Show stopper

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

Mixed Bill VI: Once More, With Feeling! April 11, 2010

Jazz, tap, ballet, modern.

The Troutt Theater exploded in a riveting display of coloring lights and graceful individuals. Some were theatrical, others were strongly soft, making sure every movement was shown with poise.

The dance department at Belmont hosts a mixed bill every year. It’s a chance to display the talent and show just how great the dancers are. And how great they were!

As the house lights dimmed, the show started with a slinky, modern/jazz/ballet performance entitled “Little Bit of History”. Pirouettes and hip rolling were popular. The dancers wore sparkly black and white costumes. The audience went wild and settled into their seats for a great show.

Every dance, whether it was fabulous or just so so, was perfectly executed. There were some favorites that need to take a bow for its exceptional choreography and performance.

“Little Bit of History” was one of the favorites. After the lights dimmed to black, there was a feeling the mixed bill was going to be one to remember.

“Look Ma, No Hands!”, “Back to the Boondocks”, “Unrest”, “Church” and “Dream Boogie” were no doubt resonating in the minds of the audience.

“Look Ma, No Hands!” opened with the curtain only showing the feet of the dancers and their whimsical knee-high socks. It was adorably creative. The audience was very amused. Audience members commented on how they loved the concept. Simply brilliant.

Dancers were clad in plaid for “Back to the Boondocks”, a tap number. Little Big Town “Boondocks” set the mood for a good time. It floated to the rafters, getting onlookers swaying in their seats. The number fit Nashville perfectly. The dance was a great tribute to South.

“Unrest” was a bit of a turn after the first intermission. It was a very modern dance; you could see the energy pulsating from the tendons all the way to the fingertips of the dancers. Strong movements made for a strong performance. Bravo!

The company came together for the performance of “Church”. This was another favorite among the audience. Laughter sparked as the audience was captivated and engaged. “Church” was the equivalent of a Southern Baptist Church. The preaching gets too long and church members get restless. People need spiritual as well as nutritional food. Gotta eat! Claire Warner, the reverend, was exceptionally comical.

The finale was the best part of the show. “Dream Boogie” featured every dance from “the Juba” to the “Jitterbug, “Doowop” to “Disco”, the “Hustle” to “Hip Hop”. Whoops and cheers exploded in the theater. Words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech were featured on a projection screen.

We cannot turn back.

Whether it be societal acts or dance’s evolution, we cannot turn back.

Overall, Mixed Bill VI was a huge success. If you get a chance to catch a performance, please do! You certainly will not be disappointed. I’ll bet ya you’ll be dancing in your seats and out of the theater.


All My Sons is alright February 21, 2010

The calm before the storm. Birds chirping, a quiet house. a fallen tree stage left keeps the audience filing in mystified. Unbeknownst to them the slim limb is the driving force. As the house lights turn down, Hell, slowly, breaks loose.

All My Sons, the Americana play by Arthur Miller, revolves around a man, Joe Keller, and his family. It’s post World War II and the Keller family is trying to move on after the disappearance of their soldier son, Larry. Kate Keller, Larry’s mother, still believes he is alive even though the rest of the family has already said goodbye. She thinks Larry’s memorial tree they planted three years ago was struck by lightning one night is an omen he is going to come back. Meanwhile his brother, Chris, moves in on Larry’s girlfriend, Ann. The two want to become one in marriage but Kate will have nothing to do with it.

It is revealed that Keller was thrown in jail for supposedly selling faulty airplane parts to the government. He was later released. Turns out those parts were built into planes that killed 20 US airmen. His son and Chris’s girlfriend’s brother, George, thinks Keller is to blame. The play makes a dramatic turn as Keller admits to Chris he was the one who sent out the parts to the government. It’s an emotional rollercoaster from there as Chris has to decide whether he will send his father to jail or forgive. A tragic ending leaves the viewer’s mind in shambles.

