Peoria Players Theatre opened their 2010-2011 season with the regional premiere of "Frankenstein, A New Musical".
This was a play that I had never seen before. Having read some reviews with comparisons to "Les Miserables", I truly anticipated seeing this one.
While not quite the same caliber as "Les Mis", this musical nevertheless has an excellent score and book. It is a dramatic retelling of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley classic in a lush operatic setting.
This Peoria Players production features a few excellent performances and a stunning set.
Roger Roemer is perfect as The Creature. With a powerful voice and a larger than life stage presence, he captures just the right combination of malevolence and pathos. If only he had better makeup to make him more 'horrible'!
Another standout performance was delivered by Julie Boesch as Dr. Frankenstein's love interest, Elizabeth.
Her powerful and operatic voice was perfectly suited to the role.
John Huerta, in the lead role of Victor Frankenstein, was somewhat disappointing. A good musical actor is a double threat; he must be able to act as well as sing. When not vocalizing, Mr. Huerta's acting was self-conscious and unconvincing.
While he has a pleasant enough voice, it lacked the forcefulness and power that was needed. However, he finally hit his stride toward the end of the play with the song "The Coming of The Dawn", which was beautifully done.
I admit I was greatly prejudiced when I saw that the director had cast not only his wife but his daughter as well in important roles.
Nepotism seldom makes good theater, and that was certainly true here. Both actors were merely adequate in their roles.
By far the biggest problem with this production was the uneven and faulty sound system. It reminded me that this was one of the reasons that I stopped going to Players years ago. I thought that they had since invested in upgrading the system, but apparently not (or perhaps they had untrained technicians at the helm?).
Some of the actors were muffled and lyrics indecipherable. Sound cut in and out as the actors turned their heads.
Then, directly before the beginning of the second act, the sound system emitted an ear-splitting screech that was actually painful. This was not the quick screech that startles (although there were also several of those during the production!). This was an awful grating noise that went on for a full couple minutes.
Had I not driven my companions to the theater, I would have left then and there!
Another technical problem with this production was the light aimed at the audience when the doors on stage were opened. I understand the effect that was desired, but was a 300 watt light really necessary? With my seats front and center, I could only see spots, and not the actors, for several minutes each time this door was opened.
With all the effort put forward in setting, staging, and performance, I do not understand why more attention was not paid to these technical distractions that ended up ruining the experience.
This play definitely had the potential to be a great one, and I will look forward to seeing it again in a professional venue, or in one with better sound technology and better direction.