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A CurtainUp Berkshires Review

Quark Victory

Stephen DeRosa as Manny the Muon (with Muonite ensemble) -- photo Amanda Treyz

Production Notes and Song List

The word quark takes its origin from a passage in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. If this sounds like something high brow and too inaccessible for you, let alone the kids in your family, relax. Quark Victory is the lightest, brightest and most entertaining musical to hit the Berkshires -- or any place else for that matter.

The quarks of the title are the protons and neutrons at the center of the atom so add the cutting edge element of a science background. How fitting for the first Williamstown Theatre Festival presentation at the thoroughly modern new Museum of Contemporary Art's (MASS MoCA) large and comfortable Hunter Center for the Performing Arts. If, on the other hand, the show's billing as a family musical has you wondering if this is strictly a tag-along-with-the-kids affair, wrong again. When the talented Reale Brothers first put on this show a decade ago for the 52nd Street Project it was a strictly for kids show and was, in fact, performed by children. But with the inevitable rewrites and the support WTF, Quark Victory now boasts a cast of twenty-two, including seven Equity actors with top Broadway show credits. To name just a few:

Wilson Jermaine Heredia who won a Tony for his portrayal of Angel in Rent; Jessica Boevers who originated the role of Philia in the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Karen Ziemba whose musical credits include a Drama Desk Award for her work in Kander and Ebb's And The World Goes Round; and that master of costume and persona quick-change, Stephen De Rosa (The Mystery of Irma Vep) who in the spirit of "summer time and the living is easy" here limits himself two hilarious parts and costumes. (My Saturday Afternoon Live interview with Stephen will be posted shortly).

To see any of these and the other main performers on Broadway would set you back at least $60 a ticket. For one fourth of that you can now see them all in one swoop.

The show has been given a real Broadway treatment -- Michael Brown's two level set is appropriately high tech, as is Jeff Nellis' lighting design. Mimi O'Donell has outfitted the quirky quarky characters in splendidly glitzy and amusing costumes. Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography seems made to order for the Reale brothers' bouncy score which includes eleven songs played by a seven-piece band.

While the psychedelic costumes at times suggest an animated Disney film in the making, the story of teenaged Samantha Fitzwater's (Jessica Boevers) journey from the real world of her parents' troubled marriage (Karen Ziémba and John Hickock) to "inner space" is a cross between Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. This modern day Dorothy/Alice, is the daughter of a scientist as much in love with his work as his family (his excessive devotion to work is the crux of the marital conflict). Like Dorothy and Alice she encounters many colorful characters on her journey through the sub-atomic world -- among them her father's lonely but neatness-obsessed colleague Russell (David Wohl); Scooter, the quark she falls in love with (Wilson Jermaine Heredia), and the not so villainous Manny the Muon (Stephen DeRosa).

Filled with stars as this big little musical is, this is very much an ensemble work. Karen Ziémba, for example has just one big number, as does Jane Bodle. While I liked the music in both acts, and was particularly struck by the intelligence of the lyrics, the shorter second act has the "drop dead" most likely to be remembered longest songs and routines -- the touching "Being Different" and the side-splittingly funny "The Muon Voodoo Swing" being the standouts.

 If you go to MASS MoCA early enough to look at some of the installations, you'll see several made with disposable. Quark Victory echoes this nonchalance about permanence. The care, talent and production values lavished on the show belie it's very limited run. My guess is that the investment made will pay off with life after MASS MoCA. But don't take a chance on that maybe. If you're in the area, go quarking in North Adams while you can.

Production Notes and Song List
Music by Robert Reale
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Directed by Jonathan Bernstein 
The Cast:
Mother Fitzwater/Allison Kate Cherkis
Herb Fitzwater/ John Hickok
Russell Fishman/David Wohl
Penelope Fitzwater/Karen Ziémba 
Samantha Fitzwater/Jessica Boevers
Newt/ Charlie Day
Scooter/Wilson Jermaine Heredia
Cookie/Shannon Walker Williams
Eileen/Elisa Bocanegra
Beezer/Anna Belknap
Billy Winsome/Sterling Brown
Shimmie Heckleman /Stephen DeRosa
Manny the Muon/Stephen DeRosa
Tiberious /David Hornsby
Artiba/Jimmi Simpson
Agnes/Jane Bodle
Dance Ensemble: Brad Bilanin, Lee Fitzpatrick, Haley Fuller, Hana Nora McGrath, Catia Ojeda, Britt Shubow, David D. Turner

Set Design: Michael Brown
Costume Design: Mimi O'Donnell 
Lighting Design: Jeff Nellis
Musical Director James Sampliner
Sound: One Dream Sound Matthew Burton
Orchestrator: Irwin Fisch
Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler
The Band: Dennis Anderson, Woodwinds ;Wayne du Maine, Trumpet; Brad Flickinger, Drums; Michael Friedman, Keyboard; Jon Herington, Guitar; Byron Isaacs, Bass; Barry Nudelman, Woodwinds
Running Time: One hour and a half, plus one 15 minute intermission
Performances at Haunter Center for the Performing Arts, 87 Marshall St., North Adams 
July 22-31st at 7pm (no performance 7/26)
Tickets: Williamstown Theatre Festival Box Office: (413) 597-3400
Tuesday. Saturday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
24-hour Information Line: (413)597-3399
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on July 24 performance 

Act I
Suddenly Alive/ Herb and Russell 
One Small Adjustment/ Samantha 
23 Skidoo/ Scooter, Cookie, Eileen, Beezer, Samantha, Ensemble
Turn on the Charm/Billy
Verbs/ Penelope
Where Dreams Live/Eileen, Cookie, Samantha, Herb, Penelope, Tiberious, Artiba, Manny, Beezer, Scooter

Act II
It's Love / Tiberious, Company
Being Different/ Beezer, RusselI, Tiberious
The Muon Voodoo Swing/ Manny, Samantha, Ensemble
Make a Wish/Agnes
Finally Alive/Samantha, Company

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