By Beki Pineda
BEOWULF, A THOUSAND YEARS OF BAGGAGE. Book and lyrics by Jason Craig; music by Dave Malloy; directed by Meridith C. Grundei. Produced by The Catamounts (presented at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St.) through March 18. Tickets available at 303-444-7328 or thecatamounts.org.
Just to get you in the mood for the evening’s fun, you are offered a free glass of mead at the refreshment bar as you enter. The small theater at The Dairy has been converted into a Viking mead hall with stuffed deer heads on the walls and blood-red curtains. The Olde English version of the epic poem—the subject of tonight’s frivolities—is being recited. Then, depending on your table, you might be warned to sit back as your table top could become part of the dance floor.
Arrangements made, the play commences with the arrival of three teachers who begin to analyze the story of the superhero Beowulf and his epic battle against the monster Grendel. Everyone breaks into song at the drop of a helmet to explain in music what’s going to happen. There is an exceedingly long musical buildup to the arrival of Beowulf, featuring two backup singers dressed as Goth goddesses whose bustiers have built-in sixpacks and Madonna-like pointy bras. Much is made of our hero’s manly body and masculine magnificence.
And then he arrives amidst great celebration and begins to extol his own masculine virtues. He arrives shirtless to show off his cute but slightly flabby body. It’s this kind of humor that abounds throughout the 90-minute production.
The most fun is seeing Ben Hilzer and Joe Van Bokern, as adversaries Grendel and Beowulf, back on stage together. These two were the cast of last season’s-award winning production THE BIG BANG. They fight with music and battle comically as Beowulf “rips [Grendel] up good.” In an example of the creative staging used in this production, the ensuing underwater battle between the victorious Beowulf and Grendel’s mother is accomplished via aquariums and Barbie dolls. The show is a collection of these clever little moments.
This lighthearted treatment will amuse and entertain you for the evening, but probably won’t prove to be a classic musical or even a cult favorite. The music is melodic and offers a balance between hard rockers and sweetish ballads. In this version, there is a nice balance between the singers and the five-piece onstage band. The show has a short run, so this is your ticket for fun this weekend!
WOW factor: 8