Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over: The Musical by Michael J.Feldman, Music by Jason Currie

L - R Sheila Carrasco, Greg Worswick, Michael J. Feldman, Burl Moseley, and Tina Huang - Photos by Jeff Lorch
By Joe Straw

When my girls were young, I recited a made-up bedtime story that started something like this.

Once upon a time, in a land, not very far from here, lived Tina, the tiny bunny.  And Tiny was a precocious bunny; she knew everything there was to know about anything, and what she didn’t know, she just hopped on her bunny pads to the computer and Googled the answer.

She spoke perfect English and only a few knew how she got like that.

Rapscallion and discerning she was and when things got under Tina’s fur, her ears started vibrating, her eyes turned green, her teeth began to rattle, and she would just cut loose.  

Billy Bear said she had a mouth like a sailor. This is why Billy is now outside her tree house looking in, just begging to come inside. – Narrator

Step inside of The Pico Playhouse to witness a few fairy tales.  They won't play long but they will stay with you forever.

Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over The Musical written by Michael J. Feldman and directed by Annie McVey with music by Jason Currie, and produced by Kim Hamilton and Bernardo Cubría is playing through October 7, 2018.    

Noriko Olling Wright, keyboardist, offstage right, waited patiently, slowly watching with her hands to her side.  Her right leg rested on something so that her right knee was curved slightly, as she patiently waited for the multitudes to enter the theatre. She blinked slowly, confident of the material in front of her, and paid scant attention to the few patrons that entered.  

With only moments before show time, one observed a smallish crowd in the intimate Pico Playhouse.  Not what I imagined given Ammunition Theatre last smash hit A Giant Void In My Soul by Bernardo Cubría. 

And then something quite nice happened; theatre patrons poured into the theatre.  All the seats were suddenly taken and more seats had to be brought in from the back, black folding chairs to be precise on this sold out night.

The onlookers waited patiently, some hugs were exchanged, and as the lights dimmed the narrator (Michael J. Feldman) walked through the red curtains, a mollycoddled man treated to a kingly chair right next to a chest of treasure.  He read from a fairy tale book before breaking into a song and dance about turning off your – ahem – “motherf**king phone”.

Yes, this is an adult fairy tale – polychromatic tales of barbarous amusement that is sure to delight.

One supposes that everyone got the point about the phone and noise, except the woman sitting next to me with a cup of wine and her audacious insistence of foraging through her raucous bag of chips.

Michael J. Feldman has written an anodyne musical, something that relieves the pain of our political undercurrent, while providing poignant life lessons in a number of comedic sketches.  Now in its simplest form it is an exordium of finer things to come. The sketches are topical that touch an emotional chord. So, if you are venturing out to see fairy tales, go for the tales and leave with the life lessons.

Gone are the Michael J. Feldman locks, (from previous photos), replaced with a short crop and three-day-old stubble. It is unclear how that works for this character and for the multitudes of characters he plays, except perhaps the dog and um maybe the gay cat, but the star? No way.     

Amusement aside, there is a tremendous amount here to enjoy – a big bang for the buck – music by Jason Currie, Musical Director, adds to the sketches with animals frolicking and dancing on the stage floor courtesy of Meghann Lucas choreography for wry actors who can move and nicely costumed by Stephen Rowan’s wonderful creations and prop designs.  

Annie McVey’s direction gives all of the actors the chance to shine.  The puppets were marvelous! But a little more character work would help this production

Some character choices need focus. For example, the penguin (Jason Rogel), although incapable of flying, should try to fly throughout the sketch. He just seems to stand there watching the other characters achieve their goals. By the way, penguins are Antarctica/Galápagos animals far away from the likes of Caribou (Matt Cook), Eskimo (Jess McKay), and the Snow Owl (Sheila Carrasco).

One is not sure how “the silent P” (Sheila Carrasco) works or how it is connected to the body of the work but it was funny.  These are minor quibbles for a show that will only grow after a few performances. Keep the good; throw out what doesn’t work and give Carrasco more to do as she lights up the stage. 

Writing about the sketches probably gives too much away but one that I found fascinating was the creation of the universe, with a man dressed up in the black hole costume (Jason Rogel) looking much like a North Korean dictator. So, there is an effective and wonderful topical connect.  The message was one of good versus evil.  What is good and what is evil? Or, is “it” just what it is? Despite the other silly characters with asteroids on their heads (the things that actors have to do), this particular sketch was profound in identifying good and evil and was completely satisfying.

And while some things need work (as all shows do), there is a sense of kindness that radiates in the work and one that presents a dramatic truth. The characters personified present a grand realization that touches the theatregoer to the core and sends us out smiling into the colorful night.

All of the actors, ten of them to be exact, had multiple roles.

Jess McKay,  Tina Huang

Jess McKay (Master Harold/Eskimo/Groundhog/Ensemble) is funny as the Eskimo wanting to become a podiatrist. McKay does well and has a nice look on stage.

Tina Huang (Mastress Denise/Glacier/Rabbitt/Daisy/Gov. Cluster) was a glacier that wants to be more than a stoic and solid piece of ice.  She has a nice baritone voice.

Matt Cook, Jason Rogel, Jess McKay, Tina Huang

Matt Cook (Master Peter/Penguin’s Friend/Caribou/Capt.), hiding behind the caribou puppet, is another appealing actor that slides into all roles effortlessly.

Jason Rogel (Asshole/Penguin/Black Hole) is the hapless – wanting to fly – penguin that has managed to get himself up into the artic and he has his moments in other roles.

 Sheila Carrasco, Greg Worswick, Burl Moseley, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Jess McKay, Michael J Feldman

Sheila Carrasco (Snow Owl/Red Super Giant/Grandma Penguin) is effective in all roles and has a wonderful presence but one would like to give her more in do in the Service Dog scene.  

Greg Worswick (Unicorn/Francois/Moon) presents different characters in all of his roles, the unicorn, Francois, the service dog, and the moon.  In all cases, the work is taken to playful extremes and is exceptional.

Sheila Carrasco, Greg Worswick, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, and Burl Moseley

Burl Moseley (Fox/Straight Cat/Max Beefy Cluster) is terrific as the Straight Cat, a cat that manages to blur the line of his sexuality. Moseley is exceptionally comfortable in all of his roles.

Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Sparrow/Gale/Red Dwarf) has a terrific voice and maybe one that could be pushed to another vocal level. We only get a test of her terrific voice in this outing.

Jason Currie leaves his Musical Director job to perform as an opera singer and Cpt. Buttersworth.  He has a fine voice.

Kudos to Michael J. Feldman.  He put a lot of work went into this show, writing, singing, and acting are all a part of a very successful night of theatre.

Brit Manor, Emerson Collins, Chris Gardner, and Brandon Scott are understudies who did not perform the night I attended.

Dalmar Montgomery, Sound Design, came off without a hitch and worked effectively.

There a lot to enjoy from Andrew Schmedake, Lighting Designer and Helton Najera, Asst Lighting Designer work, especially the Universe Scene.

Spencer Saccoman was the Stage Manager and with all the costumes and props one would imagine a very busy person.

Judith Borne was responsible for the press.

Run! Run! And take an inquisitive new adult!

The Pico Playhouse
10508 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90064