Reviews – Stardust stage production

Besides the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times reviews, the stage production of Stardust has also been reviewed at CenterStage Chicago and Daily Southtown, and capsule reviews have appeared in the Windy City Times and the Chicago Reader.

Jenn Q. Goddu of the Chicago Free Press posted the following review:

Neil Gaiman’s novel Stardust begins with the familiar sounding: “There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.” The author goes on to concede, quite slyly, this is not an “entirely novel” beginning but his words have served to establish this as a sort of fairy tale.

Griffin Theatre Company’s world premiere adaptation of this Katherine Nawrocki and Kevin Kingston fantasy novel full of romance, adventure and sarcastic wit is well executed and entertaining. This is the story of a young man who goes adventuring in the land of Faerie after promising his lady love in the oh-so-ordinary town of Wall that he will bring a fallen star back for her. While adventuring in this strange land peopled with talking trees, floating pirate ships, witches and mischievous little folk our hero, Tristran, discovers his true nature and comes to fully understand what loving another person entails.

It’s a lovely story told with a strong sense of humor and William Massolia’s adaptation is admiring while practical. It provides a fleet retelling of the pivotal pieces of Gaiman’s tale and only in the second act do we feel things are being rushed and regret some of his changes. Yet Massolia has also found more opportunities for humor by playing up the possibilities afforded by bringing this story and its eccentric characters from page to stage.

Directed by Dorothy Milne this production is packed with a bounty of novel characters charming us in even the shortest turns on stage.

Creatively costumed by Kimberly G. Morris and playing their parts on a versatile set by J Branson that suggests a child’s pop-up picture book, this show’s 11 cast members take on a number of roles (except Kevin Kingston, who capably portrays Tristan throughout).

There are too many fine performances in small parts to single them all out but Kate Nawrocki and Jon Stutzman are particularly fun in their odd roles as a coquettish talking tree and Little Hairy Man. Jennifer Grace brings great vim to the feisty Star and Vanessa Greenway’s Witch Queen is fierce enough to remind adults in the audience of how scared they once were of fairy tale witches.

Some might feel this stage production has lost a little of the book’s heart but whether audience members have read the novel or not they’re sure to be taken in by this show’s lively whimsy.

Venus Zarris of Gay Chicago Magazine posted the following review:

Griffin Theatre takes us on a mysterious journey in its world premiere production of “Stardust,” William Massolia’s charming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s international best-selling fantasy novel. Unicorns, witches, talking trees and all manner of magical characters, surprises and dangers lay wait in the land of Faerie as young Tristran Thorn sets off on a quest to win the love of a beautiful lady from his village of Wall. What lies ahead of him will not only change his life but his heart as well as he seeks to find a mystical fallen star.

This is a good, solid children’s theatre treatment of the story but is lacking in anything remarkable for adult Kevin Kingston and Jennifer Grace audiences as far as an overall artistic or dramatic vision. With the exception of a few brief scenes and saucy references, this is actually straight-up children’s theatre. Still, it manages to engage and entertain through the twisting and turning story of a young man’s adventure for the sake of love. The production values are lovely, and Dorothy Milne’s direction manages to handle the adventures that weave a complicated web of interactions with clarity and good, old-fashioned humor and fun.

The cast is playful and talented, with outstanding performances delivered by Bergen Anderson, David Blixt, Vanessa Greenway and Karyn Morris. Dialect coach William Burnett creates a fluid and very consistent vocal interpretation. The thick-lined backdrop of the set resembles a thatched woodblock print and adds a look of fairytale book illustration to this enchanting frolic in the land of make believe.

“Please, just a little improper,” Dunstan says to Daisy as he tries to steal a kiss while walking her home through the forest. Perhaps a little more “improper” would invigorate the production, but this trip to a darling never land is nonetheless well worth the viewing.

(Stardust runs through June 26 at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. 773-327-5252.)

%d bloggers like this: