‘Beatsville – The Beatnik Musical’ – Asolo Repertory Theatre – Sarasota, Florida

It’s not often I get home from the theatre and want to sit up half the night writing the review but last night was one of those occasions…  Working in Sarasota, Florida for a short while, I had a look at what shows were playing locally and came across this one at the Asolo Repertory Theatre.  Written by Glenn Slater and Wendy Leigh Wilf, and based on the 1959 Roger Corman film A Bucket of BloodOne of Slater’s first works with Alan Menken was writing the lyrics for the stage production Sister Act the Musical (2006).

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The Mertz Theatre is described on the Asolo website as ‘An elegant 500-seat facility originally built in 1903 as an opera house in Dunfermline, Scotland.’ So the links to the UK and it also being the first state theatre of Florida were enough for me to have a closer look.  The book was by Glenn Slater and music and lyrics by Wendy Leigh Wilf

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So what is ‘Beatsville’ – I couldn’t say it any better than the Asolo Theatre themselves so…

Dig this. One of the most highly anticipated new musicals from one of the hottest writing teams on the planet, Beatsville has its world premiere at Asolo Rep. It’s Greenwich Village, 1959 – the world of subterranean coffee shops, goateed artists, turtle-necked poets, and bongo-playing jazzbos. Tragically square busboy Walter Paisley wants nothing more than to be one of the beatniks, but he has no artistic talent whatsoever. When he accidentally kills a cat and hides it in a lump of clay, “Dead Cat” is declared a masterpiece, and Walter a genius. More “sculptures” bring more acclaim – but will the world discover Walter’s secret? From the writers of Galavant, School of Rock and Tangled comes this hip and hilarious new musical, hang onto your berets – we’re headed to Beatsville!

The whole premise of the show is about fitting in, about understanding what is real and what is fake, both materialistically and in people – a wonderfully heady, entrancing mix of upbeat music and dance, a lot of American Jazz from the fabulous live band, who took their turn on stage from time to time.

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From the moment I walked into the theatre and found my seat I was entranced…  The set was truly spectacular and as the show got underway outside the ‘Yellow Door Cafe’ with ‘Natasha’ played by the brilliant vocalist Cayman Ilika  and ‘The Claude’s’, hilariously played by Charlie Johnson and Connor Russell, we were in for quite a few more set surprises.  The design was ingenious; spinning, alleyways, doors, panels, sometimes colourful and other times just plain grimy, we had it all and the overall effect was sheer brilliance!  Natasha and Claude’s 1 and 2 took us through the whole show, with their musical narration and beautiful movements and physical shapes – the casting was perfect!

I won’t go into the story any more than I have above with the summary as if you get chance to go and see this show you truly won’t be disappointed.  We moved from extremely fast paced dance and vocals, to static shapes by the main cast and the ‘Beatniks’, in typical mannequin challenge style, ensuring the audience focused on the action intended.  The lighting added its own drama as particular events led to their own special effects – the audience came to recognise these as the show went on and could pre-empt what would happen next – all adding to the comedic effect and overall hilarity.

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Max Crumm was a perfect ‘Walter Paisley’ – the geeky outsider who just wanted to fit in… his sidekick was the wonderful Lauren Marcus playing ‘Carla’, the girl geek who had the same ambition worked brilliantly together.  Their vocal duets and chemistry on stage was great to see and hear, and enabled the audience to get swept away with the story…

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Another favourite character was the wonderful ‘Alice’ played by Billie Wildrick.  I have to say she was sensational – her vocals, dance and acting brought the character to life in every scene she was in.  Sheer brilliance!

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I don’t know a time when I laughed so much at the theatre before, and I was not alone, the whole audience joined in with many laugh out loud moments, and ‘Mrs Zwicker’ played by Ann Morrison looking for her ‘Frankie’ (the star of the show) was something special!

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If you do get the opportunity to visit this show, I cannot recommend it enough, the music, dance, brilliant choreography and direction and the story, which kept me guessing right up until the end.

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Theatre Magic!

 

The whole cast were marvellous so wanted to ensure they were all given a mention…

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Photo’s from Asolo Repertory Theatre Web site and photographer – thank you

Get tickets here until May 27th 2017