For LGBTQ+ audiences, the story of BARE is a tale as old as time: Two young men share a forbidden romance. BARE takes the story and places it in a Catholic Boarding school, amidst a throng of rambunctious and hormone-fueled teenagers. The duo, Peter (Brett Klock) and Jason (Benjamin Eisenhour) face an age old queer dilemma – to be out and proud as Peter wants, or to have it remain their best kept secret, as the closeted Jason wants.
As the lead couple, Klock and Eisenhour fell a little flat. Directed by Artistic Director Sean Elias, the couple tends to favor the downstage center for almost all of their moments. The directionfeels almost as static as their relationship; each encounter they engage in the same robotic physicality all the dramatic turnaways expected of a melodrama (it’s called “A Pop Opera” for a reason). While the two possess beautiful voices and some acting chops, it seemed almost as if the two were saving those voices for their big numbers, leaving us with very little else for the rest of the show. When they do nail their moments, the show sings with pathos and emotion, which is exactly what we want out of this musical.
Standouts among the cast were the wonderful Danielle Harrow as Sister Chantelle and Aileen Mitchener as Nadia. Harrow and Mitchener lit up every scene they were in, bringing much needed energy into many of the scenes. Harrow had the audience in the palm of her hand, and stole the show with her songs. Mitchener’s Nadia embodied so much of the lonely teen experience, and Mitchener’s performance nailed every aspect of the character, both from Nadia’s acerbic wit to her heartwarming gestures of peace and friendship.
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Catelynn Brown’s Ivy delivers some solid performance throughout, making sure her presence is also always felt on the stage. Her singing voice carries Ivy’s raw, turbulent emotions well.
The rest of the ensemble embodies the chaotic joie de vivre and angst of high school. Nikolai Granados, Patrick Gorirossi, Sam Slottow, Bailey Walker, Brian Dauglash, Hana Clarice, Bailey Walker and Ariana Hooberman-Piñeiro all perform Elias’ choreography with aplomb and gusto. They fill the stage with infectious presence, but sometimes to the detriment of the main action on stage. Dauglash, in particular, infuses every moment he’s in with tremendous levels of energy as the “pharmacist” Lucas.
On the note of direction, Elias attempted to use the ensemble in a fun way; having action move through them in transitions as if it were a cinematic pan. Unfortunately, with most of the audience elevated above the stage in the Baltimore Theatre Project, it simply came across as a strange, awkward movement, where people would simply just change direction for seemingly no reason. Otherwise, the direction kept the action central and up close, save for the adult figures of the Priest (Jonas David Grey) and Peter’s Mom Claire (Rebecca Dreyfuss) up on a platform, far away from the teens.
BARE closes December 15, 2019. Details and tickets
The show itself seemed plagued by technical issues, especially regarding the sound. The mixing was so poor that the mic’d actors oscillated between being virtually silent or cracking the speakers. Across the board this killed the musical numbers, causing us to miss sections of dialogue. When the singers went up for their big emotional belts, all we’d hear were the speakers straining to keep up. Thankfully BARE follows a relatively simple plot. But, the music is its main selling point.
On the other end of the technical spectrum, Thomas Gardner is to be commended on the wonderful and emotional lighting of the show, highlighting all the highs and lows of the story and really capturing the emotional intent of every song. But good lightning cant mask uneven performances.
Despite how familiar this story feels to the LGBTQ+ audience, there were still sniffles and sounds of emotions throughout the musical’s ending. For as far as we’ve come with LGBTQ+ rights, there are still stories like this happening all across America.
BARE: A Pop Opera, Book by Jon Hartmere & Damon Intrabartolo, Music by Damon Intrabartolo, Lyrics by Jon Hartmere. Direction and Choreography by Sean Elias. Featuring Catelynn Brown, Hana Clarice, Brain Dauglash, Rebecca Dreyfuss, Benjamin Eisenhour, Patrick Gorirossi, Nikolai Granados, Jonas David Grey, Danielle Harrow, Ariana Hooberman-Piñeiro, Brett Klock, Ailenee Mitchener, Sam Slottow, and Bailey Walker. Costume Design: April Forrer. Set Design: Jericho Stage. Lighting Design: Thomas Gardner. Stage Manager: River Hansen. Asst. Stage Manager: Sami Boyd. Music Director: Charles Johnson. Sound Design: Sam Lee. Safer Spaces Training: Hollaback Baltimore! Produced by Iron Crow Theatre. Reviewed By: Jon Jon Johnson
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