Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The Water Coolers
Also see Kevin's review of Golf: The Musical
This summer in Southern Florida, there have been a number of musicals depending less on story and more on songs of mindless fun. This is not necessarily a bad thing; people looking for a little plot with their vocal depths can stay at home and watch 1776 while others can have a frivolous time watching The Water Coolers, thanks in part to the Actors' Playhouse's dependable quintet.
What started as an industrial event ended up Off Broadway in 2002. Thomas Michael Allen's revue, based on the tradition of movies like Office Space and the the "Dilbert" comic strip, takes playful jabs at Corporate America. Allen and his collaborators give us five people who don those white collars for 40 hours a week: the aggressive team leader (Margot Moreland), the self-proclaimed Adonis (Terrell Hardcastle), the technical wizard (Wayne LeGette), the reliable dope (Heath Kelts), and the sunny, attractive sweetheart (Stacy Schwartz).
On Gene Seyffer's simplistic office set, the players romp, prance and roam around the aqua machine while riding on cubicles and chairs. Charming selections include original tunes ("Gather Round") while other numbers are spinoffs of popular songs. The solos are the ones to crack up at: Schwartz's "Panic Monday" has her in a conga line worrying about the morning after that wild gathering, while Moreland croons the day away with "In My Cube." Hardcastle swaggers through "Song of Acceptance," a confession of his "hottie" status, urging all males to share the same fate, while LeGette gets us nostalgic in his own rendition of "The Great Pretender," an ode to office slackers everywhere. Even Kelts' "Unless It's From Me" is humorous.
Some of the company numbers work extremely well. The guys pump blood into "P.C.," a tribute to the working man who actually respects his non-male counterpart. "Oratorio" is a hilarious takeoff on the Hallelujah chorale. And while those numbers really gel, other selections fall flat: the ladies falter in "What Women Want" while the company misses a step in the act one closer, "In Windows 2525."
David Arisco returns to the director's chair after a triumphant return to the boards in February (Fiddler on the Roof). We can tell he is the real team leader of this group. He knows this quintet will get the job done, and they are right on top of things. The ensemble holds great chemistry at all times, but then again, history may have something to do with that - the trio of Moreland, Schwartz, and LeGette have worked together before in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change here at AP. Musical Director David Nagy (who also worked on the same musical) sits high above, behind a receptionist's desk, providing pleasant accompaniment with his piano.
Margot Moreland (who played Golde to Arisco's Tevye) shines in act two with her poignant rendition of "One Rung Higher." Schwartz exudes coyness in "Chat Room" (Petula Clark, eat your heart out) while her real-life husband Wayne LeGette struts his comical stuff as "The I.T. Cowboy." Terrell Hardcastle and Heath Kelts complete the group and hold their own at different times.
Mary Lynne Izzo's apparel choices are right on the money when it comes to the working class, with the women wearing casual blouses and solid colored slacks while the men are dressed in nice suits.
The Water Coolers continues a tradition of musicals that are less dependent on story and more focused on the songs to get the point across. And, even though there is probably not a lesson to be learned here, the moral of this story might be that if your collar is white, be prepared to loosen it a bit, and just enjoy the show. This Water will run dry on September 5th. You can get your fill at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Please call the box office at (305) 444-9293 or www.actorsplayhouse.org.
ACTORS' PLAYHOUSE - The Water Coolers
Cast: Terrell Hardcastle*, Heath Kelts*, Wayne LeGette*,
Musical Direction: David Nagy
Scenic Design: Gene Seyffer
Production Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen*
Directed by David Arisco
*-denotes Actors' Equity Association
-- Kevin Johnson