Monday, July 11, 2011

SHOUT! (2011)

One of the most pleasant surprises we discovered these past few years was the musical "SHOUT!" ... so when I heard that it was coming back for a return engagement at the Lincolnshire Marriott Theatre, I couldn't wait to get tickets.  In fact, I was excited to show the musical off ... so we bought tickets for my daughter and her fiance and made a family affair out of the experience.

What we found was nothing that even REMOTELY resembled the original production that we had seen at The Drury Lane Theatre in Downtown Chicago a couple of years ago.  The very heart and soul of the play had been excised from the production, turning it into nothing more than a '60's Girl Group Jukebox Revue ... no story, no dialogue, no acting, no purpose.  In fact, it was nothing short of a '60's Extravaganza that you might see for free at Great America ... except THIS one set me back a few hundred dollars for tickets!!!)
WHY they felt that they needed to "reconceive" this production for The Marriott Theatre (which is how the playbill describes this travesty) is beyond me ... and how Victoria Lang (the woman behind "SHOUT!") could agree to such a revamping is something I never would have expected in my wildest dreams.  (Have you actually SEEN this reworking, Victoria???  It's embarrassing!!!)

The original production we saw a couple of years ago traced the lives of five young girls (simply known as Red Girl, Blue Girl, Green Girl, Yellow Girl and Orange Girl) as they made their way through the '60's.  As such, they evolved as society evolved.  The events of the decade ... The Kennedy Assassination, the arrival of The Beatles, The Viet Nam War, the whole hippie movement ... moving from school girl to college student to wife and mother ... ALL of this moved the story along in very touching and emotional ways by way of humorous vinettes.  Every bit of that emotion has been lost in this new "re-envisioned" production ... and it's a shame.
At least half a dozen songs have been removed ... and about a dozen new ones have been added, some of which I'd never even heard before (and I'm pretty much a "Music Guy"!!!)  The girls in the lead roles (now simply referred to as "The Singers") can't hold a candle to the previous cast when it comes to doing these songs justice ... and the presentation is now every bit as much about dance as it is music ... sadly, in the process, ALL semblance of story and continuity has been removed.  We are treated to absolutely NO storyline in favor of a non-stop musical assault.  The very charm and charisma of this whole affair have been sacrificed ... and I found myself embarrassed and apologizing to our guests at the show's conclusion, explaining to them that the show we had all just witnessed was nothing even remotely close to the show we so enjoyed a couple of years ago.
Whereas I found the original production to be fun, engaging and entertaining ... and I didn't want it to end ... I felt the exact opposite reaction to this new reworking ... it was boring ... and I couldn't wait for it to end!  (Now that's a HUGE swing ... and not in a good way ... nor in the way "a pendulum do" as in the old version ... ALL references to The Swinging '60's are gone in this "new vision".)
Bottom line ... highly NOT recommended ... and the whole purpose of today's review is to forewarn any new comers who may be discovering The Forgotten Hits Website for the very first time, stumbling across my earlier review, and then taking THAT recommendation as the motivation to see this new production.  Suffice to say, they are NOT one and the same.
Now if you've NEVER seen "Shout!" ... and you love '60's music by the likes of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Cilla Black, Nancy Sinatra, etc., you will find SOME redeeming value in the music being presented.  And I can't dismiss this cast without first singling out Raena White who absolutely blew the doors off the theater with her vocals.  Sadly, this girl doesn't even belong in the same play with these other girls ... and that's a shame because what we end up witnessing is simply a case of a GREAT talent being wasted in a mediocre production.
Do yourself a favor and check to see ... PRIOR to buying tickets ... if you're paying to see the revamped Terry James / Andy Hite / Aaron Thielen / Rachel Rockwell version ... or the ORIGINAL version as originally intended.
And seriously, Victoria ... you were SO supportive of our efforts a couple of years ago ... and I of YOURS, helping to promote this piece of work ... you REALLY need to rethink what they've done with "Shout!" ... as the COMPLETE original concept has been lost and erased forever!  (kk)

Here is our review of the original production of SHOUT! that we saw at The Drury Lane Theatre in 2008:

By the way:

I forwarded a copy of my less-than-flattering review of "SHOUT!" to Victoria Lang (this is really HER baby!) and was surprised to hear that she had NOT seen this new reworked production yet. 

Here's a copy of her note back to me:

Dear Kent:
Thank you so much for writing. I must say that I am shocked to hear of your review. Of course I believe every word of it, but this is not at all what I imagined would be the case. I was planning to see the show Opening Night, but as luck would have it, a new musical I am producing opened on the same night in NYC (SILENCE! THE MUSICAL) so I am seeing it August 5th.
About a year ago, MTI came to me with the offer from Marriott to do a re-conceived production which would include new arrangements, re-staging with back-up dancers, perhaps some updated jokes, etc.Then I read all the reviews -- which basically blasted the Drury Lane production and praised the Marriott production -- and, what am I to think?
But, rest assured, the Marriott production is a one-off. SHOUT! continues to be produced around the world in exactly the same manner as you saw it at the Drury Lane.
I very much appreciate your affection and passion for the show. I am so upset at the disappointment you felt at the Marriott's production. I am surprised as you are. Thank you for cushioning the shock for me.
All my best,
Victoria Lang