Friday, September 28, 2007

Ghosts of Celilo

Photo: ?

Artists Repertory Theatre
September 27, 2007; closes October 14, 2007

A major achievement of lasting significance for the theatre canons of Oregon and the Northwest. This wolf of a critique dressed in sheep’s clothing cleverly focuses on Native children to tell a story that would otherwise be too depressing to bear. Noah Hunt is amazing. Technically immaculate. A total triumph.


Anonymous said...

Im sorry but I found Noah to be a little annoying. he seemed to only play extremes. I know he was young, but it was very distracting for me. Also the girl that played Irine, sang consistently flat. I dont know if it was a monitor problem with the band or something because i have not noticed it being an issue for her in the past shows she has been in. There were some mic issues. hers, for one, was drastically hot in the finial scene and all i could here was her sniffing and snorting, I guess crying... for the climax of the play.

As a whole, really beautiful script and technical work, and the actors did a great job. There were just some sore thumbs that were irritating and made me feel a little detached from the action happening on stage.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show Friday, openeing night, and I was very impressed with the sets, music, and acting. I found irene to be spot on vocally, and noah hunt very strong on stage. The other actors, especially the Ghosts, were terrific.

Overall a beatiful and moving story by Marv Ross. A wonderful accomplishment.

John C. Bunnell said...

I saw Saturday night's performance, came away generally impressed, and stayed up way too late typing up comments in my own journal (long enough that I won't reprise them in full here; follow my Web pag link).

I'd agree that the few rough edges were in sound management. Once or twice one of the women would enter and begin speaking too quickly -- either someone wasn't bringing her personal mic's level up quite soon enough, or she wasn't yet in range of the onstage area mic. And very occasionally, the band audio level went a little too high vs. the vocals.

One comment on the set: when I was down in Ashland in August, my backstage tourguide noted that they're presently making very little use of the revolving stage in the Bowmer theater owing to reliability issues. Given the number of revolves in Ghosts, I hope the Newmark's hydraulics are sturdy enough to survive the run!

enezz said...

i dont know what your talking about the ghost of celilo was the best play i had ever seen you guys are crazy saying it was depressing

Liz said...

Wow, what a work of art. Belongs on Broadway. The small rough edges will be corrected with time. Thank you, Marv Ross, for an impressive show and cast.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed by the consistent raves for Ghosts of Celilo. Overall I found it dull. I think it's a missed opportunity to celebrate a significant aspect of Native and Northwest cultural and natural history. I was hoping for more Native music and legend but suffered through the mostly standard Broadway fare. The story relied heavily on exposition, a short hop from a Disneyesque version of Pocahontas. I do respect the efforts of the Native non-actors in meeting the challenge of doing a show on a big stage. I was touched by the singing and dancing of he children at the close of the first act. Noah had his moments - I agree he was clinging to the extremes most of the time, but he managed a bit of subtlety here and there. He had a hard time keeping his eyes off the floorboards the night I saw the show. Train saved the show for me. As for the rest of the veteran actors - competent at best. A final sneer - sure most of the sets were wonderful, but if we're talking about that we're either set designers or underwhelmed by the story.

Wendy said...

I saw the show last night with my 10 year old daughter because I couldn't find a babysitter. She wasn't too thrilled to be there, but liked the show instantly. It helped that she just studied Oregon history last year. She liked the kids singing the best at the end of the first act. It was very Orphan Annie but oh what the heck! I would generally recommend this show to older children 12 and up as there is very traumatic and dramatic content in the second act. I still feel haunted today after my night with the ghosts of Celilo.

Anonymous said...

Yes GREAT SETS. How was the show? "Really good production values man it looked good". How did it sound? "Boy oh boy did it LOOK hot." Was it good? "Lemme tell ya, it really LOOKED like it was good."

Anonymous said...

Yikes. Have you all gone blind? That was AWFUL. Do you SERIOUSLY think it belongs on Broadway? Wow. Give me a break.

