note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
Trinity Rep opens its season with the ribald and sassy rock musical based on a classic poem, “Beowulf.” “Beowulf A Thousand Years of Baggage” is rollicking delights with its cheeky take on the classic tale, which it takes on with vigor, irreverence and excellent performances across the boards. There is much to delight here.
It opens with three academics apparently dryly discussing “Beowulf” which is very funny. They are stilted and awkwardly stuffy. Then almost immediately it all transforms as they begin to examine “Beowulf.”
So our legendary hero is off to Denmark to slay the dragon Grendel who is wreaking havoc on King Hrothgar” kingdom. Beowulf is not the brightest bulb, but he is not lacking in sheer testosterone and chutzpah. Beowulf does not only slay Grendel, but Grendel’s mother as well. In the midst of their discussion, enter Beowulf, armed and ready to fight to the death. It becomes a rollicking merry ride after that, mixing the story with the commentators with deft skill and wacky humor.
Charlie Thurston is Beowulf, full of passion and ready for action, but not too smart. He prances about with a black leather kilt wearing an American flag for a cape. Thurston is terrific in the role, full of energy, great comic timing and a solid voice for when he rocks the house. After he kills Grendel, they hold up a Mission Accomplished sign that seems like the perfect touch.
Stephen Berenson is Academic One and Grendel. He handles the nick picky academic with skill and his Grendel is amusing and imposing as he appears with a towering body puppet that makes him seem at least 12 feet tall. It doesn’t matter whoever since Beowulf rips off his arm which results in Grendel dying in front of his mother.
Anne Scurria is Academic number Two and Grendel’s mother. She is very funny as the academic, at times comically stilted and stuffy at other times just hilarious as Grendel’s mother.
Of course we cannot forget the delightful performance by Joe Wilson Jr. as Hrothgar, decked out in a silver sequined jacket and singing up a storm.
This musical is solid and sheer fun and madcap mixture of rocking songs and delightful comedy throughout. The concept is the kind of thing that can either be a totally disaster or terrific. This result is terrific all the way.
The warriors are played by women with orange hair and add so much to the musical with their flair, dancing and finesse. Rachel Warren as one of the warriors nails her singing with style and passion.
The songs here are not the kind you’ll be humming for days after, but they really rock and fit the story really well. The book and lyrics by Jason Craig and the music by Dave Malloy are passionate and rock with raw energy. .
Artistic Director Curt Columbus directs with just the right touch, full of energy and driving passion. The musical direction by Michael Price is right on the mark and flawless. The puppet design by Shoshanna Utchenik is imaginative and fun.