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.


Grease Lights the Stage March 28, 2010

Grease is the word. It’s got groove. It’s got meaning.

The audience was groovin’ with the musical theatre program as the cast flawlessly performed Grease in the Troutt Theatre at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. It started out very intimate. Sandy Dumbrowski, Elizabeth Smith, and Danny Zuko, Deonte’ Warren stood on opposite ends of the stage with their beautiful duet of “Sandy”. Flared, long skirts and popped leather collars flooded the stage and carried the audience through this adorable 50s love story.

We all know the deal. Sandy and Danny meet over the summer and then coincidentally meet at Rydell High School. Reputations and social circles keep the two apart until they realize they need to change for each other. The early 1970s  Broadway musical, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, deals with love, sex and rock n roll in 1959.

Kenickie, Michael Rosenbaum, and the T-Birds entertained with their testosterone-filled rendition of “Greased Lightnin'” while the musical took a melancholic turn with “Hopelessly Devoted to You” performed by Sandy.

The entire cast did fabulously and everyone was on point. While everyone was a star, there were a few lightbulbs in the box that shined brighter than the others. My favorite of the night were Betty Rizzo, Lindsey Schroeder and Kenickie, Matthew Rosenbaum. Schroeder played it cool, strutting her stuff as if she owned the place (which she did!). She belted “There are Worse Things I Could Do” and looked fabulous. Rosenbaum is always great, truly transforming himself and embracing any character he’s given. I was eager to see how he would do as a greaser and he definitely impressed. He was light on his feet, powerful with his voice, and smooth in his mannerisms.

Special recognition does have to be given to Sonny, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Doody, Ben Laxton, and Patty Simcox, Maggie McDowell. While these parts were semi-minor, Waterbury-Tieman evoked the best greaser, from his flawless strut to always fixing his coif. He was a greaser through and through and was so fun to see.  Laxton was the goof. “Those Magic Changes” showed off his heart-fluttering vocals. McDowell played the valley girl cheerleader, Patty Simcox, hilariously well. She was a mixture of fun and funny with just a dash of annoying. Perfection.

While the actors played their parts well, casting was a little off. Rizzo had long hair instead of the short tight-curled do we all know and love. Frenchie was extremely watered down. Her hair was in a tight up do. No pink? No flare? Come on! Jan’s hair was fine but should’ve been a few shades darker. And, hello, why not get a curvy girl to play Jan? I couldn’t really recognize who Jan was because she was too thin! Deonte’ Warren, Danny, was really great in the first act. I don’t know what happened between then and intermission but he took on a whole new level of corny. He was too teeny-bopper. Danny Zuko is supposed to be cool and Warren portrayed him as a corny push-over. Sandy, Elizabeth Smith, wasn’t quite right. She had no life to her face, especially during “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. Sure, the lyrics were sad but that’s about it. She definitely could’ve played up the desperation a whole lot more. Smith is a great singer. It would’ve been nice if she let go and truly got into the part. She redeemed herself in “You’re the One That I Want”.

The set was way too simple and a little disappointing. It seemed as thought the musical theater program was short in funding. If the play was in Massey Performing Arts Center, Grease would’ve blew the other plays of the year out of the water. The set is the muscle of the play. The parts seemed thrown together and kind of cheap.

Overall, Grease was something new and the actors did their job. They provided a lovely form of entertainment and made sure they perfected every step, every line before performing. Too bad the stage wasn’t up to par with the actors. If it was, Grease would’ve been one of the musicals written down in Belmont history as one of the greatest musicals ever done. Instead, Urinetown will always outshine Grease when one recollects the plays of the Belmont school year 2009-2010.


Urinetown–Is that REALLY the title?! November 20, 2009

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 10:32 am
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“It’s a privilege to pee!”

At least it is in Urinetown, the comedic, satirical musical written by Greg Kotis and musically composed by Mark Hollman and performed by Belmont’s musical theater program in MPAC. The opening night was November 19.

Officer Lockstock is the narrator and comedic relief throughout the show. Urinetown is about a pay-as-you-go public restroom. Because there has been a 20 year water shortage, citizens have to limit their flow, highly taxed to relieve themselves. There are laws against going behind the bushes or on the sidewalks. The rich owner, Caldwell B. Caldwell, of Urine Good Company (UGC) hikes up the tax once again.

Enter the dashing Bobby Strong. He works for Penelope Pennywise, a sour woman who is stuck between the corporate and everyman world. She enforces the pee tax because the public amenity #9 is her livelihood. She enforces the taxes much to the chagrin of the citizens.

Strong’s father gets arrested for peeing on the sidewalk because he can’t afford the high tax. Strong decides to lead a revolution, leading the people to fight and secure their right to pee—for free. Along the way, he meets Caldwell’s daughter, Hope, who teaches Strong to follow his heart. They’re attraction is instantaneous. During the revolution, Strong takes Hope hostage, taking the rebels to the sewers.

Pennywise chooses to work for the corporate world and tells Caldwell about Strong. Caldwell seizes the opportunity to deal with Strong most severely by asking him to come to his office and discuss a possible cash compromise. As Strong arrives, he is seized and taken to Urinetown, getting pushed off a building.

Hope then takes over the revolution after she tells Strong’s mother she loved him. Hope and the rebels take over UGC. Unfortunately, because of their irresponsible freedom, the water dries up and Hope is killed by the rebels for leading them to their foolish demise.

While Urinetown is a comedy, it deals with some important issues: capitalism, corporate corruption, and social irresponsibility. It shows life is unsustainable; resources must be handled delicately in order to preserve them.

The entire Belmont cast did a fantastic job on opening night. The dances were strong and on point. The songs were beautifully sung and everyone was flawless with their deliverance of lines. Ben Laxton, Bobby Strong, was a big star in the show. A junior musical theater major, Laxton took the audience by surprise with his powerful voice in “Run, Freedom Run”. Chills may just creep up your arms as he controls his voice and hits the high notes.

Maggie McDowell, who plays Hope Caldwell, was a joy to see on stage and had a powerhouse of a voice. She owned her part and gave a strong performance.

Michael Rosenbaum, as Officer Lockstock, along with Brittany Church as Little Sally, was absolutely fabulous. They were so funny and played off each other’s humor.

Urinetown is free to the public and runs through November 22.

It’s so funny you may just pee your pants.