Review by Carol Montana
ELLENVILLE, NY (August 13, 2012) – There’s nothing like a feel-good rock musical to pull you out of the summer doldrums. And that’s exactly what Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville is presenting now through September 9.
“Shout! The Mod Musical,” created by Phillip George and David Lowenstein, is chock full of 31 sensational songs by mostly British (and mostly female) performers of the 1960s, from Petula Clark to Lulu, and from Shirley Bassey to Dusty Springfield, Helen Reddy, Nancy Sinatra, Mary Hopkin and more.
The performers are identified by the color they wear: The Blue Girl is performed by Traci Bair, The Yellow Girl is Nikke Van Cassele, The Orange Girl is Dianna Bush, The Green Girl is Andrea Bianchi, and The Red Girl is Melissa Powell.
Each “girl” has a distinctive personality, which is described to us in a voiceover: the Red Girl is young and perky, and also a bit clumsy and insecure, the Yellow Girl (the only American) has a massive crush on Paul McCartney, the Orange Girl is the eldest, and married to a husband she suspects of cheating, the Blue Girl is beautiful and well-off, but not quite sure which way her pendulum swings, and the Green Girl is, well, she’s the resident slut.
As the girls become aware of their dawning liberation – it is the 1960s, after all – the songs they sing punctuate their current situations, which usually involve relationships of one kind or another. At some point in the show, each girl sends letters to Gwendolyn Holmes, an advice columnist for “Shout Magazine.” Gwendolyn’s voiceover is done (hysterically) by Andrea Bianchi.
Also, there are interesting, sometimes pointed and deliciously insulting “commercials,” that are voiced by Ray Faiola, who also shares the often offensive “characteristics” of each girl at the opening and throughout the show.
Little vignettes reminiscent of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” occasionally bridge the songs. Music/dance, stop, girl tells corny joke, audience laughs, and repeat along with dance moves from “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo.” And then there’s the fall-off-your-chair-laughing scene where the girls smoke marijuana for the first time. It’s all delightfully silly and engaging, complete with mini-skirts and go-go boots
Corny jokes aside, this show is all about the music, and the girls deliver with dynamic voices, irresistible songs, audience interaction, and outstanding ensemble work.
Standout songs include Andrea Bianchi’s renditions of Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” and the searing “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” Melissa Powell’s dynamic and poignant version of Lulu’s “To Sir With Love,” Nikki Van Cassele’s gospel-like interpretation of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” Dianna Bush’s powerfully strong performance of Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (WOW!!) and Traci Bair’s explosive and mind-blowing execution of Cilla Black and Helen Reddy’s “You’re My World,” (OMG awesome!!!).
The ensemble performance of Welsh folk singer Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days” got the audience clapping and the lightning-fast costume change along with the rousing encore earned the cast and musicians a well-deserved standing ovation.
The singers were backed by a talented three-piece band which keeps the energy flowing, even punctuating the jokes with chords and glissandos. Two keyboards were played by Steve Greenfield and Musical Director Phillip Hale (who will be replaced by Janet Salt for the remainder of the run), and Dennis Bisoglio performed percussion. The only musical drawback is that the band occasionally overpowers the solo singer.
Brittany Vasta’s set design is as dynamic as the performances with a multi-color faux brick wall, multi-levels, and a blue and white radiating floor. And Eleanor Wolfe’s costumes are superbly colorful and oh, so 60s!!
Bravo to the entire cast and crew, and to director Michael LaFleur on mounting a kaleidoscopic vision of the swinging and unforgettable music that so many of us grew up with. It’s colorful and groovy, and it makes you want to jump up and “Shout” and sing along with the music of our lives.
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.: $30, and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.: $25. There is a $2 Senior and Student Discount.
For all Friday performances for the remainder of the run, you can take advantage of Shadowland’s “Pay What You Can” program. Contact the box office for more information.
For tickets and more information, contact the box office at: 845-647-5511 or visit http://www.shadowlandtheatre.org.