|Shirine Babb & Bryce Ryness|
Photos by Michael Blase
Rarely has the magic of the theatre been more brilliantly and delightfully achieved than in Cedric Yau's production of playwright Mark Brown's adaptation of Jules Verne's adventure classic AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. - directed by Rachel Klein.
Yau and his artistic team have created a fantastical experience which begins the moment you enter the intimate New Theatre on W. 45th Street. The smart set is a work of art which extends through the entire theatre as murals on both sides. One feels a bit as though one has fallen into a Harry Potter movie (and let me say, if I had grandkids, we'd be getting tickets for the whole family). The set itself, by Robert Andrew Kovach, is a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine which becomes everything and everywhere. There's even GPS so we can know where we are in the journey - and an elephant that suddenly just explodes out of nowhere. Lighting Designer Ben Kato evokes a million moods with perfection. In an endless stream of costume changes, Kae Burke's costumes define the global trek, sometimes with a simple piece of cloth. And there are wonderful sounds throughout, thanks to Sound Designer Sean Hagerty and a travel log of projections by Kate Freer. One could happily buy tickets just to sit there and admire the set, but you don't want to miss the show.
And what a show it is, as five of the finest actors I have ever seen erupt in a vaudeville of silliness that fuses the acting styles of Del Sarte and Monty Python - right off the "Boulevards" of old Paree.
Bryce Ryness is very droll as Phileas Fogg, with his abstract good looks and his and oh so sweetly crafted dry but arch line deliveries and properly suppressed British take on inner emotions, which never manifest anywhere except in his eyes.
John Gregorio brings Marx Brothers energy and a Cheshire Cat smile to Fogg's servant, Passepartout. He even acts with his nose!
As Detective Fix, Stephan Guarino is just too funny - a quirky blend of Hercule Poirot and Inspector Clouseau.
Jimmy Ray Bennett plays more roles in this show than most actors play in a lifetime, switching characters faster than Superman in a phone booth, and he does it with a lighthearted madness that keeps you giggling from beginning to end.
After a few quick character changes at the top of the show, the lovely Shirine Babb settles into the role of the exotic Auoda, damsel in distress. She and Mr. Ryness have wonderful chemistry and spot-on timing in their many takes to the audience as Phileas and Auoda try to process the madness of danger, adventure, romance and triumph that avalanches around them.
The stunning character work is beautifully enhanced by the work of Makeup Designer, Jessica Jade Jacob.
At 32 years of age, Mr. Yau is launching his career as a producer with a show that the rest of us might only spend a lifetime dreaming of producing. You really don't want to miss AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS and I'm sure we will all be watching with baited breath to see what Mr. Yau comes up with next. For full details about the show, visit www.aroundtheworldinnyc.com