By Edith McCauley
The Performing Arts Guild in Mount Morris proves again that the talent of local communities can mount outstanding theater productions. Our drive along the Rock River on Sunday, Oct. 31, brought us to the Pinecrest Grove Theater and an afternoon of fine music.
The program listed an extensive cast, and to my surprise there was not a single weak voice. Director Mary Lou Garrison has an ear for talent, and she chose well. The musical support of Lou Ann McMillion, Rick Nelson and Beth Chase, as well as the orchestral musical recording, provide a more than adequate support for the singers. The company has upgraded their technical equipment, and the sound system is outstanding. Many performers are miked, but the strong voices of the leads did not require that support.
Irving Berlin’s familiar music and lyrics that so well tell the story of a teen-age Annie Oakley and her introduction to the world of show business in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West extravaganza remains a favorite of audiences. Katie Personke is Annie, the uneducated country girl whose ability to bring down everything she aims at results in international renown. Personke’s amazing voice fills the auditorium, and her emotional interpretations are those of the complete professional. Todd McMillion equals her in every way as her rival and the man of her dreams, Frank Butler.
John Chase as Buffalo Bill, entrepreneur and show business wonder, centers the stage as he relates the story of his Wild West enterprise. Jessica McCanse as Dolly Tate adds a bit of confusion as she jealously attempts to keep Frank and Annie apart. Her sister Winnie, played by Alexis Denton, is madly in love with Tommy Keeler (Max Anderson), and because he is part Indian, the relationship is doomed. Anderson, a high school senior, sings with the aplomb of a professional with a voice of complete purity.
Every single performer sang and moved beautifully. With a cast of 36, every aspect of the show from staging, choreography, costumes, sound and lighting made the entire production a joy to experience. This hard-working and talented company’s desire to give their audiences a truly professional theater experience has been completely achieved.
The Performing Arts Guild mounts their productions in the Pinecrest Grove Theater in Mount Morris, and their performers come from nearly every community in northern Illinois, Mount Morris, Oregon, Roscoe, Sterling, Dixon, Byron and from Rockford, Carmcavallaro Rongere, who choreographed the show so well. The weeks of work required for a performance of this quality are admirable. With only two weekends to see this enjoyable musical, do try to go. It runs again Nov. 5-7 at the Pinecrest Grove Theater in Mount Morris. For reservations, go to performingartsguild.com or call (815) 734-2103.
Before the performance, we chatted with a gentleman, Charles Nealy. He had served in the armed forces, and his wife, Linda, is in the show. She grew up in Chicago and took dance at Malcolm X College, where Julian’s company, Inner City Dance Theater, was in residence. Charles is a guitarist and performs locally—a small world.
From the Nov. 3-9, 2010 issue