The Red Balloon / Tongue and Groove Theater : 3 of 5

Since I've been lucky enough to perform in a couple Tongue and Groove productions in the past (playing drums for Le Petomane and The Comedy of Errors), it's fun to go to their shows and see familiar faces on stage. The Red Balloon was a definite must-see for me, especially since my pals Jonathan (playing horns in the band), Kirk and Heather (part of the ensemble) were in the show, which was performed in one of the theaters of the Long Center. I'm not really sure what I was expecting, but I was really surprised at the scope of the production from the moment the play began! The stage was filled with complex movement set to original music, telling the story of a lonely but sweet boy and his helium companion entirely without dialogue. The sets made use of beautiful projected backgrounds that were animated in precise time with the action, so the actors could "walk" across town via pantomime, giving everything a living storybook look. The actress who played the main character was incredible, drawing the audience in with her boyish expressions and emotion, and the huge ensemble that played everything from townspeople to classmates were funny and so precise in their movement (I can't begin to imagine the effort it took to rehearse with so many people moving at once!). Without knowing it, I actually witnessed a major mistake during the dramatic ending (the balloon failed to pop), but the cast found a way to make the story work perfectly! My only complaint with the production (and the reason for my smallish rating) is with the music, which simply was too ambitious in my opinion. While the score was wonderful, the orchestration was entirely too complex, with six musicians constantly at work, throwing in every sound imaginable from vibraphone to banjo. I actually found it difficult to concentrate on the action because of the busyness of the music, and hate to admit I even found it entirely too loud. I think a leaner band would have let the actors shine without needing to fight for the audience's attention, but I realize I could be overly sensitive being a musician myself. Of course, I had a fantastic time experiencing The Red Balloon and I'm so impressed with the incredible hard work that went into the show!