Review: The Ark (Rochester Fringe, online)

An evocative musical rendering of the story of Noah’s Ark, The Ark was filmed at the Rochester Fringe in 2019 and was presented in digital format at this year’s festival. Although it boasts a fine score and some powerful casting, I found the sound balance did not quite do justice to what looks like a powerful and uplifting show.

Much of the music is sung by the ensemble in an in-the-round staging, in a set which suggests both a land of famine and a perilous voyage with a minimum of props and creative lighting. It has both religious reverance and high production values as far as visuals go: however, I hoped that the animals would be more than a footnote given the importance of the voyage to repopulate each of the creatures of the world.

I continue to applaud the versatility of shows shich can now be seen outside of their original setting, and would happily watch this musical again if restaged. However, care needs to be taken that shows are given their best chance to shine in a digital medium, and The Ark‘s lyrics are often lost because of those sound issues.

Promotional image for The Ark

Rare Bird’s Ode presents The Ark, by EA Messenger and Jim Schmitt. Schmitt plays Noah very effectively, and is ably supported by a company which includes Kelsey MacKellar as Mrs Noah, with Sasha Williams as Ziezi and Sophia Sherin as Shebee, their young granddaughters. Lily Aman’s ethereal movement brings her Rare Bird to life as it takes root aboard the Ark.

Debbie Schmitt is the artistic director of the company, with Cheryl Johnson as choreographer. Their work allows the piece to develop throughout the story of a voyage which means much to the people and their charges on board as they “make it happen” and weather the catastrophic storm.

The Ark streamed as part of Rochester Fringe in September 2021.

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