Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio
January 25 - 27, 2019
by Rachel Kasten & Emory Kasten
January 30, 2019
The Mom & Son Rating System:
Mom Says: Thumbs Up 👍
Sonorous Road’s student production of Peter Pan Jr was a nice, if bare bones, showcase for a group of energetic young performers. This version of the classic tale is based on the Disney movie, not the stage version made famous by Mary Martin. Michelle Murray Wells has the pixie dust touch needed for this age group (primarily 12 to 14-year-olds); the performers displayed extraordinary enthusiasm and precision, in spite of this performance being their fourth in three days.
The script is self-aware, with plenty of meta-jokes about the Darling children’s canine nursemaid, Nana. It also features Tiger Lily as an unlikely feminist hero, with lines like: “Not just boys are fighters, not just boys are strong...Just remind him what he did, a girl no doubt did first!” As it turns out, all of the leads are played by strong young women.
Ella Snapp displayed an immediate command of the stage as Wendy and managed to balance Wendy’s maternal nature with her courage in the face of pirates and murderous fairies alike; her lullaby to the Lost Boys, “Your Mother and Mine,” was surprisingly tender. Anna Cameron fully inhabited the role of Peter, showing off impressive physicality and a command of her vocal dynamics.
Lilly Grace Roberts was the cast’s most confident singer and imbued Captain Hook with camp and charisma (I’d certainly join her crew). Isabella Kenoyer was appropriately sullen as Tinker Bell and showed maturity as the de facto narrator. And lest you think there weren’t any male standouts in the cast: Brody Geckler nearly stole the show as comic relief Smee and looked like he was having the time of his life doing it.
It’s difficult to discuss Peter Pan without touching on the treatment of “the Indians.” The infamous song “What Makes the Red Man Red” has been changed to “What Makes the Brave Man Brave,” but this simply masks the obvious racism with the less subtle kind. Complicating matters is that the song was the highlight of the show with energetic vocals and choreography. The Indians are depicted as a bundle of stereotypes of North American indigenous groups. Perhaps skipping the Chief’s feathered headdress and war paint would help (yes, the Lost Boys showed up to the Indians’ part of the island wearing war paint, with a teepee projected in the background).
This isn’t the fault of Wells and crew, but I was hoping they would reimagine the Indians as something completely different. MTI has approved these changes in the past, allowing, for example, the Indians to be rewritten as a Spice Girls-style girl group. What an incredible learning opportunity that change would be for these rising performers.
The cast and production team should be commended for this production. In spite of its low budget, it was clearly a work of love. The projector screen was used beautifully to offer a bird’s eye view of London during the flying scenes and stand in for larger set pieces throughout. Sonorous Road has managed to nab the first local rights to Frozen, Jr. and we certainly look forward to seeing that show in the spring.
Son Says: Thumbs Up 👍
Peter Pan, Jr. was awesome and amazing! Everyone had great voices. My favorite song in the show was “What Makes the Brave Man Brave.” It was so fun and everyone danced. I really liked the face paint, but I wouldn’t want it on me. All of the music from the very beginning of the show made me want to dance.
My favorite character was Wendy. She was the main character, even though it’s called Peter Pan. She was a leader. I also loved the Lost Boys. They wore camouflage, and I liked their costumes. They said something so funny: only boys are Lost Boys because they fall out of their cribs, but girls are too clever to fall out of their cribs. There were two really cute Lost Boys who were supposed to be twins (played by Addison Wells and Blythe Snapp).
Tinker Bell was a fairy with bells on her costume. Sometimes it was hard to hear her talking because the bells were ringing. John always had his teddy bear with him. He carried it everywhere, even right through the window when he was flying. That was funny. If Peter Pan came to my room and said we could fly, I’d ask him to make my stuffed animals fly too. If I could play one of the characters, I would be Peter Pan. I can crow just like him. You can’t hear it right now, though.
I love the accent that Smee was using! He was hilarious. And I loved when the Pirates did sword fighting. It was cool how they put the pirate flag up on the screen so we would know they were on the pirate ship. I do have a question about Captain Hook: How do they put the hook on him?
One of the reasons I like this show is because it’s all kids and they let girls play boys if they wanted to.
Photo by Rachel Kasten
Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre
January 11 - 27, 2019
Possible holdover through Feb. 3
by Dustin K. Britt
January 16, 2019
RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is less a full-length play than a pair of discrete one-acts, intercut as one would A and B plots of a film. He tries to connect them in an ending that rivals The Wizard of Oz in expediency and downright laziness.
