Creative Cauldron Shout! The Mod MusicalBy David Siegel • May 14th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
Creative Cauldron: (Info) (Web)
Artspace, Falls Church, VA
Through May 25th
90 minutes without intermission
Reviewed May 10th, 2014
Happy times for those who will harken back to their youth when AM radio played the Top 40 hits of the 1960’s. The Creative Cauldron’s Shout! The Mod Musical will be comfort food for those who know each lyric and opening musical note from a time when the songs were fresh and new; song by female singers hoping to make their way onto American Bandstand.
All and all, Shout! The Mod Musical is an earnest production of a musical that will gladden the hearts of Baby Boomers who know the show’s playlist of about 20 hit songs selected by the show’s co-creators Phillip George and David Lowenstein. I use playlist as a term rather than score; this is jukebox theater of a specific moment in time and taste. It is from a non-FM radio-view.
Cast of Shout! The Mod Musical. From left: Yellow Girl (Aimee Barnes), Green Girl (Iyona Blake), Red Girl (Melissa Berkowitz), Blue Girl (Sarah Anne Sillers), and Orange Girl (Ashleigh King).
The Creative Cauldron’s production is the Washington area professional theater company premiere of the Shout! The Mod Musical. It was produced Off-Broadway in 2006.
Shout! The Mod Musical is set in London between 1962-1970. It follows the lives of five women in age from the early 20’s (The Red Girl), to the 30’s and perhaps a bit beyond (Green, Blue, Yellow and Orange girls). Yes, the female characters are identified as “girls” and by the color of what they wear. They are not given first names. No first names is rather fitting as the characters are one-dimensionally drawn, with little blood or soul.
The book is a shaky connection of dialogue and scenes that connect songs with the fictional characters. The book is a slim wisp of eye-rolling jokes, as well as some reminiscences about societal changes brought with the Pill and relationships with men. A clever touch is a regular focus on each of the character’s attachment to a self-help column written by “Gwendolyn Holmes ” for “Shout,” a slick and glossy London-based magazine. The matronly Holmes character provides antiquated guidance to those who seek out her guidance. The advice generally involves wearing a better shade of lipstick, trying a new hairdo or suggesting that while the fault for the boredom in a relationship may be with the man, it is the woman’s place to make things right.
The Yellow Girl (Aimee Barnes) is the American character. She has travelled to London to have a look at Paul McCartney. The Orange Girl (Ashleigh King) is married, but suspects her husband may be cheating. The Blue woman (Sarah Anne Sillers) is wealthy and vain, but has a deep secret about her sexuality. The Green Girl (Iyona Blake) gives off a looser vibe about her relationships with men. The Red Girl (Melissa Berkowitz) is the youngest; she is insecure with her appearance with hopes the man of her dreams will come along. The advice columnist, Gwendolyn Holmes, is played by a haughty, high-pitched, badly coiffed Robert Aubrey Davis. He has been taped and is seen on regular occasions on a video monitor in grainy black and white.
Singing is the high-point of the production. The songs include the likes of “Son of a Preacher Man,” “You Don’t have to Say You Love Me,” “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” “Downtown” and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” as well as “To Sir with Love” and others. A standout is an ensemble rendition of a very cute “Coldfinger” based on the famous James Bond movie song “Goldfinger.” Two songs caught the audience’s interest and lifted them up; they began to mouth the words and then sang with those on stage. The songs were “Those Were the Days” and the finale of the evening, “Shout!” The procession of musical numbers were written by pop icons like Tony Hatch, Carol King and Bernie Goffin, as well as Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The strongest singers in the production are Blake and King. They have powerful voices and provide plenty of theatrical nuance to go along with their voice work and dancing skills. When all five actor-singers get together as a “girl” group or in pairs of back-up singers, the harmonies are simply top-notch.
The intermission free 75 minutes is directed by Matt Connor. Connor has directed a number of Creative Cauldron productions. He has also performed and composed at such DC area venues such as Signature Theater. The production was choreographed by Stephen Gregory Smith. He has the cast perform period dances such hip swaying, hands in the air numbers as the Swim, Pony, and others with enjoyable synchronized results.
The music director and keyboardist is Mark Deffenbaugh. The costumes by Margie Gervis are spot-on reminders of those changing times. Each of the five characters has three different outfits to represent various styles of the 1960’s. Visually the attire moves from left-over later 1950’s wear, to mid-60’s Mary Quant inspired mini-skirted dresses to a final late 60’s urban and hippie look. The hair styles and wigs are well-accomplished moving from flips, to long straight hair to Afros.
Shout! The Mod Musical will be most enjoyed by those who were living at the time. As Creative Cauldron Founder and Producing Director wrote in the program, “The performance you are witnessing is a celebration of music from the swinging 60’s and we suspect that many of you will find yourselves singing along to these classic pop tunes.”
At the performance your reviewer attended, one could feel audience members begin to catch the memory train. As the show began to wrap up, the infectious 1959 rhythm and blues hit “Shout” began. It quickly became a sing and clap-along finale. The crowd was standing on its collective feet, transported and transfixed with big smiles.
- Yellow Girl: Aimee Barnes
- Green Girl: Iyona Blake
- Red Girl: Melissa Berkowitz
- Blue Girl: Sarah Anne Sillers
- Orange Girl: Ashleigh King
- Gwendolyn Holmes: Robert Aubry Davis
Artistic and Design Team
- Director/Composer: Matt Connor
- Choreography: Stephen Gregory Smith
- Music Director/Keyboardist: Mark Deffenbaugh
- Scenic and Costume Designer: Margie Jervis
- Lighting Designer: Joey Wallen
- Sound Technician: Teddy Wiant
Disclaimer: Creative Cauldron provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/10418.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.