Review: ‘Night at the Wax Museum’ at Encore Stage & Studio

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Encore Stage and Studio presents Night at the Wax Museum, a play by Craig Sodaro. A company known for theater “by kids, for kids!,” Encore leads and encourages children who show interest and promise in the theater arts, both on and offstage. Susan A. Keady directs a large ensemble of youths for this season’s production, where a group of wayward schoolchildren find themselves trapped in a wax museum– and the historical figures have come to life!

The cast of ‘Night at the Wax Museum.’ Photo Courtesy of Encore Stage & Studio.

Technical Director and Set Designer Kristen Jepperson uses two sets for this production;  an unremarkable stone basement filled with boxes, and the upstairs museum, where draped figures stand between marble columns. Lighting Director Gary Hauptman and composer and sound effects by Matthew Heap work together to heighten the tone, whether it be the eeriness that comes with a magical atmosphere or the shock of a thunderstorm. However, the main proponent of the set are, of course, the wax figures themselves. From the glittery glamour of Cleopatra (a nicely-executed performance by Tara Hall) to the raggedy Butch Cassidy and his gang of outlaws, costume designer Debra Leonard catches the eye. With a solid technical foundation to work with, the kids are ready to embrace their characters.

It’s summertime, and Ms. Fairchild (Megan Hayes) has come up with an interesting summer school project for her students who failed History; to help set up the local Historical Society’s (a group of little old women, respectively) new wax museum. The students could not be less interested in this exhaustive task…that is, until one of Cleopatra’s magical amulets is triggered, causing the wax figures to come to life all around them! A wide variety of influential figures throughout history are introduced, and they don’t get along too well! From a power-hungry Blackbeard (Bryce Gastelum) and his swashbuckling pirate crew to Calamity Jane (Maren Knutson) and her pistol-wielding friends, the figures are caught up in a chaotic race to uncover an  ancient treasure rumored to be hidden somewhere in the museum.

The cast of ‘Night at the Wax Museum’. Photo Courtesy of Encore Stage & Studio.

If that wasn’t enough drama to go around, another force is working against our characters. The Historical Society’s greedy landlord Violet Sneed (Miranda Tonsetic is lively and sharp in this role) her foolish son Jasper (Ian Onufrak), and his even more foolish girlfriend Polly (Lynn Loftus) are intent to dissolve the Society’s contract so that they may turn the building into a shopping mall. With all of these people lurking around, the museum becomes one wild goose chase, filled with swordfights (choreographed by Combat Director Jim Clancy), ransoms, and the errant mummy or two. Can the students work together to  get the figures back on their pedestals and save the wax museum?

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of action onstage– the plot is very busy, and can run off the reels (did I mention that King Henry VIII falls in love with Cleopatra?), but the kids have fun with it. I especially liked the ending, which takes an unexpected twist! Polished performances should not be expected, but promising ones are happily given, and encouraging young artists is a great way to spend a night with the kids!

Encore Stage & Studio’s Night at the Wax Museum is a good choice for family fun–grab some tickets before it’s history!

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Night at the Wax Museum plays through March 19, 2017, at Encore Stage & Studio. performing at The Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre — 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

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