Theater is delightful when it takes something that you love and portrays it for all of its brilliance. Theater is remarkably amazing when it takes something that you’re not fond of and illuminates it for all of its glory. This is just is some of the magic of Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s Regional Premiere of The Glorious Ones.
I am not fond of 16th-century Italian farce. Generally, I am not fond of period farce from anywhere. Based on a novel by Francine Prose, The Glorious Ones tells the story of a troupe of roaming actors perfecting and performing commedia dell’arte improvisations in hopes of fame and fortune. The struggles and shining moments of their theatrical adventures are set to music and played to perfection in this exceptional production.
Director/Set Designer Stephen Genovese creates the perfect atmosphere with a rustic wooden stage, ideal for the itinerant troupe. Theresa Ham’s Costume Designs are beautiful. The choral work ranges from thrilling to bone chilling. The production is a visual and acoustic treat.
They might not approve of me saying this, but I hope that they continue performing at the tiny Heartland Studio forever as no company consistently transforms a little black box into a location for theatrical triumph like BoHo. The in-your-lap intimacy of this venue creates ‘make-or-break’ urgency for the actors to completely connect to the material and with the audience and this terrific ensemble does so with staggering dedication and talent.
Lines like, “Actors can never get enough love.” “If you’re good in bed you’re good onstage.” and “Half the time we’re not really acting at all.” might sound cliché, but delivered by these gifted performers they set the stage for an homage to the craft that is both sentimental and entertaining.
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens have written a deceptively difficult musical. The music is lovely but selling the exposition requires a lot of effort. There’s lewd and laughable clowning, antiquated antics and melancholy melodrama. Musically and stylistically The Glorious Ones is reminiscent of Pippin, with satisfying melodies, corny conflict, contrived transitions and similarly loose on story. This asks a great deal from the actors to create content between the lines and this ensemble not only delivers The Glorious Ones, the ARE The Glorious Ones.
With song after song and scene after scene, we are drawn in by this completely engaging and endearing cast, each and everyone delivering outstanding work. Courtney Crouse, as Francesco, and Dana Tretta, as Armanda, access particular depth. Danni Smith, as Columbina, stands out as truly wonderful; delivering a solo musical number that is vocally impressive and emotionally extraordinary. She takes us from the hopefulness of new love to the resignation of its betrayal with breathtaking grace and maturity.
Eric Damon Smith, as the troupe founding Flaminio, delivers a performance that anchors The Glorious Ones with uncanny intelligence, understated sophistication and elegant signing. Flaminio devises a glamorous, grueling and grotesque life for the other characters and Smith creates the reality of it for the audience.
A few weeks ago a friend sent me an article detailing the heartbreaking struggles of stage actors in America today. So much of our brightest talent gives up after years of pounding the boards to great critical success because it is virtually impossible to make a living. This fact makes the incomparable efforts of theater professionals even more vital, urgent and profound.
The tragedy of this modern reality is one that has plagued the craft throughout the ages as The Glorious Ones so eloquently and charmingly portrays. But despite the battle to make a life in the theater, there is redemption in the creations that emerge and their lasting impacts. The Glorious Ones closes with a rapturous glimpse of this impact that leaves you with a sense of wonder and appreciation for those who strive to create.
Although light on expository depth, The Glorious Ones is heavy on emotional connection and generous with delight. Director Stephen Genovese and Musical Director Nick Sula have crafted a stunning production that thoroughly engages as it sweeps you away. If you love musical theater, BoHo’s The Glorious Ones is as intimately incredible as it gets.