[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]uring my life these are just a few of the possible epitaphs I’ve collected:
“The Two by Four kid”.
“The Crazy with the Teeth Guy”.
“Sir Doin’ it”.
“The One Thrust Cat Killer”, (don’t ask).
Well it seems I’ve added a new one to that list:
“The Guy Who Didn’t Stand for the Blind Kids”.
What can I say, guilty as charged.
The rest of the audience attending “Beyond Sight” at the Stella Adler Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard were on their feet applauding. Some were on their feet applauding while glaring in my general direction. Even my lovely wife Marlene was on her feet applauding, and whispering to the guy standing next to her, “Say something to me so they’ll think I came with you.”
However, I don’t refute those who felt the production deserving an ovation. “Beyond Sight” is a show heavy with “youthful enthusiasm”, reflecting both the limitation and potential that term is fraught with.
This show has heart, and heart can excuse many a sin. That was certainly the general attitude of the audience I was in attendance with. And the story line was definitely designed to exert maximum pull on their heart strings as well.
Jack (Raufel Muhammad) is an ROTC student in love with Lily (Ginger Lawrence), daughter of the General (Geoffrey Dwyer) no less. The events of 9/11 lead to his enlistment and while fighting in Afghanistan he is wounded and captured. Ten years later his release is negotiated. Ten years older and blind, Jack (know played by Robert Smith who is both older and blind) returns home to America and Lily. And therein lays our tale.
The cast is nothing if not all inclusive with members from “Theatre by the Blind” as well as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is some absolutely superb singing on stage from Raufel Muhammad, Geoffrey Dwyer, Dan Woren, K.J. Middlebrooks and Shannon Nelson. And some of the songs are definitely worth the singing.
Choreographer Allison Bibicoff pulls off some amazing numbers making the dancing one of the highlights of the show.
The show offers some strong performances, exceptional songs and exhilarating dance numbers. Unfortunately they are draped over a weak and rather hackneyed storyline (penned by Nick Sivakumaran and Jeremy Aldridge). The narrative is further impaired by the rapid shifting from short scene to short scene, a structure more suitable for a film script than a play.
Aldridge’s direction feels lackluster and slapdash, which is surprising as he is someone whose talents we have acknowledged in the past. One wonders if perhaps Aldridge found his actors intimidating to work with and therefore didn’t make the demands of them that a director must make.
While the overall show is problematic, the talents of some cast members are not and these are deserving of an audience. If you’re a huge fan of musical theatre, you should love it. Here’s hoping the lessons of this show will be applied to future undertakings where the strengths and talents of their performers will outshine all else.
I could advise going into this show with slightly lower expectations and a bit of charity, but I won’t. This production and a good number of the individuals in it are associated with CRE Outreach, an organization that works with veterans and the blind. Its efforts are worthy of support.
I can only show my support for their efforts by not succumbing to some misguided sympathy and dishonoring the work on stage in “Beyond Sight” by lowering the bar for them. Being branded “The Guy Who Didn’t Stand for the Blind Kids” is tater-tots compared to the service and sacrifice of those on stage here.
As for this review?
Suck it up soldier, and slap my mouth wide open shut with the next show.
Stella Adler Theatre
6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
(310) 902-8220 www.creoutreach.org
Performances: April 25-May 25 Fridays at 8 p.m: May 23 Saturdays at 8 p.m: May 24 Sundays at 3 p.m: May 18, 25