Show stopper

Sugarcoating is for suckers. And this isn't a candy store.

A matchmaker is matched October 23, 2010

Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman’s meddling musical, opened in the Troutt Theater October 21 at 7:00 p.m. It was the first performance of the season for Studio Tenn, a theatre company based in Nashville that blends talent from Music City and Broadway to bring musical theatre to Middle Tenn.

Hello, Dolly! is a humorous story about Dolly Levi (Nan Gurley), a matchmaker who meddles in other people’s love lives while neglecting her own. She is a widow and continually prays to her deceased husband, Ephraim, asking him to let her go and be a woman again. You get a sense it’s not her husband keeping her at bay from pouncing on Horace Vandergelder (Chuck Wagner), the money bags of Yonkers. Rather, it’s her unwillingness to let her guard down.

Throughout the show, she strings Vandergelder along, distracting him with suitors as his niece, Ermengarde (Maggie McDowell) falls in love and escapes to New York City with Ambrose Kemper (Graham Keen) all with the help of Dolly, of course. While Vandergelder chases after his niece and the suitors, with Dolly in hot pursuit, his two store clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Larry Cox, Jr.) and Barnaby Tucker (Michael Mindlin) sing the toe-tapping “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and have some fun of their own in the Big Apple.

The show breaks off into two weaving stories of shenanigans. Vandergelder doesn’t like the two suitors Dolly has for him. Dolly, having no problem with being an independent woman, is ready for love as she sings “Before the Parade Passes By”. She hints and twists her words around Horace until he has no choice but to realize after she sings “So Long, Dearie” that he has no need for suitors, that a truly remarkable woman is standing right in front of him.

Cornelius finds love with Irene Malloy (Carrie Tillis), a hat maker who truthfully hates hats. They gaze into each other’s eyes during “It Only Takes a Moment”, a lovely duet that brings chills and a tear. Barnaby impressed the audience with his light-footed performance during the sweeping and swooping song, “Dancing”. He falls in love with Irene’s 17 year-old assistant, Minnie Fay (Ashley Anderson McCarthy).

There were some mess-ups, some premiere night jitters amongst the cast. During the song “Before the Parade Passes By” a gymnastic move almost turned horribly as the red curtains closed for intermission. The lighting in the beginning was spotty in some areas. There were some lines fumbled and some stumbles in the choreography.  

Chuck Wagner, known for playing the Beast in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast, Javert in Les Miserables and Van Helsing in Dracula the musical, gave a beautiful performance opposite the wonderful Nan Gurley. His deep voice melts even the strongest, independent woman. No wonder Dolly fell so hard!

Maggie McDowell, Belmont’s very own senior musical theater major, was great as the weeping Ermangarde. She didn’t overdo the role. She had just the right sobbing without being hysterically annoying. McDowell looked right at home amongst some of the Broadway veterans.

Ben Laxton, Keith Bishop and Casey Hebbel are also Belmont students who played in the ensemble. Laxton stood out amongst the other two. Every move was strong and sure. It was apparant he was soaking up all the positive energy of opening night. They were a joy to watch and did a great job representing Belmont.

The set is simple and never-changing except for a projector screen that shows different landscapes such as a train, Vandergeld’s hay and feed store and the Harmonia Garden’s Restaurant. Where the set is somewhat dull, the costumes are exquisite and eye-catching. Dolly’s flowing dresses and feathered hats are over-the-top to fit her bursting personality.

Hello, Dolly! is a fun-filled, toe-tapping, swaying and sweeping musical. The audience laughs and sympathizes with the realities of lost love and the struggle of getting back on one’s feet. The musical shows that even the most independent of women are in want of love.


9 to 5: The Musical impresses TPAC September 24, 2010

The red carpet was rolled out at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) Tuesday night, September 21. Photographers donned professional cameras around their necks. The Channel 2 and 4 correspondents were ready with their 100-watt smiles and black no-nonsense clothing, gripping the microphones and rattling about the upcoming excitement the night would bring. Fans lined the opposite street. Their expectant faces and digital point-and-shoot cameras were at the ready. They heard some country stars would be under the Nashville stars tonight. Dolly Parton. Naomi Judd. Bo Bice. Everyone turned to see the first jet-black stretch limo pull up. Then another and another.

