Friday, October 7, 2016

CELEBRATION • New Line Theatre

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s musical is pretty much devoid of any conventional narrative, with roots that reach back to ancient ritual and the winter solstice -- the planet’s shortest day and longest night. Clashes between Winter and Summer, from the beginning of time, have proven that the young inevitably conquer the old, and in Celebration, fresh ambition stamps out numb indifference. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1969, but lost a little bit of its magic when it moved to the bigger Ambassador Theatre on Broadway. Rarely produced, the musical has undergone revisions over a long period of time, and New Line Theatre is the first to premiere this revised version. Under the lively direction of Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, the intimate black box space at the Marcelle seems like a marvelous fit.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Orphan (Sean Michael), a young innocent, is in the big city, hoping to get the rights to his farm back so he can grow living things. The deed to the land is currently held by William Rosebud Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer).
Orphan (Sean Michael), Potemkin (Kent Coffel)
and Mr. Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
He’s a monocled millionaire with a Trumpy... (Trump-esque?) hair-piece, satin robe and all, who’s a successful manufacturer of artificial things. Despite his wealth, he’s empty, and wants to feel something -- anything, perfectly epitomized in Farmer’s deliciously poker-faced number, “Bored.” Potemkin (Kent Coffel), our narrator, is a huckster who offers to help Orphan maneuver the cruel ways of the world, and maybe sidle up to Rich for his own gains. Angel (Larissa White) is the scantily clad entertainer who’s slated to perform at Rich’s lavish New Year’s Eve party. She’s after some fame and success, laid out in her number, “Somebody,” accompanied by her wonderful “give-a-shit” Devil Girls who look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Orphan falls for Angel instantly, even though she’s soon claimed by Rich. A reckoning is imminent, climaxing during the big party, with Orphan and Angel realizing their mutual love, and Rich grasping for the last threads of relevance.

Larissa White (Angel).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Michael’s virtuous characterization as Orphan and White’s appetite for celebrity as Angel work together well as the lovers who yearn to be together, and Farmer is brilliant as Rich, selling his character with the most minimal of movements, telegraphing tons through his expressions. Coffel is an enigmatic, slightly ominous Potemkin, guiding us through, breaking the fourth wall -- even hipping us to upcoming key changes, and taking part in the action, with a great voice and charm. The strong-voiced ensemble of Revelers (Colin Dowd, Sarah Dowling, Christopher Lee, Todd Micali, Nellie Mitchell, Michelle Sauer and Kimi Short) provide a constant source of energy throughout -- typical of all of New Line’s shows.

The Revelers.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
The score is brimming with a varied number of great songs. Hell, there’s even a little harpsichord action in there. Music director Sarah Nelson’s band is tight, and choreographer Michelle Sauer provides some nice moves for the Revelers, particularly during Potemkin’s “Not My Problem,” where the ensemble fills in as a robotic chorus, complemented with some eerie lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl. Sarah Porter’s costumes are fittingly eccentric, and Scott L. Schoonover provides the show’s cool mask design.

For a rare interpretation of a story as old as time -- the passage of time itself when old things are stripped away and born anew, check it out. It’s playing until the 22nd.


Potemkin (Kent Coffel).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
CELEBRATION

Music by Harvey Schmidt
Book/lyrics by Tom Jones
Directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
through October 22 | tickets: $10 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Cast
Potemkin: Kent Coffel
Orphan: Sean Michael
Angel: Larissa White
William Rosebud Rich: Zachary Allen Farmer
Revelers: Colin Dowd, Sarah Dowling, Christopher Lee, Todd Micali, Nellie Mitchell, Michelle Sauer and Kimi Short

Mr. Rich (Zachary Allen Farmer)
and Angel (Larissa White).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Creative
Music Director: Sarah Nelson
Vocal Music Coach: Kyle Aucoin
Choreographer: Michelle Sauer
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician: Brendan O'Brien
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designer: Sarah Porter
Sound Designer: Benjamin Rosemann
Assistant Sound Designer: Elli Castonguay
Mask Designer: Scott L. Schoonover
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master: Mike Dowdy-Windsor
Scenic Artists: Melanie Kozak, Kate Wilkerson, Patrick Donnigan, Richard Brown and Paul Troyke
Box Office Manager: Jason Klefisch
Volunteer Coordinator: Alison Helmer
Graphics Designer: Matt Reedy
Videographer: Kyle Jeffery Studios
Photographer: Jill Ritter Lindberg

The New Line Band
Conductor/Piano: Sarah Nelson
Guitar: D. Mike Bauer
Keyboard 2: Sue Goldford
Percussion: Clancy Newell
Bass: Jake Stergos

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