Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Disney songs and I are almost a perfect match. I can sing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" with all its verses and when I get to the torture moment, "You know you can say it backwards, which is ...," it rolls off my tongue. But, with the exception of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," every one of the Disney songs sung in this show was from the "second generation" of Disney animated features, which began with The Little Mermaid. They ranged from the obvious choices ("Part of Your World" and "A Whole New World") to a couple with dubious or unknown Disney ties (such as Anastasia's "Journey to to the Past" and "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors), and all showed off the performers' talents or emotional makeup. Some of the selections I don't think I have heard before, but they all had one thing in common: that particular something that immediately says "Disney song." And all the ones I didn't know were terrific songs, ones I am glad to make the acquaintance of. It was a very well put together program.
The trio welcomed the audience with "Be Our Guest" before the solos started. Brian showed off a beautiful "Broadway tenor" in such numbers as the aforementioned "Somewhere That's Green" (a gender switch), and "Out There" from Hunchback of Notre Dame, which he appeared in last March along with Ms. Figlow. Both opened the second half with "Love Is an Open Door" from Frozen and later went on a magic carpet ride together to see "A Whole New World." Brian showed great confidence all through the night, expanding on the talents I was already aware that he has.
Ms. Figlow's solos were "Reflection" from Mulan, "Part of Your World" (beautifully done), and "Journey to the Past." Ashley Figlow has a spectacular voice, solid through the middle with a nice upper extension when needed. I will be front and center for another opportunity to hear her. Lauren Nielsen is totally new to me, and, wow, she showed the widest range in her choices for solos "Evil Like Me" (from Descendants), "Home" (Beauty and the Beast), and "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" (Hercules). She dueted with her boyfriend Martin, who was pulled to the stage from the audience, on "I See the Light" from Tangled and they make a lovely couple. What I said about Ashley Figlow's voice applies equally to Ms. Nielsen's, but hers is centered a third lower. Were they trained in opera, Ms. Nielson would be Adalgisa to Ms. Figlow's Norma. She knocked all of her solos out of the park.
All three performers, obviously friends and enjoying sharing the stage, delivered the goods for a great night. Michelle Kasanofsky did her usual exemplary job on piano.
Sadly, the show was under-attended and a second scheduled performance was scrapped. I am very glad I was able to make the trip.
Venice Theater's Diverged Diznee played August 10, 2018, at 140 West Tampa Ave., Venice FL. For more information, call 941-488-1115 or visit www.venicestage.com.
Cast (in alphabetical order): Brian Craft, Ashley Figlow, Lauren Nielson