|by Rena Archwamety
Beyer of the Capitol Times Sunday, December 9, 2005
Walmartopia' sings, zings
Wal-Mart is the new McDonald's.
Last year the acclaimed documentary "Super
Size Me" had the fast food giant scrambling to promote
a healthier image, replacing oversized fries and burgers with
salads, fruit plates and walk-o-meters.
This year's documentary "Wal-Mart:
The High Cost of Low Price" prompted the chain's
public relations team to try to portray a more diverse, generous
and community-centered company behind the trademark yellow smiley
show is a wacky and imaginative parody of big-box culture,
with catchy song-and-dance numbers and a truckload of
enthusiasm from the 27-member cast.
Helping to expose what's beneath that face is Mercury
Players Theatre in its latest production, "Walmartopia."
Mercury first performed "Walmartopia"
as a 40-minute mini-musical in 2004.
Now a full-length production, the show is a wacky
and imaginative parody of big-box culture, with catchy song-and-dance
numbers and a truckload of enthusiasm from the 27-member cast.
Part one follows the day-to-day frustrations of
Wal-Mart department manager and single mother Vicki Latrell as
she tries to get a promotion in the male-dominated hierarchy of
her local store.
Part two shifts into a surreal glimpse of a future
where Wal-Mart dominates all aspects of life from schools to the
arts, and then tries to conquer its last uncharted territory by
planting a superstore in Vermont. Vicki teams up with other disillusioned
Wal-Mart employees to form a resistance.
Anna Jayne Marquardt is perfectly cast as the optimistic
yet outspoken Vicki, and her powerful voice stands out in the
demanding number of solos throughout the play. Also notable is
Douglas Holtz, who puts in a short appearance as the late Sam
Walton's head and leads the cast in a raucous hoedown.
The actors sweat enthusiasm, which helps to carry
the show, but borders on abusive when they begin screaming their
lines or occasionally just screaming. A clear political point
of view runs throughout "Walmartopia" and shows its
face to varying degrees of success.
The song "Nibbled to Death by Guppies,"
based on a quote by Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, is an inspired and
hilarious number, particularly when paired with actors in metallic
fish hats dancing around Frank Furrillo, who plays the slinky
and villainous fictional CEO, Scott Lee.
The last few songs, unfortunately, water down the
play's outrageous plot and characters to a predictable ending
with syrupy lyrics like "Wal-Mart's been telling lies; Time
to open some eyes."
Despite losing some of its fun at the end with overstated
intentions, the musical as a whole entertains and is worth seeing,
whether or not you intend to join the resistance.
Copyright ©2006, Capital Newspapers. All rights reserved.