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Last night was the opening performance at Rainier High School of this weekend’s StageStruck Players, the youth division of Standing Room Only Theater Company, presenting “an original musical pastiche, a parody of the American Idol TV show”.
The show is titled American Idle with this media announcement listing the theme:

“A group of “Glee”ful musically oriented teens, who have nothing to do for the summer, band together to win first prize in a new TV reality show starring Betty White (played by the incomparable Ruthanne Chadwick). All they need to succeed in their quest is to create ten entertaining musical numbers that demonstrate an astute knowledge of American geography…….. in just four days!”

With a production directed by Nancy Hillman and musical accompaniment by Stephen Borsuk who flew in from New York, this show was certain to cast a group of committed Rainier teens in bringing out their talents, and no one left disappointed.

Featuring Ivan Dixon, Michael Schrier, Kayla Geist, Eric Delorme (as Maurice Chevalier), Vera Welch, Brandy Rhodes, Bethany Henkes, Ricky McCann, Hannah Longshore, Kieran Keeslar and “special guest star” 5-yr-old Livvy Coverdale, the audience was mesmerized and thrilled by these teens and Coverdale, all who belted out familiar and unfamiliar hits that had everyone in the audience providing resounding applause at the end of every act.

While I had thought the absolutely precious 5-year old Livvy Coverdale’s anticipated performance of The Music Man’s Gary Indiana would steal the show, the strong displays by the rest of the cast and their obvious acceptance of this little actress as one of their own, did not distract from the other actors or the show. Admittedly, while Coverdale’s rendition of the song, originally performed by Ron Howard in the 1962 movie, was as touching and equally animated, she delivered the song with a great depth of understanding, especially considering Ron Howard performed the number at age 8, which was an amazing feat for him as we watched this 5 year-old’s flawless delivery.

There were several notable observations –
– Nancy Hillman – with a sweet opening description of her journey with this show, acknowledging parents of teens and the teens themselves in the world we have today, so challenging for all of them.
Several grandparents were in the audience, too.
– The cast – an amazing array of talent that belted out songs that could be easily understood, with the simplest of props, lighting (provided by Dr. Brian Keay) and all without microphones. The cast camaraderie was particularly noticeable. I consider a show really great when the audience loses viewing the individual actors and is whisked into another state of mind. I got the sense I was viewing the Von Trapp family singers working together as a family, as I watched this cast choreograph every scene.
– Vera Welch & Kayla Geist’s song and dance of OHIO was especially well-done.
– One of the highlights of the show for me was a piece titled BIG D, sung by Vera Welch and Ricky McCann. With a tongue-twister of a song, these two danced and delivered this piece as if performing for years. McCann has a sincerity in his performances that lends authenticity and appeal to the acts in which he participated. His manner reminded me of Gene Nelson’s character Will Parker in the movie version of Oklahoma singing Kansas City.
– Moving here from San Francisco 23 years ago, I could relate to Hannah Longshore’s and the girls’ Grant Avenue, a song about that city’s China Town, which also effectively included Coverdale.
– Kieran Keeslar opened the show and provided back-up support and cameos that had all laughing. Keeslar’s mother Robin was House Manager and his uncle Joe’s JK Autoworks a program sponsor.
– The audience really got into the familiar beats of songs like Chicago’s All that Jazz, Hairspray’s Good Morning Baltimore and Grease’s We Go Together.
– The actors all lined-up at the theater’s exit at the end of the show to shake hands with all of the audience and guests, an unexpected yet touching tribute to a grand evening and more importantly, a vehicle to let all of these folks know just how much they were appreciated in stepping-out to do this at the end of their school year, when other callings and distractions could have been more important. Had these teens not participated, we would have never known their wonderful capabilities!
All of these performers have excellent potential to build upon, should they continue in acting.

This was a true demonstration of extraordinary students that all of the Rainier High Family should be proud!
So nice to see so many familiar faces in the audience from Yelm come to Rainier, especially former Yelm TRL Librarian Kristin Blalack.

Bottom line:
As I told Ms. Hillman at the show’s conclusion, a grand gift for our community!
River City’s Mayor Shinn would be beaming with pride…in another nod to The Music Man.

Include the last performance tonight in your plans for a perfect Memorial Day weekend show for the whole family.

Where: Rainier High School Commons
308 Second St.

When: Saturday, May 28 – 7:30pm

Cost: Tickets $6 at the door.

Posted by Steve on May 28, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

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