Sunday, November 30, 2008

Julinda's Jubilation - "Christmas Classic"

Posted by Bruce Miller
The critic has spoken, the box office phones are ringing, and it looks like This Wonderful Life is poised to be the smash hit it deserves to be. Julinda Lewis, Susie Haubenstock’s pinch hitter at the T-D, wrote a glowing assessment of this classic Christmas story and Scotty’s remarkable performance.

Here are the review quotes we’ll be pulling:

A Christmas classic ~ Energetic ~ Endearing
A fast-paced, humorous theatrical tour-de-force
A one-man wonder
A holiday package all wrapped up in Scott Wichmann

--Julinda Lewis, Richmond Times-Dispatch

So book your passage to Bedford Falls soon. I know I’m always trying to hawk tickets. So shoot me; it’s my job. But over and above all that, this really is a show and a performance you won’t want to miss.

--Bruce Miller

Mystery Solved! Juli Hits the Big Time

Posted by Bruce Miller
Many thanks to Duke Lafoon (and Juli Robbins’ family friend Sara) for responding to my last blog post. Turns out that the Juli Robbins who is now costarring with Duke in A Wonderful Life at Westchester Broadway Theatre is the same Juli whom I fondly remember as “the girl that I marry” in Barksdale’s 2003 hit production of Annie Get Your Gun. She's pictured to the left.

In Annie Get, I decided to ask a woman from the ensemble to join in the number "The Girl That I Marry" with Russell Rowland (Frank Butler) and Robyn O’Neill (Annie Oakley). I wanted someone who was petite and picture perfect to represent the ideal “sweet young thing” whom Annie Oakley imagines when Frank Butler describes the girl of his dreams. I picked Juli because she was, and is, about as adorable as a woman can be.

“The girl that I marry,” sings Frank Butler, “will have to be as soft and as pink as a nursery. A doll I can carry, the girl that I marry must be.”

In true Annie Oakley fashion, Robyn began referring to Juli, good naturedly, as “pretty perfect little Juli.” As in … when I would say something like, “Robyn, when you come out in this ball gown to meet Frank for the first time in years, I want you to dazzle him.” To which Robyn would reply … “Well why don’t you bring on pretty perfect little Juli?”

I guess you had to be there. But it was all good clean fun, having to do with the fact that Juli was remarkably pretty and fully capable of sweeping every guy in the room off his feet without even having to try.

It’s great to know that Juli’s many talents are gaining recognition now in markets larger than Richmond. From what I can gather from a quick Google search, Juli’s last two years have been pretty busy as she continues to build a career on both coasts.

On Feb 9, 2007, she opened in a revival of the Off-Broadway hit Song of Singapore at the International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA. When that show closed in March 2007, she moved immediately into the role of Lady Anne in the national tour of Camelot, starring Michael York (originally) and Lou Diamond Phillips (replacement), produced by McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the professional production company of Cathy Rigby and her husband.

She stayed with the national tour for more than a year, finally leaving to play a featured role in the World Premiere of a new opera version of Paradise Lost at Boston Court in Los Angeles (see photo immediately above and to the right). After the opera closed in September, Juli was cast in another production of Camelot, only this time she won the leading role of Guenevere and appeared opposite the King Arthur of Broadway leading man Robert Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde) at the White Plains Performing Arts Center in New York (see the photo below with Cuccioli and the photo two above with other cast members). That show closed in October, and she opened opposite Duke in A Wonderful Life in November at the Westchester Broadway Theatre just a few weeks later.

I continue to think it’s GREAT when a rising Richmond star establishes a national career. Just as we were able to lure Duke back for Doubt (and David Winning for The Full Monty and Susan Sanford for The Little Dog Laughed, etc. etc. etc.), perhaps we will one day welcome a nationally prominent Juli back to Richmond for a return engagement.

Until then, see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's a Wonderful Mystery

Posted by Bruce Miller
Scott Wichmann is not the only actor making headlines these days in the role of George Bailey. Duke Lafoon, who recently starred at Barksdale as Father Flynn in Doubt, was Richmond’s original George Bailey. He was a sensation in that role at TheatreVirginia in the mid-90s when they presented the musical version of the holiday classic, called A Wonderful Life. Now Duke is dazzling audiences in the same role yet again, starring in the musical at Westchester Broadway Theatre from Nov 20 through Feb 8.

Westchester is the longest running 52-week-a-year Equity theatre in the state of New York. A for-profit dinner theatre, Westchester opened in 1974 under the name An Evening Dinner Theatre. Over the last 34 years, Westchester has become a cultural mainstay in the tri-state area.

