OnStage Massachusetts Critic
A new musical with book by Tyler Mills, and music and lyrics by David Darrow and Blake Thomas, this Jonah and the Whale contemporizes the biblical story. Jonah is a happy young man, married to the love of his life and is always willing to help out his neighbors and friends. An unexpected turn of events changes Jonah’s world and rocks him and his beliefs to the core. He is heartbroken; feeling completely lost, he leaves his town to wander the world.
Directed by Weylin Symes, with music direction by Bethany Aiken and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, the ensemble worked together wonderfully to bring this story to life.
The cast never left the stage and was responsible for moving all the props and set pieces around. A circular, elevated, center section of the stage was manually rotated by the cast during the show. A square of metal pipes encased a smaller circular section that remained stationary in the middle of the rotating section. From this, a tall, metal ladder led up to a clock with various sizes of light bulbs hanging down around it. The scenic design was created by Katheryn Monthei and was complimented nicely by the lighting design by Christopher Fournier. With the four piece band sitting off to the side, the entire stage was visually interesting to look at.
There are many themes addressed in this musical including faith, love, loss, and forgiveness. The characters are likeable and relatable. The music often has a folk and blues feel to it. A few highlights include, “Lordy Mine” that was incredibly sung by Nick Sulfaro as the Pastor. It was upbeat with a Southern Gospel feel to it and was highly enjoyed by the audience. Sarah Elizabeth Pothier beautifully played Jonah’s wife Susan. Her performance was heartfelt and her vocals were clear and pure. Her interactions with Taavon Gamble, who played Jonah, were sweet, loving and believable. “Children, Children”, another upbeat number, was nicely led by Christopher Chew. Kathy St. George was feisty and funny as the Captain and sang “Captain Song”. The final two songs, “Lord, Am I Dying?” and “Prayer” were genuinely and powerfully sung by Taavon Gamble. As Jonah realizes the error of his ways, he asks “Lord, give me time” and knows he must return home. His performance really touched the audience. The prayer for more time is universally common: more time to make things right and more time to spend with family. The final minutes of this musical left many in the audience teary-eyed and in search of tissues.
The audience gave this show a standing ovation and they seemed to really enjoy it. © Jonah and the Whale is a family friendly production that runs 90 minutes with no intermission and plays at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St. Stoneham, until March 12th. Tickets range $50- $55 Adults, $45-$50 Seniors and $20 Students (with valid ID). For tickets or more information visit www.stonehamtheatre.org or call the box office at 781-279-2200.
Photo Credit for both pictures: Cast of "Jonah and the Whale" at Stoneham Theatre. Photo by Maggie Hall Photography
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