The 2019 Gold Victory cast strikes a pose at the end of opening number, “Welcome to Mayfield.” Photo by Kat Bell
Judge 1 is a New York City based choreographer, director, and teacher. Judge 1 is also a member of the Actors Equity Association.
I want to start by congratulating the entire company of “Made in Mayfield or The Milk Man Cometh.” Gold Side, you are clearly at another level of professionalism, and I am in awe of all your diverse talents. Honestly, this show was a picture-perfect example of how to execute modern musical theater.
When I think about your accomplishments on that stage, what is strikingly clear is how fully you thought out every inch of your production. The heights of musicianship, acting and vocal prowess, and level of design you demonstrated up there made one thing clear: Gold, you are sooooo RIGHT NOW and more than up to the high standards of work being done in today’s live commercial theater industry.
From curtain up, the setup of this story is one we think we already know: An unsuspecting, broken family moves into a new town to start fresh. . . but something is very different here. Wisely, we are instantly transported into your world by a delightfully charming barbershop quartet, subsequently appearing throughout the story as our melodic guides, or even our dissonant, foreshadow-y messengers.
Framing your story with this quartet device was absolutely brilliant and certainly captured our imaginations, right out of the gate. As an audience member, we immediately felt at home and, well, maybe a little uneasy. You see, this town eerily places you somewhere between “The Music Man,” “Pleasantville,” and that screwy family from “Hereditary.” All we know for sure, just like our heroine, is that she is no Zaneeta, there is no such thing as a Tommy Djilas and none of us quite trust this peppy Harold Hill-esque milk man.
The real success of “Made in Mayfield” comes to us by way of inspired direction and stunning choreography. With staging so seamless, pictures so clean, and choreography so fresh, you were able to truly excite the crowd and then one second later hurl them down your rabbit hole of a world.
To the choreography team, you absolutely blew me away with your courage in delivering tight numbers that not only fed the truth of the story, but also expertly transitioned us wherever we needed to go emotionally. Your choreography felt researched and workshopped and organic and ambitious and delicious, and I am just so energized by your work.
On that note, I must applaud the directors for your expertise in blending the scene work seamlessly with the choreography. It was so impressive to watch, and you should be very proud of the flow of your work as a whole. I also sincerely thank you for being so creative in your use of the entire theater space, including the house. This can be a risky choice. Often times there is a masturbatory abuse of the actual theater as a playing space. BUT YOU DID IT RIGHT. It was completely affective in making the audience feel close to the characters, a part of the action, and just another member of the town. Thank you all for your creativity in guiding us through this story.
To the phenomenal cast, I praise your diverse talents and contribution to the wholeness of this musical. Thank you for taking the material and building these living breathing four-dimensional characters. I always stress to actors the importance of engaging as a part of the whole picture whenever you are on stage. This cast accomplished this task all across the board, as one cohesive ensemble. Technically, your projection and enunciation reigned supreme. We did not miss a syllable of your performances. In most cases, all an audience really wants is to be able to hear the story, and your delivery is the kind of clean performance that often times only Broadway stages achieve. BRAVA!
Now a huge round of applause for the technical design elements of this production. To hair and makeup team, your color choices and styles were fantastic, and I enjoyed the way you differentiated the family from the rest of the town.
I think, if anything, I would tell you to think bigger, even more exaggerated. With a musical so fantastical, don’t be afraid to break the rules a little. One wild brainstorming idea: What if you were to think about how everyone’s style could evolve through the show? Could the family, after they drink the milk, begin to morph into the style of the town? Then if everyone in the town wears big bright colors and makeup and hair, when we see mom and dad in the 2nd half, they can also suddenly look and act very different. Remember, you also paint the direction of the piece.
This also comes into play with the set design. One notable achievement was that you built this magical pastel town and juxtaposed it with the dark home of the family. Scenically, that dramatic contrast was solid. The only thing I want you to consider is how to work with your crew and company to transition the show with purpose. These days, there is no such thing as a blackout, even when the lights go out. Every scene change must aid the story. You achieved this many times, but make sure you are able to deliver this flow throughout the entire production, every time.
