BWW Review: THE MANUFACTURED MYTH OF EVELINE FLYNN Bowls Over Theatre Three Audiences
"The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn" at Theatre Three, a new musical written by Ian Ferguson and Michael Federico, is a crazy fever dream of a story to begin with, so a wild opening performance seems somehow fitting. The title character, Eveline, has unexplainable dreams and nightmares that can hit at any time, even when she is not asleep. In her waking life, Eveline searches to make sense of her relationships with her boyfriend Foster, her parents, her brother Stephen, and her brother's fiancé Molly, who also happens to be Eveline's best friend. The songs sung in the "real world" are all a similar contemporary musical theater style. In Eveline's dreams, the people in her normal life become larger than life representations of her problems, and their music becomes a hodge-podge of fun, eclectic genres. The inane chatter of her coworkers becomes a Pollyannaish Ziegfeld follies number complete with spinning office chairs. When Eveline suspects Stephen is bad for Molly, Eveline dreams of Stephen wielding a knife trying to attack Molly. Some of my favorite moments are the ridiculous musical numbers that come out of those dreams, like the songs performed by the fictional intergalactic girl band "Kitten Scrape," which uses the power of rock to destroy a super villain who resembles Eveline's father.
Monday night was an out of the ordinary opening for the "Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn." For the past few weeks, the cast has been plagued by illness and injury - in fact, their final preview was cancelled because of multiple illnesses - but the show must go on, and on it did go. Due to illness, Sam Swenson could not go on last night in the role of Stephen. Ian Ferguson, who wrote the music and lyrics for the new musical, stepped into the role with just a few hours of rehearsal, while choreographer Danielle Georgiou and her rehearsal assistant Colby Calhoun filled in for the dances that Ferguson couldn't learn in time. Director Kara-Lynn Vaeni, Music Director Vonda Bowling, cast members Lauren LeBlanc, Madison Calhoun, and Taylor Nash, and other Theatre Three staff members all arrived hours early for a put-in rehearsal; their swift responses saved the day! The rest of the cast and crew handled the changes that night flawlessly. I wish Swenson a swift recovery, but my experience was not diminished by Ferguson's, Georgiou's, and Calhoun's collective presence or splitting of the role. In fact, I saw an exclusive version of this show that very few others will get to see!
Lauren LeBlanc, who plays Eveline, has a really funny dry wit, perfect for landing darkly amusing quips about mortality, mental health, and the mediocrity of her life. Her outbursts of emotion towards the end were touching, since she had convinced me of her character's closed-off nature. LeBlanc had a killer voice too, but sadly I often had a hard time hearing that voice. Because the show was staged in the round, I found I had a harder time hearing anybody facing away from me, even though everyone was mic'ed. I have to give a shout-out to cast members Taylor Nash and Angela Davis though - I could hear every word they sang, and their powerful voices stole the show for me.
Director Kara-Lynn Vaeni kept the pace of the scenes tight. The frenetic energy she demanded of her actors most of the time allowed the few moments of silence to stand out and really hit home. According to her Director's Notes in the program, Vaeni was influenced by the speed of communication and collaboration in the age of texting. Vaeni and her assistant director Mac Welch guide the cast to be able to capture the speed and pithiness of a text message; the resulting style of the dialogue is crisp, sharp, and casual.
Vonda K. Bowling's music direction and conducting were similarly crisp. She kept the five instrumentalists in the pit (Hamilton Levine, Dennis Langevin, Brian Mathis, and Christ Crotwell) perfectly in sync. There may have been some issues in balancing the sound of the pit and the singers, but from the parts I could hear, it seems Bowling worked with these songs as if they were monologues - they were sung conversationally, very naturally, even intimately. The flow from dialogue to music was sometimes jarring, though, before the singer settled back into that conversational tone.
The songs that took place in Eveline's dreams hooked me right away. The dream sequences gave Danielle Georgiou's choreography the chance to shine. The ensemble looked spectacular soaring through the air or swirling around the action. The non-dream songs didn't have the same genre parody to make me laugh or choreography to illustrate the action, so a couple of them felt pretty slow in places. Some of the songs may need a little tightening up or paring down, but overall the show was gorgeous. The ensemble is so strong, not just in their talents, but also in their ability to power through illness, injury, and unexpected changes. "The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn" is a fun mystery to solve, a wild ride full of twists and turns. The characters are complex and dynamic and by the end you'll be rooting for each and every one of them to succeed, to learn, and to grow.
"The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn" runs at Theatre Three in Dallas through February 24th. For more information and to purchase tickets visit theatre3dallas.com or call the box office at 214-871-3300.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Three