Thursday, December 27, 2007


Blue Monkey Theater Company
November 30 - December 30, 2007

Review by peanutduck

Ban mics from musical theatre: they distort and distract, distance the audience from performance, and detract from actors who can sing. Kudos to terrifically over-the-top Steps, interns, white mice cameos, King´s boxers. Otherwise, production amateurish and poorly executed, with sluggish pacing, spiritless lovers, including self-conscious, superior Cinderella, disappointingly non-fantastical Godmother.


Anonymous said...

I was very impressed with this play. Saw it opening night and thought that Kari Virding (Miss Oregon 2007) was very charming and sweet as Cinderella. Both of the stepsisters were amusing, as was the energetic chorus. Some of the leads had trouble sometimes keeping up with the music, but for the most part did very well. A throughly enjoyable production.

Anonymous said...

Oh geez. I felt like I was stuck in the dentist office on some happy gas that wouldn't come off. Here were the major flaws I saw:
*The "prince" was off on his music and had to pause, quite obviously to catch up. He also sounded like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz...having only two emotions happy, and sad. (anonymous who wrote on the 3rd said the leads had progress here)
*The magic...or lack-there-of was terrible. Example; (Godmother at funny window that doesn't shut) Cinderella: I'll let you in (lights go dark, Godmother "magically" appears inside the house by walking around funny window) Cinderella: How'd you get in here!
*The 1950's concept, did not work.
*The chorus was awkward and made a ton of noise before their entrances in the audience (come on...)
*The mic's! The mic's! Ugh! So much feedback.
*The sets didn't work. A stone fire place/old fashion tea kettle/old fashioned straw broom in a 1950's house with an iron?
*Monteverde had Stepmom with a flask? Cinderella=Childrens show.

What went well:
*Stepmother, Victoria Blake was hillarious. Along with Joy, and Porsha her daughters.
*Miss Oregon had a pretty nice singing voice
*Monteverde added some mice that sang which may have been the highlight
*The costumes were nice

Sandy said...

We must not have seen the same play, because I think your comments are unnecessary and untrue. The magic wasn't up to your standards? Go pay $50 for a seat at Portland Center Stage, or better yet, GO SEE A MOVIE!! This is an play in an intimate setting. It was enough to get the point across without being ridiculous. The prince did a great job in his role, what other emotions would you have liked to see? Constipated, like yourself?
The 1950's concept was great and really gave the show a different twist. And as far as the flask, maybe you should stop taking sips from yours during plays, because you would have to be drunk to give this play a bad review.

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Oregonian was still on that laughing gas when they wrote their review...

Anonymous said...

I wonder, has anyone seen NWCT's Beauty and the Beast as well as Blue Monkey's Cinderella? It would be interesting to see the comparisons between the two youth companies.

I know that last season's Beauty and BMTC's Aladdin were compared very similarly to this year's pair- one more fluffy and impressive, while the other more entertaining and simple (Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, respectively)

Charles Paul said...

If you are going to quote the show, make sure you have lines right before you do so JACKASS.
Not only does your comment make you sound like a pompous ass, you lack of truth makes you an even bigger fool.
I thought the whole cast was wonderful and did a great job with what they were given!

Anonymous said...

Get a grip. I was just not that into the show. It was mediocre, at best, but I did enjoy the stepmother's performance. Name-calling and brow beating will not make us like the show any more.

NYCNicholas said...

The Prince is the best thing in that show. His singing was some of the best that I have ever heard.
I was not there that night, so I cant say whether or not he messed up but did you ever think that it might have been the pianists fault?
When I was at the show the pianist was all over the place. I could hardly hear anything under the piano.
I just don't want people to think that coming to this show is a waste of their time because it is not.
Cinderella is full of talent and should be recognized for that.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well, Charles Paul, get a grip; I really don't think presise quotes are calling is childish and immature. In regards to the piano I think it was a bad call as well, and I am considering that it may be his fault, but they have been in rehearsal since October? They should know their music well by now. I was not at the show anonymous #2 was at, though when I saw it Prince was off on his cue's as well. He does have quite a remarkable voice though. I think it's a very cute "homey", fun Holiday show to take your kids to. The Oregonian did a review where they compared and contrasted Beauty and Cinderella. Cinderella "won" so to speak. Blue Monkey tries hard...

Happy Holidays :)

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:17, would you say that Blue Monkey's trying too hard is a good thing or a bad thing? Care to elaborate?

