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Duane Monahan

Review: White Christmas

White Christmas.jpg

It’s not easy to get into the Christmas spirit with regrets over the Halloween candy consumption still all too fresh in the memory but as we take our seats at the Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville there is the anticipation that the music of American song writing legend, Irving Berlin, will take us there.

Duane Monahan is Director and Choreographer for this Rockville Music Theatre production and there is a lack of focus for the overall vision of the show. The set design of Maggie Modig and the costumes of Richard Battestelli have some stand out moments – Modig does a nice job with the design of the Inn lobby – but they lack co-ordination and consistency making it unclear when and where our story is taking place.

Amanda Jones has a wonderful old school quality to her voice that brings to mind Judy Garland and it’s perfect for the role of Betty Haynes. Jones is vocally the star of the night and although she gives a solid acting performance it never quite reaches the same heights. In contrast, Liz Weber hits all the right comedic beats in her portrayal of Martha Watson while having some vocal struggles. Weber definitely brings a lot of humor to the role and her performance is noteworthy given that many of the lines delivered by her scene partner, General Henry Waverly (Jack Mayo), fall a little flat. There is a lovely moment of harmony for Music Director, Marci Shegogue, as Jones, Weber and Sirena Dib combine delightfully on Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun.

For much of the night the ensemble outshine the leads. Shows that feature a heavy dose of tap dancing can be a challenge for most community theatre productions but Monahan and his assistant Cathy Oh did a fine job tackling the load. The big routines are relatively basic but they are clean and well-rehearsed. The musical number of the night is I Love a Piano with the choreography incorporating the ensemble and the scenery as the chorus girls enter carrying musical notes which are hung as part of the set. The number builds up to the point where Phil Davies (Michael Page) can show off his tap skills as he performs a well-executed solo on top of the piano. Page is solid vocally as is Paul Loebach as Bob Wallace but neither of the male leads bring enough charisma to their roles or develop real chemistry with their female counterparts.

Visually the show is at its best for the very final number as costumes and the set finally work in harmony and combined with the snow projected in the background we start to feel a little bit of Holiday cheer. There are some confusing moments (Betty’s entrance to the front porch) and overall the characters are not fully developed enough for us to be fully engaged in the serene pace set by Monahan. If you already have your Christmas Tree up then this might be the show for you…

#tothepoint Rating: 59/100

You can view a full breakdown of the allocated points here.

Ticket Price: $22

Value Review: -$3

With our scoring system and our unique value for money guide we rate this show at $19.  White Christmas continues for Rockville Musical Theatre until November 12th.

Review: Spamalot

Spamalot

With the Spamalot logo emblazoned upon the red curtain and the lighting pulsing from left to right in time with the orchestra, there is a real sense of anticipation in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. When the stage is revealed the Set Designer, Saira Umar, hasn’t disappointed with an impressive castle structure at the rear of the stage with a one-step platform leading to large central doors and a stairway on the stage left side reaching to a second story. Two towers stand at each edge of the downstage curtain line and clouds flank either side of the castle that are used effectively as a backdrop for Matthew Mills’ projections which combined with the excellent lighting design of Suzanne Platt help elevate this show technically above the average community theatre production.

Brian Lyons-Burke is playing King Arthur for the second time in the last 12 months and that familiarity with the role translates into a natural, comfortable performance. Lyons-Burke has a commanding presence on stage and that only adds to the humor as his sidekick Patsy (Duane Monahan) plays the coconut shells to simulate the sound of his invisible horse. We are soon treated to one of the funniest moments of the first act with Kevin Belanger as Not Dead Fred in I Am Not Dead Yet. The staging is excellent and the timing of the physical humor of everyone involved is well done. We then meet (the soon to be) Sir Galahad (Scott Napier) and his mother (Zoe Alexandratos) who takes every opportunity to stand out in her various ensemble roles. Alexandratos gets the balance just right finding some of the biggest laughs of the night while Napier’s facial expressions are a little over the top and become distracting, even for Monty Python material. The Lady of the Lake, Lee Rosenthal, gives a very strong vocal performance, especially in her lower register and by the time she has delivered The Song That Goes Like This (Reprise) the first act is flying by.

The costume changes and the dramatic differences in the lighting of the sky behind the castle help take us to the different locations. Ginger Ager’s costumes are bright and fun throughout although the women do often look more like natives of Spain or Latin America rather than England or France. Music Director, Marci Shegogue, has the cast sounding in fine voice during Find Your Grail but the first act doesn’t end on that high as the stage becomes very unbalanced during the vocally inconsistent Run Away.

The second act starts the way the first finished with the execution of Michael Page’s choreography at its’ weakest by the knights and the ensemble during Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. This trend is quickly reversed as the interpretation of You Won’t Succeed on Broadway is the best of the night. There is a lot of tap dancing after the intermission and the ensemble make an admirable effort to embrace it with the technical errors more forgivable in a show of this nature. Rosenthal returns in front of the curtain with another powerful vocal in The Diva’s Lament complimented by the impressive orchestra. What follows next is one of the funniest (and well blocked) scenes as Prince Herbert (Matthew Rosenthal) is being kept in his room by his father (Kirk Patton Jr.) who is leaving instructions with the dimwitted guards. Rosenthal is highly amusing as the outrageously gay Herbert and gives a strong vocal in Where Are You? / Here Are You. Lyons-Burke sings very consistently throughout and Monahan compliments him well on I’m All Alone before the ensemble join in and make it their best vocal of the night.

The show is not without its’ faults. Diction is a real issue throughout (Mark Hamberger as Sir Lancelot being one of the worst culprits) with many of the English and French accents difficult to understand and some potential laugh out loud moments never quite achieved. One of the final scenes featuring audience participation drags in contrast to the rest of the production and feels anti-climatic. There are however lots of nice moments from the Director, Clare Shaffer, as the visual puns flow as quickly as each scene transition. This is another strong production from Rockville Musical Theatre and one we won’t hesitate to recommend as value for money.

#tothepoint Rating: 64.5/100

You can view a full breakdown of the allocated points here.

Ticket Price: $22

Value Review: +$7

With our scoring system and our unique value for money guide we rate this show at $29. Spamalot continues at RMT until July 23rd.

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