Sunday, May 4, 2014

REVIEW: NWCT's "Riding Hood" is a Gas, but Sometimes Drags

This is Little Red "Riding Hood" like you have NEVER seen her before. She's empowered. She's sassy. And she's hitting on all eight cylinders. Les Zawada, as Ruby "Little Red" Miller, is a gas!

In this telling "Red" has her dreams and she won't be shut down or pigeon-holed. She wants to fix and race cars. Yes, this Little Red isn't the old fairy tale you may know and love, it's set in 1958 and women are discovering they have a place other than in the kitchen.

While this Northwest Children's Theater production didn't quite seem up to the usual snuff, it's good none-the-less. Set to a 50s rock-n-roll score the musical is rollicking fun and well performed.

The Well-Oiled Cast

Les Zawada as Ruby "Little Red" Miller truly jump starts the show.
The cast is good overall with a few really strong performances standing out. Despite the puttering material the show managed to punch the gas--mostly. The direction, by Sarah Jane Hardy, is super-charged.

Zawada is a fuel-injected dynamo; never failing to entertain. Spunky and full of adolescent expression. Jenny Bunce, playing both Granny and Miss Mary Kay (the high school home ec teacher), belted out her two numbers and was genuinely entertaining on all counts.

I felt that Dane Shroy, as The Wolf, performed well, but should have had more charisma and grease. Lindsey Koehler whom I've seen in both "Zombie in Love" and "Anne Get Your Gun," was a standout among the chorus. She is a strong performer overall and a joy to watch. Kevin-Michael Moore, whom I last saw as Smee in NWCT's "Peter Pan," was also quite good as the auto shop teacher. And Thom Hilton, as the beatnik, was, like, groovy, man.

In the Shop

The songs were okay [I spent seven years performing in greaser band], but the show wasn't Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber by any means. The script, by Melody Bridges, and lyrics, by composer Bob Hardy and Bridges (with arrangement and composition by Adam Brock) lacked octane. While amusing at times (especially the narrator's parts), it wasn't hysterical or particularly witty. It did have a good message that anyone, regardless of gender, could be anything they want to be, but sometimes you do have to fight for it.

Jenny Bunce, Les Zawada and Dane Shroy in NWCT's "Riding Hood"
The set, by Kristeen Willis Crosser, was fine, but I've mostly seen even better from NWCT. The show moved quickly with all but two scenes that dragged.

Set changes were well done and the lighting, also by Crosser, top notch. Costumes, by Mary Rochon, were, well, rockin'. The dance numbers, nicely choreographed by Elizabeth Gibbs were simple but well styled.

The show, which opened April 26, runs now through May 26. Remaining performances at the Northwest Children's Theater, 1819 NW Everett Street, Portland, Ore., are at noon and 4 p.m. May 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25; 7 p.m. May 9, 16, 23; and 2 p.m. Mon, May 26. Tickets are: Adults $18-22, Youth $13-18. Recommended for 4 and up.

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos provided.

For another perspective by Dennis Sparks click here.

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