Leeds Art Council Theatre Reviews Archive

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Little Women: The Broadway Musical

Directed by Cliff Keen, Jr.

July 15-31, 2011 at the Leeds Theatre and Arts Council

Reviewed by Ron Bryant


Little Women (based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott) has had many incarnations on the stage both as a straight play and a musical.  This is the version with book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein which appeared on Broadway in 2005.  The show was not a long running play on Broadway but it does have a really nice musical score and offered many new “audition” songs for females and wonderful duets.

The show now appearing at the Leeds Arts Council has assembled a truly nice cast with very strong voices. The cast is headed by Susan Cook who has become a very familiar face on Birmingham stages in recent years.  She provides a very solid performance in her role as the feisty Jo March and does a wonderful job with the song “Astonishing”, one of the signature songs of the show and the climax of the first act.

All of the sisters are good performers with a list of local productions to their credit, no novices in this show.  Rachel Van Nortwick does a great job as Meg and has a very nice duet with her boyfriend/husband John Brooke played by Barry Perkins. Sarah Guthrie plays the society-minded Amy and Christy Vest does a good job with the role of Beth.

The mother Marmie is handled admirably by Sheryl Tucker who does a nice job with a couple of songs as well.  The energetic Laurie is played by Sam Torres who has a very strong voice though I might say it is obvious a couple of the songs are probably at the top of his range and a bit of a strain.  Michael Wilson does a nice job and the reserved Professor Bhaer, Jo’s eventual love interest.

The cast is well complimented by a couple of stage veterans in Suellen Wilkins and Michael Bridges who play Aunt March and Mr. Laurence respectively. Both provide some wonderful moments in the play both comic and tender.

No need to give a summary of this well-known tale but it may be worth mentioning that this version of the story uses the “flashback” technique of going between future and past events a time or two and that becomes a bit awkward and not always clear I am afraid, most likely due to some stage limitations.  With a small stage with limited wing space this production chose to use a fixed set for many scenes and that made the transitions from time to time less clear. Some other technical issues are also distracting.  Apparently without the ability to light segments of the stage independently, there were times that the backstage crew came on stage to bring and remove set pieces with the lights up and the action proceeding.  Probably not much could have been done differently but it was distracting. 

The sound was very nice but of course it is a rather small house so sound was not as much of an issue. I might note that compared to previous shows I have seen at Leeds they chose to put the orchestra onstage which at first I was not sure I would like.  But it did provide a better balance for sound. You could always hear the voices well over the orchestra.

Most limitations of the show were just limitations of the venue and of course all venues have their limits.  With a fixed set on a small stage, choreography was a bit cramped, but this show does not have broad choreography like some shows anyway.

Overall it was a nice theatre experience and worth the price of admission (top ticket price is $15).  This is a nice change to see a new show in the Birmingham area where you often see many of the same shows repeated.  It is not a large, lavish production but it is well worth your time.

The Sound of Music

July 18-27 at Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed July 27 by Ann Self

Kudos to the Leeds Community Theatre Ensemble! The Sound of Music was beautifully done, and the final performance was a joy. Well-cast characters with lovely singing voices never lost their characters nor “got out of their story.” With clever choreography that fit their small stage, the production moved with energy and grace. The musicians deserve praise; the lighting was just right; the set was artfully done and moved quietly and quickly; and the sound was excellent. Renovations to the theatre are very effective. Sunday afternoon’s performance was intimate theatre at its best, and praise is heartfelt.

The Odd Couple (Female Version)

March 20-30 – Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed March 30, 2008 by Angie McGowan

I must say that the Leeds Arts Council's production of The Odd Couple (Female Version) was truly a hysterical treat.  I would not have expected less from this very talented cast under the direction of Clay Boyce.  Kim Dometrovich and Krissy Warren kept the audience in stitches as Florence and Olive.  These two actresses work so well with one another, and their comedic timing is spot on!  They were so funny, and made the roles seem natural and flawless.  Great job!  I must also say, although this play is the "female version," William Brisky and Ron Dometrovich happened to be the icing on the cake as the two "Spanish hunks," who also live in the same building as Florence and Olive.  When these two came to visit, bringing "no-good" candy, I laughed until I hurt.  Great job!  Karen Carroll, Kristin Johnson, Allison Whitehead Kilgore, and Julie Bryant Hein round off this amazing cast as the hilarious men-loving, gossip spreading, Trivial Pursuit-playing, problem solvers who are the best friends of Florence and Olive.  Everyone involved in this production gave us an amazingly professional show.  May we have an encore?  I am quite sure there are several people who sadly missed out on this brilliant Neil Simon comedy.