Anon 1:17 said...

It's not a negative they try hard...they really do. it's just that their efforts aren't shining through, with what they are given.

Wyatt said...

I don't get the sense that Blue Monkey is trying too hard. Not trying much at all is more like it. This show was a mess.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:17, you said "with what they are given..."

Are you saying the script was weak? Or did you mean something else.

I guess my questions are:

1) What is being given

2) Who is doing the giving?

Anonymous said...

Miss Oregon does an alright job as Cinderella but you really should have been to see 1 of 5 performances where Tsipa Swan was playing Cinderella. I have seen both, as I have attended a few of the performances. Tsipa Swan had much more energy and flare as Cinderella then Miss Oregon Kari Virding. Swan has an amazing voice that triumphs over Virding’s in all ways, shapes, and forms.
As for the Step Sisters, as far as I am concerned, they stole the show along with the 4 white mice that pop out from the fire place before being turned into couch men at the end of the first act.
The chorus try's its best to make magic happen every time they hit the stage, which is quite difficult due to the lack of direction that was given to them during the rehearsal process, both musically and acting wise. I know for a fact, since I talked with a cast member, that they only had 3 musical rehearsals to go over the music for the entire show. With that said what they have accomplished is amazing in its self!
Any flaws that you may see in the show are not to be blamed on the cast its self but on the overall direction that was given to them, as there are many extremely talented people in this show!

anon 1:17 said...

Anonymous 1:17, here again.

1) With what was given: The lack of a talent in the cast, to put it bluntly, these kids are under experienced, and could brush up on a few acting classes.

2)Director John Monteverde's is giving. His bits are getting old, and doesn't seem to actually get the kids in touch with what the stories about, their characters, etc. It's moreso just watching mediocre, undeveloped characters walk around on stage and say a few lines and sing a song or two.

...So what with the cast was given director-wise, budget wise perhaps...the cast tried hard to make a great production.

Anonymous said...

I felt the show was OK! And since I am not the target audience maybe I enjoyed it less.
Here were my problems:
I felt that during the ENTIRE show nobody was in character! What I mean is, nobody cared for being their individual character as they were for striving for the comedy! As a result I ended up liking the Stepmother and stepsisters more than Cinderella!
It felt like there was no conflict in the story!
As a result i felt that there was no villan, and what is a good fairytale without the bad guy! The kids are supposed to hate the stepmother and sisters, not laugh with them.

Anonymous said...

As for the lack of a villan, I completly agree but that is how the story was written. The script itself lacks depth and interest. The show really only has 1 level to it. I agree that there is no real conflict, which thus makes for an extremly uninteresting story. Cinderella is what it is. We all know what is going to happen in the end, there are no twists or surprises to keep interested, because as you may have seent the script sure doesn't!
Which in no way shape or form is a comment on the actors involved.
I just think this script has been sitting around for so long it has begun to smell. It may appeal to kids 5 and under but anyone else who go to see it may find themselfs looking at their foot to be entertained during any production of this show.
Actors good effort with an extremly crappy script!

Anonymous said...

How unfortunate it is that Portland "actors" (term used very graciously) do not have the training to sing in a space as intimate as the crumbling West End without the crutch of mics.

Fie on you Monteverde.

The canned music is past its shelf date. In any artistic collaboration a singer should not have to chase a recording. The synths were also pretty poor in quality, rather reminiscent of an early 80's video game. Perhaps a solitary live piano would have fared better.

I'm pretty sure Rogers wrote more harmonies than were being sung on stage. Perhaps the rumor is true that there were less that 5 music rehearsals...
One would hope this were true in regards to the choreography, but as the actors are called 1.5 hours before the show starts for a dance call, this is sadly not the case.
At some point perhaps someone would realize the dancing needed to be dumbed down further if after a month of performances, the cast is still needing a rehearsal before each performance. Simple ballroom steps shouldn't cause the primal look of fear fostered by faces of the child-choro.

Sets: abhorrent. Some of the loudest, longest, most awkward set changes in recent Portland theatre history. The circular dais that slides to become the stairs to the upper platform and then becomes the fountain (?) was a cute idea but ill-rehearsed and distracting as the actors scurried as the lights came up on hunched chorus boys... or even worse, as they shamelessly moved the dais before the light shift started (Act II, end of scene I).
Besides the obvious time-period issues with the fireplace and its accouterments, the set piece was large and clunky, and must take up what little wing space there may be stage left.

