Friday, November 9, 2007

Young cast shines in ‘Metaphasia’ fantasy

published in The News Tribune, Nov. 9, 2007

Metaphasia,” the musical thriller now playing at Encore! Theater, is billed as a contemporary retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s “Twelve Dancing Princesses” mixed with concepts from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Wizard of Oz” and even “Harry Potter” – with, as if all of that were not enough, some punk-rock shenanigans thrown into the mix.

Every morning, young Angie awakens to find worn-out shoes scattered about the floor of the bedroom she shares with her little brother, Howie.

Also, the dolls that line her shelf come alive and vanish into the world of Metaphasia.

Something strange is obviously going on, and a musical Greek chorus going by the name Synchra and the Synchrettes tells the audience all about it while strutting their stuff in big wigs and outlandish costumes in the “Hairspray” mold to the tune of the “Metaphasian Rap-City.”

“Something’s interrupted the scheme of things, someone has disrupted the dream of things,” Synchra sings.

With the fantasy walls crumbling, Angie is magically sucked into her closet and transported to the fantasy world of Metaphasia as Howie watches in horror.

Metaphasia is inhabited by the evil Devilla and her 12 dancing sisters, who are trapped forever in fantasy. In order to escape to the real world, Devilla plots to turn Angie into a princess who will take her place. Angie is thrilled at the opportunity, never suspecting that if she does become the 13th princess she will never be able to return home.

Howie bravely enters the closet and the fantasy, where he meets Synchra, who tells him that he must rescue his sister from Metaphasia. Howie – who would rather just bury his head under the covers and go back to sleep but who nevertheless proves to be more levelheaded than his starry-eyed sister – goes off to save Angie, aided by his blanket, which now magically renders him invisible, and a strange warning never to drink the milk.

Most of the cast are inexperienced, and all but three are children and youths. They are not professional theater people. With that in mind, they do a pretty good job of entertaining the audience with mostly clever and upbeat songs and colorful costumes. Interestingly, of the three adults in the cast, two are listed in the program as local pastors.

Many of the roles are double cast, including the principal characters. Sarah Best, 12, and Kasey Dickason, 13, alternate as Angie; Michael Beu, 9, and Ryan Flood, 8, take turns playing Howie; and Peninsula High School students Faith Higgins and Kelsie Abel alternate as Devilla (and also fill in as two of the four actors playing Synchrettes). The night I saw the play, Dickason was Angie, Flood was Howie, Higgins was Devilla and the Synchrettes were Brittany Johnson and Kelsie Abel.

I was not impressed with the punk song “Gotta Use Your Sole” with Tyrone Schu (Jean Miller). And I thought the strobe effect used on the song “Broken Toys” with Howie and the ensemble was dramatic at first but became repetitive and detracted from the song and dance.

Dickason was outstanding as Angie. She was expressive and believable and sang beautifully. Her voice is well controlled but maintains the sweetness of childhood. This is her second mainstage role at Encore! plus she has been in four of their children’s workshop productions. The experience shows. This young lady shows great promise.

Flood was super cute as the irrepressible Howie. This critical role could be challenging for an 8-year-old. Simply knowing when to go where and memorizing his lines is an accomplishment for such a young actor, but Flood goes much beyond that, putting snap and sparkle into his role.

I loved Higgins’ song, “Thirteen,” a dark and smoldering number that she sang low and mean, and I thought her looks and expression were perfect for the part. She has majestic presence. But on some of her other songs her voice broke slightly on the high notes.

I also thought Mary J. Scifres did a good job of playing Angie’s mother, but her husband (B.J. Beu) seemed like he was trying too hard to be funny.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 18
WHERE: Encore! Theater, 6615 38th Ave. N.W., Gig Harbor
TICKETS: $15 adults; $11 seniors, military and teens; $8 children 7-12, $6 children younger than 7
INFORMATION: 253-858-2282,

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