Make us your home page
Instagram

'Around the World in 80 Days' brings big adventure to American Stage

A cast of five plays more than 30 characters in American Stage’s production of Around the World in 80 Days. 

American Stage

A cast of five plays more than 30 characters in American Stage’s production of Around the World in 80 Days. 

It's daunting enough getting in the head of one character, figuring out his ticks, motivations, missions. Now how about two? Three? A dozen? In the same play?

It's the challenge for the actors in Around the World in 80 Days, which opens at American Stage Theatre on Friday. In Mark Brown's adaptation of the famous adventure story by Jules Verne, five actors play more than 30 characters, switching with rapid fire between roles in the same scenes.

"You've kind of got to work out the mechanics of it," said Matthew McGee, in the cast with Brad DePlanche, Jonelle Marie Meyer, Brian Webb Russell and Brian Shea. "How are you going to get everything on, where are you going to stand? ... I'm wondering if this is the fastest I've ever seen it done in a show."

Around the World, a funny, family-friendly selection the theater is banking on for the start of spring, tells the story of Phileas Fogg in 1872 London. He takes a bet to travel the globe in 80 days. It's risky and dangerous, plus he's followed by a detective who thinks he's a robber.

Jerid Fox designed the elaborate set with an 8-foot round screen hovering above the stage, meant to feel like the face of Big Ben, there to transport the audience from place to place. There is no hot air balloon, but rather a sailing platform called a sledge. Oh, and an elephant.

"Our concept for the stage was sort of like a Victorian playground that was part steamer ship and part train station," said American Stage artistic director Todd Olson, directing the play. "From that, there are lots of things that pop out of here and rise out of there, and four chairs become this and a puppet comes out of that."

The structure is along the lines of The Mystery of Irma Vep or the Greater Tuna plays with a couple actors playing the entire cast. It has a vaudeville sensibility, Olson said, and requires that level of skill from the actors. But as rehearsals have gone on, he said, he and the cast have uncovered more than just pratfalls.

"The thing about Around the World in 80 Days is it's not just vaudeville, slip on a banana and then you bump your head," Olson said. "I found that even today we were making some discoveries that have to do with core things of Fogg's character. It's not like Mark Brown has taken the old story and made a vaudeville out of it. It's a story of, if you want to find yourself, you have to leave yourself. … I think in the end we're authentically moved."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.If you go

Around the World

in 80 Days

The play runs Friday through April 13 with previews Wednesday and Thursday at American Stage's Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. $29-$49; americanstage.org or (727) 823-7529.

'Around the World in 80 Days' brings big adventure to American Stage 03/17/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2014 3:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

    The drinks at the Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg are about as cheap as you’ll find at any other regular downtown bar, a nice surprise.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Two Henrys Belleview-Biltmore Blueberry Vanilla Wheat

    Bars & Spirits

    Two Henrys Brewing Company is a unique entity in the Tampa Bay brewing scene, due to both its status as the only brewery in Plant City, as well as its location on a 27-acre working farm, which also includes a winery.

    Photo by Justin Grant
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 26

    Events

    Train: One of the most engaging frontmen in rock, Pat Monahan, brings along O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield for their annual trip through Tampa. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $21.50-$191. (813) 740-2446.

    LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 12:  Singer Pat Monahan of Train performs as the band kicks off the Play That Song Tour in support of the album "A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat" at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) 700034174
  4. Interview: Todd Rundgren comes to St. Petersburg looking to reach a new generation

    Music & Concerts

    They're teaching Todd Rundgren in college now.

    Todd Rundgren will perform at the Mahaffey Theater on May 27. Credit: Lynn Goldsmith
  5. Volcano Bay, with waterproof wristbands that eliminate lines, now open at Universal Orlando

    Attractions

    ORLANDO — Universal Orlando opened its third park on Thursday, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features a waterproof wristband that promises to eliminates lines.

    Universal Orlando opened its third park, on May 25, 2017, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features the first waterproof wristband that promises to eliminates lines. [Willie J. Allen Jr. | for Universal Studios]