BWW Reviews: DR. HORRIBLEĀ'S SING-ALONG BLOG from Balagan at ACT
What happens when you take an already wonderful show and, due to popular demand, remount it in a larger venue? Well, sometimes the results can be disastrous. But Balagan Theatre's remount of their production of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog", which sold out back in August, manages to take what worked before, improve upon it, and then add in the resources of ACT to create a show to rival the first. If the Six Million Dollar Man taught us anything it's that, "We have the technology. We can make him bigger, stronger, "and even more Horrible!
For those that are not familiar with the internet sensation that spawned this story from writers Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Zack Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, then where have you been? Dr. Horrible (aka Billy) wants nothing more than to be inducted into the Evil League of Evil, an organization to all things, well, evil. But Billy wants nothing more than to get the nerve to talk to the girl at the laundromat, Penny. So when Dr. Horrible's heist goes awry thanks to his nemesis, Captain Hammer, which also introduces the Captain to the lovely Penny, what's a super villain to do? He straps on his death ray and concocts a plan to win the girl, destroy the hero and prove to Bad Horse (the leader of the league) that he is ELE material.
Director Kate Jaeger had no small task on her hands putting this show up. Not only was she stepping in to re-direct an already wonderful show, but also to put it up in a much larger venue. But not to worry, the heart, charm and sweetness of the original is still there but mixed up with new and even more exciting elements. And with Music Director Kimberly Dare (who brilliantly orchestrated the original production along with Rob Scherzer and Eric Ankrim who also co-directed the original production with M. Elizabeth Eller) and choreographer Michael Jenkinson (gotta love any show with laundry baskets and stick horses in production numbers) Jaeger has taken the show to a whole new level.
But the show is nothing without a stellar cast. Jake Groshong and Annie Jantzer are back as the swaggering Captain Hammer and the damsel Penny, but this time there's a new "villain" in town with the adorable William A. Williams as Dr. Horrible (moving up from his previous role as Steve). Groshong has taken the puffed up hero to new heights. His previous incarnation was hilarious but now he's even more so with even more refined timing. Jantzer is glorious as Penny, the girl caught in the middle. With a gorgeous voice, my previous complaint was that I didn't feel the conflict from her. Well, she has infused that and so much more into her lovely performance. And Williams has stepped up and completely made the part his own. He's not doing the movie, he's not mimicking his predecessor, he's infused this anti-hero with his own heart and attitude and come up with a truly great character. I enjoyed him in the original production and he's even better here.
And yes, that insanely talented ensemble is back (most of them) and they brought along a few friends for the ride. Brian Lange, Diana Huey, Christine Nelson, Ashley Flannegan and Butch Stevenson are now joined with the talented Evan Woltz, Daniel Stoltenberg, EmilyRose Frasca and Bobby Temple to show that you can improve upon perfection. Special kudos to the boys who kept those amazing harmonies alive in the "Bad Horse" number, Nelson and Woltz for their show stopping "$10 Solo", Lange and the "Moist Towelettes" for "Moist's Lament" and Huey for once again explaining why "There are no Asians in the Movies".
And if that weren't enough, the set, props, and tech of the show seems to have left the barn (or rather basement of the Noodle House) behind and gotten all grown up. Complete with a few new hidden jokes for the Whedon groupies (what was that Weather Girl's name?) the show has gone from the minor leagues to the majors. In the lexicon of the English language, we have often appropriated negative words and given them positive connotations. "Bad" can mean "Good". "Dope" isn't an insult. And "Phat" breaks down into something everyone wants to be. And after last night's show I have a new one. I hereby decree that "Horrible" is the new "Awesome". And this production is HORRIBLE!!!
"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" performs at ACT's Allen Theatre through February 12th. For tickets or information contact the box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at http://www.acttheatre.org/Shows/OnStage/DrHorriblesSingAlongBlog or www.balagantheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Andrea Huysing