Highlights of collegiate and professional theatre in 2011
By Brian P. Sharp
One of the highlights this year happens to have been a loss (resignation), when a vital part of theatre in Dayton – Tina McPhearson previously the VP of Programming at the Victoria Theatre Association – known for bringing the big shows to the big stage resigned to pursue other career opportunities. We have lost an amazing programmer who worked tirelessly to ensure that great theatre, cutting-edge theatre and the biggest shows from Broadway hit the Dayton stage. Tina, it simply won’t be the same without you!
On the collegiate stage there were a number of highlights…
In the early part of the year we saw Wright State University present an amazing Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. The show by Leslie Bricusse, Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn was brought to life with outstanding performances by Blaine Boyd, Emma Carew and Alexandra Sunderhaus. Boyd’s portrayal of Dr. Henry Jekyll made it seem he was made for this role.
Then there was the Cedarville University production of Hello Dolly a musical by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. The show – a snapshot of the life of Dolly Levi – played with strength by Jessica Diane Hickling was only complemented by the outstanding performances of the duo of Gabriel Pyle and Josiah Hutchings. The production was a shining example of the strength of Bob and Ruth Clements.
Wright State had another highlight in its production of 42nd Street. The musical by Michael Stewart, Mark Bramble, Harry Warren and Al Dublin was expertly choreographed by Rick Conant (no stranger to 42nd Street) after having worked on the Broadway production. Alyssa Hostetler and Valerie Reaper delivered outstanding performances and brought their roles to life. It is not hard to remember the curtain rising a few feet only to see hundreds of feet tapping their way into a dance audition.
Wright State gave new meaning to big hair with its production of Hairspray, the Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan Tony Award-winning musical. Set in the 1960s Baltimore, we see the effects of race and tolerance as they mold and change. The outstanding performance by Beth Conley was complemented by Drew Helton and Ian DeVine. The show brought a smile to your face from beginning to end. You just can’t stop a production like that!
On the professional stage there was a youthful highlight…
That highlight came as the Muse Machine took the stage in the Stephen Sondheim production of Into the Woods. The Tony Award-winning show was mounted professionally and highlighted performances by Micah Trout, Mary Kate O’Neill, Noah Berry, Coleman Hemsath, Trevor Coran and Bradley Farmer. There was a little bit of Broadway just brewing in every one of the kids on that stage.
The stage was filled with energy as a partnership production between the Victoria Theatre Association and the Human Race Theatre Company mounted The Drowsy Chaperone. The man in the chair, Wally Dunn, delivered an outstanding performance aided by Megan Nicole Arnoldy, Richard Vida and complemented by our own Saul Caplan, Patricia Linhart and Scott Stoney.
Dayton became a jungle this summer when Disney’s The Lion King hit the Schuster stage. Bringing millions of dollars into the community, the production was simply superb. The costumes, the details, the masks, and the use of the aisles took you into the action of the circle of life as only Disney can.
The Human Race brought the issues of race and class to light with Caroline, or Change. The moving production showed off the talents of Tanesha Gary as Caroline. The Tony Kushner musical also highlighted some local performers – Kay Bosse, K. L. Storer and Saul Caplan, who all delivered in the production. You just never know what happens in a hot basement – when the only things you have to talk to are the radio, the washing machine and the dryer.
Recently the stage at the Schuster came alive again with the return of Les Misérables. In its 25th anniversary show we saw the elimination of the turntable onstage, and a reworking of the music and choreography. The performance was enhanced with video images and an improved pace. Certainly two of the highlights came from the Thenardiers played by Richard Vida (Drowsy Chaperone, previously mentioned) and Shawna M. Hamic. This Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg musical still delights audiences and fills houses.
These were just a few of the highlights on the professional and collegiate stages this calendar year. You really can’t stay home when there is great theatre to be seen in the Dayton community. Get out. Support the arts. See a show!
Reach DCP theatre critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.