If I want to see Miss Virding in a crown and gown, I'll watch her pageant in January. I wish her the best of luck. Her work with philanthropic groups is commendable.
However misleading a paying audience into believing she can sing or act is shameful. Her singing is sub-par at best, ill-supported and untrained. She makes a perfect match for her prince, who displays the same faults without being pleasant to look at. I also think it a little odd that a girl who never gets to leave the house for her abundance of housework could be as tan as our title character.
The prince seems to have inherited his parents sining abilities (that's sarcasm, folks), but unfortunately not their acting skills.
The step family was brilliant, and although the young lady playing Joy was not a strong singer her commitment to the camp of the piece made her lack of ability less distracting (the same could be said for Ms. Dresser's performance as the queen, who was a very sweet queen...).
All in all, a waste of money and time for any who have the misguided desire to support this group. The entire production team should be shamed.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Interesting that both Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella have taken such beatings for the productions.

I really do believe that the Anon 12/28 12:14 is being far too harsh. I thought it was a very sweet production. Sure, there were some flaws, but to "shame" the entire production team seems a bit extreme. And as for the comments about Kari Virding's Cinderella, comments about her skin color seem about irrelevant. If a child actor had braces, but the character wasn't supposed to, it wouldn't make a difference. Theater is supposed to be about taking on another character, not changing your entire self to fit the part. And when you say "However misleading a paying audience into believing she can sing or act is shameful", do you really think that she is misleading audience members? For one thing, I think that she actually was quite pleasant. Plus, the only way she could have been misleading is if she had stood up before the show and said "Hi guys, I have a great voice. Look forward to it"

Anonymous said...

I saw the show tonight, enjoyed a great deal of it, but was underwhelmed by the Prince. It was like he was on downers--someone can be depressed as a character, but the actor still needs to bring some energy to the performance.

Portia was the highlight--hysterically funny.

Kari is sweet and has a clear, brilliant voice, but she is never going to make it in NYC until she learns to project better and to sing music as it's written. Richard Rodgers (and it's Rodgers with a "g", geniuses) would have bound and gagged her for the rhythmic liberties she's taking.

I will say that after reading these comments, and as an elderly actress with more than 35 years professional experience (as in Equity--have any of you kids heard of Equity?), anyone who blames a pianist for a singer's mistakes is obviously unaware of the simple fact that the pianist cannot control a singer's mistaken entrances or forgotten lyrics (I certainly didn't hear any tonight). I felt the music was a highlight of tonight's show--I get the feeling none of you is even remotely acquainted with the original and are therefore unaware of how dramatically Monteverde and the musician (whose name I don't have, I left my program at the show) have reimagined everything. I was sitting right next to the piano and could hear everything quite clearly.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there has ever been a brand new company in Portland that takes as much regular slamming on this site as poor Blue Monkey. What is the deal folks? Why all the venom? The staff should be "shamed"? "Fie on Monteverde"? Really folks? Let's take a breath here.

The company is barely a year old. It has produced a total of five plays. It draws decent crowds, gets good reviews, pays its actors and techies pretty well, and holds open auditions. It has barely gotten its feet wet and yet there are some people who seem hell bent on hammering it into the dust. Why all this anger?

First of all, are we really trying to compare CINDERELLA to BEAUTY & THE BEAST? According to its marketing, NWCT is a fifteen year old company with a million dollar annual budget and over a dozen full time paid staff members. It has spent the last decade and hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating its facility. BEAUTY & THE BEAST is the most expensive, successful and lavish show in that company's history.

Blue Monkey has less than a small fraction of NWCT's annual budget, no full time staff, and it performs in a converted movie theater that has been ignored by local producers for years because of it's bad accoustics.

Isn't this a bit like comparing Vertigo to Portland Center Stage and then bashing Vertigo because it's production values aren't as high? Except of course, that Vertigo has been around a lot longer than Blue Monkey and works in a nicer facility?

I saw both productions. They were both lovely and both flawed. Both shows have script problems. CINDERELLA is an old, old, very dusty musical. The characters are flat stereotypes and the plot is very thin. The villians and comic characters steal the show as they probably should and probably always do in other productions of this piece. BEAUTY & THE BEAST is ninety minutes of story and good music from the movie with another ninety minutes of filler and bad music. That's Disney on Broadway. Its a show about sets and costumes and the sets and costumes are fine, though not dazzling, in this production. Frankly I saw the show on Broadway and didn't care for it much there either. But NWCT has a fine cast who does their best with the material. The same can be said for Blue Monkey and their show.

