Arts Council of the Trussville Area Reviews Archive
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The Music Man
Directed by Kristen Sharp
July 21-31, 2011 at the Arts Council of Trussville (ACTA)
Reviewed by Ron Bryant
The Music Man is one of those long beloved shows of stage and screen. It would have to be one of the 5-10 most frequently produced plays of all times. There is, of course, a reason for some shows being produced so often. The show is naturally fun to watch and has one of the most familiar musical scores of all Broadway musicals. On top of that it is suitable for a family audience which is something you can seldom say about many modern Broadway shows.
So what about the production currently running at ACTA in Trussville? Well it is similar in some ways to many community theatre productions that require large casts, the talent is a bit uneven. Some could be in professional productions; some probably belong in school productions.
Jennifer Lewis is wonderful as Marian. She has a great voice and wonderful stage presence. She does a great job with her role and you can always tell she is in the moment.
The same can be said for Howard Green. He is as good in the part of the Mayor of River City as anyone I have ever seen do the part. He has developed a strong character and he is consistent throughout the show.
In the title role of the Music Man, Harold Hill ACTA has found a “new” star. According to his bio in the program, Lance Pate is returning to the stage for the first time in 20 years. He does a good job with the voice, both acting and singing. Harold Hill is a very demanding role, one in which you are seldom off stage. Lance delivers vocally, but at times does not deliver quite the energy or body language audiences might expect in this role. This of course is one of the hazards of doing a show that is so well known. People will have expectations.
At times however even some of the other principal characters were not exactly stellar in their performances and at times some of the younger ensemble cast members did not stay “in the moment” in some of the group numbers. As I am sure the director told them many times, you never know when someone in the audience will be looking at you and you need to constantly stay focused and in character.
Scott Thorne, Michael Lunsford, Alan Easdon, and J.D. Blackmon do a great job with the vocals as the squabbling school board members. In fact one strong point of note is that the full cast vocal numbers are very good and one reason is that, unlike many community theatre productions, the male vocals more than hold their own.
But not all group numbers are perfect. Many of the classic rhythmic numbers like the opening scene on the train lack the rhythmic punch you might be used to seeing.
I do give major kudos to director Kristen Sharp for doing a wonderful job staging what is a “big” show on a pretty small stage. The set was well conceived and designed and the set changes were handled in reasonable time. As for other technical aspects, about the only problem was at times when the orchestra played behind dialog it was at times a bit hard to understand the dialog. But I am not being critical of the orchestra. I thought they did a great job of keeping the volume reasonable which is a very difficult thing to do.
Overall this was a very good production, probably the best thing I have seen at ACTA since Noises Off . It will run next week as well and it is worth your time and money. I should say as well that ACTA has the best ticket prices in town.
Sunday August 1, 2010 by Ed Potts
Having just finished our own production, I was in the mood for some good entertainment and a way to escape the July heat. ACTA Theatre was doing “State Fair”, so I asked a pretty lady friend to go and off we went. I am well familiar with ACTA as this is the theatre that gave me a chance to return to the stage. This dear old building will always hold a special place in my heart as I have spent many, many, many nights and weekends there since that day. I do my best to see whatever is playing there, regardless of which side of the curtain I happen to be on.
After greeting several friends and catching up on what each of us were doing, my lady friend and I settled in to watch the show. As the lights went down, we were welcomed to the Iowa State Fair by a barker over the intercom with the usual announcements, (turn off cell phones, no flash photo, etc.) This was a unique and entertaining way to get that necessity accomplished. Cynthia Short began playing the score beautifully on the in-house piano and I enjoyed her music throughout the show.
I have done a couple of shows with Geoff White (Able Friske), and have known Paige Turner (Melissa Friske), since my involvement with ACTA. They played their parts so well that I almost forgot who the actors were. Geoff was hilarious, as always, in his role with just enough gruff country sound and concern for his pig. My date and I laughed readily when the quartet sang their ode to their pigs. Paige was convincing in her role and we fretted with her when the judging for pickles and mincemeat came about. Bravo to both of you!