I want to talk directly to the fabulous writers, composers and lyricists of this piece. I love the world you built, so universally relatable and accessible. This family is falling apart and needs something special to find themselves and fix their relationships. We sense this pain in the Mrs. Owens dialogue/music, with her touching delivery written so very clear.
Even the extreme difference you present in the father character helps to highlight this troubled situation. The Owens kids are struggling too. One child is looking to fit in and the other one is sorta looking to figure it all out. I think we can all identify with these struggles and possibly even the desire for a quick fix, a magic elixir. In other words, you have constructed a relevant and captivating story. Now, I have one question: What happens in Act 2?
I think you may have presented the first act of “Made in Mayfield or The Milk Man Cometh,” and I’m personally very interested in how this story RESOLVES. The main purpose of theater is to illuminate truths of life by placing relatable characters in familiar (all be it fantastical) situations. But remember, the audience brain is looking for all the feels, so even the slickest of shows must communicate a message.
Ask yourselves all the thorough questions. Our lactose intolerant hero drinks the milk, so what should the audience be left feeling in this moment? Know that we grow so close to every member of this family. With that knowledge, what is the resolution of their journey and what do they learn? Even if it does end as a horror (WHICH I LOOOOOVE!), there still must be a platitude on the horizon.
As I see it, this family can put in effort or fall victim to this false reality. They can choose to eat the snake’s apple or not, and I was honestly left yearning to know how this family finally dealt with their real issues. Perhaps this show is about human connection in the era of a medicated society. . . I know, perhaps too deep. But never underestimate your job as creators to take those lofty risks, even when comedy is involved. I encourage you to keep building on this project and to believe in how much more you can communicate and discover. KEEP DIGGING!
Once again, to the librettists, lyricists, composers, directors, choreographers, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, designers, technicians, crew and company of “Made in Mayfield or The Milkman Cometh,” I congratulate you. GO GOLD!
Judge 2 is a director and award-winning choreographer whose work has appeared in theatres across the country and on screen.
First of all, well done. I know that it isn’t an easy task to create an entire show. Your passion, commitment, talent and creativity were on full blast. Thank you for sharing all of it.
Your opening number starting with the quartet was excellent. They sounded incredible and the vocal arrangement was fantastic. Kudos to the vocal coaches who help to share it. It was a great lead into “Welcome to Mayfield.” Choreographers, you should be so proud of that number. It was well thought out, inventive and fun. The build with music and movement was truly on a professional level. The performers really connected to it, and that is a true sign of how good a number is.
I really enjoyed the choice of a dark comedy. The idea that milk was a drug was cool.
Directors, well done with helping to shape the piece. Your understanding of the style/genre was apparent. The actors were very confident in the tone of the show and that has a lot to do with you.
Lighting designer, well done helping to focus where the eyes should go. There were a few moments I felt could have been a bit more thought out, but I do recognize that both shows were working off the same lighting plot.
The versatility of the set was very good. I did find the painting of the set was flat. It needed depth and texture.
I felt at times the music was very repetitive. At times it sat in one place, not allowing for growth.
Principal actors, you really did a great job. You all had depth and nuance. Ensemble for the win. You guys nailed it.
Congratulations to you all. It was a pleasure to be in the audience for your show.
As an introduction, you should know that musical theatre has been my life. As a professional actor/singer/dancer/director/choreographer/lyricist and playwright, I have worked on Broadway, Off-Broadway, national and international tours, having been involved with some of the greatest musical theatre creators and performers in the business. I speak from a great deal of experience. Hopefully, you will find my following observations to be constructive and shared with the best of intentions.
