– “The Dream on Royal Street”

      Fionn Dawson and Anna Cohen in "The Dream of Royal Street" (Photo - John Dlugoleck).

      Fionn Dawson and Anna Cohen in “The Dream of Royal Street” (Photo – John Dlugoleck).

      “To sleep, perchance to dream”…of Vegas?

      By Melanie Hooks

      Lounge singers anyway. Tatiana and Oberon, Sin City headliners, are opening at a New Orleans hotel for the big annual party, but they’re breaking up. He’s a flirt. She’s jealous. Act over.

      Except for that little voodoo “magic potion” about to be sprinkled everywhere….

      Back in 1982, Alan Menken wrote the score for this alt-Shakespeare comedy, the same year he wrote “Little Shop of Horrors.” This little gem was the last he produced under the mentorship of writers June Walker & David Rogers, and it bears many hallmarks of Menken’s famously foot-tapping style.

      Lovers of The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” will probably find themselves singing along to the show-closer (and stopper) “Pyramus Loves Thisbe/Thisbe Loves Pyramus” – and chuckling too loudly to catch all of the Rogers’ clever lines, which include gems like “Oh hated, sticky Hermia” and “Is it Heaven, or is it Helena?” Mostly of course comedy is about timing, and Thursday’s opening night clicked right along with genuine belly laughs throughout.

      Christopher Showerman in foreground. Rear Momo Wu-Inouye (L.), Aidan O'Connor, and Julianna Guzman(Photo - John Dlugoleck).

      Christopher Showerman in foreground. Rear Momo Wu-Inouye (L.), Aidan O’Connor, and Julianna Guzman(Photo – John Dlugoleck).

      Younger players (many 17 and under) from the AKT Advanced Repertory, mixed with SMP vets and adult pros, brought the high energy needed for a farcical musical comedy. Indeed they often provided the biggest laughs.

      Bottom’s Bellboys (the players-within-a-play) show us just how comically upset a young man (Julian Moser as Flute) can appear (and sound) when cast as a woman (Thisbe); how riotous a Wall can be when two lovers try to kiss through it (Patrick Geringer as Snout); and how patently unferocious (but charming) an 11 year-old lion’s roar is (Kevin Ying as Snug).

      Equally hilarious were confused lovers Demetrius (Fionn James) and Lysander (Daniel Betts), who stage a slow-motion, silent fist fight, choreographed to a Chaplin-esque tee by Amy Sara Lim. The woman they’re fighting over, Helena (Anna Cohen) is busy singing one of several great songs, telling off Hermia (Lucy Ferrante), but the four’s slapstick moves win the audience. This isn’t to discount some genuinely lovely singing, notably Betts’s opening ballad and the “Jazz Lullaby,” voiced by Tatiana’s young fairy trio, the Fly-By-Nights (Julianna Guzman-Ferreira, Kiyomi Wu-Inouye, and Aidan O’Conner).

      Director Alison Kalmus introduced the show by lauding the adult performers, who by default have been mentors and teachers through the show. Even more admirable is the lack of their behaving like anything but fellow Thespians onstage. Thomas Colby takes the deliciously antic part of Bottom to its most antic edge. Rich Cassone lectures as the intellectually challenged Quince but flashes into deadpan straight man on a dime. Thomas Colby’s cab driver from Queens-style Puck scampers for laughs when most effective – and none of them play down to the younger actors.

      Rachel McLaughlin even got a chance to model how “the show goes on” when her Tatiana rainbow tresses took a dive, right as she was doing the same into the arms of Christopher Showerman’s glam rocker Oberon. Both pros kept on rocking, McLaughlin with one hand on her head, with an even bigger applause on her exit.

      Momo Wu-Inouye (L.), Aidan O'Connor, and Julianna Guzman at Sierra Madre Playhouse (Photo - John Dlugoleck).

      Momo Wu-Inouye (L.), Aidan O’Connor, and Julianna Guzman at Sierra Madre Playhouse (Photo – John Dlugoleck).

      It’s a small venue, so the fact that most of the younger voices aren’t yet trained to carry as strongly as the adults’ didn’t mar the performance. Music Director Kevin Mathie did sometimes have to adjust tempo to get a new player back on track. But sitting as I did next to two young women who were there to see their friends, and as a result, enjoyed their first interaction with a Shakespearean classic, I can see that Kalmus’s vision of young voices joining the community chorus really does come true with this series.

      All the players and crew deserve high marks for making this somehow-forgotten, goofy night of fun come back to life. Producer Amanda Rogers, daughter of the original writers, can be proud that the show did exactly what it was supposed to – make us laugh.

      Sierra Madre Playhouse’s Second Stage production of “The Dream on Royal Street” takes over the mainstage on Thursday & Sunday nights and Saturday afternoons for just two weekends.

      The Dream on Royal Street
      • Music by Alan Menken.
      • Book by June Walker Rogers.
      • Lyrics by David Rogers.
      • Directed by Alison Kalmus.
      • Musical director: Kevin Mathie.
      • Choreography by Amy Sara Lim.
      • Produced by Sierra Madre Playhouse and Alison Kalmus Theatre.
      Sierra Madre Playhouse
      87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024.
      There is ample free parking behind the Playhouse.

      • August 3 – August 13, 2017. Thursdays at 8:00, Saturdays at 2:30 and Sundays at 7:00.
      • General Admission: $15. Youth (under 18), $12.
      • Buy tickets here.

      > Check SMP online schedule for upcoming, free Monday evening play readings, starting Aug. 28 with “Allison’s House” by Susan Glaspell, Pulitzer Prize winner for 1931.

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      1. Alison Eliel Kalmus says:

        Thank you Melanie for understanding the premise of this production and your support of Youth Arts Education

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