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The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon

Review of The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon

by Cara Rosson
Monday, September 27, 2010

The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon at ICC is very clever and quite funny, if not always perfectly audible. On Friday night, I saw this fast paced, comedic mash up of all 209 classic tales by the Brothers Grimm, and I mean “classic” as in original – I had no idea, before Friday that Cinderella was originally given her dress by a flock of birds. And she walked to the ball. And she didn’t lose her glass slipper but her golden shoe. Disney, apparently, revised the tales quite a bit for all those movies. That was actually one of the first gags to come from narrators Amanda Getz and Rick Jensen – Rick is not supposed to mention the “Mouse” under threat of a lawsuit. And if you’ve ever known anyone who’s worked for Disney, then you know that the company is terribly protective of their image and intellectual property.

But that’s another story. Getz and Jensen do a good job setting up the show and each tale for the audience, and a great job working the crowd. The whole cast (also including Tyler McIntyre, Jeremiah Peterson, and Emily Rusk) does a great job of playing to the audience, frequently speaking telling the stories directly to us, and throwing in current news items (Blagojevich gets a nod) and endless pop cultural references (Disney comes up a lot, despite that initial warning). In addition to playing a multitude of roles: Hansel and Gretel, the Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Snow White, no more than two dwarves at any time, the Devil, Rumplestiltskin, Little Red Cap (I said original), witches, evil stepmothers, one stupendously funny fish, birds, woodcutters, on and on – the rotation of characters is fast and furious and I really think managed to grab bits of every one of those 209 tales!
 
The show opens with a great deal of energy, with the cast dancing around the house, across the aisles, sitting on laps. The opening song was rather cheesy, bordering on bad 1970s game shows (though could that have been intentional?), but the rest of the sound, music and effects, were excellently timed and added a lot to the action. Thanks for that goes to Alan Walker.
The animated cast manages much of the tale telling with great physical comedy. I’m not sure how, but the Prince who comes to Rapunzel’s aid made riding a stick pony funnier than I thought it could be, if not rather suggestive. And it never occurred to me that Rapunzel might wince with pain when the Prince or the Witch climbed up her ladder made of hair. But boy, is it funny to watch her flinch and grimace with every step and rung!
 
The cast found several occasions to come out into the audience, for yet more laughs. One of the tales is told as if it were a game show, and an audience member is brought on stage to end up in a light saber battle with a cast member (I’m certain he was planted because it was a very well staged fight), but funny nonetheless.
 
Their version of “The Devil and His Grandmother” was turned into a combination sentimental Hallmark movie/road trip story, and “Little Red Cap,” better known as “Little Red Riding Hood,” morphed into a crazy, happy, rainbows and sunshine children’s show. These smart, witty and varied treatments for each of the old tales kept the show interesting and lively, and it certainly kept the attention of my 7 and 9 year old boys – no small task for two children used to fast paced television and video games. The cast and Director Robin Berkley deserve a lot of praise for such an accomplishment.
 
Watching Jeremiah Peterson perform both stepsisters, the Evil Stepmother, the flock of birds, the prince, and pretty much everyone but Cinderella in that story, was probably the best part of the evening. His physical stamina and timing was spot on, and I’ve seldom seen a two-sided shawl and wigs used to greater comic effect.
 
While I’m on the subject of costumes, which were well designed by Nikki Wheeler, that hysterically funny fish I mentioned before – it was all about his costume. Again, Jeremiah Peterson used the fins of the fish brilliantly – shivering and shaking the filmy fabric to express everything from fear to excitement to aggression. He also flapped the huge mouth open and closed for emphasis and big laughs. The costumes and props did a great deal to help tell the tales, with the cast layering and rotating shawls, wigs, robes, hats, feathers, swords, and numerous other items to help embody each new character or animal.
 
The set – a cast and crew project – is fun and sparkly and looks appropriately like something out of a child’s storybook. And serves the frenetic set of storytellers quite well – levels and ladders, spinning doors and buildings, and an unexpected Murphy bed – make for easy and fast transitions between the many, many tales the cast is out to tell.
 
Throughout the show, Getz and Jensen recap the stories they’ve told so far, and then at the end, the entire cast closes with a frenzied two minute recap of absolutely everything – which is a bit choppy, but catches it all, and puts a nice cap on the evening.
 
I mentioned before that the show was not always completely audible – and this is the main place where Director Berkley, and her creative and talented cast, stumbled. There was enough mumbling, falling volume, lack of enunciation, or lines lost upstage, to detract from the humor and action, that I found myself regularly frustrated trying to catch what was just said. In a show with such fast paced physical comedy and rapid storytelling, it is pretty important to be able to hear all the little jokes and references – but many of them got lost in what is probably amateur level vocal training by half the cast. This could have been easily solved with body mics, but they did not use them. I don’t know why, but maybe some local philanthropist can step up and donate a set of them to ICC’s theatre program? Just putting that out there.
 
Despite some failed gags and the intermittent problems I had hearing everything and everyone, this madcap Spectaculathon was really enjoyable – my boys and I laughed hard and long, and left the theatre giggling over several of the stunts and jokes, including the wacky set of French Crabs, but most particularly that hilarious fish. If you too need a good laugh, and who doesn’t, you can enjoy the silliness yourself this Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It’s worth it. And take the kids.
 
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