Village Square Theatre Pours a Cup of Ambiton with "9 to 5: The Musical" - a review by Melissa Swick Ellington

9to52 The Lexington County Arts Association presents an enjoyable production of 9 to 5: The Musical, running through this weekend at the Village Square Theatre.  With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, the musical is based on the 1980 film. The show explores the power of friendship in the struggle against workplace discrimination, as three unlikely allies band together to take revenge on a sexist boss and to revolutionize office life in the process. Audience members will recognize the familiar voice of Dolly Parton as the friendly, down-home guide through 9 to 5: The Musical.

Director Brandi Owensby, musical director John Norris, and producers Leslie Dellinger and Courtney Long are at the helm for this Village Square offering. A capable production team includes choreographers Wes Williams and Kaitlyn Yaworksi, technical director Shepherd Pinner, stage manager Aryel Toup, and costume designers Heidi Willard, Nancy Huffines, Gina Calvert, and Barbara Bise. Highlights of their achievements include the complex and humorous staging of a vengeance fantasy sequence, costumes that evoke character traits effectively, and simple sets that get the job done.

In the role of company veteran Violet, Janice Holbrook blends maternal empathy with a sardonic, no-nonsense demeanor. Her mentorship of the office newcomer Judy (Rachel Rizutti) builds a sincere connection that bolsters the emotional life of the show, while Rizutti’s convincing character development and lovely singing voice invite audiences to invest in Judy’s theatrical journey. As irrepressible “Backwoods Barbie” Doralee, Susie Gibbons overcomes stereotypes to craft a resonant portrayal of a savvy and resourceful woman. Audiences will savor the first glimpse of this trio’s combined strength as their powerful delivery of “I Just Might” revs up the show.  The three women soar in the rallying cry “Shine Like the Sun.”

Andrew Coston plays Joe the accountant with sincerity and sweetness, sharing a particularly appealing vocal approach to “Let Love Grow.” Harrison Ayer commits to the role of sexist boss Franklin Hart, oozing cringe-worthy sleaze that makes skin crawl and stomachs churn. Robin Saviola brings humanity to Roz, the coworker who yearns for the man others condemn as a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” A large ensemble of employees generates a credible depiction of bleak misery in the office “bullpen” that transforms to hopeful empowerment in the second act’s workplace metamorphosis.

Uneven sound choices interfere with the performance at times. Cleaner sound design and less cumbersome set changes would benefit the production considerably, but these are minor quibbles in light of the enjoyable theatre experience provided by Village Square. At the matinee I attended, it became very clear that the audience appreciated the performance: Doralee’s threat to Hart (“change you from a rooster to a hen”) prompted an audience member’s spontaneous affirmation, “God bless country girls!”

9 to 5: The Musical uses humor and music to illuminate disturbing problems. While it might be tempting to write off the show’s central conflict as indicative of a different era, the play’s themes resonate today in immediate as well as global ways. While wrestling with uncomfortable social realities, viewers can tap their toes to charming songs and chuckle over unpretentious humor. Tough issues wrapped up in a sassy package? Thank you, Dolly Parton.

Performances will run through Sunday, January 26 (Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.). Ticket prices are $19.00 for adults and $15.00 for children and can be purchased at www.villagesquaretheatre.com or by calling the box office at 803-359-1436. Village Square Theatre is located in Lexington just off highway 378 at 105 Caughman Road. Parental guidance is appropriate for 9 to 5: The Musical because of adult situations and language.

~Melissa Swick Ellington

"9 to 5" opens at Village Square Theatre in Lexington; "Elvis Has Left the Building" opens at Town Theatre

The new year is upon us, and that means theatre is coming alive everywhere.  Love, Loss, and What I Wore continues its sold-out run at Trustus Theatre (but you can read the Jasper review here) while Workshop Theatre continues with Crimes of the Heart (you can read What Jasper Said about it here.)  Town Theatre and the Lexington County Arts Association are opening news shows this weekend - some advance press material is below!

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The Lexington County Arts Association  will be pulling back the curtain of the corporate world this January at the Village Square Theatre.  Pushed to the boiling points by their boss, three female co-workers concoct a plan to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot they call their boss.  They conspire to take control of their company and learn there’s nothing they can’t do — even in a man’s world.  Set in the late 1970s, 9 to 5 - The Musical is a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era. Outrageous, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic, 9 to 5 - The Musical is about teaming up and taking care of business.   The production is brought to the stage by the team of director Brandi Owensby and musical director John Norris. The talented cast features a quirky ensemble, a hodgepodge of comedic supporting characters, and Susie Gibbons as Doralee, Janice Holbrook as Violet (Debb Adams, understudy, shown in the press photo), Harrison Ayer as Franklin Hart, and newcomer Rachel Rizzuti as Judy.  The show is a crowd-pleasing hilarious romp about teaming up, getting credit and getting even with the boss. And who hasn't mused about that?
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9 to 5 - The Musical, with music by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick, is based on the 1980 hit movie Nine to Five. The show will be opening at Village Square Theatre beginning on Friday, January 17 and running two weeks through Sunday, January 26. There will be three performances each weekend (Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m.). Parental guidance suggested (adult content, language). Ticket  prices are $19.00 for adults and $15.00 for children and can be purchased at www.villagesquaretheatre.com or by calling the box office at 803-359-1436. Village Square Theatre is located in Lexington just off highway 378 at 105 Caughman Road (behind Bojangle’s and Firestone Auto Care).

