BWW Review: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES at Delaware Theatre Company
Aisle Say has seen hundreds of shows. Never have I experienced such an overwhelming amalgam of sound and light, FX and empathy, soaring and captivating voices singing gorgeous melodies, as in this performance of SOMETHING WICKED COMES THIS WAY. Prepare yourself for superlatives.
Producing Artistic Director Bud Martin mentions ..." this is probably the most artistically challenging show in our history". That, my friends, is an understatement!
First of all, it is based on the novel by Ray Bradbury, the renown sci fi author who gave us the dystopian FARHENHEIT 451 and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN. In 1932, his mother took Ray to a carnival when an entertainer - one Mr. Electrico - touched the young man on the nose with an electrified sword, making his hair stand on end. (Bradbury remarked, "I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico'. (The character comes to life at The Lightning Rod Salesman, performed magically by Steve Pacek).
It was Director Rachel Rockwell's challenge to bring this to life in the most fantastical live event possible. It is the depression year 1938. Two vulnerable boys, Jim (Sawyer Nunes) and Will (John Francis Babbo) sense wickedness in their small town. The adults do not believe and the boys are left to fight this alone. Will's father Charles (Stephen Bogardus) is mourning the death of his wife and remains distant from his son. Bogardus has a beautiful voice and his scene of reconciliation with his son is poignant.
The FX of this show (Production Designers Freckled Sky) are categorically mind-boggling; nothing before ever seen, as if moviedom's CGI appeared live on stage. (The employees may be too young to have known what were the effects of LSD, but someone in that group is smoking something hinky). You simply will not believe what is appearing before you.
Upon curtain a locomotive scream is sounded and the impact is that it will crash into your seats. A 'wicked' carnival descends upon Greentown seeking to rend its citizens apart, but there are a few - innocent and pure of heart - who eventually persevere. This show is a parable of man's inhumanity to man collected up in a carnival. A whirligig of emotions amongst the characters finally result in honor, truth and virtue.
A demonstrably original concept, joining great writing with simply stupefying, otherworldly special effects. (It was apparent Sawyer Nunes does not suffer from vertigo). During the show, I saw vestiges of "La Theatre du Grand Guignol", which ran for over 60 years in Paris, performing naturalistic, amoral productions. I heard musical patterns and rhythms reminiscent of SWEENEY TODD (itself linked to Grand Guignol. Of course, whenever a straight razor appears, one thinks of the demon barber). I saw the costuming and the darkened, smoldering eyes similar to Brecht's THREE PENNY OPERA.
Casting by Delaware Shakespeare Festival's David Stradley was superb. The voices, ah, the voices. The Dust Witch (Meghan Murphy) was straight out of Idina Menzel gone crazy. Mr. Dark (Rob Riddle) commanded the stage, manipulated the characters like puppet master Jonathan Pryce as The Engineer in MISS SAIGON, although Riddle has a far better voice. (Think Howard Keel in KISS ME KATE). He led a thrilling "Pandemonium" which must be the longest production number in theatre history.
I surmise some who are not aficionados of sci fi may be reluctant. I am not a big fan myself. I see this production as ground breaking; a true original in what it brings to live theatre: the message, the music, the tech and the height of professional acting.
In years of reviewing I have never said 'must see' for it degrades credibility for future articles. I am modestly - or perhaps immodestly -pronouncing this show as MUST SEE. The co-producers, Yonge Street Theatricals, obviously have big plans for their project.
Through Oct 8 DelawareTheatre.org 302.594.1100
Next up DARE TO BE BLACK October 25