Showing posts with label Delaware All-State Theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware All-State Theatre. Show all posts

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Enjoy a Raucous Romp with Killer Rabbits, Knights Who Say "Ni" and Coconuts...It's SPAMALOT!

By Guest Blogger Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ veteran of community theater and a retired chemist and retired from being a middle manager at DuPont.

Delaware All-State Theater (DAST) has done it again, with a raucous and hysterical romp through Monty Python with Spamalot, now playing at Tatnall’s gorgeous Laird Theater. Like All-State Choir, All-State Band, etc, DAST draws on the best talent from any and all area high schools. And boy, does it show! 

Every young person on stage – whether lead, featured role or ensemble – is more than up to the task of this challenging show. This is most notable with King Arthur (Jameson May), his squire Patsy (Will Rotsch) and his merry band of knights (Keelin Reilly, Duncan Smith, Julian Manjerico and Benjamin von Duyke). It would be difficult for any single high school or community theater to pull together such a group of guys like these six. Each is a “triple threat.” 

I expected good singing and acting. Their dancing was a delightful revelation. When I noticed they were wearing tap shoes my heart fluttered, and when they broke out in a time step, I nearly embarrassed myself. The show has only one female lead, the Lady of the Lake. Seeing Lyndie Moe’s performance, I’m not surprised she won the role. Vocal chops, check. The trick is to diva it up without becoming annoying. Well done, m’lady!

Spamalot also has some terrific featured roles, including Fred (Christopher Cooke), Minstrel (Jacob Tracey), Herbert (James Christopher). Every featured performer shone in his (yes, they’re all male roles) moment in the spotlight. And contributed to the fabulous ensemble.

Choreography by Shauna Goodman was exciting and well executed. Costumes by Tim Cannon were perfect – OMG “Come out, French People!” was hysterical. The live orchestra under Clint Williams’ direction and with many student players was spot, spot on. Cute cell phone bit, too.

But overall, I have to commend Jeff Santoro for guiding his young actors well. Spamalot demands that the actors go to the edge, but not past it. It’s a knife edge. At one extreme, young performers often shy away from the comedy and pull their punches. I didn’t expect that to be an issue with these seasoned actors, and it wasn’t. On the other hand, there’s a risk of taking the comedy past the point where it serves the story and tries to serve actor instead (for example, by punching a joke too hard) which breaks the connection with the audience.

I half expected that – but for the most part every character served the story and not themselves. If it were a drama, I would call this nuanced performance. But, with Spamalot, uh, “nuance” is not a word that springs to mind. Rather, I would say…craft. Well done!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Delaware All-State Theatre Takes a Walk on the Dark Side with “Jekyll & Hyde The Musical”

Now in its 6th year, Delaware All-State Theatre (DAST) brings together the “best of the best” student performers from Delaware elementary, middle and high schools to put on a professional level production. From stellar casts to exceptional sets and costumes, DAST’s shows are of the highest caliber. After the group’s 2012 production of the boisterous musical comedy Hairspray, this summer DAST has taken a darker turn with its production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical thriller Jekyll & Hyde based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Every year I attend the DAST show, and every year I am amazed by the talents of the young adults. At times I forget I’m watching youth and teenagers, not professional performers. This year’s exceptional cast transports the audience to Victorian England where the newly engaged Dr. Henry Jekyll (Chad Michael Jervis) wants to create a remedy to remove the evil that he believes inhabits his catatonic father. After presenting his idea to the Board of Governors of St. Jude’s Hospital and requesting a human subject for testing, the Board quickly dismisses what they consider is a blasphemous proposal. Not having the backing of the Hospital, Dr. Jekyll decides to continue with his project and using himself as his subject.

Dr. Jekyll becomes obsessed with his work, which takes precedence over spending time with his fiancée Emma (Kristina Biddle) and his best friend/lawyer Gabriel John Utterson (Ben Walker). He becomes addicted to his elixir and the evil it brings out of him (Mr. Hyde). His addiction takes over causing him to shun Emma and Gabriel and cause terror and mayhem in the city. Mr. Hyde also begins a lurid affair with a prostitute Lucy Harris (Kayla Saunders), whom Dr. Jekyll befriended at a slum bar (The Red Rat) that he and Gabriel visited for Dr. Jekyll’s bachelor party.   

