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Signature Theatre The Boy Detective Fails

By • Sep 14th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
The Boy Detective Fails
Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through October 16th
2:20 with one intermission
$72-$77
Reviewed September 10th, 2011

The Boy Detective Fails to bring this World Premiere musical to its potential. Yes the top-notch professional actors were brought in to thrill you with their vocals and acting prowess, but apart from a few moments, this 2 hour 20 minute musical couldn’t reach the heights it was intended to. There are moments of sheer brilliance from the actors on stage, mostly by the chemistry the Director, Joe Calarco was able to bring out in his characters Billy and Penny Maple as well as with Billy and Caroline. There was comedy and the actors were definitely having fun in doing this show, but the audience never reached that same level of fun or excitement as they seemed to. The songs are sung so very well, as most Signature productions are, but the music and lyrics never grab your soul.

The set Design by Derek McLane was clever. Having the entire town miniaturized was cute and added to the lightness of this play. It also served to open up the stage for the actors to take full stage. The Costumes, by Kathleen Geldard are of a time seemingly in 1960’s or earlier. The costumes fit the mood of the play well. Choreography by Karma Camp was light and fun. The Music and Lyrics by Adam Gwon told the story in an upbeat fun way but didn’t seem to match up with the characters. The Book by Joe Meno told a story in-depth but left the main character and the audience without resolve. Maybe that was his intent, but the audience needn’t left out of the world of uncertainty as his main character.

The performers, which are the backbone of this play, are at the top of their game. Leading the way is the main character Billy Argo, played by Stephen Gregory Smith. Stephen plays Billy Argo with energy and zeal. His vocals are wonderful and believable, but he was left short of true transition from the pain and anguish of a traumatic moment to the psychotic world this trauma plunged him into.

Some of the bright lights in this play come from the supporting performers. Margo Seibert, playing Caroline Argo was, James Gardiner playing Fenton, Thomas Adrian Simpson playing Professor Von Golum, Evan Casey playing Killer Kowalzavich and many other roles within the story and Harry A. Winter as Larry.

The brightest light comes from the portrayal of Penny Maple by Anika Larsen. Anika fleshes out every nuance and quirk of her character. Her vocals are wonderful and fun as well as endearing. The entire stage illuminates while she’s on stage.

This musical production is part of the American Musical Voices Project (AMVP). It is the largest single musical theatre commissioning and producing initiative of any U.S. theatre.

The greatest asset in any show produced at Signature is their performers. Their actors with beautiful vocals are some of the best anywhere. Going to see a production, at any time at Signature, you will not be disappointed with the performances.

Photo Gallery

Opening tableau Caroline (Margo Seibert) and brother Billy (Stephen Gregory Smith) come up with their own secret word
Opening tableau
Caroline (Margo Seibert) and brother Billy (Stephen Gregory Smith) come up with their own secret word
Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) looks through an old diary as crime partners Fenton (James Gardiner) and Caroline (Margo Seibert) look on. Anika Larsen (as Penny Maple) enjoys a moment alone at the office, singing 'As Long As You Are Here'
Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) looks through an old diary as crime partners Fenton (James Gardiner) and Caroline (Margo Seibert) look on.
Anika Larsen (as Penny Maple) enjoys a moment alone at the office, singing ‘As Long As You Are Here’/small>
Penny Maple (Anika Larsen) and Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) make a connection Professor Von Golum (Thomas Adrian Simpson) commiserates with his old nemesis, Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith)
Penny Maple (Anika Larsen) and Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) make a connection
Professor Von Golum (Thomas Adrian Simpson) commiserates with his old nemesis, Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith)
Professor Von Golum (Thomas Adrian Simpson) coaxes Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) into helping him solve a riddle Stephen Gregory Smith (as Billy Argo, The Boy Detective) searches for another revealing clue
Professor Von Golum (Thomas Adrian Simpson) coaxes Billy Argo (Stephen Gregory Smith) into helping him solve a riddle
Stephen Gregory Smith (as Billy Argo, The Boy Detective) searches for another revealing clue

Photos by Scott Suchman

  • Killer Kowalzavich/Dle Hardy/Ensemble: Evan Casey
  • Therapist/Ensemble: Sherri L. Edelen
  • Fenton: James Gardiner
  • Penny Maple/Ensemble: Anika Larsen
  • Violet Dew/Nurse/Ensemble: Tracy Lynn Olivera
  • Caroline Argo: Margo Seibert
  • Professor Von Golum: Thomas Adrian Simpson
  • Billy Argo: Stephen Gregory Smith
  • Detective Brown/Ensemble: Russell Sunday
  • Larry/Ensemble: Harry A. Winter

Understudies

  • Caroline Argo: Madeline Botteri
  • Larry/Ensemble: Cory Cunningham
  • Professor Von Golum: Christopher Mueller
  • Billy Argo: Stephen Russell Murray
  • Fenton: Glen North
  • Penny Maple/Violet Dew/Nurse: Kristin Reigler
  • Killer Kowalzavich/Dale Hardy/Ensemble: Tim Rogan
  • Therapist/Ensemble: Weslie Woodley

Crew

  • Scenic Design: Derek McLane
  • Costume Design: Kathleen Geldard
  • Lighting Design: Chris Lee
  • Sound Design: Matt Rowe
  • Production Stage Manager: Julie Meyer
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Jeremiah Mullane
  • Director of Production: Michael D. Curry
  • Orchestrations: Andy Einhorn
  • Music Direction: Gabriel Mangiante
  • Choreography: Karma Camp
  • Directed by: Joe Calarco

Musicians

  • Piano/Conductor: Gabriel Mangiante
  • Woodwinds: Lee Lachman
  • Violin: Andrea Vercoe
  • Cello: Aron Rider
  • Keyboard: Jacob Kidder
  • Percussion: Gary Tilman

Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7146.

has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

One Response »

  1. Apparently Mr. Adams and I did not see the same show…or maybe it changed significantly after the preview performance I attended. I doubt the latter is the case, because I asked someone who went to the show subsequent to me and he said that half of his group of 6 left at intermission.

    I found the music and songs forgettable, the plot confusing, the set silly, and basically the entire show a disappointment.