The Column Online


by Whitney Ryan Garrity

McKinney Repertory Theatre

Directors - Jana Walters and Jean Trout
Producer - Lisa Miller
Stage Manager ? Heather Moffett
Set and Lighting Design ? Lisa Miller
House Manager ? Micah Ammons
Lighting ? Cheryll Shinavar
Costumes ? Erica Ferguson
Organist ? Bob Whiteman
Sound Design ? Laura Powers


Gideon Culpepper- Greg Potts
Ma Culpepper and Posey Lee Culpepper ? Gay Nell Doshier
Pa Culpepper- Scott Winchester
Carlotta TenneSING ? Erica Ferguson
Horace Prickley- Gary Powers
Col. Reginald Dijon ? Roger Hogarth
Flossie McDurdle- Jeni Helms
Theodore Vanderthistle- Cody Winchester
Vedalia Vanderthistle- Jana Walters
Ivory Keyes ? Laura Powers

Reviewed Performance: 5/14/2011

Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

In a twisted but loving way the McKinney Repertory Theatre actors tossed away the old show business adage: never work with children or animals. Last Saturday evening the troupe performed the "passionate" melodrama BLAME IT ON THE PONY EXPRESS and allowed the children in the audience to become the stars. As they persistently pelted any actor who strolled by within arm's reach with popcorn, the kids became the entertainment focus. I especially enjoyed one small boy who stuffed several kernels of popcorn in his ears?just because he could.

Mounds of popcorn collected around our feet and on the stage as the laughs heaped high. The audience sat in wooden seats on cushions provided as we walked in the door. The intimate converted courthouse theatre provided the perfect setting for an evening of family fun. Directors Jana Walters and Jean Trout staged the characters to enter by strolling down the aisles giving the audience ample opportunity to shower them with popcorn.

In addition to directing, Jana Walters played the most popcorn-assaulted character, Vedalia Vanderthistle. Her portrayal of the snobby rich mother of the spoiled brat, Theodore, [Cody Winchester] begged for open fire of a fluffy white flood. Ms. Walters played off the children and even gave in to the popcorn bombardment by catching kernels in her mouth. One of the biggest laughs of the evening occurred when one elderly audience member poured his popcorn directly into her mouth to save time.

My favorite character of the evening was undoubtedly the flower selling girl shamelessly transported from MY FAIR LADY to the Last Chance Inn. Flossie McDurdle, played by Jeni Helms, wiped her nose with the back of her hand, and then swiped the shoulder of Horace Prickley [Gary Powers] in one of her many hilarious antics. She struggled with H's as she blurted out, "How in heaven's name did you happen upon that hat?" The stage simply came to life when Ms. Helms entered. In this purposely implausible melodrama Flossie slowly transformed from the bawling cockney girl to a polished but spunky lady in heels. Her aid came from Horace Prickley who sported Garth Brooks-like costumes designed and stitched by Erica Ferguson. Ms. Ferguson created extravagant costumes liberally incorporating black lace and red satin to bring characters to colorful life in Calamity Gulch, USA.

The historic venue provided the vintage Wurlitzer pipe organ masterfully played by Bob Whiteman all decked out in his cowboy hat and red suspenders. Mr. Whiteman's hurdy-gurdy like playing glued the show together and kept it moving in the slow moments. His duet of "The Entertainer" with Ivory Keys [Laura Powers] the lazy piano player sporting a saloon girl costume added the perfect nostalgic touch to this show set directly after the Civil War.

The show by playwright, Whitney Ryan Garrity, mockingly sponges off pieces from other famous musicals. Lisa Miller designed the zany set. The squealing Carlotta TenneSING [Erica Ferguson] a trying-to-be-diva lady swung a Dr. Seuss-like chandelier from the balcony in the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA moment. Posey Lee Perriwinkle, [Gay Nell Doshier] a lovely young Southern belle, fashioned a dress from the drapes (a generous use of the verb). As she whimpered about the loss of her plantation home to fire in the GONE WITH THE WIND scene, the drapery rod in her shoulders flopped about. Just like a Don Rickle's skit, every borrowed element was blown out of proportion to an extraordinarily entertaining level.

Some Do's and Don'ts for this show:

Do look for a simple plot: a drifter buys a hotel and people fall in love with those in and out of their societal class.

Don't look for deep underlying messages in this melodrama.

Do bring your children, good pitching arm, and a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief to this production before it closes on May 22nd.

Don't forget to bring a canned good. One can of food equals one bag of tossing popcorn. Kudos to MRT for collecting donations for the McKinney Food Bank and also to The Mom and Pop POPcorn Company for donating the popcorn.

McKinney Repertory Theater,
McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee McKinney, 76069
Runs through May 22nd

Friday and Saturday @ 8:00pm , Sunday matinee @2:00pn

For tickets call 214-544-4630 or visit