Friday, November 29, 2019

New Village Arts “Around The World”: Travels And Travails Of Phileas Fogg.


Jules Vern’s 1872 classic adventure story “Around The World In 80 Days” has been made into a motion picture and adapted to several play versions most following the speedy journey/ adventure of Phileas Fogg’s travel’s and travails around the globe stopping off for quick reconnoiters in the various countries, continents and hotel lobbies and returning to the scene of the crime in time to catch all those who doubted, off guard.

New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad and (artistic) director Kristianne Kurner have taken the oft produced Vern play and added another dimension to an already over two hour production with a commissioned original musical score of twelve songs by Joseph Freeman and Renee Moreno or the Shanyannes.
Ensemble
Musical Director Tony Houck arranged and orchestrated the music. Unfortunately it was more of a minus than a plus for yours truly. The day I attended, the lyrics sounded garbled and out of sync with the actors on stage, their dialogue muffled by the music from the on stage band dressed in Pirate garb designed by Emily Wilson.

The musical numbers in the production are interwoven throughout Laura Eason’s adaptation of Vern’s “Around The World In 80 Days” where it will be staged at NVA through Dec. 22nd.
Frankie Alicea-Ford as Phileas Fogg
Mysterious, meticulous and methodical, Phileas Fogg (a handsome and worthy Frankie Alicea-Ford) is at Vern’s center. At his Reform Club where his whist partners are discussing a recent bank robbery where the robber got away scot-free with fifty thousand pounds from the Bank of London, Fogg offers a theory.

He describes how possible it would be for someone to rob a bank and get away with it since the world has grown smaller with the completion of the new Great Indian Peninsular Railway. It would be a mathematical fact according to Fogg, thereby eluding the law.

By staking his ideas on his facts he contradicts some of his club friends who insist that it would take three months. At this time, a twenty thousand pound wager is agreed upon that sets this tale into motion.

To win the bet, he must make all the right connections. However even without airline delays that are so much a part of our now daily lives, unexpected trials and tribulations will get in the way of his fellow travelers. And the race begins with his French, former circus performer now valet Passepartout (a talented Audrey Eytchison).
Farah Dinga and Frankie Alicea-Ford (back)
AJ Knox and Audrey Eytchison as Passepartout (front)
The trek begins on the train from London to Dover with the first stop in Brindisi, Italy by way of Calais and from there to Bombay via Suez. It is here we meet up with Inspector Fix (AJ Knox in a perfect role that suits him comfortably) who is convinced that Fogg is the thief that masterminded the bank robbery.

If you combined Colombo, Inspectors Clouseau and Poirot, Knox is their heir apparent. He hides behind newspapers, peeks around corners and is, in general a royal pain in the arse. 

His goal is to stop Fogg at his own game, slow him down in anticipation of an arrest before he sets foot back on British soil. Unfortunately for him ‘twas not the case. Of course as in all good detective stories Fogg, unaware of his suspicions, is clearly one step ahead.
Ensemble with Jasmin January in center
Eight versatile actors and a talented ensemble play several characters. All can sing, most dance (Jenna Ingrassia-Knox choreographs), others have skills not necessarily a requirement for a long and convoluted journey, but necessary for entertainment value, and entertain and please it does.  

We are invited to see a circus act with Passepartout as an acrobat and gymnast. They ride elephant and hijack a ship. Alexander X Guzman plays many ensemble roles along with some nifty hand walking. Jasmine January knocks “The Ballad of Captain Blossom” out to the high seas. Olivia Pence is Colonel Proctor and ‘others’ and Rae Henderson is Captain Speedy and ‘others’.

In each production a performer from the “Mainstage Players”, New Village Arts program for actors with special needs under the watchful eyes of Samantha Ginn, actor, teaching artist and teacher is on stage.

 The entire goings on takes place on Tanya Orellana’s ship looking deck with portholes, boxes and sundries with props hanging in plain sight including a number of flags (including the LGBTQ) representing each country visited including the city of San Francisco, ergo the rainbow.

One of the most interesting characters we meet up is Farah Dinga, another multi talented actor, who sings as well taking on the part Aouda, daughter of a wealthy merchant and recent widow. In India, Fogg rescues her after a near death mishap and the two become traveling companions, which in turn puts a little zip in Foggs step.

Ms. Dinga’s Aouda is so convincing, and yes a bit coy as the sought after and beautiful widow that she enchants Fogg to the degree that in his haste to reach his goal, he falls head over heels but doesn’t recognize it.
Farah Dinga and Frankie Alicea-Ford
Technically the production rises to the occasion with Jonah Gercke’s projections, Becky Goodman’s lighting, Farah Dinga’s fight choreography and Cassie Langan’s properties designer.

Kurner was inspired to direct Vern’s adventure tale after having traveled the world this past year with stops in Thailand, Uganda, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Italy and London. Pity she was over a hundred years to late to run into Fogg. She might have hopped on the train in Dover and had a different adventure. Having said that, her take on the entire escapade is fun, colorful and entertaining.

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through Dec. 22
Organization: New Village Arts
Phone: 760-433-3254
Production Type: Adventure/Musical
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $25.00
Web: newvillagearts.org
Photo: Daren Scott

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