Ladies" at Derby Dinner Playhouse





Derby Dinner Playhouse and artistic director Bekki Jo Schneider certainly know their audience. They are intimately aware of what that audience wants and Derby Dinner keeps right on serving it to them. I say that because, during the performance I attended of their latest, Church Basement Ladies, there were many times the rest of the audience was erupting into uproarious laughter while I sat there thinking I was not in on the joke.

That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained; Church Basement Ladies is a cute show with some really strong performances by its five-member cast: Janet Essenpreis, Michelle Johnson, Rita Thomas, Tina Jo Wallace, and Cary Wiger, who not only belt out a dozen songs but also prove adept at some quite complicated physical comedy.

And along with past productions like Nunsense, Smoke on the Mountain, Sing Hallujah! and the like, it is continuing with what is becoming a tradition for the playhouse: shows for the faith-based audience that don’t ladle on the spirituality too thick for non-churchgoing crowds.

Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke created the musical primarily from the novel Growing Up Lutheran with input from some other books by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson (also known as the Lutheran Ladies). The show had its off-off-Broadway premiere in 2005 and has become so popular it has already spawned three sequels (almost unheard of in stage shows, especially in such a short span of years). It’s comprised of four scenes that cover the course of a year in the lives of  four women who prepare the food for church functions, with all the bickering, judging and gossiping you’d expect.

Rita Thomas is a hoot as Mrs. Snustad, the matron of the kitchen, and gets some of the show’s best lines delivering her judgments on such subjects as the pastor’s new young wife and the fact that one of the other ladies is dating a (gasp!) Catholic.  Janet Essenpreis and Michelle Wagoner Johnson, as mother and daughter Karin and Signe Engelson, give the show some warmth and compassion. But the standout performance is given by Tina Jo Wallace as the mercilessly menopausal Mavis Gilmerson, giving rise to some of the most acrobatic hot flashes you are ever likely to see.

It’s interesting to note that the smallest role in the cast is the only one to have attracted any star performers; in other productions both M*A*S*H’s William Christopher and The Brady Bunch’s Barry Williams have headlined as Pastor Gunderson. In this version we get one of Derby Dinner’s most familiar faces, the always reliable Cary Wiger, and he certainly makes the most of the role. In fact, his solo number “Song for Willie” is the only number that left a lasting impression.

The musical numbers by Drew Jensen are, on the whole, where the show falls short; the cast performs them gamely but I’m hard pressed to remember any of them other than “Song for Willie.” There are also a lot of jokes and gags that will go right over your head if you aren’t a regular church-goer (they certainly went over mine). I was also a little put off by the very fake-sounding Northern accents by every single member of the cast (you could make a drinking game out of all the “yah’s” and “you betcha’s”) Overall I was reminded of a combination of Nunsense and Radio Gals, although those are both much better shows.

On the whole, it was a fun evening if you are not too discriminating. Not one of the playhouse’s best choices of material, but performed with all the professionalism and fun we’ve come to expect from them over the years.

Church Basement Ladies, directed by Bekki Jo Schneider, continues at Derby Dinner Playhouse through September 25, 2011. The Theatre is located at 525 Marriott Drive, Clarksville, IN. Get your tickets by calling 812.288.8281 or online at www.derbydinner.com.



Entire contents are copyright © 2011, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Memorials, Benches, & Urns: Artistic Visions of the Hereafter at Kaviar Forge & Gallery through 9/17/11


A Review by Keith Waits

The sculptor works in three full dimensions, conceiving objects that the viewer can approach from virtually any angle, save that of the base, the point of contact with the physical world that, in most instances, renders immoveable.  This fundamental description easily applies to the myriad bronze, iron and marble sculptures that are featured in this new exhibit at Kaviar Gorge and Gallery yet perhaps the single most compelling piece in a roomful of memorable work was one that exists in a state that compromises this definition. The gallery, located at 1718 Frankfort Ave, 40206 is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment. 
Matt Weir, "Eagle" at Kaviar Gallery

Matt Weir’s “Eagle” is a fragment of a larger sculpture that, as we see in an adjacent photograph, is a full-scale representation of an American Bald Eagle that registers all the splendor and majesty we might expect from the iconic bird. But the piece we see is of the head shoulders and one wing, mounted on a wall. There is a frightful tension that results from what is at this point a relief sculpture, as the bird seems to struggle to extricate itself from the wall, a creature caught between dimensions. The realistic sculpture suddenly becomes almost surrealistic in its impact.

None of the other work carries such an unexpected aspect, but the quality is not in question. “Urn of the Unknown”, a bronze by Ray Graf that most perfectly illustrates the concept of oversize sculptures rendered in a more modest scale, stands about 20 inches or so, but has an architectural quality in its design that suggests a grander scale. A human bust, avian wings, and tiny classical columns as feet, are the disparate elements gathered onto a central core of the urn itself. That it is so small lends it a whimsical personality, perhaps evocative of the individual intended to reside within.

