We offer suggestions for arts lovers to discover (and re-discover) established and emerging artists, musicians and performers in and around Delaware. Although we particularly like to celebrate smaller arts organizations and individuals, we cover nearly anything that strikes us or that we feel you should know about. Periodically, we welcome guest bloggers and artists to join us.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
"Because of Winn-Dixie: A New Musical” is far More Than a Children’s Show
Delaware Theater Company’s final production of the 2014/2015 Season explores death, loss, abandonment, alcoholism, and incarceration -- themes not typically
associated with a children’s show. However, Because
of Winn-Dixie: A New Musical isn’t a typical children’s show. Yes, the
production has a group of talented youth in lead roles; yes, it has a cute dog
as the star; and yes, it has a logo that features a little girl about to shake
a dog’s paw, but the show has depth and is actually about the impact adult
situations have on children.
musical with book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and music by Tony award
The Because of Winn-Dixie cast.
artist Duncan Sheik perfectly incorporates singer/songwriter,
country, blues, and gospel styles to propel this coming-of-age story. Opal
(Kylie McVey) and her father, Preacher (Clarke Thorell), are adjusting to life after
the abandonment of Preacher’s wife/Opal’s mother and a recent move to a small
southern town, where Preacher will lead a Baptist church.
adventures we meet the quirky townspeople (Miss Franny, The Librarian - Carolyn
Mignini; Otis, The Pet Store Man - Christopher Ryan Grant; and Gloria, The
Witch - Joilet Harris), the children who Opal befriends (the snooty bookworm Amanda
Wilkinson - Leonay Shephard, the young perky Sweetie Pie Thomas - Anya Rothman,
and the pesky brother duo Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry - Nicholas Barasch and
Evan Dampman), and the children’s parents (single mom of two boys Jeanne
Dewberry – Magie Kakis, Amanda’s standoffish parents Carl and Millie Wilkinson
– David Jennings and Kimberly Fairbanks, and Sweetie Pie’s good ol’ southern
parents Jiggs and Callie Thomas – Brian Michael Hoffman and Jenna Pastuszek), as
well as a stray dog (Bowdie) that Opal meets at the local Winn-Dixie grocery
store. Opal adopts the dog and appropriately names him after the popular
southern grocery chain.
outside, life seems to be “normal” for the townspeople and their children, but
as the show progresses it’s revealed that each family and/or person is dealing
with hardship. Not wanting to face their challenges, the parents ignore the
situations and don’t discuss the matters with their children, while the other
townspeople are willing to share their adverse stories and become friends with
the show has a somewhat complex story, director and choreographer
Marcia Milgrom Dodge has the difficult task of ensuring Bowdie doesn’t upstage
his human co-stars, which could lead to losing the narrative of the show. Thankfully
she successfully achieves this task. She manages to give ample time to both Bowdie
and his cast mates to shine on the stage, while the story comes to life.
Kylie McVey and Bowdie in Because of Winn-Dixie.
lead human in the show shines bright, along with the rest of the cast! For
being so young, Miss. McVey has a great voice and strong acting chops. She is
wonderful as the brave and curious twelve-year-old Opal who longs to connect
with her father and gain a better understanding of her mother’s actions. Equally
as good is Mr. Thorell as Preacher. He gives a compelling performance as a man
who is trying to cope with his wife’s leaving, raising a daughter on his own,
and establishing himself in a new community. Their number “Thirteen Things” is
touching as Preacher describes his wife’s good and bad virtues to his pre-teen
Miss McVey. Miss Shephard also has a great voice and strong acting chops. With
remarkable stage presence, the young actress perfectly captures the feelings of
a girl who maintains a tough exterior to shield her inner sadness. The reason
for her steel personality is revealed during a duet with Miss McVey (the riveting and haunting number “Not True At All”). While Miss McVey’s character finds solace
in her new dog, Miss Shephard’s character finds comfort in her books.
Wanting to Read, rather than play with the children of the town keeps her
character from establishing relationships with others. The show opens with her
reading A Tale of Two Cities and towards the middle of the show she is moving
onto Gone with the Wind.
Ms. Mignini and Mr. Grant give stirring performances in their respected roles.
Ms. Mignini, the wealthy librarian with long southern roots captivates during
her number “Sweet Life” -- a reminder that the Civil War wasn’t as glamorous as
it is portrayed in books and films. Mr. Grant seamlessly handles his multiple
duties; he not only performs the part of Otis, the ex-convict owner of the town
pet store, he also plays the guitar and at times interacts with the band.
highlight of the show is Ms. Harris’s explosive performance as a town outsider, Gloria. The children believe Gloria a witch, because she mysteriously hangs empty bottles on her
tree. The unpleasant reasons for hanging the bottles are revealed during her exuberant
show stopping number “Bottle Tree Blues”! She brings great humor and style to this dark, but upbeat song.
course I have to mention Bowdie as Winn-Dixie. Expertly trained by Tony award
The children of Because of Winn Dixie.
Berloni, the shaggy dog follows both voice and touch commands
(without having to get a treat). Only a person with a cold heart wouldn’t fall
in love with the lanky 85 pound standard poodle mix.
is very fortunate to play on a fantastic set by Allen Moyer. With an elevated
tier for the band, set pieces easily enter and
exit the grocery store-like checkered floor stage. To invoke the southern
charm atmosphere, Mr. Moyer has decorated the proscenium of the stage with
pictures of Winn-Dixie stores and other southern images.
Make sure you see Because of Winn Dixie: A New Musical
before it closes and moves to Broadway. The show runs through May 3, at the Delaware
Theatre Company. In honor of producing a show that features a dog, DTC will host three community adoption events between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on April
18 (Delaware SPCA), April 25 (Faithful Friends) and May 2 (Delaware Humane
Association). A ticket to the show is not required to attend the adoption
events. Visitwww.delawaretheatre.org or call 302.594.1100
for additional information and tickets.