Both shows sounded fine to me. People need to get over the mic issue. Its about accoustics and trying to blend, not about actors projecting. Actors need to hear the music. The band needs to hear the actors. The show needs to sound the same no matter where you are sitting. Like Stumptown at the IFCC, these companies do musicals in complicated and unforgiving facilities and they all do their best to combat tough sound problems.

And as a company with a limited budget, Blue Monkey was right to go for simple old fashioned romance over visual spectacle. You work with what you have.

But none of this explains all the anger that I constantly see directed against Blue Monkey on this blog. Am I missing something here?

If this is the way the Portland Theater community supports new companies, I'm surprised anybody bothers.

Lighten up, folks. It's just theater.

Arco said...

I'm curious how Anonymous 12/28 12:14 p.m. reconciles their "canned music past its shelf date" comment with the fact that one of the two "major" reviewers (in Portland terms, anyway) was convinced there was an uncredited pit band playing and later had to retract his review complaint about the orchestra not receiving credit. Personally, I thought the music and arrangements were top-notch, but I'm only a retired Oregon Symphony string player.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12/29 3:56: there's some simmering acrimony between Monteverde and NWCT, which explains some of the totally uncalled for venom here. What amuses me is the level of illiteracy among the posters here. My advice is, stay in school and learn to spell at least--your acting careers are probably not going to pay for your lives. ;)

Anonymous said...

There was no pit orchestra. It was all canned. The only musician was Jeffery Kauffman, the music director and piano player.

That is why the Willamette Week retracted that part of the review.

Anonymous said...

Hm. I doubt Monteverde himself had much to do with any "acrimony" given that he has been out of the country for the last three weeks...

arco said...

The point of my earlier comment was that the "canned" music evidently fooled the WW reviewer--he thought it was live. That doesn't jibe with someone saying it's past it's shelf life. I'm all for live music, believe me, it's how I made my living, but there was indeed a live musician there (and a very fine one, by my estimation), who had also done all of the "canned" work himself, evidently, which I also found quite good, especially arrangement wise. The swing moments were very well handled. Again, just my 2 cents worth, or maybe 2 bars worth, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Ok, ok. So I was the poster who was called "consitpated" and a "jack ass". I saw the show the other day with Tpsia (spelling?). Completley different show. Tpsia as Cinderella, was the Disney princess replica, a sweet, operatic vibrato, and you could feel for her character. Miss Oregon was sweet to watch, but didn't have much of a character to her. I still hold true to the Prince's dull emotion. Though his voice today was right on delightful. I still felt that the chorus had to direct themselves, and the majority of the men chorus members had no character or personality on their faces. The step family was still the highlight. Stepmoms facial expressions, Porchas obnoxious voice, and Joys under-joyed attitude really perked the audience up. Though Blue Monkey still has kinks to work out, I think this production was a sweetnatured show for the young ones to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

My biggest problem with the show, along with the previous long lists, was the fact that (whoever was in charge of this) decided to have seating on the sides of theater. NOT ONE PART OF THE SHOW WAS PLAYED TO THE SIDES!
The show that I went to was sold out so I had to sit on the sides. I had no problem with that because I thought that maybe the actors would acknowledge the audience on the sides, they didn't! (I understand if this show would have not been sold out then to play the center, nut this one was.)
WHY HAVE SEATES ON THE SIDES OF THE THEATRE IF THEY GET LEFT OUT OF THE SHOW! As a result of my seating I was forced to stare at the actors butts for the whole show, awkward for someone going to see a children's show.
My advice: get ride of the chairs, or play more to the sides.

Oh yah, and the lack of rehearsal time is not an excuse! I have done professional shows where our first run through was opening night. Who says that your only time to rehearse is at rehearsal?! Rehearsals are just when you are rehearsing together. Outside of rehearsal learn the music with a music teacher. Find time to work with your scene partner if you are both having trouble and rehearsal time is running short.

Tsipa said...

