Quite possibly the most elaborate and entertaining show to hit Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) this year, Around the World in 80 Days takes the audience on an exotic journey with a story told through song.
Set in London in 1899, the precisely punctual and clever Phileas Fogg wagered his life savings on a bet that the world was able to be circumnavigated in 80 days. Between boarding trains and steamships, Fogg and his witty French butler, Passepartout, dodge bandits, stampedes, and the thick of the jungle all while being pursued by the British police.
Will the race against the clock defeat them from a timely journey to win their bet?
The production marks the largest cast to take the stage at ETC in recent years. Seventeen actors filled the intimate stage with the grace and grandeur of a national Broadway show. Familiar faces return from past shows, including powerhouse vocalist Torie Wiggins and her co-star Annie Fitzpatrick from Black Pearl Sings. In a vast contrast to the solemn production of The Whipping Man, lead actor Ken Early delighted the audience with his portrayal of Phileas Fogg, who was filled with optimistic perseverance.
The incredibly interchangeable set design transformed, in a matter of moments, and created vehicles from hot air balloons to trains, ships and elephants. In addition to the actors, puppeteers were incorporated as animals in a variety of scenes.
Of course, it would not be a musical without claiming a favorite song. Torie Wiggins, who played supporting character Aouda, a rescued Indian princess, performed a soulful and inspiring “Strong Wind, Strong Woman” as she intuitively guided a sailboat for a nearly defeated Phileas Fogg.
Around the World in 80 Days was one of Ensemble Theatre’s first commissioned musicals, with its last performance taking place 13 years ago.
There are 13 more scheduled performances, including a show at 7pm today. The final performance is scheduled to take place at 2pm on Sunday, January 5, 2014. Only a very limited number of tickets remain for performances scheduled this week, but there are a number of good tickets remaining for performances the first week of January.
All images provided.