BWW Review: FALL SPRINGS at Barrington Stage Company Proves that Environmental Consciousness Can Be FUN
In case you missed the memo - the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, 150 million metric tons of plastics are clogging the world's oceans, tap water can be toxic, and "severe weather events" are taking place with greater frequency. But what can we do about it? If you're Artistic Director Julianne Boyd and the team at Barrington Stage Company, you put on a Musical Comedy.
Fall Springs is a cash-strapped, landlocked town that sits directly on top of one of America's largest reserves of cosmetic Essential Oils. And it has big dreams. But at what cost? With increased oil extraction and new fracking techniques being recklessly implemented, the ground beneath Fall Springs is beginning to crumble.
Streets are cracking and buckling. Road-signs, boulders and the occasional bartender are being swallowed into the ground. And that's just the beginning. Only Eloise Bradley, nerdy teenage existential-wallflower-geology-buff daughter of single parent Mayor Robert Bradley seems to notice that a great catastrophe is imminent. But will she be able to persuade her father and fellow townsfolk of the environmental dangers and escape town before it's too late? With dramatic action sequences, parent/child angst, lost and found souls, and a rocking, driving, passionate score, Fall Springs takes the best of musical theatre and disaster films to forge a hilarious and heartfelt musical comedy about the consequences of pushing Nature too far - and what happens when our routine lives become interrupted and we're forced to sacrifice to save what we love.
One should plant their tongue firmly in cheek for this one. It is over-the-top, exaggerated, and farcical in the way of Urinetown, The Book of Mormon, and Something Rotten. The original music is quite good and rather entertaining. The content seems to be split between two camps some directed at the "adult generation" of baby boomers, and some at their "millennial" offspring. Not that the two can't or don't overlap. Several common stereotypes and clichés are targeted as the butt of many jokes so there is pretty much something that works for just about everyone. There are some fun moments that require thinking: "that Greek figure of a daughter of yours", "let's light a match behind this cow"; and some that are just plain in your face: "maybe the earth doesn't like an enema". Some, I really just did not understand: "just because you have the same feet doesn't mean you have the same legs", nor why it is supposed to be funny. That's when I realized it was best to simply let go and enjoy the silliness that abounds.
The well-balanced and proficient ensemble cast includes Alyse Alan Louis as Eloise Bradley, Matt McGrath as Mayor Bradley, Ellen Harvey as Beverly Cushman, L.E. Barone as Vera Mariposa, Sam Heldt as Felix Cushman, Jorrel Javier as Cooper Mitford, Felicia Finley as Veronica Mitford, Ken Marks as Noland Wolanske, Eliseo Román as Roberto Mariposa. Each shows themselves to be strong character players who sing and move well.
To me, FALL SPRINGS feels like what might be the result of combining The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle with South Park, setting it all to music and making it live-action rather than animation. The new musical features music and lyrics by Niko Tsakalakos and book and lyrics by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, music supervision by BSC Associate Artist Vadim Feichtner, music direction by Mike Pettry, choreography by Patrick McCollum and direction by Stephen Brackett. Brackett's credits include directing Be More Chill which is evident in and made him an ideal choice for this piece.
FALL SPRINGS has scenic design by Tim Mackabee, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by David Lander, sound design by Josh Millican, vocal arrangements by Angelique Mouyis and orchestrations by Salomon Lerner. Casting by Pat McCorkle. Production Stage Manager: Renee Lutz.
With the recent success of similar productions like The Prom and Be More Chill, Berkshire theatre goers would be wise to catch the World Premiere of FALL SPRINGS while it plays on Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage (30 Union Street in Pittsfield, MA) through August 31. Tickets: $15 - $75. Barrington Stage Box Office: (413) 236-8888 or online at www.barringtonstageco.org.