Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Concert Fantastic
Director (and co-music director) Kate St.-Pierre keeps the action moving briskly, with beautiful stage pictures throughout. Her fanciful treatment is a perfect fit for Shakespeare's whimsical tale of foolish humans and impish fairies having a wild night out. In addition to St-Pierre herself, many on the creative team (both on and off stage) have been affiliated with various Cirque productions, and it shows. There's a near constant flow of graceful motion, and plenty of eye candy.
St.-Pierre has injected 18 pop music hits that fit the characters and story perfectly. Fairy Queen Titania has the best entrance of the evening, flowing down the aisle in a red LED-lit costume, accompanied by her entourage of fairies and singing "I Feel Love" as she is dramatically wind-blown by a portable fan. She later joins Oberon in a "Wrecking Ball" duet that perfectly captures their tempestuous bond. Naughty Puck and the mischievous fairies sing "Oops!... I Did It Again," and the four lovers join together in "Melt with You." The songs are paired with lively choreography by Caine Keenan, and the music is performed by a live band, prominently placed on center stage.
It can be difficult to intermingle Shakespeare's authentic text with more modern artistic expression; witness Teller's addition of magic and Tom Waits' music for The Tempest and Troy Heard's immersive Measure for Measure. However, St.-Pierre has combined the songs and text into a delightful confection, offering a fresh take for Shakespeare aficionados and the perfect gateway drug for neophytes.
At the design level, the production is a model of creative stagecraft. The visual elements of the stagingset, costumes, lighting, and body makeupfit together like pieces of an intricate puzzle. Ellen Bone's spectacular lighting design is probably the most elaborate ever to grace the stage at Spring Mountain Ranch. Castille Ritter's costume designs give us four tiers of successively greater whimsy: the ordinary mortals (ranging from drab to almost-stylish); the rude mechanicals (rustically working class, but thematically matching in their strappy leathers); the royals (flashily metallic); and the fairies (brightly colored and ethereal, some with gauzy wings or flowers in their hair, some with LED lights embedded in their garments, others with body paint that springs to life under Bone's black lights). Steve Paladie's multi-level set design, draped with moss and string lights, gives the fairies lofty platforms from which to observe their evening's sport. The action spills into the audience as well, using not only the aisles but a grassy mound that functions as an auxiliary stage in the center of the orchestra seats, underneath strings of lights like a festive garden party.
A number of the performers have essentially cross-trained for their roles, working beyond their usual comfort zones. As Lysander, opera singer Miguel Alasco not only sings his pop songs beautifully (including that anthem of youthful ardor, "In Your Eyes"), but also proves to be a graceful and expressive actor with fine stage presence. The squeaky-voiced Caine Keenan, while primarily a dancer, makes a lithe and charming Puck, complete with spiky green hair. Sabrina Cofield, one of the Valley's best dramatic actresses, is usually seen in contemporary roles, but she delivers Titania's lines "trippingly on the tongue," just as Hamlet would advise, and turns out to be a fine pop singer as well. The charismatic Tim Burris is terrific as the tattooed, mohawked, and hyper-masculine Oberon. As the frustrated and bewildered Helena, singer Kailee Ann Albitz proves to be a fine actress who seems fully at home with Shakespeare's verse. Another accomplished singer, Dina Emerson, crosses gender lines to convincingly portray Bottom the Weaver.
Although some of the performers clearly have less experience with Shakespeare than others, under St.-Pierre's direction they all perform with conviction. As a result, even the more text-heavy scenes succeed in captivating the audience. When Puck's meddling leads Lysander to cruelly cast off his former love Hermia (the sweetly appealing Danyel Arianna, another fine singer), the audience reacts with audible dismay. We might expect that from an audience of children, but when adults can be transported to that degree by a work of theatre, it's hard to imagine a better measure of success.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Concert Fantastic, through July 13, 2019, at the Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 6375 Nevada Route 159, Blue Diamond NV. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 8:05 pm. For tickets ($15 general admission) and other information, visit supersummertheatre.org.