‘Tintypes’ at Actors’ Summit is plague upon our houses
By Bob Abelman
The eighth biblical plague that tortured Egypt was locusts. If the musical revue had been invented back then, the Egyptians would have caved quicker and Exodus 10:5 would have been a much shorter read.
Popular during the Golden Age of bad entertainment, the musical revue is the ugly ancestor of musical theater sans storyline, soul and substance. Its place of performance has been largely reduced to cruise ships, amusement parks, and inexplicably, Akron. “Tintypes,” which offers us a tour through turn of the 19th century American history by way of 49 mostly public domain songs from 1890 to 1917, is currently on stage at Actors’ Summit.
Linking the musical revue to locusts is a stretch, but “Tintypes” compares favorably to the plague of cicadas presently invading Northeast Ohio.
While the cicadas surface every 17 years and live for only a few weeks at most, “Tintypes” — which was conceived by Mary Kyte with musical arrangements by Mel Marvin and Gary Pearle — appeared on Broadway in 1980 and ran for only 93 performances. Both the cicada and “Tintypes” are small in size and stature, have no bite or sting, and represent the most primitive and least attractive form of their species.
Actors’ Summit’s staging is particularly unattractive.
Its production values are limited to a bare stage equipped with assorted props, like umbrellas for twirling and American flags for waving, and pre-recorded piano accompaniment by musical director Deborah Ingersoll. She performs a score with works from George M. Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”), Scott Joplin (“Solace”), Thomas P. Westendorf (“I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”) and others who warrant better treatment and richer orchestration.
The theater’s staging of “Ring of Fire” in 2014 was much more inventive, though that show was more tribute concert than musical revue.
“Tintype’s” cast of five, consisting of Frank Jackman, Neda Spears, Holly Reimer, Sarah Slagle and Mark Seven, work hard and master director MaryJo Alexander’s period-appropriate but rather pedestrian choreography. And the silent-film style vignettes they perform between segments titled “Arrivals,” “The Factory” and “Vaudeville” are absolutely charming.
However, these performers are not the song-and-dance professionals required to sell a work like this, and several occasionally fall out of tempo and tone with the soundtrack. They also seem rather uninspired by the job at hand. So did the audience, who were old enough to know much of the music but not so old as to feel nostalgic about songs written in the early 1900s.
According to Scripture, the Israelites were held captive in Egypt for 400 years. It only felt that long watching “Tintypes.” CV
WHERE: Actors’ Summit, 103 S. High St., Akron
WHEN: Through June 19
TICKETS & INFO: $10 – $33, call 330-374-7568 or visit actorssummit.org.
Bob Abelman covers theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman.3.
Originally published in the Cleveland Jewish News on June 3, 2016.
Lead image: From left, Neda Spears, Sarah Slagle, Holly Reimer, Mark Seven and Frank Jackman. PHOTO | Bruce Ford