It was like children's theater material. Loud, annoying, belt-out-your-lines, fake emotion, etc. Have we stooped to that level, people? Wow. Our taste is going down hill.

I will say, Corey Brunish, Marissa Ryder and Kevin Michael-Moore were all wonderful, but they always are. They took what little they had to work with and made it the best they possibly could in the given situation. I am so sorry they had to be connected with that show.

Kyla Padbury said...

I loved it, and would gladly watch it again over and over.
My favorite performance was Colton Lasater as Train.

John C. Bunnell said...

[checking back]

Sheesh, talk about your highly polarized opinions....

I'm happy to stand by (and put my name on) the views expressed here and in my own journal on Ghosts of Celilo, but I would not characterize my comments as a full-on rave, and as for taking the show to Broadway, I don't think either the work or the production is ready to compete at that level.

That said, I think the "children's theater" comment is unfair and unwarranted; good children's theater can be as professionally and engagingly performed as that written and produced for adult audiences.

I give both the show and the production high marks for effort and sincerity; it's a worthwhile attempt to address difficult and complex subject matter. Where it falls short, I think it's largely because the conventions of musical theater are working against the script's efforts to fully capture the nuances of the source material.

None Mouse said...

It was like chidren's theatre material?

You're rejecting an entire genre of theatre as "Loud, annoying, belt-out-your-lines, fake emotion, etc.?"

Wow, anonymous. Just, wow.

Anonymous said...

It's sold out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the anonymous posting comparisons to children's theater, I do however take issue with any insinuation that posting anonymously is cowardly. This is a very small community and Followspot (anonymous by the way) is a great place to read short and often accurate reviews and to post comments without staking one's reputation on an opinion about a particular show.
Hitting below the belt with snarky comments and being unconstructively negative seems unnecessary regardless of whether one leaves their name or not.

John C. Bunnell said...

Regarding anonymous posting generally -- point well taken, not least given that I found my way here purely via Google and therefore can't claim much familiarity with this community's protocols.

That said, I think I echo the rest of the gallery in thinking that posting cheap shots anonymously is -- if not cowardly -- at least impolite.

Anonymous said...

Heh. And I thought I had seen every way it was possible to misread other peoples' posts. Though the "cowardly anonymous postings" argument has arisen here on Followspot in the past, I fail to detect it anywhere in this thread. It's not even insinuated, really. If Mr. Bunnell is willing to put his name on his post, I see no inherent implication that others lack good reason to keep theirs off.

Anonymous said...

Cheap shots are another matter, however. Children's theater outdraws almost every other kind in this town, save for the Broadway road shows. Some of it is very, very good, too. And not so incidentally, it inspires and trains some of the excellent future adult actors of Portland and elsewhere.

Pray tell, is our mission merely to impress one another or to please and challenge audiences?

Anonymous said...

The most important thing the anniversary of Celilo offers is an opportunity to explore what has been lost with the falls-- a beautiful native culture and way of life, rich with language, music, spirituality-- this was a chance to show and celebrate culture and bring lost beauty to the stage. Less interesting is the white-side of the story (why is it always about us?)the classroom, the motives of the teachers, the teen love interest. A more fitting tribute to this event would be fullness of the Indian story, like the very best part (which came at the end of Act I) the children singing a native song. Show us the grandfathers, grandmothers, dip netting, dances; let us hear the language - refer to the school and all the rest instead of the other way around. I hope this production will see a major revision and try again. It is handsomely supported by local funders, after all, and could take the Pacific Northwest past shame and to a more noble and respectful conclusion.

Here's an ideal beneficiary: NILI - a UO linguistics program that seeks to document native languages before they are gone, develop curriculum and teach children of the tribes today how to speak in the way of their ancestors... one opportunity to turn it around.

Loyal NWCTC-er said...

Wow. I am just so saddened that this show is getting so much attention. Thankfully, it's mostly negative, but still. It doesn't deserve all the attention it has gotten. Just because it was put on at ART, and they had tons of funding and paid for publicity, does that somehow make it superior to something, say, NWCTC puts on? Just because they are lower budget does not mean that they shouldn't have just as much attention, if their productions are at LEAST as good. I'm just sayin...