Kerry Burrell, (Dave Miller/Judge Happenstahl) left us rolling in the floor with his judging of the mincemeat! Well played my friend! Anna Bedsole, (Margie Friske) is an actress that I have seen before and have liked her work. She sang beautifully this day and her portrayal here was one that we really enjoyed. I hope to see more of her shows in the future. Ally Forehand, (Emily Arden) did a great job playing the singer/dancer/heartbreaker. Her dance with ’The Fairtones’ was an unexpected nice touch. But perhaps, to me, I was most surprised by Anthony Aldrich’s, (Pat Gilbert), performance. This was not the same Anthony I did a show with last year! He acted his part well, sang great and was confident in his dance moves. And…, he got to kiss the girl! Great job Anthony! Special shout-outs go to Stephen Turner, (Wayne Friske), and Amanda Easdon, (Violet) for their parts as well.
Since I build sets, I must comment on this one. Large casts at ACTA are a challenge so I was curious how Bradford Forehand, (Director), was going to pull this off. My hat’s off to you Brad! Your use of the floating triangles made scene changes with a static background quick, relatively quiet and changed the look of the set with minimal need to close the curtain. The back wall was beautifully painted and highly detailed. Someone put a lot of work into that. The use of tiers accommodated the various vignettes and the size of the cast. My only negative of the entire show is that the height of the tiers caused those cast members with shorter legs to move awkwardly when moving from area to area. This was a distraction from time to time.
My date and I set out to enjoy an afternoon at the theatre and we were not disappointed! We laughed, listened and even got teary eyed a time or two. “State Fair” is a show that I would urge any and all to go see. The dancing was great, the ensemble numbers were harmonized beautifully, the parts were well cast, the set was well suited for a large cast and the audience was fully drawn into the lives of the Friske family for the afternoon. Thank you and a standing ovation go out to ACTA, Bradford Forehand, Cynthia Burke, cast and crew of this wonderfully done show!
April 17-25, 2009 at ACTA Theatre
Reviewed April 20 by Lynne Long
If the price of living has gotten you down, take a trip to ACTA Theatre. The Foreigner delivers a cheap dose of hilarity that is sure to cure the blues- well for a couple of hours at least.
You’ll be laughing from the first scene. The premise is enough to get you going. Froggy (How’s that for a good ‘ole boy name?) brings his neurotic friend Charlie to a Georgia fishing lodge for a visit. Unfortunately, Charlie is terrified of talking with strangers. But, Froggy has a plan. He tells everyone that Charlie is from a foreign country and speaks no English. Once Charlie is left alone, he overhears more than he should—resulting in a comical chain of events that includes a secret plot to condemn and buy the fishing lodge, a surprising pregnancy, and a takeover plan from the Klan. Don’t worry it’s all in fun- and lots of it.
I just thought I had seen Ron Landry at his best, but I was wrong. He does a wonderful job as Charlie and will have you in stitches with his native ‘story telling’ and his breakfast glass, which he happens to wear on his head. Froggy is well played by Michael Lunsford, with a great accent too. Kathy Elliott is sweet as Betty Meeks, the lodge owner and Froggy’s long time friend. ACTA newcomer, Kevin Van Hyning does an excellent job as Reverend David Marshall Lee, a Southern preacher who is not what he seems, and the perfect straight man for the ensemble’s jokes. Kerry Burrell is fabulous as the somewhat unstable Owen Musser. He has been doing that great redneck accent for years, now he finally has a chance to put it to use. Lindsay Keim is cute as Catherine Simms, a young lady with a secret who befriends Charlie and grows up a little at the same time. Stephen Lunsford plays Ellard, Catherine’s not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed’s brother. He nails the role and his scenes with Charlie are some of the best in the play.
Put this show on your calendar. It’s good, mostly clean fun and is guaranteed to keep you smiling.
April 18-27 at ACTA Theatre
Reviewed April 25, 2008 by Nicholas Johns
It is such a delight to go out on a Friday night to a show in town and be blown away by it! That is what will happen to you if you get the chance to attend the current ACTA production of Noises Off! It has to be without a doubt one of the greatest pieces of theatre I have seen locally in a long time!
