Review: ‘Always Upon a Time’- Earnest but Uneven
Trumpets Playshop Playhouse announced its arrival in the local theater scene with its first production, “Always Upon A Time.” It’s the story of two brothers, Daniel and Tommy, and how their favorite stories bring them closer to their grieving father.
(READ: Trumpets Playshop Playhouse Launches First Original Musical, Always Upon a Time)
On a gloomy and rainy day, the boys convince their father to take them to the attic in search of a book. Dealing with the loss of his wife, the father has become sullen and short-tempered, while his children try to seek solace in the once-familiar tales told them by their mother. As Daniel and Tommy read the stories to their father, some stories hit close to home, as the father sees the parallels between them and his own life, and he begins to thaw and reconnect with his kids.
Beloved classics like The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Fisherman and his Wife, and bible stories like the story of Creation are brought to life by the talented ensemble of young performers who come out of the wings and portray the different characters. They supplied the moments of levity in the production, and it was clear that they were enjoying themselves, as they reveled in their wacky entrances and played it up for the audience.
The two young leads were earnest in their portrayals : Gabo Tiongson was a charming Tommy, and Teddy Velasco displayed an effortlessness Daniel. Veteran actor Lorenz Martinez, as the father, provided the most poignant moment in the show. The last story Tommy and Daniel chose was the story of Job, whose faith in God was tested when he lost everything in his life. As Martinez sang Job’s prayer, he was able to convey the grief of a man who thinks he too has lost everything, and who realizes just in time that his children are still here, and still need him.
This number highlighted one opportunity for the show. The relationship between the father and his sons could have been explored more, since this was supposed to be the core of the musical. The fairy tales tended to run too long that they almost overshadowed this important element. Martinez’s performance helped elevate the song, but this moment could have had a much bigger emotional payoff than it delivered.
Adults will want more of these moments for Martinez, as he provides the heart and the connection with the themes that the musical tries to explore. But ultimately, this one-act musical is still a production for kids. Director, writer, and lyricist Steven Conde puts together an enjoyable show on the whole, with simple yet catchy melodies and lively musical numbers. Whimsical puppets and pop-up scenery created by Make It Happen Workshop created a fun atmosphere. A giant frog (from The Frog Prince) and a hip David (of David and Goliath fame) were favorites among the younger audience members. The set design was also ingenious, as arches representing the attic ceiling were covered in storybook pages in keeping with this story about stories.
Playshop Playhouse is a youth theater company and is an offshoot of Trumpets’ long-running summer workshop, Trumpets Playshop. Their young cast of 10 to 25-year-olds are trained not only in acting, but also in other facets of the craft such as stage management. With “Always Upon A Time”, Trumpets shows yet again its knack for discovering and honing young talent. These are names and faces that we will undoubtedly hear and see again.
Photography by Sandy da Silva