BWW Review: ROUGH MAGIC at Booker High VPA

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BWW Review: ROUGH MAGIC at Booker High VPA

One of the joys of reviewing shows is when I am assigned to critique a production at one of our local schools. It is an opportunity for me to watch actors perform simply for the love of theatre. More times than not, the skill of these young actors and quality of the show will rival that of what you would find at one of our local community theatres. "Rough Magic," presented by the Booker High School VPA Theatre Department continues the long-standing tradition of excellence in youth theatre here in Sarasota.

"Rough Magic," written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Sunny Smith, is a Shakespearean action-adventure-fantasy that transplants characters from "The Tempest" into present day New York. The story follows Melanie Porter, Caliban and Chet Baxter in their quest to stop the evil sorcerer, Prospero from recovering an ancient book of magic which, if recovered, will ultimately lead to his complete domination of his world and possibly the destruction of New York.

Fantasy and Shakespeare are both difficult to pull off, so combining the two makes this play a daunting task for even the most veteran actor. The story moves back and forth between the two worlds and the characters are both dynamic and eccentric. The performers must present polarizing portrayals in order for the author's tale to be truly visualized by the audience. To this note, director Sunny Smith did a masterful job. Each actor was immersed in his character and was not afraid to take chances or completely envelop themselves into roles that were most likely new and uncomfortable from ones they had previously played.

Nicole Parisi was magnanimous as Melanie Porter. She presented an innocence and a quirkiness that was a cross between Nancy Drew and Dora the Explorer which made for an intriguing yet thought-proving performance. Parisi delivered each line and action with precision. She was like a storybook character who came to life, almost as if you were watching a character transformed from your mind as you read a page to the stage. Her interactions with her fellow cast displayed several layers and provided depth to a role that could have very easily stayed on the surface.

Chet Baxter, played by Drew Miller, delivered a masterful display of comic relief. Miller navigated the difficult task of portraying a character who is naïve yet brilliant (in his own way) at the same time. Miller's ability to engage an audience was unquestionable. He carefully balanced his role of winning the girl and saving the world in such a way that the importance of each was actually overshadowed by his connections to the other characters in the show. This is a true credit to his meticulousness as an actor as well as Sunny Smith's ability to bring a vision for a show to life.

One of the most difficult characters to present accurately was Caliban, played by Ricky Bizzaro. It is probably easy for most performers to play roles they relate to but when asked to present a character from another time and place, the task becomes more daunting. I have seen Bizzaro in several roles over the years and this was unquestionably his best performance. There was a special authenticity to his portrayal of Caliban that allowed the audience to connect with a character that might have otherwise seemed world's away from their typical theatrical schema.

McDowall (Tisiphone), Emma Katz (Alecto) and Christina Brush (Magaera) were clear fan favorites and each exemplified what it means to have fun on stage. Mick Mazaeda (Ariel) and Samantha Crawford (Sasia) did a superb job of maintaining characters that required accuracy and a multi-dimensional approach as they conveyed their menacing roles. Jack Nash (Prospero) had the daunting job of playing someone who must not only be evil but also serve as the ringmaster to the world he wants to dominate. Each of these young actors took their characters to heart and presented dynamic interpretations of their roles.

"Rough Magic" is an interesting cross between timeless theatre and a fantasy game come to life. The storyline itself might not appeal to everyone but what is unquestionable is the incredible talent displayed by these performers. People have a wide array of reasons to go see a show. Booker High School's production of "Rough Magic" was the perfect choice for anyone who may need a subtle reminder that theatre should be about the love of performing. Not to mention, you would have witnessed a fantastic display of the high-quality shows and amazing young performers we are blessed to have in our community.

More information about the Booker High School program can be found at

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From This Author Jacob Ruscoe