Starlight continues its 38th season

In 1967, Starlight Theatre began a community theater with its production of Finian’s Rainbow. Since the beginning, it has provided a training ground for students and an opportunity for those who love to perform. With the construction of the Bengt Sjostrom Theatre, vagaries of weather no longer control performances.

Showboat closed last week, but the season continues with You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Hot Mikado and Seussical: the Musical. Based on Edna Ferber’s novel, Showboat has become a classic; with Jerome Kern’s memorable score and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, every moment is familiar.

Jerry and Kathy Stevens, supported by a cast of nearly 80, star as Gaylord Ravenal and Magnolia. Years of experience and flawless musical ability give the Stevenses sheer star quality. Huge casts often create a problem in staging. Mike Webb’s direction kept the show moving and performers always in place. There was never a moment where we waited for a number to begin—perfect timing.

The huge stage gave the illusion of a more intimate setting, and sets designed for 20 scenes were both professional and appropriate. A. Dean Durst’s orchestra played the score beautifully. With 32 members ranging from those with years of experience to comparative newcomers, the music became an integral part of the show.

Having seen Showboat in New York and Chicago, my delight in this performance was unexpected. We loved the show. The season continues, and ticket information can be obtained by calling 921-2160.

NAT announces new

artistic director and season

At a recent news conference, the board of directors of New American Theater introduced the new artistic director, Tony Vezner. Coming from the Theatre of Western Springs and honored last year by the Illinois Theatre Association for its “outstanding contribution to community theater,” he brings new energy and vision to a cultural institution emerging from financial and artistic problems.

Questioned in depth about debt that still hangs over NAT, board member Ron Clewer maintained an optimistic attitude, and in announcing the new season, he felt the choices will attract audiences. Vezner and his family will be moving to Rockford, and his focus “is on telling good stories and producing work that is rich in theatricality, wonder and depth.”

His favorite plays are those adapted from literature with Anna Karenina a recent production. Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days is included in NAT’s current season opening Feb. 4. The box office number is (815) 963-9454.

A Rose for Remmie at New Court Theatre

Richard Mason, a local writer, wrote A Rose for Remmie more than 30 years ago when he was in his mid-40s. Set in Chicago’s Old Town in the ’60s, it follows the lives of two young women, Remmie (Caitlin McCown) and Gwen (Casiena Raether). On their own in the big city, they seek adventure and a social life.

Raether’s role is a tough one. Constantly over the edge, there is never a quiet moment. She carries it off. McCown has an easier time. Remmie, busy rearranging the dinner table, seems the more sensible of the two.

Looking back on the ’60s, we lived in a different world, and Mason’s play reminds us of that time. Josh Burton’s choice for the final production this summer, Guys on Ice, opens July 21. When calling for tickets, ask about the dinner package at Café Belwah—(608) 363-2755.

Eyes eta Creative Arts Foundation

Winesburg, Ohio, the musical adaptation of Sherwood Anderson’s novel, is reviewed here in another column. Another work by Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is playing at eta. Runako Jahi directs, and as he said, “It created a beautiful challenge.”

The drama of Hurston’s novel with its complex human interaction is not easy to set to music. An experienced cast, accomplished musicians, and Geri Williams’ choreography accomplished the task, and the result is a creditable performance. Running through Aug. 8, tickets are available at (773) 752-3955.

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