If you go
What: “Bare,” a pop opera”
Where: The Oakland
When: 8 p.m. today, Thursday, Friday and next Saturday
Tickets: For reservations, call 330-746-0404
By Eric McCrea
There was a time when “Bare,” a pop opera, would be considered edgy and subversive. Although the years have tempered society to the shocking nature of adult themes in a high-school setting, the talent of the young cast of this show is far from basic.
Let’s start with Jason, played by Kris North, the popular kid who refuses to admit his orientation, at his Catholic boarding school. His roommate, Peter (Connor Bezeredi) may be the love of his life, but peer pressure forbids this revelation from coming to light. While Sister Chantelle, played by Mazhorell Johnson, is the epitome of support, there’s a priest and an entire organized religion to contend with. Drugs, unwed pregnancy and the search for adult guidance also factor in, but too little too late is the case for some of these confused near-adults.
Director Liz Rubino has outdone herself in assembling a fine group of typical Youngstown community-theatre talent, poaching ingenues from YSU and area high schools. With the apt assistance of musical director extraordinaire Cory Davis, Rubino has achieved a professional-level show. The cast handles complex harmonies and more than two hours of almost constant libretto with what seems like ease. While certain parts of the story seem to be borrowed from numerous other well-known musicals and plays, Rubina steers this production far from the realm of cliche.
As the show’s two leads, Bezeredi and North are impeccable. Together, they exhibit vocal prowess and a stage chemistry that is hard to find. If you haven’t seen Bezeredi on stage yet, take advantage of the chance now before he moves onward and upward to bigger and better venues. North has never been better. He leaves his heart and soul on stage.
Madison Gulfo is stellar as Ivy, the misunderstood seductress who quickly gets in over her head. She wows the audience with her intense, heartfelt solo in the second act. She balances aspects of maturity and fear better than actors with decades more experience.
In the role of Nadia, the sister of the confused and struggling Jason, Jaime Kirchoffer is confident and poignant. Her skill with the cello is a great enhancement to the show.
Johnson is at the top of her game playing a sassy nun with superstar pipes. She adds the perfect amount of comic relief and divine inspiration. Her angelic assistants, Claire Blackledge and Emily Shipley, show great potential for bringing down the house as well.
Also worthy of note is Rachel Ruggieri as a mother trying to come to terms with being a PFLAG mom.
Choreography by Billie Anzevino proves to be a challenge for most of the cast in the first act, but there is a lot of fun to be had with it, especially during the rave scene.
An undertaking of this magnitude is impressive and a definite must-see.