SCRIPT. First, I must congratulate you on the use of a quartet at the start of the show to establish the tone and style. To reuse them throughout the performance is a recognized musical theatre convention and very smart on your part. Extra points for their barbershop quartet sound. I interpreted the cleverly titled “Four Quarts” as a tilt of the straw boater to the classic musical “The Music Man,” which was also referenced in your lead character “The Milk Man.” Good work. The script itself was clever and consistently provided the audience with clearly defined characters and an easily followed plot. I also enjoyed the occasional play on words using dairy references. It reminded me of an ad campaign you’re too young to remember: “Carnation Milk. From Contented Cows”. All-in-all, an entertaining and creative script, score and lyrics.
DIRECTION. The team of directors made some very good choices, beginning with the casting. I appreciated the vision of the Milkman standing on the statue in the town square like Harold Hill preparing to do a song for the townspeople. Harold Hill’s name is humorously referenced in the program where the name of each townsperson is alliterated.
In regards to the ensemble, I will repeat a note I gave to the Purples: stop pulling focus when you are background. There was entirely too much pointing and waving and gesturing that divided the audience’s attention. Support the scene by being in the moment emotionally and spiritually without telegraphing to the audience that you are acting by doing a mime show. A director’s job is to design the stage picture and direct all actors in the scene to help provide focus to the most important spot on stage. Meaningless gesturing is distracting. A great director once told his ensemble: “Don’t just do something. Stand there!”
CHOREOGRAPHY. Highly entertaining, high energy and appropriate vocabulary of movement for the piece. I especially enjoyed the section “borrowed” from the Waiters’ Galop in “Hello, Dolly!” with dancers carrying (I believe) trays of ice cream. Nice dynamics using buildups culminating in ensemble movement. “Out of chaos, order” can be very effective, and it was. The waitresses on skates were a great gimmick and retro reference.
ACTING. High quality throughout. Special nod to Mr. Belli for his despotic milkman, a performance that was appropriately charming, threatening and creepily smarmy when needed. A very solid performance in a role around which the entire story revolved. I also enjoyed Benjamin Cain who went from straight-laced, uptight dad to a loose-limbed, Looney Tune on steroids. Great fun.
SINGING. Good quality all around, starting with the quartet of men. Barbershop harmony is not a familiar style to a younger generation, but these four young men did an excellent job. I was also impressed by Ms. Sandlin’s contemporary sound as well as Ms. Chatman as Betty Buttercream.
DANCING. Great ensemble work. The performance level was exciting, energized and achieved high marks in uniformity. And kudos to those young ladies in skates who didn’t fly off into the pit!
ORCHESTRA. Very uniform sound. And I only noticed one ragged ending. But ultimately this production was well coordinated with orchestra and vocals.
COSTUMES. Smart use of pastels for all the “homogenous” townspeople and the quartet, which set them apart from the Owens family and coordinated very well with the sets.
SETS. Also excellent, especially the ice cream shop! The lavender worked well in the shop and the design motif in darker purple broke up the expanse helping to provide some depth. The chalkboards were a nice touch as well. The family’s new home would have benefitted from some texturing on the walls. Flat-painted flats are boring. The “fountain” in the town square was another nice homage to “The Music Man,” and it would have been the ultimate climax to the show if it had spouted milk for the finale.
HAIR AND MAKEUP. Nothing here offended or seemed too out-of-place. A couple of men in the ensemble had hair too long, but otherwise appropriately apple-cheeked mindless robots.
PROPS. I especially appreciated the glass milk bottles from another era and the ice cream sundae. All props appeared to fit the tone and style.
LIGHTS. I gave this same note to Purple: there was a severe, dark area center stage. Comedy requires light. To future lighting designers, start by lighting center stage, then use the rest of your instruments to build out.
RUNNING. Very nice to see attempts to choreograph the scene changes. That device sort of dissolved later in the performance, but, for the most part, the scene shifts were smooth and non-jarring.
OVERALL EFFECT. I was very impressed with this production on all levels. Each and every cast member contributed greatly to its success, and I applaud you. I would have applauded longer, but we were whisked away to fill out the rating sheets. Congratulations to all. A win well-deserved. I was honored to be a part of this Centennial Celebration and I thank you (and the University) for the opportunity to share this special event with you.