A Korean teen with ADD and identity issues searches for acceptance with the assistance of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken. Although some of the production elements fall very short of spectacular, this musical directed by BD Wong has a skillful, fun cast that inspires good cheer and amusement.
photo credit: Lillie Charles
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Adam (a charismatic and sweet Jason Tam) has an over-imagined activation. At least, that's the term he came up with to describe his daytime flights of fancy when he's off his Ritalin. Oh yes, Adam has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and just this once, his mother (MaryAnn Hu) has allowed him to decide for himself about taking his meds. He opts to skip them on his first day of school, and that's where the confusion, excitement, and fun begins in Michelle Elliott and Danny Larsen's The Yellow Wood.
Adam's tag-along sister Gwen (an unfortunately nervous Yuka Takara in this role) is attending the same school with him for the first time, and her nagging isn't helping his plight: he needs to memorize and recite "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, but he can't focus on anything but fellow yellow (a term to describe their inner sunshine) and ADD alum, Yellow Scooter Girl (Caissie Levy). While struggling to learn the poem by rote, he runs into the Librarian (Paul Clausen) who puts him on a journey: in order to memorize the poem, he must first learn the meaning behind it, and then apply it to his own life and circumstances. Adam then proceeds to swoop, dive, sing and dance his way to the poem's purpose and his own.
The cast and the musical numbers are The Yellow Wood's greatest strengths. Although the ensemble is exceedingly large and the musical does not exploit everyone's talents equally, the cast has wonderful energy and are all generally entertaining. Most notable are Randy Blair (honing his Jack Black) as Casserole, who steals every scene that he's in as Adam's hammy friend, and Jill Abramovitz as the mock-villainess Mrs. Mackleby. One peculiar thing that needs to be addressed is the ethnicity of Adam's family. Although Adam's family is said to be Korean, Takara is Japanese and the disparity in their backgrounds is noticeable.
The production itself is in many aspects, mediocre. The cast and stagehands can be seen from the side of the stage waiting for their cues as a person playing a child's game of double-dutch waits for the moment of action. A prop piece with a variety of uses such as a projection screen resembles a net for white sheets of laundry to ill effect. The "screen" displays slides that are important, but the presence of the projector onstage is a clunky choice. The musicians, also visible, have not quite identified a consistent volume level for the show, and it's noticeable because the music functions as a supporting character to Adam , specifically in the beginning. There are, however, some great numbers such as "Yellow", "Bring Me Cake!", "Tater Tot Casserole", and "Video Gamege", with the first act outdoing the second in songs. The choreography is laughable in some instances, but also wildly animated and effective in others such as in the "Dive In" number from Act One.
The Yellow Wood is inventive and creative, and does a good job of exploring teenage mayhem. The production, however, looks amateurish. With a few tweaks, the visuals can be on their way to matching the enthusiasm from the cast and the writing.
Through October 1st. $20. Tickets: 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111. Acorn Theater
410 West 42nd St.New York, NY 10036