Review: Cubicle! An Office Space Musical (New Millennium)

  
  

A contemporary classic becomes a mangled musical

 
 

New Millennium Theatre presents "Cubicle! An Office Space Musical"

    
New Millennium Theatre presents
   
   
Cubicle! An Office Space Musical
   
  
Adapted by Ian McPhaden and Steven D. Attanasie Jr.
Original music by Megan Piccochi
Directed by Laura Coleman & Sean Harklerode
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
through June 4  |  tickets: $17-$20  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

The musical theatre landscape of today is riddled with the picked over remains of derivative ideas. It’s not that the genre doesn’t have the ability to be new and fresh (see The Book of Mormon or Next to Normal). It’s just that it’s perceived to be easier and less risky to take a previously successful work, abridge it and insert some songs to fill the gaps. The problem is that this method results in such monstrosities as Spiderman Turn Off the Dark.

New Millennium Theatre presents "Cubicle! An Office Space Musical"In 2005, New Millennium Theatre Company took this formula and applied it to the movie “Office Space”, the hilarious 1999 Mike Judge comedy about the ironies of office life. The company has revived its musical—christened Cubicle! An Office Space Musical. Although I can’t speak for the original production, the current production is a play that only a true hardcore fan of the movie could love. And even then, this might be pushing it. For though the script is a very close adaptation of the movie, the caliber of talent is lacking. This is a musical sung by non-singers who do not have the luxury of proper technical tools to lift their voices above the muffling canned score.

The play is about everyman Peter (Joseph H. White), a white-collar cubicle dweller who can’t stand the rat race. His office features all the common annoyances of contemporary work life, from a confusing hierarchy of middle managers to unexpected weekend workdays. After a hypnotherapy session goes awry, Peter is awoken to life’s zest and decides to seize the day by becoming an utter and complete slacker. Fortuitously, this attitude ends up benefiting him in his work life.

Other plot elements include Peter’s love interest Rachel (Kelly Parker), a disgruntled waitress at a TGI Friday’s style restaurant; Peter’s friends Michael Bolton (Michael James Graf) and Samir (Rafael Torres), who help him execute a plan to embezzle thousands of dollars from the company; and Milton (Guy Schingoethe), the meek and mentally unstable employee who threatens to burn the building to the ground if he doesn’t get his red stapler back.

New Millennium is working with a solid script. The adaptation, penned by Ian McPhaden and Steven D. Attanasie Jr., rips much of the movie’s famous dialogue word for word right down to the famous "O face" scene. You would think it’s too identical to the film to fail.

But it does fail. And it has everything to do with the musical part of this musical. The singing is just atrocious. Much of the songs are spoken with a singsong affect. And even the rap numbers, which don’t require a gift for melody, are executed with a disappointing lack of passion and commitment. The performers, whose vocal strength can be likened to a light breeze, lack microphones, which makes it all the more impossible to hear the lyrics over the pre-recorded tracks. Speaking of which, the music is also problematic. Musical director Megan Piccochi has created a cacophonous and rather uncatchy series of songs that fail to stick. Rather than rely on clear and straightforward instrumentation, she has spliced pre-existing songs with digital samples to create a tangle of audio.

There are two saving graces to this show. The number "Flair" is by far and away the musical’s best. Much of this can be credited to performer Adam Rosowicz, who gives a dynamic performance and sports a strong voice. The other high point is Schingoethe, whose portrayal of Milton is captivating. His powerful pipes eclipse the majority of the cast.

If you’re a giant fan of “Office Space”, you may derive pleasure out of Cubicle! If you are a fan of musicals, prepare to be disappointed. And if you like to go to bed early, drink some coffee (the show runs from about 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.).

  
  
Rating: ★★
  
  

New Millennium Theatre presents "Cubicle! An Office Space Musical"

Cubicle! An Office Space Musical will run Friday and Saturday nights May 6th through June 4th at 11:00pm at Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont Ave.). Tickets are $20 at the door or $17 in advance. There will be a limited number of half price tickets available through goldstar.com and hottix. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 773-975-8150 or visit www.nmtchicago.org.

