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MURDER BALLAD presented by Stone on a Walk Theatre through June 27. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening Saturday performance.
John Leo Muething lauches the sophmore summer season of his Stone on a Walk Theatre with the musical MURDER BALLAD. As the title implies, someone is going to be killed, but this isn’t a “who done it?” It’s a “who’s done in?”
This rock opera employs a small four-person cast of strong singers. Katrina Reynolds impresses as the Narrator. I enjoyed her “front man” persona and she established a fun dynamic with the audience. I liked how Lauren Carr gives Sara a underlying sadness that influences her character’s decision-making. Luka Ashley Carter does well as Tom and has a nice chemistry with Carr. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tom a bit more domineering to Sara at the beginning of the show, and see that return near the end. Montez Uma rounds out the cast as self-made man Michael. Uma brings a more positive energy to the show and handles the role well. The finale/curtain call had a great attitude and energy to it that you should carry through your final weekend of performances.
This was my first trip to Simple Space, a storefront reclaimed as a small (600 sq. foot) event space. A long and narrow room, the show is smartly staged along the long wall. Having the audience that close can be a bit intimidating and I sensed that at times. There were moments when it seemed as if the cast was unsure where to set their gaze when singing out. At times their focus was the wall above our heads or even at the floor. With the intimacy of the space, looking at the audience seemed to work best.
Muething does good work in the staging of the production, and the performances felt right emotionally. There were times when the blocking seemed confined. As if the awareness of the space limitations keeps you from using all the space you do have. With the seating in the round-ish, I would have like to seen more dynamics in the performance. Hard stares, longing looks and emotional pain can be effective, but only if the audience can see your face. Using a bit more body language, shifting your stance or taking a motivated step to change the angle on stage can open you to more of the audience. Just something to think about for this venue.
I believe the music tracks, which sounded good, were of recorded musicians and not synthesized. Orchestrations are credited to Justin Levine. The tracks worked well, but I did find a couple of the transitions between songs to be a bit abrupt. The volume balance was good for the bulk of the show, but I struggled hearing soloists in a few of the quieter moments.
I understand the decision to forego programs. But if you are going to refer patrons to your website for bio information, you may want to be sure that all cast members (poor Montez 🙂 )and production staff are listed and complete.
Overall a solid, enjoyable musical with a talented and charismatic cast. It runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. The intimate space allows for 35 seats per performance, so you may want to get tickets in advance. Fringe festival patrons will feel right at home.
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
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