Fourth show opens at Timber Lake Playhouse almost all too quickly following enormously successful “Evita.” The musical and its precious notes still swirl in our heads as if every vibrato, every vocal blend yearns for more. It is hard to let that one go.
Which brings to mind that this theatre in the woods should no longer be labeled a summer stock organization, but rather a professional organization with all the stars and glamour that come and go on its main stage. For this show, Will Taylor directs the fast pace, the whiplash effect, and everything about new and old gags. Taylor is a returning TLP presence after, “A Chorus Line,” “Oklahoma!” and “Guys and Dolls.” His New York credits bring more credibility to his sense of timing and choreography including “Chickens in the Yard,” and “Hopeless Romantic,” among others.
Switching gears from “Evita,” is “Scapino!” that mimics a traveling circus where the Locals, or usual TLP suspects tell the story. Even the set design by Natalie Santoro and lighting design by Riley Wood seem comic before the first laugh. This farcical extreme takes the cast to become actors/acrobats at every gag. The gags are on steroids and begin when they spill out of a set piece to the squeezes of accordion player Sam Columbus as Carlo on the roof.
Like distant cousins of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, or maybe Abbot and Costello, Kieran McCabe as Scapino and Grant Alexander Brown as Sylvestro open the scene with special hysteria of ladder mishaps including the damsel in distress tied to the railroad track. A series of WHACKS! and BONKS! follow as The Three Stooges-esque sketch is just the beginning. You know that every gag in the book is yet to come. But better this time!
Brown never strays far from daredevil stunts. Remember that he was the one who walked the stage ceiling and managed to sing while red-faced and upside down in “Mary Poppins.” He outdoes himself in this show with his own one-act dramatic tumble that engulfs the entire set with a smiling finish as if nothing happened.
As Scapino, McCabe stretches the limit of everything he’s every portrayed at TLP. He returns after “Titanic,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and “Rock of Ages,” but his best stage gift is improv as displayed in MCL Chicago’s “Gotcha Covered.” In “Scapino!” he runs away with anything at the moment, including thunder and rain above if it so happens. His acrobatic endeavor includes a quick climb up a tall pole. And, of course, the appropriate sound effect by squeeze boxer Carlo as he swoops back down.
By then, you’ve already suffered the whiplash effect of the energy produced onstage, offstage and during intermission – no rest for the weary.
During McCabe’s constant electricity is a faint thread of a story that involves Ottavio by Christopher Kelley, though no story needs analysis when there’s a well-timed marathon of giggles. Kelley extends his talents to include descending a stepladder wearing deep sea diver fins, though one might be lost in laughter during that particular detail. And forget the ultimate purpose of descending a stepladder in deep sea diver fins.
All resident company members seem to push the limits of their talents to the max in this show. Charles Mayhew Miller as Geronte has already proved his vocal ability in previous shows and now blooms everything else inside him. In this show he can put a snobbish nose in an air of superiority or slam his body into acrobatic splits – though there’s a predictable hazard of splitting his pants as well.
Marcus Martin, notable voice in previous shows, slips into the frumpy, grumpy Argante with all the croaks and wide-eyed facial expressions that go along with a character that changes by the second, sort of like the two faces that we used to play–smile up, frown down. He fills the stage not by size, but a charismatic spirit that draws the eye toward absurdity. Enrique Miguel as Leandro shines and blends well at the same time, far trickier than you might think, with his vocal and dance moves.
Elya Faye Bottiger as Giacinta plays a love interest of a sort, if one can focus on exactly what entails a love interest in this farce – remember the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks. Bottiger returns to TLP as a most versatile actress/singer/dancer. When she is still–not often here–her stance is most ballet-trained. When she sings, she is delightful. When she acts, she is a good bet for all-around pro.
And about singing, Samantha Bonzi as Nurse took the rafters by storm. Her interlude fit neatly between other shenanigans as if to slow the pace for just a moment to remind us of reality amid ridiculousness. Maybe we have forgotten reality at that juncture, but musical arrangements and direction by Andrew Milliken hit the mark. It marks Bonzi’s first time at TLP from Western Illinois University in her final year of musical theatre. She will hopefully return and share her lovely voice.
Molly Hernandez as Zerbinetta shares her versatility before the show, during the show, and all through the show. She and cast finish the epic with an array of instruments including a flute, several guitars, various rhythms and even a washboard. Actually, the show seems to have no finish because McCabe keeps up his curtain-to-curtain vigor as if there’s no tomorrow. But there is, so don’t miss this wild ride, “Scapino!” that opens tonight July13 and runs through July 22, including three 2 p.m. matinees. Evening shows at 7:30 p.m. (No show Monday July 17.) The boonies theatre is a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for tickets, group rates and more information. Don’t miss the cash bar before and during the show! Some adult themed language included in the show. ###