It was a pleasure seeing Bad Example's enchantingly anarchic production of Coraline the Musical. I’m reviewing the show for the next print edition of the Shepherd-Express along with a write-up on Dave Hendrickson’s Beyond Flesh & Blood.
I only get 300 words for a print review. There’s a lot that doesn’t have a chance to make it into a (hopefully) cohesive 300 words of analysis. This is particularly true of weirdly chaotic show like Coraline. Yes, I’ll have a chance to talk about how much I loved Madeline McNichols as a heroic, young girl bravely standing-up to a disturbingly menacing Kendall Yorkey as her Other Mother, but what about the puppets? What about the stuffed dog? And what’s on that t-shirt she’s wearing anyway? There are so many fascinating, little details that don’t have a hope of making it into 300 words here is a little of what didn’t make it into the review in no particular order:
Coraline runs into ghosts of children looking to be saved. They’re cold and they’re freezing and they’re played by puppets that have been designed by Josh Perkins, who has done work with Angry Young Men Ltd. The puppets are tiny, little things that need protecting. Perkins has done a remarkable job of making them profoundly vulnerable. They tremble like frigid, ragged little muppets from beyond the grave. Your heart goes out to them. You want to snuggle with them or lend them a blanket or something. I love those puppets.
The dog: As Miss Forcible, Zachary Dean handed me a stuffed dog early-on. (Thank you Mr. Dean.) I like to sit in the front row...several people in the front row were handed stuffed dogs. It’s a nice touch. I found myself petting the thing and scratching behind its ears over the course of the show. It’s not for everyone (and there wouldn’t be enough to go around if it was) but those plush dogs added to the crazy energy of the atmosphere. (Thanks again Zachary Dean for handing me the dog at the beginning of the show.)
Samantha Paige and Edward Lupella are really good at being disinterested: Paige and Lupella play Coraline’s mother and father. It’s nice to see Paige onstage again. When she’s not playing a Martian and he’s not playing Other Father, they’re onstage looking at actively distracted by work-bearing screens. They manage to make disinterested characters seem genuinely interesting. That’s not easy.
Hey--that’s a Led Zeppelin T-Shirt She’s Wearing: Original artist Dave McKean had her wearing a relatively nondescript white shirt. The stop-motion animated film had her wearing stars. Costumer Nikki Martich has Coraline wearing Chuck Taylors, blue denim bib overalls and a t-shirt. It works. McNichols looks suitably kid-like. She even manages to make a t-shirt and overalls look heroic, though I can’t really explain why. I didn’t notice what was printed on the t-shirt she’s wearing underneath the bib overalls onstage. The promo pics quite clearly show that the shirt has a classic Led Zeppelin logo on it. I’m okay with this. Coraline should wear a Zeppelin t-shirt. It works for me. She’s a cool kid. This is a fun show. It should be Zeppelin.
Bad Example Productions’ staging of Coraline The Musical runs through Aug. 13 at the Tenth Street Theatre on 628 N. 10th St. For ticket reservations, visit coralinemusical.brownpapertickets.com. My comprehensive review of the show runs in the next print edition of the Shepherd-Express.