The Odd Couple (Female Version)

March 20-30 – Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed March 25, 2008 by Robert Cole


            When Mike Nichols’ legendary Broadway premiere of Neil Simon’s classic comedy of The Odd Couple opened in New York in 1965, critics and audiences alike were slack-jawed at such brilliant moments as the opening poker scene and the opening of Act III when Felix and Oscar tore each other down for their individual eccentricities. The characters of Felix and Oscar then entered our imaginations and have been through two motion pictures (including a mindless, mind-numbing sequel), a long-running television show, a short-running all African-American cast television show, and even an animated series where Felix and Oscar were drawn as a cat and dog. So, maybe the fact that there was a female version wasn’t the strangest incarnation.

In 1985, director Jerry Zaks and Simon re-wrote the play for the new characters of Olive and Florence. The Broadway run was very successful, starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers and the Broadway debut of Tony Shalhoub (of Monk fame). It is this version that is now currently running at the Leeds Arts Council.

It is to the credit of director A. Clay Boyce and his energetic cast that the audience never stopped laughing. Simon’s feminine version can be pretty tacky. Retaining the 1980’s setting, you will get to hear Olivia Newton-John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical” and “867-5309” and other New Wave classics (?) and some of the poor cast members are given proper Steel Magnolias hairdos.

In the female version of the story, Olive Madison (played by Krissy Warren) is not so much turned into a female as she is the original “Oscar” in a dress, though Kim Dometrovich’s “Flo” Ungar comes off much better as a legitimate character. The highlight of the evening is the two Costazuela brothers and their failed date with Oscar and Flo. You are likely to laugh yourself silly and have lots of fun. The female version of The Odd Couple is more of a parody of the original than a good translation, but that is Neil Simon’s fault and not the fault of this very funny production.

The Odd Couple (Female Version) runs at the Leeds Arts Council March 20-22 and 27-29 at 7:30pm and March 22, 29, and 30 at 2:30.

The Mousetrap

Presented by Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed for October 20, 2007 by Joshua Jackson

Mousetrap is the current murder mystery being presented by the Leeds Arts Council. The show is one of the longest running plays in history, according to the beginning announcements. By the way, note to this theatre, the announcements seem to be too long and not what I came to see. This show has never been made into a movie or seen on television, so there is no way to compare this to any other version, except for other theatre company versions. Since, I have never seen the show before I was ready to see what it was all about.

     I must say when attempting to do a show set in Britain you run into the problem of people not being able to pull off the accent. This is the case with this production. Most of the cast members should not even be doing an accent. It is definitely a weak spot in the show and verges on being irritating throughout.

     The show has strengths and that is mainly in the wonderful supporting cast. The supporting characters give this show the life it desperately needs. Capers Doss as “Paravicini” is very comical and enjoyable to watch on stage. Donna Williamson as “Miss. Boyle” is exactly what her character calls for, mean spirited, and she does a wonderful job of making you hate her. Cliff Keen Jr. as “Christopher Wren” is definitely a wonderful character. Not only a great accent but the depth and charisma he has makes him a scene stealer. Todd Ponder as “Trotter” is great. Nice character and another accent that is very authentic. The cast is rounded out by Jim Ruth and Sheryl Tucker, who are very believable as their characters and add a sense of realism to the show. But, when the stage is filled with Doss, Keen, and Ponder you can feel the magic.

     Though the supporting cast is solid, I found the leading roles by Angie McGowan and William Brisky to be hollow and empty. We are supposed to believe they are a married couple, well, I didn’t.  The only seen between them with any sort of “real” emotion is the fight scene and that even felt forced by Brisky. I never found the depth or the emotional attachment to their characters. I am not sure if the director, Shari Olm, did this on purpose or if the show was cast improperly. But, it is the major issue I have with the show. When the other characters come on stage they seem to fade into the background. The attempt is nice, but not complete.

     The Mousetrap was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd who came to see it. The script is wonderful and tells a very interesting tale. This is a dinner theatre with “Traditional English Dinner” which by the way is served on plastic ware. They should really look into getting some china for a real dinner theatre feel. Some ambience would be appreciated.  The show runs October 27, 28, and 29.  If you are looking for an enjoyable way to spend the evening with friends I would recommend the Mousetrap. With its faults, it still turns out alright and it will keep you guessing until the end.

