Whenever a play opens in any theatre that features an ensemble cast, there is at least one performer who stands out among the rest.
According to the audience's thunderous response to multi-talented stage actor JD Driskill's predominate deftness as a singer and dancer, this young thespian may be on the road to greatness.
Driskill is one of 18 rotating cast members kicking up their heels in "Doctor! Doctor!," an interactive musical review that premiered February 1 at the Stages of Gray Theatre, a new and intimate venue in Pasadena that affords emerging performing artists an opportunity to practice their craft while showcasing their talent before a live audience.
The production is based loosely on real events that evolved from the playwright's wife's personal experiences in 1990 during an attempt by some health care facilities to hold the line on rising medical costs by integrating multiple types of doctors under one roof.
In "Doctor! Doctor!," all scenes take place in fictional New World Health Center, a hodgepodge of confusion that is run by a psychiatrist, portrayed splendidly by Mark Colbenson. The veteran television and stage actor's opening monologue is reminiscent of the manner in which the late satirist George Carlin captured his audience's concentration of the mind on a single thought.
Although the first act tends to be a quagmire of popular songs performed too frequently by some females with less than superlative vocal instruments, the segment is saved by the comedic wit of brilliant actor Jon Christie, whose expert improvisational mugging in the role of a deranged dentist is suggestive of the melodramatic countenance of a young Jim Carrey.
It is pleasant to watch acclaimed German writer and actress Claudia Zielke's provocative performance, whether she is singing a solo or engaged in a memorable duet with conspicuously excellent actor and singer Cody Bushee. Zielke stays in full character with constant independent activity, even when the focus of attention is on someone else.
At the start of the second act, it was Driskill who drew the greatest applause from the multi-generational audience, following his spot-on rendition of Bryan Adam's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," a ballad that was a huge hit in 1991.
Utilizing every sturdy prop on the tiny stage, Driskill's exceptional presentation is like listening to pop star Justin Timberlake while enjoying the nimble dance steps made famous by singer and dancer Usher.
When the production is over, one is left wondering why Driskill's voice talent is not highlighted more.
"Doctor! Doctor!" is written and directed by Randall Gray, an impassionate visionary with more than 100 productions worldwide in his impressive repertoire.
The musical, which features a multi-cultural cast, continues through March 24.
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