Saturday July 27, 2013 / 7:00pmOliver!
How was your experience?
I was a steadily-working, professional actor in NYC for 15 years, appearing in featured roles on-and-off Bdway, and in long-running roles on 2 different soaps. I mention this only to clarify I have experience in this field. So, better than most, I can appreciate the HUGE amount of work that it takes to make ANY sort of theatrical presentation occur: just getting programs printed, an acting space procured, basic sets-and-lighting created, and herding together a clutch of actors for the trying rehearsal period, etc. -- gathering together all these disparate elements is a substantial undertaking. So, kudos to the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater & Family Park (SFFTFP) for having managed this with their musical, "Oliver." That being said, however, there IS an obligation -- incumbent upon ANY group that charges admission in exchange for offering a theatrical presentation -- that there be some balance between the sum charged and the quality of the production provided. If we're charged $5 or $8 for a high-school drama-class play, we're not expecting a professional-quality production. If, however, a pair of theater tickets are priced near $50, there IS an expectation of a certain degree of quality. And so, with a pair of tix for the aforementioned "Oliver" priced at $50 (the same price that, with careful shopping, one can get a pair of tickets to a typically high-quality production at, say, Seattle's ACT, Intiman, or Rep theaters), one has an expectation that that "Oliver" will be of a professional quality. I'll admit that I found a pair of half-price tickets (about $27 total), for the "SFFTFP" production of "Oliver" for the night of 7/27/13. But even at that reduced rate, like most consumers I gave at least a brief consideration to the "bang-for-the-buck" that such an expenditure represents: $27 could get me 3-to-6 books on my Kindle -- or a pair of tickets-plus-popcorn to a multi-million-dollar film. Alas, this production of "Oliver" was amateurish in the most direct sense. The quality of the acting was "limited" (from listless performances, to some of the young actors watching other actors movements to, apparently, decide where or when they themselves should move) -- to equally ragged singing. Unfortunately, the child playing the title role was simply adrift during much of the musical. There were a few much-appreciated exceptions: the actress playing Nancy seemed uber-professional compared to most of her associates on stage; the youth playing the "Artful Dodger" was committed to a degree of animation and physicalization superior to many of the adults on stage; the chap playing "Fagin" was game for the challenge of (and reasonably successful at) singing acapella when the music (it was all pre-recorded), failed to cue-up (at all) for his "Pick-A-Pocket" number (and that is NOT an easy problem for a musical actor to suddenly have thrown at them onstage). But the overall quality of the acting-and-singing was, unfortunately, inferior to many (no, "most!") high-school musicals I've seen. Which takes us back to my initial observation regarding price-vs.-product. I suspect that the SFFTFP can't put on a production like "Oliver" WITHOUT charging what they do. Certainly the director/choreographer/music-director/house-manager have to be paid -- along with the ticket-takers, ushers, grounds-maintenance, etc. (A few words about the latter: I must mention that the outdoor setting of this theater is unique, and this theatrical locale worthy of at least one visit if only to experience it -- a remarkable "amphitheater beneath the evergreens!") But gosh -- at the risk of seemingly as churlish as a Dickensian villain -- this production was painful to endure . . . and my companion and I left at intermission. I suspect that most everyone involved with "Oliver" has great heart, and a true love of the theatrical tradition. And yes, every actor has to "learn somewhere" as they initially gain in ability and expertise. And who knows -- maybe "Oliver" represents the nadir of all shows every presented at SFFTFP (it's the only time I've visited this theater). But if SFFTFP is going to charge professional rates for attendance, it's GOT to find a way to deliver more professional productions than that represented by it's current offering of "Oliver." RSG.