The world premiere of Cindy Shapiro's "Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera" opened this week at the Greenway Court Theatre. Opera is an experience and in that "Psyche" does not disappoint. The orchestra which featured string instruments in addition to the rock guitar, bass, and drum played from the moment the doors were opened. It promised a great night. The stage design was magnificent. The lights provided the right amount of magic to bring us to the home of the Greek Gods.
The first two minutes of any production are vital to the success of any performance. This is where "Psyche" failed. Ashley Ruth Jones (Psyche) could not bring any strength to the low notes which were barely audible and opened the opera. It was not a magical beginning. (She later proved to have strong voice and hit all her high notes with clarity and strength.) The problem happened as well with Michael Starr (Eros). Though he had a great voice he could not sing the lows with any strength. Neither of the leads had the vocal range required by the score.
The orchestra was very often too loud, but the dances were worth the price of admission. The melodies and lyrics were not memorable, but the performances were superb all around. There was not a weak link in the cast.
The first act was way too long and could be easily trimmed without sacrificing the story. However, the second act opened as the first should have-I was happy I stayed. Laura L. Thomas (Aphrodite), a powerhouse singer, with Benai Alicia Boyd (Sister, Trouble) and Cindy Sciacca (Sister, Sorrow) were perfectly cast as a Rock Trio. Choreography, script and song magically came together. But then the ending was weak. Again, though Jones and Starr gave a stellar performance, they were not able to bring strength to the low notes.
A distraction for me were the super titles projected above the stage. Sometimes they were contrary to the mood presented by the singers, providing a comic response to a sad moment. Not fair to the actors. My thought was that if they were necessary to the story, why not have a narrator such as is found in "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Coat"? Then again, it is good to remember when seeing such an ambitious production like "Psyche," that "Joseph" was incarnated in 1969 and did not see its present form until it went up on Broadway in 1982, and even since then, it has continued to evolve.
"Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera" is an ambitious work. The team assembled to put it all together is as good as you can get. The actor/dancers are very talented and capable. If Cindy Shapiro takes advantage of this well done production and does a bit of re-write, I think this story has legs. I look forward to watching its evolution.
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Blvd., West Hollywood. Through September 28. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 7:00. Reservations: 323 655-7679. (Easy and Free Parking) www.psycherockopera.com