Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oklahoma!

Lakewood Theatre Co.
Posted by Followspot; closes June 10, 2007

What worked: Quite tuneful musical direction from maestro Alan D. Lytle; colorful, comedic performances from Courtney Freed, Ben Buckley, Jim Crino, who share a strong musical theatre sensibility; high overall “watchability” factor. Not so much: patchwork design elements, especially spotty lighting, hollow mics; several pleasantly sung but otherwise less-than-present performances.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

oklahoma !
opening night

a young cast of great voices.
the harmonies have never sounded better in "out of my dreams" and the title song.
music director alan lyttle does a bang up job of making the most out of this one.
the sets, lights, costumes are all serviceable.
the choreography is nothing to write home about.
but the big gap here is the acting.
the script does not get serviced well --- the comedy is hit or miss and the drama is pretty much ignored altogether.
the only performer who really understands the style of the writing is jim crino (and he was a last minute replacement)
the overture should be cut -- it is the only time we notice that the orchestra is not 50 pieces.
and what is it with the big shadow in the lighting down stage center?
presumably a malfunction.
this is oklahoma --- the sun shines here.
a passable evening at best.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the director ignored some of the potential dramatic tension in the show. Particularly in the Jud and Curly scene with "Poor Jud is Dead." There could have been so many more interesting layers there!

The actor playing Jud, however, had one of the strongest singing voices of the evening. He was beautifully booming and perhaps not used to his potential.

Craig said...

Review from the second weekend's Saturday night showing:

I concur regarding the actor playing Judd. Having never seen him on stage before, I found his performance to be a delightful surprise. However, sadly can't say the same in regards to the actor playing Curly. I understand they were trying to go for a "younger" cast, but honestly, I missed the warmer side of Curly that is so often present in the role. Will Parker and Ado Annie steal the show, and as stated earlier, the ensemble's vocals were stellar. The female harmonies were particularly impressive. Overall a fine evening at the theater, nothing new or exciting, but a delightful rendition nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

After attending the show, I too noticed the lack of tension in the relationship between Curly and Jud. In watching the show, I did notice that the scenes involving the 'little wonder' as a weapon weren't in the show, and after reading the comments so far (and agreeing with most of them) wonder if that might have led to a lack of depth / tension.
Agreeing with others, I thoguht the show was very well sung by all, and enjoyed seeing a lively production of a R & H standard.

Terry said...

I too was wondering about the "little wonder" -- I kept thinking, there's something about that thing that's supposed to be dangerous, but I couldn't remember what it was or how it worked -- and then when it never happened, I just thought maybe I was mixing it up with another play. What exactly was cut -- and why? And does whateer was cut give some more backstory to Judd?

Anonymous said...

The little wonder is introduced as a weapon during the smokehouse scene, after Curly leaves. In the show as written, Ali, Aunt Eller and others come down to investigate the shooting that they heard and following Curly's exit, Jud describes the weapon feature to Ali and asks the peddler if he'd be able to find one. Eventually Jud buys the little wonder from Will in the 2nd act and attempts to use it to kill Curly after losing Laury's lunch at the auction. He's thwarted by Ali and Aunt Eller, who breaks it up by asking Curly to dance.

The little wonder definitely plays a large part in portraying Jud as a villain, so I found it interesting that it was left out - almost made Curly seem sinister, or at least somewhat of an ass in his persuit of Laurey... IMHO at least.

Anonymous said...

The "Little Wonder" is supposed to have a knife that pops out when a button is pushed. So Jud could give it to Curly, tell him to look at the pretty lady, then push the button and bye-bye Curly.

It was my understanding that this was cut because they couldn't find a prop that would suffice.

And yes, I think it would have helped give Jud more depth and backstory.

Anonymous said...

It was my understanding that this was cut because they couldn't find a prop that would suffice.

With their means? Really?

Anonymous said...

I was told that it was not a issue of the prop but a real directorial choice to keep the show moving and light.

fred said...

did it bother anyone that the singers were miked?

David Loftus said...

I understand Lakewood mikes all its musicals. The director of "Arcadia," a fairly sedate non-musical whose script calls for occasional background music and sound effects, had to fight the management not to have his actors miked. I have mixed feelings about miking singers; sometimes it's okay, sometimes it bothers me. But I'm glad we were miked in "Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Buainess" at NW Children's; the canned music was loud, some of the child actors beautiful, not strong, singers, and well, miking brings its own pluses as well as minuses.

