Shining in Misery, a production of Capital City Theatre directed and choreographed by Donald Garverick, is part of World Premier Wisconsin, a festival of local professional shows. It bodes well for other shows in the festival.
The show begins with the Torrance family from The Shining, Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick's enduring tale of a haunted Overlook Hotel, checking in to the apparently deserted hotel. They are to look after it over the winter. There are Jack, the father (Jonathan Wagner); mother Wendy (Madeline Glenn Thomas); son Danny (Benji Heying); and Nanny Annie (Gail Becker).This musical is so over the top it hurts. The top line is that the family take in the burned-out novelist kidnapped in Misery, King's tale (and Rob Reiner-directed film) of a writer kidnapped by his biggest fan. He (Cody Gerszewski) inhabits Room 217, where Nanny Annie keeps him captive so she can get him to write a new novel in his "Misery" series, which he has abandoned in favor of a new idea, one that doesn't include Annie's favorite character. (He also plays the vampire Barlow, with a pasted-on face and lovely prosthetic fingers.)
Further subplots invade the story: Cujo, The Stand, It, The Shawshank Redemption (whose Andy Dufresne, played by Alex Gossard, implausibly digs a tunnel from Shawshank to the Overlook), Carrie, The Green Mile, Children of the Corn, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. There's even a brief musical quote from Jesus Christ Superstar. Some of the characters from the other works haunt the hotel and provide great sources of merriment for those King fans who have read all the books or seen the movies.
The actors handle the multiple casting admirably. Alex Gossard plays the killer clown Pennywise from It as well as Andy Dufresne and Malachi, a child of the corn, and Madeline Glenn Thomas plays Wendy Torrance, Rose the Hat, and a Twin (ghost). Danny is haunted by Tony, who inhabits his middle finger and his voice. Only Jack Torrance and Annie don't have to change characters and costumes (Karen Brown-Larimore) at the drop of a hat. Jason Williams brings a vaudeville panache to Dick Halloran, who comes to rescue Danny, as well as Lloyd the spectral bartender and Flagg, a ubiquitous King villain. (Brown-Larimore's costumes work overtime to distinguish the many additional characters played by the overworked ensemble.)
Farce depends partly on slamming doors. The set is important. In this case, Kevin Gawley has built a multilevel, multi-purpose monster that offers levels and escape hatches, symbolizing the multiple psychic threats posed by the Overlook Hotel. The set contains a banal living room on the first floor, but a basement with an impressive boiler and furnace below that, and a hidden escape below that. Above the living room, the front desk doubles as the Torrances' car and Dick's snowmobile. Windows, an elevator (whose indicator is stuck on L), and the front door conceal Room 217, which slides out when needed.
The songs are spirited, the miking so heavy that the sound doesn't seem to come from the actors. At 300+ seats, this isn't a huge venue. But the overall impression of the show is a tour-de-force of writing, with performers and technical resources more than up to the challenge. It's a load of fun.
Shining in Misery runs through March 5, 2023, at the Playhouse, Overture Center, 201 State St., Madison WI. For tickets and information, call 608-258-4141 or visit Overture.org. For more information about World Premiere Wisconsin, visit worldpremierewisconsin.com. For more information about Capital City Theatre, see capitalcitytheatre.org.
Writer/Actor/Storyteller. Theatre Maker. Husband. Bad Hombre. Cat Taunter.