Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stumptown Theatre (Oregon) 2008

Stumptown Theatre
Portland, Oregon

Director: Kirk Mouser
Set Designer: Janet Mouser
Choreographer: Montana Efaw

Are there problems? Oh, hell yeah. The chintzy set squeezes most of the non-nightclub action into a four-foot alleyway at the front of the stage, and the acting is passable at best and wooden at worst—besides Blackmon and Johnson-Weiss, none of the cast seems comfortable in his or her part once the music stops. But who cares? With singing this good, everything else is parsley.

Janet Mouser's set design is horrendous: Candy-pink steps edged in tinfoil flashing engulf a pit band that's placed smack in the center of the stage, crowding the actors onto the very front edge. Between the terrible design and Mouser's poor use of it, huge amounts of space are wasted while the cast trips over itself on the awkward steps.

Speaking of expectations, it should be noted that as a dramatic vehicle, "Dreamgirls" is a clunker. The writing (both book and songs) is hokey and schematic, a pastiche of Motown's rise and fall blended with some standard-issue romantic melodrama and a handful of stray cliches about the music business, the Civil Rights era and self-actualization. In addition, the acting here isn't seasoned or consistent enough to make the many relationships and their emotional turns feel organic.

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