Anonymous said...

It didn't bother me - they're always miked. In fact, I could have done with a little MORE volume from the singers. Or more annunciation. I had a hard time understanding most of what was sung.

fred said...

oh, for the old days when actors, singers, preachers and high school principals could project!

Anonymous said...

i saw pavarotti himself give a miked concert.
projection is overrated. all i care about is hearing.
as a performer i can tell you that if you are doing 4-5 shows a week, your voice needs the rest that a mike gives.
opera singers, like major league pitchers, will not perform 2 days in a row.
a good sound system is a good thing.

David Loftus said...

Fred:

In the good old days, singers did not have to project over electronically amplified orchestras, electric guitars and basses, or electronically-generated music altogether! Part of the problem lies with the fact that a fair amount of canned accompaniment is not managed by a condutor who shares the space with both the singer(s) and the instruments, and therefore cannot hear, minute by minute, when the latter must be adjusted to the former.

fred said...

anonymous -

one more thing, so that i may more fully understand your point: are you saying that with microphone technology, opera singers are now able, unlike baseball pitchers, to perform two days in a row? or does the technology simply make it easier on the pipes of musical theater soloists who must sing sometimes up to six days in a row?

fred said...

anonymous -
would you prefer to have heard pavarotti un-miked?

david -
your posting confused me a bit. isn't it one of the advantages of electric, or canned, music that it can be controlled from a sound booth behind the audience, that it can be dialed down for weaker singers?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I believe that if you can't be heard from the stage without amplification, you have no business being on the stage.

I'm sure many would disagree, but I guess I'm just old-school that way.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I believe that if you can't be heard from the stage without amplification, you have no business being on the stage.

Is this in response to the Pavorati comment? What about comedians, musical acts like Fiona Apple or Led Zepplin, or a vocal soloist at a Boston Pops concert?

You must be old fashioned; turn of the century style...

My two bits: if an act needs to me mic'd to be heard over the accompaniment, let them. It's safer for the actor, easier on the audience (who have come to hear the lyrics as well, not just the music), and, well sometimes that 2000 seat house is a bit much for some baritones.

Broadway albums are not recordings of the show, but studio produced and mixed. Would you not buy those because of the artifice of the equalizer?

Anonymous said...

"... does the technology simply make it easier on the pipes of musical theater soloists who must sing sometimes up to six days in a row?"
CORRECT.
as for 11:36
yes, you seem old fashioned.
because it all depends on the acoustics of the theatre in question.
ethel merman got a career cuz she could be heard in the lobby.
i used to perform in an outdoor bowl that seated 3,000.
with no mike.
but i still prefer a mike because of the subtlety it allows.
as for pavarotti --- i was just glad to witness him at all.
it was an amazing experience, not at all hampered by the mike.

Anonymous said...

For miked performances a good sound designer is essential; both for the balance and in order to make the voices sound like they're coming from the stage rather than from speakers surrounding the house. I really feel that that's what makes the performance feel piped in rather than the amplification itself. Heck, the Greeks weren't against amplification, so why should we be?

fred said...

to anon 12:07 -

"the Greeks weren't against amplification..."

would you explain that, please?

Anonymous said...

Fred - I remember from my college years (and I could be remembering wrong, because those years aren't all that recent) that the masks the Greeks wore amplified the voices of the actors.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Greeks also utilize the Roman technology of the amphitheatre?

Anonymous said...

The Greeks invented the amphitheatre. The Romans perfected it. And yes, the Greeks used cone shaped mouth pieces on their large masks to amplify the voice.

David Loftus said...

Fred asked:

> isn't it one of the advantages of electric, or canned,
> music that it can be controlled from a sound booth
> behind the audience, that it can be dialed down for
> weaker singers?

I think that's the theory, but I'm not certain how closely people monitor canned music from moment to moment. It may depend on the production or the company.

And yes, classic Greek actors had sort of megaphone-like attachments to their masks, but they WERE acting outdoors. Personally, I think anyone should be able to act outdoors and be heard -- you know I can, Fred -- but singing is sort of another matter. I suspect that opera music was composed with the expectation that all of it had to be sung strongly. That's not so much the case with Twentieth century American musicals. How ya gonna belt out "Till There Was You"?

