World tour 

Adapted
from the Jules Verne tale originally published in 1873, Around the
World in Eighty Days tells the story of mysterious London
aristocrat Phileas Fogg who embarks on a journey with his manservant,
Passepartout, to circumnavigate the globe by train and steamer in 80
days as part of a £20,000 wager with other members of the exclusive
Reform Club.

Taking
its cue from the superior minimalist comedy hit The
39 Steps,
Eighty
Days is
a bare-bones production consisting of four chairs, a card table and a
smattering of costumes and props utilized by five actors playing
around three dozen roles. It's an impressive number of quick changes.
There is also a Foley artist on stage augmenting the production with
handmade sound effects a la old radio dramas.

Aside
from being hampered by the inconsistent, overly-long and overly-broad
2006 script by Mark Brown, Director Robert Woods has done a decent
job casting for the show and nails enough of the big comedy scenes.

Kurt
Leftwich has the thankless task of playing the elusive main character
Phileas Fogg. Unfortunately, Leftwich is almost too impenetrable as
Fogg, giving the impression that some major changes in his character
come out of nowhere. Leftwich and his cast mates do succeed in mining
the inherent humor of his aloofness with some particularly fun
rom-com moments between Leftwich and Jessica Mahon as Aouda, a
beautiful damsel in distress that Phileas and his companions save
from being sacrificed in India. Mahon brings a low key grace to the
underwritten Aouda. She also shows up Fogg’s disgruntled former
servant, James Forster.

While
the journey depicted in Eighty
Days is
powered by coal, steam and wind, Jewel Box’s production is powered
by Philip Wiles’ overcharged and highly entertaining turn as Fogg’s
flamboyant French manservant Passepartout. Sporting a great accent,
Wiles throws himself into the role fully, striking just the right
balance between bumbling sidekick and hero in his own right, walking
away with the audiences affections.

Rich
Bailey’s turn as a series of Brits early on in the play run
together a bit, but he dominates his later turn as the hilarious
gun-toting American stereotype, Proctor, the centerpiece of some of
the plays most successful scenes. Scott Doyle is likeable but
inconsistent in his primary role of Detective Fix, missing the
occasional line and letting his accent drop entirely at times. Both
Bailey and Doyle deserve credit for the nearly 25 characters they
portray between them during the play.

The
sound design, aided by the underused on-stage Foley artist Roger
Oxford, do an excellent job of establishing locales and atmosphere
throughout the production. This work is further augmented by the
physical performance of the cast, creating the effect of the
vibrations of a train ride or the rocking of a boat by shaking or
swaying in unison. The lighting design lacks some of the finesse
of Jewel Box’s last production, Hound
of the Baskervilles.

While
not a particularly classy or well-constructed adaptation of the Jules
Verne story, Jewel Box’s production of Around
the World in Eighty Days
is
an entertaining cliff notes version that makes for a fun evening of
family-friendly entertainment.

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