Friday, June 14, 2013

REVIEW: Magenta's "Around the World in Eighty Days" Jolly Good Show

The book Around the World in Eighty Days has always been French author Jules Verne's best known and loved work. It is also his most humorous novel, even though it was written during hard times for both France and Verne.

Though the author is known as "the father of science-fiction," unlike his other works (of which there are more than sixty)--most notably 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth--Around the World in Eighty Days is not a work of science-fiction. All of the technology and modes of transport were contemporary for Verne. Okay, enough of the background and interesting factoids.

Magenta Theater presents the madcap comedy-adventure "AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS" adapted for stage by Mark Brown. The production is ably directed by Bryan Schmidt. I guess it's Magenta's niche. If not, it's what they'll be known for--those zany, frenzied shows where the few play the many in dozens of locales all depicted sparingly.

David Roberts (center) plays Phileas Fogg at
Vancouver, Washington's Magenta Theater.
And it's a wild ride, so,yes, hold onto your seats for the original amazing race as Phileas Fogg and his faithful manservant race to beat the clock and win the bet.You can expect stampeding elephants, raging typhoons, and runaway trains as five actors portray thirty-nine characters as they traverse seven continents in this whirlwind of a show.

The Cast

David Roberts takes the lead as Phileas Fogg, British aristocrat. He is charming, all business, and keeps a stiff upper lip. A delightfully good performance, though you'd think by now Roberts could get a British accent down. (Sorry Dave, work on that.)

Bethie Duvall is equally charming as Auoda (and she plays other roles as well). Tony Provenzola again plays a multitude of roles (fifteen in all), though there's not a lot of difference between them except costume. His Proctor was best. Justin Tanner was jolly good in his assortment of roles and was best at the mugging Detective Fix, Andrew Stuart (Bully!) and as Rev Wilson's servant (in drag...again).

It was Matt Newport who really stole the show as the French manservant Passepatout (though he was equally great in the small role as the Englishman John Sullivan). His was one of those truly magnificent performances. He stayed with that French accent and did a very droll Brit as well. The audience loved him! (And so did I.)

The Creds

As typical of (and as mentioned) with Magenta's wild romps through multiple locations, the set (by Justin Tanner) is sparse and merely suggestive of the many scenes (though often comically so--and in a good way). Four steamer trucks provide the bulk of the set and are used to good effect.

From L to R: Matt Newport, Justin Tanner, Tony Provenzola, David Roberts
and Bethie Duvall in "Around the World in Eighty Days." Photo provided.
The costumes (by Bethie Duvall) and lighting design (by Andrea van de Bruggan) were quite nice--though not all costumes were period. Cheap beards and wigs were used to comic effect (as are several props). The running crew did a smash job as well.

Jolly good show, I say! The audience was kept roaring with laughter throughout. The production runs now through June 29. For tickets click here.

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos provided.

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