BWW Review: 110 IN THE SHADE at BoHo Theatre
BoHo Theatre's production of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones's 110 IN THE SHADE makes the central, fierce, independent female character of Lizzie Curry take center stage. This is particularly true because Neala Barron's expert performance anchors every moment. Barron mines her character for the maximum amount of meaning and layers she can find: she makes us feel Lizzie's strong-willed, intelligent presence while also conveying a deep sense of longing to find a husband and start a family. 110 IN THE SHADE strikes a chord precisely because these two facets of Lizzie's character are not presented as irreconcilable: rather, Lizzie is simultaneously pragmatic and ambitious in her desires. With direction by outgoing Artistic Director Peter Marston Sullivan and music direction by Ellen Morris, Barron also thrives in each musical number backed by a 3-piece orchestra.
While Barron is undoubtedly the focus, she has good company with some of her fellow ensemble members. As File, Denzel Tsopnang portrays his character with a necessarily gruff exterior but allows us to see the emotional vulnerabilities underneath. Vocally, Tsopnang is on top of his game as well. As town newcomer and conman Starbuck, who comes with the seemingly too good to be true promise of rain, Tommy Thurston has a glimmer in his eye and a winsome ease that endears us to him immediately. Thurston also demonstrates considerable vocal expertise, and his act two solo "Melisande" is a highlight both in terms of vocals and acting. He plays the song moment-by-moment, finding in each lyric a moment of humor or genuine emotion. As Lizzie's father H.C. and her brothers Jimmy and Noah, Peter Robel, Christopher Ratliff, and Billy Dawson, respectively, have an easy rapport that makes them believable as a family unit. Ratliff and Dawson in particularly play off each other nicely, with the latter leaning into the comedic potential in his role as Jimmy and Dawson being unafraid to deliver some hard truths as Noah. The eight ensemble members do fine work, and the production elements also set the backdrop for the small-town life that encompasses Lizzie's modest dreams.
it is Barron's work as Lizzie that wins the day and provides the real reason to see 110 IN THE SHADE. Barron delivers all of her vocals flawlessly but constantly reminds audiences of her considerable talent as an actor. This particularly comes to a head in the act one finale "Old Maid." Barron makes the number a dizzying, emotion-filled tour de force. It's fitting for a number that embodies both her character's strong-willed nature and her loneliness all in one.
BoHo's 110 IN THE SHADE paints a musical portrait of one woman's desire to find her place in the world.
BoHo Theatre's 110 IN THE SHADE plays through December 16 at Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont Avenue. Tickets are $35. BoHoTheatre.com
Photo Credit: Liz Lauren