Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of Moby Dick currently running at South Coast Rep in California. Photo by Liz Lauren.
The Lookingglass Theatre Company’s MOBY DICK is spectacular, dazzling and at times, lethargic. This may seem contradictory, but the show is beautiful and amazing in its embodiment of the grand spectacle of the story, but it has not done as well with maintaining the tension in the action. The plot feels sluggish and episodic, which is odd since it is based on one of the most notorious “hunts” in fiction.
Adapted and Directed by David Catlin who is the Co-Founding Artistic Director of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre (they won the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award), the company is known for a style of performance that is a cross between Story Theatre and Circus Arts. Imagine Nicholas Nickleby on trapeze.
Christopher Donahue’s Ahab is dynamic and menacing, Anthony Fleming III is a delightful Queequeg and Jamie Abelson is fittingly downtrodden as Ishmael. A chorus of three women in big black hoop skirts and parasols sing/chant the author’s narration and portray characters, whales and even “Fate.” There are aerial acrobatics, large swings and giant pieces of silk. It is definitely worth seeing this production for the amazing spectacle, I just wish the dramatic storytelling was a bit more compelling.
*** “Amélie” is a 2001 French film starring the enchanting Audrey Tautou in a hyper-fantastical tale of a sheltered young woman with a unique vision of the world. The film is nonstop eye candy with a tender heart. AMELIE, A New Musical, is based on the movie, and has the equally enchanting Phillipa Soo, scenery and costumes that are eye candy and a heart that begs to be loved. And that distinction weighs negatively on the delicate nature of this sweet show.
Craig Lucas has boosted the romance in the story and lost some of its originality. The opening is a little too coy and in trying to recreate the whirlwind feel of the movie, it becomes only marginally coherent. Once the show hits its stride it regains intelligibility and loses its uniqueness. Amélie’s young self/ confidante feels hackneyed and the ancillary characters are underused. The music and lyrics are pleasant and could use more varied arrangements.
Phillipa Soo‘s Amélie gives Audrey Tautou a run for her money. Charismatic, bewitching and sly, she sings from her guarded, creative heart and makes this 1:40 minute musical worth seeing.
The new a cappella musical “in transit” starts with an announcement that all the sounds in the show will be made by humans. As if we wouldn’t be able to tell without their guidance. As if there might be a person left in a Broadway audience that doesn’t know what “a cappella” means. And that pretty much sets the tone of inanity that carries thru this blandly peppy, little musical. The performance I saw had 4 understudies in, but there was still plenty of talent on stage for any good musical.
You would expect an a cappella musical to be sonically interesting, but they have managed to make the songs unmemorable and too similar so it just becomes one long forced-cheery, thumping slog. The characters are two-dimensional and except for one scene of reconciliation, there is little depth or imagination. I kept getting the feeling that I was back in the ’90s watching an Off-Broadway Revue, not acceptable for the price of a Broadway ticket. But then, the audience seemed to enjoy themselves, so maybe there is a clientele for a small, uninspired musical.