Measure is as big a problem as a Shakespearean “problem play” can get. It does not merely straddle a fence between tragedy and comedy, its characters operate on two sides of an impenetrable barrier. It is a director’s formidable task to crank up a wrecking ball and bring it down. If a director cannot break through before the play is done, characters from both stories run headlong at the wall in an attempt to meet each other, leaving themselves, the plot, and the audience battered, bloodied, and bewildered.
Director Rebecca Blum has big ideas for Measure. High-concept, topical, and engaging ideas. And she has a lot of them: separating the tragic and comedic stories in space, the presence and agency of five children (her boldest and riskiest move), delineating the relationship between a government and its people, ever-changing graffiti that highlights important themes, casting a young girl as Pompey the Pimp, repetition of textual motifs, and increased sexual violence.
Blum’s most impactful addition is the echoing, haunting mantra of “who will believe thee, Isabel?” which increases the audience’s empathy level tenfold. The literal erasure of women’s words might have been effective were it visible to the entire audience and less distracting during scenes on the opposite end of the stage. Children Will Listen is as pertinent a message as it ever has been, and Blum recognizes that. But the M.O. of the child cast is unclear: we know that they are there, sometimes interactive sometimes not, sometimes visible sometimes not. But any potential effect of their presence remains unseen.
RLT’s production has its own problem: the simultaneous presentation of all of these concepts. Shakespeare’s puzzle is challenging enough on its own, so the space for high-concept must be reserved for one or two potent, extremely clear interpretations. Otherwise the barrier is attacked with a half-dozen chisels rather than one big wrecking ball. I don’t know which chisel to watch and there’s no final breakthrough.
Blum’s added grande finale wants very much to be 1960s-era agitprop theatre, but is more like a 1970s after school special, summarizing What We Learned Today, assuming that the audience have not understood a single moment of the previous two and a half hours.
And there was one more thing I could not piece together. Why would such a capable design team create such an aimless assembly of unattached images? Upon further investigation, and a conversation with a couple of production-related parties, I discovered that Blum’s characters exist in different historical periods. The production is designed as such. This explains the odd presence of a Cosmopolitan magazine in an 18th century tavern and other such oddities. This is an intriguing idea, but complex enough that it needs to be the production’s sole driving concept.
Donna Rossi Youngblood is an endearing Mistress Overdone while Benjamin Tarlton is a magnificently funny (but also a bit overdone) Lucio and Laura J. Parker leans deftly into the ill-tempered Elbow with body, voice, and mind. Niki Jacobsen presents a sturdy Escalus and Will Harris is a foreboding Abhorson, contrasting nicely with his prisoner: Christopher Blackwell’s goofy Barnardine. Rebecca Nelson makes a surprising impact in the thankless role of demure Juliet and Kylee Silvas’s weary Mariana is absolutely devastating.
Rosemary Richards is a triumphant Isabel, earning sympathy for her character, not demanding pity for her. Richards is working overtime to appear threatened, since Wade Newhouse’s Angelo doesn’t provide much impetus. The newly-added physical assault on Isabel is appropriately shocking, but now an odor of “Well, at least he didn’t rape her,” is in the room: a thought that undermines all of Angelo’s emotional and mental abuse, presenting it as a lesser of two evils. And a man so prone to sexual assault has no need for a complicated blackmail scheme in the first place.
What this all means is that one of our area’s most inventive directors has brought a half dozen or so of the most unexpected and fascinating perspectives on Measure one is ever likely to encounter. But rather than trusting one or two of these concepts to work their magic--which they almost certainly would have done--we had to decide for ourselves which track we were going to follow, at the expense of clarity and impact.
North Carolina Symphony Young People's Concert Series
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Meymandi Concert Hall
January 5, 2019
by Rachel Kasten & Emory Kasten
January 7, 2019
The Mom & Son Rating System:
Mom Says: THUMBS UP 👍
North Carolina Symphony’s The Mozart Experience, part of its Young People’s Concert series, is a brisk, enjoyable introduction to Mozart for children but may not offer much new for adults. My experience was admittedly overshadowed by the child sitting next to us who spoke for a solid 45 minutes of the show. His adult companion threatened to take him home multiple times; if only she had.
Presumably, one of the goals of the Young People’s Concerts is to introduce children not only to classical music, but also to the etiquette of attending live performance. In that vein, perhaps NC Symphony should consider providing some ground rules at the beginning of the show tailored to the young audience.
The conceit of the show is that a busker/mime named Maggie (played by the energetic, thoroughly entertaining Maggie Petersen of the Magic Circle Mime Company) is caught playing on the orchestra’s piano and is invited to portray Mozart in the concert. We are led to believe that Maggie and the Conductor, Wesley Schulz, have an established relationship; Maggie also has a mime friend (Mark Douglas MacIntyre) who seems to appear and disappear at random. The storyline is fuzzy, but it serves its purpose well enough.
