Review: Shenandoah at Serenbe Playhouse
Shenandoah and Serenbe Playhouse make a beautiful pair.
Serenbe Playhouse has officially kicked off Season X and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Like most Serenbe shows, Shenandoah was their chance to completely reimagine a well known piece of theatre. Like Last season’s Titanic or their previous productions of Carousel and Miss Saigon. Serenbe transports you into the environment of the show.
When you arrive at Serenbe you’re immediately immersed in what Shenandoah is. You find yourself in rural Virginia on a civil war battlefield. You see these sprawling fields, sometimes restful, sometimes chaotic with the sounds of gunfire. Entering these camps filled with horses and soldiers is one of my favorite parts. And feel free to ask the soldiers about themselves, I promise you won’t regret it.
The first act is an hour and a half of straight action and joy. My Jaw dropped when I found out the show was 130 minutes including intermission. With an hour and a half long first act and a thirty minute second act, Shenandoah’s weird formatting doesn’t slow it down.
After a battle takes place, the house lights (At Serenbe, the sun) start to set and the show begins. Before I talk about the show, I’ve got to acknowledge this cast. This cast is just ridiculous and full of the nicest people you’d ever hope to meet. This might be one of the biggest casts I’ve seen at serenbe to date, and they are braving the cold just like we are for this show! Your work is appreciated, and I thank you for it.
On top of the spectacle that is Serenbe, Shenandoah adds Taylor Hicks and Rachel Potter to the mix.
The two add CMT realness to this production. Taylor’s diaphragm is fully expanded in the cold and he’s holding these notes for DAYS! Shenandoah is a tough score to sing onstage now drop the temperature by 40 degrees and try it! Rachel is singing for her entire life and giving acting beats!! Seriously, she’s killing it!
It’s beautiful to me that you can bring in these stars, Taylor Hicks and Rachel Potter but they’re not the center of every scene. People still have their moments to shine. One actress that blew me away was Sophie DeLeo, I’d never seen her perform before but she did that! She was singing at the top of her range in thirty-degree weather which I applaud this entire cast for. But none of her performance was rushed, she hit her beats, gave them time to breathe, then moved on and I loved that.
Special shoutout to all my Anderson Brothers and Taylor for being able to remember all their names cause it’s a lot. Another standout is Caleb Baumann, not only is he one of the youngest actors in Atlanta, I don’t think anyone works as much as he does. He is acting for his life in a role that isn’t necessarily well written. But he took what he was given and is simply nailing it.
Like All of Serenbe’s productions, Shenandoah is breathtaking.
Adam Koch’s set, Bubba Carr’s Choreography, Chris Brent Davis’ music Direction, Brian Clowdus’ Direction all hit the mark. Except for the material itself, Shenandoah stumbles on itself and doesn’t recover well. Its attempts at being a high intensity drama while also being progressive about race in the middle of the civil war falls flat. Serenbe honors the show and arguably raises it above what it is at the core. But the material kills itself with plot lines that don’t carry through and a rushed ending.
The biggest problems lie in its racial subplot that doesn’t make any sense and gets no true resolution.
It’s just doing too much, simply. It reads like a fairytale, which clashes with the rest of the show frankly. Nevertheless, Serenbe trudges through those moments with honesty and makes this fixer upper shine.
Additional design and direction is by Joel Coady (Lighting Designer/ Director of Production), Rob Brooksher (Sound Designer), Emmie Thompson (Costume Designer), Mark Warner (Technical Director), and Jake Guinn (Action Director). Shenandoah stars Caleb Baumann (Gabriel), Daniel Burns (James Anderson), Chase Davidson (Jacob Anderson), Pilot Bunch (Boy Anderson), Sophie DeLeo (Jenny Anderson), Jeremy Gee (John Anderson), Cullen Gray (Nathan Anderson), Jordan Patrick (Sam), Aaron Schilling (Henry Anderson), Jeremy Skidmore (Rev. Byrd). The Ensemble includes: Andrew Andersen, Alden Burroughs, Brady Dunn, Destiny Freeman, Alexandria Joy, Karley Rene, Terrence Smith.
Shenandoah runs now through April 14th. Click here to buy tickets!