“Around the World in 80 Days”
Where: Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave. (Coronado)
When: Tues. – Thurs. at 7:30 p.m., Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sun. at 2 p.m. through Nov. 18
Lamb’s Players latest an enjoyable family feast
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Theater Critic
Boats, trains, hot-air balloons and elephants: all conveyances that carry Phileas Fogg and company as he attempts – on a bet – to go around the world in 80 days, at least in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel.
It’s mostly steamers and trains in the West Coast premiere of Laura Easton’s stage adaptation of “Around the World in 80 Days,” directed by Lamb’s Players Theatre Producing Artistic Director Robert Smyth. Though the production has no balloon (not enough “fly” space, one presumes) it does produce one adorable elephant and a sledge.
The play begins and ends in 1872 London. Lance Arthur Smith portrays the unflappable Fogg, and Bryan Barbarin is his clever servant, Passepartout. Lovely Kaja Amado Dunn portrays Mrs. Aouda, the Bombay widow they rescue from death on her husband’s funeral pyre.
Jon Lorenz plays Detective Inspector Fix from Scotland Yard, who pursues Fogg believing him to be a bank robber. Jesse Abeel, John Rosen, Brian Nickel and Catie Grady portray the other people of the world, in Dover, Calais, Brindisi and so on, eastward around the globe.
That is not a spoiler: viewers who recall the book, Michael Todd’s 1956 Todd-AO film, numerous TV specials or the 1988 La Jolla Playhouse musical all know the story.
After facing numerous vicissitudes of 19th century travel and the machinations of Inspector Fix, Fogg, Passepartout and Mrs. Aouda return to Fogg’s London flat convinced the mission has failed and that Fogg is penniless. Sent to arrange a wedding, Passepartout discovers it is Saturday, not Sunday, meaning that Fogg has succeeded after all.
During the Oct. 17 performance, the action sagged a bit during Act I; however, Act II was lively. The production is truly an ensemble effort, one of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s strengths. Smith and Barbarin could not be better, with Smith having the tougher assignment.
Playing unflappable with a stiff upper-lip automatically puts distance between Fogg and the fallibility that would make him a more sympathetic character. It’s a given, and Smith does what he can. Barbarin’s pidgin French seems made up as he goes along, which only makes him more endearing. So does his amazing cartwheel. Lorenz provides amusing mustache twirling as needed.
Smyth’s production is enlivened by Michael McKeon’s set, Jeanne Barnes Reith’s costumes, Deborah Gilmour Smyth’s sound, McKeon’s properties and, most especially, Kevin O’Donnell’s original music, which presents some songs and dances.
Clocking in at two hours, “Around the World in 80 Days” is a most enjoyable family entertainment. The pre-teen boy seated near us seemed to enjoy the show immensely.