Review: Societal Consciousness in A Political Era With GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER at freeFall Theatre

Onstage through March 10, and enjoying many a sold-out performance.

By: Mar. 04, 2024
Review: Societal Consciousness in A Political Era With GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER at freeFall Theatre
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“What and the Hell are people for...?”

“I love you sons of bitches...I really do...”

“You just call out my name, And you know wherever I am

I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah, To see you again

Winter, spring, summer, or fall, All you have to do is call

And I’ll be there, yes, I will ,You’ve got a friend...” -Carole King

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is Kurt Vonnegut’s fifth novel and was published in 1965.

Its Post-Modern Satire context paved way for Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, arguably his most well-known work. In the novel, Vonnegut highlights the life and times of the consciously-bound multi-millionaire Eliot Rosewater.

Throughout the story we see Mr. Rosewater move the Foundation which he heads to the family home of his childhood in Rosewater, Indiana. While there he dispenses unlimited amounts of love, and limited sums of money to anyone who comes to his office.

The one quandary plaguing Eliot’s conscious is the problem, of “How to love people who have no use.” To face this quandary head-on, Eliot begins helping what society deems as “life’s terminal losers.”

Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction author is referenced several times throughout, and even appears in the flesh near the end. Trout is seen as Rosewater’s fictional alter-ego and near the end, helps bring Rosewater back to a sane reality.

The character of Eliot Rosewater appears in a couple other Vonnegut novels. In the novel, and consequently the show, Eliot’s hallucinations mix up the fire-bombing of Dresden with Indianapolis. This fire-bombing is an over-arching theme played out in Slaughterhouse-Five.

Rosewater’s namesake is an amalgamation of three very real people. T.S. Eliot, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Barry Goldwater. The US Presidential Election of 1964, highly influenced Vonnegut’s work here.

The musical, at least for our purposes was adapted from the novel for stage in 1979. It featured a book/lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, and additional lyrics by Dennis Green.

It opened off-Broadway on October 14,1979, at the Entermedia Theatre. There it ran for 49 performances, and closed on November 24th.

The stage adaptation of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater was featured at New York City Centers Encores! in July 2016. A cast album of the revival soon followed on July 28,2017. Featuring the cast of Skylar Astin, Santino Fontana, Brynn O’Malley, and James Earl Jones.

The musical would go on record as being the first collaboration between Menken and Ashman.

Featuring 17 musical numbers over two hours, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, is full of heart, and make you feel for the plight of every character.

Our friends at freeFall Theatre under the esteemed Direction of Eric Davis have done it once again. Taken a classic show, and worked it in a way only freeFall can manage.

The cast from top to bottom is stellar in every sense of the word.

As our central character, Eliot Rosewater, Robert Teasdale is magnetic in stage presence and plight. Resembling a young Steven Pasquale, he takes the story in his arms and envelops the story with so much passion and heart, he leaves you hanging on every word. Having last seen his work in the ThinkTank/TampaRep co-production of Arthur Miller’s subliminal masterpiece The Crucible, it is wonderful to see him in a different light. Just like as John Proctor, Mr. Teasdale commands the stage here, and leaves everything in his wake. His voice is smooth, and his delivery and grounded nature of his character shines through from start to finish.

Hannah Laird as Sylvia Rosewater is the perfect woman scorned. The dutiful housewife who loses assemblance of her life as she has come to know it, and her world crumbles around her. Her vocals are strong in delivery, and you feel her heart break right before your very eyes. A beautiful portrayal from Hannah Laird.

As Mary Moody and a member of the Ensemble, Heather Baird is wonderful. She is concise in every moment-to moment and you feel for her journey. She is a great addition to the company. After seeing her earlier this season in Nightsweat, its wonderful to see her in this musical arena.

Sara DelBeato is wonderful as Diana Moon Glampers/Caroline/Ensemble. She has a well thought out character behind every moment. As Diana she is the comedic relief, and as Caroline she is the dutiful homemaker, her vocals soar to the rafters, and its always wonderful to see her on the freeFall stage.

Cameron Kubly as Norman Mushari/Jerome/Kilgore Trout/Ensemble is dynamic in every moment. You believe each one of these characters plights, and his vocals are astounding.

Matthew McGee as Senator Rosewater/Delbert Peach/Fred/Ensemble is the perfect comedic relief in an otherwise heavier piece. Always commanding of the stage in every moment, Matthew’s performance here is an almost out of body experience. The back and forth changes between the characters would be a tough go for even the most seasoned of performers, and Matthew does so with bravura.

Lulu Picart is wonderful as Dawn/Psychiatrist/Ensemble. Just the right amount of comedy to not seem too far out of place, and grounded in the right moments of her delivery. Her vocals are top notch, and she is a great addition to the company.

James Martin Roberts as McCallister/Charley/Ensemble is an excellent addition to this company of performers. His arc throughout the story has many different moments to shine, and James does so with gusto, adding a unique layer to the story.

Director Eric Davis pulls out all the stops here. Getting the most out of his cast to tell this unique adaptation of the classic Vonnegut novel. Expertly paced, and beautifully designed, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is a feast for both the eyes and ears, and a truly beautiful rendering of this classic work.

The wonderful scenic design by Tom Hansen brings the world of Rosewater into our current worldview, and allows us to escape awhile. The genius use of models to resemble different places, buildings, and transportation was a wonderful touch, and map of the United States doubling as tables was a wonderful use of materials to help drive the story home. Costumes by David Covach gave each character a unique personality all their own, and wig design by Jonathan Hall allowed us to be thrust into the period nature of the piece. Exceptional lighting design by Dalton Hamilton blended seamlessly with the scenic elements of Tom Hansen’s design and added a beautiful texture to the piece. Eric Davis’ exceptional prop/video/sound design allowed us to be fully immersed into the story.

Hands down, kudos goes to the always exceptional Michael Raabe on piano, leading our performers through the musical moments of the piece. Little did I know until after, that the Cellist was injured, and Michael hammered through playing every part of the piece on piano, and you would have never known the wiser. Wonderful work delivered here by Michael.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater has enjoyed a majority of sold-out shows, and you can catch this classic tale live onstage through March 10. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.freefalltheatre.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: THEE PHOTO NINJA




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