Father of the Bride

Presented by Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed for April 27, 2007 by Justin Taylor


The Leeds Arts Council has another winner on its hands with its current production of “Father of the Bride”.  Nothing like the movies that came out in the 1990’s, the story is a heartwarming, funny, and moving tale of a father dealing with his only daughter suddenly announcing she is getting married. The family then deals with all the struggles and the roller-coaster that is planning a wedding.

     Clifton Keen is wonderfully cast as the Father of the Bride.  Though he is young looking, you forget that almost instantly as he takes command of the stage and every scene he is in. His timing, energy, and wonderful acting are always a joy to watch. Every time he is on stage, he raises the actors around him up a notch. He has a wonderful partner with Donna Love as the Mother of the Bride, Ellie Banks. She has wonderful moments on stage and comedic timing is dazzling. She definitely acts as any mother would. One most point out that the chemistry between Clifton and Donna could have been worked on more for believability as a couple. Though, the do have some wonderful scenes between the two.

     Crystal Chappell as Kay, the bride is beautifully cast. She is a joy to watch on stage and definitely proves why she is such a great actress with this part. She embodies the bride to be and gives a full range of emotion with believability and elegance. Brett Trimble is Buckley, the groom to be, acts wonderfully with Crystal and Clifton. Though, I did find him to be a little stiff and the timing seemed slow.

     Matt Mitchell and Darrien Hess as the two sons have some wonderful moments in the show. Lynne Long as Miss. Bellamy is a riot. A wonderful actress and she definitely has a scene stealing moment, if not show stealing moment in the show! Two words – Loved her! Emily Lunsford as Peggy is funny and touching. Nice moment with the Clifton. Danny White as Massoula was funny sometimes, but, realistically a little over the top with the flamboyancy. William Brisky and Katy Walker had funny dialogue, but, I felt more could have been done with their roles.  Allison Hall, as Tim’s Woman is in a small, but memorable role.  Would have been nice to more of her! Margarita Lunsford, Terry Newman, Stephen Lunsford, and Jacob Mercer round out the cast and have funny dialogue as well.

     The set, by Shari Olm, was nice but, I would have preferred for there to be more items on stage for a more realistic looking home.

     I think Rick Partain has put together a good show. Some great actors, nice set, some technical problems with sounds and lights, but nothing that distracts from the show. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the production the night I attended and I can safely say, Bravo! Bravo!

Father of the Bride

Presented by Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed for April 27, 2007 by Richard Parker

Friday night’s debut performance of Father of the Bride was truly a delightful pleasure to witness. The play opened with the Banks family having a typical 1950s breakfast when daughter, Kay, (Crystal Chappel) announces her marriage intentions to suitor Buckley Dunstan (Brett Trimble). This immediately starts the ball rolling for two hours of rollicking laughs and hilarious good times. After making his protests known, the father of the bride (Cliff Keen) all but goes into a total nervous breakdown as he and his whole family are thrown into one wacky situation after another, dealing with characters such as the overworked secretary (Lynne Long) who is convinced that the Banks family is out to get her by constantly changing the guest list behind her back.

Despite his very youthful appearance, Cliff Keen did an outstanding job representing the father of the bride. His talent and acting skills clearly showed that he was the right person for this role. He obviously has a lot of experience in the entertainment field.

Crystal Chappel was a joy to watch as the bride. She carried herself in a very delightful manner and interacted with her fellow cast members wonderfully.

Donna Love as Mrs. Banks was another great talent to watch. One minute she was a typical 1950s TV happy go lucky housewife and mother, the next she could be very stern with her husband and children, especially when it came to the condition of their clothing. I only wish she had stood up more to Mr. Banks whenever he was on one of his rants. It gave the appearance that she and her whole family were deathly afraid of the man.

Matt Mitchell and Darien Hess were very realistic as Kay’s two younger brothers. The way they interacted with each other would make anyone believe they really were siblings.

Although his character lacked sincerity at times, Brett Trimble as Buckley Dunstan had some very funny moments.

Lynne Long (Mr. Banks’ secretary) gave one of the most hilarious performances of the entire play. She truly looked to be at her wits ends trying to figure out how so many people that were intended for “church only” snuck back into the house “while her back was turned!”

