Fit for a king… and I

Posted on 25 Jun 2009 at 1:28pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones Life+Style Editor

Lyric’s massive production has everything — except a short run time


SHALL WE DANCE: The King (Joe Nemmers) and Anna (Luann Aronson) charm audiences in ‘The King & I.’

What the hell is Steven Jones up to at Lyric Stage?

The founding producer of the Irving-based theater has always done musicals, often originals and world premieres. But for the past few years, Jones has expanded his mission with sizeable donations from the NEA, putting on elaborate, full-orchestra productions the likes of which you’d normally need to go to New York to see.

And New York in the 1960s, at that. A 35-piece ensemble performing the original orchestrations of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "The King & I" with gigantic sets and costumes, including a custom-made scrim that soars above the stage of the Carpenter Hall proscenium? Good luck finding this big of a show on Broadway nowadays.

Big doesn’t even do it justice — massive. This is eye-popping theater, masterfully managed by director Cheryl Denson, who’s developing a killer reputation for steering these huge productions. She finds the soul of the story, eliciting touching, bravura performances out of Luann Aronson as the priggish governess (when you think about it, one of the snootiest heroines in all musical theater) and Joe Nemmers as the hunky Siamese monarch (no small feat, considering that shadow cast by Yul Brynner for 50 years).

It contains one of R&H’s best scores ("Shall We Dance," "Getting to Know You"), but at three-plus hours, the restored orchestrations might have been better served trimmed and a more satisfying ending (one of their weakest) added instead.

No matter. Even stretching out too long, the dazzle factor remains. You don’t see locally-grown shows like this very often, so missing this limited run would be… a puzzlement.

Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Through June 29 at 8 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. matinees. $20–$50. 972-252-2787.



MUSICAL THEATER ON THE DOWN-LOW
There’s a lot of musical theater to pursue this week outside the mainstream (and for very little cost) — you just need to know where to look.

If you haven’t gotten over to Fair Park Music Hall to see "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" yet — and I haven’t — you can still catch many members of the cast this week … at a different theater.

Members of the tour (pictured) will be subbing in for Amy Stevenson, the host of the weekly Mama’s Party cabaret, while Stevenson recovers from surgery. They’ll be at the Greenville Center for the Arts Monday, performing some of their favorite songs (not ones from the show). The event is a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St. June 29 at 7:30 p.m. $5 donation.

Gay composer and musical director Adam C. Wright is debuting a new show with a staged reading this week.

"Mama" is a vignette musical about the relationship between mothers and daughters for which Wright has done the orchestrations and vocal arrangements and, as he puts it, "recomposed a lot of it."

The free reading features several real-life local mother-daughter performers: Amy Mills and Abigail Jackson, Wendy and Molly Welch, and Ashley Puckett Gonzales and Jenay Puckett.

Theatre Three in the Quadrangle, 2900 Routh St. July 2 and 3. 7:30 p.m. Free.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 26, 2009.

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