BWW Reviews: NOT THE MESSIAH at Bootless Stagework
For a Monty Python fan - which I am - the name Eric Idle creates an expectation of one thing - humor and surprises. That's two things. In setting the story of Brian, the non-messiah from "The Life of Brian" in oratorio form, Idle and collaborator John DuPrez invite - no, demand - comparison with Handel's famous and elaborate composition. At the highest level of parody, the work must be presented seriously though, being Python, not without the occasional wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?
The key, of course, is delivery, and in that, Bootless Stageworks have truly risen to the occasion. From the principal soloists to the chorus and orchestra and piper, Bootless has provided a flawless performance. My one regret is that their performance of this piece was limited to one weekend and, if you haven't seen it, you have truly missed something worth seeing.
The soloists - mezzo Cynthia Ballentine, tenor Geoff Bruen, soprano Kimberly Christie, baritone Michael Popovsky, and bari-tenor Justin Walsh - were outstanding. Though confined by the format to their music stands, they performed their roles throughout. Mr. Walsh, taking the role originated by Mr. Idle, spoke, sang, recited, danced (and mugged), at one point delivering a spot on impersonation of Bob Dylan, complete with guitar, harmonica, and generally unintelligible lyrics.
These soloists were more than ably supported by a chorus who provided a few cameo parts and a full-time total involvement. They sang beautifully, they enunciated clearly, and they also provided facial expressions and body language to project the intent of the music. The 23 piece orchestra provided a full range of group and solo accompaniment - from meditative to mêlée. The addition of a kilted piper (Charlie Rutan) who marched down the aisle and took his place before the orchestra was a crowning touch.
Credit for the quality of the performance must be shared by the James W. Fuerst, its conductor and music director and by Roseanne DellAversano, its stage director. They pieced it all together and made it WORK.
This oratorio was presented by Bootless Stageworks as a fund-raiser to assist them to finance shows throughout the year. Although the venue - The Downs Cultural Center at Ingleside - was a tight fit for all the performers, it provided an appropriate location in which to present Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy).
And now for something completely different: All of the many performers who participated, it was announced, had volunteered their talents (considerable) and time (not less than considerable) to create this presentation. Since this essay will be published electronically, it will not consume much in the way of natural resources. No trees will be harmed. For this reason, I feel it appropriate to include, for your appreciation, the names of the people not already mentioned, who also contributed their efforts to Bootless Stageworks' Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy).
Chorus: Karina Balfour, Wes Belli, Lisa Bowe, Hana Cai, Penny Carmack, Roseanne DellAversano, Mark Dixon, Meg Falasco, Rachel Frederick, Michael Gamache, Shamus Halloran, John Jerbasi, Tom McCarthy, Jason Messinger, Jackie Phillips, Melissa Raub, Cyndi Turoczy, Carol Van Zoren, Shaun Yates.
Orchestra: Gabrielle Stout (Concertmaster), Hannah Gaston, Leah Ciranni, Felix Cohen, Quinn Dougherty, A.J. LoPorto, Joe Eigenbrot, Sarah McIlvane, Sandra Tonjes, Kirsten Haden, Steve Zimmerman, Richard Foote, Jennifer Hugh, Stephen Tipping, Tannah Morris, Linda Heckert, Andrew Corbett, Laura Grass, Glenn Davis, Sean McAllister, Christopher Johansen, Christine Gaydos, Coley Morris
Production Staff: Jo-Ann McIntyre (Stage Manager), Larry Manlove (Volunteer Coordinator), Christine Gaydos (Box Office Manager), Jackie Phillips (PR/Marketing Manager), Justin Walsh (Artwork)