CMTS: Changing Direction

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Bwog’s Song and Dance Connoisseur Sean Zimmermann reports on Columbia Musical Theatre Society’s latest production, Changing Direction.

“You never realize the role of directing until you see different directors back to back,” explained Will Brown, Production Designer for Columbia Musical Theatre Society’s production of Changing Direction. The production features numbers from a wide selection of famous musicals, from Into the Woods to Rent, each directed by a different student director. Will’s comment couldn’t ring truer in this production; while many of the numbers were quite good, there were others that came off as average.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the show was that I don’t think it showcased the performers; there were multiple times during the show when I felt a singer would have been better, if only she were singing something else. This was especially true in the case of the rendition of “Out Tonight” from Rent. Morgan Fletcher, who played Mimi, trilled on a number of notes, and I couldn’t determine if this was a decision of the director, or if Fletcher’s voice was actually quavering. However, when she appeared again in Aida’s “Easy as Life” and “Written in the Stars,” Fletcher was spectacular; she hit every note flawlessly. Therefore I don’t think it was that she couldn’t give a good rendition of “Out Tonight,” but that the direction was poor, or it was a poor choice for her. Other numbers, such as the rendition of “What Could Be Better” from Baby also suffered from this problem.Still other numbers suffered from sound issues, and most of the performers would have done better if they projected a bit more—even in the small space of the Diana Black Box, there were times when it was simply hard to hear. The performers were not wearing microphones, so of the few microphones used, all were handheld. Some performers, such as those in “96,000” from In the Heights, did not hold their microphones steady as they sang; as a result, their voices came in and out over the speakers—it sounded like they were doing a good job, but from where I was sitting, I couldn’t understand them.

Despite these complaints, most numbers were good, and overall there were quite a few excellent numbers. Both of the songs from Aida, directed by Louisa Levy, were especially well done by Fletcher as Aida and Ross Ramone as Radames. Becca Leifer’s “A Very Nice Prince” and “Moments in the Woods” from Into the Woods were very strong: the flustered baker’s wife (Kasia Borowiec), Cinderella (Maria Sulimirski) and the lecherous prince (portrayed brilliantly by Melaku Assegued) all did an excellent job, as did the entire cast of Becca Leifer’s “The American and Florence/Nobody’s Side” from Chess.

Honorable mentions go to Jenny Baker as Olive in “The I Love You Song” from Putnam County Spelling Bee, and to the director of “Forget About the Boy” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Ruthie Fierberg, whose direction and choreography were excellent, even though the number itself suffered from sound problems.

Ultimately, Changing Direction is well worth the money, and I would encourage people to see it. However, don’t expect a constant quality among numbers; there are good works here, and there are moments when the performers and directors shine, but there are also moments where they simply don’t.

Remaining performances of Changing Direction are tonight at 8pm and 11pm in the Glicker-Milstein Black Box Theatre in the Diana Center. Tickets are $3 from the TIC.

Photo via TIC

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  1. Anonymous  

    Out tonight was good, but it would have been perfect without the overly noticeable vibrato on 'out'. The singer and the dancers were fabulous anyway.

  2. Anonymous

    I LOVE JENNY BAKER!!! she's awesome!

  3. Regarding Morgan  

    Her voice was not "quavering." She simply has good, healthy technique. Singing straight tone, as is indeed usually done in "Out Tonight," is always unhealthy. Perhaps she had a touch more vibrato than would be ideal, but it's a minor thing.

  4. Bwog  

    You need to work on your reviews.

    "Despite these complaints, most numbers were good, and overall there were quite a few excellent numbers."

    This tells me nothing and this also has poor grammar.

    • Still...  

      At least this review had some legitimate criticism and compliments. I agree that parts of this review were vague, but when you compare it to recent reviews they have produced, this one is a shocking improvement.

  5. Who's  

    awesome? JENNY BAKER, MORGAN FLETCHER, & KASIA BOROWIEC!!! Can you guys do a trio song sometime?! Please?!

  6. how come...  

    fiddler got better reviews than changing directions? because this was sure as hell more of a spectacle than that...

  7. Anonymous

    bwog reviews are always so bad!!!!!! their topic choice is so haphazard - a huge paragraph talking about sound quality, but you barely discuss the true talent of the show, like the actual performances of jenny, morgan, and others? what about Michael seamen, joey goldberg, mary jo holuba, and tabes bridges, who were all were amazing as well? and you don't specifcy which "came off as average," never mind discuss the actual good stuff.

    and yea, this is a quick post, so perhaps it's hypocritical to say, but your grammar sucks.

  8. Mother

    Very poorly written Sean Zimmerman. I've seen better writing on cereal boxes!! Shame

  9. Anonymous

    For what it's worth, Sean, this is the best review I've read on Bwog in a while. Legitimate critiques, well-thought-out complements... let's hope Bwog reviews keep moving in this direction!

  10. Anonymous  

    Part of the problem, perhaps, is that Bwog assigns theatre reviews to writers who, it is (occasionally painfully) evident, are unfamiliar with theatre criticism.

  11. Anonymous  

    Ruthie Fierberg absolutely ruined what could have been 5 amazing musical numbers. I feel especially bad for the singers in her numbers, because their amazing performances were ultimately brought down by the horrendous, unnecessary, and distracting amount of dancing. The one number that could have been a hit was "Forget About the Boy," but unfortunately, the director decided to be bold enough to cast herself as the lead vocal performer--what a letdown, especially since there were so many more capable alternatives. What a shame.

    • that's a bit harsh

      Some of the dancing - like Crunchy Granola and Spelling Bee were really great and clean. However, I agree completely that what Ruthie did was in poor taste. Dancing and singing front and center in 3 of 4 numbers just proves that she is unprofessional and cares more about showcasing herself than working on her vision. Spelling Bee was hands down Ruthie's best number-it showed a real vision and was a joy to hear and watch- and that was the only number she wasn't in. Stepping back and watching proved to do wonders for Ruthie's direction and I wish she had directed more rather than focusing on being a star. That was clearly not the aim of this production.

  12. Anonymous  

    wow sean zimmerman you know nothing about theater.

  13. Anonymous  

    Thanks for a poorly written review that doesn't even address many of the brilliant scenes from Changing Direction. It was a great show, and if you knew anything about theater, you would would have written an intelligent, rather than a shit-all-over-the-show, review.

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