Review: BARE (Stage Door Fine Arts at Stage 773)

Wobbly cast exudes energy and potential


 Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

Stage Door Fine Arts presents
Book/Lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr.
Book/Music by
Damon Intrabartolo
Directed by
Paula Taylor and Don Smith
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont  (map)
through August 8  |  tickets: $20  |  more info

reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Bare, formerly known as “Bare: A Pop Opera, is a teen rock musical by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, with lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. The show debuted in October 2000 at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, where it quickly developed a cult following. As Playbill put it, “fans….cheered [Bare] as being an heir to Rent in style and passion.”

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 The only connection to Rent seen in this show, however, is through its stage design. A minimal set with two spiral staircases connecting scaffolding and two sets of lockers, the stage is reminiscent of Rent’s bare bones, warehouse feel. The set is kept dark in all black paint, allowing for audience imagination.

Stage Door Fine Arts’ production of Bare at Stage 773 (formerly known as Theatre Building Chicago) proved problematic from the start. The show started late and was plagued by technical difficulties. Even after a sound check, there were evident problems with the sound equipment. A balance was never really struck between the actors’ voices and their microphones, so for the majority of the show it was near impossible to hear, and therefore understand, what the actors were saying or singing. The microphones also added a tinny quality to their projections, altering the actor’s voices and ultimately hurting their performances.

Bare follows the students of St. Cecelia’s Catholic boarding school as they enter into their senior year. The two main characters, roommates Jason (Sean Doherty) and Peter (Anthony Avino) are harboring a secret that goes against everything they know: they are in a relationship. Problems arise when Peter wants to take their relationship out of the closet and Jason is firmly against that happening.

Avino’s Peter appears nervous in the beginning and slightly unsure of himself. Eventually he calms down, but strains to get through many of his songs. The range of the part seems a little too large and when he goes too low or up into his falsetto, his voice becomes shaky. His middle voice proves to be a strong tenor and in this range he hits some really strong notes.

Doherty is more believable in his characterization of Jason, having a greater grasp on understanding his character. However, he is stiff in his performance and often seems unsure of what to do with his hands aside from leave them hanging. His redeeming quality is his outstanding singing voice.

The students of St. Cecelia are all auditioning for the spring production of Romeo and Juliet. Peter is cast as Mercutio, Jason as Romeo, Jason and Peter’s friend Ivy (Madison Moran) as Juliet and Jason’s twin sister Nadia (Nellie Conboy) as Juliet’s nurse.


Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

For all this show’s problems, there were certainly points of merit and potential for what Bare could be. Conboy offers a wonderfully bitter and hilarious portrayal of a teenage girl facing the fact that she’s the odd ball in school. She delivers entertaining, punchy numbers like “Plain Jane Fat Ass” and “Spring” with a clear sense of who her character is, and this allows her to genuinely connect with the audience.

Another standout performance is that of Claire (Anne Pallotti), Peter’s mom. She’s quick and clever, delivering a heartfelt performance of a woman coming to terms with her son’s newfound sexuality. In “Warning,” she delivers an honest look at herself, her son and her life, letting down her walls to let the audience in.

After auditions, the cast throws a surprise birthday party for Ivy. Ivy wants Jason, and she makes this known at birthday party. From that point on she makes it her mission to pursue Jason until she wins him over. Madison Moran’s Ivy feels forced until almost the very end of the show. Moran comes across as an actor playing a part, and she’d benefit from a deeper comprehension of her character to really flesh it out. Not until she serves up the emotionally-driven, belted-out “All Grown Up” does the audience finally catch a glimpse of the real Ivy, and while it’s a welcome change of pace, it would be much more convincing having this authenticity throughout.

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 Act II proves to be more solid, with increased audience connection bridging the fourth wall. We see Peter and Jason continue to struggle with their relationship in terms of each other, in terms of their religion and in terms of facing the world. Added to that is Ivy and the problems she and Jason have created together. And overall the performances become slightly more realistic, and the sense of watching a play fades back.

When learning of this musical, I was intrigued, and my interest might have been piqued save for the numerous problems the cast faced. As a whole, Bare is missing the kind of guidance needed to improve matters, as actors seem unsure of what to do with themselves, their arms as stiff as their bodies. The requisite enunciation and diction never fully comes to fruition, resulting in jumbled lyrics that are hard to understand, leaving the audience confused as to what’s exactly occurring on stage. The cast is mainly comprised of high school students or recent graduates. Unfortunately their age and lack of professional experience is apparent – muddled choreography and underdeveloped characters make Bare feel more like community theatre than the quality professional theatre Chicago audiences have come to expect. This ensemble is teeming with potential and enthusiasm; I look forward to seeing these actors excel on the city’s many stages in the years to come.


Rating: ★★

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

Bare is playing at Stage 773, 1225 Belmont Ave., August 5 and 6 at 7:30 pm. and August 7 and 8 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm.  Tickets are $20, and all are general admission.




