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The Glorious Ones

This musical comedy isn't as funny as it thinks it is

Ken Stanek
The cast of The Glorious Ones play around with theater.

By Hannah Bruchman | Posted 6/30/2010

The Glorious Ones

By Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty

Through July 4 at Theatre Hopkins

Trooping through the streets, improvising elaborate productions with a ragtag group of actors: such is the life of a theater troupe in 16th-century Italy as chronicled in Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical The Glorious Ones. The play weaves together public performances by the Glorious Ones theater company with the private lives of its actors. The characters lead complicated lives behind the scenes full of love triangles, jealousy, and adventure.

The musical begins with the troupe already formed, performing its show to the audience. As the play progresses, troupe leader Flaminio Scala (Edward J. Peters) reveals to the audience, in song, how he found his actors—discovering one in the streets of Italy, another in a convent.

The troupe travels to France to perform for a cardinal, but is quickly kicked out of the country because of its too raucous humor. The actors are forced to re-evaluate whether their improv techniques need to be tweaked from crude and sexual story lines to more refined acting.

The play itself feels like a massive homage to the theater, with plenty of acting-centric jokes—“The theater . . . that will kill you!” exclaims Francesco Andreini (Chris Jehnert), a young member of the troupe. The actors try to keep the audience laughing with one cheap gag after another—bawdy jokes abound, flatulence is common—and while eliciting some laughs from the audience, it’s not enough to keep the play afloat. The scenes are discombobulated. It feels as though Ahrens and Flaherty tried to fit everything into the first act—they’re in Italy! Now France! Now back again!—which makes the play frantic. The scenes where Flaminio is searching for new actors are the exception; as each character’s origins are explained to the audience, the troupe becomes more human and less over-the-top.

Peters shines as the egotistical, larger-than-life Flaminio. Strutting around the stage, the proud Flamino runs the show, and Peters plays him with a sensitivity that gives depth to the character. Flamino’s boastful ways are kept in check by his lover Columbina (Shannn Wollman). Wollman, dressed in lush reds and black lace, uses her husky voice to command attention. Her rendition of “And My Body Wasn’t Why” was soulful and rich.

Lauren Spencer-Harris in her role as the young, love-struck Armanda is the show's true star. Present in almost every scene, Spencer-Harris adds spunk and freshness to The Glorious Ones. Energetic and bubbly, she bounces around stage, reviving the play when its jokes fell flat. “Armanda’s Tarentella” is the one truly hysterical scene in the play, where Spencer-Harris uses double entendre for all the sexual techniques (“lessons”) she’s learned

The play takes an unsuspected, depressing turn at the end, and the audience is unsure how to react. After scenes of bawdy humor, you almost suspect the twist to be some sort of bizarre joke.

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