First off the set for this production is fantastic! Suellen Wilkins, the show’s director, has done a super job of getting a set of this magnitude on this stage. It works so beautifully and looks so great you will be amazed, especially when they have to turn the entire set TWICE! It is a work of art within itself! Congratulations go to the set crew and builders!
Then comes the meat of the show, the actors! What a joy to watch a wonderful ensemble piece in every sense of the word. There is not a weak point within this cast. Does this mean they are perfect?…well, they are close to it! When you have audience that is laughing non-stop during an entire show and leaving with such a huge smile on their face, you know the actors have done their job.
Amy Harlan as “Dotty” starts it all off. She has wonderful comedic timing and was extremely enjoyable to watch. Then we have Cliff Keen Jr as “Lloyd” speaking from out of the audience to begin the show, because you see he is director of Nothing On! the play within a play and he is fantastic. He has wonderful inflections in his voice during the first part of the show, as you cannot see him until he comes up on stage, you do not need to see him because of what he does with his voice. He is wonderfully believable and funny as Lloyd.
Next we have Kenny Morris as “Garry”! Oh my goodness, just wonderful delivery and emotion in his lines. He is hysterical! Along comes Crystal Chappell as “Brooke”. She is wonderfully cast and her comic timing is strong. Her “her deer in the headlights look” is so funny you can’t but smile before she even says anything. David Gregson is “Selsdon”. Another riot of a character. He can’t hear very well and that makes for wonderful comedy all around him. Definitely a crowd favorite!
Kevin Garrett as “Roger” is a hoot! He is sincere and funny, which makes him even more likable. Susan Cook as “Belinda” is a gem. Her running around during most of the show is phenomenal! He comedic timing is strong as well! Hannah Wilkerson as “Poppy” is a job to watch. Her role is one of those roles where you think she isn’t really going to be on stage that much but when she is she is just downright wonderful! Danny White as “Tim” has wonderful moments and completes the fantastic ensemble of a cast!
In the program, the director Suellen Wilkins, is quoted as saying the “best cast she has ever worked with”! We are all in total agreement. Judging from the laughter, the tears, the sides hurting, and the huge grins on everyone’s faces, we were lucky to see some of the most talented actors around!
If you have an ailment I recommend a HUGE does of Noises Off! It does a body good!
5-Stars! All thumbs way UP!
April 18-27 at ACTA Theatre
Reviewed April 20, 2008 by Billy Ray Brewton
Farce is a difficult thing to perform, in general, much less perform well. It requires near perfect comedic timing, the kind of physical comedy that leaves actors covered in perspiration and a tight and affective script. Luckily, ACTA Theatre has successfully discovered the right formula, which is in practice now in the form of "Noises Off", the hilarious comedy that has long been a favorite of theatre fans because it shows the workings of a theatrical performance from the perspective of both on-stage and backstage. The play comes and goes in three acts.
This was my first trip to ACTA, and I was a little pessimistic that a show like "Noises Off" could be carried off on such a tiny stage. Director Suellen Wilkins and cast proved me totally wrong in that regard. The set is break-away. Act One takes place with the actors rehearsing the show. Then the set comes apart and is flipped around for Act Two, which takes place backstage during the opening night performance of the show. Then the stage comes apart again and is flipped back around so the audience can see one of the actual performances of the show. Each set change takes about 10 minutes, which is why there are two intermissions built in. But, don't let that worry you. The show still clocks in at under two hours, and believe me, you won't stop laughing.
The first strength comes with the script. It has always been one of the funniest ever written for the stage. But, it takes some talented actors to make it work, and ACTA has found them. The highlights of the performance were Susan Cook as Belinda, exuding a natural confidence through the entire show that really makes her enjoyable to watch; Kenny Morris as Roger, whose Act Two energy especially is so incredible that it really helps to carry the entire act; Kevin Garrett as Philip, who milks his nosebleeds for everything they're worth. I also thoroughly enjoyed Hannah Wilkerson as Poppy and Cliff Keen as Lloyd, and their Act Two interchanges are quite humorous. But, everyone in the cast does a fine job and they all work very well together.
