A good chance of rain for ‘110 in the Shade’

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The Cameron University Departments of Theatre Arts and Music brought the heat with their unique production of “110 in the Shade”.

The curtain rose for opening night at 7:30 p.m. on April 23 at the University Theatre.

The musical included students, staff and faculty in the dazzling musical and dance numbers of N. Richard Nash’s adapted play.

The ensemble gathered on stage as silhouettes against a brilliant orange Oklahoma sunrise.

Led by Sheriff File, played by senior performance theater major Mark Branson, the cast harmonized to bring the play to life in the opening song “Gonna Be Another Hot Day”.

Branson’s vocals were a harmonious mix of Broadway caliber melodies and colloquial lyrics that set the tone for the production and his character, introducing both as authoritative and respected portrayals on the stage.

In an unrivaled grand arrival in the opening scene, Lizzie Curry comes home to her father and two brothers pestering her about her love life.

Sophomore music education major Reagan Williams captured the external and internal struggles Lizzie encountered with File and Starbuck and within herself in impressive fashion. Her understanding of the struggle between independence and romance clearly came through in the delivery of both lines and lyrics.

Williams did face struggles of her own. Her overall performance in the first act revealed the opening night jitters of an inexperienced musical actor. Though she stumbled over lines and feet, her powerful and beautiful voice shone through to deliver a stellar second act and end to the play, particularly in “Is It Really Me?”.

Following the introduction of Lizzie, senior performance major Byron Phillips burst onto the scene as charming Bill Starbuck, a professional con man. Phillips pulled off the impossible by being more charismatic than his character, which makes his living off of first impressions.

Never losing sight of himself, Phillips brought his individuality to Starbuck. His personality shone through in a way that made his performance on par with past Broadway performances yet completely unique from all of them.

Despite technical difficulties with his microphone, Phillips still conveyed his solo “Evenin’ Star” through the entire auditorium presenting heart and lyrical talent.

Next to make an impact on stage was freshman music major Lorenzo Butler, the actor responsible for the vivacious Jim Curry. His energy was uncontainable and rivaled by his older brother Noah, portrayed by junior music major Thomas Hudson.

Butler found a way to further highlight the silver lining and pure optimism that defined Jimmy’s outlook on life with every lively skip to the literal beat of his own drum. On the same note, Butler’s performance stole the limelight with flawless vocals that supported the leads but at times overwhelmed his supporting counterparts.

On the other hand, Hudson antagonized his brother and father, Lizzie, Starbuck and File on multiple occasions. He provided the potent voice needed to counter the protagonists, most notably in the song “You Gotta Get a Man” sung opposite of Williams.

The musical would have been incomplete without senior performance theater major Dylan Bittner filling the role of mediator and comic relief as H.C. Curry, the father of Lizzie, Jim and Noah. The audience cackled at his lighthearted, paternal role in the song “Raunchy” where he shockingly bared his leg up to the knee.

Bittner and Williams provided a good example of the chemistry between actors, but the best example was as incorruptible as the happy-go-lucky characters. Butler and junior music major Jessica Fernandez frolicked together in a perfectly innocent romance with energy and enthusiasm that complimented each other’s performance.

The set design was elegant, strategic and simply beautiful. The functioning windmills provided a clean perspective of the gently rolling hills of grain fields fading out into the Oklahoma horizon, and carefully drawn lines on the stage provided a dynamic depth for the audience.

The design of Starbuck’s truck and the buildings of the town provided interactive set pieces and backdrops that freed up the movement of the actors and set an appropriate time period for the musical.

Lighting played an equally significant role, showing a smooth transition from dawn to dusk and back to dawn again. Dynamic images on the backdrop like torrential rains enhanced the realism of the play.

“110 in the Shade” was the final production in the 2014-2015 theatre tour, and it provided the perfect cap to showcase the talent of the future prospects of the Departments of Theatre and Music and bid farewell to their brilliant graduating seniors.

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