So This has never happened to me before, I’m taking another stab at this review. Normally time simply doesn’t allow for it. But due to time constraints and a desire to get my review up ASAP so people had time to catch this amazing show before it closed I posted even though I wasn’t entirely happy with it. When you see one of the best shows you’ve seen since you began reviewing you want that review to be one of the best as well. Well I’m not going to put that pressure on myself but I do want to get it to a point where It isn’t gnawing at me that I could have done better.
Thank God this show was held over for another week or I would have missed it and so would’ve you. The Red Shoes still has these added shows; Thurs, Nov. 4, 7:30pm, Fri, Nov. 5, 7:30pm, Sat, Nov. 6, 7:30pm. Sadly Thursday has sold out, making it the 9th consecutive performance to have sold out. Thankfully not before I snagged three more tickets so my wife and I could seeit and take my eldest son. Go to https://www.openeyetheatre.org/the-red-shoes for more information and to buy tickets. I’ll wait while you go buy tickets, do it now, they may be gone before you finish reading this. Done? OK let’s get started. First of all when you go, keep all hands and arms inside your chair at all times, at least that’s what they should have said. From the second the house lights went down and the
show experience began, I felt like I was on a theme park ride. There are certain shows that function as testimonials to what a magical thing theatre can be, that highlight creativity and fully immerse you in their own unique reality. The Red Shoes is just such a show. This is artists working at the highest level in Production design, Lighting, Sound, Costume, Puppetry, not to mention Direction and Performance. This is the reason I do this. Shows like this that you immediately want everyone you know to see as well. The Red Shoes is not only firing on all cylinders, the people behind it actually built the cylinders from scratch.
The plot reminds me of the Bogart classic The Big Sleep, in that you are not sure it all adds up at the end but you don’t care because the journey to the end of the line was so good. To give you an idea, the main character is a mousy woman who never leaves her apartment, she seems to be trying to figure out who she is by reconstructing memories or perhaps dreams using a miniature design of locations and puppets. She is terrified of the phone and of anyone coming to the door. She is badgered by her relentless Landlady, sympathized with by the local Newsboy, and stalked by a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat. There is something very interesting about all of these other characters but one hopes to leave that as a surprise. The wonder of this show is the surprises and the execution of them.
Kimberly Richardson plays the main character, assisted by Sabrin Diehl, Noah Sommers Haas, and Kalen Rainbow Kier, but it is Richardson’s show all the way. It’s a tour de force of physical and vocal dexterity. We wholly buy her timidity as the play opens, terrified of the ringing phone and her landlady who’s comments come through a very unexpected source. But she equally sells other characters as she acts out the nightmares with her puppets. The fairy tale on which the show draws its inspiration tells the story of a vain girl who after choosing to dance rather than attend her mother’s funeral is cursed to dance even after she dies. This version does not follow that plot but there are clues within it that might help us understand what we have seen. There is some dance, just enough to show us that Richardson is someone in complete control of her body. As fascinating as Richardson is in the central role, it’s not her only job, she also co-wrote the play and choreographed it.
As talented and engaging as Richardson is, the true star of the show may just be the Productions technical crew. As I sat preparing for the evening’s performance to start I was impressed with the sets design by Joel Sass and the lead Scenic Artist Michael Sommers. It has the look of a set but in all the right ways, there is a storybook quality to the 40’s era apartment that feels heightened. There are set designs that look like real locations and then there are set designs that look like sets, both have there place depending on what the production is going for. This was perfect for the nightmarish world we are witnessing. It has the feel of a film noir movie set as designed by Dr. Seuss. The set construction by Brandon Sisneroz and Sommers Haas is a marvel, when the show starts, it comes alive in truly original ways. Unlike some shows which amaze you at the start by spilling all their secrets up front, this one continues to surprise right up until the end. But it isn’t just the set. The play opens with a combination of lighting, sound, and smoke effect that announced right from the start that this was going to be a rollercoaster of an evening. Thrilling and visceral work from Bill Healey in Lighting Design assisted by Ellie Simonett. Sean Healey’s Sound Design puts you inside the play in a way I’ve never experienced before. I was filled with wonder and amazement at what I was seeing and with what these artists came up with to express their vision.
There is nothing more inspiring than seeing creativity brought to life in such a palpable way. One leaves the theatre wanting to create something to express the joy you feel inside at the marvel you have just witnessed. This production is in the top ten in person theatrical experiences I have ever had. It reminded me of the thrill I had in the spring of 2019 when two productions led me to repeat attendances, bringing new people with me each time. That is what gave me the idea to become a theater reviewer, that desire to share something that knocked my socks off with others. The Red Shoes brought me right back to spring 2019 and I started urging everyone to get tickets, see it! And that is the reason I had to take another pass at this review. Because it felt like this show represented why I have dedicated so many hours in theatre seats and twice as many at a keyboard writing about them. Because it inspired me to share. I still don’t think I’ve done the show justice, but it’s unfair to hold myself up to the standard of this production. If I’ve inspired a few people to see this show, and I know I have, that is enough to have made the ride worthwhile. The Red Shoes is everything theatre can be while at the same time being uniquely its own. What a beautiful thing that is to behold. I urge you not to miss your chance to experience The Red Shoes.
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