The Yellow Wood
July 23 – August 1, 2010
Tickets and Information
It could be said that the new musical The Yellow Wood has a very simple plot: Adam Davies (Daniel Berryman)'s one goal for the day at highschool is to memorize Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken” before 7th period English class. But Adam forgoes his Ritalin that morning, in hopes of proving that he can function like a normal kid all day and manage to understand the poem—and without his drugs, Adam's day spirals into a surreal daydream-laden journey through his own bizarre mind, his heritage and his relationships with friends and family.
Michelle Elliott (book and lyrics) and Danny Larsen (lyrics and music) have written a show that uses the fantastic possibilities of the musical genre to full effect; the songs mirror Adam's mental journey and allow the story to stretch much further than it might otherwise. Larsen and Elliott pull influences from not only Frost's poem but from musical genres across the spectrum, from 60s girl groups to traditional Korean music to classic Broadway tunes, which they somehow spin into a consistent and engaging confection of earnest, genuine storytelling.
Every actor and singer onstage is a boon to the show, both leads and ensemble alike. Berryman carries Adam's journey with just the right balance of endearing and awkward. Sarah Davies plays Willis, the girl who identifies with Adam's strange ADD brain, with an ardent enthusiasm; her song “Yellow” is a joyful anthem to creativity and difference. Diana Huey is a standout as Adam's little sister Gwen; she mixes bratty know-it-all moments with a genuine desperation for her distracted older brother's attention, and her songs, especially “Debris” and “Wall,” are among the most powerful of the show.
The technical elements are as solid as every other aspect of the show. Andrea Bush's set design is classrooms, hallways, and homes all in one, with clever use of windows and blinds, and Annie Murphy has costumed highschool students and teachers alike in stylish and fitting outfits. Robert J Aguilar's lighting design is nothing short of gorgeous, washing the stage in color and shade and heightening the story perfectly.
Brandon Ivie's production of this new musical is compact musical storytelling—an imaginative adventure of one individual boy's quest to, ultimately, come to terms with himself. It's an old story, but one that is given a fresh and fantastical twist here; The Yellow Wood is contemporary musical theater at its best, and a show well worth seeing.
Review by Kenna Kettrick