Sunday, August 13, 2017

Twisted—Funhouse Lounge—SE Portland

Persian Parody

This slick, musical parody of the Disney musical, “Aladdin,” is written by Kahn Gale, Nick & Matt Lang, Music by A. J. Holmes and Lyrics by Kaley McMahon.  It is produced by Andy Barrett, directed by David Sikking, music direction by James Liptak and choreography by Haley Ward.  It is playing at their space (street parking only), 2432 SE 11th Ave, through August 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.funhouselounge.com

The reason for this comic retake on “Aladdin” is to retell the tale from the villain’s point of view.  This is not unusual, as it was down with “Wicked,”, “Shrek,” and “Monster’s Inc.,” to name a few, in which the villains and monsters were allowed their time in the sun.  It’s true, it depends on your perspective as to who the bad guy really is.  Or, as Lee Marvin (an expert at playing villains) told me one time, while working on “Paint Your Wagon,” the villain never sees himself as the bad guy and so to be successful at playing that, the character should be approached as if he is the hero of the piece and, thus, you create the alternate perspective.  Because of this, perhaps, the anti-hero character was born.

But, in this tale, Ja’far (Aidan Nolan) starts out as a lowly assistant Vizier with dreams of creating a democratic government in Arabia, but this does not sit well with the dotty, old Sultan (Greg Shilling) and the chief Visier, who support a more “lucrative” form of government, in which the Golden Rule is following their version of it, stating that, “He who has the Gold, makes the rules.”  But not all is so bleak for Ja’far, as he meets, falls in love with and marries, Sheherazade (Kylie Rose), the teller of tales.  Unfortunately, the Sultan desires her, too, and takes her for his harem which, to say the least, creates some tension in the Palace.

Meanwhile, Aladdin (Rhansen Mars, a last minute replacement for the ailing Sean Ryan Lamb), a common thief and con man, is busy on the streets, wooing women indiscriminately.  His most recent sights are set on the Princess (Cassandra Pangelinan) of the kingdom and there is also a rumor of a cave of gold with riches beyond imaging, as well as a lamp with a Genie (Andy Barrett) able to fulfill three wishes.  Into this mix, add a Prince Ahmed (Shilling, again) that desires both the Princess and the kingdom.  Needless to say the story begins to take one down several, bumping paths to a somewhat bittersweet conclusion.

The songs in this play are really quite inventive.  Some of my favorites were “Follow the Golden Rule (Nolan & Co.)” (with some clever, dancing [Ward], to enhance the song), “Remember Prince Ahmed (Shilling, at his best),” and “Make a Story with No End (the lovely, Rose in a touching rendition).”  Nolan is perfect for the lead, both vulnerable and strong, as needed, and quite a singer.  Other very strong singers were the alluring and exotic, Pangelinan, with an amazing voice, and Mars, also a terrific singer, absolutely astounding at filling in for a major role (I wouldn’t have known he was a replacement had I not been told beforehand), and the rest of the cast, playing various roles, as well as puppets, including Johnnie Torres, Kristin Barrett, Haley Ward and Jade Tate.

Sikking, a very good actor, too, has chosen his cast well and it’s quite a feat to have such an epic story and characters confined to such a small place and make it work, but he does.  Liptak is always an asset to a show and his talent shines through in this one, too.  Ward also accomplishes magic, as she has some pretty complicated dance numbers created within a confining area.  She is also great doing several character bits in this production, as well.

A personal note, I have followed Ward’s career for a few years now and she is an actor to be reckoned with.  As a singer and dancer in OCT’s shows she always stood out in a production, even if playing a small role.  She said she was attracted to this “non-traditional piece” because she was intrigued by the “parody factor.”  She is away in college now, working on her BFA.  After that, some traveling, she said, but hopes to settle again in the NW “to make a living working in theatre, any position.”  With an attitude like that and her amazing talent, she could write her own ticket in anything she does in the Arts!  A co-worker with her one time told me, “she is so humble…she has no idea how good she really is.”  Amen to that and God Speed on your journey, Haley!

I recommend this production.  Because of rough language and adult situations, this would probably be rated R.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.