What a pleasure to sit under the stars on a chilly evening and watch Fat! I felt like I was in a drive-through. The people behind me sang every song, and I was tempted to do that too! It was such an enjoyable production. Director Wayne Bryan joined us at the start of the show to give us a dramatic insight that shaped his concept, including tracing the history of factory women in the 1940s, to housewives in the 1950s, to the liberation of the women in the 1960s. Fat takes place in 1959, and he sees Sandy’s transformation at the end of the show as a release from his only choice in life, as a housewife and wife. I love Wayne’s pre-show speeches and will miss them when he retires.

Loved the backdrop for Jordan Slusher’s “New Frontier” album cover which allowed for simple additions to transform the play area, say, into a high school gymnasium by hanging simple strings of colored lights. at the raised bandstand. The Brechtian location indicators and other Fabulous Fifties projections were designed by Michael Commendatore, who designed these amazing film sequences for MTW’s Horrible friday in the 2018 season. Lighting designer Don Fox brought the scenes so much life with so much color and helped define a myriad of locations. The colorful costumes were coordinated by Abby Stroot. Particularly effective were the high school girls’ dresses and the gorgeous silver and white showgirl pieces in Dropping out of beauty school. This number was truly remarkable in many ways. Musical director Jesse Warkentin (conductor, An American in Paris To visit), keeps its rock ‘n roll ensemble tight, and its singers have that’ 50s sound flavor so characteristic of that era. I especially liked the acapella section of We will always be together, with some clever vocal re-harmonizations at the end of this issue. Ryan Morrow’s sound design made everyone awesome in the great outdoors! Sara Edwards, associate choreographer for Upcoming Music Man on Broadway, has done an outstanding job with the choreography here, particularly in Shakin ‘At The High School Hop and Born to Hand Jive. I loved all of the daring lifts, the quick footwork, and the way the girls worked their skirts. The complexity of the ground patterns and the precision of the movements in Dropping out of beauty school was revealing of her work with The Rockettes and was simply stunning. I thought I detected a little nod to Bob Fosse at the end of We will always be together.

Jake David Smith plays Danny with disarming charm; we saw him here on stage as Prince Eric in The little Mermaid. He has a slender tenor and sings amazingly with his co-star Zan Berube as Sandy. Recently graduated from a BFA from the University of Michigan, Berube has some real highlight moments on this show. She gives Desperately devoted to you a haunting and intense delivery, and cranks up the nerve as she goes wild You are the one I want.

Overall, the T-Birds and Pink Ladies looked younger than the tough young offenders, and there were plenty of stars in this energetic cast. Wichita State graduate Caroline Boesen takes a delightful ride as the over-enthusiastic and blissfully unaware Patty Simcox. Darron Hayes as Doody sings Magic Changes so softly, throwing out his high falsetto notes like butter. Jessica Reese plays Marty with a certain innocence, swinging between the older but wiser girl and the naive teenager. She sang Freddy my love with a classic 50s girl group feel. Jeremiah Porter plays a pretty laid back and cool version of Kenickie, having fun, looking good and sounding good in Greased lightning. Connor Olney’s Ralph was a nod to Faith Northcutt’s adorable Jan. I really enjoyed their beautiful interpretation of Moon, a beautiful song on a very silly subject. Texas State Grad Maura Gill played tough girl Rizzo with a cool side and sang There are worse things that I could Make so incredibly well. Dropping out of beauty school Teen Angel Jaye Alexander stole the show with her otherworldly stratospheric notes and incredible demeanor. Jaye is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Michigan.

MTW Veteran Eugene by Michael Dikegoros is adorable and endearing; local favorite Steve Hitchcock Jr. as radio host Vince Fontaine is suitably obnoxious but still worthy of fainting; and Serena Kozusko’s dance in Hand Born Jive is impeccable like Cha Cha de Sainte Bernadette.

The next step is Twelfth Night, which will take place November 10-14 at Century II PAC, Convention Hall. Tickets are available by calling 316-265-3107 or by visiting the web at MTWichita.org

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