Who among us hasn’t read this classic by Charles Dickens about the incredible journey of Pip, beginning as a young orphan and culminating as an adult who goes from rags to riches, then back to “rags” but emerges with a richer moral fiber? His journey through life brings him a broad range of emotional experiences including pure joy, unrequited love, disillusionment, and hope, despite it all.
Great Expectations, a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, is a valiant, but flawed effort. Director Jules Aaron did an excellent job working with the uneven cast that ranged from high school to professional in its acting and singing abilities. That said, movie star handsome Adam Simmons gives a particularly outstanding performance as the prodigal Pip. His acting and beautiful Broadway tenor voice keeps the action moving through a bit sluggish first act. The second act is much tighter and flows more gracefully.
Another outstanding performance is given by Hap Lawrence who plays several characters including the lovable Wemmick who takes Pip under his wing. Lawrence avoided the trap of becoming a caricature which can so easily happen in a period piece. His performance stands as an illustration of how to do a period piece organically without layering on mannerisms or artificially imposed affects. Other professional performances, enhanced by the set and lighting design by Adam Blumenthal, were given by Dan Woren (Magwitch,) Robert Arbogast (Joe,) Ellen Crawford (Miss Havisham,) and a very interesting Brian Maslow who plays Herbert, a young fop responsible for transforming Pip into a gentleman. Annie Abrams has a good legit voice and gives a textured performance as Pip’s life-long love. One of the more outstanding ensemble numbers is “Great Expectations/Everything I Wanted.”
Adapted from the Charles Dickens novel by Margaret Hoorneman, with the music score by Richard Winzeler, lyrics by Steve Lane and book by Brian VanDerWilt and Steve Lozier, the ensemble was beautifully costumed by Shon LeBlanc. The small band consisting of Berkeley Everett, Richard Winzeler and Jamie Strowbridge provided a lot of music for a small group but occasionally overpowered the vocals.
Great Expectations was originally developed at the Hudson Backstage Theatre where it enjoyed a good run and favorable reviews. Perhaps after it settles into its new space, it will reach that level once again.
Great Expectations runs through August 31, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Sunday: 2:00 p.m. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90025. Reservations: 310.477.2055