2007, The Apple Tree Reviews



THE SHOW: The Apple Tree, the 1966 musical created by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (of Fiddler  fame), with book by Bock, Harnick and Jerome Coopersmith. The Broadway original was nominated for six Tonys, but only snagged one. Last year, Kristen Chenoweth wowed audiences in a Broadway revival. Now, along comes San Diego Theaterscene’s own teen correspondent, Alice Cash, and the Broadway Kids of San Diego, a group she founded three years ago, at the ripe old age of 13! She doesn’t shy away from tough stuff; last year, she directed and produced Into the Woods and Honk, both with huge casts.  

This one’s a smaller show, but musically very challenging. Alice pared the three musical one-acts down to two. Act I is based on Mark Twain’s “The Diary of Adam and Eve,” and a good deal of the dialogue comes directly from the source (even the setting of the Garden of Eden on Lake Erie in upstate New York, so a few of the jokes fell flat – with cast and audience. Having lived in Buffalo for several years, I found them hilarious). Act II (actually Act III in the original) is based on Julies Feiffer’s fantasy, “Passionella,” about a poor chimney sweep who yearns to be – and thanks to her Fairy Godmother, does become – a moooooovie star. Here again, the setting seemed alien to the players: the psychedelic ‘70s, with references to the likes of Allen Ginsburg and Dylan Thomas, appeared to elude all concerned. 

Nevertheless, the production was charming and well executed. Alice added some interesting touches – a puzzle-piece floor, broken mirrors that floated down from the flyspace after ‘the fall,’ and silent ‘Readers’ flanking the stage, poring over copies of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” “The Communist Manifesto,” “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “An Inconvenient Truth.” To put an even finer point on her point, the director presented a series of slide projections that illustrated some of the worst horrors visited on the world since Eden: the atom bomb, the Holocaust, wars, riots, racism, etc.  Alice is not only ambitious, she’s inventive. And though she didn’t credit herself, I think she also made the costumes. Well, at least I happened to see buying the flowered fabric for the supposed hippie number (though I’m not sure anyone had much of an idea what that meant). 

There were some standout performances, dramatic or musical (though rarely both). Twelfth grader Charlotte Ostrow was thoroughly engaging as Eve, and her voice was one of the strongest in the cast. As her First Mate, Adam, 10th grader Andrew Ribner totally nailed the Don’t-Get-Too-Close-and-Don’t-Talk attitude of the first (beleaguered) male. High school senior Jamie Bock was seductive as the Snake but she really soared as the prissy, white-gloved Narrator in Act II. As the Producer, 8th grader Jonathan Edzant, a bona fide ham, displayed a potent voice and a comical presence. Ryan Murphy (a 19 year-old student at Miramar College) made Flip, the Perfect Man, an enigmatic cross between James Brown, Mick Jagger and a holy roller. Odd choice (odd wig, too, for a ‘hippie’ type), but he got his laughs. As the transformed chimney sweep, Ella/Passionella, 16 year-old Adriana Yedidsion exhibited a dynamic stage presence, a powerhouse belt, and a great pair of legs. She should go far, on all counts. The rest of the cast of 17, representing about ten schools county-wide, put in earnest performances. And they were backed up by an impressive (if sometimes overly measured) 8-piece orchestra. Like all the Broadway Kids productions, this is an all-kid effort, onstage and behind, and they’re all to be commended. As for Alice, you go, girl! Keep pushing the high school envelope!"

-Pat Launer, 8-23-07, as published on www.sandiegotheatrescene.com


Community Theatre Beat
by Hitch

"The Apple Tree

– Broadway Kids of San Diego Theatre comes in all shapes and sizes as does the talent on and behind the stage. This week I had the opportunity to see a production of Broadway Kids of San Diego. As their name implies, there are no adults on stage or backstage. They selected two one-act musicals from a 1966 three-play Broadway hit.

