BWW Reviews: THE YELLOW WOOD from Contemporary Classics
Contemporary Classics comes out swinging with their first foray into the development of a new work with "The Yellow Wood". A risky venture for any company let alone a fledgling one, "The Yellow Wood" is as promising a new show as I've seen in some time. Yes, it needs some work (a lot in some places), but the fresh and original voices of writers Michelle Elliott and Danny Larsen show a glimpse into a world most never get to see and also show that the future of musical theater is in good hands.
The show centers on Adam, a young man who is trying to come into his own, as most high school students do, but has his own special obstacles in his path. While battling with his ADHD, his parents' insistence that he take his Ritalin, his strained relationship with his younger sister and his dubious acceptance of his own mixed heritage, Adam still has to get through another day of High School culminating in his memorized recitation of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". And while taking his Ritalin might make the memorization easier, Adam strives to just be "normal" and so he faces this day without his medication. And so as Adam goes down his own road less travelled, we start to see the world through his eyes as the "Yellow Wood" of Frost's poem comes to life in the halls of his High School. And along his journey he's joined by his best friend (and fellow outsider) Casserole, the new girl who has taken an interest in him, Willis, his very smart sister who is starting at his school Gwen and even the ghost of one of his Korean ancestors. None of whom seem to be helping him memorize this poem, or are they?
Like I said, the show needs some work. At times it loses its own focus on what it is or what story it wants to tell. There are songs that just don't need to be there, scenes that don't work and characters that don't make sense. But there are also many wonderful and beautiful moments that make this show such a magical journey through a not so often touched upon world, especially in musical theater. But of course with shows like "Next to Normal" out there, it has suddenly become a topic worth singing about.
Beyond the show itself, the cast is superb. Diana Huey as Gwen is stunning as the know it all sister who needs as much help in life as her struggling brother. She has incredible voice and a turns in a heartbreaking performance. Sarah Davis as Willis, the ray of light in Adam's world, is a ray of light in ours as well. She brought life and joy to every scene she was in. Unfortunately sometimes that was obscured by some overdone staging but she was lovely in the part. But the most interesting and promising performance was that of Daniel Berryman as Adam. Not only does he have a voice that any Broadway performer would sell their mother for, but he has the stage presence and acting chops to back it up. He commanded the stage in every scene (and he's in most if not all of them) and his performance was focused and thoughtful of a person who's not so focused.
All in all this show makes me hopeful for the future of musical theater. In this world where we see movies and comic book heroes being transformed into broadway belters just to make a buck, it's nice to see that there are still original stories to be told by talented new voices. So if you're a fan of musical theater, do not miss this one. It's your opportunity to catch the first few steps of a show I think we'll all be hearing from again.
"The Yellow Wood" plays at the Center House Theatre through August 1st. For tickets or information visit them online at www.contemporaryclassics.org.
Photo Credits: Victoria Lahti