Another great performance came from Danny White as Massoula, the wedding planner. From the moment he walked into the room, people started laughing. His over the top flaming, flamboyant character was not to be believed. It was perfectly countered by the hilarious comedic talents of William Brisky (Massoula’s circulation manager), who insisted that the Banks home was a death trap and the party guests would be “squashed like bugs!” if they tried to fit them all in the Banks’ home.

Many other great moments came from smaller characters, such as “The woman from Tim’s flower shop” played by Allison Hall. Her interaction with the outraged father and frustrated circulation manager were hysterical.

Terry Newman and Stephen Lunsford both did great jobs as the furniture movers. Their tipsy manner and onstage antics were, as the father put it, “like watching the three stooges!”

Other briefly seen characters, such as Ben Banks’ (Matt Mitchell) fiancé Peggy (Emily Lunsford,) were a delight to see. Jacob Meyers and Margarita Lunsford as Tommy’s friend Buzz and Kay’s dress designer were both effective in their roles. Katy Walker, as Delilah the maid, gave a stellar performance as well.

This delightful comedy didn’t end with the play itself. Immediately after their performance, the whole cast carried their characters over into a wedding reception that the entire audience was invited to participate in. It was truly a wonderful evening of madness and mayhem that I will never forget.

Take my advice and see this comedy while you have a chance. There will be three more performances. Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 6th, at 2:00 p.m. There will be a mock wedding reception complete with wedding cake immediately following each performance. For more information contact the Leeds Art Council at 699-1892. 

Rehearsal for Murder

Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed on November 3, 2006 by Justin Taylor

 “It all begins with the words.”  That is a wonderful line from the new Leeds Arts Council production of “Rehearsal for Murder” now playing and serves as a fitting representation of a fantastic play. 

                        The basic premise is simple.  It is a Broadway opening night and the play in question has opened to mixed reviews.  The lead actress has committed suicide over the show.  Or has she?  The playwright believes it was murder and hence the show begins.

 Donna Williamson, in her directorial debut, has done her most important job here, casting wonderfully talented actors.  She has put together a solid show and shows great promise as a director.  Though one must point out there were some problems with lighting cues and prop handling, but, minor ones, which in no way effect the overall performance.

The cast is stellar.  Starting with the leading man, Cliff Keen as Alex Dennison.  Cliff brings a calmness and wonderful charisma to the role.  He runs the gamut of emotions with ease and believability.  He has to carry the show on his shoulders and does so beautifully.  In particular, are his wonderful flashback sequences, he changes emotion wonderfully, that he immediately draws you into the show.  Once that happens, there is no turning back.

Hannah Wilkerson plays Monica Welles, the heroine and subsequently the victim.  Her ability is extraordinary and the grace and style she brings to the stage are a welcome addition to this production.  Not only a stunning beauty on the outside but, the emotion evoked, again, draws you into the show.  Her relationship with Alex is clear and evident.  You really believe they are a couple, which is refreshing to see. 

The cast as an ensemble is strong.  The scenes involving all of them are engaging and wonderfully acted.  Shari Olm, a regular on the Leeds stage, is regal looking and wonderfully cast as the producer of the show.  Crystal Chappell makes a stylish and cunning turn as Karen Daniels.  Nick Aycock is effective as David Matthews and has a memorable scene with Monica.  Danny White, new to the Leeds stage, is the comic, Leo Gibbs.  He is also effective, though his timing was off in several moments of the show.  Katy Walker returns to the Leeds stage as Ernie.  She is both funny and earnest.  William Brisky as Lloyd Andrews, the director, has his moments, though his pace was off at times.  Paul Taylor is Officer Redford, and though he only has as short time on stage, he is effective in his role. 

Emily Lunsford as Sally Bean is wonderful and brings a nice energy to her role.  Michael Lunsford is also a welcome addition to the production and again brings his enormous talent to his role.

So, who did it?  You will have to come to the show to find out.  I have attended many productions at the Leeds Art Council and this is by far one of the very best.  Beautifully cast, wonderfully acted, correctly directed, and it will leave you wanting more.  I encourage all of you to SEE this show!

There are three more performances of the show.  Friday and Saturday, November 10, 11, at 6:30 for the dinner theatre and 7:30 for the show and Sunday, November 12, at 2:00 p.m. for dessert and 2:30 for the show.  For more information contact the Leeds Art Council at 699-1892.

