Review: Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Book, Music and Lyrics by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Zack Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Produced by The Balagan Theatre. Directed by Kate Jaeger. Musical Direction by Kimberly Dare. Choreography by Michael Jenkinson. With William A. Williams, Jake Groshong, Annie Jantzer, Brian Lange, Diane Huey. Now through February 12 at ACT. Show is sold out. Contact Balagan at (206) 292-7676 for a Limited View seat.
It’s a re-run, kids! I’m joking, sort of…Balagan Theatre had a huge hit late last summer/early fall with their penultimate production in their old venue, a production of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon’s video musical, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. You might recall my PREVIOUS review of that production; please go read it so I don’t have to repeat everything twice… (oh, the irony is delicious!) For those of you too busy/lazy to click back, I’ll BRIEFLY summarize:
Dr. Horrible was a project created by Joss Whedon and his family and friends during the 2008 Writer’s Guild Strike and concerns a not so evil genius mastermind and his efforts to defeat the not so heroic superhero, Captain Hammer and gain acceptance into the League of Villains while pursuing the love of his life, Penny, who’s also dating Captain Hammer. The video starred Neil Patrick Harris, and it was an Internet sensation, largely fueled by the legions of Joss Whedon fans. Its success lead to Whedon giving permission for theater companies to stage the piece live, with added material from the Extras on the DVD. It’s a cute, but slight show, highly entertaining but not very significant and feels very padded. I much enjoyed the previous Balagan production with Eric Ankrim as Dr. Horrible, who co-directed with M. Elizabeth Eller and recommended it, especially to fans of Joss Whedon in particular, and lovers of light-hearted spoofy musicals in general.
Sadly, (sorta…I hate basement theater spaces) the Balagan vacated their basement Capitol Hill home on Pike Street, due to the high rent and are currently homeless, (but, in addition to this new production of “Horrrible” they have plans to stage a mini-season this summer while searching for a permanent home). Dr Horrible was a sold out megahit for the company, so with the financial help of a generous fan/backer, this new production of “Horrible” was mounted at the larger, tonier Allen Theatre at ACT. And, guess what: once again this show has sold out. (Do not underestimate the power of Whedon Fans…) Contact Balagan to obtain a limited number of Limited View seats.
It’s still a cute, but slight show, but I have to admit, I prefer the previous production of “Horrible” to this remount. Many of the original cast return for this update, but sadly, Eric Ankrim is not back as Dr Horrible and while I think William A. Williams is a fine young actor, and he does a good job as Horrible, he has large shoes to fill. Mr Ankrim did an outstanding job in the role, and even resembles the original, Neil Patrick Harris. He’s also age appropriate for the part. Mr Williams is quite young and this slightly skews the dynamics of the new version. Both Jake Groshong, as Captain Hammer, and Annie Jantzer as the female lead Penny are back from the fall outing, and they both “read” on stage as a teeny bit older than Mr Williams, who appears to be in his very early 20’s. It’s a slight difference but it does upset the balance of the piece. As for the performances of Mr Groshong and Ms Jantzer, my reactions are oddly reversed from the original. I liked both very much in the original, but commented that “Penny” was a rather dull, leading lady role without much interest but Ms Jantzer made the most of it. In this production, I thought Penny was far more interesting and Ms Jantzer seems to be having a better time this go around. Meanwhile, Mr Groshong’s Captain Hammer was duller and less focused; he seemed distracted the night I saw the play. He’s a good actor and very funny in the role, but I just didn’t enjoy his performance as much this time around. Maybe, because I knew what to expect?
Mr Ankrim was also the co-director of the earlier production, and there too, he is missed. I adore the actress Kate Jaeger, but I’m not sure how much experience she has as a director. There are times on stage in this production that the focus is lost. Part of that can be attributed to the theater itself, being considerably larger than the Balagan’s old home, and the overly spread out set and scenic design. It’s TOO spread out and clunky, and it makes it difficult to focus on the action on stage. But, I will say I enjoyed the added set piece of toylike armored car in the chase sequence. It was cleverly designed and executed and the car was nicely performed by actor Butch Stevenson as the Security Guard.
Stuff I liked: Diana Huey reprises her role as “Asian Girl Groupie” and she was even funnier than the first time around performing her lament at being the token Asian in the cast. I also appreciated Brian Lange’s return as Moist, Horrible’s very wet henchman, and the ensemble work from Evan Woltz (what a big voice!) and Bobby Temple, though I missed hearing his solo song cut for this production.
Who’s this for? Yet again, this is a must for Joss Whedon fans, and folks who love Rocky Horror/Hedwig/Evil Dead type camp musicals. And, once again, it’s a cute show, but it’s a piffle…very, very light entertainment. I really don’t need to see another production of it again.