So, I will conclude with saying that "Noises Off" is one of the funniest productions I have seen in Birmingham in quite a while. ACTA has successfully pulled off one of the trickiest comedies around and they make it look so easy, you'd think they've been running it a lot longer. The show runs for one more weekend and I highly suggested you check it out while you have the chance.
Presented by ACTA Theatre
Reviewed for August 9, 2007 by Lynne Long
Since I consider ACTA to be my “home” theatre, you might think I wouldn’t be objective when it comes to reviewing one of the shows. On the contrary, I think I am even more judgmental, always on the lookout for ways to improve the production. I write this preface to say, when it comes to ACTA’s thoroughly enjoyable summer musical, Seussical -I wouldn’t change a thing.
A stage full of color immediately catches your attention with bright stripes, panels with your favorite Seuss characters, and a floor full of polka dots. Kudos to Kerry Burrell and crew for a great set.
All roles are
cast impeccably. I can’t help but mention a
few stand-outs. Reese Vines as Horton
is irresistible (I used to babysit Reese. What a wonderful actor he has grown
up to be!!). Kristen Pickrell as the Sour Kangaroo.
Hang on to your hats; her voice will blow you away. Sara Chesler as Gertrude McFuzz, with her beautiful voice and cute expressions
is a joy to watch, as always. Sam
Torres and Stephanie Harris as the Whoville mayor
and his wife were a who-hoot. Loved
their costumes, songs, and sincerity. Lyndsay Gates as Mayzie is a barrel of laughs.
She has the moves and the voice. Caitlin
Curtis played JoJo the night I went. Her voice
is bell-clear and her acting right on. I look forward to seeing Jonathan Hancock as JoJo on Saturday. He did a great job as the Sour
Kangaroo’s sidekick, Young Kangaroo.
He had the ‘tude and the timing. John Tourtellotte
was fun as General Schmitz/Yertyl the Turtle. Loved his
costumes. Chris Byrd made a
very cute cat. He cracked me up
when he joined the audience for a good cry after JoJo’s
accident. The mischievous Wickersham
Brothers were a delight, adding some acrobatics and monkey business to an
already high-spirited show. Erin
Lambert is good as the gum-popping nurse
All other players were in top form as well. The young whos, cadets, ballet dancers, and jungle citizens were all an integral and entertaining part of this explosion of music and merriment.
Seussical has almost too many highlights to mention. Circus McGurkus was wonderful and included a parade down the center aisle, complete with animals and performers all decked out in sparkling circus attire. I think my favorite part, though, is when Horton’s egg finally hatches. Grant Hindman, age 11 months, dressed as a winged baby elephant emerges. I feel sure it is Grant’s debut. He almost stole the show.
Thanks to Brad Forehand for his great choreography- definitely a big plus for the production.
And last, but certainly not least, snaps for Paige Turner’s capable direction and use of clever ideas, such as black light bits and puppets that added extra charm and interest to an almost perfect production.
With apologies to the good doctor:
If you haven’t called yet, it may be too late.
But try right now, the show is so great.
If you don’t love Seussical, what will I do?
I think- catch a train to
The Taming of the Shrew
Presented by ACTA Theatre
Reviewed for February 18, 2007 by Jerry Gilroy
Sunday’s matinee performance of The Taming of the Shrew was one of the most hilarious I have ever seen. The play started slow by introducing the plot, but was pulled off wonderfully by the characters involved in it.
William Brisky’s portrayal of love struck Luciento had audience members believing he actually had a fondness for his leading lady, Nicole Gilliland, who portrayed Bianca, daughter of Baptista Minola. Even though Nicole did not get to speak as much as her fellow actors did, her stage presence told a story all of its own. She came across as a true lady and humanitarian, the complete opposite of her brash sister Katharina. Katharina was played by Susan Cook, who did a magnificent job in the role. Susan showed us many sides to Katharina, and even though most of these sides were not very pretty, her natural beauty came through in a way to make you forget all of her shortcomings. She was no longer just a shrew, but a woman with hopes and desires the same as anyone else. Baptista, played by David Gregson, came off true to life as the aging father of Katharina and Bianca.
