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Entertainment & Lifestyle

WRP stages ‘Applause’

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Starring in Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “Applause” are, from left, (back row) Martha Kriley, Patrick Michael Dukeman and Bobby McDonald; and (front row) Adam Klusty and Maggie Bolas.
Photo: Michael Kermizis
BATH — Western Reserve Playhouse’s (WRP) “Applause” delves into the backstage problems of an aging actress and a young ingénue who wants to take her roles and her man. If this sounds familiar, that’s because “Applause” is based on the same original story as the movie “All About Eve.”

The story is Mary Orr’s “The Wisdom of Eve.”

Several people had a hand in writing the script: Betty Comden and Adolph Green (book), Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics).

WRP pulled out all the stops to make this a big, razzle-dazzle production. Unfortunately, the production is more frazzle than dazzle.

We must admire WRP for attempting this production, which is on stage through Aug. 17. WRP produces shows with only a volunteer crew and performers. I have great respect for the large number of volunteers, both on and backstage, who make these productions work.

The set is simple, but the set changes need to be choreographed. Every set change needs to go faster to keep up the frenetic pace the script demands. The crew lacks the confidence to put furniture and props on the stage and leave. They keep checking to make sure everything is right, and that kills time.

Ashley Bossard, the plotting Eve, has the pipes to sing the big, brassy songs (think of Ethel Merman) and the quiet, romantic songs. When she takes the stage, she alerts everyone to watch out, here I come. This is one talented performer. I hope we see her in other productions soon.

Mark Adkins makes Bill Sampson a textbook example of the matinee idol. He has a spectacular speaking voice and fills the theater with his powerful singing voice. Unfortunately, he loses some lines and some lyrics.

Patrick Michael Dukeman creates a hairdresser, who styles the leading lady’s hair for each performance. Finally, in the second act, he gets his big number and makes it one of the best scenes in the production. I’ve seen Dukeman in Weathervane Community Playhouse’s productions of “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” He has always been professional and turned in a first-rate performance.

However, not all is well with the show. First, the orchestra overpowers some of the singers, and their lyrics are lost.

Second, many of the actors simply aren’t speaking loudly enough. The WRP is not a large facility. Anyone in the cast could fill the theater with his or her voice. The director needs to sit in the back of the theater and check the volume.

Third, some of the singers stretch for the note and miss by a mile. This is a musical, and the performers have to hit the notes.

This is the first production of “Applause” that I’ve seen. I’m glad WRP took a chance on a play that hasn’t been performed before in this area.

For reservations, telephone 330-620-7314.

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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