The perfect antidote to all those dreary socially-relevant-nearly-normal musical downers (to which many of us have been subjected lately) can be found at The Ivoryton Playhouse through April 6.
Five vocally gifted women and four on-the-beat musicians deliver everything groovy about the mod scene in London during the 60’s. It’s a tuneful tribute to that swinging era.
Much of what makes this musical revue work from big start to big finish is that the songs have all become part of the Great World Songbook, and the women deliver each tune with humor and energy, rolled up nicely with lots of laughs. The fun comes from the girl’s interaction with a women’s magazine called ‘SHOUT!’ which they all read, and focus especially on the words of the advice column.
As the unseen but very verbal ‘voice’ of the magazine, Steve Phelan does a smashing job in convincing us that he’s a British magazine talking to the five ‘mod birds’ offering them the latest news about records, trends and fashion. The voice of Gwendolyn Holmes, the uptight shallow and ditsy advice columnist, is another highlight of the show. The lovely and well-modulated voice is that of British actress Beverley J.Taylor. She and Phelan are only heard as voice-overs by the audience, but their brilliantly dry delivery worked to elicit big laughs every time.
The girls, named simply Blue, Yellow, Orange, Green and Red, are played by Jennifer Lorae, Tamala Baldwin, Mikah Horn, Monica Bradley and Bethany Fitzgerald respectively. For each singer’s voice the perfect songs have been chosen. Jennifer gives ‘Don’t Sleep in The Subway’ a sweet tenderness and Tamala rocks with ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ and ‘Shout.’ Mikah uses her blonde leggy ‘little miss perfect’ good looks to emphasize the fact that ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.’ Monica’s comedic homage to Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger,’ a musical tribute to the Bond epics, is not to be missed. And Bethany’s ‘Those Were The Days’ has the cast and audience ‘dye dye dying’ all through her melodious rendition. A poignant duet between Blue and Orange (who has now become Purple in the second act as they move toward the 1970s) is a collage of ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,’ I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ and ‘You’re My World.’ All show-stopping stuff.
Thirty songs and themes are beautifully played by Kyle Norris, conducting as well as working the keyboard; Melanie Guerin on second keyboard; Dominic De Monico on bass and Marty Wirt doing a smashing job with percussion. They never overshadow the singers, and the sound design by Jo Nazro is one of the best we’ve ever experienced at Ivoryton. The light-box illusions and multi-leveled set - the collaboration of Marcus Abbot and Daniel Nischan - gives us that 60’s vibe in a minimalist colorful way. Kari Crowther’s costumes accentuate the personality of each girl, and the ubiquitous Joel Silvestro’s wigs and hair reminded us of just how the women of the 60’s had to suffer to look ‘beautiful.’ But, those wigs added to the fun of spoofing those years, and as such were perfect accessories.
Jacqueline Hubbard, who couldn’t possibly remember the 60’s, nonetheless directed this show with the tongue-in-cheek style that we think the designers of the day were putting over on the public. Her direction of the ‘Mod Musings’ and ‘Groovy Gab’ - quick monologues by which each girl let the audience in on a little secret - were spot-on, and got the deserved laughter the writers were going for. Those writers, Peter Charles Morris and Phillip George, must have lived in London/Liverpool during those love-in times – because their written banter didn’t miss a Merseyside beat.
Choreographer Caitlin Sailer could have been a fly on the wall at the discos and Saturday night dances in Liverpool and London to have so well captured the spirit of the frug, monkey, boogaloo, pony and walkin’ boots swinging moves. Stage Manager Jim Clark got the five 'birds' on and off the stage in a flash, creating a smooth flow of a show without any wait time. Commendations to the backstage crew - an often unsung group of hard-working pros.
This is a show for everyone who enjoys terrific singers and musicians, great songs, and a fun look at a bygone era where innocence was just beginning to be a thing of the past. So “if you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go Downtown” – to downtown Ivoryton, Connecticut, that is, and ‘Shout’ a little bit louder. It’ll make you feel good.
“SHOUT! The Mod Musical” plays through April 6th. Wednesday & Thursday, 7:30 pm. Friday & Saturday, 8:00 pm. Matinees Wednesday & Sunday, 2:00 pm.
Prices are Adults $42. Seniors (65 and older) $37. Students $20. Child (12 & Under), $15. To buy tickets by phone, call 860.767.7318. Monday – Friday from 10:00am – 4:00pm Visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org for more info, or visit Ivoryton Playhouse on Facebook.