Review: FABLES IN CONCERT at Green Room 42 Is Fun-Filled & Loaded with Lessons

Aesop's ancient stories in a staged reading of a family musical on May 12th

By: May. 23, 2024
Review: FABLES IN CONCERT at Green Room 42 Is Fun-Filled & Loaded with Lessons
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It was Mother’s Day afternoon at The Green Room 42 and the audience was filled with mothers, fathers, kids, possibly some grandparents, and those not in any of those categories, for a family-friendly concert production of a musical.  The source material for the stories it dramatized, and added songs to, was far older than everybody in the cast combined.  They were some of the fables credited to Aesop, that storyteller, who, it’s believed, lived in Greece back in the good old B.C.E. days.  Fables in Concert presented several of those ancient tales, populated mostly by speaking animal characters, that are filled with strong lessons and morality messages.  A large cast appeared in the episodes chosen from the large number of Aesop’s fables, covering such topics as kindness, cooperation, selfishness, friendship, work, respect, the changing of the seasons and the changing of attitudes.  A running bit was having the actors address the audience directly, but deciding they must be fleas.

The original score (lyrics are by A. J. Freeman, who also wrote the script; the often bouncy and blithe music is by Dimitri Landrain) has many attractive numbers that were energetically delivered by the company. Judging by the varying attentiveness of the mostly quite little wiggling-around/ gazing-around-the-room children near my table, some songs and dialogue clearly captured their attention more than others, likely due to not all of the material having vocabulary and references they’d understand.  The “In Concert” part of the title didn't mean that dialogue would be minimal, but that the presentation had the elements of a reading, with actors having the printed pages on music stands with mics and generally just some suggestion of costumes.  Even though the characters were often addressed by the name of their species, or whatever they were (there’s the Sun and there’s a self-satisfied bullying Wind), many observers would “get” what was going on more if there’d been the benefits of costumes to add instant and ongoing awareness of who’s who and if actors had been unencumbered by scripts and had been free to move in animal-like ways. Despite the natural limitations of a concert reading, however, Lorenzo Hilliard as the frog, managed to make the most of some appropriate leg movements and a few delightfully frog-like “ribbits”.

Among the strongest performances came in the segment about the very industrious, serious ant trying to convince the carefree grasshopper the value of work and the need to be prepared for the harsh season of winter.  Laura D’Andre made her character of the all-work-and-no-play ant stand out (it helped that her song reinforced her shunning other activities, with the repeated title line “You Can’t If You’re an Ant”).  Autumn Hurlbert was ideally bubbly and full of energy as the grasshopper — her characterization transmitted to the crowd and she garnered many laughs.  There were nice moments in the part about the unlikely friendship of a big lion (Connor Marsh) and a tiny mouse (Carly Gendell), while Sienna Aczon and Lorenzo Hilliard did well with the sung news that “Scary Creatures Are Everywhere.”  

There were spoken and sung lines that hammered home points and lessons and self-affirmation mantras, in ways that left no mistaking what they hoped would be absorbed.  Here are some examples:  “I see the light inside of me”.....”You’re so special.  You need to believe it.” ….”Do you really think that bullying will get you what you want?” … “Every day is a chance to light the way” … “We can choose the path that we take.  Choose to do what is right.” …  “Now I can see that the problem was me” … “Life will always have storms–sometimes of our own making.”  Others are more playful, such as the crow (played by Scott Ahearn) rapping with “Yo, yo, yo. My name is Crow” and a deft use of alliteration with “Worthless, wimpy, weak–What a waste of weather! … Worried, weary. When will I be worthy?”     

The show was directed with care and flair by Rebecca Miller Kratzer, managing quite the parade of performers (including some youngsters among the adults), with splendid music direction by Ben Covello.  The producer is Tiffany Schleigh.

Find more upcoming shows at the Green Room 42 on their website.


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