“Love happens in the most amusing places,” Cat Davis ’03 announces at the opening of “Festival”, which director Scott Peterman ’03 describes as his “Zany Musical Extravaganza.”
As it turns out, he means “Zany” with a capital zed. “Festival” will do anything for a laugh, with shows running this Thursday through Saturday at the Off-Broadway Theater. Look out for random keg-stands in the background, people in guerilla suits joining a chorus line, and nympho shepherds getting it on under a blanket. Even the old groan-inducing “walk this way” gag finds its way into the performance. Boy, that one sure is a doozy.
It becomes clear very early that the details of the plot of “Festival” — a Romeo and Juliet spin-off that is also reminiscent of the play-within-a-play of Pyramus and Thisby in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” — are quite inconsequential. In fact, at one point, Davis as the narrator writes a dead character back into the script because it’s more convenient.
You know the story already: Aucassin (an earnest Ray Shem ’03) falls in love with Nicolette (angel-voiced New Blue member Katie Vagnino ’02). One might say they are star-crossed. And their two families, both alike in dignity, are at war with each other. Throw in some pirates with plungers for peg-legs, a Chinese dragon, and some very N’Sync-esque Carthaginians, and you’ve got the Sparknotes version of “Festival.”
As you may have guessed by now, if you go see this show, it won’t be for the plot. Here, it is the players that make the show worthwhile. The key to its success is the sheer enthusiasm of those gleefully cavorting performers, who bring a new meaning to the word “cavort”. In fact, the chorus is deep with talent. No off-key, off-beat wallflowers a-la-sixth grade musical here. Nearly all of them manage to shine, particularly Michael Schulman ’03, whose hysterical multiple personae are a highlight of the show, and Lindsey Ford ’05, whose solo in the second act makes you wonder why director Peterman doesn’t take further advantage of her beautiful voice. Of course, you could ask the same about many of the other cast members.
The answer is that the cast of “Festival” is like a microcosm of Yale, where some are better at dancing and some better at singing, but all are pretty damn solid. Narrator- Troubadour Davis, who lays claim to most of the action in the show, is especially impressive. She sings and dances well, but it is her personality and presence that win us over. Davis guides the show into order, tempering the randomness and keeping that darned zaniness at bay without upstaging anyone. The show also benefits from a four-piece band which, though it sometimes drowns out the voices of un-miked performers, adds a funky, Rentish feel to the musical numbers.
Overall, “Festival” proves itself a charming, amusing jaunt off the beaten path of musical theater. Granted, it is more “The Producers” than “Les Mis” (which in one memorable scene, French flag unfurled, it actually parodies), but it is definitely a good time.
“We’ve had our fun, the play is done. We hope you had fun, too,” Davis sings as the show closes.
If fun is its purpose, “Festival” definitely hits the target.
The Off-Broadway Theater
Thurs. 8 p.m., Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
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