Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Triumph of Love

Playwright:  Pierre de Marivaux (adaptation of Le Triomphe de l'Amour, 1732)
Book by:  James Magruder
Music by:  Jeffrey Stock
Lyrics by:  Susan Birkenhead
Venue:  Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant Avenue, Louisville, CO
Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Saturday, August 10, 2013

The original production of TheTriumph of Love (in 1732) was not well received by critics, who felt it was inappropriate for a princess to seduce three people of both sexes.  It closed after only six performances.  Times have changed greatly in the last 281 years.  
Center Stage's production of The Triumph of Love will pack the house for each of its performances, not because of the scandalous antics of Princess Leonide, but because of the marvelous performances by its young cast.  Translated and updated with music in 1997 for Broadway, the Center Stage version is an entertaining and engaging evening of theater.
Marivaux's original script was in the commedia dell'arte style, with exaggerated stock characters who often mocked the ruling class.  Those stylized characters still have the charm they had 1732.
Adapting a classic play for the Broadway stage often includes, as here, turning it into a musical.  The results can betray the playwright's original work for the sake of ticket sales.  The music in The Triumph of Love, however, is consistent with the original message, and at times, it's a toe tapping enhancement to that message.  This Center Stage production takes full advantage of the script, the music, and the array of talent at its disposal.
The closing number of the first act amply demonstrates the level of musical talent on the stage.  Teach Me Not to Love You features the entire company in complete harmony, singing together as one.  The effect is a marvelous musical climax to close the curtain on the first act.
The second act, however, is where you will find an abundance of musical highlights.  In fact, each and every piece in the second act is a musical gem.
Have a Little Faith gives Corine (Sierra Pilkington) a chance to display her musical chops with dramatic flair.  She nails it, setting the tone for a strong second act.
Pilkington joins Dimas (Matt O'Connor) and Harlequin (Michelle Herring) for a show stopping Henchmen Are Forgotten, complete with a brief reprise to enthusiastic applause.  Henchmen is a superb number done with punch and humor; it is THE musical highlight of the entire show.
The ballad Love Won't Take No For An Answer immediately follows Henchmen, blending the marvelous voices of Hermocrates (Matthew Good), Hesione (Ellen Thompson), and Agis (J. Tanner Kaler).  The three actors put on a voice workshop with Love Won't Take No For An Answer.  It's that good.
The cast of Triumph of Love, Center Stage productions.
With so much talent on the stage, it's very difficult to single anyone out.  However, Matt O'Connor (front row, left, in above photo) as Dimas deserves special mention.  Between his strong voice, his marvelous gestures and facial expressions, and his complete embrace of the gardener Dimas, O'Connor was on fire.  
I can't neglect to mention the costumes for The Triumph of Love.  They are spectacular.  I cannot remember ever seeing so much silk on stage.  Jeanie Balch and Brooke Hicks brought the early 1700s alive with the period look for each and every actor. 
Director Jeanie Balch had a special challenge at this performance.  Christopher Turner, the actor scheduled to play Harlequin, was ill and unable to perform.  There was no understudy for Harlequin, but in the best "the show must go on" tradition, Balch drafted Michelle Herring for the role.  Herring's normal role is Princess Leonide; she never played Harlequin before this performance.
Herring had to carry a script onstage to read her lines.  Instead of the script being a distraction, it added to the clown nature of her role.  Herring depended on her fellow actors for blocking and script cues, and they did not let her down.  She pulled off a difficult role on short notice and saved the performance.  I have seen a touring Broadway performance collapse when something unexpected occurred.  Herring, Balch, and the Center Stage company used the unexpected to enhance their performance, and for that they get my respect and recommendation.
My only quibble here is related to the script; the first act is too long, the exposition a little too complex.  That, of course, is no reflection on the production; the script must be used as written.  
If you are looking for good value for your entertainment dollar, see The Triumph of Love.  It's fun.  It's engaging.  It's very entertaining.  You will get double your money's worth. 
Center Stage Productions produces plays in the Boulder area using young local talent:  
"Centre Stage Theatre Company is the theatre place for Boulder and Louisville's kids, youth, and emerging artists. CSTC is dedicated to extending quality theatre to the Colorado community especially in Boulder County."  
The Triumph of Love cast is composed of college age veterans of the Center Stage emerging artists program.
This show closes on August 11, 2013.  I usually review shows early in the run, in the hopes of advising theater goers where their entertainment dollar might best be spent.  For a variety of reasons, I was unable to review Triumph of Love early in its run.  Apologies to those who might have purchased tickets after reading this review.  
Pre-show dining suggestions:  The Louisville Rex for burgers and sandwiches in an old movie house, or Lulu's Barbecue for, well, barbecue.

This show closes on August 11, 2013.  

Director, Set Design & Costume Design:  Jeanie Balch
Musical Direction:  Katie McClave
Set Design, Lighting Design & Technical Director:  Andrew Metzroth 
Keyboards:  Daniel Graeber
Choreographer:  Jeff Williams
Costume Assistant:  Brooke Hicks
Sound Design:  Nathan Lawrence and J. Tanner Kaler

Princess Leonide:  Eve Olson
Hesione:  Ellen Thompson
Agis (the true Prince of Sparta):  J. Tanner Kaler
Harlequin:  Michelle Herring (standing in for Christopher Turner)
Dimas:  Matt O'Connor
Hermocrates:  Matthew Good
Corine:  Sierra Pilkington

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