Rumors , Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed on April 26, 2006 by Tonya Bussey

The latest production from the Leeds Arts Council is yet another community theater success.  With direction from Shari Olm, the players did an excellent job with Neil Simon's comedy.

     Gerry Rose nearly stole the show with his performance as Lenny Ganz. From his hysterical pratfalls to the delivery of his lines, he gave an enjoyable and energetic performance.  Gerry plans to pursue a career as a professional actor, so be sure to take this opportunity to see him perform live locally while you can.  Donna Williamson's portrayal of Chris Gorman was yet another winning performance.  For those of you who saw The Foreigner at the Leeds Arts Council, you'll remember Donna as Froggy.  Donna once again delivered a dynamic performance and kept you laughing both at and with her character.

     Each member of the cast did an excellent job of rendering their lines and engaging the audience in the ever-so-stressful lives of their characters.  The image of Allison Hall (Cookie Cuzack) crawling across the floor on hands and knees in wedding gown and tiara in an attempt to cook dinner for her friends with the help of her earnest husband Ernie Cuzack (played by Donald Norwood) is one that has kept me chuckling for days.  Jason Lockridge's depiction of the frazzled and temporarily deaf Ken Gorman kept the audience giggling.  Nick Aycock (Glenn Cooper) and Crystal Chappell (Cassie Cooper) gave the audience a look at the lives of two very self-centered characters and still managed to be funny and appealing.  Angie McGowan (Claire Ganz) was the perfect society wife. Additionally, Kate Walker and Timothy Craig played Officers Welch and Pudney, respectively, and gave very nice performances.

     The only problem that I had with the play was wrapping my mind around the southern accents spoken by a group of friends who were supposed to be New Yorkers.  After the actors had a chance to show me their characters, though, I was too busy laughing at the characters and living their lives to notice any accents.

     On a more technical note, the cast and crew did a really good job with the set and created a living room/party space that I would gladly call home.  Of special note were the hairstyles.  Susie McComb from Kut-Ups did an excellent job of creating coiffures that helped to define the characters.  Donnna Williamson's (Chris Gorman) updo came unraveled throughout the play in concert with her character's loss of emotional control.  From your first look at Allison Hall's (Cookie Cuzack) beehive hairstyle, complete with tiara, you knew exactly what to expect of the character, and Allison's performance did not disappoint.

Rumors at the Leeds Arts Council plays through this weekend.  I highly recommend that you spend the $10 and enjoy a rollicking good time.

The Music Man at Leeds Arts Council

Reviewed on July 29th, 2005 by Dianne Daniels

For pure fun, few shows can beat The Music Man, and Leeds Arts Council's production is no exception. Directed by Don Garrett, the show is a high energy, laughter-filled evening, with many notable performances. I regret to say that my program did not make it home with me, so please forgive me that I don't know all the actors' names I would like to mention, and may misspell those I do!

     Frank Thompson is completely comfortable as Harold Hill and takes in the audience as well as River City, Iowa with his charm and beautiful singing voice. His sidekick Marcellus, played by Mike Bridges, is, as always, a treat to watch and gives Marcellus a wonderful boyish quality, in contrast to slick Professor Hill.

     Not to be outdone, the ladies shine as well. Leah Luker as Marian Paroo looks as lovely as she sounds while playing the librarian with just the right amount of uppity prudishness. Lisa Garrett wears several different hats, well, wigs.... and still does justice to the role of the Widow Paroo, keeping her Irish accent and motherly ways intact. Emily Lunsford plays her role of Zaneeta with a comic innocence that is lively and entertaining. 

     Mayor and Mrs Shinn (Howard Green and Kim Dometrovich) made a wonderful pair of small-town aristocrats, and the Pick-a-Little women added many laughs to the evening, with their outrageous hats and small-town gossipy ways. Another performance of note was the Quartet of school board members (J.D. Blackmon, Chuck Evans, Bob Parker, and Michael Lunsford) not only played the bickering board members to the hilt, but sounded wonderful in all their quartet musical numbers.

     The ensemble, essential to this production, not only looked wonderful (kudos to Kim Dometrovich, who coordinated the costumes) but looked as if they were having a almost as much fun as I was.

     The Music Man at the Leeds Arts Council plays through this weekend. Don't miss your chance to give Iowa a try!

