in collaboration with
KIKKI & GRAND-PA & BABY
Written and Directed by Yutaka Okada
January 5 – 26, 2013
American Theater of Actors Chernuchin Theater, 314 W. 54th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), NYC
Music by Shizuka Iwabuchi
Lyrics by Yutaka Okada
Additional Lyrics by Julie Holtzman and Kuni Mikami
Musical Direction by Kuni Mikami
Stage Manager Fulton C. Hodges
Lighting Design by James Carter
Karin Crighton, Ryan Neal Green, Alex Kafarakis, Geoff Lee
Chevy Kaeo Martinez, Vicki Oceguera, Jalah Williams
Chiho Araki as the Narrator
Tomoko Hayakawa featured singer
Mihoto Goto – accordion
Evan Schnoll – percussion
Kuni Mikami – piano
Attending KIKKI & GRAND-PA & BABY was among the oddest experiences I have had at the theater recently. Ostensibly a musical tale about overcoming adversity, as presented, the narrative line is blurry at best and the show itself suffers from the weakest links in the cast, crew and production team. The production was puzzling right from the start.
I imagine that some of the story is lost in translation. The basic plot is that a 16 year old named Kikki (Jalah Williams) encounters an older man while fleeing assailants who she comes to call Grand-Pa (Geoff Lee), and the destitute and nearly homeless Grand-Pa gives her shelter. They find an abandoned baby and Kikki decides to keep it and raise it. The three become an unlikely family. Along their journey, they encounter other down-on-their-luck citizens (Vicki Oceguera, Karin Crighton, Chevy Kaeo Martinez), a government official, Giant (Alexander Kafarakis) trying to evict them from their riverside shanty, and a character called Non Cry (Ryan Neal Green) who wants to stage a festival. Thrown in the mix are jealousy, violence and oppression, along with the group’s desire to get out there and put on a show in spite of Giant and the threats of bulldozers and destruction.
Both Kikki and Giant appear to function in the drama as characters who experience growth and change, but the characters are too one-dimensional to achieve this impact on the play or the audience. Kikki should be falling into the role of mother, but she is also a jealous and hot-tempered teen who has fantasy dreams about both marrying and beating 69-year-old Grand-Pa. She seems to experience an epiphany at the end, but not very credibly. Giant posts eviction notices, shows up drunk in the middle of the night, and so on, but then returns to encourage Kikki and company to leave and set everything on fire, partly because he has been called lazy for not evicting them. He too in the end appears to be switching sides, but there is no indication of why.
If the story is lacking, so are some of the performances. It did not help that there were apparently technical difficulties or just missed cues that resulted in lights going out, spots projected on the crew moving set pieces instead of the performers singing and acting and so on. The strongest parts of KIKKI & GRAND-PA & BABY were the music and some of the musical numbers. As a group, there was some enthusiastic ensemble work in this area, particularly in the second act. The singers can sing, and the musicians can play their instruments, and given the chance to do so, the cast went out on this high note, putting on their best stage smiles and ending the evening with faces that bespoke professionalism even if they did not get to show us their A game.
- Kessa De Santis -