Muse Machine Summer Musical unforgettable
You’ll have to excuse me, I just returned from a trip to outer space. It was a short trip but an unforgettable one.
Unlike the years of preparation NASA needs to shoot a few astronauts into space, the Muse Machine needed only ten days to launch me, 200 sparkling young persons and nearly 2000 thrilled audience members into a two hour orbital ride to that special heaven called the Muse Machine Summer Musical.
For two decades, a pair of theater geniuses slips into town to turn our youth into blazing meteors of talent and verve. Nat Horne and David Düsing bring with them Lula Elzy and Douglas Merk and their ideas for a musical showcase and, later, a fully staged musical theater show.
The summer musical is a beacon for Muse alumni. Former Muse Machine stars come from far and wide to have one more fling on the Victoria stage. This year, handsome Jared West returned from a combat tour in Iraq, made a bee-line to the Muse rehearsals and radiated from the chorus.
After so many years, the welcoming committee of hundreds of talented kids is primed and ready. For this year’s summer musical at the Victoria Theatre, they chose to take us all to Oz, that magic land. Not content with the Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr version of my own youth, they gave us an OZ travelogue which began in 1902 with stops in 1939, 1975 and its latest permutation, the Broadway smash, 2003’s Wicked.
The music, largely unfamiliar, was richly played by the Muse Orchestra. It defies imagination to realize that the orchestra pit is full of young students playing like professionals.
The curtain opened to the sight of nearly 200 bright smiles and double that amount of bright eyes. Suddenly, they began a multi-layered dance number “Jitterbug” in which choruses of dancers alternately invade the stage with effervescent movements and total verve.
Swiftly, we were transported to the turn of the last century. A bevy of beauties in colorful gowns of the period moved the show from uncontained energy into elegance. Truly beautiful Victorian-era songs with full verses introducing lush choruses were sung by soloists Elise Turner, Nicholas Baldasare and Rebecca Ruttle. Josh Hughes gave us our first taste of OZ when he cavorted to “Scarecrow”, written in 1903 by Frank Baum, presaging the brainless but loveable Ray Bolger personification in the movie.
In an instant, the familiar songs were on stage with Andrew Koslow musing “If I only had a Brain.” Quickly, the familiar characters appeared in solos by Tierra Isaac, Natalie Houliston, David Stone and Michael Wadham, each lamenting their missing body parts.
A new take on the Tin Man was given by Jamard Richardson as he took “Slide some oil to me” into an acrobatic dance and vocal tour de force.
Then came the little ones. The Muse Machine works its magic early with the kids’ choruses. Nearly 20 gorgeous tykes made their version of “King of the Forest” completely convincing and equally unforgettable. Even a broken arm didn’t stop Kyle Bates’ dance romp.
As the show moved seamlessly into the Broadway Wicked, we learned new songs but never left the magic of OZ. Numbers such as “Wonderful,” “The Wizard and I” and “For Good” sung by David Sherman, Charity Farrell and Isaiah Templeton warmed hearts.
Then came a series of show stoppers. Alexandra Finke and Katie Pees took comedy to the top as they worked each other over in “Popular.” The spotlight moved from the stage to the side loge highlighting beautiful Amber Fisher belting out “Defying Gravity.” Jason Slattery led a phalanx of dancers as he sang “Dancing through Life” which took us to the inevitable “Over the Rainbow.”
This iconic song, deep in all of our hearts, was sung with joyful feeling by Cami Brewer backed up by a couple hundred of her closest friends. Cami may never have that moment again, but thanks to the magic of our Muse Machine, she had it and we all shared it.
The Magic of the Muse - Suzi Bassani’s dream come true - makes everyone - singers, dancers, musicians, and audience - move up several steps toward the ideal of truth and beauty. We’ve got it. We love it and we support it. What can be better?
Dayton Theatre Guild
Some magic happened last week that wasn’t on the stage – at least, not yet. The Dayton Theatre Guild is venerable and wonderful. I have been attending their performances since 1947 and count some of my great theater experiences within their walls.
The subject of walls moves us to this special announcement. The Guild’s members are incredibly devoted to bringing the best in theater to Dayton. Their present home on Salem Avenue was woefully inadequate. The stage was fine but beyond the stage there was nothing else. Storage, rehearsal space, set building was all relegated to borrowed, rented and very inconvenient locations.
A lot on Patterson Avenue was purchased several years ago. The sign announcing “The Future Home of Dayton Theatre Guild” seemed a distant and ephemeral dream.
The dream has come true but not on Patterson Avenue. With their customary tenacity, the leaders personified by President Carol Finley and Chairman Greg Smith never stopped looking and dreaming.
Their dream took a new shape in the purchase of the Dayton Gym Club on Wayne Avenue. A wonderful building with location, parking and enough space to contain their present home three times is now to become a reality.
Work is needed, as well as some more money, but it is going to happen. Confidence and enthusiasm are bubbling enough to schedule an open house which includes a season’s preview for members and friends on August 23.
Congratulations and a heartfelt thank you to the Guild for always working to make theater a dream-filled reality.