Sunday, September 21, 2003

The Fix (Beck Center)

Astounding ‘FIX’ at Beck Center!

Several years ago I saw the Washington, D.C. Signture Theatre production of John Dempsey and Dana Rowe’s political musical, ‘THE FIX.’ The production won 10 Helen Hayes Awards, the DC area Tonys. I thought the production was very good, the script somewhat wanting.


In ‘THE FIX,’ the pillars of democracy are ready to collapse. These columns literally teeter as politicians, strategists, and mafioso scramble to win at any cost.

‘THE FIX’ follows the Chandler family, whose members seem to be a composite of the Kennedy dynasty and the Clinton clan. Before the musical has time to get past its first few notes, Reed Chandler, a front-runner for the White House, dies--while in the throws of having sex with his mistress.

We follow Chandler’s wife and brother as they plot to place Chanlder’s son, the wayward, pot-smoking son Cal, in his place. Cal surprises few by continuing to be the baddy, but gets away with it because of charm and “honesty.” The ending is right out of “The Sopranos.” The musical’s seriousness and the overblown premise doomed the musical when it was done last year in London.

The score could be called contemporary eclectic, drawing its inspiration from a variety of sources. There’s rock, pop, gospel, country and show-biz flash. Many of the songs are excellent.

Director Scott Spence has pulled out all the stops to make this a polished production that overshadows the quality of the writing. He is blessed with an astounding cast with singing voices that far exceed what is heard in local productions. There is not a bad voice in the ensemble.

Dan Folino, who found local fame, and won a Times Tribute Award as the lead character in ‘HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH’ at Cleveland Public Theatre, is amazing as the son, Cal. This young man is everything you’d expect of a star...a phenomenal singing voice, acting finesse, good looks, and a sparkling personality. His may well be THE local musical theatre performance of the year!

The rest of the cast are also splendid. Paul Floriano as Cal’s crippled uncle is totally compelling. Watch for the name Matthew Wright in future local performances. This area newcomer plays Cal’s father. He has a powerful singing voice and acting ability to match. Jessica Cope has a dynamic voice and is completely believable as Tina, Cal’s mistress. Tracee Patterson is properly loathsome as Cal’s Lady Macbeth-like mother.

Don McBride’s excellent set design helps develop the plot. One can feel the pillars about to tumble around us.

The newsreel inserts which feature the likes of local newsman Adam Shapiro, added greatly to the realism of the show. Alison Hernan’s costumes aided in creating just the right visual images.

Larry Goodpaster has done a wonderful job as musical director. The vocal blends are excellent and the orchestra plays well and does not drown out the singing.

Unfortunately the lighting and sound didn’t work as well as the rest of the show’s elements. There were many dark spots on stage and the follow spot work was inconsistent. There were distracting audible thuds and fading in and out while lines were sung and spoken.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘THE FIX’ is an outstanding production of a less than perfect script. Go see it to hear the wonderful voices, see the fine acting, and experience a wondrous performance by Dan Folino.