Sometimes You Go Out to the East Side to See a Musical
And sometimes you go to a cute, little musical about a sweet lady who saves a bistro in Paris. And sometimes you find yourself thinking about politics. It’s not fair. Really I was expecting a sweet musical about a woman who asserts herself and her iconoclastic lifestyle from a Paris basement. And I walked out of Plymouth Church thinking of Scott Walker and Foxconn and Paul Ryan and tax reform and things. And actually it was kind of liberating. Boulevard Theatre’s manifestation of Dear World is an inspiring, little fantasy fable that cuts some of the edge off of current events out of Madison and D.C.
Originally staged in 1969, the musical is an eco-conscious fable in which love is pitted against greed. The heroic end of the play is great. I had plenty of room for it in my upcoming print review. Didn’t have as much room for the villains, though:
A Corporation of Three
The corporation looking to steal a Parisian home and bistro in favor of oil profits is present on stage as three guys. Chad Larget plays one of the three. Not familiar with him. (He’s quite charming as the Sewer Man in this production as well.) It’s really cool to see Zachary Dean and David Ferrie playing the other two, though. Ferrie played industrialist Georg Pullman years ago in a production of American Enterprise, so he’s in familiar territory. Dean has such a warm presence onstage that it’s a little sinister seeing him play an asshole industrialist villain. As President Two he’s not as prominent as Ferrie, but his presence here adds depth to a trio of jerks who make quite an impression given what little stage time they actually have. Dean’s got quite a voice. In the un-amped acoustics of Plymouth Church everyone’s voice is quite powerful..Dean, though...wow. He’s out there in a solo bit for a fraction of a second and he delivers a really, really powerful vocal crescendo. It’s remarkable.
Phantom Republicans Conjured by Concert Reading
In the first act the corporate trio of Ferrie, Dean and Larget perform a cute, little song about greed called, “A Little Bit More.” This is a concert reading. Without sets or lighting or complete costuming we’re listening to dialogue and music and imagination is doing the rest. Paris and the bistro and everything else are present there around the corners of imagination as the soundscape of the story settles-in. The industrial dreams of the corporate three expressed in “The Spring of Next Year,” brought forth the generally unwelcome image of Scott Walker and Foxconn. The hazy image of a sinister Paul Ryan began to resonate as the three sang, “Just a Little Bit More.” The image of Ryan was joined by McConnell and the orange infection in the Oval Office as the Sewer Man sung in feigned defense of the corporate three with a hauntingly funny, “Have a Little Pity on the Rich.”
The campy villainy of The Corporation in Dear World might feel a bit like comically trivializing a very, very serious problem that’s only gotten worse since the musical debuted in 1969. It’s very therapeutic, though. Trying to bomb the bistro in hopes of getting oil comes a cross a bit like an idea even Wile E . Coyote would have rejected, but looked at from the right angle it’s actually a cleverly comic personification of the kind of tragically stupid shortsightedness inherent in modern industrialization. By contrast the dreamy idealism and optimism of the title song feels every bit as strange and distant in what proves to be an elegantly ephemeral fugue of a show that remains a vividly haunting fairy tale for a dying world.
Boulevard Theatre’s concert reading of Dear World runs through Nov. 26 at Plymouth Church on 2717 E. Hampshire Rd. For ticket reservations call 414-744-5757 or visit www.boulevardtheatre.com A concise review of the show’s heroism appears in the next print edition of the Shepherd-Express.