Westchester does all of its casting out of the Big Apple, but after reading their recent press releases and looking at their cast photos, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t two Richmond musical stars playing leads in A Wonderful Life. There’s Duke, of course, but costarring with Duke, playing his wife Mary, is a beautiful young actress named Juli Robbins.

Some of you may remember that Juli Robbins was a gorgeous Richmond actress about five years ago, standing out in the ensemble of Barksdale’s hit production of Annie Get Your Gun, and shortly thereafter playing the lead in Spitfire Grill at Swift Creek.

Juli left town for bigger markets shortly after Spitfire, and honestly, I’ve lost track of her. I’ve been looking and looking at the photo above and to the left, and I can’t tell for sure if that is our Juli Robbins whom Duke is holding in his arms or some other city’s Juli Robbins.

Whoever reads this blog and can solve the mystery, please comment. Shoot, maybe I’ll just pick up the phone on Monday and give Duke a call.

Till then, break a leg to Duke and Juli. I hope to see the two of them (and each of you) in a Richmond theatre soon!

--Bruce Miller

It's a Wonderful Art Form

Posted by Bruce Miller
I confess. I’ve never enjoyed opera. I take no pride in admitting this. I consider it a grave shortcoming.

It’s not from lack of trying. I’ve seen great opera. In the early 1970s, I trekked northward with a group of fellow theatre students from U of R to see Norman Treigle’s legendary performance at New York City Opera in the title role of Boito's Mefistofele. The fires of hell left me cold.

I’ve attended Verdi’s La Traviata at the Met; Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann at the Baltimore Opera Company; and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Tosca and La Bohème, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Virginia Opera. Others in the audience were enraptured and on the edge of their seats. I was the brain-dead imbecile fighting to stifle a yawn.

All hope is not lost. I loved Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors on TV as a child. I was dazzled and captivated by the scenes from Mozart’s The Magic Flute included in the film of Amadeus. Stephen Sondheim is called “operatic” by many. I hang on every note he’s ever written.

I’ve come to believe the reason I don’t cotton to opera is because, to me, it goes against so much of what I love about theatre. Great theatre seems “real” to me. Great opera frequently seems “fake.” I hear others say this about musicals and I think they’re insane. I guess it’s all about where we come from. So don’t yell at me. I’m admitting to a dearth of intelligence, taste and sophistication. It’s not opera’s fault; it’s mine.

I write this confession, this mea culpa, as prelude to this: I know there will be some in the world who are so enamored of action/adventure and spectacle that Scotty Wichmann’s one-man performance in This Wonderful Life, which opened last night at Barksdale Willow Lawn, may seem "slow" or "small" or "tame." I suspect these same people won’t watch the original Frank Capra film unless it is colorized and even then keep waiting for the car chase and the explosions.

I suppose they're entitled to their opinions, but I really don't share them.

I’m a terrible cry baby and I’m ashamed to be. No matter how hard I try to keep my cheeks dry, it gets worse the further into my dotage I advance. I’m easily and instantly overcome by sentiment. My one consolation is that my father, a.k.a. “the greatest guy who ever lived,” was the same way. He couldn’t make it through a blessing at the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table without becoming so feklempt he was unable to speak.

Last night I’m not sure which made me cry more—the heartfelt sentiment of one of my favorite Christmas stories, or the one hour and 50 minute glimpse I had into the utter majesty of this art form to which I have devoted my life. I don’t want to overstate things so as to build up unreasonable expectations, but in this case I don’t see how overstatement is possible. Scott’s performance is brilliant. He should be on Broadway. He should win a Tony. Richmond is unbelievably fortunate to have him in our midst.

And to be just, it’s not solely about Scott. John Moon’s direction is invisible and outstanding. Every detail--and it’s all about the details--is just right. The pacing is perfect and the ebb and flow of emotion couldn’t be better. Lynne Hartman’s light design is world-class and adds immeasurably to the art. There must be 150 light cues illuminating Adam Karavatakis’s tasteful, evocative and effective set and Sue Griffin’s spot-on costume(s).

Which brings me to Rick Brandt, our stage manager. Do you know how hard it is to call a show that has a different sound or light cue every few seconds? And the irreplaceable Linwood Guyton, our sound and light op. Do you have any idea how crazy you can get trying to focus on and perfectly execute that many rapid fire cues?

