Review - Infernal Bridegroom Productions' "Soap Opera", Nov. 15, 2002, Houston, TX
Date: November 20, 2002 6:12 PM
From: Rob Peirson
Subject: Review of A Soap Opera - Houston
Internal Bridegroom Productions (IBP) presentation of A Soap Opera by Ray Davies and the Kinks playing at the Axiom in Houston, Texas is truly gratifying. Intrigued by seeing A Soap Opera presented live, I traveled out from California to catch the November 15th Friday night show. The energy of the show, the warmness of the cast and crew and the prospect of catching the Saturday night late show prompted me to change my flights to stay another night. They did not disappoint!
This is the first live production of A Soap Opera by someone other than its creators, the Kinks. Director Jason Nodler has taken great care to be faithful to the Kinks theatrical production. For those who have only heard the album, the material is enhanced with dialogue which better develops the characters and provides some of the lighter moments.
To properly convey the essence of Ray Davies’ vision this musical production had to be crisp, powerful and decisive. Musical Director, Anthony Barilla and the very talented IBP Orchestra, succeeds beyond belief. You could feel Ray’s brother Dave guitar riffs spiritually present along with the full theatrical sound.
Cary Winscott plays the Starmaker/Norman with confidence, truly getting into character as he projects the material that ranges from rock to ballads. Girl Friday, Tamarie Cooper does an excellent job of portraying Norman’s wife Andrea. She was so convincing in her role that the audience was on her side as she volleyed with Cary’s Norman. They are complemented with four backup female singers that at times tempt to steal the show with their lively, well choreographed interactive routines. Rounding out the cast were three male players that sang and acted throughout the show.
The show begins with emcee Steven Barnett (who makes introductions during the transition points) setting the stage and preparing the audience for the world of the Starmaker and Norman. Then in comes the Starmaker and the band brakes into “Everybody’s a Star”. Then as the Star becomes Norman the show moves on to “Ordinary People” where Andrea becomes aware of the new arrangement. They finish by going to bed (in a special vertical audience friendly bed).
One nice element of the show is as the acts move from song to song, the billboard signage changes, reflecting the new theme. I found myself looking forward to the next sign and it colorful artwork and messages.
The crisp pace continues with “Rush Hour Blues” where the backup singers do their costume change right on stage without missing a beat. “Nine to Five” creates Norman’s drab work world in agonizing detail leading nicely to a festive “When Work is Over” where the office workers lighten up a bit.
During “Have Another Drink” the staff runs around selling $2 beers so that the audience can partake in the stage on-goings. The show moves to a nice rendition of “Underneath the Neon Sign” followed by a bouncy “Holiday Romance” where Norman sees romance in the street walkers while the bums watch along.
My favorite song and scene was “You Make It All Worthwhile”. During the Saturday late night show, the crowd barked out encouragement to Andrea as she dealt with the crisscrossed Norman leading to his eruption and disdain for the “Ducks on the Wall”.
Finally, Andrea takes Norman’s rock star cape away and gets him to realize who he is, just Norman, “(A) Face in the Crowd”.
But then the story is not over, Norman, or should I say the Starmaker, has a new cape and pounds out “You Can’t Stop the Music” while inviting the audience to join in the dancing and chaos on stage.
I am glad that Sony allowed this production to go on. Ray, if you could see this production, you would be proud. Hopefully IBP will reprise this production in the future or maybe tackle another one of Ray Davies’ productions such as Arthur, Return to Waterloo or even the ambitious Preservation Acts.
Check out the web site for future productions: www.infernalbridegroom.com