Beyond – Los Angeles Theater Review
by Tony Frankel
published July 6, 2010
now playing in Los Angeles (North Hollywood) at the El Portal
through August 1
Hold on to your hats, kids. Beyond, part “Cirque” (the producers
wisely omitted “du soleil”), part French Cabaret, part community theatre, partly thrilling, partly embarrassing, and partly ready, hit
the stage running at The El Portal Theatre. The experience is akin to watching a gorgeous model walk down a staircase with poise and
elegance, only to trip on a puddle of champagne and tumble down to the bottom; she rises, bruised with hat askew, and limps gracefully
I left Beyond almost certain that I should look for my state room or
hit the slots, for, no matter the intention, the show slams into you like an over-produced, under-rehearsed cruise-ship pastiche of
Bollywood, Can-Can, Swing, and more. Big-budgeted Beyond wants to be like a Vegas
extravaganza but ends up feeling like the show you see on a tour bus stop somewhere in the middle of Nevada (or the middle of the
ocean, for that matter). I only hope that what happens in North Hollywood stays in North Hollywood.
Certainly this creation by director, international aerialist, acrobat, dancer, and choreographer Aurelien
Roulin has moments that are thrilling and highly entertaining; but therein lies the problem: M. Roulin also appears in the show,
evidently taking away the time he needed to shape this French-filled fling.
The story (!) is simple: a man falls asleep and dreams of flashy numbers (meaning the songs or the hot bodies,
or both). Alex David is very sweet and charming as The Dreamer, but his timing needs to be stronger. Sometimes he aimlessly roams
around in child-like wonder, wondering what dream world he is in. We are wondering, too.
Suddenly, he is in the 1940’s and an uncredited “Swing, Swing, Swing” comes blasting over the speakers, which
are stacked on each side of the stage like Christmas presents sans the wrapping. Suddenly, the show is Ooh-la-lovely. When the ensemble
of hard-working dancers is tight, displaying David Estrada’s cute choreography with infectious joy, it is delightful; these kids danced
their hats off…literally. Halfway through the number, costume malfunctions occurred, hats went flying, and I felt unnerved waiting for
some impending disaster. It’s tough to watch a show when you’re nervous and having fun at the same time – not unlike a bad cocaine
Next up was the amazing contortionist Ganichmeg Oyunchimeg. You will see no performer more outstanding in
any Cirque show. The audience was enthralled. Then the cocaine trip started again: the poor woman’s jewelry began to slip off! I’m
anxious enough watching her balance her body using only her mouth on a stick, now I have to watch her headpiece fall apart?
So what is up with these costumes? Clearly, the ensemble had not had enough time to practice (much of the night
felt like a tech rehearsal), so the fumbling may well diminish with time. The costumes are, in fact, gorgeous, fun, colorful and quite
creative (sometimes too creative – one outfit started to molt in the Love Birds number and the singer’s dress in the finale looks like
an ostrich that had exploded in the microwave oven). Credit Olivier Pascal and Frederic Couture (no relation to Haute Couture, I’m sure) for those gaudy feather fantails and headdresses (the press kit tells us
that their hand made costumes are embellished with Swarovski crystals and jewels – sacrebleu!).
Thankfully, most of the lithe, athletic performers are not wearing enough costumes to fall off. These talented
athletes not only move well but are fantastic acrobats, most evidenced in the Can-Can routine. Another highlight was the aerial
performance by Mme. Sunny Soriano and M. Roulin; it was tres hot.
The stationary two-story set is tacky with a staircase on either side; the uncredited lighting design was
occasionally effective, but too often garish and lacking any ethereal quality one would find in a dream. Plus, who decided to have giant
truck headlamp-like spotlights shine in our eyes from upstage? I haven’t been this blinded since I looked upon the Swarovski
Well, M. Roulin, an admirable and well-intentioned attempt, but you would be well-advised to think about who
your audience is: Friends? Sophisticates? Blue-hairs from Alta Dena? Until then, if Cunard cruise lines comes calling, I’ll put in a
bon mot for you.
tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com
For tickets call, 818-508-4200 or 866-811-4111, or order online: www.elportaltheatre.com/events.html
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