Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a hidden gem of a show, currently playing at 1st step, a hidden gem of a theater in Tysons. Brilliantly written and directed by Matthew Aldwin McGee, Pickup is the story of a pirate (or, more accurately, the top half of one) tied to a diver on the high seas, until he can find his missing legs. Trapped on a wreck at the bottom of the sea, Dredgie leads a cabaret show featuring his fellow citizens of the deep – a lively group of creative and entertaining creatures in the great tradition of Jim Henson. The puppet show – bide his time until he can regain his legs and return to the world on the surface.
McGee and his denizens of the deep are a worthy successor to Henson’s Muppets – in fact, the show was developed with grants from the Jim Henson Foundation and the Puppeteers’ Rose Endowment Fund, and made possible through a collaboration with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art as part of Social Impact’s local theater residency program at REACH. McGee made good use of resources and funds and created a rich, multi-layered show that was fun for all ages.
Matthew McGee is a Helen Hayes Award-winning actor, and he subtly plays the titular character, alternately the expansive showman or an introspective, lonely survivor, and everything in between. Physically, Dredgie resembles the love child of Jack Sparrow and Beetlejuice; emotionally, he is complex and philosophical.
Orbiting Dredgie is a talented cast of performers who are both talented puppeteers and actors – Suzy Alden, Linda Bard, Natalie Cutcher, Ezinne Elele, Lee Gerstenhaber and Jacob Yeh, and they bring to life a wonderful universe of characters. Each member of the ensemble has memorable moments in the spotlight, including singing sirens (Alden, Bard and Elele), Neptune and Salacia (Yeh and Alden, in a hilarious, pun-filled, campy twist) and Venus ( Gerstenhaber). Among the sparkling performances, one stands out – Cutcher’s sea witch Hexikalina has great chemistry with Dredgie, and she steals every scene she’s in. She has excellent comedic timing, with a delivery reminiscent of Rita Rudner, and she uses both to their advantage. .
In addition to their human (and human-like) characters, the actors also bring an amazing array of puppets to life – sandworms, turtles, octopuses, sea serpents and electric eels, to name a few. . Sometimes there are so many puppets on stage that it’s hard to imagine how such a small cast can manage them all. There are also times when the puppeteers can be seen working the puppets – but rather than distracting attention from the action, it actually increases the appreciation of the skills at work. Each puppet in the show is a fine example of the art of puppet making, and the cast does a fantastic job of creating fully formed characters with them.
Dredgie McGee stands on the shoulders of Henson’s work, combining an accessible story for young audiences with plenty of adult humor, in the same way that The Muppets (and the original Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons) were entertaining for kids and adults alike. adults. Throw in some Monty Python-esque touches, a bit of Tim Burton and a nod to the magic of Harry Potter, and it’s a show that will delight and entertain audiences of all ages. McGee and his production company Matt-a-Magical are worthy heirs to the legacy of Henson and the worlds he created.
Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee runs until June 20. The approximate duration is 2h20, with an intermission of 15 minutes.
For more information on the 1st step, click on here.