Jen said...

Well, since we've mostly lost the thread of "Oklahoma"...

I was the MD for "Junie B. Jones", and yes, things were louder than I'd choose for my personal listening. But for a large room filled with elementary school kids in 2007, I think it's necessary. As a sound designer I've bumped up against the volume issue over and over again. I prefer things to be quiet, subtle. I don't think that that works in every theatrical situation, though, especially in this day and age.

Ride a bus for 10 minutes - about 50% of the folks riding with you will have earphones in (not so much on, these days) their ears. Go to see a movie - the peak volumes are extraordinarily loud. Go to a friend's house to watch a movie in their living room - the overly-compressed sound is likely not to be at a low level. (For an example of the compression just make a quick recording of the TV with the built-in mic on your computer - you'll see an almost flat line if you look at the audio file.)

With a drama everyone gets more leeway with dynamics, but for a big musical (especially performed for the very young or the very old) you HAVE to compress the vocals and turn them up. Otherwise you'll end up with a lot of patrons bunging up the box office phone line. It's not a pretty fact, but it persists nonetheless.

We can cry and cry about how we don't want theatre to be like TV (Lord knows I've done my share) but, at the end of the day, we need to do the show for the audience, and the audience wants to be able to hear the lyrics without squinting.

Someday I'd like to work in a theatre with teeny speakers built into every seat back, so that I can mix a quiet show that still has some presence. Until then, though, I'll just bite my tongue, nod, smile, and turn it up.

Jeff said...

Someday I'd like to work in a theatre with teeny speakers built into every seat back...

The "Ka" theatre in Vegas has this very thing. Of course, it helps that they have kick-ass custom theatre...

-j

Jen said...

Lucky...

Joe Theissen said...

I see both sides of the microphone issue. . . we've learned to depend on them way too heavily, both as audience members as well as performers.

One point I think is worth mentioning has to do with theatre construction. Anyone who has been inside a Broadway theatre or vaudeville house knows that the architecture and acoustics were designed specifically to aid in the projection of the human voice.

I've performed on the Lakewood stage, and a Broadway house it ain't. More like letterbox theatre - wide and short. There are serious challenges there even to the most bellow-some among us. Even in the absence of amplified intruments, balance with a live orchestra in that space is extremely challenging, with or without mics.

I'm on board with holding performers to a high standard, and I think there is no place in theatre for Seinfeldian 'low-talkers'. . . but I think that modern theatre architecture has to be a part of this discussion.

Unfortunate genralizations like "...if you can't be heard from the stage without amplification, you have no business being on the stage." don't do much to foster dialogue on what is actually a fairly complex issue. It's not quite as simple as impotent or untrained actors who lack proper technique.

That being said, like anything in the theatre, much lies in the artists' reasoning. I think that any sound designer should be responsible for being able to provide a thoughtful rationale for their choices in this area. . . and I think most of them could do so with sound reason and logic.

Anonymous said...

"and I think most of them could do so with sound reason and logic."

Nice pun Joe.

Ya, the shape of the theatre is critical -- but the real bugaboo is the shape of the ceiling.
Does it suck up the sound, holding it and refusing to give it back?
Or does it reflect it into the house as it should?

I would say MOST of the spaces in town have execrable acoustics.

As one of our local singers put it so well "there are consonants in the rafters that will never come down"

On the up side, since the days of "A Chorus Line" (some 30 yrs ago)
sound systems have cost upwards of a million dollars and today they are stupefyingly good. Portland however, doesn't have any of them handy.
The sound for "Chicago" at the Keller was so good, you could hear a whisper as though you were at the movies.

The solution as usual is money (any sound designer will tell you that) and that is something the PDX theatre scene has precious little of.

We ain't got the audience for it and we ain't got the ticket prices for it.

Mostly though, we ain't got the knowledge that we NEED great sound.

And boy did the band for "Chicago" rock.

We need bigger budgets for musicians too. I know a couple of music directors who would have fits of ecstasy if they could get 12 players in the pit.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm... twelve players in the pit... Oklahoma! had 11 I think. :)

Anonymous said...

10 actually.
now add another 20% to that and you've got something.
show boat, by contrast was orechestrated on b'way for 100 musicians.....

Anonymous said...

and 10 was an all time record for lakewood