The stunning production directed by Jeffrey Santoro is dark and harsh, yet lively and engaging. The exceptional sets by DAST’s Technical director, Ryan Stofa and costumes by Lorraine Anderson create the spirit of the 1800s. From the streets of England to Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory to a sordid bar, the sets evoke a time passed by, while the costumes exemplify the divide between sophisticated members of society to prostitutes and peasants.     

However, it’s the cast that drives this musical, led by the captivating Mr. Jervis as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Jervis magnificently captures both sides of his character, finding and peeling away the layers of the enigmatic Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. He easily transforms from a loving and compassionate doctor to a vengeful and sadistic man. He best exemplified his capabilities during the Confrontation number when Mr. Hyde finally confronts Dr. Jekyll before taking over.  

Mr. Jervis shares the stage with equally talented leading ladies. Ms. Biddle as Dr. Jekyll’s high society fiancée, Emma, and Ms. Saunders as Mr. Hyde’s street tough mistress, Lucy, are brilliant! Both ladies have stunning voices that make it very hard to believe they are high school students. Their vulnerability that comes through their sumptuous duet In His Eyes is more than what is expected from high school students. Don’t worry, not every song is dark or sad, Ms. Saunders’s exuberant number Bring on the Men adds some light-hearted FUN to the production.  

The three leads are supported by a strong cast of students who electrify with their acting, singing and dancing talents. With precise musical direction by David Snyder and choreography by Tamara Paulino, this production is a sure fire hit!

Jekyll & Hyde runs through June 30 at the Laird Performing Art Center (Tatnall School). For additional information and/or to purchase tickets visit  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Urine the Theatre

At times, it was easy to forget Urinetown was cast only with student actors. The singing, acting and dancing was so spot-on, and so professional in most cases. The only indication of the cast’s youth was the occasional actor looking startling with white hair, or those who hadn’t quite grown into their adult voices and bodies. The audience and the actors seemed to love this production by the Delaware All-State Theatre at the DuPont Theatre.

Producer/Director Jeffrey Santoro choreographed many snappy numbers, making excellent use of the space on the simple set. “Mr. Cladwell” is a song reminiscent of “I think I’m gonna like it here” from Annie. Hope Cladwell (sung beautifully by Natasha Michael), Cladwell B. Cladwell’s daughter, meets her new co-workers-her father’s lackeys-and they give her the seal of approval in a rousing, fun chorus. Later in the musical, Annie is fair game again, when several characters remind us “The sun will come out tomorrow”. The musical’s creators, Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis, are shameless musical quote from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita.

Not only do we get an “in-your-face” sometimes groan-worthy mocking and quoting of Broadway musicals, we get a constant breakdown of the fourth wall. Lockstock, who was expertly played by Jordan Weagraff, is the most successful at handling these sarcastic, knowing quips about the show and its merits that he tosses out to the audience. After a while, the show’s self-commentary becomes tiresome and glib.

Jake Glassman was charming and sincere as Bobby Strong. He manages to step out of the stock character cartoony role, and make the flash back scene, “Tell Her I Love Her” extremely funny as he appears a ghost in the mist. Another stand out was the pregnant Little Becky Two-Shoes, played by Lydia Stinson. One of the strongest actors in the show, she was lively, animated and always involved in the action on stage. Mike Hinkle was energetic and convincing as the slimy Cladwell. As Penelope Pennywise, Maren Lavelle had good command of the stage and a natural sense of comic timing.

Though Urinetown was intended to be an edgy, political satire, I found myself wondering exactly what the commentary was. I understood that big business and corruption are bad, and make people do bad things. The show’s theme simplified: everyone should have access to a toilet when nature calls. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I also found myself thinking there are other musicals that carry a stronger message and are more deserving of the spotlight.