5th Avenue Theatre
Ticket Office: 206.625.1900
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1308 5th Avenue Seattle, WA 98101
Whistle Down the Wind is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “new” dramatic musical. New to
The first thing an audience member might notice is a loose handout detailing the 15 member strong “children’s ensemble” cast from local sources. This might make alarm bells go off in any theatre-goers head. If there is anything that can ruin a show, it’s poor acting on the children’s parts, and unfortunately, their acting doesn’t astonish. However, they are great singers, and hearing the pure tones of a child layered against the complex and throaty sounds of adults makes for a stunning contrast, particularly important to this show where innocence and evil clash. Continuing the theme of innocent and evil, the two leads, Andrea Ross and Eric Kunze (The Man), carry the show with their voices. Eric plays the tortured and generally sexy escaped convict, and really brings all of the emotion one could hope for to songs like “So Many Cries” and anything he sings with Andrea Ross. The title song “Whistle Down the Wind” is excessively catchy and eminently whistleable, but there are some forgettable numbers caught up between the stand outs. Matt Skrincosky gives us an admirable performance of Amos, the love struck leather jacket-wearing motorcycle riding teenager. He sings a powerful duet with Candy, his girlfriend (Carol Denise Jones) about halfway through the show in “Tire Tracks”, one of the few stand out pieces not starring either of the two leads. One of the few concerns I have about the story and characters, besides the two main leads, is that it seems to be undeveloped and you had better not be looking for any resolution in regards to their little side stories; this is all about Swallow and the unnamed Man, unabashedly so.
Technically the play is a bit of a letdown. The fanciest thing you will see on stage is the large and impressive “curtain” made of wooden boards and shaped and slatted to look like the side of a barn. Simple sets might be acceptable at a small limited run show, but from a nationally touring company the audience should expect better. There are really only four sets used for the performance: the house, the barn, the town, and the bar. And there isn’t much else to be said about them. If you imagine a house or a barn, you have probably imagined something more interesting to look at than the set designer of Whistle Down the Wind has (Paul Farnsworth). Also, costumes are hit and miss. The Man looks great in his bloodstained white t-shirt, but one has to wonder who chose to put Andrea Ross in a full body smock for the entire play. Because she is not very tall to begin with, and surrounded by an ensemble cast of 6-11 year olds, sometimes it can be hard to remember that she is supposed to be sixteen years old. One might concede, however, that perhaps it was a conscious choice on the part of the costumer (Paul Farnsworth), to remind us that she is just on the cusp of womanhood, not quite a woman and not quite a girl. Finally, the lighting was the last sub-par piece of the play. The action takes place during the Christmas season; could we have a clue that it is cold out? Or snow? Or anything that hints at the show’s
To sum it all up, Whistle Down the Wind is a blast. Ignore that nit-picky third paragraph, because this play could be done in a black box with no set lights or costume and I would still recommend going to see it. The orchestra is superb, the songs stick in your mind, and that central premise which explores redemption and innocence and the power of belief is moving to the point of tears. I know I cried, even while admonishing the sets and costumes and lights in my mind. The story moved me to tears. And when actors can do that with all the technical handicaps, I know it’s a play worth seeing.
Guest Writer: George White
Edited and posted by: Jack Jarden