On the face of it, a musical taking on the subject of human trafficking does not seem a sure-fire structure for telling the story. Land of Smiles does just that. This powerful, compelling piece of theatre respects both the story of the people involved and avoids or exposes any stereotypical tendencies, creating an increasingly complex tale where there are few ‘black and white’ areas, but an infinite number of shades between one extreme and another.
This is not a ‘preachy’ show: it simply tells the story of the tensions behind both those who are viewed as victims in human trafficking and those who would aim to ‘save’ them.
The exploration of idealism and reality from many different angles forces the audience to try and understand the complexities these women in Thailand face day in, day out.
Every character is portrayed with honesty; the performances are beautifully pitched. This is a company of great singers and actors who show us the difficulty of ‘saving the world’ when you cannot even save one girl. The situations are genuinely complex and the intelligent book and score (libretto, music and lyrics by Erin Kamler) work superbly well to relate this story through words and music in a way that would take even the most concise writer many books to convey.
An excellent all-female cast and live musicians actually do what their flyers claim: ‘It will change everything you know about human trafficking’.
A moving show (directed by Rick Culbertson, co-directed by Kimiko Broder) that lives with you long after the final note has been played.
* Rick Culbertson, Greg Franklin & Fringe Management, LLC