Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Invisible Hand
Francis and Miller have done a very free adaptation, using the book as a jumping off point and bringing a quite up to date sensibility to the piece. The narrative delves into sustainability of the ocean's eco systems, and brings a whole set of paradigms that are emphatically 21st century, not just in the narrative, but in the theatrical presentation. The reason for the show is its visual effects, heavy with computer-generated graphics and I suspect it is going to appeal more to young families than experienced theatergoers. There are some terrific effects (the first couple of scenes on board the Nautilus) and some that go awry because Brendan McMahon's (as Jules) hands operating the action figures are too prominent. The producers seem very clear who their target audience is and are doing tie-ins with museums and other youth-oriented groups.
This version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea relies on four characters to tell the story. Brendan McMahon is Jules, part Jules Verne and our narrator. Suzy Jane Hunt is Professor Aronnax, our heroine, Marcel Jeannin is Ned Land, sort of our villain, and Serafín Falcón is Captain Nemo of the futuristic ship Nautilus where most of the action takes place. The tone of the production is that of an action adventure movie, so its not surprising that the acting is not notable for subtlety.
The direction is by Rick Miller, co-creator, and he is also often found playing Jules. He fills a moderately large stage with big action and special effects. There are many technical people connected with this show and every one makes important contributions to this production.
I recommend this Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to families with children, especially boys. I suspect that they will be enthralled.
Asolo Repertory Theatre presents Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea through July 1, 2017, at the Mertz Theatre in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941-351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Directed by Rick Miller*