The selections are The Diary of Adam and Eve and Passionella. The first musical is adapted from a Mark Twain novel and the second is a Cinderella-like story. Producer/Director Alice Cash is a high–school junior. Miss Cash is assisted by choreographer Charlotte Wen and Jeffery Sweet conducting a nine-piece orchestra. The cast ranged from grade school through high school. The staging had the orchestra upstage just in front of a huge projection screen with a couple of rows of audience seating on either side of the playing area as well as the auditorium seating. This provided a very intimate atmosphere for the production

The Diary of Adam and Eve is staged on large green squares designed to be interlocked but just scattered about. Two bare-foot figures in black lay motionless as the orchestra played. Slowly one moved. Adam, played by Andrew Ribner, stirred, raised up on all fours, perused his surroundings, crawled, then walked stooped over, and finally became properly homo sapien erect. He named the things around him such as flyers, crawlers, swimmers, well, you get the idea. After his first day, the other barefoot black mass stirred, followed his routine, but much quicker, and became Eve, played by Charlotte Ostrow. She, also began naming things by what felt right. Thus, flying things became hawks and robins and blue jays. Crawling things and swimming things also were named with familiar monikers.

Their relationship did not start out well. Eve dominated every discussion, challenged Adam’s rule over the domain, and was just a plain pain to him. She had a discussion with a very persuasive snake, hissingly played by Jamie Bock, who convinced her that apples were good. Eve naturally followed the snake’s advice rather than Adam’s warnings.

The diary continues through their life, their children, and on to Eve’s death. Charlotte Ostrow, blessed with a lovely singing voice sang of "Feelings", "Friends", and the beautiful "What Makes Me Love Him." Ribner, not to be outdone by the intruder, sings of "Eve", "Beautiful, Beautiful World" and a delightful "It’s a Fish." Even snakey Ostrow chimes in with "The Apple Tree (Forbidden Fruit)."

Others in the cast were four silent readers stationed at the four corners of the stage with books ranging from "Bible by God" and "Was I a Monkey" in the Eden era to "The Inconvenient Truth", "The Diary of Anne Frank", and "The Communist Manifesto" in the post-Eden era. The voice of Jake Kelsoe is also heard.

As the audience entered. colored scenes of rehearsals and other productions were projected. The Diary of Adam and Eve ended with black and white post-Eden scenes that included many of man’s failures and disasters including the oft–seen photograph of Anne Frank. A very nice touch that stunned the audience.

Passionella , a much lighter piece, has Ella the chimney sweep, Adriana Yedidsion, who turns into Passionella, but only during the hours from TV’s national news to the Late, Late Show. Her transformation is complete. The filthy Ella becomes a golden–clad Passionella, the belle of the ball, the star of stars who has the world at her feet. Yedidsion has a lovely voice hindered slightly by a mike that over–modulated at times. I especially liked her Passionella singing "Gorgeous" and "Wealth." She also has a look that transcends age, giving her a maturity beyond her years. Telling her story as she acts it out is narrator Jamie Bock, formerly of snake fame. This is a love story between Passionella and Flip, Ryan Murphy. Murphy plays his character convincingly way, way over-the-top. He is a star and expects everybody to be at his beck and call. But he is looking for that special girl. Flip sings with the cast that "You are Not Real."

Passionella is a large–cast production. The cast has two numbers, "Who is She" and "I Know." Passionella successfully convinces a producer, Jonathan Edzant, of her abilities. He stole every scene he was in. What panache! Others in the cast included the readers from the first play as well as Lauragrace Barnes, Henry Riggins, and Jake Kelso. Jeffry Sweet conducted the orchestra, which included Carrina Cheng, Esther Pai, Susanna Fenstermacher, Peter Chu, Shailen Flock, Paul Parker, Lauren Sweet, Jessica Rucker, and Peter Tsoi. The orchestra underscored much of the production. I know that in the ensuing years many of these young thespians and musicians will be gracing our stages and orchestra pits. A very talented few, with the right breaks, will board a train to L. A. or a plane to N. Y. C. and become the stars of tomorrow. I know that Director Cash is very proud of her cast, crew, and orchestra for a production well done."

-Hitch, 8-23-07, as published on www.sandiegotheatrescene.com



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