Barefoot in the Park at Leeds Arts Council
Reviewed March 31, 2003 by Frank Thompson

     To say that a show is "much better than expected" is a sort of mixed compliment. It gives the production the credit it deserves, yet reveals the low expectations of the reviewer, sometimes making him appear foolish in the process. I am happy, however, to sit down to a fine meal of crow when I say that Barefoot in the Park was FAR better than I expected. This play runs Friday through Sunday of this week, and anyone seeking a fun, entertaining show should definitely attend! The one "known quantity" in the show was the pair of real-life spouses, Ron and Kim Dometrovich (The Lunts of Leeds :-) who played Paul and Corrie Bratter, the newlywed couple who are moving into their NYC brownstone at the play's beginning. Kim has appeared often in leading roles around town, and her splendid performance came as no surprise. Ron, however, has performed more often as a guitarist-songwriter, and his stage roles have usually been somewhat smaller than those of his wife. In the role of Paul, Ron absolutely sparkles! He takes on the part of a staid, conservative young lawyer and invests it with a quiet humour and feeling of fun beneath his button-down restraint. In the show's final scene, however, when Paul finally cuts loose and "lets it all hang out" (in the 60's parlance of the show) Ron shows a lack of inhibition and confidence that belies his calm composure in the early scenes (and in real life!) Alongside him, Kim seems to rise to new heights as well ... her Corrie is all innocent sexuality and high-maintenence hippie-girl kitsch. Kim is clearly having fun with this character, and her talent is there with her every step of the way!!! In the supporting roles, Tom Geislinger (as Victor Velasco) brings to life the quentessential NYC dirty-old-man intellectual. At times leering and predatory, at others witty and urbane, Geislinger shows another side of his multi-faceted talent as an actor. Having worked with him primarily as a singer and/or dramatic actor, I was most impressed with his devilishly charming turn as Victor. His counterpart, Francine Lovette, had a little less to work with script-wise as Corrie's uptight mother, but she developed her character very well, and turned in a funny and often heartwarming performance. The smaller roles of Telephone Man and Delivery Man were well-played by Buddy Atherton and Raymond Quintero. Each actor took a small amount of stage time and made it memorable.
     Now..there are a few things about this production that were distracting. The set was adequate, but had a less-than sturdy feel about it. As is often the case in community theater, one wonders if the paint was still drying on opening night. The space at LAC is not ideal, and the opening remarks before the show were a bit too casual for my taste, breaking any illusion that we were actually in an NYC brownstone.
     These problems aside, Barefoot is well-directed by Patsy Benson, who has a marvelous sense of pace and timing. Benson clearly understood Barefoot to be a light confection, best served quickly. This show is marvelous fun. A solid 3-star show that's sure to please!

Shenandoah at Leeds Art Council Theatre
Reviewed August 11, 2001 by Kim Dometrovich

     When I first heard that Leeds was producing a musical version of the Jimmy Stewart classic Shenandoah I was puzzled how it could make it a fun happy show. But Michael Bridges (director) and the cast from Leeds did a great job of doing just that, and then some. 
     Shenandoah is a show about a family and their struggle to stay out of the Civil War. Of course, if they were entirely successful in that, there would not be a plot, so we soon see the Anderson family being brought into the war anyway. 
     The opening of the show featured several members of the Hughes family in a lovely acoustic number (they have their own band, "Flat and Strugglin"--catch them if you ever have the chance!). If you have never heard them, you are really missing something! What a nice way to set the mood for the show. Actually, there are SEVERAL entire families in this production. 
     Without giving away a lot of the plot twists, I was impressed at the depth many of the performers gave to their characters. The Anderson family did a great job. Michael Lunsford (Charlie Anderson) had a particularly heavy load as the head of the Anderson household. Singing half the score himself, he carried off the part with ease. Stephanie Maxey (Anne) always has a strong, beautiful singing voice and was well cast in her part. Renee Lee (Jenny Anderson) in her first lead role, gave a nice innocence to Jenny, but also showed her strength as a headstrong young woman. The rest of the family, well, every one of them had an ACTUAL brother or sister in the cast! No wonder they worked so well together as a unit. Martin Landry (Jacob Anderson) did a fabulous job throughout the show, but I was particularly impressed with his performance in Act II. Jake Bridges (The Boy/Robert Anderson) was great as always. He is always interesting to watch even in the large ensemble scenes. 
     Also of note, Ron Landry (Reverend Byrd). I really started to believe that his sons were in peril! Mark Farmer was a very enjoyable Gabriel as well. Well done! Michael Landry (Sam) did a very good job. I think Ken Hurst (Tinkham) did a great job! He reminded me so much of some of the "Hee Haw" characters. The ensemble also added a lot of energy to this production. I don't recall seeing anyone NOT in character in the ensemble scenes!
     I'm not particularly fond of some of the music that was written for this show. However, there were some numbers that really stood out thanks to this enthusiastic cast! Act I was the "happy" act. "Pass the Cross to Me" of course, is a wonderful staple in southern churches, and you could see that the cast really enjoyed singing it. The scene in the church around that number really cracked me up. Too much to see! The ensemble really did great in this one. I also particularly enjoyed the rousing rendition of "Next To Lovin' (I Like Fightin')". Those kids had TONS of sparkle and energy in that number. I couldn't settle on looking in one place, there was so much fun stuff going on! Anne and Jenny's song "We Make A Beautiful Pair" was great. Their voices blended so well together, and they made the characters believable. "It's A Boy" also had a lot of enthusiasm and life.
     Act II was a lot more dramatic. I thought James and Anne's reprise of "Violets and Silverbells" was lovely. Their voices worked well together (again, I love to hear both Stephanie and Joshua Hughes sing!). "The Only Home I Know" was the most beautiful number in the show, wonderfully led by James Wilson (what a voice!) and Dee Dee Gallant. I hated to hear it end!
     The sets were very ambitious! I wondered how they were going to fit all the people in with the sets, but it worked very well! Everything looked great. 
     While Shenandoah might not have the happiest subject matter for a musical, it is well worth the trip due to this great cast, who obviously really enjoy what they are doing. Well done, Mike Bridges and company.

