Musical Portrays Life’s Funny Side
by F.C. Lowe
Every conceivable experience a family undergoes is hilariously and contemplatively brought to life in “Are We There Yet?”
The Leo M. Bernstein Wayside Theatre production, which opened Saturday and continues through July 1, addresses not only the early years of the developing family but the many complicated events in between, and then leads up to the senior citizen phase.
Four performers carry off the numerous scenes, depicting proms, weddings, adoptions, and much more, in a collection of vignettes and musical numbers.
Current headline-making issues are not ignored with references to gay partners becoming parents and adults who were adopted as children finding birth parents
Veterans to the Wayside stage, Larry Dahlke and Thomasin Savaiano, know no limits when it comes to pulling off the quick changes through scene after scene of real-life type experiences.
Newcomer Melissa Graves is a welcome addition to the cast with her excellent timing and sense of comedy.
In one scene, she masterfully depicts a dog-lover of mammoth proportions who prizes a dog over her children. Graves brings the character hilariously to life with total immersion in the part.
The fourth cast member, J.T. Arbogast, who has previously appeared on the Wayside stage, moves from one character to another with extreme ease bringing new meaning to many of the exaggerated portrayals.
His depiction of a private school, sissified headmaster was engaging and off the charts as far as hilarity, in addition to a stereotypical portrayal of a baseball coach.
Sets by Til Turner and lighting and sound by Christopher Ham keep the stage elements flowing smoothly adding to the frivolity and depth.
Costumes by Tamara M. Carruthers contribute to the hilarity especially for certain off-the-wall types each family has but does not want to acknowledge.
One example is a senior citizen, played by Dahlke, who is dating a boat-load of women since his wife died. He comes to life adorned in high-water pants and suspenders, while using a walker, displaying the pictures of all the ladies he visits.
On the other hand, the wedding scene shows the seriousness of the event with gowns and tuxedos as the father of the bride really doesn’t want to give his daughter away.
The musical comedy was written by James Hindman, Ray Roderick, and Cheryl Stern with music by John Glaudini and additional music by Tom Kochan and lyrics by Yvonne Adrian.
The newness of the play was revealed in the dialogue with references to TV shows, such as “Dr. Phil” and “The View.”
Superb piano playing by Steve Pryzyblski (also music director for the play) filtered through every scene, adding to the comedy or poignancy.
An unforgettable scene includes an exchange between an adopted daughter, Graves, and a birth mother, Savaiano, who thought they had found each other but the birth year is incorrect.
While beautifully pulling off this serious scene, the women change the tempo and are complete opposites in a hilarious scene about mothers who avidly and maniacally follow the athletic teams of their children.
Also, a mother reveals how her gay son and his partner adopt a child that is accepted by her husband by a simple gesture — getting the crib out of the attic.
Singing voices left a little to be desired with a few notes not quite reached or somewhat off tune.
But looking at all elements of the production, it is a performance worth seeing and one that will tickle your funny bone while bringing to light many serious and familiar issues families face.
You could call it the parents’ edition of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!
You’ll leave the theatre humming and feeling better about being human.
– Wichita Eagle