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A CurtainUp Review
The People Vs. Mona
The plot revolves around the fate of Mona Mae Katt (played by the stunning Mariand Torres), former majorette and current proprietor of The Frog Pad, the "musical heart of Tippo," Georgia, where according to the locals nothing important ever really happens. The fiery Mona is accused of killing her husband C.C. Katt on their wedding night—and since she readily admits she's happy to see him dead, her fate looks rather grim. It doesn't help that she's being defended by local small-time attorney Jim Summerford (played by an earnest Richard Binder), who has never won a case against the ambitious prosecutor and mayoral candidate Mavis Frye (Karen Culp). . .who also happens to be Jim's fiancée. Throw in a host of odd characters, from the local blind musician Blind Willy (energetically rendered by Marcie Henderson) to the off-putting Dr. Bloodweather (Omri Schein in one of his four equally memorable roles) and you have a plot which is, well, ridiculous. But of course the point isn't to get bogged down in analyzing the narrative, but to go along with the ride—and to this end, both direction and performance succeed admirably.
Director Kate Middleton understands that a show this superficial only works if its energy and pace never flags, and accordingly scene transitions, musical numbers and even the intermission proceed at a brisk clip. And the audience itself is included in the performance in more ways than one—beyond the set (designed by Travis McHale), which extends the local watering hole feel on stage (with appropriate frog paraphernalia, of course) into the entire theater with vintage guitars, records and signs on the wall, the actors periodically speak directly to the audience—presumably a pool of potential Tippo tourists. But this interactivity, like the music, never gets obtrusive enough to be annoying. Though clever, there certainly aren't many songs likely to be remembered very long after the conclusion of the performance. Yet, this too doesn't seem to trouble anyone performing it, even the three excellent musicians who serve as musical accompaniment and resident blues band (The McGnats) at The Frog Pad.
Still, charm and cleverness only go so far, and what makes this production work is its performers. The show is exceptionally well cast, its characters so accurate that it's hard to believe that it wasn't written for this particular set of actors. Officer Bell (David Jon Wilson), the musically ambitious parking ticket distributor of Tippo, and Rev. Rosetta Purify (played by Natalie Douglas, who also ably handles the role of Judge Ella Jordan) both deliver convincing performances, and the rest of the cast holds up equally well (though Culp's voice is noticeably weaker than the others, despite her spot-on rendition of Mavis). And in particular, Schein and Torres are excellent, the former for his almost-but-not-quite-over-the-top characters and the latter for her mix of fieriness and fun which is critical to building Mona's appeal. Most important, everyone here seems to genuinely enjoy the show, which goes a long way towards convincing the audience to do the same.
Nothing about this production is stunningly original or particularly memorable, and there are times where the show veers perilously close to amateurish obviousness. But somehow Middleton and her cast never let it cross the line—and the result is a lighthearted and fun musical experience. If you feel like kicking back and relaxing with some Southern hospitality and a lot of laughs, you could do a lot worse than The People Vs. Mona.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide