CCT with 2nd Flight Theatre Company Bare: A Pop OperaBy Laura & Mike Clark • Aug 30th, 2008 • Category: Reviews
Listen to our review of CCT with 2nd Flight Theatre Company’ production of Bare: A Pop Opera [MP3 6:16 5.7MB].
CCT with 2nd Flight Theatre Company
Waddell Theater, NVCC, Sterling, VA
Through September 6th
Bare: A Pop Opera is a musical, with book by Jon Hartmere, Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. The story focuses on two high school students and their life’s struggles with social acceptance at their private, Catholic boarding school.This challenging musical featured a large cast in a wide range of parts singing for most of the performance. Despite a poor sound mix that made many of the group numbers difficult to hear, you get to know these clichéd characters as more than just their stereotype. The plot puts Bare in the “edgy” category. Although as the show progressed, it seemed to be not so much about homosexuality and the church, but about senioritis and peer pressure gone berserk.
It was hard to like many of the characters. They seemed like poor little rich kids. They needed more parental involvement in their lives, so they were drifting through life. Unfortunately the boarding school wasn’t able to adequately fulfill the role of their parents, although Sister Chantelle and the priest attempted to be surrogate parents, with Sister Chantelle having considerably more success as a mother.
Jason (Dan Plehal) played dual roles, one was the big man on campus, and the other role was Peter’s boyfriend. He was dedicated to each role, but when he was with anyone other than Peter, he was only the BMOC.He made sure that his times with his “other life” were in secret places so as not to jeopardize his image. He was more constricted by what his friends would think if he were gay, than by the Church’s teachings. Throughout the show, the contempt the students felt for the church was revealed in such songs as “Confession” and Peter’s dream sequence “911! Emergency.” Plehal’s Jason was very sympathetic, especially near the end of the show as his secrets were laid bare to his friends. His singing was acceptable. He gave a believable performance. His final scene felt like a cop out.
Ryan Khatcheressian played Jason’s school friend and lover Peter. He was the more sensitive of the two and in that he was stronger than Jason. His vocal range was limited, he seemed better at the high notes than the low ones. Peter’s “coming out scene” with Sister Chantelle was well executed. The relief on Peter’s face as well as the acceptance he saw from Sister Chantelle were energizing.
Peter was more accepting of his homosexuality than Jason, although he struggled with revealing it with the people close to him, notably his mother, Claire (Cathy Arnold). Peter finally called his mother to tell her, and she used every excuse she could think of to prevent him from sharing the news. Her song “Warning” was very nicely sung, with hints of regret, fear and love in her voice. Khatcheressian’s voice crackled a bit during “Best Kept Secret,” when he tried to convince Jason to move their relationship out of their room and into the light like during the rave party. Khatcheressian stayed focused on the moment during most of his songs. He showed a wide range of emotions, and the surprise and fear on his face after talking with Matt about his fears was realistic.Tara Leigh Moore, Brittany Washington and Brian M. Garrison played three stereotypical supporting roles. Ivy (Moore) was the beautiful, popular girl who wanted to be with Jason. Her stage presence reminded me of Sarah Jessica Parker in Footloose. She was convincing near the end of the show when her emotions got away from her as she was trying to both keep and tell a secret. Her song “Portrait of a Girl” was very nicely performed, and Moore was able to show us the tenderness and fear Ivy was feeling.
She had a strained relationship with her roommate, Nadia (Washington). Nadia was a big woman on campus, and Jason’s sister. Nadia longed to be part of the in-crowd at school, her song “A Quiet Night At Home” summed up her emotions perfectly. Matt (Garrison) had the knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and learned many secrets. His eagerness to fit in was apparent on his face.Richelle Howie played the good sister beautifully. Her zinger lines were hysterical and her voice was great. She’s been at the school long enough that she has seen it all and was not surprised by anything.
Michael Ehrlich played the priest. His scenes were short, but necessary. He had a secret, too. However it was never really spelled out. The final scene between him and Jason lacked compassion and understanding.
The biggest concern with the production was the sound. The Sound Designer and Sound Board Operator was Brian Anderson. More than two singers at a time resulted in garbled sound. Some microphones simply weren’t loud enough; occasionally they weren’t activated until after an actor started their line. The orchestra, while important, should not have been overpowering the volume of the actors. There was also more popping in the second act of the show as microphones brushed against costumes. These problems sometimes made it hard to concentrate.
Kevin King‘s light design was creative. For example, the rave party scene used glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets to create a mood of chaos and recklessness. Over all the lighting helped set the tone for the entire show.
The music was also moving. This was not a traditional musical. At times the musical style was reminiscent of Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Pippin.
The set (designed by Kevin King) provided a great deal of flexibility through its use of multiple levels, stairs, and hidden entrances. Stained glass windows were present on the back walls of the set, and the large stones used as the wall material gave the show the feeling of an impersonal church school. The stage crew handled scene changes quickly.
Bare: A Pop Opera is for mature audiences only, playing Saturday the 30th at 8:00, Sunday the 31st at 7:00, And Thursday the 4th through Saturday the 6th at 8:00 at the Waddell Theater on the NVCC campus in Sterling, Virginia.