Hallo - This is Tsipa Swan, the alternate Cinderella. I would like to thank the couple of folks who liked my performances and were kind enough to say so. Encouragement makes all the difference, so thanks for saying something. :)

I just wanted to put my opinions out there on two subjects: First, I MUST stick up for the music director, Jeffrey Kauffman. He stepped into the job late to replace our first musical director, and immediately cranked out the tracks we needed for rehearsals and tailored them to the performers' requested tempi.

I can't speak with authority as to the cause of the lack of musical rehearsals, so I won't. I can, however, speak as someone who's gotten to work with some of the incredibly skilled coach/accompanists in PDX, and Jeff is on that list now. He made quick, strong, musical decisions that enabled musicians of every level of experience to feel as comfortable as possible. It's unfortunate that people got the impression that he messed things up, because we really, truly could not have done the show without him. Hoorah for Jeff!

The other thing I have been wanting to say is how very, very highly I have admired the chorusters from Cinderella. They have all worked incredibly hard, learning complicated dances (and practicing for many hours), sweating and laboring over numerous - and heavy! - set changes, and doing all the other under-appreciated parts of chorus work with energy and good humor. David, Greg, Hannah, Jordan, Kaia, Kisky, Nathan, Rebecca, Tamara, and Travis: you are all my heroes and I would work with any of you again in a heartbeat.

Actually, I would work with every single one of the cast and crew again - guys, I'm so glad I got to know each of you.

Thanks for giving me a forum to say what I've been too shy to say in person. :)

Anonymous said...

Funny how we all see it differently. I saw this show several times and thought it was a delightful family holiday show, nothing more, nothing less. I saw both Cinderellas and much preferred Miss Virding. She looked the part, had a lovely sweet quality to her voice and persona and I watched children continuously react with enchantment to her. Tpsia to me tried too hard to make it be about her. She overdid the songs, didn't look like Cinderella, and didn't seem to have the same chemistry with the prince. She is very talented musically, I just didn't think this role was a match for her. Of course we could all find fault with little things here and there, but for me it was a delightful holiday show that brought joy to many families and that's all I was looking for. The entire show was very well cast and every single one of them should feel great for a job well done.

Anonymous said...

While I have to wonder which of the Virding family posted the above comment (that's a joke, folks), I have to say that I also saw the show several times, I consider myself fairly well-versed in voice and musical theater, and (my opinion) Tsipa was clearly the more accomplished performer. There's simply no comparing Tsipa and Kari, vocally speaking. I also found Tsipa's performance more nuanced (as much as could be expected with this piece). I can see why the kids might react more to Kari--she was the perfect, Stepford Cinderella. Tsipa actually injected a little humanity into the role, which probably made it less of a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Well, annon. 1/1 2:00 AM, you are the first person I have heard from who feels this way. Cinderella, as the lead, really does need to try to make some connection with the audience (I know you are against "trying too hard"). It speaks volumes that the audience roots for the step sisters instead of Cinderella when Kari Virding plays the role. Kari is a lovely lady, but she is just plain, understated, and lacks energy in this role. I thought Tsipa was wonderful as Cinderella. She gave the role some character and personality.

Mike said...

Why cant someone just say something productive.
Both Tsipa and Kari were delightful in their own way. They both brought something different to the role.
I would like to commend the young man playing the prince for being able to keep up with the change in the role all this time. He did a nice job of making you believe he loved each of them as if they were that one person.
All in all the show was a delightful experience and I am glad that I was able to see it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we normally applaud an actor for being able to handle acting with different individuals during different shows. But if that is what we are down to praising about this show, so be it. Way to go, Prince!

Anonymous said...

Say what you will about Blue Monkey and their shows, they certainly receive a lot of attention for every show they do, at least in this blog.

Anonymous said...

"Say what you will about Blue Monkey and their shows, they certainly receive a lot of attention for every show they do"

But is that a good thing? When the attention is geared negatively? I could be wrong, but the overall impression I get from the review here and a good deal of the comments is that this show was not very good. I wouldn't exactly call receiving a lot of negative attention a feather in their cap.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show closing night, and I have to say that I was very impressed with certain people. Victoria was fantastic as the stepmother, and the WHITE MICE totally stole the show for me. My kids were laughing all the way home about them. Actually, the weakest thing for me was the fact that the supporting roles were way stronger than the leads (Kari and John). The Prince obviously is not a trained singer, and Kari didn't bring any real CHARACTER to the role.But overall a nice, fun production. Good job BMT and white mice :)