Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 2)

Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 2)

Third Annual Florida Festival of New Musicals (Part 2)

Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

A musical AND A period piece! What could go wrong? The English Civil Wars are over, and the county adapts to its new religion and government. The houses and estates of the Papist’s now pass to a newly rich Quaker manufacturing class. There’s money to be made in London, but the temptations might bring a Puritan to sin. We follow a family down to the charming and rather boring English country side where, presumably they are safe from sin, or at least must work much harder at it. There new estate comes complete with a wisdom-spouting old caretaker and a mysterious witchy woman living across the road. The caretaker is happy to have a family in the house, even if it won’t let him properly protect it with turnip lanterns on All Hallow Eve. And dear old Quaker dad knows best, so his agriculturally inclined son gets sent to London to run a shop, while his more urbane daughter is kept out in the boring county. But she soon finds a hobby: a rumor spreads of buried treasure secreted by the previous owner, and as we break for intermission that dark mysterious lady trams though the attic, looking for ghosts with clues.

There’s a good dose of editing needed here, the story rambles and seems defocused. While the ghost story maybe the main feature on this stage, the son and the caretaker seem just as interesting as does the dynamic between dad and his loyal wife. The music is solid with a great comic number: “Read Between the Lines” has the Germanic house maid explaining to the wife that the Bible is full of sex, and if you read between the lines you can still have fun. We see a number of promising storey leads here, but we need some guidance from our omnipotent writers to give us better direction.

Everyone’s favorite Greek drama? Lysistrata, by far. In ancient Greece, the women go in a sex strike hoping to end war. Clearly this was not a long terms success, but it provides a vehicle for a silly, sexy story that has the crafty girls out maneuvering the lunk headed men. The humor tends more toward the silly than the risqué, but we get enough nudge, nudge, wink, wink to keep everyone laughing and on focus. The script leans toward the silly with characters like Geriactos and Phallius and Androgynous. The biggest script flaw is the speed at which some women come to join the no-sex movement; Calliope runs a big brothel along with its cash flow rather quickly, money seems rather unimportant to this working girl. But there are plenty of gags, and plenty of opportunity for the PG rated jokes that work best in musical theater.

In to every theater festival, we find an “Issues Play”. Here our concern is young Oliva who has OCD to the point of near incapacitation. The title comes from her mantra of saying everything “three times fast.” It sorts of helps her, but school is a misery and a prom her equivalent to torture by small cuts. We see her becoming worse after a move, and her family is sympathetic but not very helpful. It’s off to a doctor who gives here the bad news and as we wrap up act one it looks like we have two choice for an ending: Olivia gets better, or Olivia spends the rest of her life hiding in the bed room. The music was entertaining, but the story one you know you are supposed to love, but you love it with a smile painted on your face.

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