Think back to your youth! Was there a time that you locked yourself away from the outside world, put an album on the record player and sang along with the likes of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and a host of others. Perhaps you did complete musicals or concerts until you knew the material as well as the stars. In “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” written by Jim Cartwright and now being performed by a new theater company, No Stakes Theater Project, at Theater Wit, this is what our story is about. The story is about a young girl, who is called Little Voice. She is very shy and hardly speaks a word. Her time is spent listening to the record collection that her father had left her, his true love, with the likes of Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and even Marilyn Monroe. When she is upset or nervous, she sings and amazingly sounds just as the recording of the originals. Scarlet Sheppard does an amazing job in bringing this character to life, with a solid voice to boot. When we enter the theater, before the curtain rises, we see her in her room ( the set by Grant Sabin is very well done allowing us the full run of the house, so to speak), playing record after record, hugging the record jackets.
Her mother, Mari (deftly handled by Rebecca Sohn) is a wild lonely woman, frustrated over her life and the loves of her life. She does not understand why her daughter lives the way she lives, but as we get to know more about her, we can see that each of the members of this household has their own problems. Their next door neighbor, Sadie (a terrific character played by Marsie Mencotti) brings a lot of comic relief to the situations that arise during this 2 and a half hours ( one 20 minute intermission). Mari is dating a man who is a talent scout, but handles mostly strippers and non-important performers. When he hears Little Voice during one of her snits, he knows that this is the special talent he has been seeking. Will Casey is a strong Ray Say and shows his strength at handling both the serious edge and the comic touches that this play brings to the table.
The club owner. Mr. Boo (ably handled by Greg Mills, who also plays the piano and the phone man in the first act) decides to give her the break of her life time, but her shyness gets in the way. She later decides that she must do this for her mother, for Ray Say and for herself, so she gets all dressed up and truly puts on a show for the pretend audience at the club, but more importantly for her mother to see. Directed by Erin Shea Brady, I found this production to be as strong as the one I viewed at Steppenwolf some 20 years ago. While the play is set in England, thus some accents, in thinking about it, it truly could be re-set to any small factory community and then the accents would not be needed. There is also a secondary love story for Little Voice in another fairly silent character, Bill (Johnathan Wallace) who is one of the telephone installers ( this by the way is Mari’s first phone) and finds himself attracted to LV (as she is called) and saves her form a tragic end, but we never truly feel the love that I think Cartwright was aiming for.
This is a new company that has taken on a rough show for their initial production, but has come through with a solid cast and wonderful tech people. The only problem is the off stage curtains where actors enter and exit shedding light onto the stage. Mike Durst’s lighting works well with the set and Joe Court has the sound under control. Paul Deziel has assembles a great number of props and I am not sure, but may have a liquor store on the side as well as a great record collection. This could be a great quiz for the younger theater audience members. What is an LP record?
“The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” is a story about escape and what happens when life catches up to us and we no longer have the escape routes that we have mapped out. Watching this bright cast work and thinking back to your own youth will come easy. The play will continue at Theater Wit through September 5th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $13.50- $34.50 and are available by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.theaterwit.org
The theater is located at 1229 West Belmont and there is street parking , some metered, some not. Parking is also available at Cooper’s (great place to grab a bite before or after as well).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice”
To learn more about this young troupe, visit www.nostakestheaterproject.org