Natalie Portman The Musical has arrived at the Hollywood Fringe Festival following last year’s successful run (and return engagement) at Chromolume Theatre At The Attic in what appears to be a considerably stripped-down-for-The-Fringe production.
Both Hollywood-y and Fringe-y in nature, Natalie Portman The Musical’s arrival at the Hollywood Fringe makes perfect sense, albeit in reverse order to most shows which start out at the Fringe before becoming fully-staged productions.
Book writer Brittany Garms has structured Natalie Portman The Musical as a series of sketches, some of them fact-based, others entirely imagined, all of them centering on the Oscar-winning star of Black Swan (and numerous more forgettable features).
A opening sequence which has “chorus member” Garrett Stivers “conducting” an invisible orchestra only to suffer a hand injury which sends him into the audience for aid and comfort seems to have little to do with what follows, not a particularly auspicious portent of things to come.
Fortunately, a dry, droll Malik Aziz arrives to narrate Natalie Portman The Musical in the guise of Samuel L. Jackson, storybook in hand and tales to tell.
From Natalie’s discovery at the age of ten in a New York pizza parlor to her Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, Natalie Portman The Musical purports to tell it all, albeit tongue-in-cheek.
Skits are hit-and-miss, though the best of them (a Sesame Street sequence in particular) are undeniably funny, and no one will likely complain when “chorus member” Stivers shows up in blond wig as none other than Jodie Foster.
Still, amusing as Natalie Portman The Musical can be, its latest incarnation has the air of something thrown together at the last minute.
There are indeed pluses. Tara Pitt is perfectly marvelous as Natalie, both child and adult, and Gwendolyn Bueker sparkles in various cameos including a far more experienced actress frustrated by Natalie’s overnight success. Stivens is a charmer, and Aziz, too, couldn’t be better as a wry Samuel L.
Adarius Smith, on the other hand, seemed more often than not to be winging it, and Garms, who also directs, could do with less deadpan in her throw-away delivery (though her hilarious Kristen Stewart is spot-on). Fringe-y is fine, but with Natalie Portman The Musical’s track record, I expected something more polished.
Natalie Portman The Musical’s consistent high points are its songs, music by Pitt and Frankie Marrone and lyrics by Garms, with Outstanding Lead Actress Scenie winner Pitt scoring repeatedly with her always wonderful vocals. Kristina Marquez’s choreography is pretty nifty as well.
This reviewer can only imagine how Natalie Portman The Musical came across as a fully-staged production at the Attic. I’m told the scenic design was particularly ingenious. At the Fringe, there is a competent lighting design by Brianna Garms, and costumes and wigs are just right. Still, I can’t recall seeing a barer stage than the one on which Natalie Portman The Musical is currently being performed, and the big black upstage screen couldn’t be less appealing to the eye.
Natalie Portman The Musical is amusing and entertaining enough as a Fringe Festival entry, but I expected more from a show with this one’s track record.
The Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.
June 17, 2013