For many of us who have a passion for the experience of live theatre and have been lucky enough to have seen some of the best in the world, we tend to avoid non-professional theatre productions. It's not because we've become snobs, at least not all of us. It is simply because we have become spoiled by some of the best live experiences in the world and we can be disappointed quickly. So we just don't venture out to those experiences that we anticipate won't meet up with the best that we have seen.
The best food requires the best ingredients and someone who really knows how to put those ingredients together in a way that gives us the best in food experience. How many times have you gone out for an evening and known right away which restaurant that you don't want to go to as well as which one you wish you could afford? But every now and then you find yourself in that middle-of-the-road restaurant that you may not have chosen first. And when you do, you find that your expectations have been met. You may generally find the meal adequate but nothing that makes you want to return. You are wishing that you would have saved your money and ate at home or at least ponied up the cash for what you felt sure was what you really wanted.
But then there are those times when you are at a middle-of-the-road restaurant with a new cook and you find something in the meal that is just memorable. No the whole meal isn't perfect, but wow, you just can't forget the sensational taste of that special surprise you discovered part way through the meal. What you have found is a place where the cook may be gifted with talent but they may not yet have become a chef. And in spite of yourself you find you are telling a friend to try this restaurant. You might even be reminding them that they should try it now before that cook becomes a chef and moves on.
Well, I ventured out and tried the fare at a non-professional theater, and I witnessed some very special moments. Playhouse South, in Kettering, Ohio is presenting "A Pop Opera" called BARE, a musical story of 2 young male lovers who struggle to confront their self-acceptance in the midst of their community's non-acceptance at a small Catholic boarding school.
It is a demanding work presented in a challenging environment. In a barn-like auditorium with barn-like acoustics, with a sound system that wasn't always clear and was intermittent when it worked, the heat was tiresome with no air-conditioning on the first day of summer. And yet there were moments in the performance that were so good that we forgot about those things.
The biggest surprise was the quality of many of the voices. This cast has some really good voices. BARE is nonstop singing and although most were good, some were really excellent. Peter (Mike Embree) and Jason (Zach King) play the room-mates/secret lovers. Both voices command attention and are well worth the evening. Clean and clear and strong, both actors attack their roles with vigor and a passion that creates some of the special moments that bare the truth of the story.
Although large musicals are sometimes about the big cast numbers, this production’s most special moments are the small scenes. Nadia’s (Lindsay Sherman) “Quiet Night At Home” is a stand out as is “See Me & Warning, Warning” with Clair (Anne Potter) and her son Peter. Jason’s efforts to seek forgiveness from his priest (Eric Bracht) is a clarifying and moving moment. The performances are so strong in these small scenes that we are taken into their worlds and their pain and struggles. They make us forget that we are in a hot barn struggling to hear talented musicians and vocalists. They take us into the story.
Although this production’s director may be as green as the lettuce in your dinner salad, he has good instincts. He let the performers follow their passion for the story. And that is, after all, why we come to the theatre, for the story.
There is only one performance left of BARE. If you can handle a good challenge and the surprises that may be your reward, catch the last performance of BARE.
(For information on BARE go to: http://www.playhousesouth.org/ )