Monday, March 23, 2009

bare

Blue Monkey Theater Co. and Tin Pan Alley Theatre Co.
March 6 - 28, 2009

Review by peanutduck

Nadia’s wristband sums it up: “WTF”; sloppy, soap-operatic chaos. Lacking vision or purpose, both on the page and stage, company meanders, even careens, through 2 ½ hour embarrassingly hackneyed musical. Anyone else repulsed by the (scripted) Sr. Chantelle soul-sister stereotype? Even the generally infectious Blue Monkey energy can’t carry this.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

This production is not the Northwest Priemer. I has already been produced in Seattle about a year ago. Just thought you might like to know. I will be coming to the show though!

Anonymous said...

Act one was not very good, you could almost say bad, but was redeemed by act two I cried my eyes out. The sound needs to be fixed you had to strain to hear most of the show. There were some standout performances by Brooke Markham, Kylie Johnson, Jonathan Swartout and Ithica Tell. All four were fantastic! not the best night of theatre but worth it to see something new and different.

TPATC & BMTC said...

According to the show's publisher, Theatrical Rights Worldwide, the show you saw in Seattle in 2008 was a "student" production; part of Arts West's advanced summer musical theater program. I hear it was very good. The difference is subtle and I understand the confusion but that is why this production is considered the actual NW premiere.

Let's just say it's the local premiere and leave it at that.

Thanks for coming to our show and I hope you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Saw the show Saturday and agree with anon that act one was weak and act two strong. I,as well cried a lot. Also would agree with the strong performances but would add Laurie Campbell Leslie, her song kept me in tears after the preceding tearjerker song. I totally identified with the song "See Me" and well done by JP and Laurie. That is when my tears started flowing! If i could have heard the first act I think I would have liked it much more, but from what I hear the space is terrible for sound. Give this one a chance, You may be surprised.

Drew said...

Was at the show Saturday as well and was very impressed with these young adults. Technically, it needs some work with sound and scene transitions in particular. But they did their best with what they have in the space. Jonathan Swartout gave a stand out performance that really made us feel for the character. I say, Drammie worthy. Also a fantastic, sympathetic performance by Laurie Campbell-Leslie that made me tear up. Kylie Clark Johnson, Brooke Markham, JP Latchaw, and Matt Brown showed some amazing vocal skills and I can see them going far in their career. This is not to be missed.

Anonymous said...

While this was a very good show, the thing that really bothers me with the past few shows Blue Monkey has done is that it has put the teens on the back burner. The company says that it is the only teen-based theatre in the area, but when you cast all adults in your roles and understudy them with teens, I could barely call that a teen-based company. And from what I saw in the show, the teens CLEARLY have talent.

Linda said...

Jonathan Swarthout and Brooke Markham blew me out of the water.
I was dragged to the show by a couple of my girlfriends and against my strongest efforts I sobbed like a baby. Jonathan Swarthout broke my heart. Brooke Markham's sardonic attitude was a perfect fit for her character. Well done everyone. There are some beautiful and heart wrenching voices in this show. Please don't miss it.

Anonymous said...

I think it is quite apparent that this show is going to appeal to some folks, and not to others.
Your assessment of the play is totally fair only because that is how you felt when YOU saw it.
There are a lot of different variables in this show that will trigger different reactions from audience members.
Some people will find a relation to this show, and some will look at it as pure soap-opera-esque garbage.
I just hope that people will see the show themselves and make that decision by their own will, and not that of the followspot reviewer.

Blue Monkey said...

I think it's possible that both the positive and negative reviews of this show are right on target and that the above poster really sums it up.

If you are teenager, especially a gay or questioning teenager or a teen with gay friends (and isn't that most of any teen theater audience?) you are flat out going to love "Bare". If, on the other hand, you are over 20, straight and a "serious" theater goer, your reaction very well may be "WTF?" "Bare" just isn't for everyone.

The large, enthusiastic number of teens attending each performance really attests to the fact that the play is speaking to its audience (and getting teenagers to shell out hard earned allowance money for theater tickets is a pretty neat trick). The company has targeted high school GSAs (gay/straight alliances) who are loving the show. Teens are leaving the theater each night moved to tears, often blogging the company later with comments like "this is the most important play I have ever seen," and "it was like seeing my life story on stage". What better praise can a production get than that?

Now this praise may be dismissed as being based on a teenager's melodramatic perception of their own "So Called Life", but there is still no denying that Blue Monkey knows it's target audience.

Of course if you are not a teenager, you may well find the show about as chaotic, contrived and ridiculously overblown as an episode of "Gossip Girl". Many adults, especially the straight ones (or those who can't remember what it was like to be a troubled teenager) leave shaking their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about.

