SUNFLOWER Scottish Rite Musical misses the mark

Theater for young people and young audiences has been such an important part of my life. I have worked with all age groups over the years and these experiences have not only deepened my love for theater but have shown me that the performing arts can fill the gaps, teach and touch us all. . I have literally seen hundreds of plays aimed at young audiences. It’s heartbreaking, I’m compelled to write a less than glowing review for SUNFLOWER.

The storyline mainly centers on Amalie, a 6th grader (played by the brilliant Lucky Cantu), who is in 6th grade at a new school, friendless and yearning for an emotional connection in her life. While on a class visit to a museum, she becomes interested in the art of Vincent Van Gogh (played by Austin music legend Guy Forsyth). It is through Van Gogh’s intensely bold painting Cafe terrace at night that Amalie is transported to Arles in the 19th century, in France, and that she meets the artist there. Vincent feels a kindred spirit upon meeting the anxious teenager and the two quickly become friends. The obviously depressed and anxious pre-teen must return to her own reality where she confronts the evil middle school girls of Hades. The storyline itself is intriguing, but the play’s scattered approach renders any point virtually meaningless.

The incredibly talented cast performed admirably, working hard to bring hard-to-sing songs to life that failed to show their true talent. It was Forsyth alone who kept me from walking to my car at intermission, which I don’t say lightly. Technical issues have plagued the show from almost the start. The background projections were interesting, using Van Gogh’s paintings to set the mood, but the lighting on the front of the stage was so dim that it was impossible to see the actors during what could have been pivotal moments. . Beautiful super titles are used to illustrate Van Gogh quotes, but we are used with such sparseness that one wonders why the effort was made. The teenage characters are far too stereotypical and receive unnecessary lines and songs. Half their time on stage was spent staring at their phones.

Unfortunately, this show is a less than stellar effort due to a seriously flawed script. SUNFLOWER with book and lyrics by Laura Guli and music and orchestration by Premila Mistry tries so hard to reach its target audience that it lacks focus on any particular topic. Using the themes of social anxiety, bullying, cyberbullying, suicide, and parental emotional distance (to name a few), the playwright fails to deliver a simple message about only one problem. I fervently hope that a major overhaul of this script will take place before it is played elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend SUNFLOWER for adults or children of any age.


book and lyrics by Laura Guli

Music and orchestration by Premila Mistry

Directed by Deanna Belerdinelli

Scottish Rite Theater

July 22 to August 14

Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

Tickets: $15 – $25®id=141&

About Bernice D. Brewer

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