Life Monday, November 18, 2002
Pentacle musical lights up theater

Critic Ron Cowan says wow to 'Metropolis.'

Statesman Journal
November 18, 2002

By the end of Pentacle Theatre's production of "Metropolis" Friday night, it felt like a particularly emotional religious revival.

The audience was on its feet, applauding fervently and ready to join the enthusiastic cast on the stage.

It was a special event: The largest cast (34) and most expensive show in Pentacle's history and the first time in 47 years it has done a musical not yet seen on Broadway.

Broadway doesn't know what it's missing; this is simply a wow of a show.

The Joe Brooks/Dusty Hughes adaptation of the legendary 1927 silent film is a futuristic parable of a world in which the Elite rules in a glittering city, dependent on Workers who slavishly run machines underground.

The story is creaky in its class divisions and stereotyping, the world modeled on director Fritz Lang's visionary and rather strange film, but director Randy Bowser capitalizes on Brooks' rousing score, stuffed with memorable ballads, melodic love songs and anthemlike choral pieces, and moves the action fluidly, with theatrical flourish.

The plot focuses on Maria (Kara Quello), the Workers' spiritual leader, who is kidnapped by Freeman (Tim Smith), the city's ruler, and replaced by look-alike robot Futura to sow discord among the workers.

A major element is the love story of Freeman's idealistic son, Steven (Jeff Baer) and Maria.

Obsessed scientist Warner (Bill Brown), "father" of Futura, and Freeman's henchman, Jeremiah (William McLenathan, also seen as Groat, master of the Workers), are key figures.

With a stylized Art Deco set and use of video/projection for narrative and scene-setting, this is as high tech as Pentacle gets, in spite of some technical glitches Friday.

Still, the vocal power of the cast, the potent acting and the overall scope and vision here are stunning.

Quello, a last minute replacement, has an angelic, soaring voice and is an angelic Maria and vicious Futura; Baer also commands as Steven.

Other performance highpoints are Justin Tissue, as George, a Worker victimized by the Elite; Smith as the commanding, callous Freeman and McLenathan and Brown.

All give vivid, vocally assured performances.

There isn't much to dislike here, and Brooks' music, with gospel, rock and romantic flair, bears hearing again and again.

With New York on the horizon, "Metropolis" is on its way.

Ron Cowan can be reached at (503) 399-6728.


When: 8:15 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7:15 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and 2 p.m. this Sunday; through Dec. 7

Where: Pentacle Theatre, 324 52nd Ave. NW, Salem

Cost: $18. Nov. 19 benefit tickets $20 by calling (503) 391-7351

Call: (503) 485-4300

Copyright 2002 Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon