Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
After a stage reading in November of 2004 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City, and another in 2005 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre in Chicago, Married Alive! officially opened March 3, 2006 at the American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. Originally titled From Niagara to Viagra, the show features music by Leah Okimoto, and book and lyrics by Sean Grennan. Okimoto and Grennan also collaborated with each other on the musicals A Dog's Life and Another Night Before Christmas. The latter will also be produced at Actors' Playhouse this season.
The action begins at the wedding of a young couple, Paul and Erin, as they pledge their undying and perfect love to each other. One of the couples attending the wedding is Ron and Diane, who have been married for twenty-five years. They understandably chuckle at the flowery images the young couple presents through their vows, with phrases like "our love is like a dolphin." As the ceremony ends, the audience is taken on a tour of married life viewed through the eyes of both the newlyweds and the more seasoned couple. The musical humorously handles the joy of sex, pregnancy, child-rearing, the in-laws, money, careers, Viagra, couples therapy and empty nest syndrome. At the end of it all, the couples are as they were in the beginning, still "Stupid in Love."
Gary Marachek has enough broad comedic presence to add humor to any scene. He is especially funny as the hard-drinking father of the bride in the Christmas scene, "Ding Dong/Family." Marcia McClain is well matched with Marachek. She brings warmth to the couple of Ron and Diane that Marachek lacks on his own and is charming in the song about Viagra, "O Darlin'." Jason Parrish is entertaining as Paul, and at his best as the put-upon husband in "This Game Takes Two." He is the only person in the cast, however, that seems to have vocal problems, as he sometimes sings flat, or approximates his pitch when singing harmony. Julie Kleiner shows great versatility in this production. She is convincing, whether funny, angry or sad and does a nice turn as her own twin sister in "Ding Dong /Family."
This production of Married Alive! is best described as effervescent fluff. Accompaniment is ably provided by musical director David Nagy on keyboard, and the show does not ever sound in need of more. The melodies are largely forgettable, with the exception of "Stupid in Love" and the '50s style "O Darlin'." A group rap number entitled "That's Right Suckas" is humorous because it is completely ridiculous. Unfortunately, the point of the song and the lyrics are lost in the absurd gimmickry of it all. The sole poignant moments in the show are saved for the end, in the song "We Haven't Come So Far," and then the renewal vows of the older couple. On the night attended, actor Gary Marachek fumbled with his lines a bit during the vow renewal, but it actually served to make the moment more real with raw emotion. A few more emotional moments like this would add enough dramatic weight to balance the overly lighthearted nature of the show. Still, it emerges as pleasant summertime entertainment.
Married Alive! will be appearing through August 16, 2009 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. Actors' Playhouse is a nonprofit, professional regional theatre, hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round, five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization, one of twenty-one major cultural institutions in Miami Dade County, and one of eight major Florida professional theatre companies. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage managers in the United States.