is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Friday, July 23, 2010

RENT's Cast Is Stellar Under the Stars

My rolling blog on SummerFest has proved to be quite popular, and since you're reading this, I first want to thank you for visiting KimmyVille during these relentlessly wonderful, chillingly hot, smoothly sticky days of June and July as we've watched all the shows go from page to stage. It's been fun to cover, it's been emotional to follow, and my theater fever is spiking as I type. 

Now that RENT is underway (just two more nights after tonight!) there are a lot of people clamoring for the best blanket space at the arboretum to see all that happens with Tracey Bonner's cast and crew, which is so full of talent, it's impossible to describe, but what the heck, I'm gonna try...

First of all, RENT -- along with all the shows of Summerfest, in fact -- is a great entertainment bargain. For just ten bucks, you will la-la-la-love the performances of Nick Vannoy as Tom Collins, Carleigh Griffeth as Maureen, and Beth Kovarik, who is hilarious as Mark's Mom.  

Jessica Lucas just holds the audience captive as Mimi, and her voice, her look, her presence is astounding!

Chip Becker, as Mark makes a strong impression, too - what a great singer, that one is...oh and Katie Berger, as Alexi Darling, oh my goshes, Katie - great job!

Opera virtuoso Nick Covault is also quite the musical treat as Paul, while punk rock band Partly Cloudy's Johnny Dawson kicks royal musical rumpus as Roger!  

The charming video-bloggrapher/singer/dancer/performer Taylor Eldred gives it her all, along with EKU standout Thomas Gibbs - both are the best, just the best. Voices like buttah...and energy out the whazoo.
Photos courtesy of Tom Eisenhauer

Oh, and Andrea Johnson very much has her finger on the pulse of the crowd, too, but that's only appropriate since she's also a registered nurse -- I first saw her in Divine Right's Trip a few months back, she's just a killer singer and the arboretum crowd la-la-la-loves her - when she sings, the place goes crazy.

Casey Mather has been in other productions of RENT, but this time he performs as Gordon, and he, too is another superb player in this talented mix, along with Justin Norris and Wood Van Meter (one of the sweetest, funniest and talented kids I've ever met).  

Oh oh OH -- and Sharonda Piersall's voice caresses a lyric as if it were a baby, she plays Joanne; and Brandon Smith does Madison Central High proud as Steve!

Oh, did I mention there's a show stopper by the name of Emanuel Thomas Williams as Angel in this show?  Well, if you aren't convinced to go yet, let me just tell you, you will kick your own ass for not going to see him do his double back flip in high heels.  He has all the bells and whistles it takes to knock your socks off...and we all need our socks knocked off every now and again, don't we?  Emanuel must be seen, and he must be heard - by you!  He's astonishing. 

Let me also say Tracey Bonner and Mark Calkins are two of the finest directors, musicians, performers, producers anyone could ever ask for, and they have worked diligently and magically to deliver a home run during SummerFest's ninth inning.  Indeed, RENT is the third jewel in the triple crown of theater-in-the-park for this year.  (Yes, I mix sports metaphors, it's how I run the bases ... or basses ;-)

Of course, you can't put on a blockbuster musical without blockbuster accompaniment. With Karen Thomas as the keyboard centerpiece, and Jim Gleason on his chameleon guitar and magnificent  band - they could easily win the most valuable supporting players award if there were such a rhythmic beast. Their professionalism and musicality keep the pace moving and give the RENT singers the glorious backup they deserve. 
(Of course, pianist and sister extraordinaire Karen was my first hero, and she still is :)

With these spectacular musicians putting the 'oh' in crescendo, the piano in, well, piano...the fort in, I got a lil crazy there but you'll forgive me, I got the fever, y' any rate, with their lovely instrumental support, the songs shine like shimmering lights in the summer sky.  Good on them! 

Last but never least, Tressa Bowling, the fabuloso stage manager, Ashley McLean and Lindsay Warnick, her assistant stage managers are also to be commended. Their attention to detail makes everything come together for one good time as SummerFest begins to make its final bow.

To everyone in The Merchant of Venice, Pride and Prejudice and Rent -- my heartfelt thanks to all of you - you have made my summer wonderful ... I've enjoyed every rehearsal, every note, every word, and you have my everlasting love and respect for your remarkable devotion. 


I'm going to take the liberty of printing below the closing paragraph of Director Tracey Bonner's notes that appear in the SummerFest program for RENT.  I love what she has to say, it speaks of her passion and ability to articulate the universal message that RENT has to offer:

"May this show remind you of someone you have lost too soon but not forgotten; show you that people are people -- not matter the color or their skin or sexual orientation; give rise in you to be the change in the world you want to see; and allow you to look deep within yourself in a new way with acceptance, love and most importantly...HOPE for a better day.  I am humbled to have been the leader of this group of artists, and I am empowered to change the world around me -- one heart, one hand, one loving soul at a time ... La Vie Boheme!  No Day but Today!"  

-- Tracey Bonner

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