Curtain Calls XTRA

Review: 'Everybody's Talkin"
Words hurt is moral of entertaining production by Mosaic Youth Theatre

Everybody's always minding your business; everybody's talkin'.
Leave it to the energetic thespians of the Mosaic Youth Theatre to strip one of Shakespeare's popular comedies down to its basic premise – and then rebuild it into an entertaining romp that 21st Century audiences can truly appreciate. But that is what audiences young and old can expect when they attend "Everybody's Talkin'" – a fresh musical take on "Much Ado About Nothing."
Much of the Bard's overall plot is retained by Director Kate Peckham, the Mosaic staff and the talented troupe of young actors who had a hand in crafting the script. It's primarily the setting that has changed: Think of this as Mosaic and Shakespeare meet "American Idol".
True to its source, "Everybody's Talkin'" tells two separate tales of love: Claudio and Hero, longtime friends, discover their relationship has blossomed into something more serious, yet each is afraid to tell the other; former lovers Beatrice and Benedick outwardly profess disdain for each other, yet secretly, they are still in love.
What is different about the story is this: Rather than a tale of princes, lords and governors, Mosaic uses a more modern-day type of royalty to tell its tale – the Hollywood Producer and the lure of stardom!
A group of starry-eyed young people are vying to win the opportunity to produce a fully-funded project for the famous producer, Don Pedro. The competition is fierce, and as you'd expect, jealousies pop up. And Don's wicked step-sister, Donna Pedro, has unresolved issues that threaten to destroy everything and everyone in her path.
Those familiar with the original tale pretty much know how this ends. Mosaic's message, though, is powerfully delivered: Words – unchecked rumors, gossip and innuendo – can cause more destruction than any gun or sword ever could.
Director Peckham, who was hired last year to rejuvenate Mosaic's acting program, has done just that. Although billed as a musical, it is the show's comedy – and the acting – that make this show enjoyable. (Two separate casts perform the show; this review discusses the team that was seen last Thursday night.)
"Everybody's Talkin'" is a show teeming with humorous "bits." The costume ball, especially, keeps the audience rolling with laughter. Every appearance of The Super Dope Posse is likewise engaging. And Nicole-Therese Riley has a wonderful moment as a bad actress faking a conversation while reading her half of the dialogue directly off a script.
In fact, nearly every actor has at least one moment to shine; there's often so much going on that few will catch most of the humor built into the show. One might have to attend multiple performances to truly appreciate the wonderfully inventive work performed by many of its talented young actors.
Standout performances are given by Brooke Mackie (Donna) and Rashida Morris (Beatrice). Renardo Pringle as the malaprop-prone Dogberry has the most fun – and generates the best response from the audience.
If there's a flaw with this production, it is this: The singers, who function primarily as a "Greek chorus" in this production, were – with a few exceptions – only adequate this past Thursday. Sure, they put their hearts and souls into their work, but that's not enough for a professional production. In fact, "Everybody's Talkin'" might be better served without several – or most – of its musical numbers. (The three musicians, however, are superb!)
"Everybody's Talkin'" Staged Thursday through Sunday by Mosaic Youth Theatre at the new General Motors Mosaic Theatre, 610 Antoinette, Detroit, through May 23. Tickets: $18. 313-872-6910.
The Bottom Line: Don't miss out on this energetic and funny production that everybody's talkin' about!