Sunday, June 21, 2009

review - Mini Musical Fest @ Secret Rose Theatre

Winner of the annual Mini Musical Fest @ The Secret Rose Theatre in my book is More Precious Than Diamonds by Stephanie Hutchinson. (In the above photo, cast members, on a rehearsal field trip, visit a real Tiffany's in Beverly Hills.) The play revolves around Julie (Fay Gauthier) and friend Michelle (Deborah Png) , window shopping a diamond ring in a Tiffany's store. Julie has always wanted a ring and is fed up with waiting for the right man to come along & buy one for her. Stewart, the salesman (Marco Antonio Aguilar), who assists Julie, not only shows her an $84, 900 ring, but ends up giving her much, much more. The mini play, with book, music and lyrics by Stephanie Hutchinson, is a sweet, fresh take on love at first sight. Jonathan Levit ably directs the mini play with Steve Walby also in the ensemble as a tough store security guard. The plot is simple and clear, the songs fresh and pretty, and the actors do a truly first-rate job in acting and singing their roles.
Other offerings seen in the festival include The Red Bouquet, Change of Plans, Something Not Real and My Jovi El Musical, all of which for one reason or another, do not hit the professional mark. Most promising performers in these mini plays are Jordan T. Maxwell, making a strong impression in Change of Plans and Derek Houck (Something Not Real) and Ian Federgreen (My Jovi), both rendering fast, funny comedic portrayals.
The Red Bouquet (book, music & lyrics by Joshua Fardon) has a somewhat appealing bittersweet texture, but the actors do not give it their all, with the exception of Kelly J. Roberts, interesting as robotic waiter Claude. Change of Plans (book, music & lyrics by Micahel Gordon Shapiro) has posibilities too, but needs more interaction between Jimmy and his wife Katherine (Kristin Chiles, wasted). His is the only singing role. With more flack from his wife, Jimmy's final decision will make even more sense. Something Not Real (also by Joshua Fardon) is not without potential, but at present is far too convoluted and unfocused. Attempting to be like a party scene in a Sondheim show, its characters are an odd and intriguing mix, but what's the bottom line? My Jovi (music, book & lyrics by Jan Michael Alejandro), the longest of the plays, is dismally unfunny and needs reimagining. Alejandro may have been thinking Cheech and Chong when he wrote this, but it just doesn't work in its current cartoonish, unfulfilling form. And, more urgently, it does not put Latinos - who deserve far better material - in a very positive light.
I did not see The Queen & the Dragon (begins June 25), but without question, at present, More Precious Than Diamonds comes up the winning entry.


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