Friday, June 20, 2008

Review: Dance delicious, Shakespeare strident in Big Willie Style at MLP on opening night

Big Willie Style at MLP
Originally uploaded by trudeau
With the Pyramus and Thisbe scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream did the Big Willie Style troupe reach its apex on opening night. Actors Kent Bernard, John Chambers and Harvard Taylor relaxed and played the comedy apace. The audience was theirs.

In the previous hour and a half, however, the capable cast
worked like demons to hit their Shakespearean marks.

Their dance and rhyme spinning was expert and gymnastically entertaining. And the ability to jump from hip hop to Shakespearean dialogue was impressive.

Rarely have I seen a young cast move so smartly from cue to cue, coordinating their dance and dialogue. It was a balanced cast, too: in their own turns Christina Taylor, Courtney Herron and Wanetah Walmsley showed themselves equal to the standards set by Bernard, Chambers and Taylor. Actor James Palmer won special attention from the audience by his emotional fluency.

The dance cast was no less entertaining. Emma Busi and Michelle Loridans brought balletic grace to the stage. Chelsea Liles, Luke Sexton and Lin Rivers added a sense of humor in addition to muscle in their spinning and spazzing.

But much of the Shakespeare was strident.

Why were so many of the scenes chosen for the Big Willie Style review focused on murder, torture and perfidy? In their Elizabethan renditions, the actors frequently moved from capable recitations to histrionics. In the bloody and dreadful scene from The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus there was nothing but stress and rhetorical excess.

Additionally, a technical challenge reared its head on opening night: the actor’s mics were so efficient that when dialogue reached peak intensity the volume was annoying.

On balance I’d say the dance was so good, the flow of the show so wondrously smooth and the subject matter fresh enough that you’ll enjoy and even marvel at Big Willie Style. By the end of the evening I felt like we’d seen so much of the cast that we sort of knew them. Couldn’t help thinking, “What a charming band of rogues.”

Big Willie Style performances continue this weekend and next. Please see the Gilbert & Sullivan Society web site for tickets and times.


Anonymous said...

Was the music live or taped?

trudeau said...

Alas, taped.

Anonymous said...

James Palmer spent an unmeasured amount of time splicing and sampling so many works of music that it is almost impossible to have a life performance. Eventually a read DJ mixing and spinning will be in the works but at this time, the music is mixed.