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Footlights Shine Over Davidson’s Theatre Boards

by | Jul 3, 2024

Welcoming the Summer with Musical Flair

The Performing Arts are sizzling all over the lakeside town of Davidson. Not to compete with the scorchers outside, house seats are kept nice and cool. Stage lights have been shining, boards were bouncing, and rollicking tunes resounded all about town. During the month of June, three unique theatrical troupes performed individual musical shows to deliver three distinct cultural expressions of everyday Americana to Lake Norman audiences who simply love the theatre. Early on it was Moving Up at Community School of Davidson’s Black Box Artspace, then Fat Ham at the Davidson College Barber Theatre in-the-round, and then 9 To 5 The Musical, which played at the Duke Family Performance Hall.

9 To 5 The Musical
Produced by Davidson Community Players

Davidson Community Players logo

Dolly Parton herself wrote the music and lyrics for the stage musical version of the award-winning film 9 to 5 in which she starred as the obnoxious Mr. Hart’s assistant, Doralee. Patricia Resnick wrote the book, and Davidson Community Players (DCP) staged a winner!

(John McHugh photo)

Director and choreographer Tod A. Kubo deserved a standing ovation. His crew was fantastic. Lighting-and-scenic designs by Kaylin Gess were quite clever. I loved the side panels with projections designed by Caleb Sigmon. Chelsea Retalic’s costumes were gorgeous and Musical Director Vicki Clayton Harvell’s orchestra was superb. They didn’t drown out the singers. Hayden Waugh played the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot Franklin Hart, Jr.—and yes, they did deservedly string him up—even on the live stage!

The principal female members of the office staff in 9 To 5, was a tough act to follow—the popular film versions were portrayed so memorably by Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. But DCPs leading ladies performed the roles with gusto. Ava Smith played Hart’s assistant, Doralee Rhodes, singing and dancing with assertive, sexy elán. Oh, could she wiggle! Nonye Obichere’s melodic voice made her role as Judy Bernly an unforgettable, delightful treat. And Jenna Tyrell delivered Violet Newstead’s leadership stance with assertive force! The three were terrific.

(John McHugh photo)

So many of the 9 to 5 film’s noteworthy scenes translated well on stage. Like Judy’s xerox paper fiasco—Violet’s happenstance corpse on the gurney she swipes— Doralee’s attack of Hart with a scarf—and the giggling girls sharing a joint. Amy McKay was superb as Roz Keith, the sneaky tattler who sucks up to the indecent boss she adores! What a rendition of her “Heart to Hart” solo backed up by the Ensemble chorus line. The rest of the office staff were all there, energetically singing and dancing nearly two dozen tunes that unravel 9 To 5’s storyline while they also changed scenes with equal efficient grace.

(John McHugh photo)

Christopher Perreault played Dwayne, Luke Tyrell had the role of Josh, Sharon Foster was Missy, Jamie Rogers played Maria, the lush, Aaron Marash played Dick, Manisha Parekh was Margaret, Jaylyn Powell had the role of Kathy, and finally Roger Watson gallantly made an entrance as the powerful Tinsworthy, the revered corporate head of them all. The Ensemble was wonderful, including Leah Hall, Breauna Johnson, Sarah Matthews, Izzy Oyler, Sydney Spaulding, Abbi Minessale, Darren Spencer, and Austin Ledger. Josie Ann Perdue and Jacklyn Pfuhl were dance captains.

I applaud you, Davidson Community Players. 9 To 5 The Musical was well done, Director Tod Kubo decidedly is a winner. Hope he’ll return. The show was fun, the actors were polished, the ensemble was vivacious, the music upbeat, and the graphic designs were brilliant.

Fat Ham
Produced by Common Thread Theatre Collective

Common Thread Theatre Collective has done it again. For the third year in a row, the innovative company staged their unique brand of professional summer theatre for Lake Norman audiences.

Fat Ham was a treat! Winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Fat Ham, is an irreverent version of Hamlet written by North Carolina-bred James Ijames set in a backyard barbecue in the contemporary rural south. Xulee Vanecia J directed Common Thread’s production at Davidson College’s Barber Theatre, incorporating professional and Charlotte area actors along with theatre students from North Carolina A&T State University at Durham in partnership with Davidson College’s theatre department.

Every character in the Fat Ham cast is uncommonly unique—decidedly not traditional. Juicy, who would rather be a girl, is played by Shabaza Vaird. Narrating most of the storyline, he mesmerizes his pal Tio who can’t resist the use of drugs, played by Daylen Jones, with tales of the past. Juicy’s father Pap who has recently died, suddenly appears as a ghost asking his son to revenge his death by killing his brother Rev, whom he blames for his murder. Brandon Johnson plays both roles.

