By Richard Ades
Far out! Excuse the hippie talk, but there’s no other way to describe Shadowbox Live’s most mind-blowing musical-tribute show yet.
You may have thought the Beatles retrospective Bigger Than Jesus was great, and it was. You may have thought Joe Cocker: Mad Dog and Englishman was a treat, and you were right.
But wait till you see Which One’s Pink? What director Stev Guyer and his cast and crew have pulled off is an out-and-out marvel.
I never was a Pink Floyd fan back in the ’60s and ’70s. Nor was I into psychedelic drugs. (I’m probably being redundant there.) Now, thanks to this new tribute show, I have some idea of what I was missing.
The show starts out with a look at the life of the band’s early front man, Syd Barrett. If you appreciate Barrett, or just brilliant but tormented souls in general, you’ll find this fascinating. And even if you don’t, you still get to bask in a collection of Pink Floyd numbers that augment the biographical details.
The singers and musicians are great as always, and Katy Psenicka’s choreography is more varied and expressive than ever. But what really sets the show apart is Shadowbox’s first collaboration with the Columbus College of Art & Design, whose talented students complement the songs with eccentric and psychedelic videos.
Act 1’s many highlights include:
• Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall, everyone’s favorite anthem of youthful rebellion (and the band’s only hit single);
• Mother, sung by Andy Ankrom and accompanied by a huge puppet of an overprotective “mom” with glowing eyes;
• Young Lust, sung by Guyer alongside video images of nubile female silhouettes in the process of stripping off their underwear; and
• Comfortably Numb, sung by Guyer as a drugged-out rock star and JT Walker III as his tormenter.
My only problem with the show’s focus on Barrett is that Pink Floyd’s greatest achievements actually arrived after his brief tenure with the band (1965-68). That includes all but one of the songs presented during the Barrett-centered first act. Another Brick in the Wall, for example, was written by subsequent front man Roger Waters as part of the 1979 rock opera The Wall. Here, however, it could be misinterpreted as the product of Barrett’s difficult childhood.
That quibble aside, the first act is consistently entertaining. Yet it pales next to Act 2, which may be Shadowbox’s most intricate and innovative creation to date.
After Pink Floyd released its 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, many fans claimed it synchronized perfectly with the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. These fans could well have been under the influence of mind-altering drugs, but you don’t have to be similarly impaired to appreciate Shadowbox’s take on the phenomenon.
The troupe reimagines the fabled synchronization by combining (1) footage from the film, (2) interpretive video footage provided by CCAD students, (3) live re-enactments of scenes from Oz featuring Dorothy (Amy Lay) and other characters, and (4) live performances of the Pink Floyd music. The technical prowess it took to pull this off is nothing less than breathtaking.
More importantly, the end result is a total blast. It’s an experience like none other.
I may have misspoken in the beginning. There probably are several ways to describe what Shadowbox has wrought here, including “awesome” and “glorious.” But nothing sums it up quite as well as “far out!”
Which One’s Pink? runs through Aug. 2 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St., Columbus. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday (no shows May 24, 27, 28, June 25, July 1, 2, 12, 19, 26 or 29). Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (including intermission). Tickets are $25; $20 for students, seniors (55-plus) and military. 614-416-7625 or shadowboxlive.org.