With the current production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the fledgling Indigo Arts Center has spread its wings and flown. This nearly-perfect production establishes Indigo - barely six months old - as a serious contender for the best community theater venue in Savannah.
Its intimacy is the selling point. For Cuckoo's Nest, novelist Ken Kesey's story of a rebellion inside a mental ward, the audience is literally right in the room with the characters, both heartbreaking and hilarious, as they deal with one another and the perceived awfulness of the outside world.
Director Christopher Soucy has assembled a cast that works like a well-oiled machine, actors who've mastered the verbal trickery of Kesey's words but still make you believe it's all happening, right before your eyes, in real time.
Peter Griffin plays R.P. McMurphy, a new patient who still has the light in his eyes, and the spring in his step, that the others have long lost. Griffin's gruffness and snake-oil bravado play wonderfully against the childlike naÏveté of Justin Usry as Billy, the endearing loopiness of Cheswick (Justin P. Kent) and Martini (Gabe Reynolds), and the nervous self-loathing of Harding (Walter Magnuson).
Rich Seng, as high-strung Scanlon, and Soucy himself as the mysterious Chief Bromden, complete the litany of loons - some of whom, as it turns out, aren't so crazy after all.
These performers - including Bill Cooper as the lobotomized Ruckley - come in all shapes, sizes and levels of intensity. It's truly an ensemble cast, and watching this production so closely is like sitting in the audience of a three-ring circus - you hardly know where to point your eyes.
Of course, the story is familiar: The bathrobe-wearing patients are terrorized by the stern, bobby-pinned Nurse Ratched, who's played here with tight-lipped fearsomeness by Sheila Lynne Bolda. Ratched believes in control, while McMurphy bristles and encourages his fellow inmates to live whatever life they have to the fullest.
Inevitably, you know the battle of wills will lead to a confrontation. It comes, but not before McMurphy and his new buddies have some serious fun, with a bottle of vodka and a couple of smuggled-in loose women.
There are lots of laughs in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but make no mistake, it's a serious story. The sobering finale is served well by this outstanding cast, and by a production that knows exactly where to paint the fine line between comedy and tragedy.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest continues June 11-13 at 703D Louisville Road.
At the other end of the spectrum - and clear across town - is the Savannah Children's Theatre and its production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
It's a lavish musical, colorful and fun, with an enormous cast and a freewheeling sense of whimsy that lasts from the opening notes to the last.
Written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in pre-Jesus Christ Superstar days, Joseph is told entirely through song, without dialogue, and even though the story is a tad confusing - I still don't know what Joseph's big, bright coat has to do with his ability to interpret dreams - the show is such a blast to watch that continuity doesn't matter much.
For one thing, even though it's a cast made up primarily of children and young teens, the company delivers on several levels - the dancing and singing, on every number, are close to superb. Even from the youngest performers.
Kudos to musical director Keena Charbonneau and choreographer Jenn Doubleday for keeping things moving at a brisk pace, and always exciting to watch.
Everybody knows their steps, and knows them well. You don't have to be somebody's grandparent to enjoy this.
Director Kelie Miley clearly has an eye for spectacle, and she's made sure this Joseph is bright and shiny; David Poole's elaborate costumes (there are lots and lots and lots of costumes) adds to the enchanting effect.
It's based on a story from the Book of Genesis, about a "coat of many colors" given to a young man, one of 12 brothers, who's clearly his father's favorite.
Joseph's jealous brothers sell him into slavery, and after a series of events he finds himself working with the all-powerful Pharoah, who flips when Joseph interprets a dream he's had - something about cows, corn and famine.
The music is a pastiche of styles, from British music hall, to hillbilly country, to'50s rock and roll, calypso and French cabaret.
The adult leads are outstanding. Christopher Blair's Pharoah is a pompadoured, jumpsuit-wearing Elvis clone (it's written that way in the script), and every scene he's in - his songs sound like "All Shook Up" artfully blended with "Don't Be Cruel" and a dab of Brylcreem - is a highlight.
Richie Cook, playing Joseph, has a sweet tenor voice that lends itself beautifully to the big Rice/Webber ballads "Any Dream Will Do" and "Close Any Door."
There's been a dearth of elaborate musicals lately on Savannah community theater stages. If you're a fan, and you need a fix, this Joseph will do very nicely.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues through June 20 at 2160 E. Victory Drive.
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