'Dorian' a lavish production with a demented air
April 21, 2008
Pentacle Theatre isn't known for ambitious, big productions that are originals, so "Dorian: The Remarkable Mister Gray" is bound to raise some eyebrows.
Relax. Writer/director Randy Bowser may go over the top sometimes, but he does know how to write music and songs and tell a good story.
"Dorian" also has a strong cast of actor/singers, especially Jason Bailey as Dorian. Seen locally in the Salem Repertory Theatre farce "The Underpants," "Dorian" shows he is also a powerful singer and an actor capable of holding the center of attention for nearly three hours of stage time.
True, there are times you wish Bowser, who wrote the libretto, music and lyrics and recorded the score electronically, would edit himself, and those who don't like electronic music will be in for a nonstop blizzard of sound that sometimes competes with the singers for attention.
But you will soon give in to the power of the story of a man who gambles on immortality at the cost of his soul, assuming questions of right and wrong don't apply to his pursuit of pleasure.
Bowser stays fairly close to the Oscar Wilde novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," and you will recognize his malicious wit most in the dialogue of Lord Henry Wotton (Ken Hermens), who counsels, "The only way to get rid of temptation is to give in to it."
The music ranges from pop ballads to operatic airs, with sung dialogue and recognizable nods to styles as diverse as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gilbert & Sullivan.
When we meet Dorian, he is a self-absorbed young man who is being painted by artist Basil Halward (Jim Steele, in good voice), who is fully enthralled by Dorian. Dorian meets the predatory Lord Henry, who counsels that youth and beauty are soon transient.
Dorian makes his fatal wish, giving his soul for eternal youth, with only his portrait to record the moral devastation.
His first victim is innocent young actress Sibyl Vane (Sheree Ross), whom he cruelly rejects. By act two, 20 years later, Dorian is still young but debauched and even deadly.
Among the songs, the lighthearted "A Most Amusing Man" and Dorian's introspective "Somewhere In-Between" are standouts, although the ballads "Some Love Too Little" and "We Can Step Into Forever" lighten the drama.
It's a lavish, stylized production with a deliberately demented air.
There are elaborate ensemble dance numbers choreographed by Sheila Sund, period costume effects by Jo Dodge and a somber setting by Tony Zandol.
In addition to Bailey and Hermens, a fine actor who can handle minimal singing, there is Ross, who doubles as Sibyl, and Lily, a lady of questionable virtue who becomes an object of Dorian's desire.
She is on stage most of the night and fully employed as both singer and actress, to excellent effect in a generally strong cast.
"Dorian" shows Bowser's exhaustive touch and remarkable abilities, as well as the abilities of this theater company.
rcowan@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6728
Lily, played by Sheree Ross, caresses Dorian Gray, played by Jason Bailey, in "Dorian: The Remarkable Mister Gray."
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