Elvis_Town_2 Meanwhile, across the river over at Town Theatre,  it’s 1970, and Elvis Presley is missing. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, needs his star for an extremely important live performance. (You see, he owes a certain mobster a bit of money). Oh, and the show is in 24 hours. When the search for the real Elvis proves fruitless, he looks for the next best thing -- an Elvis impersonator, but where can he find one that he can pass off as the real Elvis? What has the real Elvis been up to anyway? The answers to these questions, and much more, will be revealed as Town’s version of this hilarious comedy unfolds.

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Andy Nyland (9 to 5) recreates the manipulative Colonel Parker with Therese “Resi” Talbot (Les Miserables) as Trudy, his long-suffering secretary. Charlie Goodrich (The Foreigner) and Chip Collins (Annie) take the parts of Roscoe and Candy. We simply cannot tell you what they do – you’ll just have to see it to believe it! Last but not least is Mary Miles (Miss Saigon), the saucy and fearless news reporter who simply will not take “no” for an answer. The play by mother and son team, Duke Ernsberger and Virginia Cate, is actually based on a true event in the life of Elvis Presley. Aside from that fact, the story you are about to see is totally fictitious (at least as far as we know!). You’ll want to check out our playbill for the background. You will be amazed! So come, laugh and have a good time with this bit of “folklore” surrounding the life of The King of Rock and Roll. This riotously funny story will have you wanting more and keep you guessing until the end. Elvis Has Left the Building runs Jan 17 - Feb 1; curtain Wed.-Sat. is at 8 pm, with Sundays at 3 pmAdults - $20; Seniors over 65/active duty military/full-time college - $17; Youth 17 and younger $15.  Box office: 803-799-2510, or visit www.towntheatre.com.

Marauding Zombies, Playful Amphibians, and That Mofo With the Hat - What to See on Stage This Weekend

George Romero's low-budget, cult hit from 1968, Night of the Living Dead, was the granddaddy of all modern zombie stories. Zombies had been around before, but were usually depicted as corpses animated by some controlling voodoo master. Romero took the basic idea of hordes of the undead from Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, made them less vampires and more corpse-like, yet still eager to chomp your flesh and turn you into one of them, and his world-view of a zombie apocalypse took off, influencing everything from the Resident Evil and Silent Hill video games, to director John Landis's classic video for the Michael Jackson song "Thriller," to the current hit comic book and cable tv series The Walking Dead. We're still fond of this exchange from the Joss Whedon-produced series Angel, written by Steven S. DeKnight (now the show-runner for Spartacus) : CONNOR (Angel's mortal son, who hates him): He looks dead.

ANGEL (the "good" vampire with a soul) : He is dead. Technically, it's undead. It's a zombie.

CONNOR: What's a zombie?

ANGEL: It's an undead thing.

CONNOR: Like you?

ANGEL: No, zombies are slow-moving, dimwitted things that crave human flesh.

CONNOR: Like you.

ANGEL: No! It's different. Trust me.

Zombies are all the rage in Columbia too, with an annual Zombie Walk (Crawl? Lurch?) each Hallowe'en. High Voltage Theatre is currently producing a stage adaptation of the original Romero film, running this weekend and the next, Friday and Saturday nights, through Sat. Feb. 15th, at the Tapp's Art Center on Main Street. For information or reservations, call: 803-754-5244. And you can read a review at the Free Times.

Over at Richland Mall in Forest Acres, Columbia Children's Theatre is opening their new production of A Year With Frog and Toad, the Tony-nominated (seriously!) musical by Robert and Willie Reale, based on Arnold Lobel's series of children's books. The cast includes local favorites such as Jerry Stevenson, Lee O. Smith, Bobby Bloom, Sara Jackson, Paul Lindley II (doubling as musical director) Toni Moore, and Elizabeth Stepp (who also choreographs.)

From press material:

Arnold Lobel's well-loved characters hop from the page to the stage in A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD, the Theatre of Young Audiences version of Tony-nominated musical. This whimsical show follows two great friends -- the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad -- through four, fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the Spring, Frog and Toad plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding, and learn life lessons along the way. The two best friends celebrate and rejoice in their differences that make them unique and special. Part vaudeville, part make believe, all charm, A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.

The show runs through Sun. Feb. 17th; contact the box office at (803) 691-4548 for information.

