SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED When I first heard the title of this new play with music, “Stalk”, I thought that perhaps this was a story about lost love and one of the lovers becoming the “stalker”. Imagine my surprise to find that this is in fact a story dealing with “Jack and The Beanstalk” a fairy tale that everyone is familiar with. It turns out, the author, Stephen J. Gawrit ( who also wrote the music and lyrics) developed this story from a dream that he had. He calls this a “cutting edge” musical combining folk music and puppetry to bring it on stage at The Lacosta Theater on North Elston Avenue ( now to be called “The New Rock” theater). By the way, they have done some nice renovations at this upstairs loft in an industrial building. They have modernized the lobby area and have rebuilt the actual theater to bring better sight lines toe every seat in the three sided house. They have also improved the sound system so that we can hear what is being said ( well, for the most part).
Now, back to the play. Jack is now a little more contemporary and although we get a view of the actual story in the beginning, we then go into Jack’s story. Jordan Phelps plays young jack and in spite of the weak script is almost believable. His parents are an unhappy pair, his mother ( who wanted to be a star) is a waitress is played by the lovely Meghan Phillipp, who also plays the witch ( I think we are in the wrong story) and his father, who wanted to be a musician, Gregory ( who also plays the Giant) is handled by Scott Danielson. There is also a grandmother , who after being killed by Gregory comes back as Jack’s Fairy Godmother who is played sweetly by Helene Alter-Dyche. Her songs are either to high for her or she was on the wrong side of the mikes, because most of us heard her, but not the lyrcis and it appears that the lyrics in this show are an integral part of the story. The last of the actual characters are Melissa Imbrogna as Greta, Jack’s love interest ( bet you didn’t know that little Jack had a little friend, did you? and the “Barker” ( deftly handled by Jacob Carlson) a character that moves the story along.
Director James Wagoner, who also designed the sound, overcame some of the script difficulties but had loud and long scene changes where whatever magic that was taking place was lost. It is important to keep the flow of the piece moving and the set by Steven House was a bit cumbersome with boxes being moved from scene to scene ( perhaps they should be on gliders). The use of puppets can add magic to a production as one who has seen “The Snow Queen” will attest to- while the puppeteers worked hard, they didn’t have the same type of influence on the production- Led by Alex Potanos,Michelle Jacobson and Rachel Griesenger did a marvelous job of movement with the puppets designed by Mike Oleon.
I would have to call this a work in progress as most new musicals are. Once they have audience reaction, they can be modified and improved. I am sure that Gawrit was somewhat influenced by “Into The Woods”, Sondheim’s venture into fairy tale land and while there were some cute moments and some lovely songs, a lot of pure talent and a story with a moral- there is a little “Giant” in all of us and we must learn to temper it and tame the evil that lurks within. In this case, Milky White was a guitar, not a cow and dad regretted giving up his music for love and child and family. Mom gave up her dreams for marriage , but Jack is searching for love and understanding. He does not want to become abusive like his father or an alcoholic in search of escapism. He finds love with Greta, who shows her love for him by sacrificing the memory of her deceased mother to save Jack from a deadly fate. But this is not a “happy ending” play. Perhaps along the way, it will grow and cut( running time 2 hours 25 minutes with a 15 minute intermission), mature and be rewritten. I wait for that day and welcome an invitation when that day comes.
“Stalk” will continue at La Costa Theatre located at 3931 N. Elston Avenue ( second floor) through November 28th with performances as follows:
Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
There will be NO performance on Thanksgiving
Tickets are $25 ( $15 for seniors and students- under 25) and can be reserved by visiting www.ticketweb.com/snl/VenueListings.action?venueld=21923 or calling the box office number 773-620-8325
There is street parking on Elston and the Irving Park bus #80 leaves you off just a block away.