Craig Kaviar's "Cross" 
Meg White’s two pieces are large enough to embody the monumental in some measure simply by their presence, yet ” Bird Feeding Angel” positions the titular figure in an exceedingly accessible pose, hand outstretched with an offering of actual seed spilling onto the surface of the base; the monumental given human scale by tender action.

The remaining pieces are of a range and contrast to further illustrate how the exhibit presents both the traditional and the unconventional in ways that explode as well as reaffirm the idea of funereal monuments, from Guy Tedesco’s beautifully rendered bust,”Saint Francis” that is exacting in its detail, to David Kocka’s series of small figures, such as “Virgin with Arms Outstretched”, that are gestural, three dimensional sketches of human form and movement.
"Together" by Don Lawler

For more information call Kaviar Forge and Gallery at 502.561.0377 or go to CraigKaviar.com.

Featured artists: Ray Graf, Craig Kaviar, David Kocka, Don Lawler, David Lind, Guy Tedesco, Matt Weir, Meg White.

You will find an interview with Craig Kaviar and a video preview of the show at www.Arts-Louisville.com.

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Theatre Review by Kate Barry: BIG, The Musical



Long before Hairspray, Billy Elliot and Footloose made their way to the Great White Way, Big made the giant leap from screen to the musical stage. The classic comedy about a boy who makes a wish on an arcade game that made Tom Hanks a household name made its debut on Broadway in 1996. The story was re-imagined for the stage by John Weidman with Music by David Shire and Lyrics by one of Broadway's most prolific contributors, Richard Maltby, Jr.  The show enjoyed limited success in New York, but has become a staple in high school and community theaters. Last night Music Theatre of Louisville production premiered this bright and colorful musical that compares the youth we once lived to the youth we yearn to live again. This final production of the 2011 summer season is directed by the company's associate artistic director Andrew Harris.

Just in case you never saw the movie, the plot is easy to follow. Twelve-year old Josh Baskin (Henry Miller) is sick of being a little kid. He doesn’t like following his mom’s rules. Mrs. Baskin is played by the elegant and talented Colette Delaney. Also, Josh isn’t too crazy about the fact that the girl that he likes is dating a guy who can drive or the fact that he isn’t big enough for carnival rides. Luck is on his side, or so he thinks, when he finds a Zoltar machine. This machine grants him any wish he desires. You guessed it. He wishes to be big. Well the next morning he wakes up to find that his wish certainly came true. Tyler Bliss plays big Josh. As Josh, Bliss does not imitate Tom Hanks’ iconic role but plays the comic gags with the same spirit while adding his own wonder and innocence. With the help of his street wise best friend, Billy Kopecki (Gylf Forsberg) Josh tries to find the Zoltar machine with hopes that it will change him back. Seems pretty easy right? In addition to wishing to change back, Josh must face the real world. A world that he may or may not be ready for or fit into quite so soon in his life.
Josh serves as a link between kids and adults. Unintentionally fooling his boss at the toy company, played with glee and giddiness by Kevin Swansey, big Josh takes his company in directions never before seen. Adam Yankowy plays Paul Seymour, a jealous coworker who has been desperately trying to work his way to the top of the corporate world. Driven by suspicion and greed, Yankowy is a devious and ruthless foil to the innocent hero. Mary Kate Young is the office flirt, Susan Lawrence. As she unknowingly ushers Josh into the adult world, the chemistry shared between Young and Bliss provide some of the strongest moments musically and comically. “Let’s Not Move Too Fast”, “Do You Want to Play Games” and “Stars”, provide the sweetness of their budding romance. The strongest moment between Young and Bliss is their final number together in “We’re Going to be Fine,” a love song about saying goodbye for the last time. 

The amazing spirit of this production lies within the children’s chorus of the show. Providing copious amounts of energy and fun, the musical numbers like “The time of your life,” “Fun” and “The Nightmare,” left me wanting more. The strongest number combined the adults and children at the end of the first act with “Cross the Line.” Bliss, dressed in the iconic white-tailed tuxedo, and the children ended the act with an exuberant and fantastic bang. big The Musical at Musical Theater of Louisville provides a fun performance for anyone who is young or young at heart.

Watch an interview with director Andrew Harris and see excerpts from the Music Theatre Louisville Production of big, the musical at www.Arts-Louisville.com


big The Musical

August 9-14, 7:00 p.m.; Matinees, August 14, 1:30 p.m.
Music Theatre of Louisville
The Bomhard Theatre at Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Kate Barry. All rights reserved