According to an interview with the director on KBOO last week Bare was selected because of it's overwhelming popularity with Blue Monkey's teen actors. The teenagers championed this show and have, by all accounts, worked hard to help fund and promote it. The energy and enthusiasm the critics have all commented on comes from the passion these young actors bring to the project and the rapt attention of the audiences the show is aimed at.

Peanutduck (and Ben Waterhouse) may have to face the fact that they are getting older (sorry guys, you are still hip in my book) and might not be as tuned into teen culture as they thought they were. If you loved "The Seafarer" or "Always, Patsy Cline" for example (both really excellent productions), you will probably not like "Bare" very much. If, however, you are a teenager, or have a teenager, who can't get enough of their "Rent" and "Spring Awakening" CDs, this is without question the perfect show for you.

Can't Understand You said...

I'm sorry, but it's really bad taste to publicly defend your show against a review. It really is. But I doubt you are the whole company. Who are you? The director? A cast member? The publicist? That post reads like a press release.

I take exception to the idea that "you'll love this if you are a teen." That merely demeans the teenage audience AND the reviewer (or, sorry, straight adult over 20).

Quality is quality. The reviewer didn't see quality. To say "teens love this" DESPITE quality is to say that teens have no ability to judge quality, or simply don't care. That's insulting to teens.

And seriously, when is Blue Monkey going to get a sound system that is worth something? If you're going to do musicals, guys, you might want to consider doing something so we can hear AND understand you.

Or, you know, project.

Anonymous said...

so. I am an adult, who is straight, but has gay friends, remembers partially what it is like to be a teenager, loved RENT, love Spring Awakening, but I ALSO loved The Seafarer. And Hamlet. And Gypsy.

I'm so conflicted...

Anonymous said...

remember folks theses are not reviews they are opinions. I saw the show and thought it was pretty good, trite at times but that is not the fault of the cast but the writer. I thought the cast put their hearts into it. I do agree on one big thing get a sound system that works!

English Teacher said...

Um....

Reviews ARE opinions. Right? Cause otherwise they are facts.

Anonymous said...

Oh hell.

When is Monteverde going to learn to tell a story?

The kids were great, but the direction was a sloppy, sloppy mess.

They deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Blue Monkey prides itself on being "fearless" and "empowering the voice of the young artist" - but who has the leads in their plays? ADULTS - only adults in BARE. For a "teen" theater Blue Monkey seems afraid to use teens to really "color outside the lines". You really need to change your website! Other "kid" theaters have kids play the kid leads and adults play the adults. Can't you find, in all of Portland, enough talented teenagers to have them take the main roles? Or did you even try? Blue Monkey should believe in teens a bit more ...

ONE Blue Monkey only said...

I don't think a post that starts with the line "it's possible that both the positive and negative reviews of this show are right on target" can really be said to be "defending" itself against a bad review. Isn't it actually validating the negative review?

I thought the whole point of this website was that somebody posted a comment or review about a show and then people discussed their opinions. Don't those discussions often include people involved with the play being discussed?

Bare has gotten three reviews. The Oregonian loved it, Followspot hated it and Mr. Waterhouse liked the cast and hated the play. Stating that a lot of teenagers are loving the show isn't meant to demean anyone. It's just stating a fact. I think making statements like "quality is quality" is a bit arrogant and demeaning. Quality is actually very subjective and reviews, as was stated above, are just opinions. That's why three critics can see the same show and disagree completely on it. I simply opened a discussion on why that disparity might exist on Bare.

Obviously I am somebody connected with the play and the company. That's why I used the name "Blue Monkey". I wanted to be up front about my biased affiliation. I can't say I speak for the entire cast. I am just stating what I have observed about the positive effect Bare is having on a large number of teenage theater goers and questioning how this happens in a show of such apparently low quality. Maybe the teens are seeing something that some of the critics missed? Is that possible? Or is that demeaning to the teens to suggest that? If a bunch of people find value in a show that is not well reviewed by others, are those people wrong?

Considering the way people are attacked and personally ridiculed on this blog however I'm not surprised everyone posts anonymously. I am no exception.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. True to usual tendency, Blue Monkey is attracting more traffic for it's shows than most other companies its size, as well as ones much larger.

I saw the show too. Thought there were some very talented actors/singers in the mix. However, I completely agree with the above poster's claim that it seems odd that Blue Monkey claims to be a theater that prides itself on its fearless trust in its teens. I saw Altar Boyz last December, and went back to watch the teenage cast as well. I was astounded by the talent I saw.

