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Review: Dr. Horrible is anything but—Web attraction plays at Black Box

April 3rd, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Jess Allen

LOGAN—When Dr. Horrible went to college, things changed.

The anticipation in the air was thicker than pancake batter as every seat was filled to maximum capacity in the small Black Box Theatre in USU’s Chase Fine Arts Center.

I first fell in love with “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” over two years ago when I stumbled upon it online, not knowing it was solidifying my admiration for the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse.

Who would have thought that Joss Whedon’s small-budget webisode, done in three 15-minute parts, would launch a cult following, ultimately leading to USU’s Theatre Student Association performing it Monday through Wednesday to sold-out crowds?

I am not going to lie to you, dear readers. I am a nerd, and on Wednesday night, as I sat there giddily waiting for the 45-minute play to start, I was not even a cleverly disguised one. (Though the three fans on the front row, decked out like some of the Dr. Horrible characters, clearly had rest of the audience beat. I wondered if they were part of the cast.)

As I took my seat and flirted with the cute guy behind me, I had to remind myself that I had to look at the TSA’s production of Dr. Horrible as their view of it, and not to compare it scene by scene to the original that stared Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion during the 2008 writer’s strike.

The theatre students did a good job, with the actors taking different approaches to the characters and lines, making minor changes to the script, and capturing the true quirks that the show is known for. With that being said, I didn’t necessarily like all the changes or choices they made.

Michael Haycock, playing Dr. Horrible himself, brought a very different feel to the character than I was expecting as he made him endearingly more awkward and geeky. You could not help but love the guy.

But I had a couple issues with him. One of the problems was he came across more like a wannabe villain rather than a struggling and bullied underdog in the world of superheroes (or supervillains, in this case). Instead of bitter and sarcastic, he seemed more hapless and in need of a group hug (though this portrayal worked).

Another was his interest in the lovely do-gooder Penny; it seemed seriously underplayed to the extent that you could understand why Penny did not even notice her laundry buddy completely in love with her.

M. Belen Moyano, who played Penny, had the best voice in the musical and gave a very different twist on the character, balancing Haycock’s Dr. Horrible well.

Keeping the optimism of helping those in need, Moyano’s Penny was much more serious, grounded and more intelligent, while remaining just as likeable and the polar opposite to her secret admirer and chauvinistic boyfriend.

This leads me to Michael Hoggard’s Captain Hammer, a hero you really, really love to hate almost as much as Dr. Horrible hates him.

Hoggard did a great job taking the self-absorbed character to a whole new level as he rarely looked at whomever he was talking to, continually made every line a boast that would put the most limelight-stealing athletes to shame, and walked around like a peacock on vibrant display.

Captain Hammer brought dim-witted and squeamishly awkward to new heights; however, the scene with him reading from a teleprompter bugged the hell out of me. It did not make complete sense as to why a teleprompter was used when in the original it was cue cards (if it was to try and make the scene more humorous, it did not work).

Other minor changes seemed unnecessary, like one of the characters randomly yelling an obscenity during Captain Hammer’s speech when he mentions dating Penny. Again, not that funny though it seemed like they wanted us to think so.

But there were some brilliantly done scenes and performances within the play that resulted in many laughs and enjoyment from the audience, particularly the soup kitchen scene (arguably the best in the play).

Much of the supporting cast stood out and held their own with their performances, most noticeably Shaun Anderson as Dr. Horrible’s best friend Moist, and the excellent trio of Cowboys who delivered the news from most evil villain of all, Dark Horse (the Thoroughbred of Sin), with song and dance.

The TSA’s Dr. Horrible was well produced and gave a younger, more youthful approach that allowed them to put their own stamp on the Web sensation’s play adaptation. I would say three out of four stars. I liked it well enough that I would go for another showing with reluctant friends in tow, if they do this again next year.

Now if the TSA decide to do a play about Superman, they can cast the cute guy who sat behind me. He took off faster than a speeding bullet before I could ask him his name and give him my number.


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