LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE
Book, Music and Lyrics by Ray Besoyan
Director - Sue Birch
Musical Director - Mary Medrick
Choreographer - Larry M. Jansson
Stage Manager - Jill Stephens
Producers - Mary Compton, Rick Tuman
Set Designer/Master Carpenter - Abigail Kipp
Lighting Designer - Brooks Powers
Costume Designer - Jesse Thaxton
Properties Designer - Robin Coulonge
Wig/Hair Designer - Don Hall
Sound Designer - Sue Birch
Sound Tech - Rob Stephens
Light Board Operator - Charis Royal
Sound Board Operators - Darien Graham, Samantha Navarro
Chief Brown Bear - Ben Westfried
Corporal Billy Jester - Chester Maple
Captain Jim Warrington - Blake Rodgers
Little Mary Sunshine - Elizabeth Saxe
Mme Ernestine Von Liebedich - Mary Tiner
Nancy Twinkle - Caitlin Mills
Fleet Foot / Servant - Donald Cook
Yellow Feather / Servant - Rick Blodgett
General Oscar Fairfax - Michael McNiel
Cora - Amy Wells
Henrietta - Kelsey Kruse
Gwendolyn - Tiffany Hillert
Blanche - Dusty Reasons
Maud - J - d B. Saxton
Mabel - Jennifer Middleton Taylor
Pete - Michael Speck
Slim - Matthew Clark
Tex - Eli Aalderink
Buster - Ruben Rosales
Hank - Bishop Wash
Tom - Giovanny Arcibar
Steve Hall, Michael McVay, Christy Springer
Reviewed Performance 7/16/2011
Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
"High" drama in the Rocky Mountains!
A boisterous blur of red tramped past me from the back of the theatre as the curtain rose last Saturday evening on H Avenue in Plano (a three-minute walk from the DART). Eight smartly dressed men in uniform opened LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE at Rover Dramawerks with the perky number, "The Forest Ranger." The gallant warriors lined up not only their feet but their harmonies as well?such a dream! While stepping sappily in a circular format the handsome fellows displayed white-gloved jazz hands and crooned, "You've got to hand it to Little Mary Sunshine".
Choreographer Larry Jansson created one schmaltzy move after another for this tongue in cheek takeoff. I praise the entire cast for corny but consistent dancing throughout the two acts. At the curtain call, I pined. Alas, they did not provide when I whispered, "Please Sir, may I have some more."
Ah, but if you attend this production before it closes on July 30th, you'll certainly not want for more. In fact, if you've been sluggish in your attendance of operettas and old fashioned musicals as of late--fear not. You'll catch up in the span of two hours, viewing this darling melodrama which packs in parodies by the basketfuls, good naturedly mimicking the music of Gilbert and Sullivan, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, and a plethora of others in this Rocky Mountain romance.
Although the male lead, Captain Jim Warrington, played by Blake Rodgers had a commanding voice, I must admit he most entertained me with his comic gasp before a long note. Such small moments and little touches came together and created a performance oozing of silly strokes of genius. Director Sue Birch and musical director Mary Medrick orchestrated quite a symphony of sap. I felt like I was viewing one of the famous Renaissance works of art which depicts movement and details in every square inch of the painting and cannot be absorbed in one viewing.
So, if you attend this musical more than once, you will surely spot a reference you missed the first time and laugh all over again. I'm not a person who will see a movie or show twice unless I truly adore it. This was the second performance of Rover Dramawerks that I'd happily see twice.
Be prepared for stereotyping of Native Americans, opera stars, the elderly, Caucasians, women, Mounties, and?men?no one group was neglected. Every human category was poked fun of which made it all the more enjoyable.
The chorus ladies' costumes designed by Jesse Thaxton were as colorful as the flowers in Little Mary's garden. My favorite line was delivered by one of the proper young ladies from Eastchester Finishing School: "I want to do something that hasn't been approved." My personal mantra!
The wig and hair designs by Don Hall complimented the costuming and characterizations and augmented the timeframe of the early 20th century. Caitlin Mills who played "Naughty" Nancy Twinkle, a man lover, mentioned to me at the reception how placing the curly platinum wig on her head helped her "boopsie" blonde character come to life. Ms. Mills' dark eye makeup called back to the silent movie era while her black and white maid costume echoed the theme as well?again coordination of costume, makeup and genuine acting!
The receiver of Naughty Nancy's affection, her would-be boyfriend, was Corporal Billy Jester. Chester Maple performed this tenor/high baritone role. Mr. Maple's acting background included television and film credits and sketch comedy, and yet he created another level of goofiness with his "Heap Big Injun" song. Perhaps Mr. Maple lived out his dream as a former Eagle Scout when Chief Brown Bear, played by Ben Westfried, made him his honorary son in a ceremony complete with peace pipe and feather headdress.
The shoestring musical accompaniment with only keyboard, percussion, and woodwinds, amazingly filled out the show. The "coo-coo" created by Michael McVay on keyboards whistled authentically like the sound of the bird.
With a three-week run vocal fatigue can be a factor, especially since most of the actors are accountants, engineers or housewives during the day. Thus, I was not shocked that the singers used microphones. However, sound tech Rob Stephens equalized the sound well, and the voices were amplified naturally and balanced with the musical accompaniment.
Little Mary Sunshine, performed by Elizabeth Saxe in her debut with Rover Dramawerks, beamed as she sang this leading lady role. Her line, "and I a woman fulfilled" drew a contented groan from the audience. Although in her bio Ms. Saxe touted "two left feet," I saw no evidence of this as she danced around the stage with Ginger Rodger-like fluidity.
Mary and Captain Jim formed a couple with good chemistry. In their duet "Colorado Love Call" which alluded to "Indian Love Call" from Rudolf Friml's ROSE MARIE, they deeply inspired at least one audience member. Right behind me a man sang along for several lines. Help! I may have to pass out proper audience etiquette flyers soon - never sing along during a show (unless it's the Handel's Messiah chorus) - let the performers do that, please! I should've offered him a mint. Perhaps that would've silenced him.
The elderly opera singer residing at the Colorado Inn, Madame Ernestine von Liebedich, could not be silenced. Her name hilariously recalled the German phrase "Ich liebe dich" and Edvard Grieg's composition. Mary Tiner sang this role and although her operatic pipes from her former career in Austria suited the character, I most enjoyed her signature gesture of "adjusting" her bosom to a higher level. Ms. Tiner sweetly batted her eyelashes but relentlessly encouraged prim Little Mary to accept Captain Jim's persistent attempts at amour. We sat on the edge of our seats waiting for Captain Jim to finally chorale Miss Mary's lips. See how many near misses of kisses you can count when you attend.
Little Mary Sunshine
Courtyard Theater, 1509 H Avenue, Plano, TX 75074
Runs through July 30th
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Saturday, July 23rd at 2:00pm
Tickets are $22 Friday and Saturday evening and $18 Thursday and Sat. matinee. Students and seniors receive a $2 discount.
For tickets and information, please call 972-849-0358 or go to www.roverdramawerks.com