Scarlett Fever

dance & physical theatre · kick boom theater · Ages 12+ · United States of America

family friendly world premiere
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June 19, 2019 certified reviewer
tagged as: electric · dynamic · fascinating · unique · percussive

What I liked

The eclecticism of this piece and the virtuosity of its construction is dazzling. It’s so myriad that it’s hard to describe, but I’d call it a mixture of dance, spoken word recitative, musical theater, beat poetry, and modern opera.

Four musicians blend acoustic guitar with African and Far Eastern percussion, the latter groups including such diverse elements as frame drum, djembe, and (if I’m not mistaken) brushed steel drum or perhaps something borrowed from a gamelan set. The percussion provides a constant propulsive underscore, sometimes as a thin solo line or brushing effect, other times as a thunderous four-person polyrhythm that shakes the room. The guitar plays an occasional supporting role but this is primarily a percussion-driven work, propelling dance and punctuating spoken patter, or providing mesmerizing tonal ambience with subtle metalophone textures.

Given the exotic musical colors, the story seems almost mundane or documentary in comparison: an ensemble narrative about the search by a movie studio for the actress to play Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. The initial mood of entrepreneurial derring-do gives way to a bleak picture of actresses treated like horses at an action, cross-examined for physical flaws or personality characteristics the moviegoing public is presumed to dislike. We hear monologues and interactions from three candidates for the role, each from different backgrounds but united in their desperate pursuit of the dream breakout role. The material seems well-researched, though it sometimes feels less like a story and more like fodder for the fascinating music and dance.

Acting performances are excellent across the board. I was particularly entertained by Olivia Cordell’s Hepburn-esque patter as a studio exec.

What I didn't like

The stylization of the story sometimes makes the narrative eccentric, and in turn hard to track emotionally.

My overall impression

Striking, distinctive, unapologetically eclectic. A hybrid of half a dozen performing arts, wrapped around an unlikely narrative. Not to be missed.

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