Class Dismissed

A Class Act at Theatre Three starts with a bad premise and ends on a sour note

Theatre Three takes a concept already rife with weaknesses and adds amateurish production values. Jac Alder's set, a collection of incongruous wheeled cubes and flimsy flats, looks cheap and slapdash. Costumer Patty Korbelic Williams forces the four actors and four actresses to wear outfits meant to evoke the '60s and '70s but that are all two sizes too small and in almost every case are as unflattering to the wearer as possible (hint: White stockings make even the shapeliest leg look like a bleached ham hock).

Serrecchia's direction is confused, with characters popping up in odd places all over the theater, and he lets some actors wildly upstage others. And here's the clincher: Although both the Kleban and Hamlisch characters are supposed to play the onstage piano, actors Doug Jackson and Jon Paul Burkhart don't really hit the keys. They mime it (not well) as musical director Terry Dobson, sitting in a corner above the stage area, provides the real ivory-tinkling. This silliness damages the authenticity of the performances and is terribly distracting, especially considering that in Theatre Three's in-the-round space there's no way to hide the subterfuge from the eyes of the audience.

As for other performances, singer-actors Julie Stirman and Jennifer Freeman (last seen joined at the hip in Theatre Three's fine production of Side Show) lend their lovely voices to lots of rotten songs. Candace Evans as Kleban's loyal doctor-friend Sophie manages to make an icy woman seem sympathetic, and she sings fine, too.

Kyle McClaran, as Lehman Engel, the legendary founder of the BMI workshop, minces and camps like a fat old poof. It was so nice when he wasn't onstage.

In a scene at the workshop, Kleban instructs young composers on the rules of writing for musical theater. "No. 1: Be Interesting," he tells them. The writers of A Class Actand the director and designers of this particular production seem to have ignored Rule No. 2: "Never forget Rule No. 1."

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