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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 16, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 11
Hard-working cast makes Little Voice soar
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Hard-working cast makes Little Voice soar

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
ArtsWest
Through March 31


A shy, abused teen spends her time listening to old records of great female singers, crooning in her darkened bedroom and perfecting her mimicry of them to escape her boozing, flamboyant, and neglectful mother. This is the story of the production now playing at ArtsWest: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

You may know of the film nominated for some Academy Awards in 1998, but this is the play, written in 1992 by English dramatist Jim Cartwright. A challenge for any medium, the main character has to be a phenomenal singer with great control over her voice. The ArtsWest production introduces Myrna Conn, a high school senior, who does indeed have a pretty phenomenal voice. It's true that she can't quite perfectly mimic every single singer that is demanded of her, but boy oh boy, does she do a great job on several - particularly her outstanding Edith Piaf!

This is not a typical success story, where someone discovers Little Voice's talent and she becomes a star. In fact, someone does discover her: Mari Hoff's boyfriend, Ray. Mari, a boozy, alternately depressed or manic irregularly employed mother, has set her sights on music impresario Ray Say. When he comes over and hears L.V. singing to herself, he thinks he's discovered the next best thing.

He tricks, commands, and cajoles Little Voice into performing at his club, playing on her longing for her dead father, who loved these singers. But Little Voice just wants a normal life and to be loved. She has no interest in the big time or stardom.

This is a challenging production, set in a working class English city, with a difficult and particular English accent. Everyone makes a solid attempt at the accent in this play, but even so, it's a bit rocky. So, since there are so many aspects to like and appreciate, let's just let that go. It's a hard-working cast, led by Peggy Gannon as Mari Hoff.

Gannon pours her heart out on stage. She portrays a barely likable woman with all kinds of troubles and difficulty even being nice to her only child. Her desperation focuses on having fun while she bosses around a loyal neighbor (a tiny, hysterical turn by Patricia Haines-Ainsworth), and uses all her feminine wiles to keep Ray around, even though she knows she's over the hill.

Daniel Reaume is dead-on as Ray, the guy with his eye toward getting into the really big time, realizing he is also almost past his opportunities. He sweet-talks when necessary, and it's clear that he's just trying to work his angles.

As reported, Conn has a lovely singing voice, and does a great job as the ultra-shy L.V. who would rather stay home than go out. Cast support from Jesse Smith, Travis Tingvall, and drumming from Zac Stowell is solid.

The versatile set by Jill Beasley has some great ideas in it, though execution-wise, the nightclub curtain seems doomed to failure. Great costumes are provided by Stacey Derek, sound design by Johanna Melamed provides the variety of musical needs, and lighting by Josh Randall creates night and day with finesse.

For more information, go to www.artswest.org or call 938-0963.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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