Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Rhode Island Stage Ensemble’s current show is “Around the World in 80 Days” which is based on Jules Verne’s 1873 novel and this version is written by Mark Brown. In 1872, on a gentleman’s wager, Phileas Fogg and his French manservant, Passepartout attempt to traverse the globe in just eighty days. Fogg is an adventurer who bets he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days or less. The two of them encounter strange new countries, colorful and at times hostile characters, and even love.
But with bandits, a damsel in distress and transportation problems around every corner, will he be able to make the deadline? Danger, romance and comic surprises abound as this adventure is brought to the stage with five talented performers playing 34 different characters from around the world. They encounter many adventures including an elephant, an opium den, and a typhoon at sea as well as crossing paths with a dogged detective, scalawags, Apaches, finding romance and traveling cross country by train. Director Gordon Dell weaves this tale into a comic romp that audiences can savor and enjoy. He supplies his 5 performers with brilliant shtick that keep the audience laughing out loud all night long.
Gordon’s blocking is topnotch and brings out the best in his five talented performers and gives each of them their moment to shine in their roles.. He has them leave the stage and enter again as a new character in a split second. The miming of props is excellently done and the transformation from ship to train to elephant and many other locations is well done, too. Brad Kirton commands the stage as this proper English adventurer Phileas Fogg. He is aloof as well as prim and proper as he continues to try to win the wager. His closing scene has to be seen to be believed as he finally lets his hair down ala Scrooge after his transformation. Chris Pelletier plays the loyal French servant, Passepartout. He has many comic moments when he is mugged in a pagoda for wearing shoes, getting drunk and drugged in an opium den and outwitting Apaches on the train ride. Ashley Moore plays the damsel in distress, Auoda who is rescued by Fogg and develops a crush on him. Will it be unrequited love or will love blossom between the prim and proper gentleman and the young maiden he rescues? One of the biggest scene stealers is Candice Sampson as Detective Fix who thinks Phileas is a bank robber and pursues him on his travels while hiding behind a potted plant ala Arte Johnson from “Laugh-In.” She speaks to the Frenchman constantly while hiding out in her pursuit and her facial expressions are fabulous. Candice plays many other characters and changes her demeanor in a split second which each role she tackles. Rounding out the cast is the comic Kevin Broccoli who goes from British, to Southern accent perfectly and plays each of his many roles marvelously. So for an evening of hilarity, be sure to catch “Around the World in 80 Days” at RISE in Woonsocket. Tell them Tony sent you.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (16 to 26 February)
RISE, 142 Clinton St, Woonsocket, RI
1(401)441-5011 or www.ristage.org