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Goldie (a fish story)

Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 14, 2000


Goldie (a fish story):

What You Sea Is What You Get

Reagan High Performing Arts Center,

through July 16

People are always talking about butterflies because butterflies are, well, beautiful. And there's the uplifting chestnut about the comparatively lame caterpillar -- can't fly, wormlike -- that after much tribulation finally turns -- wow! -- into a winged beauty. That's not what Goldie, an original musical from the kidsActing troupe, is about, really, although it's of that ilk. But the production, a high school musical, still brings such comparisons to mind.

Goldie (a fish story), written by kidsActing founder Dede Clark and Cori Stern, and featuring songs created by such local pros as Emily Kaitz, Steve Fromholz, and the Austin Lounge Lizards, is set in the watery realm of Davy Jones' Locker. All the characters are fish -- or at least nonhuman denizens of the deep -- who move through a kind of Star Is Born parable, poking extremely corny fun at the Hollywood mythos while spinning a tale of the yearning-for-fame that people do until they've: A) achieved more than they'd originally bargained for, or B) failed miserably for so many years that they've opted to just sit back with the brewskis and the cable TV and wait for death's inevitable release.

Kids, especially those who are part of an acting program, are still in that yearning and seldom anywhere near A or B, so this is sort of their story, isn't it? Luckily for them and the audience, then, that it's a good one. The corny puns and comic reversals based in this sea-going milieu and its Hollywood crossover are sometimes clever enough for playwrights who write for jaded, adult audiences to wish they'd thought of them first. As we follow the story of small-town Goldie Goldfish and her quest for stardom among the bright lights of Hollyreef, we're treated to a happy spectacle of acting and directing and singing and costuming that's like very-low-budget Disney. (That's a compliment, actually; and if you've seen The Lion King on Broadway, you'll know why.) The singing -- especially by Kylie Long and Christie Little -- is often superb, and bit-part actors Wesley Bronez and Natalie Goodnow galvanize the show every time they're onstage. (And that Bronez, knee-high to a grasshopper, has a set of pipes sweet enough to make 'N Sync contemplate retirement.) And even a Disney-sized budget couldn't have much improved Theresa May's costume designs: They were near perfect to begin with, a stunning arrangement of cloth and colors evoking all the polychrome and polyform spectacle of marine life, all working well to bring the story to dramatic life.

Again, this is a youth show, not an adult production. Which doesn't necessarily demand a different critical approach ... but people are always talking about the adults, you know, about the butterflies. And they're forgetting that the larval stage, the caterpillars, are themselves often wonderful to behold. There are some solid performers working under the direction of Dede Clark in Goldie, and you don't have to wait around for metamorphosis to enjoy what they can do in theatre.

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