At least there’s the booze | Art & Appetite

Laughs make musical worthwhile
By James Spangler | May 05, 2017

I recently attended a musical that, in part, explored the British class structure. An unlikely romance blossoms between members of upper and lower classes, which challenges the notion of a natural superiority of the aristocracy.

“My Fair Lady,” right? Nope.

Apparently, our interest in the British and their class system – the relationships between the aristocracy and the servant class, never seems to wane. Think of “Downton Abbey,” “Upstairs, Downstairs,” George Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and (my personal favorite) P.G. Wodehouse – the list could continue for quite some time.

Village Theatre’s production of “A Proper Place” is cut from the same cloth.

Spoiler alert: Based on a J.M. Barrie (“Peter Pan”) play, the principal character is Crichton the butler, who is highly capable and perfectly content with the order of things at his employer Lord Loam’s country manor house.

As Lord Loam prepares for a yachting expedition, Crichton is pressed into service as his Lord’s valet. The established social order is turned upside down when the Lord, his retinue and household staff are shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. It is not the doddering old Lord who rises to the top of this new social order, but rather, the faithful servant – Crichton.

Let’s not forget the matter of young Crichton’s good looks and the Lord’s three eligible daughters.

As an inveterate Anglophile, I couldn't help loving “A Proper Place.” The play is populated with a multitude of good-natured jabs at our English cousins, something I also very much enjoy.

As usual, Village Theatre has done an outstanding job with costuming, set design, lighting and sound. Marvelous performances were delivered by Kevin Vortmann (Crichton), Chelsea LaValley (Lady Mary) and Sophia Franzella (Tweeny), the latter who commanded and received our undivided attention in virtually every scene she was present. In fact, the stage presence of all three of these actors was remarkable at various points in the show.

Still, all the stage presence in the world and the best sets and costuming cannot rehabilitate a play whose plot is at times fuzzy and whose score is so random. I'm sure it's difficult to walk the razor's edge, avoiding sickly sweet Disneyesque composition on one side and the wrist-slashing atonality reminiscent of some of Stephen Sondheim’s compositions on the other.

Unfortunately, composer Curtis Rhodes occasionally slips off the edge in both directions.

As the closing bars rang out to “The Winds Are Changing” and the curtain fell for intermission, my overarching feeling was a sense of relief. And during “He’s the Sort of Hero” (a bizarre, redundant, and endless homoerotic homage to Crichton), I could feel only misery for myself and everyone else in attendance.

On the upside? You can now take alcohol into the theater itself, no longer obligating you to fortify yourself during intermission exclusively.

In seriousness, I did enjoy “A Proper Place.” I'm mindful that part of Village Theatre’s mission is to present lesser-known plays and provide opportunities to aspiring new composers and writers. For me, this isn't Village Theatre’s finest hour, but it's still worth seeing for the many laughs and great performances of the cast.

“A Proper Place”
Rating: 3.8 out of 5
Where: Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett
When: Through May 21. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $45-$60
Information: 425-257-8600, www.villagetheatre.org

 

James Spangler is the owner of Spangler Book Exchange in Edmonds and an aficionado of all things art and appetite. Do you know of a Snohomish County restaurant, art gallery or theatrical show worthy of a review? Call him at 206-795-0128 or email him at jamesspangler@gmail.com.

 

 

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