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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

You Never Know

Picking material is an art. I was incredibly impressed with the NT-Live production of "London Assurance" that was at the Spectrum Theater this past weekend. It was a delightful, frothy work that offered a lot of laughs and never took the material seriously.

Yes, it had a brilliant cast and London's National Theatre has seemingly unlimited resources that make their productions look splendid. What impressed me was that not only did the cast and director make this ancient and creaky play such a pleasure, but that someone had the vision (and conviction) to put this material on stage. If I read the play, I would dismiss it, seeing only the flaws and not the potential.

I suppose some of this is reading a play knowing the great resources you have at hand. With that in mind, I dread the thought that some inferior company might see this production and decide to produce it. It could be a disaster.

On the other hand, mid-week I was at Barrington Stage's Musical Theatre Lab. This company has produced a number of works that have gone on to successful runs Off-Broadway. They've also produced a few that rightfully disappeared.

"Pool Boy" - at least in its current form - will be one of those likely to disappear. It has some strength, but what amazes me is that its flaws are so obvious you wonder why people like the Lab's artistic director William Finn ("Spelling Bee") is so high on the musical.

Not only is Finn an advocate, the work has found a remarkably high profile cast. Sara Gettelfinger is a well-respected and talented performer who has appeared in a number of Broadway successes ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") and national tours (Cruella De Vil in "101 Dalmatians"). Playing her husband is John Hickok who has equally impressive credits. Both are great in the show, but not great enough to save the material.

Usually when you see actors of this caliber it means they believe the work has a future and they hope to be part of that future. Why else spend a summer performing in an American Legion Hall in Pittsfield? You wonder what they saw in the material that I (and most other critics) didn't.

Last night I saw "Murder for Two" at Adirondack Theatre Festival. I went hoping for the best, but fearing that a two-person murder-mystery musical with one performer playing nine roles would be too derivative of those "Tuna" shows and "Irma Vep's" that it might be, at best, pleasant.

It was a terrific night of theater that was more fun than I could have hoped for. It is an inventive approach to familiar stuff that is well-performed. I sense this a career show for its creators as it should have a future life Off-Broadway and in regionals throughout the country.

It's another case of seeing things on a printed page that translates to a good time on stage. Or not.

The point is you never know. Not even the experts.


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