Last night went off without a hitch and EVERYONE involved should be intensely proud. This is masterful storytelling at its very finest. I feel so gratified and grateful. Christmas is here; theatre is wonderful and life-changing; all’s right with the world.

I know. My passions are out of control and over the top. Talk about operatic. I’ll stop writing now.

Hope to see you at the theatre! I’ll be the one with the handkerchief poised and ready.

--Bruce Miller

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coffee & Conversations for Evening Viewing

Posted by Bruce Miller
Rostov’s Coffee & Conversations is a weekday talkback event in which theatre enthusiasts meet in Barksdale’s Willow Lawn lobby on the second Tuesday of each month (October through July) to participate in a panel discussion with some of our community’s leading theatre artists. Working folks who can’t make it to these 9:30 a.m. programs frequently ask if we can repeat them in the evening. We're attempting to do so. Until then, we will broadcast the discussions on YouTube and provide links to these snippets on this blog.

The following links will connect you to the Coffee & Conversations event that was a part of our recent Sarah Ruhl Festival. Steve Perigard, associate artistic director of Barksdale and director of The Clean House, moderates. The panel is comprised of Rusty Wilson (director of Eurydice at the Firehouse Theatre Project), Laine Satterfield (Eurydice in Eurydice at the Firehouse), Kelly Kennedy (Lane in The Clean House at Barksdale), and Bianca Bryan (Matilde in The Clean House at Barksdale).

The ancestry of Bianca Bryan is discussed in one of these video snippets. The full story isn’t included on the tape. Bianca is of Chilean ancestry on her mother’s side. She was born in South Africa and spent her earliest years in the Azure Islands, where Portuguese is the native language. As she mentions in the video, most of her childhood was spent in Argentina, where she became fluent in Spanish.

We hope you enjoy watching these selections from our October Coffee & Conversations event. – in which Steve asks the panelists if this is their first Sarah Ruhl experience, and invites discussion regarding Ms Ruhl’s qualities as a playwright – in which Steve prompts a discussion of the difference between reading Ms Ruhl's plays and playing and/or seeing them, and Bianca launches a sidebar discussion of Ms Ruhl’s stage directions – in which Steve mentions reading that Sarah Ruhl hopes to create ordinary characters who say exceptional things and exceptional characters who say ordinary things, leading into a discussion of the joke in Portuguese that opens The Clean House – in which the panelists respond to audience questions about language, design and bashert – in which the panelists engage in further discussion of language, building relationships between characters, and managing real life relationships among theatre artists – in which Kelly discusses developing her character (Lane in The Clean House), and the group discusses Ms Ruhl’s use of silence, imagery and punctuation – in which a question from the audience prompts a discussion of the technical aspects of Eurydice and The Clean House – in which Rusty discusses an email communication between Joe Inscoe (the actor who played Eurydice’s Father) and Ms Ruhl

December’s Coffee & Conversation program will feature Eric Williams (Uncle Stanley in Sanders Family Christmas) interviewing Scotty Wichmann (actor) and John Moon (director) about This Wonderful Life.

Hope to see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller (with IT help from Brad Tuggle)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Susie's Sizzle - "A Warm Holiday Treat"

Posted by Bruce Miller
I know I'm not supposed to care about reviews. But the truth is, I rush to read Ms. Haubenstock's opinion the minute I wake up on a Sunday morning following a Friday opening night.

I form my own opinion about whether a show has opened well or not before the first set of bowing actors return to an upright position. And that opinion seldom changes based on the opinions of the critics. I respect what the critics have to say, but sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't.

I'm a producer as well as a director. And any producer who tells you s/he doesn't care about reviews is pulling your leg. Historically, a good review in the Times-Dispatch is worth about $20,000 at the Barksdale box office. And for this I'm not supposed to care?!

Anyway, I was thrilled to read Susan Haubenstock's review this morning of Sanders Family Christmas. It's a review that will sell tickets. And it will make all the artists involved, including myself, happy because she says nice things about everybody. I read the review, and immediately felt a 20,000 lb. weight lift from my shoulders.

In order to meet budget, Theatre IV and Barksdale combined need to sell about $70 K worth of tickets and tour shows and raise about $30 K in contributions every week of the year. Our $5.2 million annual budget covers the cost of a staff of 40 or so who are paid every two weeks, over a hundred theatre artists who are paid for performances, the mortgage and/or rent payments on four major facilities, and significant other expenses. Meeting budget is not an easy task in today's economy. Susie's nice review will help in all quarters.

