Last night I took my nephew and my sister to see the Idaho Musical Production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!
I have to start by reminding myself that I'm no longer living in Seattle. I saw Wicked there at the Paramount, and it was an awesome show. What I saw last night was staged in a charter school in Caldwell, Idaho. So I have to keep telling myself that I shouldn't have the same expectations. Actually, I believe that people should be excellent wherever they are, but I'll save that discussion for later.
That being said, I found the overall experience enjoyable. There were some noisy teenagers sitting right behind us that insisted on holding conversation during the performance. I'm not sure how best to approach the decline in etiquette I am witnessing in society, but it is a question that will not leave me alone.
The play didn’t have much of a storyline. It was constructed simply as an excuse to perform Schoolhouse Rock songs on stage. Normally I would find that unforgivable. In this case I have so many fond memories of eagerly anticipating and then enjoying my childhood Saturday morning ritual that I find myself overlooking a very glaring defect.
Apparently most of the audience had similar memories. I estimated about 100 people in the makeshift auditorium, possibly 120 but certainly not much more than that. And no more than 10, including my nephew, were children. Such a low percentage of children in the audience surprised me, especially considering that the musical revolved around songs for children. But it was also a Thursday showing, which means getting up early the next morning for the regular school/work routine. That may have had something to do with it.
And yes, the auditorium was very makeshift. The stage entrance was simply a rectangular opening at the end of a gymnasium with a slanted roof of corrugated sheet metal. Two portable loudspeakers sat at each side of the stage.
The acoustics were therefore awful, which may explain why some of the sound was not quite right. A live band provided the music, and that helped a bit. But some of the voices on stage just didn't sound right. Wendy Inman's voice appeared better suited to the opera than the musical stage. And Tristan Fishman, I'm sorry but your tenor just doesn't suit the likes of "Conjunction Junction". Maybe I've just heard the original too much, but it just doesn't sound right without a deep baritone voice delivering the lines. And that's sad considering Tristan's acting was among the better of the group.
Other voices were incredible, which is really saying something in light of the bad acoustics. Of particular note are Mary-Michael LeClaire and Tamara Hess. Mary-Michael seemed a little stiff in her performances, but I simply ascribed that to nervousness. Her voice during “A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing” was incredible. If she could bring her composure on stage up to par with her voice she would be amazing. Tamara on the other hand seemed more comfortable on stage. And her rendition of “Unpack Your Adjectives” was better than the original.
Christopher Purdy, who played the lead role of Tom, was also excellent. I loved his rendition of "The Tale of Mr. Morton" at the end. The song was crafted when Schoolhouse Rock experienced a rebirth, and it has always been one of my favorites. He did a really good job with that.
There wasn't much to the stage, but given that the whole affair was little more than an excuse to sing favorite childhood songs, there didn't need to be. I did enjoy the costumes, especially the animal masks that the children wore while the group sang "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla". They were awesome. And the child playing Interplanet Janet, whoever she was, did a really good job.
Again, it's not the Paramount in Seattle, and there is no real storyline that demands a suspension of disbelief. But if you love the songs or have fond memories of watching Schoolhouse Rock as a child, then this show will provide you with a satisfactory evening. It did for me and my company.
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