Early on, Shulz mentions that Mozart performed his first concert at the age of six, forcing all of the parents in the audience to make mental notes of our children’s relative lack of success. Shulz is a charming emcee and makes a strong case for Mozart as a fashionable prankster and life of the party, not the stuffy old man that Maggie initially believes. This allows Maggie to don a flashy Amadeus-inspired costume, with plenty of sparkle and a fabulous pair of shiny silver breeches.
The program includes many of Mozart’s most well-known pieces, including Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which showed off the orchestra’s beautiful dynamics. Ted Federle was a playful Papageno from The Magic Flute, whom Shulz referred to as “the original Big Bird.” Kali Bate, a 9th grader, showed poise and professionalism in her violin solo, and it was a nice touch for the children in the audience to be able to imagine themselves on stage in the not-too-distant future. A highlight was the Don Giovanni overture, during which MacIntyre stalked across the stage as a ghost, much to the delight of the children in the audience.
There were several moments where the audience became restless, particularly during Violin Concerto No. 3 and the program’s closing performance of “Jupiter.” A more hummable mix of music (perhaps Symphony No. 40?) could have helped, as could incorporating more of Petersen and MacIntyre, who both left the stage for long stretches of time. Petersen worked hard, playing both accordion and piano, dancing, and miming, and the children were engaged as long as they had her expressive movements to watch.
My son/co-pilot thoroughly enjoyed the show, which means that NC Symphony did their job well. I noticed several kids dancing in their seats and playing air clarinet. With a few tweaks - seriously, etiquette rules at the top of the show are a must - this series will make both children and their jaded parents excited about classical music.
Son Says: THUMBS UP 👍
The Mozart Experience is a concert with a bunch of musical instruments. We learned about what Mozart was like as a kid. There were two mimes with face paint, and they even played instruments! I liked that Maggie, one of the mimes, wanted to play the accordion instead of the violin. There isn’t usually an accordion in the orchestra. The other mime went away after the beginning, and I’m not sure where he went.
Maggie acted so silly the whole time, and it was hilarious! She kept trying to get money from the audience and the musicians. She tried and tried until finally the conductor gave her one penny. I liked the conductor a lot and thought he was great. He was the only one who talked though, and I wish there was more talking. There were certain colors of lights at certain times, which was so cool. Like, when it was nighttime music, the lights were blue and purple, and when it was kind of scary music, the lights were dark orange.
My favorite part was Don Giovanni because there was a ghost/monster and a fight scene! I love when Maggie defeated the monster using a pencil! I’m glad I wasn’t sitting in the front row when the monster came out, because he was a little creepy. Then I finally figured out that the monster was the other mime dressed up!
It was a very good show, and other kids should go to the symphony too.
Photo by Rachel Kasten.
Dustin K. Britt, a North Carolina native, is a performer, theatre instructor and freelance writer. He has worked in the theatre for more than 20 years and holds a Master of Arts in Education from East Carolina University. Dustin covers concerts, dance, comedy, and theatre in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Pittsboro, and Apex. His writing has appeared in IndyWeek, Carolina Parent Magazine, Pedal Fuzz, and Triangle Arts & Entertainment. You can find him on Twitter or Instagram @dkbritt85
Rachel Kasten, a North Carolina resident, believes that access to live theatre strengthens communities. She is happy to be back home in Raleigh after a whirlwind decade of living and performing in Ohio, Florida, and British Columbia. She was a professional background actor for 7 months in Vancouver and thinks it’s an experience everyone should have, but only once, and not in the snow. Although she has been frequently typecast as a witch or wicked stepmother (Cinderella, Macbeth, Into the Woods, Shrek...seriously, a lot of witches), she actually thinks she’s an okay mom. Most recently, Rachel discovered that she enjoys producing even more than being on stage, when she produced These Shining Lives for the Women’s Theatre Festival. Outside of theatre, she serves as a Graduate Program Coordinator at N.C. State and is an active participant in dismantling white supremacy. Rachel is looking forward to sharing something she loves with the person she loves the most.
Emory Kasten, Rachel's son, is 6 years old and in 1st grade. He loves musicals because they have singing and dancing, which are two of his favorite things. He takes jazz and tumbling at Triangle Academy of Dance so that he can perform in Newsies someday. Emory is also a proud Cub Scout. His favorite show is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat because it’s weird, colorful, and silly, like him. Emory wants to see more plays because sometimes they’re really funny.
P.S. He wants everyone to know that his favorite animal is the red fox.