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Archive for February 28th, 2012

Marshall Michigan is known to be a pretty colorful town. Besides its old town charm, it properly celebrates the seasons of the year with color, fanfare, parades, and neatly decorated storefronts calling for a little closer look.

At Christmastime, the main street and shops glow with no detail overlooked to make an inviting step back into time to Christmas of Old.

In the blazing hot of July 4th, the Circular community fountain park again takes on the vintage of the early 1900s with the Marshall Community Band playing the best of John Phillips Sousa’s marches and recreations of Civil War Battles and the musical drama of the War of 1812.

With oven bar-b-que chicken aromas floating over the park for their concert intermission, townspeople and others have come from miles around to sit on blankets, and fold-up chairs, and watch their costumed Americana children and pets in the pet and bicycle parades and then, await their awards. It is red, white, and blue at its finest from nearly 100 year old centennial elderly to probably the hours old baby, just from delivery at Oaklawn Community Hospital with a red bow in her not-yet-there hair.

I’ve been going for years and yes our daughter and granddaughter’s participation is a big draw, but it’s become deeply engrained in me as the best place to be on the fourth, for family and country celebration and I would miss it if I wasn’t there.

In the fall, there is a Home Tour, like none other, of the beautiful Victorian homes that populate this mid-southern Michigan town. Lots of pagentry, song fests, and special programs add to the benefit of being able to tour the many homes that are on display.

Many of these same homes are completed re-costomed inside and out, as October 31 arives and the ghosts, goblins, and even rockin’ chairs in the upstairs windows of these gallowed homes turn into a hilarious, if somewhat intimidating, Halloween feast.

 Even three year old Pink Princess Amy treaded bravely up many of the staired long walkways to the front porch of these homes to gather her “treat” from the character sitting by her cauldrum and the teathered bats in the nearby trees, and hastily retreated.  I think her own personal safety net was a deep belief in the sanctity of Princesses and surely no one would hurt a princess.

Recently, however, there was an absolutely SPECTACULAR, AMAZING, AND  AWESOME TECHNICOLOR EVENT STAGED AT THE Franke Center for the Arts when the Children’s Theater presented live and with orchestra, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

If I knew how to do it, I would scratch through the word children, because although it was a youth production, the level to which they rose to put on an over-the-top energetic performance made this experience top-dog professional — all the way.

Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s production of the story Joseph,  who is the biblical son of Jacob, and the treacherous and traitorist activities of his 11 motely crew of brothers,  is highly entertaining and successful in Broadway history.

Well — pint-size Broadway came to town in style on February 16, 17, 18 and 19th when sixty-eight performers, singers, dancers and musicians, from kindergarten through 8th grade age returned us to the time and setting of way way back, many centuries ago, not long after the bible began in Canaan and Egypt.

The whole story is told in singing verse. This kept you focused on the actors/singers. Yet the  total visual experience on stage was multi-layered and intriguing; the  antics of school children, pharoh’s wives, and detailed costumes and makeup, brilliant beyond measure,  all begged for notice. We were  multi-tasked audience members, soaking up the nuances that came at us faster than a bullet.

Joseph’s lead role played by Sam Anderson, was strong and enduring right off the bat. He played straight-man to his sanity-challenged ,demented brothers to the max and it heightened the comedic effect of the brothers. His strong presence in stature and voice, his compassionate  and understanding eye contact and placement  on stage and beyond the stage , made me sympathetic to his plight immediately (making clear he was definitely a higher-purpose man caught in difficult circumstances).

That total cast sang, danced, and enjoyed every moment on stage, as musical director Kathleen Warriner and director/choreographer Jocelyn France encouraged them to do.  They were in it and they were “on”, even when the action was directed away from where they were. They never left being in character and “waited” for their next part.

And were these kids just natural hams or what?

The speciality songs with dialects were the treat of the night. Like the hilarious French  delivery of “Those Canaan Days”  that kept the brothers’  dire famine situation on the light side.

 Then, there was brother Reuban’s country western hoedown of One More Angel in Heaven, (Josh Vreeland) as an awkward explanation  (cover-up tale) to their father, why there was no more Joseph. His “truth-stretching made it plausible for Jacob (played convincingly  by Isaiah Potter)  to swallow the bait and grieve his son’s loss in deep, tearful sobs, while the brothers were just glad he bought their story. 

Our grandson Andrew’s  (playing Judah) reggae version of the Benjamin Calypso was excellently Carribean  and helped get little brother Ben released so they could all return to their father.   

Pharoh delivered a top performance (Joseph Rockwell) of  his imitation of Elvis in his Song of the King.

If you hadn’t ever seen this show, you were blown away when he dramatically entered stage center down off his pyramid tower, having thrown his royal blue cape to the stairs, and prancing down in the “later-Elvis” version of the white-caped, flowing white studded pants singing idol of the 60s and beyond.  His deep baritone and Elvis sound left many audience members  astounded and doubled up in loud laughter.

I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. When these kids knew they were going to throw a punch line at us, they lavished every moment right up to delivering it.

The audience may have been watching their children and grandchildren dancing, prancing, singing and delivering really tedious script lines, but we may as well have been sitting on Broadway. I saw the play on Thursday night, the middle of the run and also the concluding Sunday matinee performance and they didn’t let down a beat. The show was stellar through the whole run.

There was lots of talent and time spent working with these kids and all the peripheral stuff  it takes to do something like this, but it was obvious no one dropped the ball to bring the performance to this height. Rather than doing the play to a soundtrack, they tackled this show performing with a volunteer orchestra, playing live each performance.

 Granddaugter, Devon, played several instruments including putting the steel drum touch on Andrew’s solo.

Our daughter, Kathleen situated herself mid-way in the side-stage curtain, directing both the band and the music and kids on-stage cues, wearing “many” hats as scenes changed; like a red french beret and a 10 gal cowboy hat. Ever since the show closed, she has been at a bit of a loss for her missing “brothers” she coddled and coached and made come alive to an appreciating audience.

Seasons come and seasons go. But long after many more Christmas’ and 4th of July’s and Home Tours, and Halloweens run off the calendar, the audience and performers of this show will still remember the nights and sights and sounds and fun of —–Joseph.

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