Nightingale's work shows a different kind of maturity
By KAREN SHADE, 3/27/2007
Anyone who's seen a few of the shows put up at the Nightingale Theater could safely assume that much of the theater's work isn't staged for the kiddies.
But with its latest show, the original musical, "Glowstick" -- the creative gumption behind it displays another sort of maturity. The kind acquired with time and practice.
Two years ago, local band Milk Truck took a few songs to John Cruncleton at the Nightingale to stage "Glowstick," a little rock opera about an innocent boy-child who wonders what makes a glowstick glow.
This boy is hit by a milk truck and then drifts into a dream that puts him at the nightclub where his cynical, weary mother sings. From there, he wanders into a wilderness where he meets a series of wily misfits and soul searchers before finding the answer to the question.
Then, "Glowstick" was mostly incomprehensible -- an interesting take on the quest theme, but one lacking a map.
When the theater brought the show back this weekend, much had changed. The show has the same band, much of the same music (as far as I could tell) and even some returning cast. But this time, Cruncleton (who wrote the script based on the band's story idea) has injected focus and more interesting quirks to the characters.
The band sounded more confident, too, playing its brand of jamming psychedelic pop over the story and the visual projection display that provided the set's backdrop.
Having a lead like Annie Ellicott taking over the role of the child helped, too. Switching the character from that of a boy to a girl was the most obvious change. Narratively, the idea that this girl is ambiguous in her age, her experiences and knowledge allowed for some curious perspectives in the script.
The answer to the riddle of what makes the glowstick glow is "in the question," as the title song goes, but it's also a release from constraints holding a person back from the pursuit.
Through much of the play, we're not always told that this is a story about an artist's journey. You must step back and look at the context and tradition.
"Glowstick" treads on familiar literary waters. Even its heroine is dressed to suggest something between Alice on her adventure through Wonderland and Dorothy skipping along the yellow brick road. She throws off her reality, literally, a little bit at a time.
The pursuit weaves in and out of tales of a proclaimed savior and his frisky entourage, a pilot who enjoys nothing better than flying high, and a blues man damned to play the best licks ever minus the acclaim. But by the time Milk Truck has given us the lyrics holding the answer, we've already seen it demonstrated by the cast.
The players in this colorful rock fantasia give the best evidence with unrestrained performances, particularly from Ellicott, Owen Froeschle, John Cruncleton, Katrina Lofgren and Joseph Gomez on the stage, but also from the band.
"Glowstick," with its frolicsome parlay into the varying connotations of "release" and a scene-stealing visit from Eye Candy Burlesque, will not be to everyone's taste. The show is, yes, for a mature audience, but one acknowledging the winks to irony and satire. And where else in town can you find rock opera selling for $8 a pop?
"Glowstick" continues its run at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St., at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and again April 6-7.