La’Tonya Wiley plays Rabby, Juicy’s very sexy mother who always needs a man in her life and makes a play for Rev, her brother-in-law. Wiley has performed a role every year in Common Thread’s three-year season.

Juicy’s friend Opal, who would rather be a boy, is portrayed by Kaia Michelle. She arrives with her mother Tedra played by Mya Brown and young brother Larry portrayed by Jeremiah Dennis. Boogie is played by KamRon Hopper. The actors are superb—even their colloquial words are clearly enunciated, a technique I appreciate and admire. I’m always disappointed when speeches are slurred.

Harlan D. Penn designed a superb scenic backyard where this eclectic group of family and friends share memories, karaoke songs, and declarations of love of each other in simultaneously hilarious and unsettling ways. I applaud Common Thread Theatre Collective for delivering such unique shows and creative talent to our theatrical experience in Davidson. We need some more! Hopefully a fourth summer play is in the making.

Moving Up Produced by Community School of Davidson

Just before school let out for the summer, North Carolina’s newest playwrights delivered a winner!

Community School of Davidson (CSD) seniors Griffin Small, Evan Brezicki, and Garret MacIntyre wrote, scored, and produced a play they had been developing throughout their senior year, from start to finish. The world premiere of Moving Up played to sold-out audiences during the first weekend in June, raising cheerful patrons to their feet. Sure, some of the enthusiasts were loving family fans and excited CSD students—especially other graduating seniors. Of course they whistled, whooped, and cheered, but the playwrights deserved the accolades.

Griffin Small, Garrett MacIntyre and Jack McCree (Gayle Shomer photo)

Moving Up’s Director Griffin Small and Garret MacIntyre wrote the play. Evan Brezicki, who directed the music, also scored the songs for the play. “The night before they leave for college, a group of friends go to their first high school party…wild things happen!” And Moving Up tells it all. Griffin Small as Ethan heads “The Core Four” actors, including Anna Staskel as Violet, Jack McRee as Thomas, and Bailey Rowles as Sam. “The Family Members” are Dakota Kepley as Ethan’s Mom, Nash Small as Brody, and Jack Faubert as Thomas’s Dad. “The Partiers” are headed by Cassidy Wade playing Emily, Cole Knight as Ryan, and the accomplished gyrating dancer portrayed by Garret MacIntyre as Jay. “The Emotions” inspire Confidence played by Griffin Small, Romance, portrayed by Cole Knight, Sadness played by James Vale, and Anger inspired by John Harris.

Other teenage thespians attend the all-nighter headed by “The Party Ensemble” including Jack Faubert as Jo William, Holt Grier as Derek Pepper, John Harris as Travis Chant, Dakota Kepley as Vanessa Tumble, Libby Slosson as Milly Tucker, and James Vale as Stoner Boy. Moving Up’s band was directed by Assistant Stage Manager Robbie Lake with Evan Brezicki on the piano, JP on the drums, and Paul Brezicki on bass. John Harris was the choreographer. The youthful playwrights chose John Bragg to be stage manager, assisted by Avery Baker and Nathan Hotchner, who was also a mic technician, along with Nathen Weiner. Caleb Bass was the sound operator.

Evan Brezicki at the piano with l-r, Bailey Rowles, Griffin Small, Anna Staskel and Jack McCree. (Gayle Shomer photo)

Moving Up’s effectively clean, well-designed set by Kate Saussele, allowed for easy change of scenes. Lighting was designed by Wes Kolozvary, who also operated the light board with Emma Nowak on spotlight. The tech crew included Brody Collander, Josh Larimore, and Hannah Bass. I’ve watched these young playwrights develop their unique talents onstage over the past several years. Will college make a change? Will their artistic abilities be left behind? Only time will tell.

Griffin Small will enter Shenandoah University in the fall. Evan Brezicki is headed north to study engineering at Cornell, and Garret MacIntyre has been accepted at Wilmington University. Nevertheless, it’s in Davidson where it all began. Davidson is fortunate to have such diverse theatrical talent treading the boards of all its stages—young thespians, traditional productions, old-time nursery tales, world premieres—community theatre, musicals, drama, hilarious comedy—professional actors blending their skills with hopeful college students and high school dreamers—from other nations and cultures and some from here at home.

There’s no business, like show business, and Davidson is where it loves to be shown and seen.

Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher, neé Consuelo Carmona, is a Davidson resident who grew up in Mexico City where she became a journalist and acquired a taste for the theatre. Her preference for work behind the scenes led to an interest in writing reviews—Yale Rep among her favorite troupes. Connie is the author of Doing it the Right Way, the biography of an Italian hatmaker. Her prose appears with 87 other international writers in The Widows’ Handbook. An active, founding member of Lake Norman Writers, Connie just released her latest book, "The Mongrel, Bi-cultural Adventures of a Latina-Scandinavian Youth," a memoir about her years growing up in Mexico.​

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