My longest post title ever for this blog reminds me of the AVENGERS episode entitled Look (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…
I feel like this title reflects the entrepreneurial and ensemble spirit of The Penny Seats, a brand new ensemble theatre company in Ann Arbor. I’ve watched this company grow from afar over the past six months or so (having personal connections to several of the board/ensemble members) and am delighted to have made it back to Ann Arbor just in time for OPENING NIGHT, last night, of their debut production. The play they chose has its own Wikipedia page with a synopsis and some production details.
This production is my 44th show for this year, and I remember that Ann Arbor was where I started my theatrical year right on January 1. It was not shy about putting a fresh and distinctive spin on the play. Cross-gender casting made appearances, the initially simple set revealed several layers, puppetry walked in late in the show, and Zach London of the Hard Taco Project added two unique songs and several sound design cues. The show opens with a charming and carefully choreographed rendition of “The Alchemy of Blank Verse”, written especially for this production, and closes with the troupe’s theme song of sorts, “The Penny Seats are Nothing But Trouble”. In an appropriate coincidence, this same Penny Seats song appeared on my Ipod just as I crossed the Michigan state line (from Wisconsin) two days ago.
The casting of the show seemed to take particular care to draw from a wide theatrical net, and thus create a tight ensemble. Troupe president Lauren London led the way in the lead part alongside her brother (and my college friend) Russ Schwartz, with Melynee Saunders Warren, Roy Sexton, Matt Cameron, and Sarah Leahy all offering equally memorable portrayals. I appreciated the free spirited versatility that the cast embraced, throwing themselves into their multiple roles with enthusiasm and commitment.
The best thing about an opening night is knowing that the show can and will get stronger from here. I’m sure that will be the case with the Penny Seats, who wear their hearts and enthusiastic energy on their sleeves, their theatrical energy in their souls and their all-abiding dramatic flair around them, physically, at the West Park Band Shell in Ann Arbor.
Their debut production is only two weekends – catch it while you can until August 14. I know they will be back again in the near future, being just as bold and creative.