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The Spidey Project — A Musical That Soars

Hollywood Fringe 2017

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Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017There’s been a sizable number of musicals this year, but few good ones.

I attended 21 – either traditional musicals or musical solo shows.

The top tier shows were Save Me a Spot, Turbulence!, Hello Again! Songs of Allen Sherman, Help! I Might Be Fabulous!, The Brick: A One Man Musical, Do You: Migration of the Monarchs  and Office Beat.

The middle tier was taken up by Shakeslesque: To Thine own Cherry be True, The Fabulous Fables of Aesop and Divorce: A Hip-Hop Musical.

That’s less than half, and from that point they went down faster than a sack full of anvils to the only “Ear Wax” medal of this Fringe, Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical.

The Spidey Project has been one of the most popular shows at Fringe 2017 and it’s easy to understand why after seeing the first class staging it received at Studio/Stage on Western Avenue.

Understandably we’re not seeing the budget of a Spiderman Hold Back the Darkness, which as I understand cost $2.43 more than the Invasion of Normandy.

However, where money needed to be — from what undoubtedly was a limited budget — it was well spent (such as G.G. Rafuse’s excellent comic art), and where there was no money to spend, the production team fell back on that perennial godsend: imagination.

And here comes one of those renowned Kearney-isms, “Two cents worth of imagination buys you a hundred dollars in audience admiration.”  Well at least in the theatre.

The creative talents behind the show consists of: Producers Gregory and Jenn Scuderi Crafts for Theatre Unleashed, direction by Justin Moran who along with Jonathan Raufaeal carries credit for the book and lyrics, and music by Doug Katsaros and Adam Podd. Jennifer Linn serves as Musical Director.  And they have given us a show that is hugely entertaining.

The strengths of this production include those twin hallmarks of professionalism, a well-crafted and intelligent mounting.  Add to this a cast that can actually sing (and sing well), a concept that was approached seriously, and solid direction.

As a matter of fact, most of the musicals of this Fringe that fell beneath the bar could do themselves a favor by catching The Spidey Project and bringing along a pad and pen to take notes.

Now normally I would just list the standouts in the production, but again, here is one of those happy occasions where everybody involved proved to be a standout: Richard Abraham as Uncle Ben (whose work we’ve enjoyed in the past), Lindsay Braverman (who did double duty as the choreographer), Margaret Glaccum who was a hoot as Aunt May, Henry Kaiser was great fun as an Emmy hungry newsman, Heather Lake nearly snuck away with the show as the love-starved secretary, Presley Roy was delectable as the love interest, Adam Slemon excelled as the show’s man of many faces, Christopher Jewell Valentin was a very nasty villain and Travis Nilan filled the bill of Peter Parker/Spidey like it was tailor cut for him.

The single weakness in the show is in the book: It is “tale-lite.”

Platinum MedalNow for fans of the comic, those who know the superhero mythos, and would rush home after Junior High to catch the late afternoon cartoon series, it works.  But just doing the creation-story of Spidey is a tad too cut and dry, but if there is some contractual harness restraining the play, I’m unaware of it.

Otherwise it’s a ten-gallon show offering only about eight – make that nine gallons.

 

A PLATINUM MEDAL

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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