Hello, Dolly at Leeds Art Council Theatre
Reviewed August 5, 2000 by Frank Thompson

     Hello, Dolly is a perfect show for community theatre, and Leeds Arts Council has wisely chosen it for a summer offering. Lively, well-known, and full of memorable tunes, Dolly is a family-friendly and fun production. One of the wise choices made by Director Mike Bridges is to involve multiple members of many local families to create not only a theatrical entertainment, but also a community event.
     In the newly-renovated Arts Council auditorium, (to use an old phrase) "a good time was had by all" at Saturday night's performance. The room is intimate, yet comfortable, and the breif opening remarks by Bridges and Arts Council President Johnnie Hargrove started the evening off on a warm, informal note. If the citizens of Mayberry had put on a show, this is the atmosphere they would have created. From the family members sharing the stage to those working in technical and support capacities, those involved with the show demonstrated a sincere love for and dedication to the cause. Without exaggeration, I can say that the warmth and good will surrounding the production were as tangible as the auditorium walls.
     As for the show itself, it was enjoyable and fun. It's not Broadway, but makes no claim to be. If you're coming with the intention of dissecting a sophisticated piece of theatre, you will probably be disappointed, but if that's what you expect, you've got the wrong attitude. This Hello, Dolly is true community theatre that doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't. There are some standout performances, most notably by Lucie Cardwell as Dolly Levi.Her voice is well suited to the score, and she sings and acts the role with ease. Michael Lunsford (in his stage debut) turns in a blustery, enjoyable Horace Vandergelder, and  seems quite capable of continuing on in other roles if he chooses.
     Real-life brothers Michael and Martin Landry play the two lovestruck clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, with great humor and stage presence.The crowd particularly enjoyed their comic turns on the "Dancing" and "Elegance" numbers. As the boy's respective love interests, Leslie Caldwell and Kim Dometrovich were charming and well-cast. Particularly nice were Caldwell's "Ribbons Down My Back" number and Dometrovich's daffy confusion as Minnie Fay. Other nice performances were seen in smaller roles by Ron Landry as an eager German headwaiter and Ken Hurst as a sympathetic judge.
     The set is simple but functional, and the small orchestra provided a nice accompaniment to Jerry Herman's classic score.
     One gets the feeling that the new facility is a big step forward for Leeds Arts Council, and that's good to know. This is clearly a group that loves what it's doing, in a community that's willing to support the arts.
Bottom line: Hello, Dolly is certainly not without the flaws and foibles associated with small-town community theatre, but it does entertain the audience, and that's really all it sets out to do. (The lack of pretention is part of the charm of this group.)The tickets are reasonably priced ($8.00) and the drive is a short one from Birmingham, so I would recommend the show to those who are looking for an entertaining show in a warm, homey atmosphere.


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