Review: ’35mm: A Musical Exhibition’ at the Public Theater

 

After COVID-19 kicked it to the curb for a few months, the Public Theater of San Antonio’s production of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition is finally up and running. Inspired by the photographs of composer/lyricist Ryan Scott Oliver’s husband, Matthew Murphy, this is a song cycle whose overriding theme is “focus.” It’s kind of deep. To fully appreciate it, one must study up on it before viewing. Do your research here.

As Murphy’s photographs are projected above the stage, Oliver’s songs,  inspired by them, are performed. Many human experiences are explored through these numbers, including grief, surviving abusive relationships, belief in the divine, and some much welcome comedy when a “manny” tends to the most horrible child in the world.

Playing like a contemporary version of Jacques Brel, there’s not a single word spoken in 35mm. It’s all told in song.

And telling everything in song demands a powerful cast of singers and musicians. Certainly the Public delivers here. Andrew Hendley’s six-piece orchestra handles all the musical shifts with aplomb, and the cast — John Berring, Jennifer Hoskins, Chaz Ingraham, Isidro Medina III and Jillian Sainz — well, they just knock it out of the park.

My only criticism is that the photographs should have been projected HUGE on the back wall of the stage to drive the message home.

Rick Sanchez’s direction is enthusiastically abetted by Paige Berry’s choreography. The scenic design by Cordelia Rios is appropriately film-driven, and it made me think about all of the memories we have that are frozen in time. I’m actually breaking the fourth wall here to show how much I hated being photographed.

Welcome back the home team. Go see 35mm: A Musical Exhibition. It’s playing at the Public Theater of San Antonio’s Russell Hill Rodgers Theater, 800 W. Ashby Pl. on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Get your tickets here.

Feature photo: the cast of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition (Alexander Devora).

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