Monday, August 20, 2012

Musical Theatre on the East Side

Recently, an acquaintance complained to me that there was nothing to do in our area. My unspoken thought was “you must be joking”. Just this past weekend, Dan & I were able to attend two locally produced musicals.

The first was Mercury Summer Stock’s production of All Shook Up. Mercury has operated in such prestigious locales as The Cleveland Playhouse. But this summer, they took up residence in South Euclid, at the former Regina High School – now part of Notre Dame College. Dan & I previously saw Cats and Once Upon a Mattress – we missed Footloose which only ran for two days. Despite being presented in a former high school auditorium, the quality of these productions was quite high. The acting and singing were on a professional level, coupled with the youthful enthusiasm one would expect from mostly under-30 performers. I sincerely hope Mercury returns to our city next year.

Saturday night, Dan & I headed to the Mayfield Village Civic Center to see Urinetown – presented by the Fairmount Center for the Arts. The last time I had been in that building was precisely nineteen years before, August 18 1993 for my mother’s funeral service – when the building housed Mayfield United Methodist Church. Around ten years ago, the church moved to Chesterland and the Village bought the building – but it remains largely as it was before. In the former sanctuary, the pews have been replaced with rows of chairs. Appropriately for a musical called Urinetown, we were seated in Row P. I wish I could enthuse about this production, but it was clearly on an amateur level. Many of the performers were high school age – nothing wrong with that, but they had not been schooled in the art of diction. (One thing that annoyed me about 2009’s Star Trek was how Zachary Quinto was unable to properly present his dialogue [“Enterprise, for tuh beem up”] as Nimoy effortlessly did during the series.) Then there was the material itself. Urinetown takes place in a dystopian future where water has become so scarce that one must pay the corporate oligarchy to go to the bathroom (peeing outdoors is forbidden). After the events of this past summer, Urinetown could seem oddly prophetic. But the songs were unmemorable and there was all too much breaking of the fourth wall for Urinetown to rivet me to my seat. I kept checking my program to see how many songs were left before we could leave.

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