|Goblin Market (Ken Holmes)|
Sound Theatre Company
Through August 27, 2017
Sound Theatre Company has provided us with a fairytale about sisterhood, based on a long poem written in the mid-1800s. Goblin Market, a cautionary tale about alluring Goblin Men who lure good girls into folly, which can kill them, has been turned into a burnished musical reverie performed with high gloss.
Let’s talk about the four talented women who take turns becoming Laura and Lizzie each night in a rotating fashion. Justine Davis and Claire Marx take turns as Lizzie and Kelly Mak and Miranda Trout become Laura. The alternating two become goblins, servants, whatever is necessary. When all four sing together, they make wonderful harmonies.
The harmonies are apparently newly arranged by local musical directer whiz-guy, Nathan Young. There is also a small band of musicians behind a semi-opaque scrim with conductor Aimee Hong on piano, Teresa Sandys on violin, and Rachael Beaver on cello. They sound heavenly and very Victorian. The piano is made to sound like a harpsichord sometimes, unless there is also one back there!
I saw Davis and Troutt perform, who both reflected the story perfectly with expressive and beautiful voices. The two different characters were clear: one wanted to experience what was fun and tasty and exciting about Life and wanted to find out what the Goblin Men were selling. Lizzie (Davis) tries to remind Laura that another young woman had already done that and had died shortly after, but Laura refuses to listen.
When Laura does become ill after having a wondrous night of amazing fruits and juices, Lizzie finds a way to try to save her, thinking that if she can bring a little fruit back to Laura, but not eat it herself, it might cure Laura’s illness.
One of the reasons director Teresa Thuman wanted to have a rotating cast is to allow all the women to have their own moments to be lead in the production. Her season has been built around women’s empowerment. I applaud her desire to let each woman shine, and her message of undercutting competition and a feeling of “scarcity” (in stage time) between women.
The musical writers, Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon, won awards for this musical in 1985. Their adaptation of the poem retains all the poetic nature, but allows for the relationship to be shown clearly and the story to be staged. If you would like to see the words of the poem, you can go here to read it: www.soundtheatrecompany.org/2017-season/goblin-market/goblin-market-christina-rossetti.
The physical production is also beautifully rendered with Montana Tippett providing set, costuming and props. The magic fruit is particularly… magical.
Having said all that good stuff about the production, there is a bit of chafing against the poem and storyline because, like many Victorian fairytales, it is cautionary and repressive. Young women are not supposed to enjoy Life, are not to listen to the siren call of evil men, are to stay home and “be good” or they will die. Literally.
While the sisterhood is very strong in the piece, the success of the sisterhood is because the “good” one saves the “bad” one’s life. Because the “good” one does something very, very, very good, and selfless, and is able to withstand the temptations of the goblins.
So, for that reason, you might want to prepare yourself inwardly a bit, to withstand the chiding inherent in the piece and to try to accept its anachronisms. While there are many reasons to like this production a lot, there are also reasons to feel irritated at its message.