The set exuded the American simple yet difficult life Miller portrays in his plays. The play took place mainly in the backyard of the Keller’s home. Eye-catching, beautiful and vivid flower and vegetable colors contrasted with the tan and dark browns of the lawn furniture. There were many props the actors had to interact with which positively contributed to the play. Four out of five stars to Patrick White, the set designer.

Bill Feehely, Joe Keller, and Cynthia Tucker, Kate Keller, were a part of the Actor’s Bridge Ensemble. You could definitely tell. Their professionalism couldn’t be missed as they emotionally delivered and drew the audience in, having them feel what they were feeling, inviting them into the Kellers’ tumultuous life. My favorite out of the two had to be Feehely. He was very comfortable on stage and provided comedy as well as drama.

Zach McCann, Chris, was stiff in the beginning. I think he was nervous/excited to be working with professionals. I think he was miscast because when it came time for him to become angry and yell, he sounded strained. Chris had to have a powerful voice and in this McCann fell short. Not one of my favorite roles for him. He can play more of the sly, almost villainous, characters.

Kyla Ledes, Ann, did a good job. She wasn’t the brightest star but she held her own. A little nervous energy was felt from her. Ledes had some comedy in her and she showed that which made her likeable. Her dramatic parts were delivered sensibly.

I was surprised with Jordan Parkyn, George, when he arrived on stage. He played a very minor role in the play Urinetown, hardly any speaking parts. However, he exploded as he played George. I was speechless and happily taken aback. He brought life to the stage. He was intense, free, fabulous! He was the best student actor. More definitely must be seen from him in his Belmont theatre career.

The ones I didn’t care for were Luke Hatmaker, Dr. Jim Bayliss, Kristin McCalley, Sue Bayliss, and Lindsay Phillpott, Lydia Lubey. Hatmaker was not memorable and he underplayed his minor part. Every part is important and he just wasn’t great. He redeemed himself a little by the end of the second act. He gets a shrug of the shoulders with indifference.

Could McCalley be any more UNlikable?! I know she played a meddling wife but, come on! A meddling wife doesn’t have to be a sourpuss. Her small frame was consumed with bad vibes. The play was better when she wasn’t on stage. I’ve seen her in Belmont’s fall production of Galileo and even in that part she was unlikable. Loosen up, McCalley.

Lindsay Phillpott was reminded of a 12-year-old by some audience members. Her high-pitched voice and mannerisms didn’t deter this perception. However I thought she played a decent character and was great with Ben Stonick, who played Frank Lubey. Her sunny demeanor was refreshing.

All My Sons was executed fine. There isn’t any set change so the audience member may become bored at times with the ongoing dialogue. I would give Belmont three out of five stars overall. If you like drama and tragedy, then go see All My Sons. It’s better than your daytime soap opera.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for faculty, staff, and non-Belmont students. The show is free and culture and arts convo for students.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead falls flat January 20, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 1:49 am
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I went to see the infamous play by Tom Stoppard with a few of my friends on Saturday, January 16. After the lights dimmed, I sat in my chair and wondered what just happened. My wonderments weren’t because the play was so fantastically mind-blowing, but that it was confusingly mind-blowing.

The play itself is a great concept. The story of Hamlet is told by two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Hamlet. They’re sent on a mission from Hamlet’s uncle king to find out what is troubling him. In the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are faced with taking Hamlet to England with a letter from his uncle ordering his death. Hamlet switches letters whilst the two are asleep, making his escape from the boat, and the king of England hangs the two.

I will give Belmont’s theatre group credit for attempting to sink their teeth into this difficult play. However, the point of sinking your teeth into something is being able to pull your teeth out, chew, and digest it. The group got their teeth stuck. The quick banter was too quick, especially when talking about probability and philosophical ideas. Am I saying they should’ve watered the play down? By no means, NO! I wish they would’ve conveyed what they spent their precious time memorizing a little clearer. The fast-talking Dan Hackman, Guildenstern, left me scratching my head. If he wasn’t blabbering about an abstract idea, he was pacing back and forth, making my head spin. I don’t even think he understood exactly what he was saying (in the context of philosophical and mathematical ideas). Hackman usually gives a great performance. He’s cool. He’s suave. But this performance just made him seem tired, as if he wanted to say what he had to say, do what he had to do and then get the heck out of there!

