Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I, Caligula an Insanity Musical – Book & Lyrics by Kai Cofer. Music & Orchestrations by Cody Gillette

L to R Dory Schultz, Josh Shaw, Kelly Derouin

By Joe Straw

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to perform in a remount of a musical “Dogfight” written and directed by James Kennedy and produced by Don Grenough at the Fig Tree Theatre in Hollywood.  I had seen Kennedy’s production of “Van Gogh” with Sally Kirkland (it was not bad) so I decided to audition.  The music was pretty good, the tunes were catchy, and Edward James Olmos had originated the role I took, so I thought, why not. (Good for Olmos, good for me.) The cast featured Robert Miano, Kevin Major Howard, Angel Salazar, and an additional cast of wacky characters. This was a musical based on the crazy life of Howard Hughes.  It ran for a couple of months but overall it was not a success.  Some things are not musical material. – The Editor

Nouvelle Adaptation Productions in Association with the Secret Rose Theatre presents the world premier of I, Caligula: an Insanity Musical - Book & Lyrics by Kai Cofer, Music & Orchestrations by Cody Gillette and directed by Kai Cofer. It is playing at the Secret Rose in North Hollywood through August 26, 2012.

First thing I noticed was the singing.  The voices were strong, some better than others, but they were strong.

The musical goes something like this; we are in an insane asylum (Is this politically correct?) or a mental institution with a cast of characters who are completely loony, batty, crazy, and good looking. (Throw in the good.)  There is very little in the way of book and most of the actions are musical tunes that are conducted by someone in his underwear (Cody T. Gillette).

The Director of the Institution tells us they are doing this play as a form of therapy,  (always good), and introduces the cast.  

Caligula (Dory Schultz) looks at himself in the mirror and sings “Don’t call me crazy, don’t call me a loon, All I ever wanted was the moon, the moon.” And strangely this keeps repeating itself throughout the show.

Caligula is dissatisfied with his wife, Cesonia (Elizabeth Harmetz), and wants to marry his sister, Drucilla (Kelly Derouin), who likes to run around almost naked.  So Caligula banishes his wife off to somewhere while he and his sister kill Tiberius.

But the actor playing Tiberius doesn’t make it (typical actor) so the Director (Kevin Dalbey) plays Tiberius.

The Director, in sash and suit, falls into position on the couch and Caligula and Drucilla kill him.

Now Caligula is crowned Emperor of Rome. 

But Cesonia, unhappy with the way things went, resolves to kill Drucilla by feeding her poison grapes. Drucilla dies, very dramatically, I might add, at the ripe old age of 21 and they carry her carcass off to where they bury important Roman people.

“Poison is the most effective weapon in an arsenal of love.” – Cesonia

Distraught Caligula does his best to take over and gets caught up in an orgy much to the dismay of the Director who suggest this is not actually part of the show. As people are undressing, caressing, and molesting each other, the director takes a syringe and injects the actor playing Caligula into reality.  The actor playing Caligula has gone too far.

In theater, you try things and hope for the best. Kai Cofer, the director, gives us an interesting setup, the insane asylum, and hopes the actors and singers call pull this off.  What is missing is the demarcating of reality versus play-acting.  For example, the Director looks and acts like one of the crazies so we are not really sure if he is staff or one of the loonies.  Better to give him a true position of authority and put him in the audience complete with table applauding the actors and blocking their movement on stage. The Director’s time may be better suited off stage.  Also, this play needs more humor  and a lighter touch. 

Cody T. Gillette, as the Composer, Music Director, and lastly a character—the Orchestrator did a nice job keeping the night going.  Some things may need to be (or not to be) cut.  His Orchestrator character was effective and wacky. More gel on the hair, please.

Elizabeth Harmetz, Carissa Gipprich, Josh Shaw, E. Scott Levin

Dory Schultz plays Caligula.  He has a very nice voice.  As far as characterization, this is a difficult one.  He is a man in an asylum, playing a man who is certifiably crazy, but there is not a grand distinction between the two.

Elizabeth Harmetz plays Cesonia.  She also has a terrific voice and has a better feel for the character.

Josh Shaw play Skipio.  I was confused about his purpose in the play but again he has a nice voice and a nice look. 

E. Scott Levin plays Marco.  He has a very nice baritone voice, a rich character, and a very nice presence on stage.

Kelly Derouin as Drucilla ran around the stage in a bikini all night, partially because her character likes to wear little clothing or no clothing at all.  She has a wonderful smile and a beautiful voice. But looked liked her face was sunburned so I wasn’t really sure if it was part of the character or if she is rehearsing someplace where there is a lot of sun. Still she did a terrific job.

Kevin Dalbey plays the Director and Tiberius has got to give us two defined characters.  The Director must be in control.  He should get off the stage and when off stage, he must do something that actively directs this production.  We must know that he is a doctor first and a director second.

Carrissa Lynn Gipprich plays Nurse.  She was funny.  I liked the scene where she hops out on stage completely tied up.  Nice job.

Meredith Overcash plays Halicon also has a nice voice, a very nice look, and looks the part of a very pale, almost white, person in an insane asylum.

A lot of hard work went into this production.  Still, there’s room for improvement.  

The crew member were:

Heather Lipson Bell – Choreographer
Kelly Derouin – Dance Captain
Nora Feldman – Publicity
Laura Coker – Box Office
Florence Canicave – Graphics Design
Chris Canicave – Website Design

Go and take someone who likes bugged out whacky musicals!

Reservation: 323-822-7898

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