Front Row Center – October 2016

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Mark Twain, Uncensored
By Ed Tasca
Directed and Choreographed by Barbara Clippinger


front rowThis was a fun event, which opened the curtain on Season 52 at the Lakeside Little Theatre. Ed Tasca wove together some historical facts in the life of Mark Twain, and sprinkled in some of his sayings, to create an amusing and instructive monologue. Mark Twain once telegraphed to his friends that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. And indeed, here he was large as life on the LLT stage.    

Ed Tasca was entirely believable as the famous humorist, chatting to us in his book-lined study, complete with cigar and whisky decanter. Samuel Clemens (AKA Mark Twain) had a rich and interesting life, and during the evening we got to know him and to enjoy his gentle humor. The show was also enlivened by some song and dance numbers from the period, and a couple of interludes with “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.” Judy Hendrick sang for us a tuneful rendering of “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” and later, to give the show a Mississippi flavor, Mac Morison gave a virtuoso performance of  “Ole Man River” from the 1920’s musical Showboat. What an amazing voice!

Bob Hendrick introduced the evening as “Master of Ceremonies” and to open the show we had five riverboat dancers kicking up their heels. Allyson Dejong, D’Le Beatty Tobias, Maritza Freyslinger, Pamela Johnson and Joanne Stuart were the Mississippi belles. The multi-talented Graham Miller sang and also played an Irishman and later a soldier who would rather be home. Diana Rowland was excellent and suitably severe as Miss Watson, who features as Twain’s conscience. When she wasn’t reminding him of his duty, Diana also showed up in cameo roles as a Victorian Lady and a Nurse.

A feature of the evening was the appearance of local students on the LLT stage. Justin Cogswell, who has just finished primary school, played Huck Finn by the river, while in another scene Andrew Higareda was Tom in the famous fence-painting story, with Mia Bradley Supan as young “Becky” begging him to let her paint. In the river scene, Roland McKoy was believable as “Jim” who was Huck’s escaped slave friend. It’s good to see that LLT is reaching out to the schools, and giving these young actors a chance to learn the difficult art of appearing natural on stage. Well done, Justin, Andrew and Mia!

Barbara Clippinger put the evening together with great skill, and she was assisted by Sandy McKoy as Stage Manager and Michelle Devine as Assistant Stage Manager. I should also mention the artful set design by Holly Haas and Beth Cathcart, and the clever use of the rotating stage.  It was an enjoyable after-dinner entertainment, and a lot of credit is due to the talent of Ed Tasca as both writer and actor. Of course the other star of the show was the very cute dog S’Koocha who took a well-deserved bow at the final curtain.

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