GLENS FALLS - The new musical “Loch Ness,” playing at Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls through July 14, is like a new puppy. You love spending time with it because it is filled with energy and eager to please. However, you know you’re going to like it better when it is older, calmer and has more discipline.
And though adults might tire of the busyness of the show, older children might find the modern fable stimulating and entertaining. It’s visually attractive, has a puppet as a central character and though the music is sophisticated, it should be appealing to all ages. As a guideline, I’d be cautious about taking anyone under 8 years old. And the more romantic and sensitive that person is, the more likelihood of them having a good time.
“Loch Ness” is about Haley, a young girl whose mother disappeared after a plane crash over the Black Sea. Her father is an oceanographer who is leading a search to discover if a sea creature exists in Loch Ness. If the creature is discovered, it likely means the end of her freedom and probably her life.
Through the device of “magical realism” Haley and Nessie are able to communicate and form a pact. Haley will help Nessie to escape to the North Sea and Nessie will help Haley search for her mother.
“Loch Ness” is directed by Marshall Pailet, who also created the music and co-wrote the book. His work was seen at ATF last year with “Tesla.” Both works indicate that Pailet has a future. He is creative, original and bold. You know, like an eager puppy.
He will get even better once he learns to edit, depend less on visuals, and focus on the story the show is telling. Right now, “Loch Ness” is a sprawling work that is filled with enjoyable moments that can be as wearing as they are pleasant.
As a director, Pailet can be too busy. The staging of the show is visually stimulating – and I would guess fascinating for younger audiences – but it tends, at times, to take you out of the story as you become an observer rather than a witness.
The music is always interesting, but not always effective. “Loch Ness” tends to offer a lot of information through the songs. However, the most effective and revealing moments are when the characters speak to each other, rather than sing to the audience. Even in musicals dialogue is important, and there is not enough of it in “Loch Ness.” I would hope Pailet and his collaborator A.D. Penedo (lyrics and book) search for ways to turn a couple of songs into honest exchanges between characters.
The work looks good and is a minor miracle the way it works at the small Wood Theatre. Bravo to the superb technical staff and kudos to choreographer Misha Shields. It’s ironic that her best work is with “Monster Scat,” the second act’s crowd pleasing opening number that does little to move the show along.
The cast is strong and all have superior singing voices. Local actress Gabriella Pizzolo, whose Broadway credits include “Fun Home” and “Matilda” is a dynamic and excellent actress who can power her way through a song. She creates such a vital presence it is a shame that she doesn’t balance Haley’s strident personality with some sweetness. Disappointing too, is that at her moment of truth the play does provide the character with the inner strength to live by her personal code of honor. Though the story offers her redemption, the betrayal of Nessie lessens her character.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers’ charming performance as Nessie makes the creature smart, tender and loyal. She is excellent in bestowing upon an inanimate object an independent, pleasing and plaintive personality. The puppet of Nessie is clever as the unit design permits it to appear in several shapes. But we mostly she her as a head that has only a single expression, without type of eye or mouth movement, It tends to be a one emotion fits all circumstances creature.
“Loch Ness” is in its early stage of development, having had only one previous production. What works - works extremely well. But overall, it is in dire need of tightening, and needs a clearer focus. And for sure it needs a villain, not a caricature of a villain to give tension to the proceedings.
“Loch Ness” continues at Adirondack Theatre Festival through July 14. For tickets and schedule information call 518-480-4878 or go to atfestival.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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