Anonymous said...

'Loyal NWCTC-er', who are you?

Loyal NWCTC-er said...

Just a big fan of the NWCTC. I'm not connected with them in any way, and they have no clue who I am (just another audience member), but I love their shows and see every one of them. I hope there are more people like me in the community.

Anonymous said...

i'm another one, 'loyal NWCTC-er.'

Joe Theissen said...

The 'conventions of musical theatre' do not work against nuance. Only writers, directors and performers do that.

simon said...

agreed. not enough native american culture and history of celilo. too much boring white story.

spectacle was great, though sound problems were yucky. and too many turning revolutions. they got distracting.

noah was perfect. colton was cute. irene played exactly as she did in b and the b last year. she's where the hokey musical theater aspect came in, and i didn't want that. i wanted a story told through music. not a musical. all four ghosts were incredible, though they didn't do enough.

overall, it should have been an OCT show geered toward older kids. being an ART show, i had a set of expectations that just weren't met. the show was touching and well done, but it didn't fit. it didn't hit the level it should have with so much potential.

still though, kudos to tamblyn and team for getting the story out in a creative way. it's a very important part of northwest history that more people need to know about.

theatre fan said...

let me say this about celilo:
i went to one of the talk backs
and this is what i overheard:

"I can't imagine a viewer not being mesmerized by the story, whether or not they knew much about Celilo."

"i read the review in the oregonian and it was good, but it wasn't good enough. this is a great show."

"i have seen a lot of broadway shows, but this is one of the best i've ever seen."

"in 20 yrs of attending A.R.T. this is the best show they've done."

i find the endless insults to creative artists on this blog (not just for this show)
amazing in their selfish destructiveness.
clearly this show was well liked (it sold out something like 15 performances in a 900 seat house)
and clearly it is a delicate piece requiring a willing suspension of disbelief.

i am amazed that portlanders are so dismissive of their fellows and of a locally generated piece that has a great chance of making it beyond portland.

i guess all you naysayers are on earth to motivate those who do extraordinary work.

i guess it's true that "my fair lady" was a total disaster out of town before it broke all broadway records.

so, seeing as how this was in fact the world premiere, i guess we should root for it a little more and throw mud at it a little less.

i wish it great success in the future, whatever that may be.

Anonymous said...

and we all know what an artistic triumph "My Fair Lady" is ....

theatre fan said...

well, MFL certainly was considered the best in its day.
try not to be such a snide asshole ok?

Anonymous said...

"i guess all you naysayers are on earth to motivate those who do extraordinary work."

so, if you don't like this show, you're a "naysayer," huh? and there's no way on earth that this particular show could be less than "extraordinary work?" or is it possible that these so-called naysayers were pointing out dissatisfaction with a production that they've paid to see. i didn't think it was that great. it wasn't horrible, either. but i'm not going to pretend that a mediocre show is "extraordinary work" and "root for it a little more" when i don't especially felt it was worth it. and despite what you may believe, i'm entitled to that opinion, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

I saw it Friday night and had no preconceived notions about it other than skimming the review in the Oregonian, which has been noted, was positive.

I have to say, it was okay. Because of the subject matter, lots of people will get behind the production entirely without question.

I thought a lot of the performances were pretty over-wrought. Halfway through, I had to pull out the program and read the director's bio to try to figure out if HE were possibly the source of all the hand-wringing the actors did. In my mind, excessive handwringing and pants-grabbing to portray high emotion, is pretty amateurish. The night I saw it, it felt like Chokey, Train, Irene, and Irene's mother were almost constantly wringing their hands and grabbing their pants.

The story felt a little oddly put together, and there were in general weird things about its construction. For example, there were two actors in the play who apparently were only on stage for one short scene where they beat up Train on the train bridge? Who does that?

It overall felt very preachy to me.. some of the metaphors (particularly those involving Train, the railroad bridge, and the train whistle) were a little heavy-handed.

