Theatre Reviews
Photo by Jennifer Lin, courtesy of Metro Theatre Company

Metro Theater Company is currently debuting the world premiere of “Spells of the Sea”, an enchanting original musical written and composed by recent UT Austin grad Guinevere “Gwenny” Govea. Originally crafted as a five-part podcast imagined during the covid shutdown, the story underwent a number of substantial changes in order to be to be adapted for the stage-- and trimmed down to a sharp 65 minutes. While minor nuances in the plot may have been lost in the transition, the result is a fast-paced and vivacious journey that wastes not a single second to bewitch audiences with music and whimsy. Fans of beloved Disney musicals such as Moana and Encanto will surely enjoy the catchy soundscape.

Set in a fantasy sea-faring town called Bleary, the plot follows a charming family made up of Ferris Frankfurter, the “Fishing King of Bleary” (played by Colin McLaughlin) and his earnest young daughter Finley (played by Govea). When Finley learns that her father has one day left to live, she embarks on a journey to collect magical items that can be used to save him from “the big bad sickness”. Along the way, she befriends H.S. Crank, a grief-stricken lighthouse keeper (played by a heartbreaking Jon Gentry), and helps him heal from the loss of his daughter Pearl.

The show is made up of an excellently tight-knit ensemble cast that tells the story with joy, under the lively direction of MTC Artistic Director Julia Flood. The cast plays everything from princesses to pirates (all while singing and playing a slew of instruments—and making it look easy!). This ensemble is captained by the exceptionally talented Govea, alongside standout Tyler White as the mystical and commanding Mermaid narrator. McLaughlin brings a grounded quality to his various roles that anchors the more emotional moments of the play in maturity. The multi-talented ensemble includes Molly Burris, Syrhea Conaway, Hannah Geisz, Mitchell Manar, and Noah Laster.

The story is aided by vibrant costumes, designed by Cynthia Nordstrom, and ethereal lighting by Jayson M. Lawshee, over the backdrop of a versatile set designed by Margery and Peter Spack. The highlight of the set design was the simple but effective moving boat that was “driven” by actors throughout the play. Elements such as hanging fabric that billowed and created silhouettes, fog that danced under the colored lights, and “magic” traps that made items disappear created a world of surprise and wonder that inspired gasps from the young audience.

Metro does not limit the experience to simply watching a play, but thinks outside the box to give families opportunities to learn and grow together. Alongside a question & answer session with the cast after the show, the playbill also includes thoughtful discussion prompts relating to problem solving, family, and expressing feelings.

"Spells of the Sea" is a production that showcases the universal themes of loss, courage, and the meaning of family. Though told through the lens of children’s theatre, Metro has crafted an experience that adults will also connect with. This is a heartfelt and jubilant celebration of human storytelling, in the wake of isolation and loneliness. This is a welcome source of inspiration for the St. Louis community, not to be missed. Performances continue through March 5th at the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center. The show is also available vai on-line streaming. More information is available at the MTC web site.


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