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Western Reserve Playhouse staging musical ‘Shout’

7/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Starring in Western Reserve Playhouse’s “Shout! The Mod Musical” are, from left: (front row) Kim Medellin, Jessica Harris and Tina Starkey; and (back row) MaryBeth Hobson and Molly Weidig.
Photo: Michael Kermizis

BATH — We might have missed the Mod era in London, but Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “Shout! The Mod Musical” reaches back to those glorious days in swinging London in 1960s through the 1970s. “Shout” runs through Aug. 9.

This production, created by Phillip George, David Lowenstein and Peter Charles Morris, celebrates the golden years of London, Carnaby Street and the events leading up to the Beatles.

For the most part, the show is a musical revue. Occasionally, a performer will dictate a letter to the advice columnist in a magazine and will, of course, receive a response. This question and answer interludes reflects on the customs in England at that time. 

The script invites comparisons with the TV show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In.” I wish the director had visited “Laugh In” in production values. The five leading characters are identified by color. For example, Green Girl (Jessica Harris), Red Girl (MaryBeth Hobson), Orange Girl (Kim Medellin), Yellow Girl (Tina Starkey) and Blue Girl (Molly Weidig). 

The singers are supported by a three-piece combo, featuring John Ebner (music director and keyboard), John Chambers (bass) and Mick Shaull (percussion).

In addition to “Shout,” the show includes about 20 songs, such as “Talk About Love,” “I Only Want To Be With You,” “One Two Three,” “Wives and Lovers,” “Don’t Sleep In The Subway,” “Son of a Preacher Man” and others.

The cast invites audience participation during several songs, especially “Shout.” On opening night, July 18, the members of the audience were more than willing to clap their hands and sing, following the direction of the cast.

Unfortunately, the cast is uneven. Director and choreographer Marc Howard may carry some of the responsibility for the cast problems. One of the biggest problems is a lack of volume. Some performers can hardly be heard, whether they were singing or speaking (and I was seated in the fourth row). Howard could sit in the back row and check the volume or provide microphones for the cast.

Starkey, the Yellow Girl, is a small woman with a big voice. Starkey has great stage presence and delivers on every song and spoken word. This is the first time I’ve seen her perform. I’m sure every musical theater director in Northeast Ohio will be courting her for various musical productions.

Howard choreographed well. The dances evoked the Mod era in London and the United States.

The lighting was truly bad. The follow spot didn’t follow or lead. Often performers were left in the dark and, of course, darkness causes problems for the audience. I recognize the director and the lighting staff wanted to single out various performers with special lighting. However, the production could run much more smoothly with the stage bathed in general lighting. That might be less theatrical, but then the audience would be able to see the performance.

“Shout” evokes a special period in the English speaking world.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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