Standing Room Only (SRO) theater company Director Nancy Hillman under Musical Direction by Claudia Simpson-Jones, Choreography by Rachel Martinez and Vocal Direction by Sonia Pena have again wowed local audiences with the stage adaptation of LIL ABNER, “a joyful musical based on the iconic, ironic comic strip by Al Capp, about an average American mountain boy, who leads the beloved, homespun citizens of Dogpatch, Kentucky, USA.”
To see Hillman’s talent at bringing together our local friends and neighbors from all walks of life into a cast ensemble delivering such quality makes me smile, like Mayor Shinn of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, who was so proud of his River City boys band.
Hillman has shined again as she worked in bringing out the best of some of our local favorites, especially noted in the enunciation, gestures, eye contact with fellow cast-members and exacting characterization of Hans Molland in the title role. Molland was outstanding and so much so, I want to take him back to my home state of Kentucky and introduce him in the mountain communities there! His character’s love-interest was played splendidly by Kayla Geist, who handled this lead role very well and is developing quite a resume from Rainier High productions of Once Upon A Mattress and Twelfth Grade Night and in Yelm with SRO’s Cactus Flower & Annie Get Your Gun.
I must say that one actor who really stood out in her performance was Ruthanne Chadwick as Mammy Yokum, who had her character nailed spot-on. Ray Harrison was superb as Pappy Yokum and these two demonstrated the range of talent from all generations we have here, something I applaud and respect.
Dave Champagne continues to demonstrate his stage versatility in singing, dance routines, and comfortable manner as he uses his eyes to connect with his audience. I am always thrilled to see what he will do next. Champagne has a strong presence and has been the lead in previous SRO productions, however never overshadows his fellow cast members. THAT is a talent in and of itself.
Zander Layden’s stature in several roles was highlighted in this production and his animation presented the abilities he possesses. He, too, makes excellent audience eye-contact, instilling that extra touch of a true professional. I look forward to seeing his talents develop further, as this is one fine actor, as I have said here previously!
Rachel Martinez, Marcela Martinez and Richard Frias are other favorites that always add their color in their respective roles. Frias always adds such personality and a commanding stage-presence. Nice to have seen the Keeslar Family in-audience supporting repeat performer Kieran, who continues to bloom and kudos to his mother Robin in the wings as Prop Mistress.
The cast was huge and showed their diversity with the Longshore sisters, Steve Neuhring’s various characters, Jan Van Hess as an excellent Dr. Finsdale and Doug Johnson’s Colonel, plus several roles by Tobie Nichols.
There are many others who contributed to this grand production who I have surely missed, however added to a wonderful evening, full of other surprises I might add.
The Olympian had a report about the cause for the fire-engine siren’s near the end of last night’s first act. The cast carried-on like those were part of the show, further demonstrating their depth.
Perfect for the entire family.
DATE: Closing show tonight, August 8
PLACE: Gordons Outdoor Summer Theater, 308 Yelm Ave. East
– Bring a wrap for the cool night air.
TICKETS: $12. On sale at the Yelm Food Coop, Gordons Garden Center & the door.