Ben Stonick, Rosencrantz, did better than Hackman. He was the comedian and kept my attention. Without him, I don’t think the play would be as okay as it was. Zach McCann was energetic as well as he played the player. He bounced and slinked around the stage in a wonderful fashion. When he entered, he was a breath of fresh air and only then did the play become somewhat interesting.

The players were too stiff. They overacted their minor parts walking a thin line bordering mediocrity and downright annoyance. I breathed a sigh of relief when they exited the stage. The play was better when they weren’t in the spotlight. 

Props do have to be given to Michael Rosenbaum as Hamlet. He was dark, mysterious and a joy to see. Even though he didn’t have very many lines, he took his role seriously. His eyes burned with passion and insanity. It was sensational, addicting; his performance was spot on. Rosenbaum has a true gift no matter what character he plays.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is a great play. I just don’t think Belmont’s students digested it as well as they could have. Some students walked out of the theater and expressed they enjoyed it but were confused most of the time. A good attempt but one, if tried again, should have a little more time to develop among the actors before a performance.


Cosi Fan Tutte November 14, 2009

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 12:21 pm
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Belmont’s Troutt Theatre may not scream operatic gala to some. But it’s hard not to associate Belmont and opera when the stage is precisely set and the voices of the actors ring out iin beautiful music.

 Cosi fan tutte, written by Lorenzo da Ponte and musically arranged by Wolfgang Mozart, tells a story about two men who are dearly devoted to their lovers, Fiordiligi and Dorabella. As they go on and on about their lovers—how they are beautiful and charming, pure and loyal, Don Alfonso, an old philosopher, proposes a bet that if the men were away, the women would turn from their loyalty on Guglielmo and Ferrando and profess their love and devotion to other men.

Thinking he is proposterous, Guglielmo and Ferrando accept the bribe. They tell their lovers they are going to leave for the warfront. There is a great deal of protest and tears from the women but the song of the soldiers silences them. The men don’t truly go to war but disguise themselves as other men, pretending to seduce the women.

Though the women are set on not falling for the men, through constant flattery and comedic confessions of love, the men seduce the women into marrying them. Guglielmo and Ferrando are disheartened by the women’s actions but Don Alfonso assures them all will work out. 

During the ceremony, the soldiers come back as soon as the women sign the “marriage licenses”. The men reveal their true identities and are cross with the women for ever thinking of potentially being disloyal. Don Alfonso urges them to take the good with the bad and through forgiving song, all turns well.

The star of the show was by far Ben Schultz, Don Alfonso. From the moment he stepped on stage to the moment of his bow, he was in full character. He produced an air of wisdom, trickery, and importance Don Alfonso should have. Natalie Lassinger, Fiordiligi, and Adam Richardson, Guglielmo, were also stars. Lassinger’s voice ressonated through the entire theatre, capturing the heart of the audience with her angelic soprano voice. Richardson was the star of comedy. His facial expressions and body language was goofy and fun to watch. The audience laughed heartily at his different mannerisms.

Ben Petty, Ferrando, and Rebecca Boucher, Dorabella, were the weakest of the cast. Petty was funny but was outshone by Richardson. You get laughs, you lose laughs. Such is the way of the comedic career. Boucher just seemed too concerned with singing than with the art of acting. Her face remained in the worried or fained furious look. I waited for her to wake up and become a great opera singer AND actress. I was sadly disappointed.

If you go to see Cosi fan tutte, be sure to enjoy an excellent performance. It’s a colorful affair and a feast for the eyes. Oh, and you are guarenteed to laugh your fanny off.

 Cosi fan tutte runs until Sunday, November 15. Tickets are $10 for the public, $5 for senior citizens. The show is free for Belmont students, faculty and staff.