Saturday, September 11, 2010

Broward Center: Bare, the Rock Opera (3 reviews)

BARE The Rock Opera, a co-production Andy Fiacco and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, opened September 9, 2010.
...the story of a group of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school who are struggling with issues of personal and sexual identity. The story centers on the tragic love story between Jason and Peter, who are grappling with being gay against the backdrop of modern society and the church.
Bare captures the universal angst of modern youth and the gamut of problems facing them, from teenage pregnancy to the drug culture to meeting parental expectations. As they try to come to terms with who they are -- and who society thinks they should be -- they seek guidance from the Church, their friends and, ultimately, from within themselves. Bare's infectious rock music score electrifies the traditional love story, the gay love story, and the everyday insecurities of not knowing who we are and where we fit in, laying them all out for scrutiny.
Andy Fiacco directed a cast that included himself, Christopher McCabe, Daniel Bonnett, Joe Harder, Melanie Leibner, Marissa Rosen, Richard Cortez, and Sharyn Peoples. Musical Direction by Eric Alsford.

John Lariviere reviewed for
This production of bare is musically quite strong. A live, 5-piece orchestra, led by Eric Alsford, provides accompaniment that is balanced and clean. The ensemble sound is great. The opening group number and songs like the comedic "Birthday Bitch" and the moving "One Voice" prove they can really sing. The set works well for the space, and lighting and sound are smoothly executed.
Marissa Rosen turns in a delightful performance as Jason's overweight sister Nadia. She is always present as an actress, and fills every moment she has. She has an expressive face, a strong voice and good comedic timing. Her song "Plain Jane Fat Ass" is one of the best numbers in the show. Melanie Leibner has a lovely voice, and plays the "bad girl" Ivy just right, as Ivy is not so bad that the audience should ever not empathize with her. She sings "All Grown Up" with well acted layers of emotion. The part of Peter's mother, Claire, is a tad bland, but actress Sharon Peoples makes the song "Warning" the character defining piece it is meant to be. Nadeen Holloway is at first a bit stilted as Sister Chantelle—delivering her lines at people rather than to them. Holloway's second act song "God Don't Make No Trash" is sassy and fabulous, however, as she sings to Peter of accepting his homosexuality.
Christopher McCabe sings beautifully, and seems to have a connection to the role of Peter that brings it to life. He is unfortunately hindered by a disconcerting performance by producer/director Andy Fiacco as boyfriend Jason.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
The Carbonell Award limits eligibility to shows that run a minimum number of performances so the judges can see it.  That’s the only thing keeping dynamic Marissa Rosen from nabbing a best supporting actress nomination...
Rosen...  not only has a clarion voice, but she knows how to act the hell out of a song...
...this sung-through musical about teenage angst in a Catholic boarding school is a local production with a surprisingly strong cast of 14 mostly local singers.
Under Fiacco’s direction, all of the cast members prove themselves passable actors or better (Liebner is especially affecting), but their strength is singing.
Musical director Eric Alsford helped mold this group into a tight chorale that nimbly handles interlocking structurally challenging lyrics. Still, not all of the singers enunciate perfectly and some plot points get lost in the traffic jam of words... some spoken dialogue would help this show’s clarity a great deal.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...if you see the locally produced show during its short run in the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room, you'll discover an Off-Broadway musical with a sometimes-stirring score sung at a consistently high level.
Composer Damon Intrabartolo and lyricist Jon Hartmere Jr. collaborated on the story, almost all of which is told in song. Though Bare gets tripped up by fantasy sequences and plot twists more worthy of a soap opera than a rock opera, its music often soars.
The score elicits powerful and subtle performances from Carbonell Award-winning musical director Eric Alsford and four other musicians, and the actors have impressive vocal chops, if not the true youth or magical acting ability to be convincing as high school kids.
Handsome and a little weathered (perhaps from wearing so many hats in the production), Fiacco (the only singer who at times wanders a tad off key) is an earnest, conflicted Jason. McCabe brings moving depth to Peter's attempt to share his truth with his mother.
Leibner belts, muses and seduces, and you know she could handle leads in Rent or Spring Awakening...
Nadine Holloway brings raise-the-rafters vocals to her empathetic turn as Sister Chantelle, the school's drama teacher.
The star turn in this Bare, though not its creators' intention, comes from Rosen as pudgy, tart-tongued Nadia. She rocks out with bravado yet infuses the beautiful Quiet Night at Home with aching vulnerability. Though Bare stays focused on the promise and heartbreak of a gay love story, Rosen makes you wish that Nadia had a show of her own.
BARE the Rock Opera plays in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through September 18, 2010.

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