Actors’ Summit’s ‘Route 66’ a hit
Production ‘excellent example of the jukebox musical’
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Actors’ Summit Theater is staging “Route 66” through July 22, and the production is a cabaret or jukebox musical and not a comedy or drama.
The production is a musical travelogue from Chicago to Los Angeles with stops in 12 cities. This is a salute to truck drivers and those people who like to drive.
The show opens with the “Texaco Star Theme” (remember Uncle Miltie’s TV show?). The evening ends with a salute to automobile racing. However, along the road from Chicago to Los Angeles, the songs evoke memories and remind the audience what it’s like to be “King of the Road.”
The show was created by Roger Bean, who is known for creating jukebox musicals. “Route 66” and “The Marvelous Wonderettes” are examples of his jukebox musicals. These productions rely on popular music written by other composers and lyricists. Bean wrote the funny scenes that have become the background or setting for these songs.
This production features four men — Frank Jackman, Shawn Galligan, Adam Klusty and Gabriel Riazi. Sometimes the four sing together and sometimes each carries solo numbers.
In one section, the four performers drive little trucks, meant to represent 18-wheelers. Of course, the Actors’ Summit stage provides tight roads and no room for the fancy driving these four want to do. Toward the end of the show, the company sings “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena.” Jackman takes the stage as the little old lady and drives around the stage in a sophisticated go-cart. Jackman beamed with pleasure, and the audience laughed so loud it almost covered the singers.
Director MaryJo Alexander looked for the humor in the “road songs” and kept the audience laughing. The cast was obviously having a good time, too.
Jackman brings more experience to the stage than any of his castmates. According to a program note, he has appeared in about two dozen plays at Actors’ Summit. He brings the leadership and maturity necessary for a jukebox musical such as “Route 66.”
Galligan seems to do it all — he sings, dances and enjoys the humor in his scenes.
Klusty makes his first appearance at Actors’ Summit in this production. He has talent, and I hope we see him in other local productions.
Riazi took over this role and performed with about one week of rehearsal. Yet, he was as smooth and polished as the other men in the show. Riazi has performed with other theater groups in the Akron area. This is a performer we need to watch. I suspect in a few years we’ll be saying, “I saw him when ...”
“Route 66” is an excellent example of the jukebox musical. “Route 66” is simply a good time — and that’s perfect for a hot summer night.
“Route 66” is appropriate for everyone from grandma to children 10 years and older.
For ticket information, call 330-374-7568. Remember Greystone Hall, where Actors’ Summit has its theater, has plenty of parking and a security guard.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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