  
 

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REVIEW: The Scarecrow (Theatre-Hikes)

              
      

Nebulous ‘Scarecrow’ comes to life in historic location

 

 

Theatre-Hikes - The Scarecrow 2

   
Theatre-Hikes presents
   
The Scarecrow
   
Written by Percy Mackaye
Directed by
Frank Farrell
at the
Pullman Factory, 11057 S. Cottage Grove (map)
through November 14  |  tickets: $10-$15  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Theatre-Hikes takes a break from its normal outdoor theatre productions to bring the action (basically) indoors with Percy Mackaye’s The Scarecrow. Written in 1908, The Scarecrow is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop”, but expands the tale and is not to be taken as a dramatization of the short story.

The setting for The Scarecrow is an abandoned warehouse in the Pullman Historic District. It’s got a cool, loft vibe with a bit of creepiness for added natural effect. The set itself resembles an old blacksmith’s barn with tools and equipment scattered about, and straw covers the floor. The only downside to the warehouse usage is that there’s a distinct echo, so when the actors speak loudly or yell it’s difficult to understand them.

Theatre-Hikes - The Scarecrow 1Set in seventeenth century Massachusetts, The Scarecrow opens on Goody Rickby (Joni Arredia) working in the blacksmith shop, creating a scarecrow for her cornfields. Arredia initially seems too over-the-top with her performance but as she eases into her character she becomes interesting with a depth that’s clear. You can see that she’s developed a backstory for her character because the emotions come out in her eyes. As Goody Rickby works, she converses with Dickon (Drew Patrick) who is also the devil. Patrick is entertaining and clever in his characterization with an eerie quality that stays with him throughout the production.

Dickon has taught Goody Rickby witchcraft after she has an affair with the town’s justice and he abandons her, causing their child to die due to lack of medical care. Justice Gilead Merton’s niece, Rachel (Athanasia Sawicz) is fascinated by witchcraft and purchases a “mirror of truth” from Rickby. Sawicz offers a somewhat lackluster performance and it’s hard to decipher what her intentions are for her character. She’s rather meek for someone who’s the niece of a prominent town figure.

After Rachel leaves, Rickby and Dickon devise a plan of revenge against Justice Merton. Together, they bring the scarecrow to life to be Rickby’s son and woo Rachel away from her current betrothed, Richard Talbot (Chris Yearwood). The scarecrow, whom they’ve named Lord Ravensbane (Bill Zimmerman), comes to life much like Pinocchio does in the fairy tale, finding his legs and voice to pass as a real man. Zimmerman brings a touchingly naïve charm to Lord Ravensbane, with an adopted stutter and sweet demeanor. He’s eager to please and ready to do what he’s told.

Theatre-Hikes - The Scarecrow 3With Dickon as his tutor, Lord Ravensbane enters the Merton home with every intention, he is told, of winning Rachel for himself. Judge Merton (Marty Couch) plays the justice well enough but seems a bit nervous. The justice is unhappy with his new houseguests, but when Dickon reveals himself as the devil to Merton, Merton realizes he must comply. Rachel develops a crush on Lord Ravensbane and he feels the same way. He becomes enamored of her and she becomes torn between him and Talbot. Although she is supposed to be wrought with emotion, Sawicz doesn’t emit much emotion through her body language and it often feels more like she’s reciting lines she’s memorized rather than that she’s embodied fully the character of Rachel.

Dickon has Merton throw a party in Lord Ravensbane’s honor and at this party, Zimmerman’s Ravensbane proves to be both charismatic and regal, as if her were a real lord. Zimmerman delivers stunning monologues that play to the emotions of his character and the audience. Patrick’s Dickon makes intentional and superb character choices, both with his words and his actions. He is his character through and through.

The Scarecrow proves to be in interesting production with some ups and downs, but it does offer some truly wonderful performances.

    
 
Rating: ★★½   
   
   

The Scarecrow plays through November 14 at the historic Pullman Factory, 11057 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by emailing theatrehikes@gmail.com or call 773-293-1358.The Scarecrow - Theatre-Hikes

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REVIEW: Peter Pan (Theatre-Hikes)

 

A fun time for all in Never Never Land

 

 Peter and Hook Fight A

   
Theatre-Hikes presents
   
Peter Pan
   
Written by J.M Barrie
Directed by
Lavina Jadhwani
at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL  (map)
through August 29th  |  tickets: $8-$19  |  more info

reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Wandering through the paths of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, a boy suddenly emerges from behind the trees, crowing and dancing around with his shadow. A proper young girl sits with her brothers as they listen to their mother’s stories. Pirates run through the grass in search of the boy who can fly. Produced by Theatre-Hikes, this outdoor production of Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, the beloved children’s story by J.M. Barrie, takes the notion of Never Never Land to a new level.

