Theatre Review Patch
Around The World In 80 Days--ICT Long Beach Sparkling Production Is A Worthy Live Tribute To Jules Verne’s Classic
By: Joseph Sirota, Entertainment Reviewer
Opening their 28th-Year of diverse, daring, high-quality live theater, ICT (International City Theater) brings us a rollicking Jules Verne 's classic saga at its best. This truly genius French author captivated readers with strikingly creative and unique stories that have become well loved. But Verne was more than just a fine writer; he was a scientific and societal "prophet". His famous stories magnificently propelled readers far into the future. His works mesmerizingly drew insightful true pictures and insights of the world's wonders that would yet be born. The world harnessed atomic power in the 1940's and the USS Nautilus (first nuclear submarine) was launched in1954. But amazingly, Verne had already written of an Atomic Submarine Nautilus in his smash tale, Twenty-Thousand Leagues Beneath The Sea in 1870. He also won readers galore by his stories of rockets from Earth to the Moon, Travels to the Center of the Earth, and even his prognostic tale of Paris in the future--complete with glass-skyscrapers, bullet-trains, calculators, plus (get this...) even with a worldwide info network (take that, Al Gore). This forward view of Paris so shocked publishers, it sat alone in a vault till re-discovered in the 1990’s. This captivating theater adoption of the classic by Mark Brown is a version of Around...In 80 Days that is a feat of notable capability -- and a winning entertainment success for audiences of live theater. Brown's adaptation of what is already Verne's most lighthearted major work now adds heaps of fast/clever/sharp dialog and Chaplin-esk physical humor. When combined, we're delighted us through every turn of a fascinating, grand global race.
Verne's hero is a positive, CAN-DO spirited man, Phileas Fogg. He's, a bold man who sees what CAN be achieved if you're creative and never give up when facing life's challenges or pot-holes. Fogg makes a large bet against some "Anti-Change", stuffy aristocrats in his British formal men's club. To these grouches "Such Fast Travel-Has-Never-Been-Done-Before-So-It-Can't-Ever-Be-Done-at-All,-Hence, Fogg hasn't a chance. Quite different is the personal view of winning the global race by the smart/bold hero Phileas Fogg. He cares less about the Money than for world-wide admiration for bravery and his heart's love of achieving an "Impossible" task! We, the audience are the real winners, getting a terrific ride along side Mr Fogg and his few gathered friends, (his dedicated servant Passepartout). We find Fogg is a self-made-man, fastidious in both math and logic, and willing to risk life and limb for his beliefs. He's also noble; when another person in trouble needs his help. Along the way Fogg risks his life (& his bet) to save a beautiful East Indian Girl Princess Aouda from be being burned on the funeral pile of her deceased forced husband. He also risks life (and bet) to deter and fight Apache Indians and a tough US Colonel to save devoted servant, Passepartout. Seeing Fogg & his small team stand tall in storms at sea, racing an old train to leap withered bridges, riding a huge elephant. Come see them sail a wind land boat over icy tundras, & buy then tear up a ship's deck when last coal is gone. All challenging, clever and done with fun ... Wow!
The superb, right-on target Direction by Allison Bibicoff, kept pacing perfect, and was well hailed. The "flawless, hard-working" five(5) person cast drew a clearly worthy long/loud standing ovation at story's close. The SAG guild might grimace at five actors carrying out 39 roles at high- speed/high-energy, quick changes and excellence in bringing each complex character from country-to-country pop-up right on time, and add yet another worldly people view of our planet. Hero, Phileas Fogg is thoroughly brought to life by Jud V. Williford, as a complex, but likable and admirable, man who is demanding and exact but generous, loyal and a dependable friend, partner, (&...as we ultimately find, a romantic fellow, too-- with the right woman). As for women, the one female actor, Malinda Porto does a few very funny "goofy male" roles early in the show, but once she blossoms into the beautiful, warm, earthly East Indian Princess Aouda who was saved by Fogg and joins his team warmly as a very key person, though still quite funny as the Princess, who'da thought her early skinny mustached roles would be so lovely just minutes later. The new servant, Passepartout of Mr Fogg amazingly conquers very tough musts. Not only must Michael Uribes be a physical/acrobatic actor, but also a very funny, high-speed comic actor. Also, in the famous movie, his role of was played by Cantinflas -- a very funny and extremely loved by South & North American countries. Bravo ... our Mr Uribes, meets all requirements in a smash. Mark Gagliardi and Brian Stanton, probably even more individual roles to cover like Narrator, British Detective, Boat Owner, Boat sailers, Train Drivers, Train Conductors, Elephant riders & other policemen, Judges, betters against the 80 Day Bet... & lots more.. Moral, You run into lotsa' people goin' around the World even in a hurry.
Bravos all around to this great show.. from Jules Verne, to Play Adapter Mark Brown to director!! to cast & to ICT backstage team.=A+
This is a production where sets, sounds, visuals and effects are almost as central to the plot & impact, as the characters themselves. I pondered “How will they stage and support the play's worldwide settings”. They did it with creative, small, symbolic, quick-measures of fine imagination & hard work. Staci Walters -Scenic Design, Donna Ruzika -Lighting, Kim DeShazo- Costumes, Dave Mickey -Sound Design. And: caryn desai: Artistic Director/Producer ... All combine with the super-energetic cast (closely integrated with the Director & physical set, costumes, etc. They meet Verne’s 80-Days “Dare” handily; and relate the wondrous tale all in 120 thoroughly entertaining minutes.
---- Around The World In 80 Days @ The ICT Theater, Long Beach Performing Arts Ctr, 300 East Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802. Sched: Wed thru Sat 8:PM, Sun Matinees 2:PM. Closes: Feb 17. Tkts: $38-$45. Tel: (562) 436-4610 www.InternationalCityTheatre.com