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“9 to 5” at Acting Out Productions – Taylor, MI April 23, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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There’s a new kid in town, and they’re putting on a really entertaining production of “9 to 5 the musical”.

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Disclaimer: I usually review community theater productions only when they are something to rave about. In this case, while not a rave and far from technically proficient, I make the rare exception to talk about a new community theater group that you are going to be hearing a lot about in the future.

As their first adult musical (the company has been producing children’s and youth theater for awhile now) Acting Out Productions has wisely chosen a funny recent musical based on the movie that had a modest Broadway run. It offers many parts (especially for women) and is a good choice for a community theater.

It also emphasizes the shortcomings if not done remarkably well. The show itself is entertaining and I found myself laughing multiple times during the evening. I also found myself cringing once  — but let me explain.

First, there is a remarkable performance by John Sartor as egotistical boss Franklin Hart and his interactions with the cast raise everyone’s focus and efforts by two-fold. He’s funny, sings well, and carries some very difficult humorous moments. He also has some lovely heart-patterned boxer shorts.

Next, there is solid direction from Kelly R Lomas, though it could all be tightened up a bit. Still, the vision is clear, and things proceed according to plan.

Third, there is an excellent four-piece combo band that sounds terrific. I might have moved them to far stage right instead of in the center (you might want to rethink where you sit if you are in the middle section, especially the first 4 rows). They make beautiful music together and play through the peppy score with precision.

Fourth, it is so evident how much work and effort went into this first big adult musical for Acting Out. It is truly a labor of love to put together something of this scope — and in general it all works. The cast seem to work together well, there is certainly plenty of encouragement from cast and crew alike (I love listening to people at intermission), and its great to have another community theater in town. As the group becomes better known, they will get a bigger audition pool from which to choose, and there will be less awkwardness overall. Come out and audition for their shows next season!

What doesn’t work? Well, scene changes are far too long. Costumes are designed in a way that they are not easy to change and there are times that the orchestra vamps repeatedly waiting for actors to appear who are changing clothes backstage.  Mics drop in and out throughout. The ensemble tends to stand in straight lines. Some cast members are able to effortlessly do the smart choreography, while others struggle with the basics. Not all ensemble members need to be on stage in all numbers. Speaking of ensemble — disparate ages don’t work well in this production, but lets chalk that up to educational theater and the need for a larger audition pool. There was one cringe-worthy moment when the actor playing Joe (in high school) and Violet have their big love song in Act II (“Let Love Grow”) that nearly made me levitate out of my seat. I understand an appropriately-aged adult plays that part at some performances.

But that was it, and one cringe-worthy moment all evening is pretty good — the show is super entertaining — something they should be very proud of, and I had a good time. (Note: the show runs long, but I blame some of that on the too-long scene changes). I loved the cookies at intermission. I could probably do without the teenagers shouting “50-50 raffle! Last Chance!” inside the theater, especially since there was no way anybody interested would have missed them in the lobby. The theatre itself is lovely — The Royal Majestic Theater is located inside Trillium Academy on Racho Road in Taylor which used to be a performing arts school, so their setup is quite good.

“9 to 5” continues at Acting Out Productions, 15740 Racho Road, Taylor, MI through April 30th. Tickets available at the door. 15.00 per ticket – Cash only.

 

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