Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Some Kind of Wonderful
The Florida Stage presents the world premiere of the musical revue Some Kind Of Wonderful. Created by Bill Castellino and Christopher McGovern, this five-person show celebrates the music made popular between 1960 and 1965. Florida Stage audiences may recognize the artistic team of Castellino and McGovern for their work on Cagney!, which appeared earlier in the season. Christopher McGovern also wrote the libretto and score for the musical Lizzie Borden, and co-conceived and wrote the book, original songs and arrangements for the Florida Stage premiere of Backwards in High Heels.
Some Kind Of Wonderful is accompanied by a four-piece on-stage band that provides provides personality as well as music by interacting with the cast on occasion. The ensemble musical highlights of the show are well written and sung arrangements of "Goin' Out of my Head," "Having A Party," a Beatles' Medley called "Meet The Beatles" and a comedic "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Though revues should not truly have a star, Dana Dawson is the star of this production. She has a great singing voice and a delightful stage presence. Her flirtatious delivery of "My Guy" and soulful rendition of "At Last" are two of the most enjoyable moments in the show. If the rest of the show were of this caliber, Some Kind Of Wonderful would be one hot ticket. Unfortunately, Some Kind Of Wonderful flounders to find a throughline, follow a chronological order, or provide good thematic groupings.
Each genre of music is defined by the style in which it is sung. Vocal ornamentations or "licks" are specific to each style and time period. When doing a revue that focuses on a specific time period or artist, it is necessary to decide whether it is to be done true to the period or artist, or whether it is to be a new/different treatment of the songs. Some revues may mix it up by grouping songs by treatment. Though this revue is set in the '60s, the singers can not agree on what year it is as they indiscriminately use current R&B and pop licks in songs without any stylistic grouping. Barry J. Tarallo is the most true to the correct style of the early '60s. His youthful voice is clear and effortless in songs like "Sealed With a Kiss" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." He also provides layers to the show by accompanying himself on guitar.
Everyone has a good solo moment or two. Michelle Pereira has a dark, interesting singing voice, and her Spanish is gorgeous in "Besame Mucho." Her acting is a bit over the top at times, however, and she doesn't seem to connect to the other actors on stage. Eric Collins has several difficult numbers that require a strong voice and real salesmanship. His voice is strong and he reminds one of Sam Harris in songs like "The Birds & The Bees." He becomes a bit over-presentational at times, however, and the salesmanship becomes insincere. Irene Adjan emerges refreshingly as the comic actress of the show, though she has the hardest time blending vocally in group numbers. The cast is limited by the fact that it is made up of two tenors and three mezzo sopranos (actually an Irish tenor, a lyric tenor, a second-soprano, a mezzo and a contralto). However the singers may banter about their specific voice classifications, there is no soprano and no bass. Obviously this provides for an ensemble sound inherently lacking in fullness and depth that could have been avoided by casting differently.
With so many "wonderful" songs from this time period from which to chose, the creators should have done a better job aligning the order of the songs to provide a better flow for this show. The acting transitions between many of the songs are stretched too thin to be artistic or logical. Attention to correct chronological order is thrown away early when the detailed description of the 1961 meeting of Mattel's Ken and Barbie is accompanied by a cast member singing "People," which wasn't written until 1964. Only two of the five cast members are fleetingly assigned charactersa teenage couple named Tad and Tammy, but they are not protagonists.
All of this could be forgiven by energetic staging and entertaining choreography paying tribute to the dance styles of the period. The show possesses almost no dancing however, and relies on the cast simply sitting on stools or the piano, and bopping in place. Audiences who look toward production value may be disappointed as well. With the simplest of sets, the costuming is not entirely correct for the time period, and only one character ever changes clothes, and does so by adding a bathrobe, slippers and glasses. In choreography, casting, costuming and transitions, this production of Some Kind Of Wonderful is desperately in need of revision to meet the standards previously set by both these creators and this theatre.
Some Kind Of Wonderful will be appearing at the Florida Stage through August 30, 2009. The theater is located in Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network. They are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Develop.m.ent Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. The Florida Stage remains the only professional theatre in Southeast Florida producing exclusively new and emerging works.
Performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or contacting them online at www.floridastage.org.
* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
** Designates member of United Scenic Artists