Anonymous said...

"because ART pays more for publicity"

- my comment: I seriously doubt that ART shows are better reviewed because they "pay more for publicity." When last I checked, NW Children's theater paid for advertising on more or less the same scale as ART and had full time staff devoted to marketing and 'publicity'. IF the shows are not getting the reviews expected, I might look to the quality of the direction and stage design, both of which are often erratic there.

I've seen shows at NWCT that I've enjoyed. But to denigrate a production (like this one and the earlier negative thread about Cabaret) because it gets a lot of press?

The reality is the press those two shows got on their opening weekends are the first hope I've had in a long time that Portland theater might have a chance at the audience it deserves in this town, and that the days of shrinking column inches for reviews and previews might be over.

We're like the African American community calling Obama "not black enough." It's like out of one side of your mouth you are saying "nobody in the press gives us a chance to succeed" and then on the other side of your mouth you're also saying that any show that comes from a larger theater or gets a ton of press must be over-hyped crap. Come on people.

Shows getting press is a good thing. No matter what the show. Disagree with the press, by all means, in your pithiest terms. But don't claim that its bad that a show GOT press.

Anonymous said...

I would like to second the above post, while clarifying (I think) that the theater being mentioned was NWCTC, making it the Northwest Classical Theater Company, as opposed to the Northwest Children's Theater.

theatre fan said...

", if you don't like this show, you're a "naysayer," huh? and there's no way on earth that this particular show could be less than "extraordinary work?" "


yes, if you don't like it and you choose to focus only on what was wrong and none of what was right, you are a naysayer.

my second point is this: it is all this nit picking that causes people with amazing creative talents to persist and try harder to make something even better (celilo has been a 10 yr project apparently).
so when i said you naysayers are here to serve as motivators to those who are doing the actual creating (as oppposed to tearing down) i was saying that THAT is how extraordinary work gets done: it rises to the challenges put to it by INSIGHTFUL negative commentary.
so i did not actually state that it was ALREADY extraordinary.
having said that:
let me remind you of this---
this is a mammoth undertaking.
an original musical.
which happens to be written in portland.
about an oregon event.
here is your chance to say something to the authors of the play that will help them improve the piece.
and many of you choose to completly squander that chance by resorting to flippant, shortsighted, insensitive condemnation.
ok. so that's what your good at.
but don't you wish you had something to say that could make a difference?
don't you wish you had something to say that might give the piece life? the life you thought was lacking?

and no one questioned your right to have your precious opinion.
what i was trying to express is: why don't people favor constructive comments? why are bloggers so full of venom? where does that come from?
it is human nature to be helpful.
it is rarely seen on these pages.

as the song sez:
...full of envy, jealousy and hate, as time goes by.....

if i had the author's ears, i would do all i could to help them to tell their story -- a story unique in the annals of music theatre history.

Anonymous said...

Les Sarnoff - KINK Radio Website

I was delighted to be at the Newmark Theatre for Marv Ross's
decade-in- the- making musical, "Ghosts of Celilo" for opening night.
Make sure you head for the Newmark at PCPA for this A.R.T.
production. You'll see why they moved it into a bigger theatre than
the usual A.R.T. home on S.W. Alder. Plus Marv and Rindy with the
Trail Band needed a place to set up, so Newmark is just right.
It's a wonderful story, first of all. "Ghosts" gives us perspective,
more the human than the Native American narrative. We think: what
CAN happen? What we can do when we all work together. The actors are
just fabulous. The scenery is breath-taking and you will love the
music. It's all up to Broadway production standards. In fact, all the
production values, the set and scene changes are superb. Marv
searched for the perfect cast. And everyone shines! But think of the
challenge of where to find Native American actor/singers who can do
musical theatre. Marv found one such lead, Noah Hunt who's from the
Tri-Cities area, up in Eastern Washington. . He is a young guy to
watch! "Ghosts of Celilo" has the story that needs to be told. Marv
Ross has done a magical job!