A guest artist with a national profile brings great celebrity to a regional theatre. I am a great fan of Wanda Sykes on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', the chief reason being that she cuts the irascible Larry David no slack.
Those on Media Theatre's email list were reminded almost daily of Sykes' star power.
While admittedly I witnessed the first preview before an audience, Sykes as the dastardly drunk Miss Hannigan came across as comfortable on stage as Tiger Woods in his first news conference after his marital sturm und drang.
She loosened up a bit during 'Easy Street', sung and danced with the entertaining and energetic – while nefarious - twosome of Rooster (Reggie Whitehead) and Lily St. Regis (Janet Rowley). What is normally an over the top show stopper devolved into a boilerplate production number, eliciting but courtesy chuckles from the audience of family and friends.
Aisle Say's overall impression was that Sykes was under rehearsed.
I will leave this flailing in the hair vest with one final comment; she should talk-sing her one solo 'Little Girls'. This is an effective device for non-singers made famous by Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”. (Sykes is on hiatus during the run of the show and the role will be taken by popular and experienced Philly actor Mary Martello.)
Annie (Tori Heinlein) fared well with the iconic 'Tomorrow' and even better with 'Maybe'. (At ten years already an Equity card carrier!) Her constant attention to her red wig was distracting and the strong chemistry that should be evident between she and Warbucks (Paul Jackel) registered a 'luke' on Aisle Say's 'warm' index.
Overall, the production lacked pace and energy. Rhythm was off by a half step. The scenes with the orphans and any time Rooster (Whitehead) was on stage created much anticipated and appreciated energy. Whitehead's credits include the character of Sportin Life in Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess', America's first opera. He brought that same Sammy Davis, Jr.-type dynamics to this role.
The singing star was Grace (Eliza Matthews) performing back to back shows at Media. She was last seen as Emma in their sizzling 'Jekyll & Hyde' . At that show Aisle Say gushed over her light lyric soprano / soubrette like an expectant school boy at the sophomore prom. Matthews has no solo in this production but is is evident her control is as tight as the spiral from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson.
One of the most creative aspects of the show was delivered by scenic designer Robert Klimowski. He used very descriptive Depression era images on a rear projected screen; an inexpensive yet effective vehicle to create mood. As a result, we were embraced with the atmosphere of that difficult time in American history.
Through January 16. MediaTheatre.org 610.891.0100
For those of you who remember my Delaware's Best of Broadway, we are returning to Bella Vita at Cavaliers Country Club on February 17 at 1:30pm and February 18 at 8pm. My professional singers will be performing a cabaret/concert of Broadway's show stoppers, including tunes from Les Mis, Phantom, Carousel, Showboat, etc. Buffet and two hours of entertainment. Carl Immediato of the iconic 3 Little Bakers Dinner Theatre is Marketing Director at the venue. Group rates.