There was an announcement made about an understudy performance the last weekend. You can be sure I'm going to go check it out.

Anonymous said...

I think if you saw some of the sex scenes in Bare you might understand why Blue Monkey was not eager to use minors in a few of the lead roles.
I saw Altar Boyz and High School Musical; and both had all teen casts, so I'm not sure what the big deal is here?
Besides doesn't the web page actually say "young" talent; not "teen" talent. The "adults" that I know in the show are barely 21 and most of the cast is still in High School.
This is kind of a bullshit discussion.
You think Teatro Milagro should change it's name because they sometimes cast leads who only "look" Latino? You really think every time OCT has a role for a five year old, they cast an actual five year old or do they maybe cast a ten year old who can pass for five?
Stop riding Blue Monkey's ass for no reason.
Bare's core audience is teenagers and Blue Monkey has a bunch of really talented young interns that they showcase a lot in their productions.
I really think that covers it.

Anonymous said...

EVERYONE CALM DOWN!

Anonymous said...

Dear lord Derek, do you really have nothing better to do then to bash everything bluemonkey does?

Anonymous said...

Agreed the first act dragged the production down but the second act was exceptionally good. Don't know why the playwright or director didn't condense it as the songs in Act One were not even very good. Not so for the second act. All in all these are very talented young people who did a great job of portraying sad situations.

Anonymous said...

Don't know why the...director didn't condense it as the songs in Act One were not even very good.

This is not the job of the director.

splattworks said...

As someone who doesn't work in children's theatre, theatre for youth, or musicals, I'd just like to note that I find it kind of bemusing that these three categories earn the lion's share of comments on followspot. And they seem to prompt people to get into the damndest, circular firing squad arguments.

For someone on the outside of that part of the theatre community, could someone explain what the deal is? It's something I've been curious about for some time. Do y'all hate each other? Love each other? Both?

Anyway, back to your regular programming....

Thanks,

Steve

Anonymous said...

saw the show last night. loved it! The girl that played Nadia was hilarious, and the two male leads were amazing! the girl in the band was hot too

Derek Herman said...

I don't know if anonymous on March 19th at 9:11pm was referring to me. But I was told to check this out just in case. I'm seeing the show AGAIN tomorrow and do not have a problem with it, or anything Blue Monkey does, and I do have far better things to be doing than posting anonymously on Followspot. But thanks for throwing my name into the mix, I really appreciate it...

Travis Patterson said...

I saw the show last night and overall it was great! My main issue was the sound. Lots of times it came in and out which did make at times a little hard to hear people when they had to fight over those who had mic that where working, but that is nothing against anyone. I know the IFCC and the sound there is tricky.
Amazing performances, great vocals, choreography that fit with the music and feel of the show. I would have loved to have had some haze in the air as to make the room feel a little more alive. The band seemed spot on with every queue. I am a big fan of this Musical, and have been for about 3 years now when I first discovered it. I know the cast and crew worked very hard on this show and it shows greatly. You can see very clearly they love that everyone involved has for this show. You did it justice and I am very proud of all of you!
JP thanks you for giving life to Peter, you made me proud. Jonathan thank you for making me loose myself in the show once again! There were times that it was hard for me to watch but only because I so wanted to be on stage again with both of you! Thank you all for making this show what it needed to be, true, honest, raw, and passionate!
People go see this show before it is too late! Form your own opinion on the show and let yourself give into the feeling that is bare.
The last night is Saturday March 28th with a special 2pm show that day featuring all the understudies.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that Blue Monkey is non-profit and cannot buy everything it needs. They have to purchase equipment as they go along. They are still a young theater group. I know John Monteverde and know that his heart is with the kids he works with. His kids are committed to him and have been for years. He's always been fair and honest to his kids. I, too, wish sometimes that he would use more of the young teens, but knowing John I believe he tries to as much as possible. Some of his productions are all teens - remember High School Musical. I'm thrilled with the success of Bare and know that John will continue to produce fantastic plays. Looking at this last year of his plays, one would see that his plays have rocked all year long. BARE is excellent. When my teenage son came home last night from the play, he was almost speechless. He said it was one of the best plays he has seen. I'm sure that if Blue Monkey had the money every bit of it would be put back into theater. Many of Blue Monkey staff work for little money. It has to be a great theater program for such committment. Congratulations Blue Monkey for another wonderful play and thank you John Monteverde for thoughtful consideration of working with actors of all ages. He's clearly one of the best directors in Portland.

Anonymous said...

Your experience of Mr. Monteverde has clearly been different from mine.