Here are the quotes I'll be hanging in the Tavern lobby:

Runs away with the audience’s hearts
Expertly Handled ~ Just Right
Old hymns and beautiful harmonies warm the soul
The humor is gentle; the laughs are big;
the smiles don’t quit
A Warm Holiday Treat!”

--Susan Haubenstock, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Best of all, in my opinion, every word of the praise is deserved. This great cast and design team manage the impossible--they deliver a very corny and sentimental script with the utmost sincerity, winning laughs and tears while maintaining complete respect and affection for their oversized characters. And on top of all that they play a whole orchestra of bluegrass instruments and sing fit to beat the band.

Aly, Billy Christopher, David J., Drew, Emily, Eric, Julie, Brad, Catherine, Christina, David P., Jeannie, Slade, Sue and Terrie are the BEST. I loved the show on opening night, and I believe it will be a huge hit.

If you have the chance to see it, and if you have an open heart, I think you'll have a grand time.

I hope to see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

Friday, November 21, 2008

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Posted by Eric Williams

Eric appears as Stanley in Sanders Family Christmas. By day he is the Director of Tour Operations for Theatre IV.

Tonight is Opening Night again - sort of. It will be 1941, and the Sanders Family will descend once more on Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina.

Sanders Family Christmas has been in rehearsal for several weeks now and the experience has been both exciting and scary. About two years ago Bruce Miller gathered together a motley collection of actors who also sing and play instruments and guided us to what became Smoke on the Mountain. It was a successful venture with theatre lovers having to be turned away because so many of the performances were sold out—exactly the kind of problem any theatre would like to have.

The cast and theatre had conflicts making it impossible to extend the run, so when the idea was floated that we could reunite at Christmas time and do the sequel, we all jumped at the chance.

The entire cast and director are back. It was like putting on a pair of your favorite old shoes when we got together--very comfortable. We already knew all of the characters, so all that was left was to learn the new script and music. Piece of cake! None of us had actually seen the new script and music but how hard could it be? After all, we’d done it before and this sequel was just like the original, right?

Well, not exactly. While the format of Sanders Family Christmas is similar to Smoke on the Mountain, the two-hour script certainly was all new. And the music … well let’s just say I had to go on the Internet to find out how to play some of the newfangled power chords asked for in this new score.

Rehearsal was fun but urgent. We had some big, and I mean big, laughs. But there was business to be done too. Billy Christopher Maupin, a.k.a. Reverend Oglethorpe, plunked our notes over and over and over again. And that was just the vocals. We had not added the instrumentation yet.

Our cast was still a bit far flung. Our music director extraordinaire Drew Perkins was in Blowing Rock, NC until 3 weeks before opening. Aly Wepplo was in a show in Idaho at Company of Fools. David Janeski was performing at Busch Gardens (when he wasn’t off to Idaho to visit Aly).

Ok, now I was scared. We all had to learn 105 pages of new and difficult (at least to my fingers) music. Thank goodness we have really talented cast members who stepped in to plunk and help musically (the aforementioned Billy Christopher, Emily Cole and Julie Fulcher). There were several music rehearsals with just three or four of us. Bruce kept giving reassurances that everything would be just fine.

Finally, when Drew returned to Virginia, it all began to come together. Nonetheless, this has been a most challenging time—but challenging is good, isn’t it?

Our hard work is about to get the final test - the audience. As rehearsals come to an end and performances start we have a couple of things that you should know. The entire cast enjoys each other and we want you to enjoy yourselves too. Come slip on that old pair of shoes that is the Sanders Family and spend a little Christmas down home.

--Eric Williams

Sanders Family Christmas runs through January 25, 2009 at Hanover Tavern. Performances are already selling out quickly. Call (804) 282-2620 or purchase tickets online.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on Derome Smith--He's Doing Well!

Posted by Bruce Miller
As many of you know, Derome Scott Smith, founder and artistic director of the African American Repertory Theatre, suffered a stroke a couple weeks ago during a rehearsal for Fences. After an appropriate hospitalization, Derome is now glad to be back home working on his recovery.

Phil and I visited with Derome and his wife Rhonda on Monday, and we were glad to find him doing really well. Full movement is returning to his arms, legs and facial muscles--honestly, a remarkable recovery. He still has a little difficulty (very little) sending the words he's thinking down to and out of his mouth--don't ask him to say "rehabilitation" ten times fast--but we had a long and rewarding conversation. Thank God he's doing so well.

