Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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HMB, Tommy Midnite Show and stuff

Let me just say that Half Moon Bay on a Saturday night is not one of the nation's hot spots. The only things open after 10 pm are Safeway, CVS and one hotel bar which was jam packed with wedding party guests.

Coastal Rep's midnight show of Tommy was sold out, after a mostly sold out run. I won't make too many digs at it because the cast , orchestra and crew had just had a full weekend of shows, including one which let out at about 10:45 that night. Considering all that, the energy level was way high, everyone in the cast and orchestra gave 110%, and so did the audience. It was an Event.

So let me get the one slam out first. Tech was horrible. Time and time again booming bass-frequency feedback drowned out the performers. Looking at the speakers at intermission, the pair of big-boy woofers on stage right were facing into the stage, not into the audience. That could have been a large part of the problem. There were also multiple times when singers' mikes weren't turned on until they were half a line into the song. Light cues also were messed up here and there - except for the opening number, the aerialist's performance was mostly in the dark. That was not only annoying but also dangerous.

Before the start of the show, the director read a note from the tech crew demanding that all cell phones be turned off, not just silenced, because the handshaking between the phone and the cell tower interfered with the theater's communication system. I have two things to say about that - first, "airplane mode" solves that issue, and most cell phones have that feature. And second, if your system is so lame that it gets munged by the minuscule keep-alive signal from a cell phone, you need a new system. One with wires.

And one mild dig - Bobby Conte Thornton, who plays the title role, is not as hot as he thinks he is. He was very good, it's a challenging part and he'd already done one performance that night, but I think his fans have gone to his head a little bit. I've seen better, yes, even at his age (the program says he's a high school Junior).

Moving onto the good news. There was a lot of outstanding talent in the cast. Robert Coverdell, who played The Lover, sang in the chorus, and was resurrected several times as a featured dancer, was outstanding. Anna Robertson did a breathtaking job as the aerialist, both on a large ring and also on a pair of cloth streamers suspended from the ceiling. Jordan Shepherd, who played 10-year-old Tommy was amazing - I hope being abused, beaten and whirled around on a pinball machine in the wee hours of the morning doesn't kill his theater bug. He had several tough entrances to make, and he was spot on. Also impressive was Brendan Quirk as evil cousin Kevin. The actress playing Kevin's moll, listed in the program as "Patty O'Furniture", also showed a deep understanding of the dark side.

There were lots of interesting costumes, including lots of choir robes, and the two older Tommys' white suits, various uniforms, kabuki masks and hippie dance outfits. Costume designer Lisa Claybaugh did a good job. Huge kudos go to co-set designers Rich Allen and Alice Engelmore who built a very basic pair of ramps up to a long narrow platform with dance poles, put the orchestra up there behind a scrim , and used minimalist rolling set pieces and the occasional love seat, which cast and crew (but mostly cast) wheeled in and out with clockwork precision. I'm not sure whose job it was to choreograph the set changes, but give that person a medal because they were many and they were flawless. I do have to say I was bothered by the lack of flipper buttons on the faux pinball machine.

Choreography was somewhat frenetic, but everyone on stage knew what they were supposed to be doing, and there was a lot of dancing. Kimberly Krol choreographed the show.

One of the features was a projection system which used the orchestra scrim as a screen. It provided a constant background for most of the show, and I have mixed feelings about it. The good news is the projection program was cleverly done, added to the feel of the scenes, and obviously a huge amount of editing work went into putting it together. The bad news is because it was so well done it distracted me big-time from the show itself.

The orchestra, under the direction of Ken Crowell, played their hearts out. After the show was over they kept going and going and going for the spontaneous on-stage partying. I love the French Horn part in this score and it sounded great. The program lists Katie Sablinsky and Nina Levine on horn. Guitarists Ross Dakin and Michael LaGuardia wailed and riffed and took it to another level.

Director Michael Lederman put together a phenomenon. So many things had to be coordinated for this show to not be a train wreck, and he did it. A standing ovation from 200 glowstick-waving audience members proved that.

Tags: review

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