When Percy Sledge died recently, there was an obituary tribute to him on NPR.
It started with the announcement that he had died, and you knew exactly what was going to happen in this story and where it was going: Youâ€™d get some details, and it would end with "When a Man Loves a Woman," the iconic ballad Sledge sang. And while thatâ€™s just what happened, it didnâ€™t lessen the joy of hearing that song at all.
That story is kind of what it was like seeing "Little by Little," the musical that opened at In Tandem Theatre Company Friday night.
Itâ€™s a story about three friends, two women and one man. Friends since childhood. Love between two of them, then none of them, then two others.
You can see where this story is going from miles away.
But like Sledge and his song, the obvious, even trite, nature of the play doesnâ€™t matter one single bit because of the delightful production, highlighted by three young actor/singers who give breath to this play and make it fly.
The characters in this play are Man (Michael T. Black), Woman #1(Jenna Vik) and Woman #2 (Rachael Zientek).
The three are friends in childhood. As they grow older and hormones begin to intrude, Man and #1 start to flirt, date and become a couple. All the while #2 harbors a love for Man that remains a secret.
Throughout the growth of their relationship, #2 covers for and counsels both of her friends, never letting on how she really feels. And she suffers her secret with a troubled willingness.
The Man and #1 grow tight but then they have to be apart on an important evening, and they ask #2 to fill in and pretend to be #1. See whatâ€™s coming?
Thereâ€™s a kiss and an awakening by both Man and #2. When #1 comes back, the kiss becomes the thing that drives all three of them apart and into lives and individuals. But, and we knew this would happen, in the end friendship wins out, and the three of them walk off holding hands together.
There is a clear moral to this play. Love is wonderful, but in its many manifestations, it can place a strain on even the strongest friendships. In the end, however, the love and respect of friendship trumps the vagaries of a love affair, every time.
This play breaks no ground nor does it stun you with surprise.
What this production does, however, is wrap you in a cloud of good feeling with three delightful performances, along with a great set by Steve Barnes, wonderful lighting by Doug Vance and the outstanding direction of Chris Flieller.
Black, Vik and Zientek all have nice voices, and they know how to sing a song that moves a story along. There is no dialogue in this show, just songs â€“ some simple and some difficult, but all performed with heart and soul by the actors.
Black is just the kind of handsome young man who could easily find himself in the middle of this threesome. He sings well and lets the audience know that, while he pretends to be in control, he is beset by doubts about where heâ€™s headed in life and who he is headed there with.
Vik is the perfectly sultry hot chick on campus. Having a boyfriend is like collecting trinkets for her. She finds a security in the relationship that might otherwise be missing in her life. Vik has a clear and soaring voice and can be angry or plaintive with nary a misstep in between.
Zientek has cemented her spot in my "Favorite Acting Sisters in Milwaukee." She is the Â younger sister of Sara, the actor who is climbing the stairs of acting success in Wisconsin.
Rachael is a stunning surprise. She makes you want to give her a hug as she suffers her hopes and dreams. She is funny and pathetic and warm and angry and just about every kind of emotion the human palate has. Her voice is a magnificently evocative, and she is in no need of dialogue to move a story along. There is a clarity to her acting with song that is striking. Give her some lines of dialogue, and she could well be dangerous.
This show is a perfect example of how very much fun live theater can be. Thereâ€™s no need to worry if youâ€™ll get it. Everyone gets it. This one is just to be enjoyed.
"Little by Little" runs through May 24 and information on tickets and showtimes is available here.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published May 2, 2017
With a May 8 deadline looming, the war of words over a proposed strip club Downtown is escalating. A coalition of powerful business interests remain opposed, with the mayor and members of the Common Council on the other side, using Minneapolis as an example.
Published April 30, 2017
Let us all agree about what Junie B. Jones is not. She is not a crook. She is not a nutball. She is not in love with Handsome Warren. What she is, though, is the center of a wonderfully funny story, "Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook."
Published April 29, 2017
Theater can make you feel a lot of things, most of them wondrous, but on rare occasion it can make me feel like a dummy. And that's what I felt like after seeing "Jane Eyre," the final show of the season at The Rep, which opened Friday night.
Published April 27, 2017
It's impossible to stop thinking about the production of "Carnival" currently being staged at In Tandem Theatre, which I reviewed on opening night last week and is a fascinating example of what can happen when you stretch yourself and dream big dreams.
Published April 25, 2017
Start with a girl, beautiful and rich. Then add in her uncle and guardian who wants to marry her so he can get the money and toss in a high-born stranger who also wants the girl's hand in marriage. What you have is Florentine's "Barber of Seville."
Published April 22, 2017
For 15 years, under the guidance of art therapist Lori Vance, ExYoMKE has gone one-on-one with some of the most disaffected children in Milwaukee, children of all races and genders, and tried to help them see the world through the eyes of an artist.
Published April 22, 2017
One of the most wonderful evenings at a theater is when the show starts on a high note and just keeps getting better and better until you get to an ending where your heart is lying on the floor and your eyes are clouded with tears. That's "Carnival."
Published April 21, 2017
"The Fantasticks" is a simple little musical, the longest running in history, about a boy and a girl and being in love. The problem in the Off the Wall Theatre production is that the boy can't hold up his end of the deal, and the whole production suffers.
Published April 20, 2017
When I'm moved, I write, and fortunately, with OnMilwaukee, I have a place for that writing. The series of Uber tales from the road have run intermittently, but this story, more than anything else, proved that words and social media have the power to spark action, to make a real difference.
Published April 18, 2017
There is nothing quite like the world of the carnies, who travel the country, state fair after state fair, luring spectators with claims of wonder and magic. And that world is coming to Milwaukee, believe it or not, in the tiny space at In Tandem Theatre.