Theatre Review: ‘For the Birds’ is Good Edutainment


Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.

Not Just for the Birds, book and music written by Ry Kincaid, directed by Bob Kohler. Produced by Barstow School (part of the KC Fringe Festival). First produced 2010. (Seen July 26, 2010.)

Flying is not just for the birds — or so the musical by the same name figures out. This sweet little story by Ry Kincaid explores the history of flight, from the myth of Icarus to the future of going to the stars. With the background story of two students needing to do a report, Kincaid is able to put in a lot of information under the proverbial radar.

Of the two students, Millie (played by Taylor Phillips) really shines — she has a presence about her that really shows through her performance, and really brings a sweetness about her role that is almost kitten-Youtube-video cute. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a couple of really sweet songs that she gets to sing — but boy does she make every moment count.

The other student, Charlie (played by Aaron DuPuis) had his moments: “do I get points for entertainment value?” he asks after the first song, and he definitely should. But I lost a lot of his performance due to a lack of projection.

The fun is prevalent throughout the production — from the programs you can fold into a paper airplane to a screen utilizing flash-style animation in humorous ways (such as showing Icarus’s descent after flying too close to the sun) — and the cast is obviously having a lot of fun, especially with the bit parts. (Be sure to keep an eye out for the ‘animatronic’ pilot during the part about how modern day airplanes can take you anywhere — as the students joke, “these museum exhibits are extremely lifelike”.)

However, this was at times a distraction as there were times it felt the players were ‘mugging for the camera’, so to speak, most notably Shannon Fleming as the teacher with her outrageously bad Southern accent and getting overwhelmed when the two students finally end up working together (although her other parts were well done, so that may have been a directing choice).

While Kincaid does a great job of slipping in the lesson with songs and story, some of the songs were a little rough — especially the last couple. “Planes Take You There and Back Home” is a bit of a mishmash, and “We Can Make It” (about going into space as the next adventure of flight) has potential that just isn’t quite reached. How much of that was the song itself, though, and how much was just needing more rehearsal time, I’m not sure.

As Barstow plans on taking this to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, my one recommendation for the cast and crew is to work on the second half of the show and to work with DuPuis on his projection.

Not Just For the Birds is a great show to take kids to, and a good show if you don’t have kids. It’s sweet and funny – and you learn something, too. Well worth the price of admission — especially if you’re looking for something fun.

The KC Fringe Festival runs until August 1, 2010. For more information, visit the KC Fringe Festival website.

Read all of my KC Fringe Festival reviews here

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