Hilary Holbrook has worked as an actor and violinist in Chicago since graduating from Loyola in 2008. When not in the theater, Hilary enjoys knitting, antiquing, and adventures of all kinds!
Review: MAKE ME A SONG: The Music of William Finn at Eclectic Full Contact Theatre
By Hilary Holbrook
It’s always exciting to see a production by a fairly new theater company, and Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, now in their 4th season, is doing some very good work. MAKE ME A SONG: The Music of William Finn, is a fast-paced, delightful, and fun night at the theater.
Playing in one of the intimate studios at the Athenaeum, four actors—David Belew, Katherine L. Condit, Max DeTogne, and Jessica Lauren Fisher—with Micky York as musical director and pianist, cover some of Finn’s music from such shows as FALSETTOLAND, A NEW BRAIN, and ELEGIES. The energy of these actors was palpable, and I loved that. Throughout the show, the actors connect directly with the audience, making the “fourth wall” essentially non-existent. I was happy to be included, but I would caution the actors not to be too forceful in their interactions with the audience. In such a small space, the smallest gesture or look has the biggest impact. Max Maxin’s set is welcoming, and Micky York’s musical direction is clear and concise. Christopher Pazdernik does a terrific job of utilizing the small space, but I think more focus on honest, grounded moments was needed in order to really sell this set of songs.
Musical reviews are tricky. The actors must convey the story of each song, and each song must contribute to the evening as a whole. I am not overly familiar with the work of William Finn, so I was hoping I would come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of his work. The show is definitely fun, especially with numbers like Hitchhiking Across America and Heart and Music, and there are a few moments of delightful simplicity. DeTogne, who does well throughout, was particularly enjoyable during I’D RATHER BE SAILING. However, from start to finish, the show sits at a level of heightened excitement that makes the audience feel as though each song has the exact same importance as the last, despite varying subject matter. This greatly diminishes the lasting impact left on the audience, and is perhaps a missed storytelling opportunity.
Overall, I enjoyed myself, and I definitely think Eclectic succeeded in fulfilling its core value of “sharing our passions with the passionate”. I look forward to seeing what they have to offer in their 5th Season.