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CCT with 2nd Flight Productions - ARCHIVE
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August 22 - September 6, 2008
Bare: A Pop Opera
Reviewed August 22 by Brad Hathaway

Running time 2:35 - one intermission
A rock solid performance of a teen "pop opera"
v some sexual content

Bare gets a solid community theater production that handles all the elements well and it is something more than just an acceptable production. It is an ambitious project for any community group both because it is nearly sung-through with a dozen roles that require musical ability as well as stage presence, and because the musical demands it makes range across a fairly wide spectrum. The newly merged amalgamation of what used to be the College Community Theatre and 2nd Flight Productions (now apparently destined to go by the mouthful CCT2FT) chose it as their first joint outing, obviously because it displays the strengths each group brought to the joint venture. The CCT part seemed to gravitate to properties with some heft and meaty parts for younger cast members (The Children's Hour, Cuckoo's Nest) while 2nd Flight had taken cracks at some large-young-cast musicals (Aida, Joseph ... Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar). They'd both taken on the musical Bat Boy. This first joint effort seems to indicate that the merger is a match.

Storyline: Two young male roommates at St. Celia's Catholic Boarding School have fallen in love with each other. One wants to share the news with the world - or at least his mom. The other wants to keep the truth in the closet. The reluctant one is cast as Romeo in the school play and has a brief involvement with his Juliet. Only "involvements" of the heterosexual kind have one complication that homosexual liaisons don't share. How will he, she and they handle the conflicts of emotions and the challenges of the pregnancy?

Bare's script may be formulaic, but it is a formula that works. The story of earnest youngsters, each of a type, facing the emotional turmoil of the last years of adolescence and the end-game of the search for individual identity has been the basis for many a musical, novel, movie, play, radio and television show. When done well, can be affecting, if not exactly fresh. Mix in the sexual identity aspect and you find a way to distinguish this show from, say, High School Musical. It premiered in Los Angeles in 2000 and had a brief run Off-Broadway in 2004. The score was recorded by Sh-K-Boom Records and given away both as a promotional item at the theater in New York and on the internet as a means of reaching new audiences. (It isn't now available for purchase through our usual Amazon link but you can take a listen at http://www.sh-k-boom.com/bare.html).

Dan Plehal and Ryan Khatcheressian are the closeted lovers. Each sings and acts well and they establish some chemistry between themselves and with the rest of the cast. Tara Leigh Moore is a tiny powerhouse as the Juliet who sets her sights on Plehal's Romeo, and Brittany Washington gets both the angst and the humor right in the role of the overweight teen who can't believe all those slim kids have problems of their own. Brian M. Garrison does a nice job on the often thankless role of the jealous "other man" who wants the Juliet for himself while Richelle Howie is a lot of fun to watch as the "Sister" who maintains that "God Don't Make No Trash."

An interesting aspect of the direction team for the production is the splitting of the duties of music director and vocal director between Robert Kraig and Michael Ehrlich. Between the two of them, they get the challenging score performed with clarity by the talented cast. Kraig leads the six-member off-stage band which lays down a solid rock-ish rhythm line and enhances the atmosphere of some key scenes. There is some very nice work by flutist Maurine Dahlberg and cellist Virginia Gardner who handles the musical moment when Washington appears to accompany herself on a cello for the song "Spring."

Music by Damon Intrabartolo. Lyrics by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere, Jr. Book by Jon Hartmere, Jr. Directed by Debbie Niezgoda. Music direction by Robert Kraig. Vocal direction by Michael Ehrlich.  Choreographed by Christy Jacobs. Design: Kevin King (set and lights) Erin Anderson (costumes) Molly Hicks (hair and makeup) Theresa Bender (properties) Brian Anderson (sound) Traci J. Brooks and Matthew Randall (photography) Colleen Stock (stage manager). Cast: Cathy Arnold, Tracy J. Brooks, Felicity Ann Brown, Janelle Delaney, Michael L. Ehrlich, Brian M. Garrison, Rachelle Howie, Ryan Khatcheressian, Asher Miller, Tara Leigh Moore, Carla Okouchi, Cory Eskridge Okouchi, Dan Plehal, Michael Schaaff, Brittany Washington.  Musicians: Maurine Dahlberg, Randy Dahlberg, Peter Douskalis, Virginia Gardner, Matt Hardy, Robert Kraig,

