‘The Tutor’ seems to have lost its lesson plan
March 25, 2014
By Peter Clark
Somewhere between the song about erectile dysfunction and the giant painted backdrop of the Matterhorn, I wondered where “The Tutor” lost its way.
The new show at Village Theatre, which opened March 20, begins interestingly enough. It tells the story of Edmund, the titular tutor, who teaches dumb rich kids to allow constant work on his never-finished novel. Things take their inevitable turn when he lands a gig tutoring Sweetie, a rebellious teenager who provides just the right spark to loosen Edmund’s creativity.
Developed as part of the Village Originals Series of New Musicals, “The Tutor” fell flat after a promising start.
The first act serves as an enjoyable beginning to a lark of a musical, filled with brassy song numbers and endearing, if erratic, performances. Unfortunately, the second act took the story places I had a hard time following. While I appreciate brash surrealism, “The Tutor” unexpectedly leaped out of the mostly realistic world it set up and landed in a pig field of odd plot points.
This disappointed me because the story, written by Maryrose Wood with music by Andrew Gerle, had moments of truly lovely imagination. Edmund’s romanticized novel is acted out by the charming inclusion of larger-than-life imaginary characters, adding personableness and humor. The show largely abandons these characters in the second act and replaces them with an abrupt takedown of vegans and a happenstance resolution.
The music also walked a thin line. Most songs had a busy Gershwin brassiness that celebrated the big personalities of the show in a very fun way. However, several songs offered little beyond one note jokes and easy musical refrains.
If You Go
Having said all this, my opinion fits in the minority as the audience reacted with delight through the entire show. I even spied a woman singing one of the songs to herself while exiting the theater.
Beyond any disappointment with the story, I cannot deny the talent of this small cast. Erik Ankrim reprised the role of Edmund from its original production. He brought smug pretentiousness front and center, rounding the edges with a deft, fidgeting performance.
Matthew Kacergis and Kirsten deLohr Helland as the fictional characters provided great energy and a lot of laughs.
Without a doubt, Issaquah’s 16-year-old Katie Griffith as Sweetie shone as the star of the show.
Her presence gave a grounded relatability lacking in other characters. With a powerful voice and charming handle on the banter, she played the role with an apparent ease. Having grown up in Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE, Griffith has a promising career ahead of her and Village Theatre should feel pride in its own tutelage.