Friday, May 15, 2015

reviews - SPELLBOUND! - Southwest Shakespeare Company

Joe Cannon and Janine Colletti
photo: Mark Gluckman
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

"Cymbeline has a reputation as being one of Shakespeare's most convoluted plays, thus making it somewhat difficult to stage and pull off with success. Southwest Shakespeare Company is presenting the world premiere of a new musical adaptation of the play entitled SpellBound!...While it isn't a complete success, SpellBound! has many things to recommend it, including a melodic score and a talented and spirited cast. It is a swift moving, easy to follow adaptation that reduces the play to a length of just under two hours....Containing almost twenty songs, the folk/soft pop score by Shishir Kurup and David Markowitz includes an abundance of lush melodies played by a fantastic onstage band. While the tunes are varied and the song lyrics advance the plot with both added exposition and character development, some of the lyrics are left lacking in their simplicity; others are too modern, compared to the time period of the piece ("walk the walk and talk the talk" is a glaringly bad one); and some include false rhymes. But while some of the lyrics could be better, the songs still result in an intelligent musical score...Director Jared Sakren and Michael Flachmann's adaptation is fairly faithful to the original, though a few characters and plot points are removed—none that are sorely missed....Janine Colletti is superb as Imogen, making her three dimensional. She is sweet, endearing, feisty, and full of life, and also gives plenty of emotional lift to her well-delivered songs. Kyle Sorrell brings a perfect sense of urgency to the role of Posthumus and, once the results of the bet are known to him, adds in layers of jealousy, rage, pain, and sorrow. Joe Cannon instills the scheming Iachimo with an abundance of cockiness yet is deeply emotional in his superbly sung confession....Kathleen Berger is deliciously evil as the Queen, with an excellent singing voice, and Matthew Zimmerer is playfully broad as her buffoon of a son Cloten...Jeff Thomson's large set design works well...with Michael J. Eddy's expressive lighting it creates an enveloping atmosphere. Maci Hosler's costumes are superb, with excellent designs for each character that complement their status and actions. Also, the vibrant creative elements and Aaron Blanco's fight choreography create a smashing battle of multiple fighting partners amidst puffs of billowing smoke....While SpellBound! may not be a complete success, it does a fine job in reducing the lengthy plot to one that even someone new to Shakespeare can easily follow. And while the score has its shortcomings, with some additional work on the lyrics I think this version of the Cymbeline story could have a healthy future life." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"SpellBound!, a world-premiere adaptation of Cymbeline set to a peppy pop-folk score and performed under the stars at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix...the musical plays up the fairy-tale qualities of the script, at times charmingly, but this well-intentioned endeavor to win over Shakespeare neophytes is foiled by some of the most painfully inept songwriting to be found this side of open-mike night at your local coffeehouse.......Southwest Shakespeare artistic director Jared Sakren has wisely trimmed the script to its bare essentials, making it easy to follow the story of the headstrong princess Imogen (Janine Colletti, a sweet-voiced soprano) and her low-born lover Posthumus (Kyle Sorrell), exiled by the king (Tim Blough) for the crime of marrying his daughter...As director, however, Sakren doesn't fully commit to the fairy-tale concept, letting most of his actors give straight-ahead readings that fall flat on the large outdoor stage. That is, until they break into song, which is when SpellBound! really misfires...The songs are by Shishir Kurup and Dave "Marko" Markowitz...and the music is actually quite good...The mix of old and new is much less successful in the lyrics, however, where Elizabethan locutions are studded with such modern colloquialisms as "She's just a tramp" and "He talked the talk, but I walked the walk."...At times, Kurup and Markowitz seem to be taking their cues from Gilbert and Sullivan,...But they seem to be utterly clueless about the role that songs are supposed to play in musical theater...Instead of giving voice to the characters' inner thoughts or commenting on the action, these lyrics too often merely describe what is happening, and not particularly elegantly, either...." -Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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