BWW Review: MUSICALS ON THE MOVE at Wanderlust Theatre On Location
Midtown Tallahassee Comes Alive with Immersive Theatre
Have you ever "trash talked" a fellow theater-goer as you passed each other in the aisle? Probably not, right?
There was a tiny bit of trash talking -- the fun kind -- as the green team and the red teams passed each other as they went to their assigned venues for Musicals on the Move. (Picture: "Green team is the best!") Musicals on the Move is a unique immersive theater experience that debuted in Tallahassee, Florida's, midtown area on July 18.
Attendees gathered at the Hawthorn (a local eatery) to register, enjoy cocktails and order food if they wanted, and prepare for the adventure ahead. Each attendee was handed an itinerary and placed on one of four teams: Green, Red, Yellow and Blue.
Team Green was the first to leave, with the capable guidance of Jerry, carrying a "team green" placard and explaining the group's marching orders.
There were four stops among which the four teams rotated in the first part of the evening: A Country Rose (a florist), SoDough Bakery, Vocelles Bridal and Chop Barber Shop.
A Country Rose
As audience members filed into the shop, doo-wop music played in the background.
This segment featured "Grow for Me" and "Suddenly Seymour" from "Little Shop of Horrors." Audrey (the plant) was close enough to eat an audience member.
No microphones; no overdone stage makeup. Just human actors singing their hearts out (and, of course, in the case of Audrey, one puppet).
As Seymour Krelborn (Bradley Gay), clad in a humble green sweater and khakis, tried to keep the voracious plant Audrey II alive to the strains of "Grow for Me," the action segued into his dialogue with Audrey (Brittyn Dion Bonham), in a skintight skirt and sky-high red heels, and a heartfelt serenade of "Suddenly Seymour."
(Photo: Bradley Gay and Brittyn Dion Bonham. Credit: Juliet Yaques and Erich D. Martin)
As audience members arrive at a bakery, the scene is set for a day at the diner. Jenna (Hannah Trowell) in a "SoDough is for Lovers t-shirt," begins singing "Sugar ... Butter ... Flour" (the beginning strains of "What's Inside") and is joined by a five-person ensemble making the diner of "Waitress" come alive. The difficult relationship between Jenna and Cal, the diner owner, makes the room crackle with tension before the cast picks the action back up, sings "Opening Up," and hands out cinnamon sugar donuts to the cast members. "What baking can do" comes to life in audience members' tastebuds.
(Photo: Dakota Thal, Victoria Ashley Evelyn Johnson, Spencer Scruggs, Hannah Trowell, Lexi McCain and Danielle Charboneau. Credit: Juliet Yaques and Erich D. Martin)
Team Green's next stop after the bakery was Vocelle's (a bridal shop). Audience members were handed flutes of champagne as they entered Vocelle's. It quickly became apparent there was a recalcitrant bride as the strains of "Getting Married Today" from "Company" get more and more frenetic. Once the bride came to terms (a bit) with her fate, the music transitioned to "It's Your Wedding Day" from The Wedding Singer.
The feel in Vocelle's was fun all around (except for the one audience member who was a bit surprised to get her champagne almost knocked out of her hand by the recalcitrant bride -- it's a bad idea to underestimate the desperation of a recalcitrant bride).
(Photo: Nina Bodony, Jacob Christopher Arnett, Alexis Johnson, Whitney Snow, Ian Kennedy and Grant Brecheisen. Credit: Juliet Yaques and Erich D. Martin)
Chop Barber Shop
The atmosphere was foreboding and dark at the audience members filed into Chop Barber Shop. Blades, foreboding and choreography meant to scare (that succeeded) pervaded the building. The musical selections were "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" and "My Friends" from "Sweeney Todd." The sight of "real" blood dripping from the blade provided quite the counterpoint to the Vocelle's "pure white bridal" experience.
(Photo: Julia Swann, Zachary Aaron Croft, Jon Mathes and Melissa Madge Johnson. Credit: Erich D. Martin)
The four smaller groups converged at an Irish Pub for "Gold" from "Once" and "A Man of No Importance" from the show of the same name. The quarters were tight, but the spirits were high as the cast members sang "Gold" from "Once," and "The Streets of Dublin" from "A Man of No Importance."
(Photo: Danielle Charboneau, Nick Yaquinto and Ian Kennedy. Credit: Erich D. Martin)
Finale: Fire Betty's
For the finale, the entire group arrived at an arcade bar. A young man was guided to a pinball machine, and the strains of "Pinball Wizard" from "The Who's Tommy" began. The entire company proceeded to perform "Pinball Wizard" and take a final bow.
(PhotoCredit: Erich D. Martin)
Immersive theater differs from a traditional theater experience in multiple ways. The elimination, for the most part, of the fourth wall. The sharing of physical space with the actors and the other audience members. The breaks between performances as groups walk between venues. The rapid change in theme ... a silly musical to the dark smileless world of Sweeney Todd.
It was an environment as fitting for the theater expert as it is for someone who has never set foot in a live theater before. There was no necessity to have a preconceived notion of what was going to happen or a grasp of the plotline; it would change at the next stop anyway.
Art lovers in a community should have a chance to meet each other at a time other than pre-show, intermission, or post-show. Citizens of a community should walk their own streets once in a while, and Musicals on the Move gave Tallahasseeans that opportunity. Businesses should support their local artists, and with Musicals on the Move, six of them did.
Traditional theater isn't going away. Immersive theater such as Musicals on the Move isn't an interloper or a threat; it's yet another way to keep local theater vibrant and alive.
Musicals on the Move was directed by Laura Hope-London. The choreographer was Holly Stone, Assistant Director Hannah Fazio and Music Directors Grant Brecheisen and C. Jonah Watson. For more information, visit the company's Facebook page.