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LA Theater Review

Making Beautiful

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A youthful theatrical troupe brings something special to a production. Perhaps it's the promise of adventure. Maybe it's the pleasure of seeing an age-old art form being reinvented in each new generation. Whatever the explanation, Ryan Scott Oliver's musical revue provides emerging talents a place to practice their craft, and they do it with heartfelt enthusiasm.

Oliver's music speaks to the world of the twentysomething. His style reflects current trends in musical theatre, acknowledging the works of Sondheim, William Finn, and Jason Robert Brown. Like Sondheim, the music challenges the singers with tricky melodies and complex content. No moon, June, and spoon here! The topics vary from the usual turbulences in love to hypochondria, sex, gender, and religion.

There are five singers identified by vocal range: the Tenor (Chris Fore), Alto (Erika Whalen, on the night reviewed), Mezzo (Allie Bower), Baritone (Merrick McMahon), and Soprano (Kelsey Jessup). They are an attractive group with strong, developing voices.

Oliver's provocative score shows wit and universality; it is also encumbered with the problems inherent in most revues. It needs a stronger story line so the singers can do more than exit and enter, reciting their woes. Chris Murillo's abstract set allows for backstage silhouettes to accompany some songs, but it is more gimmick than exposition.

Brett Ryback handles the music direction well, though the band's volume in this small space overwhelms some numbers to the point that the singers have to project arduously to be understood. Director Andrew Shafer tries creative approaches to move his actors, but he is hampered by the small space and the static nature of a revue.

Presented by the Powerhouse Theatre in association with Interstate 5 and Newmanity Productions at the Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Nov. 18-Dec. 10. (310) 396-3680 ext. 3.

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