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Mariya Reviews Animal Farm by Synapse Productions
Anyone who has ever read Animal Farm by George Orwell or heard about the novel, or just enjoys a good thought provoking political satire should go see the musical Animal Farm playing in the Connelly Theater. Not only does the musical have a great plot but the cast has a lot of talent and the crew does an excellent job with the set, costumes and sound effects.
Animal Farm is based on George Orwell's book which is about a group of farm animals that manage to rebel against their master and force him to leave the farm. As the animals begin to experiment with self government for the first time, the pigs, the smartest of the animals, convince the rest of the group that it is in their best interest to leave the hard decisions up to the pigs. Throughout the musical the audience sadly watches as what starts out as a democracy slowly disintegrates into a dictatorship.
Appropriately, most of the main characters are puppets, ranging from full bodied puppets to upper torso pull-overs to extremely flexible heads. Animals that are easily manipulated in the show, such as sheep, are full bodied puppets wheeled around and manipulated by the actors, while clever animals such as the pigs are simply actors wearing masks. No matter what the costume, however, by the end of the show the belief that real animals are acting on the stage pervades the room.
The show begins with a rat that scampers onto the stage to tell everyone to turn off their beepers, and then begins to narrate the story. Like all puppets in the show, the rat has incredible dexterity, despite itÍs seeming simplicity. In fact, most of the puppets in the show look as if they are made from cardboard and fabric. These are not the kind of puppets that would appear in the Lion King. But despite their rough appearance, the puppets have an amazing range of facial expressions. In addition, the actors manipulating the puppets are visible on the stage as well, and when the puppet's expression is coupled with the actor's expression, body language and voice, the puppet begins to seem like a real farm animal.
Animal Farm also has to be commended for taking on the great task of putting George Orwell's words into music and lyrics. Anyone who has the read the book will agree that that is no easy feat. Animal Farm, however, passes the challenge with flying colors. In fact, most of the songs are extremely catchy, and anyone going to see the show runs the risk of humming "Four legs good, Two legs bad" all the way home. In addition, everyone in the cast has very pleasant voices, sings on key, and blends well with the accompanying music.
Although the set is simple and the story generally takes place in only one location, there are several creative background changes. Through the use of a screen, a projector and additional tiny puppets, shadows show the audience what is happening in other places such as the farm house and the wind mill. Not only does this change the scene without the additional fuss of having to clear the stage but it also adds a comical side to the musical. Nothing can be more hilarious than watching a shadow of a tiny puppet pig getting drunk.
The musical will even appeal to those who do not consider themselves the usual "theater-going" type. The show includes several amazing and extremely funny special effects. During one of the fight scenes in which the animals scare the humans off their farm there is a Matrix moment. Yes, by a Matrix moment I do mean that one of the pigs ducks as bullets fly at him in slow motion. There are also a couple of gruesome killings that happen throughout the show and by the end the audience can actually feel the fear of the poor farm animals.
Animal Farm is a must-see show. In addition, this is a perfect High 5 event because the theater is small and cozy and there is perfect visibility from every single seat. There is a concession stand during intermission, and excellent home baked oatmeal cookies that can be purchased for only a small donation.