Monday, June 10, 2013

Somewhere In Time—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District, Portland, OR

A Love for the Ages

This world premiere musical is based on the novel and film written by the terrific writer, Richard Matheson.  It is directed by Scott Schwartz and written by Ken Davenport, Doug Katsaros and Amanda Yesnowitz.  Choreography by John Carrafa and Musical Direction is by Patrick Vaccariello.  It is playing through June 30th at PCS, 128 NW 11th Ave.  For more information, go to their website at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700.

Matheson was a super writer of novels, screenplays and short stories in the Sci-fi, Horror and Fantasy genres.  His non-musical film of this play starred Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer.  Time travel has always been a favorite subject of such genre writers.  There was the not-so-successful stage musical/movie of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.  Ray Bradbury wrote a short piece called The Swan from his novel, Dandelion Wine (my favorite book).  In a more humorous vain, Mark Twain wrote of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  And there is, of course, H.G. Wells’s, The Time Machine and its award-winning film by George Pal. 

Now we have this pleasant musical that traverses that popular ground.  The story centers around a writer, Richard (Andrew Samonsky) who, as a young man, discovers he has only months to live.  He is also given a pocket watch by a mysterious old woman (Leslie Becker) and is told to “remember.”  Shortly, thereafter, she dies.  A wake-up call, perhaps.  So he chooses not to just rest and take his meds, as his brother, Robert (Jared Q. Miller), suggests, but to go on vacation at a historic place called, The Grand Hotel, which he feels an eerie kinship toward.

There he meets an aging bellhop, Arthur (David Cryer), who befriends him.  He tells Richard of a famous actress, Elsie McKenna (Hannah Elless)) that resided there, and where he played as a boy (Brady James) in the lobby.  He investigates her past through books at the library and by speaking with her companion, Laura (Sharonlee McLean).  Then a doctor (Tad Wilson) tells him of a way to time travel by just focusing his mind and having things around him speak of that period, 1912.  This is exactly what he does and succeeds.

Richard and Hannah do meet and fall in love but a rather large obstacle confronts them, her controlling manager of many years, Robinson (Marc Kudisch), who also has designs on Elise.  Needless to say, a conflict arises and…no, I won’t be a spoiler and give away the ending.  Suffice to say, it is bittersweet.  The message seems to be that True Love does transcend Time and if you are meant to be together, Love will find a way.

The story, by itself, is beautiful and has its own rhythm of the heart.  The music nicely underlines the plot and, like an opera, becomes part of the expression of the dialogue through the lyrics.  Some of my favorite numbers were Something My Heart Never Felt Before (by the leads), Long, Long Way to Indiana (Robinson), A Trip To the Grand (the Company), Tick, Tick, Tick (Richard) and the show-stopper, The Grand Hotel (Arthur).

The set (Alexander Dodge) and lighting (Mike Baldassari) were delightfully simple and effective to convey the moods/settings of the periods and yet easy to change.  Likewise the costumes (Jeff Cone) were authentically reflective of the different time periods.  The orchestra, at times, especially in the beginning, overpowered the singers but that can be adjusted with more consistent miking.  And Schwartz’s directing kept the pace of the show smooth and flowing.

Samonsky has a nice singing voice and fits the character well.  I would like to have seen him show a bit stronger emotions in the more dramatic scenes, such as frustration, rage, etc.  And Elles has a terrific singing voice and enacts her character wonderfully, showing us the confusion and complexities of being drawn in two directions.  Kudisch, as the villain of the piece, is also in good voice, as well as a strong performer.  And he gives the play the needed power and urgency of the situation.  Although well-acted, the writing of this character could have been given more depth and dimension.  And Cryer almost steals the show with his rendition of The Grand Hotel.   He is totally believable in the part and adds immensely to the warmth of the show.

In smaller roles, Wilson as the eccentric doctor; McLean as the older Laura; Lizzie Klemperer as the lovelorn librarian; Becker, the older Hannah; and Miller, as his caring brother, Robert, all add to the power of the story.  One added thought, a writer once said, “Do not seek out Love, for Love, if it finds you worthy, will guide your course.”  Amen!

I recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.