By Ringa Sunn
The Pittsburgh CLO has a unique program called SPARK. The basic idea behind the program is to give writers a supportive environment to create small-cast musicals. The Double-Threat Trio was a product of the SPARK Festival, and after being work-shopped, voted as Audience Favorite Musical Comedy in a bare-bones production of the musical. After a few rewrites and edits, the show is now playing its world premiere at the CLO Cabaret Theater.
The show centers around three people who want to make it big in the world of theater. Jamison (J. Alex Noble) is an actor who can sing but doesn’t dance. Nina (Drew Leigh Williams) is a singer who can dance but doesn’t act. And Kenny (Jerreme Rodriguez) is a dancer who can act but doesn’t sing. Each of the threesome have one forte and one thing they absolutely cannot do. The trio meets Millicent (Michelle Duffy), a theatrical jack-of-all-trades who will be producing, directing, writing, choreographing, costuming, designing, and stage managing the musical they are going to bring to life. As Millicent puts it, she wears many hats. Literally. Each time Duffy switches to a new role, she changes her hat and becomes a completely new character, with a new name and personality. Duffy is easily the comedic highlight of the show, as each theatrical role she plays is a hilarious stereotype (the timid writer, the diva choreographer, etc.).
Oh, did I mention that she show they’re putting on is called Oed! and is a musical version of Oedipus Rex? Wackiness ensues. Jamison struggles with the show’s absurdity and trying to make his serious character work in this musical setting, asking for rewrites (and getting awful ones). He is from a long line of thespians, who we meet in a song about his family legacy, and is finding it hard to uphold the family honor. Noble plays the part perfectly, even with the “serious actor voice” that I’m sure you can all imagine right now. His fear of being a bad actor causes a last minute switch in the parts they’re playing, and of course Jamison finds himself having to dance on stage, which is quite a laugh.
Nina is playing “Queen Jo” and has an amazing voice, but when she learns she’ll have to speak a few lines in the show she completely loses it. The thought of acting at all paralyzes her with fear, and Jamison has to try to coach her on acting basics. I never knew it was possible to act so bad at acting, but Williams is perfect at saying these lines in so many atrocious ways. I was cackling in my seat. Nina finds her inspiration to perform from a flashback to her childhood and her struggling single father. When the parts switch at the end, she’s thrust into Jamison’s role as the main character, and much to my delight, her bad acting returns.
Kenny takes on the assorted other characters, many of them acting through interpretive dance. Kenny is a wonderful dancer, despite having a family who never supported his dream of becoming a professional. We see his aunt and mother taunting him in his memories as he works out a new dance and insists that dance is what he wants to do with his life. He even gets Nina to help him learn to sing, but he’s really awful at it. I could see audience members twitching in their seats any time Rodriguez belted out an off-key note (loudly). Naturally, when the roles switch at the end, he is the one who has to do all the singing, which was a wonderful disaster of bad acting, dancing, singing, and other assorted chaos on the set. Think comedy of errors condensed.
Director Scott Weinstein made everything feel natural, despite being in such a small space. The actors moved around fluidly and never seemed forced in their actions. Choreographer Mara Newberry Greer did the same. It can’t be easy to put on a show that’s one third dancing on such a tiny stage. And many props to scenic designer Tony Ferrieri for creating a set that can spin, refresh, move and become so many scenes in such a short time.
As for writer Adam Overett’s show as a whole, the jokes were spot-on and the songs were catchy and fun. I only had problems with the serious moments in each character’s story. They felt forced and almost cheesy in the middle of this musical comedy. Nonetheless, the show was entertaining, and if you’re a theater person, you’re guaranteed to love it!
Double-Threat Trio is on-stage at Pittsburgh CLO through April 28th. For ticket info and more, visit their site.
Ringa is a native Pittsburgher who has a Creative Writing degree from Carlow University. She’s been published multiple times online and in print, and has had several of her theatrical works produced locally. In the theatre world, she’s worked with many Pittsburgh companies in every position from director to actor to sound designer, but her favorite role is stage manager. When she’s not writing or performing, Ringa is the co-owner of a small business making handmade pop culture items and she runs her own baking and cake decorating business out of her home. In her rare free time, Ringa is usually travelling or watching horror movies at home with her cats.
Categories: Archived Reviews