Playwright book and lyrics by Paul Gordon, music by Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska
At Skylight Music Theatre online at SkylightMusicTheatre.org . Tickets: $25. Runs through Dec. 31, 2020
Two things to remember when proposing to transform a play into a musical are, first, the predominant function of songs as vehicles for characters to share their private thoughts and musings, and, second, the necessity of dispensing with large portions of the original text in order to make room for the music.
The personnel in Oscar Wilde's 1898 comedy, however, are wealthy socialites reveling in privilege discouraging cogitative activity to instead approve a spontaneity permitting no impulsive fancy to go unverbalizedespecially when articulated by an author endowed with such enviable literary flair that the smallest excision is rendered unthinkable.
Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska's adaptation resolves these obstacles by transposing the gilded-age farce to the likewise giddy "Swinging London" of the mid-1960san epoch showcasing pop ditties simple in structure, declarative in content and short in duration (e.g.m "I Want to Hold Your Hand") in homage to which Gordon and Gruska have forged replicas sporting plenty of open-ended phrases suitable for asides and observations lifted from Wilde's extensive repertoire of witticisms.
The reconfiguring of a designed-for-full-production text to video-stream format further facilitates the salvage of Wilde's sparkling dialogue by mandating a multi-screen stage picture arranged in the window-pane template associated with the legendary TV revue Laugh-In (even to a cluster of stand-alone aphorisms delivered straight to the camera), all edited so carefully that frame-to-frame repartee, smooches and spit-takes are swapped as smoothly as passing plates at a tea-table.
Advances in the stage-to-screen technology undergoing constant development since the Big Shutdown early this year still prohibit elaborate visual spectacle, but Skylight director Michael Unger supplies his actors with an extensive vintage wardrobe, courtesy of costume coordinator Shima Orans' museum-accurate four-button blazers, tartan trousers, psychedelic prints, mini-skirted shift dresses and the inevitable white vinyl a-go-go boots, while choreographer Amanda Marquardt ensures that our blokes and birds frug, swim and jerk with appropriately loose-jointed grace amid exterior ambience provided by an ever-shifting collage of period images. (British Invasion-era viewers may recognize some of them on first sighting, but post-boomer playgoers can look to the Austin Powers movies for footnotes.)
Max Pink and Joey Chelius make Algernon and Jack a charming pair of swains, as do Ashley Oviedo and Stephanie Staszak as their feisty would-be fiancees Cecily and Gwendolyn, while Karen Estrada and Tim Rebers deliver set-up lines with poker-faced aplomb as the repressed Miss Prism and compliant Rev. Chausible. Commanding the virtual room with every sniff, frown and shrug of a well-upholstered shoulder, though, is the formidable Lady Bracknell portrayed by Nathan Marinan.