Surry theater season drawing to a close

By Bill Colvard -

It occurred to me on Tuesday night that Surry County has a theater season.

Two weekends ago, Nonesuch Players did “Deathtrap” at the Jones Auditorium, Foothills Theater did “Shrek: The Musical” at Dixon Auditorium in Elkin last weekend and Surry Arts Council has got “South Pacific” coming up at The Andy Griffith Theater this weekend.

Three weekends in a row count as a season as far as I’m concerned. Shorter than the Broadway season, which used to be about the same as a school year and is now year-round, and even shorter than the London social season where debutantes were historically put on offer for marriage to whomever could afford them, but it is a season nonetheless. For a rural county, it’s not bad.

It’s certainly a long enough season to be tiring. And that’s speaking as an audience member. Extremely entertaining, but tiring. I can’t imagine how the folks participating in the shows must feel. The director of “South Pacific” told me they had been rehearsing for two months, five days a week for three hours each night. And nobody’s getting paid, so most of these people have day jobs to go to. I can’t imagine the dedication, much less the stamina.

“Deathtrap” was spectacular. I wasn’t sure how amateur actors were going to handle a fast-paced thriller. Pacing is usually what separates the amateurs from the pros. But they nailed it, and there were some great performances. Joey Marion and Garry Waddell were locked in a ninja death match of fabulousness, and Angela Llewellyn disappeared into her character. I’ve known her for four years, and she was unrecognizable. It was spectacular.

The next weekend, I didn’t want to go to “Shrek.” I worked Saturday which broke up my weekend, and I really didn’t want to commit to a social occasion. To paraphrase Garbo, ‘I just vanted to be alone.’ And the idea of a Disneyfied cartoon musical was not something I was willing to sacrifice what was left of my weekend for. I know it’s actually Dreamworks, but I blame Disney for the whole cartoons on Broadway (and now everywhere else) debacle, AKA, the ‘War on New Shows Not Based on Some Pop Culture BS.’

But my friend Dottie sent me a message asking me to come see it, and saying she thought I’d like it. I knew at least two of her children were in the show, maybe all three of them, and her daughter had the lead. Aspen has been studying music at Carolina, and was fresh off her dream gig as a Disney princess at Disney World, so I thought I really ought to go see her. She was good a couple of years ago. I couldn’t imagine how much better she might be.

Quite a bit, it turns out. Her voice has the power and control than comes from rigorous training, and she’s developed the confidence that lets her natural talent shine through. I was glad I went.

All of the leads were good. My friend Morgan is a charismatic performer and can carry a show. I’ve seen him do it, but he’s at his best when he has a comic supporting part he can sink his teeth into. For a man well over six feet tall, playing the dwarf Lord Farquaad provided Morgan just the challenge at which he excels. He sort of became a human puppet, a very funny human puppet with an excellent voice.

And speaking of puppets, Addison Blackwelder (who appears on the Mount Airy stage as well from time to time) was fascinating as Pinocchio. He was doing this thing with his elbows and his knees that made him actually move like a puppet. I’ve known Addison since before he started school, and it was kind of mind-blowing how grown-up he’s gotten and how accomplished as a performer. So much so, that his gyrations on stage caused me to miss my pal Kitsey sing a line in a song. Kitsey doesn’t sing. Or she didn’t sing. But apparently, now she does. I hate I missed that.

Nicole Freeman, whom I have known since she was 4 years old, is now 18, best I can figure, was playing the Dragon, and sang a song called “Forever.” It’s a great song. Got the R&B thing going on. Really Motown. Made me have to reevaluate my prejudice against cartoon musicals. And Nicole knocked it out of the park.

If you’re not familiar with the song, do a search on YouTube and find the video from the national tour. Listen to it and thank me later. Now bear in mind, Nicole was better than that.

And that was where I lost it. Cried like a baby. I have still not mastered the Audrey Hepburn, two-finger taxi whistle, though goodness knows, I’ve tried, but I am perfectly capable of screaming, “brava! brava!” at the top of my lungs, which you can be sure, is exactly what I did.

One of the compensations of advancing age is that it is no longer necessary to be concerned that the people sitting beside you may think you’re a raving lunatic. I took full advantage of that perk in that moment.

And hope to take full advantage of it again this weekend at “South Pacific.” I haven’t been in Mount Airy long enough to have strong personal attachments to any of the performers, so they will not be able to rely on sentiment and nostalgia to pull my heartstrings.

Talent and skill are the only tools they’ll have, but after seeing a bit of a rehearsal on Tuesday, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Then, like any season, it will be kind of sad that it’s over. What will I do with my weekend? Be alone, I suppose.

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.