Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SHOUT! -- Ivoryton Playhouse

Tamala Baldwin, Mikah Horn, Monica Bradley, Jennifer Lorae and Bethany Fitzgerald. Photo: Anne Hudson
Mod England Swings into Ivoryton Playhouse
By Lauren YargerFive young girls embrace the mod life in 1960s and 1970s England in Phillip George and David Lowenstein’s SHOUT!: The Mod Musical getting a swinging run at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Singing 30 tunes popular in the era like “Goldfinger,” “Downtown,” To Sir with Love,” and the title song “Shout,” the girls, identified only by colors that signify their personalities, try to embrace modern times while seeking the advice of columnist Gwendolyn Holmes (voiced by Ivoryton Playhouse Company Manager Beverly J. Taylor). Holmes writes for Shout Magazine, the popular culture bible that guides them on what to wear and what to think.
Yellow Girl (Tamala Baldwin) is emotionally charged. An American, she travels to England to follow her heart and stalk the love of her life, Paul McCartney. In his trash, she finds a souvenir to treasure: his dandruff-laced comb.
Red Girl (a very engaging Bethany Fitzgerald) is clumsy and not what the magazine would call a beauty. Should she be suspicious of the attentions being shown to her by a new beau?

Orange Girl (Mikah Horn) is domestic and maternal – and completely in denial as she waits for her husband to come home from the office on their anniversary. Meanwhile, Green Girl (Monica Bradley) goes through a long line of men before finding the right one and Blue Girl (Jennifer Lorae) remains proper and sophisticated as she slowly discovers that the reason she never feels sparks with a man is because her passion might actually rest with a girl named Penelope.

Through the years (represented by fashions designed by Kari Crowther) marriage, partner abuse, pregnancy, pot, women’s lib, the hippie movement – and a bunch of music – help usher the women into a new age and into an understanding that Dear Gwendolyn Holmes doesn’t know everything.

Jacqueline Hubbard directs the silly tale with choreography by Caitlin Sailer on a minimal “mod” set (designed by Daniel Nischan) featuring colored, lighted squares (lighting design by Marcus Abbott). A four-piece band directed by Kyle Norris is housed on stage.

The show is mostly about the songs which are strung together by the loose plot. The women seem to be having fun, but lack energy in the songs. The pacing of the show seems slow at points (the hour, 45 run time is long) and sometimes the British humor falls flat:

“There are worse things than being ugly… You could be French.”

As SHOUT is the operative word here, it’s a bit ironic that the vocal combinations seem very soft in volume. Blame doesn’t fall on sound designer Jo Nazro, whose mix of vocal harmonies and vocals with instruments is good. The singers just don’t project. The best number is “These Boots Were Made for Walking” where vocal volume, choreography and energy find a good blend.

Fitzgerald (who entertained as Amber in Ivoryton’s Hairspray) stands out with comic chops. Her character’s quirky personality comes through and the audience responds to her.

SHOUT! plays at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., through April 6. Performances are Wednesday and Sundayat 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318;  www.ivorytonplayhouse.org;

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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