Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
110 In The Shade
Signature Theatre's much anticipated production of 110 In The Shade is finally on the boards, but it doesn't quite generate the excitement one would hope for. Based on N. Richard Nash's unforgettable piece, The Rainmaker, 110 In The Shade is the musical retelling of Lizzie, a self-deprecating, lonely woman and Starbuck, a man who sells dreams.
The creative team behind this show is quite impressive. Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, noted creators of The Fantasticks, have written the wonderful music and lyrics. Jonathan Tunick has contributed new orchestrations, which work well. Signature's Artistic Director, Eric Schaeffer, who was also at the helm of the Kennedy Center's successful Sondheim Celebration, directs the show. With all that talent, one would think the resulting work would be outstanding. Instead, the show is inconsistent and does not live up to its potential.
Part of the problem is the direction, which often seems disjointed. Another troublesome element is the talent. Matt Bogart is known for his work on Broadway in shows that include Miss Saigon, as well as his involvement in The Kennedy Center's production of Company. As Starbuck, Mr. Bogart has a pleasant voice and certainly looks the part of an enigmatic con man. Unfortunately, he does not act the part. Mr. Bogart goes through the motions, but neither his attraction to Lizzie nor his yearning to make his dreams a reality are ever really conveyed. Therefore, it is never clear what drives him to take the actions that bring him to the conclusion of the story.
Also a Broadway veteran, Jacquelyn Piro (Les Miserables) never seems to find her way as Lizzie. Her performance does not always meet the demands of the material and she fails to connect with the men she plays against. However, she does build some steam in the second act and has some rather nice moments.
The remaining cast is very strong. James Moye is outstanding as File, Lizzie's reluctant suitor. Mr. Moye communicates the vulnerability behind the character's reserved demeanor. As Lizzie's younger brother Jimmy, Stephen Gregory Smith is a delight. This energetic young man proves to be a skilled actor as well as an able dancer and singer. But the shining star of this cast is Harry Winter as Lizzie's loving father, H.C. Curry. Mr. Winter plays the role with poise and elevates the performances of those who share the stage with him.
Eric Grims' set design is utilitarian and unremarkable except for a swoosh hanging overhead which represents the hot sun. Jonathan Blandin's lighting design sets the appropriate mood and Michele Reisch's costumes manage to have a western flavor without being excessive.
As a whole, Signature's production of 110 In The Shade doesn't do the material justice. Nonetheless, it is worth seeing in order to experience the enjoyable score and some of the fine performances given by the supporting players. 110 In The Shade runs through March 2nd.
The Signature Theatre
Cast List (In order of appearance)
File: James Moye