By Lynn Geyer
“Shout! The Mod Musical” by Phillip George and David Lowenstein is more than just a revue of the memorable music of the swinging ‘60s.
There is an underlying plot which can be overlooked because of the plethora of songs belted out by the five amazing artists who take the Tacoma Musical Playhouse stage.
This colorful story of five women coming of age in the world of mini-skirts and vinyl boots is played out on a stage filled with a set by Bruce Haasl which looks like it came straight from the hit television show of the era, “Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-in”.
John Chenault does the lights with a few special gobos which put the audience right in the time chasing flowers about the stage. The costumes, which are right on, are put together by Margot Webb, Grace Stone and Diane Boergher.
Musical director Jeff Stvrtecky turns over the baton to The TMP Modtunes, directed by the able Terry O’Hara, who shares the keyboard talent with Stvrtecky; drummer Iris McBride makes sure the beat goes on.
In a seldom seen move, Managing Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake has turned over this production to director Chris Serface.
Serface is by far no stranger to TMP. This talented gentleman was the Director of Education at the Playhouse, where he managed the entire package – including camps, after-school programs and performances – until last April when he left to take over as the Managing Artistic Director at Tacoma Little Theatre.
Serface has done an excellent job of bringing back those days of not so yore. The cast is perfect – there’s even an almost Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne and Jo Anne Worley in the group of five.
Yes, only five performers on stage at one time! What a difference from the usual bill of fare at TMP – but what a perfect poker hand they make – all aces!
Serface has placed the music trio upstage left so the singers can meander through them as they introduce a number or burst into song.
However, with only five women and a lot of dance movement, it is hard to discern where the theatrical direction begins and ends. Therefore, at times Heather Malroy’s chorography merges with Serface’s direction blending into the best of two worlds – song and dance.
The tuneful quintet is comprised of Brynn Garrett as the Red Girl; Brynne Geiszler, Yellow Girl; Allyson Jacobs-Lake, Green Girl; Elise Campello, Blue Girl; and Lauren Nance is the Orange Girl.
All these songbirds are exactly alike – but each is different! That is to say that they all sing superbly, yet each has their own style or specialty. And even though the five sing well remembered songs by once idolized artists, they make them their own while emulating the nostalgic sound.
Four of the five are British; Yellow Girl is American. Each has a story, a dilemma, a hang-up, a catharsis and a new life before the final curtain – and lots of music, dance and jokes – some of which are pretty bad – some sort of okay, but all are funny when put in context.
Orange Girl’s realization that her husband is fast tiring of her and may have strayed more than once is slow in coming because Nance plays her so naively with “that could never happen to me” quality about her. Although her English accent is the weakest of the four Brits, Nance’s vocal quality and delivery make up for that slight flaw.
Blue Girl isn’t quite like the others but isn’t sure why. Campello is dutifully confused as the girl in search of her true identity. And when singing “Don’t Sleep on the Subway” sounds more like Petula Clark than Clark did with so much of Campello added to make it terrific.
Green Girl is always getting hooked up with the wrong kind of guy but manages to untangle herself just in time. Jacobs-Lake does a great parody on the James Bond film with the funny song “Coldfinger.”
Red Girl is the youngest and most unsure of herself. Garrett plays her as an eager teen trying to grow up too fast. But, like Lulu, when Garrett sings “To Sir With Love,” she steals the show.
Yellow Girl has the worst fixation; she’s in love with Paul McCartney! And she’s come all the way from the States to stalk him – and she makes a good job of it. Geiszler is brilliant and the teen gone heard-over-heels with her binoculars keeping a watch on the Beatle’s rubbish bin and fighting to get into it to retrieve an almost toothless comb. Geiszler has one of the best voices and better developed character in the production.
Each the rainbow girl writes about their problems to Gwendolyn Holmes, the advice columnist for the magazine “Shout.” Each receives an answer which prompts another song and more understanding of their lives.
By the way, don’t look for Gwendolyn Holmes’ name in the program; the Brit’s version of Dear Abby is canned and comes along with the purchase of the musical scripts.
By the end of the show, the girls’ problems are solved and the audience is singing along with the old favorites including “Downtown.”
“Shout! The Mod Musical” continues at Tacoma Musical Playhouse at 7116 Sixth Avenue, just east of Jackson, through February 9, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 565-6867 or go online to www.tmp.org.
What has been expertly added to the TMP production is the direction, the chorography, the five spirited leading ladies who sock it to the audience with the frug, the swim and a whole lot of fun.