The national tour of “9 to 5: The Musical” premiered at TPAC in Nashville, Tenn. Tuesday night, September 21. The musical was adapted by the 1980’s film “Nine to Five”. Dolly Parton starred in the movie and wrote the music and lyrics for the musical. Patricia Resnick formed the concept of the story and wrote the musical.

“9 to 5: The Musical” is about three women trying to make it in a man’s world. There’s Judy Bernly, a recent divorcee who just can’t seem to get over her divorce; Violet Newstead, a widow raising her 17-year-old son alone; and Doralee Rhodes, a blonde bombshell who has been unfairly classified as the office hussy. Mr. Hart, their heartless boss, runs his office like a sweatshop. He demands perfection and isn’t scared to fire someone for the smallest infraction. The women want revenge against Mr. Hart and eventually get him sent far away from the office. The musical deals with sexism and feminism in the late 70’s amongst the dings of the typewriters and early photocopiers.

Dee Hoty, Violet, was exceptional. She portrayed the widow to be a strong, independent woman. When office sweetheart, Joe, was sweet on her, she held her ground. Under her hard surface, it was evident she desperately wanted to be loved. Hoty was sarcastic and a firecracker as she stomped around stage, commanding attention and respect even though her title still read “secretary”.

Mamie Parris, Judy, was sweet, quirky and funny. She comes off as skittish and uncertain of herself. As the days progress, she comes to find her value is priceless. When her ex-husband tries to win her back, she fights the urges with her freedom song “Get Out and Stay Out”.

Dianna DeGarmo, runner-up of American Idol Season 6, played Parton’s role as Doralee. She acted just like Parton: from the big hair, the strut and the booming voice. Her performance of “Backwoods Barbie” was heart-warming. She comes off as a blonde bimbo but deep down she has a heart of gold and a good head on her shoulders.

Dolly Parton could definitely be seen in all her songs. There are songs about the hard-working man and the even-harder-working woman; songs about appreciating a woman’s brains than objectifying her body; songs of independence and freedom. The songs are foot-tapping and fun, catchy and strong. They are definitely memorable.

The final curtain closed as the audience whooped and hollered, giving a standing ovation. The night wouldn’t be complete, though, without Dolly Parton coming on stage and graciously thanking the audience for a wonderful evening.

If you’re a theater-geek-college student and want to attend TPAC’s shows, you’re in luck. Students can get $15 to $25 tickets for any show at TPAC. “9 to 5: The Musical” runs until September 26. Don’t miss your chance to clock-in and see this hilarious show.


Moliere’s Tartuffe coming to Troutt

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 2:34 pm
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The Troutt will be draped with 17th century costumes, music and rhyming couplets. Moliere’s neo-classical play, Tartuffe, will open on October 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Tartuffe, a comedy, is about a man who takes advantage of his landlord, Orgon. Tartuffe portrays himself as a pious man when he simply wants to swindle Orgon out of the deed to his house by marrying his daughter. It is a play about religious hypocrisy and extremism, topics Brent Maddox, the director of Tartuffe, says are very relevant to today’s world.

“If you look at what’s going on in our culture, in our society, globally speaking, this play was written hundreds of years ago yet the message of religious hypocrisy or religious extremism is still prevalent today,” Maddox said.

Tartuffe was originally written in French, but Maddox is using Richard Wilbur’s, an American literary translator and poet, version because his translation preserved the rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter.  This two-hour play is big, Maddox said. From the costumes to the set, everything is over the top.

“There is nothing simple about this show,” Maddox said.

Tartuffe will be played by Zach McCann. Daniel Hackman, a Belmont alum and his wife Joann Hackman will play the married couple as Orgon and Elmire. Doreen, the servant, will be played by Christy White. Franne Lee, who has worked as a costume designer on Broadway, designed the costumes.  Liz Morison, a production design major, is the set designer while Patrick White, another production design major, designed the lighting.

“Working with the cast is the best part,” Maddox said. “They’re hard workers. They come in prepared and ready to go which is a delight for me as a director. Amongst the fun a lot of work has been getting done.”

While the play is a comedy, there have been some challenges Maddox and the actors had to face. While the play is set in Paris, the actors will speak a British dialect. Maddox decided to forgo the French accent because it’s a little more difficult to learn in a short period of time. The styling of the piece has also been a challenge. Maddox doesn’t want his actors to look like actors. He wants the play to be believable.

“You have to look like you belong in this world,” said Maddox. “You have to sound like your British. You have to sound like you speak in rhyming couplets. You have to look like you belong in 17th century. We can’t make it look like it’s fake. [The audience isn’t] looking at actors. They’re looking at characters.”

