LionHeart’s latest production proves an impressive performance
By Ken De Laat
Bright Star held its dress rehearsal last night and from one who was privileged to see this early rendition of the latest LionHeart offering, it proved to be an impressive performance.
Filled with musical interludes that range from lighthearted and fun-filled to tearful torch songs and melodious laments, the cast performs each in a manner that reveals their passion for the music.
The play delivers a strong opening with the ensemble joining in to provide theatergoers a bit of a taste of the music to come. There is a bluegrass. country/folk feel to the compositions and it proves to work well with the storyline.
This is not your typical musical. It’s more of an emotional journey describing the story of Alice Murphy, a successful magazine editor, with a decidedly painful past. The story shifts from post WWII days back to her youth in rural North Carolina, an interesting concept that translates well from the stage. This shifting requires an imaginative set structure and having been consistently impressed with the set designs created by setmaster Mike Gesler this one is no exception. Having the cast members working the set changes is a nice touch that allows for a fluid transition.
This is a strong cast filled with LionHeart veterans as well as talented newcomers. Rosie Tomlinson effectively captures the role of Margo while displaying some impressive pipes and Caesar Gonzales as her love interest Billy, compels the audience to root for his success.
The scenes with Erica Wagner and Devon Conley are a fun romp. Playing off each other well, they provide ample energy for a frolicking bar scene tune.
Jamie Evans brings a sinister touch to his role as the Mayor who is also Jimmy's Dad and Brendan Carroll translates the ambiguity and eventual regret of Alice's father in a believable manner.
The musical contributions of Anna Stephans made me want to hear more from her. She tossed out some strong vocals and an ability to deftly communicate her role as Alice’s mother. Well done.
David Hatter exudes stage presence in his role as Jimmy Ray and is obviously well acquainted with the art of theater. His scenes with his Father are tightly played and there is some definite electricity between he and Alice, particularly in their duets.
And now we come to the lead role of Alice played by Megan Wirts.
Ms. Wirts is an absolute gem in this production. Between her canny comedic timing and the musical range of her vocals she literally owns the stage. This is a play that requires a strong performance from its leading lady and Megan delivers big time. Her duets with Hatter, as mentioned above, join two seasoned performers with a pleasing result and the selection she shares with the aforementioned Anna Stephans is a show highlight.
The ensemble is enthusiastic and committed to their roles. They have mastered their movements, vocalize well and make quality use of some of the imaginative staging the play displays. The finale is a high energy scene with the result of wrapping the story well.
Director Leslye Fries has put together a talented cast and deftly guided the show in a manner that showcases said talent.
As we said this is not your average musical. It gives one pause from time to time and requires a bit of reflection both with the dialogue as well as the musical selections. It can provide an emotional roller coaster but is also filled with a message of hope and redemption.
And most of all it exemplifies the incredible power of forgiveness.
The show opens tonight (Friday, November 3rd) at the Grant Fine Arts Center. Curtain goes up at 7pm.
Additional performances are:
Saturday November 4th —7:00 p.m. show
Sunday November 5th—2:00 p.m. matinee
Friday November 10th—7:00 p.m. show
Saturday November 11th—2:00 & 7:00 p.m. show
Tickets on sale now!
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