Review: SUNFLOWER Scottish Rite Musical Misses The Mark

Unfortunately SUNFLOWER is a less than stellar effort due to a seriously flawed script.

By: Aug. 04, 2022
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Review: SUNFLOWER Scottish Rite Musical Misses The Mark

Theatre for young and youth audiences has been such a huge part of my life. I've worked with every age group over the years and those experiences have not only deepened my love for theatre, but shown me that the performing arts can bridge gaps, teach and touch us all. I have quite literally seen hundreds of plays geared to younger audience members. It's heartbreaking I am compelled to write a less than glowing review for SUNFLOWER.

The storyline mostly centers on 6th grader Amalie (played by the brilliant Lucky Cantu) who is a 6th grader at a new school, friendless and yearning for an emotional connection in her life. During a class visit to a museum, she engages with the art of Vincent Van Gogh (played by Austin music legend Guy Forsyth). It's through Van Gogh's intensely bold painting Cafe Terrace at Night that Amalie is transported to 19th century Arles, France and here she meets the artist. Vincent senses a kindred spirit upon meeting the anxious teen and the two become fast friends. The obviously depressed preteen must return to her own reality where she faces the junior high mean girls from Hades. The storyline itself is intriguing, but the play's scattered approach renders any point virtually meaningless.

The incredibly talented cast performed admirably, working hard to put life into songs that were difficult to sing and failed to showcase their true talent. It was Forsyth alone who kept me from heading to my car at intermission, something I don't say lightly. Technical issues plagued the show from almost the beginning. The background projections were interesting, using Van Gogh's paintings to set the mood, but the lighting on the front of the stage was so dim, it was impossible to see the actors during what could have been pivotal moments. Beautiful super titles are used to illustrate Van Gogh quotes but we're used with such infrequency one wonders why the effort was made at all. Teen characters are far too stereotypical and given pointless lines and songs. Fully half their time onstage was spent staring at their phones.

Unfortunately this show is a less than stellar effort due to a seriously flawed script. SUNFLOWER with book and lyrics by Laura Guli and music and orchestration by Premila Mistry, it tries so hard to reach its target audience that it lacks focus. Using themes of social anxiety, bullying, cyber bullying, suicide and parental emotional distance (just to name a few), the playwright fails to deliver a straightforward message on any of the aforementioned issues. I fervently hope that a deep reworking of this script takes place before it's performed anywhere else.

Unfortunately I cannot recommend SUNFLOWER to adults or children of any age.


book and lyrics by Laura Guli

Music and orchestration by Premila Mistry

Directed by Deanna Belerdinelli

Scottish Rite Theatre

July 22 to August 14

Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.

Tickets: $15 - $25


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