'The Beautiful Empire of Ordinary Kings' - My Review

An original production at the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre in Torrington

Opening night of the world premiere of this show written and directed by Isabel Carrington was exciting. More than the usual number of teenaged theatre goers joined the family and friends of cast members in the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre in Torrington. I had complimentary tickets and general seating allowed us to pick great seats.

John Bonanni (Executive Director at the Warner Theatre in Torrington,) writes that the premiere of the show, "a touching dramatization of young life and love coming of age, is a wonderfully exciting milestone in the ever expanding reach of WTCAE excellence. This has become one of Isabel's most dramatic and personal works to date; bringing the educational experience of its young actors to a new level of performance and theatrical achievement." I would certainly concur that this is a wonderful venue for up and coming actors to hone their craft.

"It’s the last summer before a group of long-time childhood friends will go their separate ways into the “real world” of college and careers. But what happens that summer, through an unexpected turn of events, will end up making brave souls out of timid ones and will bring these friends closer than they ever thought possible. A contemporary coming-of-age story with large doses of humor and relevance, The Beautiful Empire of Ordinary Kings will find its way into your heart and stay there forever."

This original show by Mrs. Carrington is a well-written showcase for these young actors. There is some great humor and some definite drama, mixed with fourteen wonderful songs. I only recognized a few of them, especially "Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele and "Breathe in Breathe Out" by Matt Dearney, but I am sure that the others would be familiar to the Glee crowd. I felt that the songs flowed beautifully into the action of the play.

This wonderful cast teens worked so well together; the trio of guys was terrific.  As "Aidan," James Barber was a charmer. Ethan Parsons played the heartthrob "Ben" and the adorable Zach Roberts played the semi-geeky "Eric." Watching these young men sing together reminded me of rockers "Mark" and "Roger" in Rent.

Rachel Traub is a junior at Torrington High School and attends the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She plays "Annie," a young lady who transforms as the play unfolds. Isabella Panagakos ("Sara") and Holy Cross High School's Gwen Mileti ("Liz") had perfect comic timing as the sidekicks. High school senior Alia Miller, who will be attending my alma mater Sacred Heart University, played the sultry "Brittany" to perfection. The adorable Emma Seyer, a freshman at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts,  almost stole the show as "Kara" and kept us all laughing. In the lead role of "Sam" at this performance was Aubrey Van Allen. A high school senior who is heading to Pace University to major in broadcasting, this young lady has an amazing voice and will go far.

In her announce, the director mentioned how much she will miss the two young ladies that are heading on to college. Previously, Mrs. Carrington told me "this marks the final production for two of my dear students (soon to be graduates), Aubrey Van Allen and Alia Miller, who have been with me since I started as Director of Education nine years ago. To have them be a part of this original work and labor of love as their final performance with me is so very special."  The role of "Sam" will be played by Gloria Antonios at the Saturday perfomance.

The set designer Les Ober evoked a small New England seaside town "Portland" and it was beautifully lit by David Zahacewski. The costumes were ever changing and designed by Johanna DeZurik. The just enough choreography was done by Katie Brunetto and Tina Parziale. The prerecorded music was well-done and not overpowering and the sound designed by Nathan Bourke was almost perfect. I only noticed a couple overlong transitions in this top-notch production. Kudos to Mrs. Carrington on a wonderful production that she can be proud of. I can certainly see why that "my Performance Lab students (or "P-Labbers") are my utmost pride and joy in my job."

I saw , the writer/director's husband, in the audience, as well as the esteemed , my sometime guest reviewer. The latter took some time off from rehearsals for the . Here is what she wrote about the premiere:

BRAVO!!! to Izzy and her incredible kids of Performance Lab at the Warner Center for Arts Education! The Beautiful Empire of Ordinary Kings is a fabulous, original show that is amazingly written, directed and performed! So proud of all of you!

***Due to mature subject matter, this show is not suitable for very young audiences.***

Saturday, May 19 at 8pm
Sunday, May 20 at 2pm

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