MacEwan Theatre Arts: “Good News!”

After dinner, Dickson and I headed to the John L. Haar Theatre for the latest Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts production, Good News! From the website:

“At Tait College, football is the big game and star player, Tom Marlowe (Matt Van Boeyen), is a prime catch. While most students will drop everything to watch him practice, one girl seems oblivious to the football-mania – Connie Lane (Kim Bunka). An intensely studious woman, she is recruited to help when Marlowe fails an exam he needs to pass in order to play in the big game. Soon the football star and the tutor fall for each other. Inevitably though, their love can only survive if the team wins the big game.”

I had high hopes for a musical set in the roaring twenties – likely to be fun, flamboyant, and filled with flirtatious flapper fashions, I was expecting a great follow up to fall’s Little Women, which I enjoyed for the most part. While not a complete disappointment, Good News! didn’t live up to its potential.

Some of my issues with the play were unavoidable because the production ultimately must fulfill the needs of the theatre program. The cast, first of all, felt bloated – too many unnecessary coeds. Secondly (and Dickson disagrees with me), the set changes after every scene were excessive and distracting; the director attempted to pull the audience’s attention to the characters at the forefront of the stage while stagehands rolled away set pieces behind them, but to me, this created an amateur busyness that should have been avoided. Moreover, the oddly painted mishmash of a backdrop (really only utilized for the electric “stars” in the night sequences) should have been more versatile, hence eliminating the need for so many individual sets.

That said, Good News! itself isn’t that great of a play. There were no memorable songs, and the storyline doesn’t flow – scene transitions between character groups were jarring. Of course, it is true that great acting in some instances can save a play – here, the only notable standout was a supporting character. Dickson and I were in agreement that Alissa Keogh (our favorite in Little Women), stole the show again as the forward flapper Babe O’Day. Honorable mentions go out to Candice Fiorentino, who portrayed the mature and headstrong Professor Kenyon with a believable grace and Bunka as the ignored and very sympathetic bookworm Connie. The weakest link was Van Boeyen as the campus football star, as he didn’t have the charisma or the physical stature to carry off the role.

It was difficult to relate to the fervor surrounding college football (being the hockey mad country that we are), but the countdown to the big game did allow for the most hilarious sequence of the play – a slow-motion enactment of the game’s winning touchdown, complete with play-by-play commentary.

Good News! finished its run this weekend, but you can catch MacEwan’s last production of the season, Hot Mikado, in March.

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