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In a perfect world, every theatre company would have it's own venue, but to be perfectly honest, I'm enjoying following Circle Players around town from TSU (Color Purple) to the Shamblin at Lipscomb (THE PIANO LESSON and NEXT TO NORMAL) and now to The Fortress in Marathon Village, which is rapidly becoming Music City's hottest cultural enclave.
Not only does this traveling around give the artists in the Circle community opportunities to enjoy performing on a variety of wonderful stages, it also gives theatre goers who follow Circle a chance to discover theatres that they might not otherwise have a reason to visit - and to realize that there's more to Nashville's theatrical geography than TPAC and The Darkhorse. It's particularly exciting when our independent companies partner with our universities and put our amazing university theatre departments on theatregoers' radar. But more about that later and often.
Right now, Circle has found the perfect hall for their production of BAND GEEKS. Clay Hilwig's gritty urban set really lives and breathes in this space and if you went to high school (as I presume most of us did) you will have an uncanny experience as the show transports you to "back in the day." The credit for taking us on this primal journey, of course, goes first and foremost to director Catherine McTamaney but also to producer David Williams and executive producer LaTonya Tuner. As I tried to fathom what Williams went through to round up all the production elements, I was reminded why I love 2 actors plays with no set. But Williams and his artistic team, including a superior cast of Nashville's young actors, do each other and all of us proud - despite, I must admit, a few challenges in audio land.
As Elliot, Marc Sloan has the kind of talent that would have gotten him a screen test in Hollywood back in 1933 - kind of a Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye take on acting that may have gone out of style along the way but is welcome to make a comeback any time, in my opinion. As his not quite romantic sidekick, Laura, Maya Riley continues on a very impressive acting streak which last saw her as the housekeeper in Catherine Coke's production of HEDDA GABLER over at The University School of Nashville. Even her singing is about the acting.
One young artist that I have to spotlight is the amazing 11 year old Lilla Grace Galgoczy-Toler, who delivers a performance worthy of Garbo, with her brilliant Slavic accent and her acerbic line deliveries and eyebrow arches that will be the envy of many a more seasoned actress.
There's a fine group of young men on the stage as well, headlined by Jack Williams, whose work I have enjoyed in several other Circle productions and who is a definite future heartthrob. Che Piper really shows his chops off in his scene with Galgoczy-Toler when they bring on the show's showstopper, MR. BIG SHOT. Mykayla Gover truly takes the stage with his end of the show solo and the rest of the boys work believably together to convey the youthful comraderies of American high school.
Sarah Zanotti, who studies at Lipscomb, will make you want to produce OKLAHOMA and GUYS AND DOLLS just so you can cast her as Ado Annie and Adelaide; Leon Blandon handles his complicated character with great skill, and Audrey Young looks good in goth.
The other young ladies in the cast are not given as much to do individually, but they do it well together and the Color Guard was great fun (nice banners, who ever is responsible.)
The adult actors - Josh Waldrep, Kimberly Frelix and Susan Walsworth - do lovely work with their characters as well, evoking the gentle humor of old school adult comedians that we baby boomers remember from shows like BYE BYE BERIDIE and THE SON OF FLUBBER - and all together they execute Bakari King's festive choreography with energy and aplomb.
The musical direction - including an absolutely first rate orchestra - is full of energy and is the work of the incredibly gifted Eddie Charlton.
Circle Players is surely one of this countries finest examples of community theatre - and always remember that when you use that term, you have to take into community you are referring to. For all the details, visit www.circleplayers.net
Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre!