Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Night In Olympus - World Premiere at Illusion Theater

Harry (Tyler Michaels), Chad (Adam Qualls) and Maggie (McKinnley Aitchison)
PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren B Photography
A Night In Olympus is a brand new musical playing at the Illusion Theater. Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Bill Corbett, with music and lyrics by Chan Poling, this is one of the most charming, smart, and fun shows I have seen recently. The setting is Olympus, Indiana - a brown, flat pancake of a place. The time is now...and a high school...on the day before prom. It may read like the premise to a standard rom-com, and if looking at the basic plot line - it is. However there are some great twists and turns that keep it thoroughly original, and one of the most talented casts these Twin Cities could put together.

Harry (Tyler Michaels) and Maggie (McKinnley Aitchison) are long-term friends who decide to have a zombie movie marathon on the night of prom. They both feel that neither will get asked, and they are not going to go and fall for some stupid high school tradition. It is clear from the start that they may both be interested in being more than just friends, but they certainly aren't talking about it. is revealed that the faculty (including the Janitor) are Greek Gods who have been banished to earth. And what gods they are....of theater. Norah Long, Aimee K. Bryant, Randy Schmeling, Dieter Bierbrauer (and those dimples), Mark Rosenwinkel, and Adam Qualls fill out the cast playing the faculty/gods, as well as other characters (and, when needed, providing fantastic back-up singing). As luck would have it, one of the gods is Venus. Maggie makes a wish to be the most beautiful girl in the world and Venus fulfills that wish. The twist is that once the wish comes true, no one knows that she is Maggie, including her best friend Harry. However the hot guy that Maggie doesn't really know but has always found attractive asks the "new Maggie" to the prom. She accepts using a new name, and a cute Spanish Accent (very Damn Yankees). What happens next? You have until June 4th to find out.

The music and lyrics by Chan Poling are really good with some great clever rhymes and great use of song styles (including some 50's style tunes, rock, and even some salsa). The story is a good story that deviates in unique ways from the standard fantasy rom-com format. It is told primarily from Maggie's point-of-view which I find interesting knowing it was written by all men. The cast was and is fantastic! It really is the cream of the crop when it comes to local music-theater talent. Except for the two leads, all the other actors play two or even three characters. As expected, they play each role so well and so great...but even as talented as this cast is, playing High School students may be just out of their range - at least visually. Personally I think the show would do great with a larger cast. I think it will play well in community theaters, or with a larger age-appropriate cast. And while I may have some concerns if a younger cast could pull off the music, I think it is worth a try. I know that I would certainly see another production of this charming show.

A Night in Olympus plays at the Illusion Theater through June 4th. I really recommend you going to see it. There are spirit tastings of specialty drinks designed for the guest of the show on May 20th, May 26th, and June 3rd (I believe at Mason's on the first floor of the Cowles Center). Through out the run, Illusion will be a collection site for new or gently used prom and formal dresses for Operation Glass Slipper. If you bring in a contribution, you'll receive a voucher for a free drink! What could be better?

(Now, can I just have a quick moment to talk about audience behavior? Unwrap your candy, or throat lozenge, or cough drop before the lights go down...not using the first five minutes of the show to slowly unwrap whatever you have. Honestly. And about your phones. The time to TURN THEM OFF is while the house lights are going down....NOT after the show starts. Finally, when the program clearly states that Video or Audio recording by any means is strictly prohibited??? It means YOU, sitting in front of me taking photos during act two! As an audience member, what can be done about this?)