David also had one of the most believable accents of everyone on stage, rivaled only by the accent used by Danny White, who gave a most unforgettable performance in the role of Tranio. Having to pose as Luciento during most of the play, Danny gave flesh to his character, as I have never seen before. He made you believe that he really cared about his master and would do anything for him to win the girl of his dreams.
Cliff Keen was very believable in his role of Petruchio. He came off in a way that would make audience members think he really was a drunken tyrant. Cliff is clearly a very talented man.
Some of the funniest moments came from some of the smaller characters. Paul Taylor’s representation of the old man, Gremio, was very true to life. He had some of the audience members believing he really was an elderly gentleman. His other role of the tailor was not to be believed. This young man took that role to the top and then some. It provided some of the biggest laughs of the whole play. When he and Danny White (as Tranio posing as Luciento) faced off in one scene, you really thought these two young men were about to come to blows.
When watching some of the other cast, it was obvious some of them did not have as much practice time as others, but they still came off wonderfully. Although Matt Morris, for instance, lacked some of the energy of his fellow actors, he still had some very funny scenes. When he rolled around on the floor fighting with William Brisky (as Luciento posing as Cambio) he had the audience in stitches. After that, one of the most hilarious scenes came from the love scene between William Brisky and Nicole Gilliland. Even though they never said a word during that part, they completely stole the scene away from the actors who were speaking.
The only complaints I had about the play was the costume chosen for Biondella and the unnecessary visible scene changes. Has this director never heard of closing a curtain during scene changes? And while I believe that Crystal Chappel did an excellent job of playing Biondella, I felt as though her costume was too much of a princess type for a lowly servant. She should have been dressed more like Dawn Hudson, who portrayed Grumio. Although both of these young actresses did great jobs in their roles, I think Dawn could have done much better if she had been more confident in her role and spoke up in a louder voice.
Even though the whole play was not one laugh after another, it was still one of the most enjoyable presentations I have ever seen of Shakespeare. To round out the rest of the cast, Capers Doss, Lynne Long, Ashley Townley, Robert Buie and Lauren Hansell all did amazing jobs with their roles. Although some of them only had walk on roles and changed the scenes, they had a stage presence that could clearly be seen even through the small parts. Capers Doss was hilarious as the scholarly gentleman who never took his eyes off his ancient scrolls, and even though Lynne Long did an amazing job portraying a man, her natural beauty shone through in a way that let you know underneath she was still a lady.
The Taming of the Shrew
Presented by ACTA Theatre
Reviewed for February 11, 2007 by Shea Pierce
"We are Giving Shakespeare to Trussville", said Capers Doss, the director of The Taming of the Shrew. A nice performance that the audience did seem to enjoy on the Sunday afternoon I was there.
The play opens with Lucentio
Tranio, played by Danny White, was excellent. Every Scene he was in he stole form all that were in it with him. Danny seemed a natural for this part and did an excellent job in portraying himself as his master.
Cliff Keen and Susan Cook as Petruchio and Katherina, were perfectly cast for these roles. They played well off of each other and these roles fit them perfectly. I have seem both of them act individually before, but never together. I hope to see them together again soon.
Other stand outs were Crystal Chappell as Biondella, a male role, changed into a female role, Paul Taylor as Gremio and Dawn Hudson as Grumio, who as the servant to Petruchio, stood toe to toe with him, and gave him a run for his money.
Overall, this was a good production, I thought sets could have been better and that the reading of the script by one actor was not good, but other than that, I did have a good time.
I must say the costumes were beautiful and regal and whoever chose them did a wonderful job.
A show that is good and should have been seen by all.
Maybe Capers Doss will bring more Shakespeare to Trussville in the future.
A nice way to spend a Sunday Afternoon in the south. Good job all involved in this production.