But this isn't the right forum for that.

Anonymous said...

Actually it is. JM is a great mentor and director of kids musicals. He is crap with adults -those that behave like adults anyway. My problem is that he is directing 6,7, or 8 big budgeted plays a year in this town and he gets two of them right with the kids and the rest are a mess and an awful waste. What's up widdat???

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that everyone who works in the arts will have successes and failures. Not every show will be a hit or even good. JM takes risks, follows his heart and often crashes and burns in the end. When he hits one, it is remarkable. That for me is the mark of an artist. Not happy to just serve up pap and willing to risk failure to reach greater heights. A lesson for us all and an especially good one for young theater artists.

Anonymous said...

I think that you - sir or ms - will find that preserving him and his like are what make PDX the most over producing and under achieving town in the USA.

Anonymous said...

That is provincial clapttrap. First of all, we are not preserving JM. He has a long and distinguished career as an actor and director. He has run 2 successful theater companies, no mean feat in any town, let alone Portland. He has provided 100's of opportunities for adult and young actors alike. Your comments seem to favor a less is more philosophy that I believe is not sound. People grow by working and stretching. The fewer opportunities, the less growth. I applaud anyone who actually does something as opposed to the multitudes who sit on the sidelines and carp rather than putting themselves on the line. If you try you might fail. But if you don't try, you will always fail.

Anonymous said...

It's more an issue of him being a master manipulator and not caring one iota who he injures on his quest to get whatever HE wants.

Anonymous said...

O.K. This seems to be a personal issue with you and not a general assessment. It would seem to me that your experience is not the norm for people who have worked with JM. My observation comes from having worked with him for years.

Travis Patterson said...

Ok people sick of hearing your whinning about John Monteverde, get back to the show itself which this thread is for. Find another place to air your thoughts, bashes, and concerns about John Monteverde.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

I understand that you must defend JM and CC and others who, like them, are essentially over-inflated community theater talents, if you are dependent on them for work. What I don't get is how they maintain the financial support they misuse. It's denial on par with the worst of dysfunctional situations. I cite the lack of any of their work moving out from PDX to bigger markets as evidence to their meager creative powers. It's only a matter of time before their respective boards of directors wise up to this. Here's hoping that when their time finally comes, professional local talent(of which there is ample)will be tapped appropriately.

Jeff Woods said...

It frightens me greatly that this has turned into bashing one individual on a public forum, and not the show.

I can only hope I never piss off the Portland theatre crowd to the point that I cease to be a person, and become just a name worthy of your despise.


-j

melissa said...

Well stated Jeff. This is all pretty vile.

Melissa Whitney

followspot said...

Thank you Jeff and Whitney for pointing out this discussion has gone on long enough. Back to bare!

Anonymous said...

Agreed.

However, it seems odd to be that someone would say that the real measure of success is whether or not their work has "moved out from PDX to larger markets."

Why all the hating on PDX?

Anonymous said...

It's not hate for PDX.

Having a show move to NYC is an widely accepted guage by which other theatre markets are measured. Many now standard new works and revivals started out in smaller towns then were brought to Broadway based on their merits. The above mentioned producing entities have a dismal record here in our beautiful, but small, market much less a show up on the GREAT WHITE WAY. Given the inordinate amount of resources these artists control in our beloved PDX it is entirely approriate to call them on their shortcomings.

It is sad that the self-esteem of the last poster equates this with hate for this lovely city.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this last post. Like the local pop group The Decemberists became a national act so could a play move out to a wider audience. Given the right backing there are a few super talented theater people here in PDX who could possibly do this. Monteverde is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

So a wider more popular audience is what makes something great. You and Miley Cyrus must be very happy to hear about that. I think John might be relieved.

Aonymous 3/26-8:38 I sincerely doubt that your critical opinion of John's work (or the Decemberist's for that matter) has anything to do with their national success. Plus many PDX people have already been to the national stage and done well.

For the record, John has done shows outside of Portland, moved shows outside Portland and had commissioned original plays that have been performed around the country.
I'd love to see a list of children's theater plays that have moved to Broadway in the last 50 years. You seem to lack an understanding of how professional theater works. A Broadway show is a specific undertaking and not something that most regional theater ever even aspires to. They are different animals all together. And I for one don't see Broadway as the the apex of the theatrical arts. The most commercial and expensive, but by no means the best the art can achieve.

Anonymous said...

The children's show "A Tear With Toad And Frog" transfered to Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award.

Ryan said...

This is getting really old, can we please talk about the show. How many of the last few posters actually saw the show?

Anonymous said...

Understudy performance?