Timothy Stewart is rapidly shaping up to be one of the finest directors in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. His direction of “Legally Blonde” at the Pollard is an excellent example of the ideal musical. Tight and concise direction gives performers the structure needed to loosen up their bodies, their voices and their expression. “Legally Blonde” is the adaptation of the novel by Amanda Brown and the subsequent movie of the same name. The book is by Heather Hach with Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin.
“Legally Blonde” tells the story of a canny young woman who loses her heart to a law student. Elle Woods decides to follow her boyfriend to Harvard in order to keep him on the leash. It seems surprising that she meets the academic requirements, as the natural blonde flighty type does not have the reputation of intelligence needed to make the grade. Her story proves the stereotype to be wrong. Flighty beautiful blondes can think as good as they look. In the story, Elle discovers in herself the intellectual capacity to succeed as a superb lawyer without shedding her personality to do so. The modern woman can wear pink in the board room!
Stewart handles the large cast beautifully, and the stars of the show shine. Danielle Fleshers Stephens is that gorgeous blonde and she captures the audience and they become entwined in the story. She is supported by other equally beautiful and smart creatures such as Cory King as Paulette, Susan Riley as Brooke Windham and Gwendolyn Evans as Vivienne Kensington.
Although this is most definitely a show-case for women, the gentlemen in the show are equally outstanding in performance. Jake DeTommaso, James A. Hughes and James Tyler Kirk are all exceptional talents with delightful characterizations.
Other notable performances among the excellent ensemble members come from Joshua Thomas McGowan, Michael Edsel, Jeff Burleson, Tiffany Tuggle, Trinity Goodwin and Claudia Fain. These folks make those special moments work.
Stewart’s excellent direction is complemented by W. Jerome Stevenson, Musical Director and an orchestra lead by Todd Malicoate, Band Leader. James A. Hughes, Set Designer provides a perfect back drop for Stewart’s staging, and Lighting Designer Jake DeTommaso enhances the actors nicely. The original costume designs by Gregg Barnes work well for actors without ever upstaging the bodies within. Choreographer Jennifer Rosson devised some very nice routines that make each performer shine.
“Legally Blonde” is one of those surface stories that serve primarily to entertain. Yet, when done superbly, such a musical can enlighten an audience as much as delighting an audience.
Guthrie is just a short drive from Oklahoma City and gas mileage is much better on the highway. One can budget less time to get to the Pollard Theatre than many of the other entertainment locales Oklahoma City has to offer. This spring it’s a lovely drive for a lovely show.
“Legally Blonde” is showing through May 5th, 2012 at the Pollard Theatre at 120 W. Harrison in Guthrie. Curtain is 8:00pm and tickets are available at www.thepollard.org or call 405-282-2800. This show is definitely one not to be missed.
“These Shining Lives” by Melanie Marnach is the poignant story of Catherine Donohoe, a young mother of two who worked for The Radium Dial Company in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Unaware that they were dealing with a toxic substance, Mrs. Donohoe and her colleagues were continually exposed to radium for several years. The young women, glowing with health when hired, soon begin to glow in earnest as they sicken and die. They must fight their employer for damages and the battle sets the stage for the employee safety regulations we take for granted today. While the script is slightly fictionalized the struggle is historically accurate.
Under the thoughtful direction of Terry Veal, Catherine Donohoe is sensitively played by Brytanie Holbrook. Crystal Ecker is Charlotte, Allyson Rose is Pearl and Christine Jolly is Frances. These four actresses draw the audience into their lives with skill and then proceed to tear our hearts out as we watch their decline. Justin Haley portrays Tom Donohoe, Catherine’s husband, and also Dr. Dalitsch. Kaleb Bruza is Mr. Reed, the supervisor, as well as the company Doctor, and also Catherine’s young son. Rose is not only Pearl, she is Catherine’s daughter. Veal follows the author’s suggestion in double casting these roles and the actor’s do an excellent job in their multiple characters. Nevertheless, it is a little jarring to the audience, and lessens the impact of the primary roles they play for many.
The show is haunting, partly because it is such a recent part of our history. Today we are complacent, expecting that our rights to work in a healthy work environment are protected by the laws that exist due to their suffering. Yet man’s inhumanity to man is eternal and “These Shining Lives” shakes our foundations down to our very bones. These six actors bring us to that point and Veal’s handling of the subject is well thought out and relevant.
The set is quite workable, defining the Donohoe home and The Radium Dial Company clearly. The costumes are very good. The make-up is excellent. Lighting and sound are balanced nicely. While the technical expertise enhances the mood and circumstance for these actors, the burden of telling the story lies squarely on the shoulders of these four actresses. They tell the story with respect and integrity allowing us to see their humanity, shocking us with their tragic fight for life and dignity.
“These Shining Lives” plays through April 28, 2012 at Carpenter Square Theatre, located at 800 West Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information call 405-232-6500.
Spring Awakening is just that. An awakening, and a shocking one, at that. For a musical based on a play written around 1890, the subject matter is frighteningly current. Lyric Theatre could not have chosen a better time to present the Oklahoma premiere of the racy Spring Awakening.
The original play, by Frank Wedekind, was considered controversial for it’s day, and continues to shock audiences in 2012. The modern rock musical keeps the time period of Wedekind’s work, but adds an interesting twist with an excellent and touching rock music score. The characters wear period appropriate costumes, yet when the music starts, the simple set is transformed into a modern day rock concert as the characters sing into handheld microphones they keep hidden in costumes and in the set. Art Whaley’s lighting design truly comes alive with color when the music starts.
With brilliant direction by Michael Baron and assistant direction by Matthew Alvin Brown, Spring Awakening is a coming of age tale about the challenges facing teenagers in 1892. The musical, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, stays true to its roots by sticking with controversial subjects such as child abuse, sex-ed, homosexuality and more. Even with the show’s heavy subject matter, the actors take the audience on an amazing journey full of laughter and tears from scene to scene. Although upsetting at times, the show never leaves the audience there for long with the perfect mixture of comedy and drama.
The well written script is masterfully performed by all the actors on stage. Leah Coleman shines as Wendla, the young heroine. Coleman successfully captures the innocence and curiosity of her character. The fine Kelly Methven plays opposite to Coleman as the complicated and deep Melchior, who many characters seem to lean on for support throughout the play including his friend Moritz, played by Wilson Kerr. Kerr wonderfully portrays the angst and sadness of his character, who is increasingly confused about puberty. All of the actors in Lyric’s production of Spring Awakening had a truly powerful and challenging script to work with, but they brought the words of Sater to life. With no weak links, this production is a must-see, simply for the talent.
Lyric Theatre has given this production an R rating for strong language and sexually explicit scenes. However, despite the shocking nature of the subject matter, Spring Awakening comes with a strong message that should not be overlooked. Be prepared to laugh, cry and possibly relive your own memories of being a teenager. Painful at times and always brilliant, Lyric’s performance of Spring Awakening is not one to be missed. You can catch the performances at Lyric’s Plaza Theatre through April 14th. Lyric’s Plaza Theatre is located at 1727 NW 16th St. in Oklahoma City, and the box office can be reached at 405-524-9310.
Victoria Stahl has joined the staff of Oklahoma Arts: Scene & Hurd. Stahl has had an exceptional career as an actress in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Most recently she has been seen in “Lives of the Saints” at Ghostlight Theatre Club where she has been a board member. She also appeared in “Reasons to be Pretty” and “The Shape of Things” In addition to her passion for the theatre, Stahl’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma evidences her equal passion for writing. We are glad she has chosen to combine those passions and share her talent with us. Her first review is for Lyric Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” posted above.