Saturday, August 11, 2012

Barn Players "Revolution" review by kellyluck

Beatles tribute performance at the Barn Players
Rating: 4

Revolution: A Tribute to the Beatles
The Barn Players, Inc.

There is a handy field test available for telling whether there is any spark of life left in a body: TV cop show aficionados will of course be familiar with the mirror test, but mirrors not always being available, it's good to have a backup plan. This one is simple, involves no equipment, and can be performed by nearly anyone. Simply gather as many people as you can around the patient, and start singing "Hey, Jude" as loud as you can. If, by the time you get to the end of the song they have not sat bolt upright and joined in with the na-na-na-nas, you may with confidence call the undertaker.

Take last night. At a preview performance for The Barn Players' seasonal fundraiser production of "Revolution: A Tribute to the Beatles," which will be showing for only this upcoming weekend. There we were, a handful of us, serious faces on, and notebooks at the ready. And yet, and yet, when the Revolution performers belted out the much-loved chorus, I know I heard more than a few voices coming from behind me as well as in front. I'm fairly certain one of them was mine.

"Revolution" takes us on a more-or-less complete tour of the Beatles' career, starting in the Cavern Club and working its way through the European years, the tours, the albums, the fights, and the eventual breakup. Along the way some of the most well-loved and remembered hits of the Fab Four are covered by a chorus of local performers, soloists, and backups swapping out from song to song. Production values are minimal: a lighting effect here, a prop or two there. Interspersed throughout the show are narrated video clips, taking us through the highlights of their career, and providing context for the next set of songs. These videos are generally well done, and stay on the interesting side without getting in the way of the music.

Ah yes. The music. In a show like this, it really does boil down to the music. First off, credit must be given to the ensemble: Lead guitar and vocalist Bill Welch leads the Revolution Band ably through the two hour production. While perhaps not the strongest singer in the group, he is absolutely dynamite with a guitar - I particularly enjoyed the solo piece during "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", though there was some difficulty with a non-functioning instrument. Kari Rydalch, Bill Wood, and Randy George proved themselves more than equal to the material. All in all, a very strong performance by the band.

As to the singers ... well, when you have over a dozen soloists, it is inevitable that there are going to be high points and low. Most of the performers did very well, singing well and with confidence, though there were a few who didn't seem to really take on the material quite as thoroughly as they might have. One unusual case actually had a voice a little *too* good, a fine tenor ably suited for musical theatre but perhaps a bit too polished for four lads from Liverpool. Generally, however, there were some excellent performances, and I would call attention to a few in particular.

Brian Hunter has a particularly good voice for the material, as does Brian Shortess, whose "Day Tripper" was very nicely rendered. Erin Coleman, Anne Haines, Prisca Kendagor, and Trista Stone perform a lovely rendition of "In My Life", their voices melding and harmonizing beautifully. Kristen Altoro's rendition of "Yesterday" was particularly affecting, as was Adam McAdoo's "Dear Prudence", in which he handled the higher notes like a champ.

That being said, there were a few glitches. Radio mikes are fickle beasts, and more than once there was interference and cutoffs. Also, it did seem to me that some of the lyrics were glitched - not often, but for someone who listened to them over and over in college, there were the occasional moments that left one wondering, "Wait--is that right?" The choreography is frankly uneven, featuring rather a lot of the rock-back-and-forth-while-bending-the-knees maneuver well known wherever white people are known to Kick It. Also there were times when the non-singing performers would rock their heads back and forth in time to the song, with about half of them nodding to some other tune, or just apparently at random.

But these quibbles aside, the point is this: that anyone who remembers the days of the Fab Four fondly, or went through a 'Beatles phase' (guilty) - or is still going through one, for that matter - will find a lot to enjoy on this trip down Penny Lane. Also, I would be remiss in not noting that this is a special, one-weekend-only fundraising show for the Barn Players, and readers who enjoy locally produced theatre and wish to encourage its flourishing in the Kansas City area are highly encouraged to check it out. It's a night of great music and you'll be showing your support for one of our many talented community theatre organizations. It's a good cause, and great music performed by people who love it. And three out of three ain't bad.

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