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Office Beat/Charming the Musical

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Office Beat, a new show created by Mindy and Gabe Copeland, is billed as a “tap comedy.” And I suppose that’s as good a description as any. But those words do little to relay the pure entertainment this genre-busting production offers.

It’s true that shows like Contact and Movin’ Out have told their stories through dance and, in the process, raised arguments about whether or not they were musicals. Office Beat’s official description skirts that issue, though it has a more solid claim to be a musical. Unlike their big Broadway brothers, the show features a charming original score by Andrew Van Vlear. (With the exception of one number staged to “The Girl from Ipanema.”)

The slim, but engaging, plot involves an office where the tippy-tap of those dancing feet keeps the morale up and the work progressing. A new hire, played by Co-Creator/Choreographer Gabe Copeland, appears and seems a perfect fit-- once he puts his tap shoes on. The Manager, played by the other Co-Creator/Choreographer Mindy Copeland, expects to take over as boss as the current boss retires. But her joy is short-lived when a new boss (Jimmy Fisher at the performance I attended) arrives. This new boss bans tap dancing in the office.

13 talented and energetic dancers make the Copeland’s inventive choreography seem effortless. And, while they could easily have been seen as an anonymous chorus, each of them is given solo moments which they make count. They are also all good enough actors to give a hint of individual characters without the benefit of dialog.

There was a glory time for musicals with office settings during the 60’s. The Copelands are aware of that and pay homage with a “Coffee Break” number (additional choreography by Dianne Walker) like in How to Succeed… and a number in an elevator which calls back Sweet Charity. Beyond that, we see a delightful tap in rolling office chairs, a Fred & Ginger salute for “Office Romance,” and a sly tribute to Susan Stroman when the cast raps out a beat on their clipboards and passes file folders. They even manage a cathartic 11 o’clock number with “Office Revolt.”

Catch Office Beat while you can.

***

Steve Fife directs, along with writing both book and lyrics for the world premiere of Charming The Musical, one of two dueling Prince Charming productions at this year’s Fringe Festival.

The remarkably convoluted plot concerns Prince Charming attempting to save his bankrupt kingdom by taking part in a reality show-- a royal take-off on The Bachelor. The catch is that the evil Morgana is the producer for the show, and she has decided to publicly humiliate Charming. To that end, she has gathered all the Fairy Tale princesses he’s dated and ditched over the years: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, etc. Appearances from a family of peasants, Little Red Riding Hood and Hamlet (!!) further complicate the action. To be honest, this much is only clear to me because I re-read the description in the online listing for the show.

Charming is helped little by Sean Schafer Hennessy’s pedestrian score and Fife’s lyrics, which are remarkable only for the number of false rhymes. Fife’s direction of the piece seems focused on getting the cast on and off stage, though many can be seen loitering out-of-character as they await their entrances. The scenes unfold without dynamics or pacing. Certain actors shamelessly chew the non-existent scenery, while others deliver their lines with an astonishing lack of energy. To be honest, some of the cast possess decent voices, but I think it kindest to refrain from mentioning any of them here.

 

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.