You might have read George Orwell’s famous political satire – ANIMAL FARM – in high school. It was Orwell’s first attempt, in his own words, to “fuse political purpose and artistic purpose.” Later on, Sir Peter Hall added even more artistry into it by working it into a musical, with music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell. It is this version that is now performing at A Noise Within (ANW) in Pasadena through Oct. 2, 2022.
In ANIMAL FARM, the animals of Manor Farm rise up against their oppressive human owner dreaming of a world in which they could all be equal. They take over the farm and at first every animal is happy. That is until some of the pigs, claiming intellectual superiority, decide that “some animals are more equal than others” and begin to impose their will over the rest.
First published in 1945, Orwell wrote ANIMAL FARM in reaction to Stalin’s rise to power following the Russian Revolution. His message, however, alerting us against totalitarianism and depicting how power often leads to corruption, continues to resonate into our day.
The creative team is important in every production, but in ANIMAL FARM at ANW is impossible to ignore. The manes of the horses, the noses of the pigs, the horrifying look of the attack dogs are all done with impressive artistry. Angela Balogh Calin’s costume design, Tony Valdés’ wigs design, and Dillon Nelson’s masks are right on point. On top of it, the music is performed live on stage, under Rod Bagheri’s direction.
The cast is fantastic. Rafael Goldstein’s transition from a well-intending leader to an abuser of power is scary. Trisha Miller, as pig Squealer, delivers fake news better than what I’ve seen on TV myself, and one can never get tired of listening to Cassandra Marie Murphy sing. The truth is that every member of the cast pulls their own weight. Together, they enthrall during a two-hour warning tale that we all need to hear.
ANIMAL FARM is considered one of the best books of the 20th century. Hall’s adaptation has been immensely popular ever since its original production in 1984. Together, they are intelligent art that deserves to be seen, and ANW is definitely doing it justice. This production is absolutely worth your time.
Performances of ANIMAL FARM will continue through Oct. 2 on Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. There will be one Thursday performance on Sep. 29 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets start at $25. Student tickets start at $18. To purchase tickets and for more information, including up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols on the date of each performance, call (626) 356-3100 or go to anoisewithin.org.
A Noise Within is located at 3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107.