CMTS: Changing Direction
Written by Bwog Staff
“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