Tag: Denzel Tsopnang
Wobbly cast exudes energy and potential
|Stage Door Fine Arts presents|
|Book/Lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr.
Book/Music by Damon Intrabartolo
Directed by Paula Taylor and Don Smith
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through August 8 | tickets: $20 | more info
reviewed by Allegra Gallian
Bare, formerly known as “Bare: A Pop Opera”, is a teen rock musical by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, with lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. The show debuted in October 2000 at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, where it quickly developed a cult following. As Playbill put it, “fans….cheered [Bare] as being an heir to Rent in style and passion.”
The only connection to Rent seen in this show, however, is through its stage design. A minimal set with two spiral staircases connecting scaffolding and two sets of lockers, the stage is reminiscent of Rent’s bare bones, warehouse feel. The set is kept dark in all black paint, allowing for audience imagination.
Stage Door Fine Arts’ production of Bare at Stage 773 (formerly known as Theatre Building Chicago) proved problematic from the start. The show started late and was plagued by technical difficulties. Even after a sound check, there were evident problems with the sound equipment. A balance was never really struck between the actors’ voices and their microphones, so for the majority of the show it was near impossible to hear, and therefore understand, what the actors were saying or singing. The microphones also added a tinny quality to their projections, altering the actor’s voices and ultimately hurting their performances.
Bare follows the students of St. Cecelia’s Catholic boarding school as they enter into their senior year. The two main characters, roommates Jason (Sean Doherty) and Peter (Anthony Avino) are harboring a secret that goes against everything they know: they are in a relationship. Problems arise when Peter wants to take their relationship out of the closet and Jason is firmly against that happening.
Avino’s Peter appears nervous in the beginning and slightly unsure of himself. Eventually he calms down, but strains to get through many of his songs. The range of the part seems a little too large and when he goes too low or up into his falsetto, his voice becomes shaky. His middle voice proves to be a strong tenor and in this range he hits some really strong notes.
Doherty is more believable in his characterization of Jason, having a greater grasp on understanding his character. However, he is stiff in his performance and often seems unsure of what to do with his hands aside from leave them hanging. His redeeming quality is his outstanding singing voice.
The students of St. Cecelia are all auditioning for the spring production of Romeo and Juliet. Peter is cast as Mercutio, Jason as Romeo, Jason and Peter’s friend Ivy (Madison Moran) as Juliet and Jason’s twin sister Nadia (Nellie Conboy) as Juliet’s nurse.
For all this show’s problems, there were certainly points of merit and potential for what Bare could be. Conboy offers a wonderfully bitter and hilarious portrayal of a teenage girl facing the fact that she’s the odd ball in school. She delivers entertaining, punchy numbers like “Plain Jane Fat Ass” and “Spring” with a clear sense of who her character is, and this allows her to genuinely connect with the audience.
Another standout performance is that of Claire (Anne Pallotti), Peter’s mom. She’s quick and clever, delivering a heartfelt performance of a woman coming to terms with her son’s newfound sexuality. In “Warning,” she delivers an honest look at herself, her son and her life, letting down her walls to let the audience in.
After auditions, the cast throws a surprise birthday party for Ivy. Ivy wants Jason, and she makes this known at birthday party. From that point on she makes it her mission to pursue Jason until she wins him over. Madison Moran’s Ivy feels forced until almost the very end of the show. Moran comes across as an actor playing a part, and she’d benefit from a deeper comprehension of her character to really flesh it out. Not until she serves up the emotionally-driven, belted-out “All Grown Up” does the audience finally catch a glimpse of the real Ivy, and while it’s a welcome change of pace, it would be much more convincing having this authenticity throughout.
Act II proves to be more solid, with increased audience connection bridging the fourth wall. We see Peter and Jason continue to struggle with their relationship in terms of each other, in terms of their religion and in terms of facing the world. Added to that is Ivy and the problems she and Jason have created together. And overall the performances become slightly more realistic, and the sense of watching a play fades back.
When learning of this musical, I was intrigued, and my interest might have been piqued save for the numerous problems the cast faced. As a whole, Bare is missing the kind of guidance needed to improve matters, as actors seem unsure of what to do with themselves, their arms as stiff as their bodies. The requisite enunciation and diction never fully comes to fruition, resulting in jumbled lyrics that are hard to understand, leaving the audience confused as to what’s exactly occurring on stage. The cast is mainly comprised of high school students or recent graduates. Unfortunately their age and lack of professional experience is apparent – muddled choreography and underdeveloped characters make Bare feel more like community theatre than the quality professional theatre Chicago audiences have come to expect. This ensemble is teeming with potential and enthusiasm; I look forward to seeing these actors excel on the city’s many stages in the years to come.
Bare is playing at Stage 773, 1225 Belmont Ave., August 5 and 6 at 7:30 pm. and August 7 and 8 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20, and all are general admission.