Sunday, October 18, 2015

Evening Star Productions: 35mm (reviews)

EveningStarEvening Star Productions opened its production of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, on October 8, 2015.
A picture is worth 1,000 words — what about a song? Can a picture inspire a song or fifteen? In 35mm, each photo creates a unique song, moments frozen in time; a glimmer of a life unfolding, a glimpse of something happening. A stunning new multimedia musical which explores a groundbreaking new concept in musical theatre…
Rosalie Grant directed a cast that included Jordana Forrest, Sabrina Gore, Steven Michael Kennedy, Elvin Negron and Eric O’Keefe;  accompanied by Jason Robert Buelow on piano, Meredith Levin on violin and Ben Brown on guitar.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The individual songs in 35MM, a 2012 compilation by Ryan Scott Oliver, are so blithely disconnected that it is hard to perceive an overarching theme other than a kaleidoscope of snapshots of jangly urban life that you might find on someone’s Iphone.
What does unify Evening Star Productions’ ambitious undertaking is the affecting outpouring of angsty passion delivered by a quintet of singing actors and a rock steady band, directed by Rosalie Grant who elicited similarly pungent performances this summer with The Last Five Years.  The company of Sabrina Lynn Gore, Jordana Forrest, Steven Michael Kennedy, Eric O’Keefe and Elvin Negron depict the spectrum of human emotion with every vocal phrasing and every inch of body language as they invest themselves completely in every vignette.
An intriguing section starts out with a song “Make Me Happy (He and She)” played by Forrest and Negron, which depicts a raging couple who say the loveliest romantic sentiments with a razor-edged fury during a fight. It is followed by “The Seraph (The Sinner with his Savior) “in which a young man (O’Keefe) talks about his discovery of what intentionally sounds like soul-fulfilling faith only to discover that the object of his adoration is someone other than Jesus. Then the He and She couple return, this time crooning the same lyrics, but with genuine affection. Whether these mirror images are supposed to be the same couple having made up, two simultaneous sides of the same relationship or whatever is impossible to discern.
Vocally, only Gore seems flawless. The other four show strong full-throated singing chops much of the time that do justice to the material, but this is a tough score and they often fail to hit some notes, natural or discordant. This is strange because when they sing together in Oliver’s intricate five-part vocal orchestrations, every one of them sounds spot on – a gloriously powerful and unique sound.
35MM and this production require some effort from the audience to meet it more than halfway. It is, as they say, not for everyone’s taste. But it does represent an intriguing example of the current effort by young theater artists to find new ways to create their own brand of musical theater that speaks to them. In that, Evening Star’s 35MM is worth checking out.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
If you can, try to get to "35mm: A Musical Exhibition" at Boca Raton's Sol Theatre a little early. It's worth it so you can peruse the photographs on the set that inspire the tunes of this song cycle…  The score by Ryan Scott Oliver is a collaboration with photographer Matthew Murphy in which the images inspire lyrics and music and vice versa. That is the only glue holding the show together, so a quick tour before the lights go down is a good idea.
35mm: A Musical Exhibition is interesting and engaging. Snapshots filled with emotion but devoid of context is an intriguing jumping off point for a musical. The pop-rock score ranges from amusing ("Caralee," in which a male nanny shares the horrors of his charge, an uber-precocious toddler) to the soul-stirring ("The Seraph," in which a sinner finds salvation) and everything in between.
The cast… are all up to the task, extracting phrases for more sensual readings ("Twisted Teeth," about vampires in love and their bloodlust) and soft-pedaling others that are a little too on-the-nose ("Leave Luanne," about an abusive relationship subtitled "Southern Gothic Ghost Story"). They are supported by a four-piece band capable of rocking out or just adding the whisper of a guitar and the accent of a violin. Major props to the sound mixing, which is near perfect.
But the show has some teeny, tiny problems. For one thing, it's overchoreographed. That's an easy fix. The other thing is that the order of songs kind of sabotages the energy near the end of the 70-minute, intermissionless show. That's a fix out of Evening Star's domain.
Evening Star Productions presents 35mm: A Musical Exhibition at the Sol Children’s Theater through October 25, 2015.

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