Theater Review: More future stars in Rockford’s high schools

Rockford Auburn’s Jacob Hermann.
Rockford Auburn’s Jacob Hermann.

By Bill Beard
Theater Critic

I hope readers of this paper took note last week of the announcement of Auburn’s production of the wonderful — but not often enough produced — musical, Sugar, based on the movie Some Like It Hot (with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon). If you missed it, too bad! Because it was an excellent high school show! And it only played five performances this past weekend. But there is reason to write about it anyway.

Jim Crow has long been considered the “Mr. Theater” of Rockford. I remember reviewing his many hilarious comedy performances out at the Clock Tower Theatre when Chuck

Carol Burnett with theater critic Bill Beard.
Carol Burnett with theater critic Bill Beard.

Hoenes was producing a several-year string of wonderful musical comedies out there. That was a real “hey day” of Rockford theater.

Well, the inimitable Mr. Crow is still at it! He has taught hundreds of young acting hopefuls in almost every high school in the area, and still does the occasional starring role himself in the lively “show scene” around town. He has been piloting the CAPA program at Auburn High School for the past four years, doing several major productions a year, covering an amazing range of material from the Classics to Modern to Contemporary and Broadway Musicals, past and present, and winning top placement for several past shows in the annual State High School Play Festival down state.

Sugar was his latest, and the entire cast was good … well trained and directed by Mr. Crow himself; well choreographed by the talented Tam Woodrow; and with ingenious tech design and execution by Joselyn Ludtke.

But I write this “after the close of the show” review primarily because of the work of one of the cast, the remarkable Jacob Hermann, son of Michael and Tamera Hermann.

Jacob, a graduating CAPA senior, plays the role of one of two 20s jazz musicians, Jerry and Joe; who, when they realize they have inadvertently witnessed a Chicago gangland murder and are being hunted down by the “mob” (excellently portrayed as threatening tap-dancing gang members), disguise themselves as females and hop a train for Florida with an all-girl orchestra.

Both actors end up looking great in “drag”; Joe (originally the Tony Curtis role and played here by the truly versatile Phillip Fox) becomes a really pretty “Josephine,” while our Jacob Hermann as Jerry (the Jack Lemmon role) becomes a tall, slender, red-wigged “Daphne,” the nervous, uncomfortable and hilariously funny cohort.

Mr. Hermann finds every comic moment (and there are many) and plays them to the hilt, but never overdoing! He is consistently in character, always believable and with a finely nuanced sense of comedy. He can dance; and he sings very well (showing years of training with Joel Ross in Kantorei).

And … with that red wig and his toothy, rubber face, his Daphne is a dead ringer for Carol Burnett, with whom I’ve been good friends since our theater days at UCLA in 1951-52. I just spent time with Carol this past fall when she was performing in Joliet, Ill.; and watching Jacob as Daphne was like enjoying wonderful memories.

So, congratulations to Mr. Theatre Crow and to the whole CAPA gang; and be on the alert, Rockford: you’ll see this kid Jacob Hermann in the future, for sure. Also … do yourself a favor: keep track of what your local high school theater department is doing. You’ll find some darned good entertainment right in your own neighborhood! Cheers!

From the April 30-May 6, 2014

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