Derome has good insurance through Richmond Public Schools--he teaches full time. Nonetheless, he will be on disability pay for at least the next three months (which means a 40% salary cut during that time period), and he'll be in physical and speech therapy two to three times a week for the next quarter of a year, with significant co-pays.

The Allocation Committee of the Theatre Artists Fund of Greater Richmond will be meeting soon to discuss his situation. Soon thereafter, I'll be corresponding with everyone through Robyn's List to set up an opportunity for those who want to provide additional help.

For the last several years, Derome has been working a second full-time job for African American Repertory Theatre with no pay. Not one dime over all the years. Also, he and his wife have been paying out of their own pockets the rent ($800 per month) for African American Repertory's office space for the last four years.

After all that Derome has given and continues to give to our theatre community, I know we'll want to help him and his family manage the unanticipated salary reduction and additional medical expenses associated with his recent medical emergency. If you are not on Robyn's List, and would like to be added, send your name and email address by clicking here - Email: write to us . We'll forward all those interested in being added to Robyn's List to Robyn herself. It's one of the best ways to keep in the loop of all that's going on in the Richmond theatre community. You can also join our Barksdale eNewsletter by clicking here.

I'm sorry to have such a tiny and fuzzy photo of Derome. He deserves bigger and sharper, but it's all that I could find in my Google Image search.

--Bruce Miller

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So Many Openings, So Little Time

Posted by Bruce Miller
I’m in crazy time crunch mode this month. Practically every breathing minute is spent in a theatre, a rehearsal hall, or an administrative office. I’m directing Sanders Family Christmas for Barksdale Hanover Tavern, which means evening rehearsals Monday through Thursday, and daytime rehearsals in three-hour slots on Saturday and Sunday. When I’m not in rehearsal I’m trying to raise money, honor my community and family obligations, and/or plan for Barksdale and Theatre IV’s future.

I like all of it, so I can’t complain about what I’m doing. My complaint is about what I’m not doing—specifically, going to see the shows my friends are in. Even more specifically, I’m really upset with myself for missing Side Show at the Mill. I’m Robyn O’Neill’s biggest fan, and I let her performance (which everyone said was wonderful) slip by unseen, at least by me. (I love your work on stage too, Angie; we don’t go back as far.)

As if missing Side Show were not enough, I’m also about to miss Hamlet at Richmond Shakespeare (I really wanted to see my buddy Jeff Cole); Starting Here, Starting Now with my longtime pals Dee Lynch and Ed Polich at St. Michael’s; and The Music Man at Henrico Theatre Company, directed by brother-in-arms Joe Pabst. Shoot!

I missed young chum Elliot Lau (sounds like a Chinese dish, doesn’t it?) in that play about the Hawaiian shirts at Triangle, but I may be able to catch him in Bite Me. I’ve promised good friend Matt Hackman that I’d make it out to The Nerd at Chamberlayne Actors Theatre. God willing and the crick don’t raise, I’ll be able to honor that promise this coming weekend.

I did make it out to three must-see productions last week – one on Friday night (the annual cabaret at Trinity Episcopal School), one on Saturday night (Shadow Play at Theatre VCU), and one on Sunday afternoon (tick; tick … boom! at Stage 1).

The Trinity cabaret was a one-night affair and my daughter Hannah sang Green Finch and Linnet Bird, performing at this annual songfest for her fifth and final time. She was GREAT, and I couldn’t be more proud. Brian Phillips (who includes theatre director among his many jobs at Trinity) and Brian Rollins (music director extraordinaire) do amazing jobs every day inspiring Trinity students to love the performing arts with not just passion but also intelligence and grace. Every high school should be so lucky as to have teachers like these two.

Shadow Play was the world premiere of a bold, savvy and frequently hilarious performance piece developed over the last several years by David Leong, Gary Hopper and Leland Faulkner. It’s a mind-bending montage of shadow and light, movement and music, comedy and magic—90 or so minutes of tremendous fun. It runs through Nov 23. If you have the chance, you should really go see it.

tick, tick … boom! marks the world premiere not of a particular show, but of a theatre company itself—Chase Kniffen and Peggy Thibodeau’s remarkable Stage 1 Theatre Company. There are those who like their theatre raw and those who prefer a little professional polish. I’ve been known to enjoy both. But I say without hyperbole that tick, tick … boom! is the most impressive, professional, fully realized opening of a new theatre company that I’ve seen in Greater Richmond … ever.

