Saturday, July 28, 2012

SummerStage opens ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

SummerStage of Delafield opens a Musical produced with Waukesha Civic Theatre

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The Summer Stage of Delafield continues to look a little more impressive each summer. This summer's schedule is packed with quite a few shows. The latest runs this weekend only. A joint production between Summer Stage and the Waukesha Civic Theatre, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a colorful musical animated by a bright synthesizer accompaniment. 

Lapham Peak State Park is actually kind of big. My wife and I were concerned that the actual stage might be kind of difficult to track down. The path to the stage was, however, clearly labeled. 

The outdoor theater has a kind of intimacy about it . . there are a lot of parallels between  the outdoor theatre experience here and that in Door Shakespeare. You'll notice one of the biggest differences on your drive in. Summer Stage takes place in a state park and if you don't have a park pass, you'll be paying topark. 

From there it's a walk through a pleasant wooded area to get to the performance space which is a large clearing with rolling meadows. The lawn seating is general admission. Patrons are welcome to bring folding chairs picnic baskets and such. There are light refreshments available at the booth behind the seating area. And there are folding chairs  you're available for rent from the park. There are portable toilets for use and there didn't seem to be any long lines at them. It was very, very comfortable outdoor theater. Particularly in the break in the heat we've been having this weekend.

The stage is rather small. This lends itself to a feeling of intimacy, however it's not an outdoor studio theater environment like the one found with Door Shakespeare. And a show like this needed slightly larger platform for it than a Door Shakes production. 

The cast is rather large. However, not so large that you lose a feeling for human emotion which is absolutely essential to the central themes of the piece. The sunsets off to the left of the stage as the story progresses.  The sound of 1980s style synthesizer pop music tumbles out of the speakers as the casts tells the tale of a peasant girl falling for a wealthy aristocrat in an cheerful island atmosphere. 

It is a bittersweet musical drama about differences and disparity between the classes. This isn't some lightly sanitized Disney story. There's a tragedy here--but it's told with such vibrant life and such vivid technicolor costuming that it scarcely feels as deep or depressing as a simple synopsis of the story would make it sound.

Once On This Island runs through the 29th at SummerStage of Delafield's space in Lapham Peak State Park. It then moves to Wauksha Civic Theatre August 3rd -19th. 

A concise review of the show runs in the next Shepherd-Express.

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