(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing a mash-up of Robin Hood and The Little Mermaid, or perhaps a romantic remix between Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin, you just might get your chance in The Hideout Theatre’s fabulous improvised Disney-style musical, “Happily Ever After,” running Saturday nights through August 29th.
Directed by Roy Janik and Ryan Austin, the show offers audiences joyful and daring tales of good’s triumph over evil, accompanied by songs composed on the spot.
It’s a truly remarkable feat, and, as one audience member noted on Saturday night, “better than pretty much anything you’d find on television.”
It’s also a family friendly show, and Saturday’s crowd included fans of all ages.
We got to watch as Jordan T. Maxwell sought adventure in the enchanted forest, leaving his idyllic (and consequently boring) home behind. But when his best friend (and blossoming love interest), Megan Sherrod, was captured by wicked witches, he realized too late that maybe life in Cragston wasn’t so bad after all.
Of course, you’ll get to see something entirely different when you check out the charming production, as the protagonist rotates each week and the setting changes based on audience suggestion.
This coming Saturday (7/25), Halyn Lee Erickson will (most likely) shed her witchy persona from the previous week to become a restless princess, or perhaps an unappreciated step-sister, or maybe a lion cub.
It’s improv, so you never know until you get there, which makes it all the more exciting.
Janik and Austin have assembled a top-notch team of improvisers for the production, and Maxwell gracefully sang his way through all the wrenches and red herrings thrown his way (“rock gollums,” for example, and a brook that zapped him into a time warp). Sherrod was equally charming as the unappreciated girl next door, and the improbably neat happy ending was too adorable for anyone to mind.
The cast also features Erin Molson, who has previously performed with Austin’s Girls, Girls, Girls Improvised Musicals. Molson’s rendition of a reluctantly evil witch added a lot of hilarity to her coven’s machinations.
But the unsung hero of the production is really pianist Ammon Taylor, who manages to set the tone with on-the-spot compositions to accompany the spontaneous singing.
“Happily Ever After: An Improvised Disney Musical” continues 8 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 29. Tickets $12. http://www.hideouttheatre.com/shows/HappilyEverAfter