Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rejected Take Off - ACE - Musical Review

ACE - Signature Theatre - Arlington, Virginia (Greater Washington D.C.)
Book and Lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker, Music by Richard Oberacker, Directed by Eric Schaeffer

It's kind of appropriate that I flew in and out of D.C. just to go see ACE, a new musical about a boy and stories of flying. (Which has since closed and while it has hopes to move to Broadway, I'm not sure it's going to happen).

It's also slightly appropriate that ACE was my 100th musical I have seen live on stage in my lifetime (not counting repeats (same production or not). So basically, 100 individual actual musicals)!

While the show wasn't terrible, sadly it didn't fly as high as I would have hoped. The story (ahem...) flew all OVER the place, from a boy (weak link Dalton Harold) taken from his depressed mother (a sadly dowdy Jill Paice) to live with foster parents (the always great Emily Skinner and an underused Duke Lafoon). The boy is given clues to a story about an ACE pilot (Jim Stanek, surpassing my expectations and showing me why he's made a name) and his marriage to a society girl (a great if slightly underused Christiane Noll) and somehow it will all lead to the discovery of the boys true father (Jason Reiff subbing for Matthew Scott the day I saw it).

The music was decent but only a few songs stood out, particularly "In These Skies" which they smartly reprise a few times. The cast does what it can with a musical that tries to do too much, going back and forth in time to tell the historic tale of love TWICE over in two sets of past love stories, a modern kids tale where a fellow outcast classmate (future musical star Angelina Kelly who saves every scene she's in) decides to play Nancy Drew and help with all the convoluted clues, the story of the boy and finding belonging in an unstable family life, AND all with a lot of flying scenes.

It's the second flying musical I've seen in the last two years (the other was Take Flight) and it seems like they can never seem to get it just right, although I would say that the Signature tries its best on its regional theatre budget to put on a big splashy show, but it's not enough to lift the show up to high enough standards.

It's too bad Jill Paice didn't get to delve into the past a bit more because the second act's flashback scenes had her come to life so that we could see the Jill Paice we adore and love (like in Curtains). As I noted before, the impressive cast that included Jim Stanek, Christiane Noll and Emily Skinner helped improve their own scenes but with so many storylines and characters interweaving in and out, they could only do so much. In the end, the cohesion of the whole story prevented the musical from soaring, even when individual scenes were interesting.

ACE - Signature Theatre - Arlington, Virginia (Greater Washington D.C.) - **1/2 (2.5 stars out of 5)

Video preview here.

Here are more pictures:

Emily Skinner with Dalton Harold:

Dalton Harold and Angelina Kelly:

The Ace Cast:

Christiane Noll:

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