Monday, August 06, 2012

Fringe Review - TROY! The Musical - Burnt Nightingale Productions - 5 stars

Tweet review - Troy - sold out, so Mom got in, I didn't; she enjoyed it thoroughly; funny, smart and fast-moving #mnfringe

This is a special "Mom only" review of TROY! The Musical as she had a reservation (but as press I did not), and the show was sold out, so I had to high-tail it on over to Intermedia Arts to catch their show instead.  Even without me to share it with, Mom had a very good time.  In fact, they ran out of programs for the sold out house, and she was hoping to find one that someone had left behind after the show.  However, the crowd must have liked the show as much as she did.  Everyone took their programs with them.  Thankfully we have the Fringe website to help her put names with characters.

For instance, check out their amusing video trailer...

Overall, Mom was very impressed.  Someone asked her the other day if it was campy and she told them no, there was humor but the cast pretty much played the story straight.  As you might imagine, the story of the Trojan War (Helen of Troy, the Trojan Horse, etc.) is about as epic as they come.  Still, even though they had a cast of ten, and they were all crammed into the small Bryant Lake Bowl stage, Mom says the play never seemed cramped for space.  People weren't tripping over one another trying to find a place to stand.  It was well choreographed in all senses of the word and ran very smoothly.  The big story seemed to expand the space around it.

Paris (Ben Kolis) and Helen (Molly Dworsky) are arguing on how this whole Trojan War mess got started, until Aphrodite (Megan Bren), goddess of love and beauty, interrupts and takes us back in time to where the story began.  There are great warriors on both sides - Achilles (Andrea Gullixson) and Hector (Marissa Schon) - and of course the cunning Odysseus (of Odyssey fame) (TROY! The Musical creator Maggie K. Sotos) who came up with the whole Trojan Horse idea to help end the war.  There's also Paris' father Priam, ruler of Troy (Sean Hansberry); Menelaus (Jason Vogen), Helen's cuckolded husband who takes Greece to war with Troy to get his unfaithful wife back; plus Hecuba (Elizabeth Clouse), Clytemnestra (Gullixson again), and a musician, Joseph Ye (can't have a musical without a musician).

Mom was particularly impressed with how the cast all worked together with their bodies to create the Trojan Horse, and the soldiers continually emerging from it.  She also thought the costumes were very clever.  There were, naturally, the inevitable togas, but depending on which side of the war you were on, characters would don a dark blue or dark red sash.  When actors weren't portraying a primary role, the sash would come off and they would blend in with the rest of the ensemble (gotta have a Greek chorus, right?).  Unlike some musicals we've seen at the Fringe, here everyone in the cast could sing loudly and clearly enough to be heard (and on key).

Mom recognized Maggie Sotos from when we saw her, just three hours previously that same day, in the improv ensemble of the Theater of Public Policy's show Big Thinkers, Serious Issues, Improv Comedy.  We'd commented at the time that she was one of the stand-outs in that group, and here she is helming a completely different Fringe show of her own creation.  Kudos.  Mom was impressed with Sotos' script - it wasn't just funny, it was well-researched.  Mom thinks she could go back and see the show again just to try and catch all the many references to mythology that went flying around fast and furious as the show barreled forward.  The songs, too, were clever and they fit the action of the play, often providing the bridge across big gaps in time.  The Trojan War lasted many years, after all, and the Fringe only gives you 45 minutes or so to get the story told.  Still, it didn't seem rushed, or like important pieces of the story were somehow missing.

Unlike some musicals that can be more music than dialogue, this was more of a standard book musical out of the American musical theater tradition.  Scenes took place, characters burst into song.  The songs all seemed to fit both the situation and the characters singing.  The songs didn't all sound the same.  There was a lot of variety in tone as well as structure - solos, duets, big group numbers.

So even though we didn't get to see the show together, Mom still had a great time.  In her opinion, TROY! The Musical is a solid piece of musical theater storytelling.

5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended

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