The audience should be expected to laugh at the physical humor. Maddox wants the audience to go away with the sense that they experienced a moment of fun but have been educated.

“It’s going to be a good show,” said Maddox. “It’s going to be funny, but at the same time it will expose [the audience] to a different style of theatre and perhaps a different culture than the one they’re used to.”

Tartuffe runs through October 10. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for faculty and staff. Students are free and culture and arts convo will be given.


Learn from the best September 16, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 12:48 am
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If you keep up with my blog or visit it from time to time, you have no doubt in your mind the writer (moi) is a dedicated theater lover. Not only am I a theater lover, I’m a theatergoer (that is, when my bank account permits me to afford a train ticket to and from the city, a show ticket and maybe food? maybe).

Now, I know some of you may:

a) like theater and attend shows frequently

b) like theater but don’t go as often as you like

c) like theater but don’t go at all

d) hate theater in which case you probably have moved onto another blog. Thanks for stopping by!

If you fall in the category of a, b, or c I have a little tidbit of guidance for you. I stumbled onto a fantastic little article about how to be a great theatergoer. It has everything from box office etiquette to silencing your phone and children to learning how to exit the theater swiftly. It’s a really fun article, light read and just great points to keep in mind.

You can find the article here.

May all your Broadway excursions be wonderful, magical and totally amusing.


You bet. It’s La Bete September 13, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 9:04 pm
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What do you get when you pit the arts and pop culture against each other?

La Bete!

This 90’s comedic play has been resurrected and will be playing in the Music Box Theater from September 23, 2010-February 13, 2011.

La Bete is about a dramatist, Elomire, who only loves the theater and Valere, a street clown who has a passion for…well, himself. The play gets complicated when the princess has tired of Elomire and pairs with Valere for her entertainment. The two rivals face off to decide which will survive: the arts or ego.

The sole purpose for this post is not to mention yet another play gracing the Broadway stage. Nay, my friends. This post is merely to advertise my sheer admiration for David Hyde Pierce.

You know DHP. Niles Crane on “Frasier” and Tony Award winner for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in the whodunnit? play Curtains. The wonderful, ever-talented, hilarious Pierce is playing Elomire and I can’t seem to think of a better actor for this role.

Playing alongside Pierce is Mark Rylance as Valere and Joanna Lumley as the princess. If you can make it the few months the play is open, please make sure you do attend. If not for the sake of laughing for my sake because chances are yours truly will not be able to make a performance night.

Simply tragic, I know.


Love’s Labor’s Lost August 29, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 4:35 pm
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Summer is nearly over. Work is becoming a drag with the cold-front weather coming in shortly. With all the running around and endless responsibilities, not to mention the too-soon bundling up, it’s high time you relax.

Take a breather from all the hard work the week brings. Collect a group of your close friends, a blanket and bug spray (those blood-sucking suckers are still buzzing around. And no I don’t mean vampires) and enjoy a fabulous night of Shakespeare in the Park.

Love’s Labor’s Lost will be playing August 19 through September 12 in Centennial Park. The show starts at 7:30pm with pre-show entertainment at 6:30pm. Refreshments will be provided as well. While the performance is free a $5 donation is appreciated.

The play is about four men who promise to stay celibate and studious for three years. All that changes when they stumble upon four beautiful women. It’s a comedic “birds and the bees” play. The male actors studied the mating tendencies of birds and have incorporated the actions into their performance: strutting, bobbing and fluttering.

Love’s Labor’s Lost should be a spectacular spectacle of loveable characters, fun and obnoxious antics and colorful costumes. Escape from your desk, your annoying boss and get your dose of Shakespeare in the Park.

For more information visit


Just Dance August 19, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 1:18 am
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Calling all dancers! You better get on point if you’re in the tri-state area.

In honor of the National Dance Day, the Ballerina Girls from the Tony Award-winning show Billy Elliot will be outside the Imperial Theater September 31 from 12:45pm to 1:15pm. They will be giving a warm-up routine for free.

Billy Elliot is the hit Broadway show about a boy’s incredible dream to be a dancer. You laugh, you cry, you dance! It has won 10 Tony’s including Best Musical. Elton John composed the music and Peter Darling was the choreographer.

This is a great opportunity to rub some elbows with Broadway kids. Get your dance shoes and well, just dance!