Posted on Jul 24, 2013
3 out of 5
On Monday, July 22nd, the cast of “Lucky Streak: the Musical” took to the Unicorn Main Stage to perform a musical about a girl who finds the strength to break out of her detrimental relationship habits and embrace happiness. Featuring Barry Manilow’s songs, “Lucky Streak: the Musical,“ which is directed by Alli Jordan and written by Vicki Vodrey, manages to tell a story, but fails to impress. Everything about it is very middle-of-the-road -- from the acting and singing to the songs themselves; the cheesy dialogue paired with Manilow’s songs comes off a bit like a Soap Opera, which would have been fun if there was nudity.
The playwright, Vicky Vodrey, reduces her script to fit within the time constraints of the Fringe -- and in doing so, she probably reduces the quality of the piece a great amount. Having never read the full play, the audience members are left with what’s put onstage, and what’s put onstage is not great. There is almost nothing in this story that makes the audience really care about it; perhaps the abuse scene between Chris and Benedetta stands as the one exception. The characters, with their precious, emotional speeches are almost caricatures in terms of their depth, and the scenes have almost no dramatic tension; it’s a series of conversations that are extremely predictable and anti-climactic (with rare moments of comedic relief). An example is a line Benedetta says: “I’ve made so many mistakes.” This line is overdramatic and precious. You made two mistakes, Benedetta: dating the wrong guy and not banging Joey, so get over it. In addition, the Joey D. Band scenes pretty much come out of nowhere and are awkward and forced. The drawing board is a good place to go back to for this one.
The technical crew, Addi Linebaugh (SM and Lighting), Jill Gillespie (Props), Paul Haworty (Sound), and Olivia Marshall (Set) all work together adequately to support the onstage talent; no one element outperforms another or detracts from the performance -- although, expected microphone issues and the lack of adequate lighting down of the stage do leave a bit of a sour after-taste. The band is reliable with its entrances and volume -- surely a source of relief for this cast. Choreography by Ashley Otis is very hit or miss; the country line dancing manages to look decent on the cast (due to its obvious similarity to the Electric Slide) while the New York city scene features mildly-confused dancers and awkward transitions. Maybe something a little simpler would have served this scene a little better. With a nit-picky mind concerning the props, why are the beer bottles filled with liquid while the Starbucks cups are empty? Conventions of this type matter, and it seems a little lazy to not have made a choice that stands throughout the entire show.
In fact, as far as the direction by Alli Jordan goes, the whole play seems to be lacking somewhat in strong choices concerning major aspects of the show: the style, the blocking, the portrayed relationships, and the motivations and objectives of the actors. Even if talented performers are littering the stage (and they are), they still need a director to lead them to make strong choices; and they also need a director to help them navigate the specific style of the show (which is never clear). Some actors are playing an understated realistic style, and some showcase an overacted Broadway style. Some are playing Soap Opera while others are playing shades of Farce. And in some cases, they are playing different styles opposite each other in the same scene -- which is very confusing and weird. The actors did the best they could to be honest in the moment, but the lack of choices from director, Alli Jordan, and the indecisive acting that followed, left this musical feeling disjointed. This may not have been a problem if the cast had been performing the uncut version of the play, but for this production on this night, it is an obvious problem.
The actors strive to produce depth, and they do a fair job with what they’re given. Jeff Smith does a reasonable job as the positive, naïve, and good-hearted Joey. Mandy Mook as Benedetta is slightly caricatured as she plays emotions instead of objectives in both the scenes and songs; the audience never gets a clear picture of why she has such trouble changing her ways. Bennie seems strong and smart, but for some reason, which is left out of her onstage portrayal, she stays with Chris (Sean Hogge). However, it becomes glaringly clear why Mook was chosen to sing this role: because of her chest voice, which was stunning. Hogge, who plays Chris, displays a much more understated and subtle performance as compared to his fellow actors. His comfortable presence onstage came off a little one-note until the abuse scene, when his appropriate build in intensity marked him as one of the more able actors in the show; unfortunately, the scene did not progress past “moderately interesting” due to a lack of an honest build in Mook. Ashley Otis as Sandy/Rachel paints broad strokes in traditional musical fashion. But again, the lack of choice in style in this production leaves Otis looking a little silly as compared to the more realistic performances of her fellow performers. Henry the Dog rocks.
Overall, there is really nothing imperative within this script, and so the actors are left trying to tell a story about which not one of them really seems to care -- which subsequently makes the audience not particularly care. It’s just hard to invest in these characters when they seem so shallow and by-the-numbers. The production of this musical at Fringe is a little rare, though; normally, the Fringe Festival is not a place where musicals try to take themselves seriously. And being one of the only musicals that does this, it could have been worse. Although the scenes were missing some linguistic integrity and some moments were awkward due to the lack of strong directorial choices, it still manages a passable rating. It is not really worth a recommendation, but moments of the play are enjoyable enough to entertain the random Fringe-goer whose schedule is open. So there’s that.