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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 9 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 19
Nice room - OK view
Arts & Entertainment
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Nice room - OK view

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

A ROOM WITH A VIEW
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through May 11

Once again the 5th Avenue Theatre ambitiously presents the debut of a brand new musical. Based on the classic novel by E.M. Forster, A Room with a View comes to life on the stage bringing with it an attractive musical edge. While the story makes an audience wonder why this adaptation hasn't been tried before, it is obvious - despite valiant effort - that it is a behemoth undertaking and not one that will be easily tamed.

The story is set in Florence, Italy and Surrey, England in the Spring and Summer of 1908 and revolves around Lucy, a proper English woman who is coming to Italy to visit her stuffy-shirt, old world fiancé, Cecil. Despite her Aunt Charlotte Bartlett's nudging for a financially satisfactorily marriage, and under the prudent eye of the Reverend Mr. Beeber, Lucy meets George Emerson, a shy young man traveling with his ill father. The two find an immediate attraction and share a kiss in the rain. Railing against their feelings, Lucy runs away, hiding in the restraints of Victorian properness. The experience has the opposite effect on George, causing him to shatter out of his shell and awaken to the joys life has to offer. Through a series of coincidental meetings the star-crossed sweethearts realize there is nothing to do but give into the powers of destiny and love.

The cast is very good and all have excellent voices. Laura Griffith is perfect as the ingénue Lucy Honeychurch. She envelops the young woman on the edge of losing her innocent outlook of life, and the pangs of wanting to enjoy life's passions. Her voice is strong and clear with a beautiful edge, and she brings a presence to this character. Louis Hobson is George Emerson, the young man starting off shy and falling for Lucy's charms. His transformation from introvert to extrovert is presented very well. When the two [Lucy and George] sing their duet, 'Let it Rain,' as Act One's finale, the two voices blend beautifully, encouraging one another without trying to overpower. Patti Cohenour as Charlotte Bartlett is wonderful as the protective aunt not wanting to fail in her duty as guardian to her niece. Suzy Hunt as Miss Lavish, a 'live-for-the-moment' author, adds comical behavior and a strong presence to her character on the stage.

The stage adaptation is written and conceived by Marc Acito. The dialogue seems natural, but the first act is definitely too long. The language is right and captures the early part of the 20th Century very well. The music and lyrics are by Jeffrey Stock (composer for the Tony nominated Triumph of Love) and he has taken on a large project with this show.

The music is very sweeping and reminiscent of earlier times and the lyrics are strong in several songs. Unfortunately, a couple of the songs seem reminiscent in theme to others, like Sondheim's A Little Night Music or Adam Guetell's Light in the Piazza, where it was done better on both accounts. Many of the songs are attractive, but nothing caught the ear until Act One's finale of 'Let it Rain.' This song slowly builds until it thunders and the audience feels its full strength. It promotes the two characters on stage, thrusting them into the kind of finale an audience wants from a first act's ending.

The second act has its hit song with 'Splash.' This song is catchy. The three men singing it do it well, and it leaves the audience with something to tap its toe. The scene works because the song is well written and the actors performing it are having fun with it. The jovial time they share is infectious as they splash in the water, playing around. The success of this scene is irrelevant to the much-touted nudity associated with it.

Yes. There is male nudity in the show. Most of Seattle knows this, as it is the primary buzz that is being spoken about in advance. Nudity is nothing but a variation of theme with two choices, and it's amazing when such a commotion is made about it. Whenever a show's nudity is the sole-thing mentioned about a production, it always seems like a sleight-of-hand to distract the audience from something that is missing. It's difficult to say if this is the case with A Room with a View since the show is still very much a morphing entity work-in-progress. It is very easy to say that a quick flash of a man's ass-cheek (or three men's ass-cheeks) will turn an audience of adults into a gaggle of giggling, gasping twelve-year-olds. If this is the reason you're going to the theater - stay home; as another musical says, 'the Internet is for porn.'

A Room with a View is a good presentation with a few flaws. But this is what workshopping a new musical is all about. The script shows promise and the songs need polish, but they are definitely on the right track. A little more work and the view from the room may just be of Broadway and 42nd Street.

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Nice room - OK view
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