Audience Review: The Explorers Club by Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt "The Halloween Honey"

Roxy Orcutt
"The Halloween Honey"

It's such a treat to go into a show knowing very little to nothing about it, and walk out delighted, entertained, and eager to recommend it to your friends!  That's exactly how I felt after watching The Explorers Club at Lyric Arts on Friday night. 

The show is set in a very stuffy 1870's London, but the play is anything but that.  The energy of the show starts off high and doesn't come down for a second.  The Explorers Club is made up of six men with tales of adventures and creatures from around the globe. They cheer “to science!” and happily brag amongst themselves about what they've done and seen and are about to be thrown for a loop when a member of the club, Lucius Fretway, wants to admit a woman.  Not only is the woman in question, Phyllida Spotte-Hume, a scientist in her own right having recently discovered an entire lost civilization, Lucius also has a not-so-secret crush on Phyllida, even going so far as to name a plant he recently discovered after her. 

Harry Percy (Peter Ooley, left), Phyllida Spotte-Hume/Countess Glamorgan (Jessica Scott, Center), and Lucius Fretway (Brandon Osero, Right) star in "The Explorers Club"

Harry Percy (Peter Ooley, left), Phyllida Spotte-Hume/Countess Glamorgan (Jessica Scott, Center), and Lucius Fretway (Brandon Osero, Right) star in "The Explorers Club"

When Phyllida comes onto the scene, played by the always delightful Jessica Scott, she brings along a “savage,” a member of the lost civilization she discovered and names him Luigi.  Luigi, all blue skin and curious movements, is the absolute highlight of the show, played by Brendan Veerman, who I last saw contort and transform into Igor in Lyric Arts' production of Young Frankenstein.  Veerman's portrayal of Luigi could have gone a million different ways in the hands of a less skilled actor, but his Luigi was an absolute riot.  Luigi isn't portrayed as some foolish brute that must be taught in the ways of Victorian society, but a fully formed character who is comfortable with his own customs, but does his best to learn new ones, including learning the art of bartending and how to properly bow to royalty. 

Aside from the dynamic cast, the world this show inhabits was executed beautifully with the set design.  It is with such (seeming) ease that the talented crew at Lyric Arts' is able to use this little space in Anoka and take the audience all around the world with each show they produce.  The club in this show is exactly what you would imagine, and then some, when conjuring up the idea of a 19th century adventure tale.

This show was a brilliant choice to kick of Lyric Arts' latest season.  It had endless laugh-out-loud moments, non-stop energy and a fantastic cast!

Oh, and the refreshed lobby looks great!    

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.

"Young Frankenstein" Audience Review - Roxy Orcutt

I was thrilled to be in audience of Lyric Art’s production of Young Frankenstein this opening weekend for a number of reasons. One: Lyric Arts is awesome, Two: Young Frankenstein is awesome, and Three: I was sharing the evening with my 13-year-old stepson Quinn, who has yet to experience the mad genius of Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder OR Lyric Arts, for that matter (outside of a workshop or two) and I was looking forward to watching his reaction to the show. Young Frankenstein may be the perfect show to bring young person with a great sense of humor to. While the jokes were crammed full of innuendo, of course, it was so fun to not only get a kick out them myself, but watch Quinn laugh along too. It’s a testament to the writing of Gene Wilder holding up all these years (Young Frankenstein was originally produced in 1974!) that a glued-to-his-Smartphone teenager could laugh at Roll is Ze Hay, among others, but it’s also a testament to Lyric Arts creative and technical team as well. There wasn’t a dull moment. From the opening scene of the villagers merrily dancing in front of Victor Frankenstein’s castle in Transylvania to the absolutely show-stopping Puttin’ on the Ritz number, Lyric Arts truly knocked it out of the spooky graveyard with this production.

Having just seen the majority of the cast in Rent this summer at Lyric Arts, it was truly impressive to see these actors totally disappear into their roles in Young Frankenstein. I didn’t see an ounce of Mark from Rent from Kyler Chase as he portrayed Fredrick Frankenstein, and his eyebrows may have well leapt off his face and become characters of their own. In fact, as I was watching the show, I heard an audience member behind me whisper “he even sounds like Gene Wilder.” High praise, indeed. Nykeigh Larson as Inga and Brendan Veerman as Igor (who I adored in Barefoot in the Park) were also highlights for me. But, the show was completely stolen when our Monster came to life in the form of Tom Goerger-who was not only amazing and hilarious, but also a dead ringer for Peter Boyle.

In nearly every review I write for Lyric Arts, I can’t help but praise the set design. And, again, the Young Frankenstein set was spectacular. The castle and hidden passageways, the cottage the set must be for a brief, hysterical scene, among other transitions-the grace and technical skill it takes to make these set changes so flawlessly and clever are beyond reproach.

Recalling Young Frankenstein as I am writing this, I am seeing the show in black and white. Trust me, it was full color when I saw it, and my vision is just fine, but I find it interesting that black and white, like the original film, is how I am seeing Lyric Arts production in my mind’s eye. It may be a trick of my subconscious, but I think it is further proof that the stage production is on par with the classic movie it is based on. Not that the Lyric Arts production of Young Frankenstein is a scene-for-scene re-enactment of the film, it truly is its own wonderful entity unto itself, but if you are going to be compared to a movie, let it be a Mel Brooks movie.

The audience couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween-season show from Lyric Arts, and I was so pleased to share the experience with Quinn, and help foster a new generation Young Frankenstein (and theater, and satire) fans.

Roxy Orcutt
Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, "History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital," explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the "Halloween Capital of the World." It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.