BARE cast:


Peter: Anthony Avino

Jason: Sean Doherty

Ivy: Madison Moran+, Claire Pinas^

Nadia: Nellie Conboy+, Amee Marik^

Matt: Dan Cassin+, Denzel Tsopnang^

Lucas: Anthony Norman

Tanya: Alexis Garwood

Kyra: Mackenzie Meeks

Diane: Alyssa Frewen

Rory: Olivia Leone

Zach: Mark Langhamer

Claire: Anne Pallotti

Sister Chantelle: Delores LeBron

Priest: Andy Bero

Ensemble: Dan Cassin, Nellie Conboy, Uma Ghelani, Amee Marik, Madison Moran, Claire Pinas, Ava Raddatz, Denzel Tsopnang, Francoise Widmaier

+Performs August 5 at 7:30 pm and August 7 and 8 at 2:00 pm

^Performs 6 and 7 at 7:30 pm and August 8 at 2:00 pm

24 Responses

  1. This group of young actresses and actors have shown they can take on this production with dedication and enthusiasm.
    They were fighting technical difficulties which did effect the overall performances. Having seen their production again on Sunday (without the technical difficulties and opening night set backs) I went away with a feeling that ” this a show that should be seen” .

    • Hey there. I’m so glad to hear that the technical difficulties have been cleared up, especially because this can be very disconcerting to the actors. I might try to catch the show as well as I don’t know the score, and would love to hear the songs and what makes the show have such a cult following. You definitely should spread the word of the show.

      Thanks for reading!


      Scotty Zacher, editor Chicago Theater Blog

  2. Scotty
    Thank you for your appreciation for their situation. I left the show on Sunday feeling that everyone who sat through Friday’s performance should see it again.
    I hope you can make it. I beleive this group is worth it.
    Have a great week

  3. Thanks so much the comments and I’m also glad to hear that the technical difficulties were resolved. I do believe that these kids have potential and that the show should be scene. This review is just my oponion but I encourage everyone to see Bare and form their own opnions.

    • Thanks so much for the comments!!
      Allegra, I have a quick question. I can’t seem to reach you any other way, so I figured I’d leave you a comment. (you should update the contact me section of your blog!) I’m almost positive I played Nadia the night that you saw the show, because you have my castmate listed (Madison Moran). I’d love to use your article as a reference if it is referring to me. Thank you for the kind words by the way!

      • Hi Nelly,

        Is the show double cast? I saw the show on Saturday night and went off of what my program told me. Perhaps I mixed up the names and will of course double check.

  4. Haha sorry I accidentally sent the comment!!
    But thank you for the truthful review, we appreciate the criticism!!
    Thanks again,

    • Hi Nellie,

      You are correct and I looked at the wrong name while writing my review. I apologize for this oversight and it will be corrected. You were really fabulous in the show so keep up the good work!

  5. Since the show is double cast, why don’t you come back to see the other cast as well. It will give you a chance to see the changes that have been made technically as well!!

    • Thanks for you comment and that is a good idea. If I can make it, I think it would be interesting to see the other cast as well.

      • Aug. 6,7, 8 at 7:30 pm are the performances for the other cast. Thanks for considering it!

  6. I saw the show on Sunday and throughly enjoyed it. I had seen it done by Balliwick several years ago and thought this production was much stronger. It seemed that a lot of the technical difficulties were worked out as well because the sound seemed pretty well balanced.

    I think some of the comments here in the review on certain actors come from the way the show is written. It is a great musical but some of the character development doesn’t truly shine through until act 2 and makes act 1 seem more disjointed!

    I would definitely check this show out if you have the chance this weekend! It would be worth your time! It is exciting to see these roles actually played by talented high school students rather than adults playing teens like past productions!

  7. I saw the show and agree with what D. Stevens says completely. I took a look at my program and relized the names are still wrong. Nellie Conboy (nadia) and Madison Moran (Ivy) performed on Saturday night as said roles. Currently you have the two nadias as both Nadia and ivy. I’m sure they’d appreciate the change… But otherwise truthful review!

  8. Of course and I am working on having all the correct names. Thanks for all the comments- the feedback is great and I love hearing what others are thinking.

    • The word is getting out that this show is one to see. This group of young adults deserve to be seen. They are some of the best High School talent from the Chicago area.
      Please come see this show and you will not be dissapointed.

  9. I’ve seen the show twice and wil again! THIS IS A SHOW YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS! The young adults cast in both the leads and ensemble are all exceptional and deserve every standing ovation they have received at every show. Their acting is superb and their angelic voices will lift your spirits and make you cry. These young people are very talented and highly trained for their young ages. Their hard work and dedication show. Come be your own critic and see this amazing show that will stick with you long after you leave the theatre. BRAVA! BRAVO! Congratulations to an outstanding cast (and the music is hauntingly beautiful too!)

  10. I saw Bare on Friday, and although the sound was not working properly, the show was amazing. I was literally blown away by the talent this young group exudes! Madison Moran, particularly, didn’t even need to wear the microphone! Her voice is amazing and her absorption of the character’s inner-drama was marvelous! I recommended this show to all of my friends and would love to see it again!

  11. […] Chicago Theatre Blog – A very interesting 2-star review of the pop musical, Bare. […]

    • Congratulations to Stage Door Fine Arts. In their first year they have produced six shows utilizing some of the best young talent in the area. They have help developed these young men and women to a level that has allowed them to tackle a show of this caliber. Well done SDFA!

  12. Stage Door Fine Arts production of BARE just closed. This group of talented young actors can be very proud of the work they did on this production! The voices were beautiful and strong and characters believable.
    Thank you for bringing this wonderful piece to the stage. We enjoyed every moment of it.

    • Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of BARE. Your heartfelt performances touch the audience.
      “You have touched their Soul”

  13. little women movie is a good movie.

    The great director

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