Jessica Walker, Jacob Hall, & Devin Armbruster in The (Other) Boy Who Lived.
Photo courtesy of The Alley Theater
The (Other) Boy Who Lived
Music and Lyrics by J. Gregory Sanders
Book by J. Gregory Sanders, Scott Davis and Ensemble
Directed by J. Gregory Sanders
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
The Harry Potter series is ripe for parody, so it come as no surprise that The Alley Theater would step up to the task of producing an original Potterverse pastiche. Such topsy-turvy, popular culture navel-gazing has long been a crucial part of the company’s identity.
The (Other) Boy Who Lived is a bit of a mash-up of Potter and James Bond. Like the upcoming official, J.K. Rowling-penned, stage play, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, it is set several years after the events of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, except the focus has shifted to Neville Longbottom (Jacob Hall), who is now the top agent for a Ministry of Magic secret service run by Harry Potter; Agent 9 3/4.
Antagonists include Draco Malfoy (Spencer Korcz), Bellatrix LeStrange (Kari Scharfenberger), and the specter of another return from the dead for Voldemort, all of which is pretty directly lifted from the Potter narrative. But I like the choice of Neville as the hero, which follows from his growth as a character in the original stories, and the Bondian profile seems inspired, at least in part, by the actor who portrayed him in the films. Matthew Lewis’ transformation over the years from pudgy loser to sleek and sexy underwear model positions him as a future casting option for 007.
Unfortunately, the good ideas are cast adrift by the execution. The script is clever enough; making wand expert Olivander into a version of “Q”, for example, but a lackadaisical pace and largely indifferent acting are nearly insurmountable obstacles for such a story. It is also a musical, and the songs by J. Gregory Sanders aren’t at all bad, and the book, by Sanders, Scott Davis and the ensemble, is filled with good jokes. But all of it is undermined by dropped cues, lethargic performances, and an inability to better merge the live stage with prerecorded music tracks (actually fairly well arranged and performed by Sanders himself) and video segments. Timing is especially crucial when your scene partner is prerecorded and on a screen.
Jacob Hall is well-cast as Neville, and Holly Wolack is in good voice as Minerva McGonagal, and they are examples of performances that seem on the right track, but sorely underdeveloped. The same might be said of Spencer Korcz, who has acquitted himself well in previous work. And it should be noted that Stephan Koller, graduating from a minor role to Cornelius Fudge after another actor had to deal with a family medical emergency, managed being thrown into the deep end of the pool with confidence.
But there was no punch to the staging and precious little snap in the delivery. Several times punch lines were swallowed or left to drift off, and almost nobody knew how to sell the songs (with the exception of Ms. Wolack), which were often the best part of the script. The limitations of the lighting and sound equipment didn’t help matters. A story from the Potterverse must, of course, have magic on all levels, and this imaginative yet disappointing effort fails to conjure any spells.
The (Other) Boy Who Lived
January 7 – 30, 2016
Tickets $15 ($12 for students / seniors / military)
The Alley Theater
615 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.