Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
Also see Rick's recent review of Shane
The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio has a long history of developing new musicals, and their current world premiere offering, Indigo, is an intriguing, poignant, unique, and tuneful show which is noteworthy in a number of ways.
Indigo is the story of a multi-generational family dealing with life's challenges, secrets, and health issues. Married couple Beverly and Rick's life is thrown into chaos when Beverly's mother Elaine comes to live with them due to early onset dementia. There is even more of a shock when Beverly's daughter Emma, an autistic, non-verbal teenager, comes back into her life after over a decade away.
The book by Kait Kerrigan, based on a concept by Jay Kuo, Lorenzo Thione, and Scott Evan Davis, introduces storylines that many people can relate to, and which have not been addressed much, if at all, in musical theater heretofore. The story is presented with care and authenticity, and there are sufficient moments of light comedy to bring balance to what could be heavy topics for this 95-minute intermissionless show. There is also a great deal of hope and tenderness found within the material and the messages of the show, emphasizing that even when life isn't easy, joy and peace can be found.
Scott Evan Davis also supplies the score for Indigo. The music is melodic, varied, and apt to a modern musical setting. The lyrics adhere to perfect rhyming as expected for traditional musicals, and match the tone and language of the dialogue. Because the character of Emma is silent, all of her songs convey internal thoughts and feelings, many of which manifest themselves in expressions relating to colors. And, several of the show's best numbers are for Emma. Highlights include "In My Silence," "Broken," "Silent Superhero," "Before I Forget," and "If The World Only Knew".
The show itself needs some further tweaking to reach its full potential, but is well on its way to being a musical that could have an extended life, and this production should go a long way toward furthering that journey.
The production at Human Race is directed by Katie Davis, who supplies organic blocking and realistic relationships. The transitions to and from the few scenes that take place outside the house are handled smoothly, and the tone of the piece is respectful to the material and themes. Rick Bertone leads a great sounding five-piece band.
As the daughter/mother caught in between, Kristin Stokes sings well and provides solid action for this character, one who is less unique and likeable than the others in the show. Broadway veteran and Tony nominee Sally Mayes (She Loves Me, Closer Than Ever) is delightful as Elaine. Her voice is as gorgeous as ever, her comic delivery perfect, and she presents the character slowly falling into profound memory loss with grace and dignity. Madison Kopec is a revelation as Emma; she is on the autism disorder spectrum herself, but the remarkable performance she turns in would be extremely praiseworthy for anyone. Ms. Kopec presents a wholly endearing, detailed, genuine, introspective, and in-depth character with her acting, and a beautiful singing voice well suited to the material. Dan Domenech (Rick), Christian Kidd (Tyler), and Joy Lynn Jacobs (Alicia) provide noteworthy and strong performances in supporting roles.
Adam Koch's unit set of the inside of the home offers several unexpected elements, and its muted colors are a great canvas for Steven Royal's projections. There are also several smaller set pieces that are brought in to represent other locations, all of which work well in the space. The lighting by Matthew P. Benjamin is effective, and the costumes by Lindsay McWilliams are appropriate to the modern era.
Musicals such as Next to Normal, Jagged Little Pill, and Kimberly Akimbo have dealt with family struggles of similar scale previously, but Indigo covers some new ground. The piece likely requires some additional development and improvement before it reaches its final version, but a professional theater company like Human Race is the perfect place for that work to be done, and audiences should take advantage of the opportunity to see it and some wonderful performances while they can.
Indigo runs through June 25, 2023, at the Loft Theatre, 126 Main Street, Dayton OH. For tickets and information, please call 937-228-3630 or visit www.humanracetheatre.org.