The Taming of the Shrew
Presented by ACTA Theatre
Reviewed on February 10, 2007 by Justin Taylor
Shakespeare can be a tricky subject to tackle. ACTA’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” proved to be entertaining, laugh out loud funny, and worthy of the words. There are some great performances in this production and some mediocre ones, but, overall the value of the production remains intact. That is due to no small part to the wonderful lead actors, Clifton Keen and Susan Cook.
Cliff and Susan are beautifully talented actors and work so well together. It is an absolute joy to watch their interaction with each other. As Petruchio and Kate, they take this sometimes mediocre production to new heights. When they take the stage you cannot but be mesmerized by their performances.
Cliff, as Petruchio, has done a wonderful job with his role, bringing his enormous energy and dynamic interpretation of the role to life with ease. His physical comedy is strong and his command of the stage is without equal in this production, almost. He has some extraordinary scenes within the first act and beginning of the second that will leave you laughing out loud and wanting more.
Susan, as Kate, is his equal. Her beauty and acting chops are fantastic. She has command of the stage as well, and brings a sensitivity to her role. She really turns Kate into a flesh and blood character. It would have been easy for her to make a simple, angry woman. Instead, she brings the different levels to her character.
Stand-outs in the cast are definitely David Gregson as Baptisa. Distinguished, yet funny with his wonderful timing. He embodies his role and is wonderfully believable. Paul Taylor as Gremio, is nicely done. He also plays the Tailor, which I found a little overdone for my taste, but, adds some humor. He is definitely an actor that gets better and better everytime I see him. Danny White in the role of Tranio is another good performance. He has a wonder air about him and carries the role nicely.
Crystal Chappell is wonderful as Biondella. From her costume, to her accent, to her character, she has it all. Would have been nice to see her in a bigger role, but, she gives you a character to remember. Lynne Long as Vincentio was another actor I enjoyed, but, the illusion of a woman as man was a little lost, but, her performance and conviction were very good. Nicole Gilliland as Bianca, was like looking at royalty. She carries herself very well on stage and was enjoyable to watch.
There are a few problems I had with the show. The music playing all through the background tended to be a little distracting. Not really sure we he was going for here. There were some actors who seemed to not know where they were or what they were saying. A couple characters just flat out did not convince me they understood what they were saying. It sounded like they were just reading. No feeling or character developed there. I think that was really a shame, because, there are so many strong performances in the show, that this really stands out more, because of the other great performers.
The costumes were beautiful and the set was simple and nice looking, though I would have preferred to look at more than just a bunch of cubes. The scene changes by some of the smaller characters was unusual. They interacted with the audience, which I thought broke the flow of the scenes. Simple sets can be nice and inexpensive, but can also look that way.
Capers Doss had some wonderful actors, beautiful costumes, simple set, but one can’t help but think did he sacrifice style for substance with some of the actors. Shakespeare is not easy to do, yet alone to get an audience to come and see, but, this production has so many positive attributes, it would be a shame not to see the great performances listed above.
Home for the Holidays
Reviewed on December 1st, 2006 by Lana Smitherman
WOW! I was most taken back by such a phenomenal performance of “Home for the Holidays” presented at the ACTA Theatre Friday night, December 1, 2006. The story was very entertaining and seeing familiar Christmas carols acted out brought new life to the sounds that I hear each year. Probably what was the most rewarding was seeing and hearing such talent in such an intimate setting. The performance was one I will never forget and it definitely warmed me up and set the mood for a festive Christmas season. Thank you Trussville and ACTA for offering such a wonderful evening and I will be watching for further performances, especially next Christmas season.
The Diary of Anne Frank at ACTA Theatre
In Act II of The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne
(Hannah Murphy) tries to explain to Peter (R. Daniel Walker) that the
suffering Jews are going through in
Rumors at Arts Council of the Trussville
This one was great fun. Charley
Annie at Arts Council of the Trussville
I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I saw the movie. Believe
me, as a father with a grown daughter, I had seen the movie enough times to have been bored by it years ago. This was excellent.
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