BWW Reviews: Circle Players' BARE: A POP OPERA
Currently on stage in the Sarratt Cinema at Vanderbilt University is the Circle Players' production of Bare: A Pop Opera. With a book, music, and lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr and Damon Intrabartolo, Bare: A Pop Opera touches on so many things that young people are facing in today's world. The Circle Players' production, under the direction of Heather Alexander and with musical direction by Eddie Charlton, is the kind of show that I had so many mixed feelings about at first. The initial setting of the story is that which anyone who doesn't come from wealth can be annoyed by. Set in a Catholic boarding school, every child seems to have a life that most of us have never experienced. What starts to pull you in immediately is the thing that seemingly can't be avoided....the connections between these young people and our own lives. Each has something they are dealing with that seems so much bigger than with what they should have to deal.
Peter, played by Christian Redden, struggles with his sexuality and having to hide his relationship from his peers, his family, and his church. For all intents and purposes, Jason, played by Steven Griffin, is the school's golden boy and Peter's best friend. He's the top of his class, the most popular boy in school, and comes from money. But hiding his true relationship with Peter from the world, and his reluctance to be who he truly wants to be tortures him, while his relationship with his father and his need to live up to the expectation of others controls his life.
Jason's sister Nadia, played by Rachel Jackson, struggles with her own issues of weight, the acceptance of her peers and her own strained relationship with her father. Nadia's ever popular roommate Ivy, played by Harley Seger, deals with her own issues. As the show progresses, we see that she deals with drug issues, promiscuity, and the need to fit in with her peers, when it seems like they all want to fit in with her. Matt, played by Mike Cahill is that kid in school who always seems to finish second. No matter how hard he tries and no matter what he does, he always seems to come in second to golden-boy Jason. This makes for many hurt feelings and anger for Matt and ultimately leads to a series of events that ends in trouble for nearly all the main characters in the show.
There were some truly amazing parts of this show. With so many heavy topics covered in the Bare: A Pop Opera, it would be hard to imagine taking on some of these roles without a few adult years in your back pocket to begin to understand these characters. But in this production, most of these roles were played by actors that were the ages of their characters. While it could be said that this might give the actors less to draw on as far as life experience goes (there's always the "you can't see the forest for the trees" aspect), these young people do an amazing job of digging into their roles and their characters. Most notably the lead actors, Christian Redden and Steven Griffin take on Peter and Jason with an ability that could be seen as far beyond their years.
One of the best parts of the day I saw the show was the talkback that was held after. Each of the actors came out to answer questions from the audience. It was amazing to see how much insight and depth these young people had into their characters and into the many different issues that Bare: A Pop Opera tackles.
While there were times that I felt the lyrics were a little less than memorable, the story itself shines through. Grabbing you from the start, the actors, and the story, touch places in your heart that you may not have known existed. By the end of the show the audience, including myself, was brushing tears away. Bare: A Pop Opera is a stern reminder to not dismiss the issues that teens face every day. It may be easy to ignore the issues happening in a young person's life, or to tell them that "you're making a big deal out of nothing," when these issues could be an actual life or death issues for them or their peers. It becomes a reminder to take a moment to listen and try to understand a young person. It could be the most important thing you do for them.
You can still see the Circle Players' production of Bare: A Pop Opera at Sarratt Cinema at Vanderbilt University through Sunday, June 1st. The show is rated PG-13. You can purchase tickets on their website by clicking HERE.