Sunday, June 06, 2010

ha ha, no, I'm old....


A Rodgers and Hammerstein Review
Mesquite Community Theatre
Through June 19, 2010

Directed/ Music Directed/Keyboards by Byron Holder
Choreography by Mallory Brophy
Assistant Directed by Abel Casillas
Stage Manager/Lighting Operator by Emery Lancaster
Set design by Richard Brown, Abel Casillas, and Byron Holder
Lighting design by Nikki Smith
Costume Design by Suzanne Cranford
Keyboards by Laura Maxwell
Bass Steve Cullen


Jack Agnew
Jennifer White
Ryan Hinojosa
Emily Hawkins
Mallory Brophy

Reviewed 6/4/2010 performance.

Reviewed by Ray Gestaut, Associate Theatre Critic for
John Garcia's THE COLUMN

______________________A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING_____________________

Reviewed by Ray Gestaut, Associate Theatre Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

"You may not be able to have a career in show business, but you can have a life in the art."

-Bill Hickey, A great American acting guru, to our class circa 1982.

I love opening nights as a critic. Especially if there's one or two other critics there. You can spot us as we sit, our rattle-tails pointing straight up. We rest our triangular heads on the topmost coil-our slit-pupil eyes unblinking.

Our forked tongues out, flipping up and down to detect even the slightest changes. Yesss. The Mesquite Community Theatre's A Grand Night For Singing is a mussssical review of Rodgers and Hammerstein's hitsss.

These people have a lotta nerve inviting a diamondback theatre expert like me to their community theatre production. Cheeky rascals. Hsss.

Cheeky, cheeky rasscals. Probly deserve a good snakebite right in the …Oh…here's the curtain.

Well, nice set. A curved stairway with 13 white steps. Black curtains on each side with silver design. A weird unlit disco ball hanging over center stage. Good production values overall. Better than I expected. I've seen worse at pro companies Hsss.

Down the stairs come five singers- three ladies and two gentleman in formal evening wear-gowns and tuxedos. Ok-let's see if I can describe this clearly- the audience is on two sides of the stage like from third base to home plate, and from home plate to first base- forming an "L" shape facing the stage. The band is tucked back at home plate, and the singers fill out the outfield (the stage)- the big staircase being right in center field only on a smaller scale.

Now these five singers begin a series of songs. Not medleys. Each song
is given full study and full measure as written. Shifting easily between harmonic cast numbers (quintets), quartets, trios, duos, and solos. There is no book, only music, one song after another. They perform with "ama"- love and soul.

Sometimes even bringing themselves and us to tears (well, it would if I had eyelids) with the stunning grace and simplicity of these beautiful old numbers. Their harmonies are amazing, and the solos are doled out effectively by director, Byron Holder. The pace is good with each new song set to go as the previous song's applause dies down. Now you all know the words "The corn is as high as an elephants eye", but when was the last time you listened to the whole thing, uninterrupted? The part about the "beautiful music the whole world makes" ? It's really gorgeous.

It's this treatment of the songs in their entirety which displays not only their complexities but also their deceptive difficulties. (If you ever hafta dance during one of these, you better know a little about breath control.) Not to mention that the hardest high note may not be the climax, and the low notes can catch you by surprise, too!

To shine each song up and put it on a pedestal creates a rather large theatrical experience, not only in terms of the majesty of the music, but the tunes also tap into our pastoral vision of ourselves and our country. That grandpa romanced grandma in a surrey with a fringe on top. That somewhere out there the corn really IS as high as an elephant's eye. That some enchanted evening you may meet a stranger across a crowded room. And somehow you'll know. You'll know even then. See?- The stuff is important. It builds up the heart as well as the imagination.

Livesss. Yesss. In the art. Hssss.

But I'm not gonna write a thesis on Rodgers and Hammerstein here.

The direction handled well by Byron Holder is complex. You cast what you're gonna need.

You hafta match the piece with your available voices, decide who's gonna sing what song, assign harmony parts-which if done right can make five singers sound like a choir, and this cast sometimes does, (when everybody `finds the room`-by that I mean making all the sounds have the same value and be heard equally, including the band instruments).

Then you hafta block the scenes, and get people up and down 13 stairs in high heels and long evening dresses without killing themselves.

Then there's the dance steps and band arrangement. There's even more, buy you see the kind of work it takes.

Jack Agnew, Jennifer White, Ryan Hinojosa, Emily Hawkins and Mallory Brophy all execute well. Emily and Mallory are high school kids.

Wow. Emily is a belt singer already, and Mallory has almost a `Betty Boop' quality. And she dances! Plus she did the choreography! There's some ballroom dancing in the show, but mostly it's easy box step type shuffles. Hawkins and Brophy aren't quite ready to make it all look easy, cuz it's not, but they're ready to make it look like they love performing. And that's contagious.

Jennifer White is not old by any means, but comes off a bit matronly next to these two. I liked that. It gave the cast texture. A finesse singer.

Jack Agnew is a confident tenor of some experience. Another belt to the back the row. Careful, though -too much volume can put you off the center of the note! Emily, too.

Ryan Hinojosa knows how to catch an audience by the heart. Director, Byron Holder wisely lets Ryan reveal himself as a gay over-the-top twinkle-bunny hysterically jumping around like a nut while trying to
`lead' ("Me, Lead? How novel!") his dance partner, yet two songs later
can be sitting on the steps as sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.

Then the next song he's all butched up again. He has a lot of swing in his stage personality with a great emotional rage. But we love him as a person- and that's a quality you can't teach, bottle, or tattoo on.

The show isn't perfect. Hsss. The main difference between cast members
is volume. Power, pipes. Now, the loudest isn't always the best- and neither is the softest.

It's a matter of accommodating the requirements of the moment, and a matter of understanding your space. Your acoustics.

What the room does to you and for you. Volume placement & arrangement
of the band and vocals per each moment's needs. This is very tough.

But when the room was in balance with the often OVERPOWERING PIANO, and singers finally all matching in strength-those were the shining moments of the show. When the room evened out, that's when the melody and harmonics came clear.

A last quick note to MCT- lose the dopey disco ball. It doesn't even light up! A disco ball promises disco music, so lose it.

Any time you go to a community theatre you have a chance to be blown away. You've got talented kids finding their lives in the art before going pro, and you've got amazing talents continuing their lives in art after being a pro.

As a teen I walked into our local community theatre and asked if I could come around and sweep the floors. Guess what? They said yes!

Tix are $20.00 a piece. The theatre offers discounts for children, seniors and students. Grab all the kids who can sit still two hours, and put some culture in their little knuckleheads.

I give this show three and a half raspy shakes of my rattley-tail out of five and that'sss a lot. Hssssss.

Reviewed by Ray Gestaut, Associate Theatre Critic for
John Garcia's THE COLUMN



A Rodgers and Hammerstein Review
Mesquite Community Theatre
Through June 19, 2010

Shows Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00; Sunday at 7:00
Optional food and beverage service one and one-half hours
before show time.

Tickets: $20.00 Friday and Saturday 8PM and Sunday 2:30PM.
Reservations available through the box office at 972-216-8126 or email: reservations at mctweb dot org