Meanwhile, down in the Vista, Trustus Theatre opens Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Motherf@*#&er With the Hat, directed by Chad Henderson, with a score by Preach Jacobs, scenic design by Kimi Maeda, and featuring Alexis Casanovas, Shane Silman, Raia Jane Hirsch, Michelle Jacobs, and Joe Morales.

From press material:

ADULTS ONLY PLEASE: language, nudity, sexual situations, & violence

"This sexy and modern show was nominated for Tony Awards, Drama League Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, and Drama Desk Awards – TRUST US, it’s more than the title that’s provocative about this show."

Struggles with addiction, friendship, love and the challenges of adulthood are at the center of the story. Jackie, a petty drug dealer, is just out of prison and trying to stay clean. He's also still in love with his coke-addicted childhood sweetheart, Veronica. Ralph D. is Jackie's too-smooth, slightly slippery sponsor. He's married to the bitter and disaffected Victoria, who, by the way, has the hots for Jackie. And then there's Julio, Jackie's cousin … a stand-up, "stand by me" kind of guy. However, when Jackie comes home with flowers to find a strange man’s hat by his and Veronica’s bed, these characters careen forward as Jackie goes in search of the hat’s owner. What follows is an examination of trust, lust, loyalty, and true love.

You can read an interview with director Chad Henderson here.  Contact the box office at (803) 254-9732 for ticket information.

Barefoot in the Park, Night of the Living Dead, Das Barbecu running this weekend!

Neil Simon's classic Barefoot in the Park runs another weekend at the Village Square Theatre in Lexington, this Friday, February 1st through Sunday, February 3rd. From press material:  Paul and Corie Bratter appear as different as they can be.  He's a straight-as-an-arrow lawyer, and she's a free spirit always looking for the latest kick. Their new apartment is her most recent find:  too expensive with bad plumbing and in need of a paint job. After a six-day honeymoon, they get a surprise visit from Corie's loopy mother, and decide to play matchmaker during a dinner with their neighbor-in-the-attic Velasco, where everything that can go wrong, does. Paul just doesn't understand Corie, as she sees it. He's too staid, too boring, and she just wants him to be a little more spontaneous, running "barefoot in the park" would be a start.

The show features the talents of Rachel Goerss as Corie Bratter, Michael Hazin as Paul Bratter, Gina Calvert as mother-in-law Ethel Banks, Dennis Kacsur as their eccentric neighbor Victor Valasco.  Harrison Ayer and Steven Nessel complete the cast.   For more information or tickets, contact the box office at (803) 359-1436.

 

 

 

 

 

Opening downtown on Main Street in the Tapp's Art Center on Friday, Feb. 1st is Night of the Living Dead, based on the 1968 film by George Romero.  From press material:  High Voltage Theatre, the Southeast’s premiere performance company dedicated to presenting classic and modern horror on stage, brings to Columbia the granddaddy of all zombie stories! The play is adapted and directed by Chris Cook and features Hollywood-level special FX make-up, stage combat,  firearms, and hordes of man-eating zombies! A true classic of American cinema is now the hottest theatrical event in Columbia of 2013! Reviving the edgy, off-beat, Chicago-style theatre that put High Voltage on the Midlands map in 2002.

Night of the Living Dead promises to shock, thrill, chill, and excite audiences currently on a steady diet of The Walking Dead. Yes, "We're coming to get you, Columbia!"

 

For reservations please call: 803-754-5244

Tickets: $15 per person

8 PM curtain for all the performances at the Fountain Room in the bottom of Tapp's Art Center.

Runs: Friday and Saturday February 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th!

 

 

Starring: (In order of appearance)

Mary Miles as "Barbara" Harrison Ayer/ Michael Layer as "Johnny" Marques Moore as "Ben" Chris Cook as "Harry Cooper" Jenna Sach as "Judy" Evelyn Clary as "Helen Cooper" Mazie Cook as "Karen"

Meanwhile, over on campus, Opera at USC presents: Das Barbecu by Jim Luigs and Scott Warrender on Friday, February 1st and Saturday, February 2nd at 7:30 PM, and Sunday February 3rd at 5:30 PM, at Drayton Hall.    "A re-telling of Wagner's Ring Cycle. This time set in Texas.”

Featuring Jared Ice (recently seen as Don Giovanni) Jasper Theatre Artist of the Year Finalist Shelby Sessler, Jordan Harper, Stephanie Beinlich (recently seen as Cendrillion) Stann Gwynn (recently seen as George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf") and Christa Hiatt.

 

$5 - Students $15 - Seniors/ USC Faculty & Staff/ Military $20 - Adults

FOR TICKETS CALL (803) 777-5369

Rebecca Phillips, Conductor Ellen Schlaefer, Director Lynn Kompass, Musical Preparation Anna Dragoni, choreographer Teddy Moore, scenic designer Chet Longley, lighting designer