Thursday, August 9, 2012

Big River

Time. is. flying. I'm not sure how August 9th happened. It still feels like June.... My life is basically just work and sleep. I could get up in the morning and do stuff... cook and/or bake for example, so I would have recipes to post here. But I usually end up sleeping till at least 1PM, then I have to get up, eat something quick and easy, shower and dress, and leave for work from 3:30PM till midnight or later. So I eat a lot of PB&J's, tuna salad, and chicken nuggets. Also a lot of fast food. I've lost 20 pounds since I moved to VA, but I've also started to eat a lot more fast food and junk food. If I could get my diet under control, I would look like a super model by now. (Or at least be down a few more pounds.)

I get one day off a week, and this past weekend I actually got out and did some stuff. I spent most of the day shopping... TJ Maxx, Wal-Mart, JoAnn Fabrics, some Sweet Frog froyo. Then Saturday night, I went to the Peninsula Community Theatre to see their production of Big River. I'd had the soundtrack for years, but never paid it much attention. It was only half an hour away, cost $16, and seemed like it might be fun. I'd like to share my thoughts about it. I don't have any pictures or anything since it wasn't allowed, but I don't talk about theatre nearly enough on here.

The show itself is good enough... I'd probably appreciate it more if I'd ever actually read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (It's on my list, I promise.) But I don't think it made it onto my list of favorite musicals. This production in particular was pretty spectacular, though. The kid that played Huck Finn, and the guy that played Jim should both totally be on Broadway. They were amazing. If you know me, you know I don't hold back in my criticisms of theatrical productions, so if I thought they were amazing, you know they had to be great.

Almost everyone in the production was a great actor, and everyone had great singing voices. Some were better than others, of course, and Huck (Cory Steiger) and Jim (Rico Robinson) were by far my favorites. They both had incredible voices and stage presence. When Jim sang Free at Last, I had chills the entire time.  The girl that played Mary Jane did a little too well with You Oughta Be Here With Me. It's about her father who has just passed away, and no matter how lonely he might be wherever he is, he can't be as lonely as she is without him there. Wasn't quite prepared for that. There may have been a few tears.

I couldn't call myself a techie if I didn't comment on the technical aspects of the show. The set was actually pretty great. It took up a lot of the stage, but there were platforms made to look like docks at several heights, and all of the areas on the stage were very versatile. They used the space well, and the set looked great and very professional. My only criticism (oh, you knew it was coming) is that one of the platforms was a ramp made to look like a dock, on the end of the set towards the audience. Well, they could only build it out so far and make it so steep... so the end of the ramp was still at least a foot off the stage and they didn't put a step at the end. So in the very first scene when two older ladies came down the ramp and had to stop to try to step down to the stage without taking a header into the audience, it was a little distracting and awkward, not to mention unsafe. If they had just done something different with that, or even just put one step at the end, it would have been a near-perfect set.

The lighting was also pretty great. I mean, I would have done some of the design differently, but that's pretty much any show. My biggest complaint is that most of their fixtures are floods, so there were no shutter cuts off the curtains, and lots of bleed into parts of the set that may not have needed to be lit in certain scenes. For what they have to work with, and their lighting inventory, though, it was done well, and very pretty. The choices they made with regards to color were excellent. A few scenes, I was concerned when I looked up and saw bright yellow gels, but because of the colors they mixed it with, it worked really well.

I have no comments on sound. Mostly because there was none. I mean, I saw some angel mics hanging, but no one individual was mic-ed since it's a fairly intimate venue, and they all projected just fine. I think I would have been annoyed if they had been mic-ed!

Costuming was good. The clothes were all good choices, good colors, period appropriate. The make-up was a little iffy. When someone was supposed to look dirty (pretty much most of the cast, most of the time), they would just have a big brown splotch or two on their face. The amateurish make-up just seemed out of place when everything else about the production was so professional. Also, I just have to mention it because it drove me CRAZY... there was one little girl in the cast who had her glasses on the whole time she was on stage. Which would have been fine if they were at all period-looking. But they were thick black plastic frames with a bright blue and white design on the temples. The second she stepped out for the first time, it was all I could look at. I was personally offended on every level by those glasses. I know first hand that it's difficult to try to be on stage without your glasses, if you need them to see. I did it for 5 or 6 years. You just get used to not being able to see anyone and deal with it. Okay, sorry, end of rant. It's just... THOSE GLASSES. Ugh! Moving on.

So despite my few criticisms, I immensely enjoyed the show. When I see a community or school production that I don't like, I'm not afraid to say so. I will freely admit that I'm a bit of a theatre snob. So when I say that this is a great production by a great cast and crew, in an adorable little venue, in an adorable little part of town... you know I liked it. I would love to look into volunteering with them, but I have no idea when I would have the time. I'm sure they do most of the tech stuff in the evenings, when I'm at work. All of their shows are in the afternoons and evenings, when I'm at work.... So I will settle to just patronize them as often as possible, and to spread the word that they're doing great theatre there. Big River is playing on the weekends, through August 25th. If you're in the Newport News area, you should totally check it out. I'm thinking about seeing it again! Their next show is Blithe Spirit in October. I'm secretly hoping Angela Lansbury will be in it. Probably not. I will try my best to go see it anyway! Check out their website here.

I'm going to challenge everyone to find a local live theatre production to go see. This one was a great experience and only $16. I'm sure most people have a local community theatre, or a college nearby that does productions, or high school, or even a professional theatre. Get out there and patronize the arts!

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