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August 24 - September 9, 2007
Reviewed by Brad Hathaway

Running time 2:15 - one intermission
A rock-ish musical featuring leads with very strong voices
Performances at Chantilly High School
4201 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly, VA.
Click here to buy the CD 

With Elton John's music and Tim Rice's lyrics, this pop-rock version of the story of a Nubian princess taken prisoner by the ancient Egyptians ran on Broadway for over four years. There it had an extravagant visual design and a strong rock beat behind the performance of leads and large chorus alike. Here, in a performance in the hall that 2nd Flight hopes will be a permanent locale for musicals, there are strong voices in the leading roles and attention to enunciation of both lyrics and lines which makes the story easy to follow. However the driving rock beat behind the melodies is lacking, even as the small combo supporting the vocalists does establish a fine standard for pitch and key. The strength of the show is the vocal performances of Keisha Spaulding as Aida and Ryan Khatcheressian as her Egyptian commander. It also helps that, unlike even many professional companies, this production has a vocal director, Michael Ehrlich, and the result is that everyone on stage does his or her best to deliver both the melody line and the lyrics with clarity and assurance. 

Storyline: The Egyptian army takes prisoners from neighboring Nubia including, unbeknownst to them, the princes Aida, a young woman with a strong sense of dignity and powerful voice. The Egyptian commander Radames is betrothed to the Pharaohís daughter, but falls in love with the princess he thinks is a slave girl. Love and jealousy, patriotism and treason, fate and even reincarnation play in a different version of the story than in the classic opera.

The story is a variation of the story found in Verdi's famous opera, but donít expect grand opera here. Instead, there is the pop sound of the music composed by Elton John in his first written-for-the-stage musical. And there are lyrics by Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess and parts of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast) which include his trademark idiosyncratic anachronisms for which I admit a weakness. He has Pharaoh's minister referring to genetics thousands of years before the discovery of DNA ("Donít come on so cocksure boy / you canít escape your genes / no point in feeling pure boy / your background intervenes") and the Pharaoh's daughter sounds for all the world like a modern valley girl as she sings "Forget the inner me / observe the outer / I am what I wear / and how I dress."

Spaulding's vocal strength is consistent all night long in an extremely demanding role and her acting is solid as the pridefull princess reduced to hiding her nobility in order to keep her identity secret from the conquering Egyptians. She gives every impression of being able to hold her own in a more distinguished ensemble. In contrast, Khatcheressian is impressive mostly for his vocal strength. When he belts out a pained plea for release from the burdens of duty to spend some simple time with his love, he can sell both the emotion and the musicality of the scene. Katie Pond has some effective scenes as the Egyptian princess as well.

The constraints of budget are clearly evident in the visual impact of the show, spread out across a wide stage with a single set used for multiple locations and costumes that only hint at either the wealth and power of the conquering nation or the degradation and plight of the slaves taken from defeated Nubia. The score works best as a highly amplified artificial sound, and the sound system (with wireless mics) used here has all the volume that could be wanted but suffers from distortion, especially on Spaulding's big moments, and intermittent malfunctions which particularly plagued Faqir Qarghah as the slave who serves his princess by manipulating his captors.

Music by Elton John. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang. Directed and choreographed by Shannon Khatcheressian. Music direction by Bob Kraig. Vocal direction by Michael Ehrlich. Design: Kevin King (set and lights) Kelsey Cropp (costumes)  Kat Brais and Andy Izquierdo (hair and makeup) Erin Anderson (properties) Stan Harris (sound) Warren Reid (stage manager). Cast: Brieann Anderson, Kadira Coley, Edward Brient, Alex Chu, Chan Chung, Janelle Delaney, Michael L. Ehrlich, Corey Eskridge, Lance Han, Greg Khatcheressian, Ryan Khatcheressian, Tien Nguyen, Carla Okouchi, Katie Pond, Edris Qarghah, Faqir Qarghah, Jacqueline Ryan, Michael Schwandt, Nicole Scott, Keisha Spaulding, JeRhonda Spaulding. Combo: Bob Kraig, Carla Okouchi, Rick Peralta, Dan Spadoni.