music direction by Stephan Gawrit
Directed by James Wagoner
Produced by La Costa Theatre, Chicago
Dark musical version of Jack and the Bean Stalk not stage worthy
Playwright/composer Stephan Gawrit says his new play, Stalk, started off as a dream – probably a nightmare because Stalk is a dark, drab, woefully grim musical that will leave you wanting to either have a few stiff drinks or slit your throat. I have never seen a more depressing, negative and worthless musical, ever!
Stalk is a concoction of a dysfunctional family musical that finds Jack (Jordan Phelps) being beaten by his cruel, unloving father, Gregory (Scott Danielson) while is zombie-like pill-popping mother, Lily (Meghan Phillipp) announces that she no longer loves her son. The early scenes are filled with foul language including the F-word–so between the language and the violence, Stalk definitely isn’t a family or children’s show.
The story borrows from Into the Woods (here Milky White isn’t a cow but an electric guitar) and The Snow Queen as well as a rewrite of the original Jack and the Bean Stalk fable. From the start, Stalk plays like a nightmare with poor Jack suffering physical and mental abuse as he is thrown into one nasty experience after another. He sings his angst and pain.
The show is a complete downer that is a true “feel-bad” show – the first such show for me. Director James Wagoner lets the scenes drag on and on and he has too many blackouts, mostly to move the boxes on the set. The use of prerecorded music and the amazingly poor singing from the entire cast only added to the misery. Gimmicks like surrealism, hyper-realism, large puppets and shadows changed the tone of the show in act two but by then the damage was fatal.
Try as hard as Jordan Phelps did to make Jack empathetic, he had such a terrible script and bland songs that he never garnered our interest. Unfortunately, Phelps’ singing voice was much too weak to be effective. Meghan Phillipp screamed her songs while Helen Alter-Dyche howled her tunes incomprehensibly. Most of the lyrics were not to be understood mainly due to the poor voices singing in a pop/rock style. If your going to mount a musical, please cast singers and write memorable songs that don’t sound generically alike. I can’t see why such a negative, melancholy and depressing show was produced? Who could enjoy a downer?
At La Costa Theatre, 3931 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, IL