Thursday, January 15, 2009

Around the World in 80 Days

“AROUND THE WORLD’ well worth the trip at CPH; news from the CPH

Want to go around the world in eighty days? There are a couple of ways to do it. First, you could attend the Cleveland Play House’s production of the Jules Verne story. Or, you could go on-line to and play the free download of the game by the same name which takes you on the adventure. Or, you could attempt to accomplish the deed itself. Me? I'd prefer the real thing, but I'll more than happily settle for the CPH tour.

‘AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS’ is a classic adventure novel which was first published in 1873. In Verne’s story, Phileas Fogg of London, and his newly employed French valet, Passepartout, attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days brought about by a £20,000 wager set up by Fogg’s scoundrel friends at London’s Reform Club.

You will actually take part in the circumnavigation, complete with trains chugging along on tracks, an elephant being ridden, and ships sailing and being caught in a hurricane. I kid you not!

Mark Brown’s creative adaptation, is filled with delight, delight brought about by Bart DeLorenzo understanding the format of farce. His directing efforts are ably supported by Jean Zarzour, who serves as his assistant.

Farce, is a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and slapstick elements are used for humorous effect. And Brown and his talented cast pull out all the verbal and nonverbal slapstick elements, exaggerate the characters to the point of the ridiculous, and point up and pounce on all the humorous situations. The result is sheer delight.

My grandson Alex, one of the now famous Kid Reviewers, was engulfed in giggles and verbal “ohs” and “ahs” throughout. He gave the production an 8 1/2 on his scale of ten. He loved the sets, the acting, especially Brian Sills as Passepartout, and the special effects. He stated that a member of his class had given a report on the Verne story, and that had gotten him ready for the show, and wondered if those who didn’t know the story might be at a disadvantage. Thus he warned that the production might not be totally kid friendly. He thought the musical bridges, which were used as transitions between scenes, could have done a better job of pointing up changing moods. He loved the “flying” train scene sequence and all the slapstick.

Keythe Farley is a perfect Phileas Fogg, he of stern, obsessive/compulsive, no-nonsense thinking, who fired his previous man-servant for bringing him shaving water at 84 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the regular 86. His transition to a man in love is charmingly developed.

Brian Sills inhabits the role of Passepartout. He was not only Alex’s favorite, but obviously the audience’s, as his entrance during the curtain call was met with screams of delight.

Anna Khaja is lovely as Aouda, an Indian woman whose life Fogg saves. Michael Weber plays the perfect fool as Detective Fix. Joe Foust portrays over fifteen roles, with skill. BTW….there are only five actors portraying the many, many roles. It’s hard to conceive, but it works, and works well.

Takeshi Kata’s set design makes the whole staging meld. Ann Closs-Farely’s costumes and Lap Chi Chu’s lighting designs help create the proper moods. Much praise has to go to Candace Brown and Caitie Martin, the behind the scene’s dressers, who are magicians of the fast costume change.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: CPH’s ‘AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS’ is a total delight! It may be cold outside, but you’ll feel warm, comfy and delighted while watching this production. Applause, applause!