"White Fang" kicked off a season freeFall is calling "On 2nd Glance." Each show will take a fresh look at a classic. And while this concept is intriguing, what captured my attention about "White Fang" was the fact the production was a world premiere and would be heading from St. Pete to London. True, it's not going to be on the West End, but that's still not the typical order of events.
I happened upon a performance at which a pre-show talk was given by dramaturg Timothy Saunders. The talk alone was worth the price of admission.
|Cover of first edition|
When Compton and freeFall began their work on the show, Compton didn't have a clear vision as to how White Fang the wolf would come to life on the stage. Video had been contemplated as one option. But Eric Davis, freeFall Theatre's Artistic Director, had another idea. How about a puppet? And so White Fang became embodied through a life-sized puppet worked by two actors. It was brilliant.
The opening scene featured a campfire around which some of the characters sat. Imagine my surprise and delight when the "fire" morphed into "Wee Fang." As Saunders had predicted, a collective gasp of pleasure resounded from the audience at the adorable baby wolf.
|Curly (Hannah Benitez) and Henry Griffith (Robert Johnston) |
with White Fang (photo credit to Allison Lynn Photography)
I also enjoyed the use of native language in the play. Periodically, Lyzbet would speak in Algonquian, a language of the Frist Nation Cree tribe. The words were a haunting reminder of the fact she's caught between two worlds. Saunders noted Lyzbet more likely would have been from the Gwich'in Tribe and spoken Athabaskan. It was too difficult, however, to find the required translations from Compton's text in Athabaskan.
|Playwright Jethro Compton|
While "White Fang" didn't make it to my greatest hits list, there was much to commend about the production. I loved the originality of the staging, and the music and puppetry were both terrific. The costumes were great as well. (In fact, the costumes and puppets have now made their way across the pond for the London production.)
I'm looking forward to sharing in freeFall Theatre's "second glance" at more works over the course of the season, with "The Musical of Musicals -- The Musical!" being a must-see. The show will take the classic American plot of "I can't pay the rent! You must pay the rent" I'll pay the rent!" and create five interpretations in the styles of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb. It's going to be great fun.
For more about freeFall Theatre, click here.