Throw the Goat Down the Well
Despite the game efforts of the talented cast and crew, The Girl, the Grouch and the Goat is just plain baa-aa-ad
Satan’s pissed at Mark Hollman. How else to explain The Girl, the Grouch and the Goat, receiving its first professional production at Anaheim’s Chance Theater?
Hollman is half of the Tony Award-winning team that created Urinetown the Musical, a viciously clever deconstruction of musical theater that, based on the title alone, really had no business ever playing on Broadway. Hence, the suspicion that Hallman sold his soul to Old Nick in return for the incredible popularity of, arguably, the greatest musical of the first decade of the 21st Century.
But the Great Deceiver always gets his way, and he’s tossed one hell of a fly into the ointment of Hollman’s career with The Girl, the Grouch and the Goat. Even without clicking onto synonyms.net, it’s easy to rattle off a list of appropriate adjectives: insipid, prosaic, slight, irrelevant, dumb.
GGG is supposed to be a riff on ancient Greek theater, so it’s fitting that irony factors into any explanation of its deficiencies. For as meager as this show is, it’s got nothing to do with Hollman or the people at the Chance. Hollman’s lyrics, while not quite up to Urinetown standards, are inventive and funny, and his compact, jazz-inflected score keeps the interest level up on all but a couple of the most fawning ballads.
And the talent is top-notch. Director Oanh Nguyen and his talented ensemble of eight are all in good form. They hit the right notes; embellish with well-timed ad-libs; and look, sing and dance great.
So what’s the problem? It’s the infernal book—the actual story of the play told through spoken lines, courtesy of Jack Helbig, who writes about theater for the Chicago Reader.
If this were children’s theater, a story about a bunch of Greek villagers chasing a goat around a well owned by a miserly grouch hell-bent on keeping his beautiful daughter isolated from potential suitors with dicks would still be kind of hokey. But at least its lack of gravitas, insight, or even halfway-interesting conversation could be forgiven, since the typical children’s-theater show registers about as high on the intellectual scale as Glenn Beck.
But a story this terribly thin, overbearingly redundant and simplistically schmaltzy has about as much business being on a professional stage as . . . well, any of the other countless undernourished pieces of crap that have been green-lighted for one reason or another.
Obligatory plot synopsis: ancient Greece, humble village, long drought. One well in town, owned by a persnickety grouch who has a hot daughter and is overprotective of her. She falls for handsome young man. Grouch locks her in house. Aphrodite the Greek goddess wants to see them bone, comes to Earth, convinces town widow that a feast is needed in her honor. Widow wants to know what to serve. Aphrodite suggests goat. Widow sends two slaves to get goat. Meanwhile, grouch has fallen asleep near his well, dreaming about his own overprotective mother. He falls in well. Slaves chase goat to well. Goat drives them into well. Somehow, everyone but beautiful daughter falls into well. Lovers miraculously turn into birds, then come back as humans. Happy ever after.
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What’s most amazing isn’t the white-knuckle intensity of this story; it’s that even something so lame has such huge holes. For instance, it’s not clear how the grouch falls into his well, why Aphrodite cares so deeply about the union of two young lovers, and why in the fuck the goat is so damn important.
This isn’t to suggest that some—in fact, most of the people in attendance at the matinee these eyes witnessed—won’t enjoy this show. It is amusing at times, and the cast is so enthusiastically game and talented that, during the musical numbers at least, it’s easy to overlook that they’re in the service of an undercooked tale. (Every cast member oozes talent, but two deserve special mention: Sarah Pierce, a saucy, baton-wielding preteen, and David LaMarr, a slave/narrator who shouldn’t waste any more time in Orange County theater unless he’s getting paid big bucks.)
Upon exiting the theater, I heard a few people mentioning how much they enjoyed the show, how funny it was, etc. That’s cool, I guess. But there are also people who really enjoy Peeps and Dane Cook. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have a right to retch when the occasion merits a good old-fashioned purging.
The Girl, the Grouch and the Goat at Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. Through May 24. $35-$45.