Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Firerock: Pass the Spark!
It is these very words that resonate in a new musical with a powerful mission, which premiered this weekend at the Adobe Rose Theatre here in Santa Fe. Firerock: Pass the Spark!, presented by Littleglobethe Art Community for Social Changein partnership with ART, New Energy Economy, Earth Care, and WildEarth Guardians, is much more than a polemic for the stage. In keeping with its theme of passing the spark of environmental consciousness from one individual to the next, Firerock sang and soared, sending its sparks into its audience through melody and theatrical magic, which reminded this reviewer of the myth and magic of both The Lion King and Into the Woods.
Although the production's short run has ended, the show's creators have hopes for their work far beyond this ART launch. They have envisioned Firerock from the very beginning of its long period of development not as a stand-alone production, but an adaptable, open-source DIY project designed to change and evolve with each new incarnation. This spring they will release a downloadable toolkit, which will include production support, support videos and engagement activity guides that will facilitate everything from a single-performer storyteller version to a fully mounted musical theater offering.
What I saw on opening night was something that fell between full production, complete with imaginative set and costumes, and a script-in-hand concert rendering. Eight years of work went into this full-length piece in one actdeveloped and shepherded by Firerock founder Molly Sturges, director Acushla Bastible, lifelong earth advocate Kristin Rothballer, and project engagement team members Katy Gross and Kita Mehaffy. Four different individuals contributed to the show's songs, including Broadway-based Enrico de Trizio, who also served as music director for the ART production.
Firerock at ART was benefitted as well by an enormously talented cast. As the anthropomorphized realization of the fossil fuels that dwell near the fictional town of Hopewell Junction, Gina Breedlove, who originated the role of Sarabi in The Lion King on Broadway, brought a depth of intense feeling and rich vocal resonance to the part that anchors the play's message of unity with the planet. Equally up to the task were Dylan Norman and Donna Bella Litton, two young local actor-singers with bright careers on the stage ahead of them. The cast was rounded out by seasoned Broadway veteran Paul Kandel (Uncle Ernie in the Who's Tommy, for which he received a Tony nomination), and the talented New Mexico thespians Lina Ramos and Charles Gamble.
Firerock is a musical play about waking up and recognizing the special reciprocal relationship that must exist between man and his environment for both to survive. But this relationship isn't promoted in the abstract. The play's team of authors give us a very specific place: the coal-country town of Hopewell Junction, a very specific villain: the PREMCO mining company, and, for kids (and kids at heart), one very cuddly otter, whose personal stake in the story's outcome added a seasoning of silly whimsy through Gamble's warm and furry comical performance. Mention should also be made of the avian puppetry created for this premiere production, ably executed by the production's ensemble of youthful magic-makers.
I wish that Littleglobe's launch of their ambitious labor of love had lasted long enough for me to encourage you to see the fruits of their efforts. However, this production, as its creators are eager to explain, is merely the spark that will help keep aflame the passion that now envelopes millions of us who care about our earth home and the need to undo the damage we have done to it through years of selfish intention and sleepwalking complicity.
I extend every good wish to Firerock's collaborative team in their mission to, as one song instructs us, "pass the spark from heart to heart" and help us to always remember that in "kinship we stand with all living things."
Firerock: Pass the Spark!, directed by Acushla Bastible, was performed at the Adobe Rose Theatre, 1213B Parkway Drive, Santa Fe, on Friday, January 19, 2018 and Saturday, January 20, 2018. Info about upcoming Adobe Rose Theatre productions can be obtained by visiting their website: www.adoberosetheatre.org or phoning 505-629-8688. Additional information about the musical is available at www.firerockmusical.com.