Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Did you miss it???

Nobody's Perfect the musical, performed from Oct 19 - Nov 3, 2007 at the Kennedy Center, was based on the book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney.

Fourth grade is not easy and after spending a year planning her "positively purple" birthday party, Megan finds herself at odds with new student Alexis. To Megan, Alexis has it all: beauty, brains, and athletics--she's practically perfect in every way. Though Megan tries to be nice to her, Alexis is anything but friendly, making Megan wonder, "Does she not like me because I'm deaf?" When they're forced to collaborate on a science project, Megan discovers Alexis's secret.

My friend Beth and I went on October 20th and really had a great time. She referred to it as "sickeningly sweet" but we both left signing and singing "positively perfect purple party".

The magic began before we even entered the theater. First, there was a stack of Leading Ladies books, the upcoming book by Matlin and Cooney- see my review-- on the table for purchase. Then, audience members received our own party invitations or Cue sheets (see picture top left) for the performance which were creatively chocked full of information about the play.

The play opens with Megan (played by Deaf actress Tami Lee Santimyer) sprinkling glitter on her birthday invitations. The set was definitely purple!
The play included American Sign Language, Spoken English and written English in two CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) systems. One was creatively placed under the table near most of the action and one was above the stage to the right. Unfortunately, some of the actors often moved in front of the CART system under the table blocking the script-- so while creative, it wasn't always effective (probably the reason for the second CART above the stage). CART was a necessity because most of the actors probably learned Sign Language for this performance in a way that was like choreography. They just moved their hands where they were told so at times it wasn't perfectly clear. And I'm not complaining just pointing out what I saw. It actually hurt my head because the actors would voice a sentence in English while simultaneously signing in conceptually accurate American Sign Language grammar-- not SimCom but actual ASL. Ouch, two languages at once. Again, they could do this because they weren't learning a language but learning the motion and movements. Don't get me wrong, I'm impressed! There is much more information on the website that explains how the actors learned sign language but I didn't know this until after the play.

There were some great teachable moments for the hearing children (okay, and adults too) in the audience who aren't aware of the differences between the hearing and Deaf World. The teacher, Mr. Morgan (Kip Pierson) stomped on the floor with his foot to gain the students' attention and then began to sign the science project lesson. While based on the book, the performance was only an hour and parts of the book had to be cut and altered. While I'm usually "boooo" about changing a book, the integrity of the story wasn't changed at all. The changes were subtle including: Megan's teacher signing instead of her having an interpreter; and, the way the hamster project was conducted at Alexis' house versus Megan's-- Matt was allergic in both the book and the play but there were slight variations, etc. I did tear up when Justin, Alexis' younger brother with autism, signs instead of speaks his first word (okay, so I'm a sap!). And, I couldn't have loved the Hamster Panic rap "Oh, no! Where is Zippity?" any more. I was hysterical along with other young and adult audience members.
The play is based on an American adolescent book where we require happy endings! That being said, will Megan find purple balloons in time for her positively perfect purple party (with purple pizza and all)? Will Alexis come to the party? And, will Alexis and Megan become friends? If you missed the play, there is still time to review the website (below) or read the book:)

For more information about the play, visit the fantastic website: Here, you will find interviews with the authors and the actors in both English and ASL, view parts of the play, and learn how the directors designed the set, etc.
"A NEARLY PERFECT MUSICAL!Youthful gusto and a generous heart. Outstanding production values and top-notch cast. An infectious score... three-and-a-half stars!"- The Washington Times

"PRE-ADOLESCENT ANGST, WITH HARMONY...Nobody's Perfect delights with comic numbers and an excellent young cast. The songs are not only catchy but also infectiously performed. Bright 'n' lively!"- The Washington Post

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