Review

 
If we could roll back time and undo our mistakes, take back a life that somewhere went astray and reclaim the life of which we once dreamed, back when it seemed all was still possible. Franklin Shepard won’t have that chance, but in this seldom-performed Sondheim musical that enjoyed an extremely brief Broadway run, we the audience get to see that time rolled back and examine how Frank lost everyone and everything that he once cared about.

The story begins in 1976 when Frank’s a rich Hollywood producer hosting a swank party celebrating his latest cookie-cutter movie hit while surrounded by brown-nosing associates, and about to be left by his wife Gussie and his last best friend from his youth, Mary. The story ends back in 1959, when he and Mary and his former writing partner and friend Charley watched Sputnik streak across the sky and felt they could change the world with their art.

The talented team at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts staged this one, based on the 1993 revival, at the New LA Theatre Center. Included among the audience was their alum who helped fund the production, Josh Groban. That audience was treated to a strong rendition of the show directed by both Graham Jackson (who also musical directs) and Erica Robson (who also choreographs), and they unfold this show at an expert, unrushed pace that let the more dramatic moments have their full effect while keeping things hopping when things are supposed to be hopping.

The actors include Conor Guzman as Frank, clearly self-absorbed throughout most of the story, determined to find success and fame for himself even if that meant losing the ones he most cared for. The exceptions to this rule are in his soul-searching moment at the beginning of the play when he’s lost everything, and his youthful idealism at the end of the play when we see that his idealistic and pragmatic leanings held about equal sway over his heart, and he could have gone either way.

Back in those earliest days, we see his charismatic charm that helped bring him the good people in his life, like his two best friends Charley and Mary. Dominic Leslie is Charley. His passion and excitement for his art in the early years is infectious, followed by his frustrated spirit as Frank slips away as his partner and friend, leading to the well-done scene when they last got together. Zoe Randol is Mary, and although Zoe doesn’t fit the physical description of the character, she embodies the soul of the character extremely well. A secret crush she’s always harbored for Frank since the day they met, delighting in their moments of friendship, sticking with him during so many of his failings, the power of her finally leaving in the first scene – a power that we sense but don’t fully comprehend until we’ve seen their whole story.

Rachel Rivera is Gussie, Frank’s second wife, who transforms nicely through the years as her infatuation with Frank thaws to the bitter breaking point (an affair between Frank and entranced and ambitious movie actress Meg Kincaid (Marisa Gold)). In the 1960s she wasn’t nearly so bitter and jaded, back when she was having her own affair with Frank while she was the wife of wealthy Broadway producer Joe Josephson played by David Gordezky as an amusing and somewhat tragic Joe who goes years knowing his wife is in love with Frank but just hoping she won’t leave him. Natalie Copeland is Frank’s first wife Beth, a sweet woman who belts out a big Not A Day Goes By solo, and has a couple of parents (Ivan Pyzow and Dakota Hughes) who are humorously unimpressed with their daughter’s choice of husband.

The ensemble does a good job as party guests, all dressed in an assortment of very 60-ish and 70-ish attire (Kathie Bretches-Urban), and filling in the scene transitions as they merrily roll us further and further back in time to Frank’s hopeful beginning.

Performs January 15 - 17, 2010

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
 
Franklin Shepard: Conor Guzman
Charley Kringas: Dominic Leslie
Mary Flynn: Zoe Randol
Tyler: Jonathan Black-Medina
Terry: Alena Henke
Scotty: Micah Woods
Dory: Amanda Thompson
RU: Max Wortman
Jerome: Kevin Gino
K.T.: Alex Fragoso
Meg Kincaid: Marisa Gold
Bunker: Lily Ali-Oshatz
Gussie Carnegie: Rachel Rivera
TV Newswoman #1: Michelle Sui
TV Newswoman #2: Clare Carroll
Make-Up Artist: Tory Freeth
Stage Manager: Sara Gutierrez
Joe Josephson: David Gordezky
Photographer: Jordon Johnson
Frank, Jr.: Dylan Goldstein
Frank, Jr.: Max Chester
Beth: Natalie Copeland
Mr. Spencer: Ivan Pyzow
Mrs. Spencer: Dakota Hughes
Evelyn: Sarah Castro
Pianist: Cooper Labinger

~ Orchestra ~
Conductor/Piano: Graham Jackson
Piano/Synth: Cooper Labinger
Reeds: Brian Walsh
Reeds: Ryan Garrett
Bass: William Johnson
Trumpet: Scott Wright
Trumpet: Ivan Pyzow
Drums/Percussion: Brian Boyce

Director: Graham Jackson and Erica Robson
Musical Director: Graham Jackson
Choreogrpher: Erica Robson
Producer: Gary Soerensen
Stage Manager: Jacob Harvey
Lighting Design: Nick Van Houten
Costume Design: Kathie Bretches-Urban
Assistant Costumer: Marie Watkins
Sound Coordinator: Ryan Cantwell
Student Assistant Choreographer: Evan Schwarz
Student Assistant Stage Managers: Emma Bliderback, Coby Getzug, Evan Schwarz
Makeup Design: Alaina Montoya
Makeup and Costume Crew: Vanessa Bahena and Nick Gonzalez
Program and Graphic Design: Dana Wayne

   

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