A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream
The Troubies at half mast is still better than most of the fleet.
The Falcon Theatre launches the new Troubadour mash-up, A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream, combining Shakespeare's classic comedy of magical love swapping with one of the highest-grossing albums of the '70s. And though, as always, they provide cultured pandemonium with hilarious results, this latest venture lacks a bit of the troupe's usual spark that made Christmas West Side Story, Oedipus The King, Mama!, and many others must-sees.
Following the original text, lovers Hermia (Katherine Malak) and Lysander (Tyler King) hide in the woods to flee from her father's decree that she marry the slimy Demetrius (Joseph Leo Bwarie). Demetrius searches for his betrothed, with a lovesick plain-Jane Helena (Beth Kennedy) in tow. The woods are mystic, ruled by fairies Oberon (Matt Merchant) and Titania (Monica Schneider), and watched over by mischievous imp, Puck (director Matt Walker). The fairies play with the humans' emotions, putting affections into a figurative Cuisinart. The jealous Oberon playfully makes Puck turn a blowhard actor, Bottom (Rick Batalla), into a donkey as an embarrassing distraction to the horny queen Titania. The Elizabethan-era antics are sung to the disco beat of the Bee Gees and KC And The Sunshine Band including hits like "Boogie Shoes," "Night Fever," and "Staying Alive."
This Troubadour show highlights a vast talent pool. Casting himself as Puck is prescient for director Walker, since like the character, Walker is known for toying with his cast and audience. Batalla, who is an actor one wants on stage as much as possible, takes all Bottom's bombastic characteristics and manages to make them even larger than life, without ruining the joke. Kennedy remains the jewel in the Troubadour crown. She distorts her beauty and form continuously for hearty laughs. Malak masters pratfalls with the elegance of a young Carol Burnett.
Musically, however, the sound of the Bee Gees does not fit the group's musical strengths. Most of the high-range songs sound like a battle for performers to get a handle on the melodies. Usually The Troubies sound pitch-perfect and their musical tributes are as magnificent as their jokes. Here the songs sound as if the cast has had no vocal rehearsals. Ironically Bwarie starred in national tour of Jersey Boys as counter-tenor Frankie Valli. His range could have perfectly captured all those falsetto notes but he was not utilized enough in the songs.
The biggest issue with Midsummer is that unlike most of the Troubies classics, this Shakespeare tale is light and not really ripe for spoof. There is nothing compelling in which they could sink their teeth, so the show meanders. Molly Alavarez's choreography is first class, reminding audiences why America refuses to let disco die. The cast perfects her intricate moves. Some of the numbers are dazzling.
Sharon McGunigle's costumes for Oberon and Titania triumphantly capture the memorable gaudiness of Solid Gold dancers from the '70s variety show.
An audience can never go wrong choosing a night with the Troubies. They are guaranteed gut-busting chuckles and a hard-working cast. A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream feels more like a workshop production, not the first-class parody Falcon audiences expect from the gifted troupe.