Chase and Peggy have dotted all the i’s and crossed their t’s. They’ve recruited a top notch cast made up of Brett Ambler, Audra Honaker and Durron Tyre—three of the most talented musical theatre performers of their generation. Let’s just face it; Audra Honaker is a phenomenon that Richmond can barely contain.

They have hired a fantastic pit band led by the inimitable Sandy Dacus, and coaxed terrific design work out of three exemplary professionals: Mercedes Schaum (set), Sarah Grady (costumes), and Kenny Mullens (lights). Chase’s direction is first rate. Anyone who would like to see Richmond theatre grow and prosper should go see tick, tick … boom! and support this new and vibrant company.

Well, it’s time to rush off to this morning’s Coffee & Conversations. Hope to see you there. If not, hope to see you in a Richmond theatre soon!

--Bruce Miller

Photo notes: top left: Brett and Durron flying high in tick tick; mid right: Brett and Audra having fun with the green dress; bottom left: all right, it's not from Shadow Play, but rabbit hand puppets appear in Shadow Play, so it's close.

Monday, November 10, 2008

He's a what? He's a what? He's a Music Man!

By Joseph Pabst

Henrico Theatre Company's production of The Music Man opened on November 7 and will be on stage at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen until November 23. View the performance calendar.

The title of this article is one of my favorite fun lines from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man! It’s spoken in rhythm as salesmen on a train discuss what a blight this “swindlin’ two-bit thimble rigger” Harold Hill is to the Sales profession. Henrico Theatre Company is producing this classic musical gem, with me at the helm directing. We are in the final stage of the rehearsal process right now, adding lights, sound, orchestra, costumes and props. The show opens on Friday, November 7 at the Cultural Arts Center in Glen Allen. It has a three-week run, closing on November 23.

This show is filled with great musical numbers: “Trouble”, “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little”, “Goodnight, My Someone”, “Lida Rose”, “The Wells Fargo Wagon”, “Shipoopi”, “Till There Was You”, “Gary Indiana”, and of course, “76 Trombones”. And its story uses all the elements that made traditional musical theatre great – romance, conflict, change of heart, and an ending that wraps you up in all kinds of warm feelings. The only thing it’s missing is a big finale; it ends without a big, rousing group number.

The late Robert Preston made the role of musical con man Harold Hill his signature piece. He won the Tony Award in 1957 for his portrayal, and starred in the unforgettable film version in 1962. The role followed him for the rest of his life. My wife, Debra, mentioned that Preston worked on a movie in Richmond in 1985 called Finnegan Begin Again (one of his final performances before his passing in 1987). Someone on the set bet him $50 that he couldn’t remember all of the words to the song, “Trouble”. Preston hopped right up on a chair and performed the song, beginning to end, without missing a beat! What a guy!

I must say, as much as I have loved working on this show, I had to sort of reboot my director’s brain! You see, this is the fourth show I’ve directed in the last year and a half. The first three all had relatively small casts – Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (8 actors), Greater Tuna (2 actors) and Driving Miss Daisy (3 actors). The Music Man has thirty-six people on stage. At times, I feel more like a traffic cop than a director!

Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say I feel like a football coach. To keep everyone straight and moving in the right direction, I often chart out the moves each actor will make in sequence. These diagrams tend to look like football plays (except everyone is an “O” – there are no “X’s” on my team!). You can see an example of one of my more elaborate charts pictured.

This production benefits from the tremendous talents of Paul Deiss as Music Director, and an 8-piece live orchestra. Amy Perdue is choreographing the show with great style. Our cast is includes folks both familiar and little-known to Richmond audiences. David Janosik plays the title role, with Amy David as the lovely Marian the Librarian. Scott Melton and Amy Berlin play Mayor Shinn and his wife Eulalie. Terri Moore appears as Mrs. Paroo, with Davis Mercer as Marcellus.

This is a family show in more ways than one, too! The cast includes Terri Moore’s daughters – Leah (Ensemble) and Georgi (Amaryllis); Davis Mercer’s sisters – Kaylin (Zaneeta) and Makenzie (Gracie); and Ben Dacus (Ensemble) and his children – Charlie (Winthrop) and Lucy (Ensemble).

And as if keeping 36 people straight isn’t hard enough, we have: 3 David’s and a Davis (plus Amy David); 3 Amy’s (including Amy Perdue); 2 Christy’s and a Chris; a Rick and a Richard; and a Marty, a Margie, and a Marie. Some days, I swear I’ll never cast another show with people that have the same name!

Now you know why I use football diagrams! I just hope this “play” scores a touchdown with audiences! (Sorry for the puns… It’s football season, after all!)