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Beacon Archive

June 2004
PDF Version

News from the Townships

Thanks from the Beaver Island Hospice

CMU Summer Field Trip Schedule

BICS to Graduate Seven

Tom Kelso 1940-2004

A Fine Mess

Strang Writers Enjoy Beaver Island

The Splendor of Crafts

On This Date

One Hundred Years Ago

Sock Hop Results

Broadway on Beaver: “An Evening with Stephen Sondheim” Premieres

Letters to the Editor: From the CCG

Letters to the Editor: BIRHC Meeting; Optometrist's Contract

Letters to the Editor: Karaoke

Sherry Burris 1956-2004

Henry Ricksgers Junior 1923-2004

BIRHC Truck Raffle

School Election June 14

Thanks to the Steinbachs: a New Fire Truck!

Wildlife Club News

Whiskey Point Light Reports Received

Baroque on Beaver

The Annual "Fashion Tea" July 8

Congradulations to Ryan Wojan

 

Broadway on Beaver: “An Evening with Stephen Sondheim” Premieres
by Robert Cole

Life on a remote island has certain limitations. For instance, mainland residents enjoy the option of seeing dramas, musicals, and comedies when they choose, simply by driving to regional arts venues. But generally speaking, if Islanders want to see such entertainment some must take the time and effort to stage a production themselves. So when local talent takes it upon itself to stage a play–or less often, a musical–it's a special opportunity indeed.

The latest such opportunity was given the community on the night of May 8th 2004, in Holy Cross Parish Hall. It came at the end of a long winter that, though certainly brightened by events like the Christmas Cantata, local talent show, and Community School play, seemed to have more than it's share of quietude. All the more welcome then was this great splash of color, cuisine, and song marking the end of a grey season.

Last fall, Brenda LeFevre and Elaine West applied their combined theatrical experience to directing a local production showcasing the work of renowned Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim's contributions to the American theatre span almost fifty years, from his work as a lyricist on West Side Story in 1957 through his Tony Award-winning compositions for Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd. In 1985 he received a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday In The Park With George. No other composer has come to define and embody the spirit and breadth of the Broadway musical's last half-century as has Sondheim.

The evening began with cordials, as those assembled mingled with each other, admiring the well-decorated Hall, carefully reconstructed stage area, and hand-painted characters from Sondheim musicals arrayed near the walls. Students from the Lighthouse School played an integral role in the evening's production, from the creation of the well-drawn caricatures to the assistance of top-hatted ushers, as well as providing backstage support to cast and crew. The dinner followed, with Deborah Harwood and her talented culinary cadre serving up two main courses of savory chicken with pasta, and rosemary roasted pork loin, accompanied by a variety of fresh salad and vegetable dishes.

Narrator Pinky Harmon opened the performance as the lights drew down, introducing the first full ensemble piece, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd". This macabre tale of a London barber and baker duo who make pies of people centered on Sweeney himself, rendered convincingly by Bill Detwiler as the ‘demon barber of Fleet Street.’ The sight of Sweeney's murderous glare on Bill's normally congenial face set the audience back a step or two, and galvanized for them the suspension of disbelief so vital to successful theatre. The intro was followed by two more numbers from the same play: Phil Becker's sensitive solo on "Pretty Women", and Becker and Chris McMullen's hilarious execution of "The Worst Pies in London", wherein the baker Mrs. Lovett boasts of the quality of her "meat pies" to Becker's unwitting customer, delivering some of the best physical comedy of the evening.

Bill Detwiler then returned to the fore with a love song from Follies, "Losing My Mind." Detwiler's solo offered an impressively understated and focused interpretation of this journey through the experience of falling in love. This piece revealed at once both the previously untapped level of talent in the singer and the skill of the director's touch in coaxing the emergence of such abilities from her performers.

A trio of performers–who also happen to be old friends–took the stage for "Old Friends" from Merrily We Roll Along. Brenda, Elaine, and their friend Kirby Volz from Indiana lit up the room with this upbeat and humorous tribute to time-tested camaraderie. Their familiarity with each other and their chosen art shone infectiously through every line, gesture, and step they shared. Elaine West in particular stood out here with the unbridled enthusiasm and confident panache of her rendition. The mid-point of the evening seemed to pause around the still point of Suzie Fisher's warmly nuanced and deeply felt treatment of "Anyone Can Whistle" from the musical of the same name. Again we saw a deeper gift and sensitivity show itself to the audience in an offering at turns musing and hopeful, shared by the singer with a sense of vulnerability and empathy that drew the listener in close to the song's message.