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And now, on with the show.
bare was an enormous hit when it opened in LA in 2000. The show was optioned for an off Broadway run in 2004, where it was panned by critics and audiences alike. Ask someone to explain the plot of bare and you will hear nearly every Catholic school cliche in the book: teen pregnancy, drug use, homosexuality … almost the entire canon. Yet bare has an enormous cult following (just check Google or Facebook), and it is being performed in an increasing number of venues across the country. So how did such a seemingly cliched show, a failure in NYC, generate such a loyal and passionate following? In three words? Characters and music.
First, the music … and what wonderful music it is! Reminiscent at times of Rent, and at times forging its own musical landscape, it lays bare the emotions of the characters and takes the audience deep into their souls. It is passionate and insistent and demands attention. The music grabs hold of your emotions and takes you on a careening, exhilarating, and ultimately cathartic ride through the romance of its two leads.
Which brings us to the characters: the closeted priest the mother in denial, the student “purveyor of altered reality; the popular girl, the jock, the overweight smart ass – all are seeming cliches, yet all are rendered with sympathy, humor, and compassion. Peter and Jason, the central characters, are high school seniors at St. Cecilia’s. They are in love and in the closet. Peter’s desire to embrace his sexuality and Jason’s struggle to accept his creates the conflict in the show. The conflict is due, in great part, to the restrictions placed upon the boys by the teachings of the Catholic Church. This simultaneously provides the composer and librettist the platform for an indictment of the Catholic Church as an institution and an affirmation of the faith in God held by the Church’s faithful. While the Catholic Church comes in for harsh criticism, the members of the faith, both clergy and lay people, are treated with gentleness and understanding. The villain in the play is blind obedience to the Church’s teachings at the expense of tolerance and empathy. The villain is not those who believe in God, faith, and/or religion. In fact, one of the strongest voices of God is the sharp-tongued nun, Sister Chantelle. Arguably the worst high school drama teacher on the face of the earth, she is the personification of God’s love and compassion for all of His children. It is she who speaks one of the greatest truths in the show: “if you hide from yourself; be someone else for someone else’s sake, that would be the greatest mistake.”
The theme of “one” recurs throughout the play: one voice, one kiss, one heart, one love; the image replays over and over in the lyrics and in the dialogue. Ultimately the play beautifully renders the impact that one person, one religion, one faith and, most importantly, one love can have on the life of another. As Peter says, “Father, we were so in love, and that’s what I find so odd. Our love was pure and nothing else brought me closer to God.” And that is it in a nutshell, isn’t it? True love (regardless of whether itbe love between a parent and child, love between two friends, love between a man and a woman, love between a woman and woman, or love between a man and a man) brings us closer to the love of the Almighty. We see a reflection of God’s all-encompassing love when we love another, and to condemn the form taken by that love is to deny the grandeur of God’s gift to us.
Director’s Notes are Copyright 2008 Debbie Niezgoda for CCT with 2nd Flight Theatre Company, Reprinted with permission.
This Production in Other Publications
- Jason: Dan Plehal
- Peter: Ryan Khatchersessian
- Ivy: Tara Leigh Moore
- Nadia: Brittany Washington
- Matt: Brian M. Garrison
- Lucas: Cory Eskridge Okouchi
- Tanya: Janelle Delancey
- Kyra: Felicity Ann Brown
- Diane: Traci J. Brooks
- Rory: Carla Okouchi
- Zach: Asher Miller
- Alan: Michael Schaaff
- Claire: Cathy Arnold
- Sister Chantelle: Richelle Howie
- Priest: Michael L. Ehrlich
- Music Director/Piano: Robert King
- Percussion: Matt Hardy
- Flute: Maurine Dahlberg
- Guitar: Peter Dousklis
- Cello: Virginia Gardner
- Bass: Randy Dahlberg
- Producer: Shannon Khatchersessian
- Assistant Producer: Leah Aspell
- Director: Debbie Niezgoda
- Assistant Director: B. Keith Ryder
- Assistant Director/Choreographer: Christy Jacobs
- Technical Director: Rick Wilson
- Music Director: Robert Kraig
- Vocal Director: Michael Ehrlich
- Stage Manager: Colleen Stock
- Assistant Stage Manager: Liz Stock
- Set Designer: Kevin King
- Set Construction/Painting: Leah Aspell, Theresa Bender, Reid Cathcart, Mark Helms, Molly Hicks, Kevin King, Mike King, Asher Miller, Michael Schaaf, Jill Tunick, Brittany Washington
- Master Carpenter: Rick Wilson
- Light Designer: Kevin King
- Light Board operator: Earl Boatman
- Sound Designer/Sound Board Operator: Brian Anderson
- Costumes: Erin Anderson
- Hair and Makeup: Molly Hicks
- Properties and Set Dressing: Theresa Bender
- House Manager: Staci Rice
- Poster Design: Nick Arey
- Program design: Matthew Randall
- Production Photographers: Traci J. Brooks, Matthew Randall
- Publicity: Leah Aspell
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Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.