Curtain Call: Shadowbox's "Back to the Garden"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Shadowbox crew was forced to drop "Woodstock" from the title for legal reasons, but that didn't stop them from reprising 2009's smash original "Back to the Garden." It's back for one more limited run, just in case you missed the musical brilliance the first time around.

"Garden" takes the audience back to the groundbreaking festival for two hours of '60s music, antiestablishment outrage and plenty of peace and love - all told through the eyes of one square New York Times reporter.

Buttoned-down Rodney Benton (Jimmy Mak) isn't the most exciting character Shadowbox has ever created. But it's maddening that his bosses at the newspaper of record keep focusing on the rainy weather and traffic problems rather than the music. And as "Back to the Garden" will make abundantly clear, the show was all about the music.

The musical performances jump back and forth between crowd-pleasing ensemble pieces and solo stage numbers. It's hard to decide which are better, especially when the infectious group song-and-dance numbers (beautifully choreographed by Katy Psenicka) include Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help from my Friends," The Who's "My Generation" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

The Shadowbox dancers return again to add another layer to powerhouse lead vocal performances from Julie Klein, tackling Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit;" Stacie Boord, singing Joe Cocker's "Feelin' Alright;" and Brandon Anderson, taking on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River."

But some of the best performances of the night belong to the "celebrity" acts on the festival's stage. Among the highlights are Jerrod Roberts as Richie Havens, Steve Guyer as Country Joe and Dante Wehe as Jimi Hendrix.

It's Jennifer Hahn, though, who really steals the show. Not only is her take on Janis Joplin's classic "Piece of My Heart" a showstopper in itself, but her high-as-a-kite Janis impersonation is a reminder of how rare it was to get this lineup of performers together on one stage.

"Back to the Garden" may not be an exact replica of Woodstock - thankfully, it smells better than the original - but it beautifully recaptures the spirit of the '60s, which is a joy to watch even if you weren't around the first time.

When: Through March 28

Where: Shadowbox, Easton