March 16, 1996
Green Bay Press Gazette
Filled with songs, hope and animals, the imaginative musical Noah opened Friday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It’s the fifth such feat inspired by composer, director and producer Wanda Sieber.
The show is best when it’s big. When it gets really big – as when 46 animals growl, howl, cluck, gobble, buzz, moo, meow, bark and let loose any manner of animally noise on Noah’s ark that’s “as big as the Superdome” – it’s a pure delight.
Noah also is big in the Mardi Gras revelry that opens the show. And a scene when Noah warns a black-leathery live-for-today crowd that trouble is coming. And when The Flood arrives.
The latter, with billowing sheets of blue fabric depicting rising waters from rains, becomes highly effective as The Flood seems to sweep over the audience.
Sieber’s songs cover the waterfront in style, from a rock opera feel in Lies! To a touch of Texas swing as Noah and his sons build the ark in the comical Ark Improvement to romantic-tender in De Notre Amour to rap, Caribbean, churchly and more elsewhere.
Sieber has a knack for creating songs that challenge a church-based cast without going over its head. Her music goes down easy, though some songs are heavy on verses as she covers Scriptural details.
The show is sung more than acted, and performances are fine if you keep in mind most of the folks are performing from the heart.
Husband and wife Bruce and Lynna Burton team nicely as the anxious Noah and his encouraging wife.
The earnest song Zion is a handsome setting for Noah’s sons and their wives, played by James Marker, Becky Panzenhagen, Bob Olsen, Rita Olsen, Paul DeSpirito and Michelle A. Christ.
The luster of Panzenhagen and DeSpirito’s singing stands out.
Also strong are Fred Hoida in various roles and Forrest Charles Zink, heard on tape as God the Father.
Staging and effects run hot and cold (because of budget and space limitations). Still, cleverness covers a lot, as with all the animal costumes, a set piece with animals with eyes that glow, creation of The Flood and a rainbow and a lighting effect accompanying the uplifting The Circle of His Love.
Choreography by Shirley Van is a plus, especially in balletic effects.
Faith is a large, joyous number that brightens the proceedings twice. But taking the cake are two major numbers – Animals Abound, with the entourage arriving to a slinky rhythm, and We’re Getting Along, with the whole menagerie setting off a comical cacophony of musical merriment.