Chris McMullen followed with Sondheim's best-known song, "Send in the Clowns". This lyrical masterpiece from A Little Night Music captured the audience's rapt attention, as McMullen's poised stage presence and command of her material deftly carried the room through the peaks and valleys of her character's meditation on love and loss.

The last three numbers were from Into the Woods, Sondheim's adult re-visioning of classic fairy tales. The emotional tone of the earlier segments was lifted by Jane Bailey's delightful carriage of "Into the Woods", from the eponymous musical. Dressed brightly as Little Red Riding Hood, Bailey was the image of youthful innocence fronting exaggerated certainty over anxiety, lilting in a sing-song voice as she danced around the trees and fears of childhood, throwing the crowd into peals of laughter.

"Witches Lament" featured the Co-Director as performer. Brenda LaFevre's Wicked Witch gave a masterful rendering of a mother's conflicted heart, both angry and grief-stricken over her daughter Rapunzel's impending adulthood. LaFevre's powerful voice, pierced with sorrow and pleading, soared over the audience like a bird in flight, revealing the hidden and complex personal truths beneath the supposedly simple fairy tales of our past.

The musical extravaganza concluded with the full ensemble's chorus of "No One Is Alone", a message of guidance and support to young and old alike. Both a recognition of the solitary nature of life's journey and an affirmation of a guiding presence, this song spoke for the purpose of art itself, as it seeks to show us the way through the woods of our own lives. Certainly the art given the community that night did the same, lifting us for a time out of the mundane concerns and ongoing struggles of daily life, affirming what is true for all of us, celebrating universal experiences and feelings, sharing in life's sorrows and triumphs and absurdities. Moreover, what was demonstrated that night was the presence of the possibilities within all of us. As Suzie Fisher sang– "What's hard is simple/What's natural comes hard/Maybe you could show me how to let go/lower my guard/learn to be free..."

The Directors did just that, both for their players and their audience. We are fortunate to have among us those who are willing and eager to take the time and effort necessary to foster the arts, and thereby uplift the community we share. Brenda LaFevre, Elaine West, and the entire cast and crew involved in this production deserve a big hand for all they've done.
Proceeds from the production will benefit the Beaver Island Music Fund, from which future productions will benefit in turn. There is now talk of establishing a repertory company locally to serve as a nexus for the talent that abides within our community. The talent and skill behind An Evening With Stephen Sondheim is as follows:

Cast: Jane Bailey, Melissa Bailey, Bill Detwiler, Shirley Detwiler, Susie Fisher, Chris McMullen, Judi Meister, Florina Smith, Elaine West, Phil Becker, Brenda LaFevre, Don Meister, Allison Racignol, Kirby Volz, Joey Wright, Bob Hamil.
Production Staff: Bob Hamil, Denny Fisher, Krys Lyle, Betty Scoggins, Mike Scripps, Pinky Harmon.

Production Crew, B.I. Lighthouse School: Robert Brown, Craig Boyce, Jon Stogner, Sean Krygier, Florina Smith, Joey Wright, Alison Racignol, Bob Johns.
(Note: Many of the musical accompanists, production staff, and cast carried out multiple tasks.)


To the Editor

We would like to express our thanks for the experience of the dinner theater. First, we wish to thank those who attended, and, with their applause, gave their approval of our efforts. As we passed among the tables after the show we were overwhelmed and humbled by the attention we received.

There are many individuals who spent many hours on art work and costumes. I won't try to name you all; I might forget someone. You know who you are. Our thanks to you. Thanks to Bob, who built the flats, and Mike who painted them. Thanks to Linda who made the skirt for the stage. Thanks to Jeff for the wonderful pictures.

Thanks to Deb and her crew for the meal. It received a well deserved standing ovation. We were able to sample some in the kitchen after the performance. And the deserts: Wow!
Thanks to the cast and crew for your commitment throughout the process. The participation of the students from the Lighthouse School was a vital part of the show. Thank you, and thank you to the people at the school who made your presence possible.
Thanks to Mike Scripps who flew down to get Kirby. And thanks to Mike, Judy, and Brenda, who with the keyboards and piano made the rest of us sound so good.

Thank you Elaine and Brenda for your united effort in producing this wonderful evening.

Brenda, dear friend, what can we say to you? You saw in us something no one else saw, of which we ourselves were unaware, and through your patience and skill and your demand for excellence, you brought it out and showed it to us all. Phil Becker said it best “What an experience! We will never be the same again.”

With our most sincere thanks,
Bill and Shirley Detwiler.


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