Review: Pendragon's Around The World in 80 Days is a First Class Ticket to Fun Whirlwind Comedy

Around the World in 80 Days: Grab This First Class Ticket to Fun!

Performances: June 30, July 1, 2, 7, 8 at 8 pm, July 5 and 6 at 7 pm, and July 3 and 9 at 2 pm
Admission: Advanced Tickets: Free/Children (0-8), $15/Students (under 18), $22/Seniors, $25/Adults,  Matinee: $15
Age Appropriate: Fun for All Ages

Rachel Kemp as the newspaperman.
(Pendragon Theatre, Saranac Lake, NY) For those Jules Verne fans, Mark Brown's staged version of Around the World in 80 Days currently playing at Pendragon Theatre is a first class ticket to a fun, whirlwind comedy.

Director Jon Liebtrau has chosen a diverse group of actors who fill the stage with energy. With lightning fast costume changes and minimal sets, these five actors transform into over 40 characters across seven continents while making sure the audience enjoys the ride.

 From Jonathan Whitney's proper Phileas Fogg to Mark Mainville's joyous Passepartout, Around the the World in 80 Days is a hilarious adventure that has us laughing in our seats.

Matthew Sorensen as the British Consul
and Jason Brill as Detective Fix.
It has been a long time since I've read the Jules Verne book published in 1873 about the Englishman Phileas Fogg's bet that he would successfully circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. The Pendragon Theatre production doesn't seem to vary much from the book, but any minor discrepancies aren't missed.

This comedy is a fast-paced journey wrought with mistaken identities, danger, heroic feats and love. Armed with seemingly endless funds, the repressed, inflexible Fogg startles his servant, the recently hired French valet Passepartout, when he accepts a bet that he will leave the comforts of home to travel around the world and arrive back in London by December 31 or forfeit £20,000 to his Reform Club members.
Jonathan Whtney as Phileas Fogg and Matthew Sorensen
and Mark Manville as Reform Club members
Jonathan Whitney's Phileas Fogg is a flawless blending of rigid Englishman and task-driven competitor. Whitney seamlessly portrays this inflexible character through his stiff actions, whether unfolding the newspaper or sitting stiffly in a chair. As Fogg moves through a world full of adventures, Whitney has his character gracefully unwind as he meets new people and faces new experiences.  

Passpartout, played by Mark Mainville, is portrayed with wide-eyed wonderment and unwavering devotion. Mainville is a comedic match for Whitney's straight man. Mainville's Passpartout is all high energy and innocence as he eagerly approaches each task, whether saving damsels, defending his employer's honor or keeping the time as they race the clock back to England.  

Jason Brill as Detective Fix
and Mark Manville as Passpartout 
Quite a bit of the play's action is provided by four just as equally talented actors. Listed just as Actors 1, 2, and 4 Matthew Sorensen, Jason Brill, and Rachel Kemp brilliantly drive the story around the world through their numerous costume changes, spot-on accents and comedic entrances. In a clever twist Director Liebtrau brings Pendragon newcomer Will Gray (actor 6), as the Foley Artist, front and center to create a world of sound throughout the expedition.

Sorensen never breaks character as he shifts between roles whether he is priest, Chinese broker, Judge Obadiah, Captain Speedy or any one of the other 16 personalities Fogg and Passepartout meet on this madcap adventures.

Desert rides are just part of the adventure
with "Around the World in 80 Days"
Brill gifts us with a sweet, bumbling Detective Fix who mistakenly identifies Fogg as an English bank robber. Fix attempts to detain Fogg by  sabotaging his trip. Brill's portrayal of Fix is endearing, though it is through all the other characters as Actor 2 where Brill moves the action and has us guffawing and sputtering in laughter.

Kent Streed's costumes and sets are perfect in their simplicity, allowing the actors to easily adopt each new character with ease. Whether it's Brill's simple mustache twitch as the elephant owner,  Sorensen's numerous wig changes or even an elephant on stage, Streed has us journeying through India, traveling on trains and crossing oceans with the most subtle touches.

Rachel Kemp, last seen in Pendragon's The Seagull, demonstrates her diversity as Fogg's previous valet and the newspaperman, but it's her role as Aouda, Fogg's love interest, where she truly shines. Kemp's Aouda begins as a demure Indian villager rescued by Fogg, but develops into a gun-slinging, independent woman.

The journey ends back in England, but does Fogg win his bet or get the girl? Does Fix find his robber or was he right about Fogg. This fun romp around the world answers all those questions and more. Enjoy this first class ticket to fun!

Pendragon Theatre's Around the World in 80 Days is a limited run. Remaining performances are June 30, July 1, 2, 7, 8 at 8 pm, July 5 and 6 at 7 pm, and July 3 and 9 at 2 pm
Advanced Tickets: Free/Children (0-8), $15/Students (under 18), $22/Seniors, $25/Adults,  Matinee: $15
Age Appropriate: Fun for All Ages

Actor 1Matthew Sorensen (in multiple roles: Guthier Ralph, British Consul, Director of Police, Priest, Sir Francis, Judge Obadiah, Chinese Broker, Ship Clerk, Bunsby, Proctor, Engineer, Mudge, Clerk, Captain Speedy, Ship Engineer, Train Clerk
Actor 2Jason Brill (in multiple roles: Andrew Stuart, Detective Fix, Priest, Conductor, Elephant Owner, Young Parsi, Oysterpuff, Reverend Wilson's Servant
Actor 3Mark Manville as Passpartout and John Sullivan
Actor 4: Rachel Kemp as James Forester, Newspaperman, Priest and Aouda
Actor 5:  Johnathan Whitney as Phileas Fogg
Actor 6: Will Gray as Foley Artist

Director: Jon Liebtrau
Set/Costume Design: Kent Streed
Light Design: Bonnie B. Brewer
Sound Design: Jon Liebtrau
Stage Manager: Kellie McMenemon

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.