The Barn Players opened their current musical/drama, “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” with book by Terrence McNally and music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, on Friday, Sept. 16 to an enthusiastic audience.
Adapted from a novel by Manuel Puig, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” became an award winning film and later the musical. William Hurt and Raul Julia made their mark as Molina and Valentin.
The musical changes the character of Aurora to a singer/dancer/actress, thereby allowing for all the color, song and dance numbers. The result brings a nice contrast to the prison life of the two cell mates. Molina an unapologetic homosexual and Molina a very straight revolutionary could not be more opposite. Their action and interaction takes place in a small cell with their flights of fantasy opening up to a dreamed world of color and music.
Even though the dramatic show keeps a dark disturbing theme ongoing, laughs and lighter moments add to the contrast between reality and fantasy. Molina’s life is sad but aligned with music, films, and fantasy. Valentin, quite the opposite, focuses of revolutionary ideas and Marxist ideas, all stemming from him hard life and impoverished background.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” relies on three strong lead actors. All need to possess stage presence and strong vocal skills to unify the cast. The balance of the actors are mostly in supporting roles.
JC Dresslaer as Aurora gives a strong performance a the spider woman. When dressed in the black costume, there’s no question she is the focus on stage. When dressed in the bright costumes, expect a good Kander and Ebb musical production number. Both extremes fit well within Dresslaer’s acting, singing, dancing range.
As Molina, Joel Ramsdell primps throughout the show, giving Molina a strong presence and firmly establishing his homosexual mannerisms. Ramsdell’s voice is the higher of the two men leads as is necessary for his more feminine character. Ramsdell is very convincing and endearing to the audience as his character continues to unfold and reveal layers of his persona. The audience feels for his as he slowly finds himself attracted to his cell mate.
Valentin’s character, the darker and more intense called for him to have the stronger and deeper voice. Paul Brennan does not disappoint. His strong baritone stands out even in ensemble numbers. Valentin’s character is the stronger of the two leads but the character does not have as many levels as Molina’s. Still Brennan delivers a strong performance and develops the character throughout.
The only supporting roles that stand out are Marta and Molina’s mother. Natasha Gibbons and Joy Richardson sing their parts beautifully. The supporting roles they have are mostly fantasy interludes but each gets to show off her vocal abilities.
Director Eric Magnus brought this show from a large-scale musical/drama to an intimate theater-piece. His concept keeps the show believable without elaborate sets or extreme effects. As music director, Paul Morel music direction allows the musicality of the score to enhance the production. Musical numbers stand out, background music just adds a completed feel to the show. Also of note are the sound, lighting, and female costumes.
Cast: JC Dresslaer, Aurora/Spider Woman; Joel Ramsdell, Molina; Paul Brennan, Valentin; Brian Adkins, Marcos; Corey Allen, Gabriel, prisoner; John Edmonds, ensemble; Natasha Gibbons, Marta; JP Helder, ensemble; Mark McNeal, ensemble; Christoph Nevins, ensemble; Nickels Nickelsen, ensemble; Emerson Rapp, warden; Joy Richardson, Molina’s mother; Jonathan Strom, ensemble.
The creative and production team is: Eric Magnus, director; Paul Morel, musical director; Shelly Stewart Banks, assistant director; Fran Kopono-Kuzila, costumes; Kristine Luthi, stage manager; Katie Blinn, props manager; Christopher Barksdale-Burns, choreographer; Jonathan Antle, assistant music director; Doug Schroeder, set designer; Bill Wright, set construction; Chuck Cline, lighting designer; Sean Lestico, sound designer; Michael Ong, Projection designer; Amanda Albert, assistant properties designer; Jonathan Antle, rehearsal accompanist; Kristen Altoro, hair and makeup designer; Alex Morales, graphic designer.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman” continues weekends at The Barn Players Playhouse through Oct. 2. For more information, dates, times, tickets, and more, check The Barn Players website.