The DarlingsPeter Pan opens on the Darling family. Mr. and Mrs. Darling are getting ready for a night out while the family dog, Nana takes care of the children, Wendy, Michael and John. After the children are fast asleep, Peter Pan enters their room to retrieve his lost shadow. Waking Wendy with his crying, she sews Peter’s shadow back on for him and in return he teaches the Darling children to fly.

The arboretum provides a stellar background for Peter Pan. After starting in the pavilion transformed into the Darling house, the audience literally travels with Peter past the second star to the right and straight on to Never Never Land. While walking from scene to scene, the audience becomes involved in the production, creating additional atmosphere and heightening the magic that’s occurring. All the arboretum’s a stage – a stage to be used at the actors’ disposal as Peter flits and flies around, the lost boys rally and Wendy puts them all to bed under the sky.

With such a huge performance space, the acting must really stand out, and for the most part it does. Peter Pan (Kaelan Strouse) is youthful, vibrant and full of energy. The moment Strouse enters, his child-like enthusiasm becomes infectious, connecting him to both his fellow actors and the audience. Although Strouse takes his acting a bit too over-the-top at times, he has a clear sense of character and knows exactly who Peter is.

Back in Never Never Land, Peter introduces Wendy to the lost boys and she becomes their honorary mother. Wendy (Allison Schaffer) is adorably naïve and Schaffer’s potrayal of a little girl trying to mother unruly little boys is quality work. She could take her characterization farther at a few points, but overall she’s strong in her conflict between missing her parents and leaving Peter. Kylie Edmonds stands out as Slightly, one of the lost boys. Her performance feels genuine and it’s clear she has put in the effort to figure out her character’s back story, allowing Edmonds to step out at a higher level than the rest of the group. The cast is rounded out by Ellenkate Finley as Tootles and Anne Sears as Curly.

Lost Boys, Smee and Hook

It’s not all fun and games in Never Never Land with pirates prowling about. Captain Hook (Andrew Pond) is Peter Pan’s rival, and has made it his mission to capture and kill the boy. Pond’s portrayal of Hook is more jovial than it is menacing. And while this is children’s theatre and Hook can’t be overly scary, there’s not enough differentiation between his character as Hook and his character as Mr. Darling. (Traditionally, the same actor is cast in both roles). Because of this, Hook isn’t as believable as other characters. Pond does, however, have a way with a sword, and the fight choreography by Dwight Sora following Hook’s capture of Wendy and the lost boys is thrilling to watch.

Hook’s first mate Smee (Zach Bloomfield) successfully offers well-timed comic relief. Playing both the parts of Smee and Nana, Bloomfield hilariously delivers his lines (even the ones he barked) and keeps the tone light and the audience entertained.

For all that’s good about this show, the costuming by Sarah Haley lacks. The choices are understandable and suit the characters, but some garments look more like homemade Halloween costumes than costumes for a professional theatre production.

Overall, the actors do well against the many opposing elements created by an outdoor space. Fighting the rain and bugs, they adapt to a full pavilion staging, they speak up and enunciate against a strong breeze and they play off the smaller children in the audience who yell things out during the performance. Because there’s no backstage, Peter Pan becomes interactive at points, allowing the kids in the audience to get a special experience by letting them speak and play with the actors during scene changes. Peter Pan is a fun show for people of any age with its lively energy that flows well, and the two to two-and-a-half hours of performance fly by as fast as Peter Pan himself. (FYI: Don’t forget your bug spray!)

 

  
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

The Morton Arboretum is located at 4100 Lincoln Ave., Lisle IL and Theatre Hikes begins at the Thornhill Center on the west side of the arboretum. Peter Pan runs Saturday and Sunday through August 29 at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $12 (arboretum members) or $19 (non-members) adults, and $8 (members) $13 (non-members) for children. Note: Sunday shows are low-impact hikes designed for strollers and/or wheelchairs, with the hike going less than one mile.  (FYI: Don’t forget your bug spray!)

Peter and Audience

 

 

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