By Karlyn Weaver
HART Theatre’s current production of Crazy Old Man follows Noah, played wonderfully by Nick Hamilton, through his trials and tribulations in building the Ark. In this new musical version of the ancient tale, Noah reacts to frightening visions in his dreams and becomes a desperate man in a desperate situation. With the support of his family and despite the jeering of local townsfolk and singing villains, Noah manages to muster up the courage needed to build the Ark in preparation for the ensuing deluge.
It is obvious from the beginning that an enormous amount of work has gone into this production; the cast mastered not only lines, sometimes complex blocking, and dancing…but also a myriad of songs. Director Paul Roder utilizes a cast of 32 actors to bring local authors Darrell Baker, Tina Arth, and Carl Coughlan's script, loosely based on the traditional Biblical story, to life on stage. At Saturday night’s performance, there were moments where the singing fell out of tune and could be lackluster, which was less than the music deserved.
Outside of “children’s theater” productions, there aren't many shows staged locally where children are included as a large part of the cast. This production, with about half of its cast cast members ranging in age from 5 to 16, does a fantastic job of not only including them but then holding the spotlight on them so they can shine. Especially impressive is the talent shown by Canden Clement (who plays Shem) and Mackenzie Gross (who plays Sarah). They are an absolute delight in their acting abilities as well as their singing.
A few other particularly notable characters from the show include the evil Madame Shamhat, played by Sarah Ominski, who carries an electric energy onto the stage with her presence. She brings along her dancing girls, and their spirit resounds through the townspeople and the theatre. Director Paul Roder also plays Noah’s friend Jehosephat, a loving, gentle father whose rendition of “It's Gonna Rain” at the end of the show leaves the audience joyously clapping along.
Crazy Old Man has a fun set and wonderful music along with a hard working cast. It is well worth a look, especially to show support for a local community theater with the courage to bring original work to the stage!
Crazy Old Man is playing at Hillsboro’s H.A.R.T. Theatre, 185 S.E. Washington Street, through August 3d, with performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday matinees at 2:00. A special benefit matinee is being offered at 2:00 on Saturday, July 19th, with all proceeds being donated to Animal Aid (come at 1:30 that day for dancing by “Pure Portland” belly dancing troupe!).