Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor

On Wednesday evening, I saw yet another play by ACT’s Young Conservatory. This time a larger cast and music out the wazoo provided for a journey of song in Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor. The show has no plot and is a revue of James Taylor material. That upset me a bit that there was nothing really tying the songs together. Okay, there was one weak attempt in the program to group songs together under certain titles like “the gathering” or “migration” but it definitely didn’t do it for me. In that sense, the show was fundamentally flawed from its conception. It might as well be a concert, a long one at that.

Another difficulty for me was the cast itself. There were some bright spots providing engaging songs of love, travel, and adventure but the ensemble as a whole faltered. Basically, the show was uneven and since the songs are distributed between cast member equally, the show became really inconsistent. In particular, there was some horrendously below-the-pitch singing especially on behalf of the boys. Darren Criss, a middle school classmate of mine, paved the way with some good acting and multi-talented musicianship skills despite his surroundings thouh. The girls sang on pitch most of the time but lacked any kind of conviction in their acting. They wanted to give a concert. One stand-out of the girl crowd voice-wise was Rachel Rubenstein, a senior at Lick-Wilmerding High School.

Technically, I was baffled by a show that seems to be designed by professionals. The microphone system in the Zeum Theatre is quite good. It can support the cast of 10, all on-stage at once. However, the mixing was mediocre at best. There was so much distortion in the voice. I really think that if ACT didn’t have so many shows, that the actors could sing over the band. There needed to be a decision on whether the show was supposed to sound amplified. Lighting was another baffling event with so much singing in darkness and mis-timed cues. I liked the gobos and the back lighting, though. Set design and panels: well done.

The band was a little understaffed, if you ask me. I think it had to do with not enough space in the “pit” that had been created. George Watsky looked exemplary on the drums despite what appeared to be a lack of freedom to create on the spot. Cellist Emily Gee filled the lower registers well but sometimes inaudibly (hence the need for backup). Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi did a fine job playing piano man but failed to play another common role: conductor. A lot of the singing miscues like cut-offs such could be orchestrated by a bigger head nod or even the use of his hand.

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6 thoughts on “Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor”

  1. As an actor, I do enjoy when people give their opinions on certain shows I am involved in, and I undoubtedly have a bias in reguard to my own shows. But this only works if the people giving their opinions actually know what they are talking about…

    Let me start out by saying that if you have gone to an ACT Y.C. musical, you would have noticed that this is the standard sized cast for those in particular, so get your facts straight.
    Also, may I remind you that a plot is defined as a pattern of events in drama, so my friend, you are sadly mistaken in your vocabulary. This so-called “weak attempt in the program to group songs together” were there for theatre-goers like yourself that don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand a simple pattern of events. Even though the plot was not complicated, it was still a plot, nevertheless.
    Furthermore, I would like you to send me your resume at Dmorse@siprep.org becuase according to your comments you can obviously perform better than the “horrendously below-the-pitch singing.” I would very much like to read it and critize it for the lack of professional experience.
    I do agree with you that Darren Criss and Rachel Rubenstein were particularly artful and talented in this production, so kudos to you and them.
    Moving on… It seemed a little weird to me that you can insult the technical aspect of this production: “I was baffled by a show that seems to be designed by professionals” seeing that you lack any professional experience at all. Once you join equity and get a job, give me call, buddy.
    Dude, you should really get your act together before opening your mouth, or typing keys for that matter.
    So, I would like to wish you luck at your Middlebury because someone might get lost in the generic mediocrity they call a theatre school there.
    Best Wishes,
    David L. Morse

  2. Hey, Kids! Calm down, everyone back to their corners! The little critic is entitled to his opinion, so don’t get your panties in a twist. Let your work stand for itself and you’ll seem a lot less petty and insecure. Little Critic, you have a right to your opinion, but pooing on someone else’s hard work only makes you seem jealous. Are you jealous? Also, many many ACT MFA students have graduated from Middlebury–it’s a great school. Relax. Take a deep breath. Step away from the keyboard.

  3. Oh the trouble this blog has caused.
    My apologies for the Middlebury comment, that was inappropriate and uncalled for. I can’t really take back anything else I said.
    Best,
    Dave

  4. Let me just say that I believed this show was professionally done. I believe that it was obvious that the show carried professionalism. And listen, you really have to understand the difference between constructive criticism and put downs. If you were talking about what could have been improved in your opinion, that would have been okay. You might offend someone by being so judgemental. many people worked really hard in that show. (e.g- all the actors that put in weeks of rehersal) thats all. be careful what you say about shows, because so many people worked hard to make a wonderful show. —-muffin from bugsy malone. (you know who i am)

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