The Act (musical)

by DICK KEREKES
ABET (Atlantic Beach Experiential Theatre) opened its 18th season with the Kander & Ebbs musical The Act. This is the Florida premier of the 1977 Broadway musical and has an interesting history.
Kander and Ebbs, wrote the songs and George Furth authored the book especially to showcase the talents of Lisa Minnelli. The Act had $2 million dollars in advance sales, then the highest in Broadway history. Not bad considering, the highest price ticket was $25 for the Saturday night orchestra seats. It ran for 233 performances and Minnelli won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
There are 14 all original songs in the show, all pleasant with lyrics you can understand, but none of them became hits. Now you are asking, is it a musical revue? Not so. There is a plot that is quite interesting.
The setting is a small Las Vegas Night Club where singer Michelle Mayer is debuting in her first show. A former movie star in musicals, she is trying to revive her career since they are not doing musicals in the movies any more, and especially not using ladies who are in or approaching middle age.
Thus begins a series of flash backs of our leading lady’s life starting at age 16 when she goes to movie auditions, gets hired by movie producer Dan Conners (played with great authority by Steve McMahon). She eventually marries Conners, has 4 children, and divorces him. She has an affair with super salesman Seth (played by local attorney Rob Ellis, with a good first performance stage debut.)
Leonard Alderman plays a gay songwriter, Nate, who writes most of Ms. Mayer’s songs and is family friend and father confessor for her domestic problems. Alterman has most of the funny lines in the show and provides most of the humor.
Another character is Molly, Ms. Mayer’s grown daughter played by Taylor Tuttle who also choreographed the show and is in the Las Vegas chorus of 4 that accompanies the act. Ms. Tuttle is a native of Neptune Beach but is making her theatre debut with this show. She has been working in New York as a dancer and choreographer. That is when she was not dancing at Tokyo Disney and on cruise ships in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Veteran character actor, Jack Barnard makes an appearance as the Vegas show’s opening act, a standup old school comic telling Vegas style jokes to warm up the audience.
The act has an entourage of 4 singers and dancers to accompany Ms. Myer in song with Taylor Tuttle, Veronica Moore and Amy Crews along with J’Royce Denard-Walton, a talented Douglas Anderson sophomore musical theatre major. You can’t go wrong with 3 attractive females and a nimble, long and lanky male dancer, especially when they can sing and dance as well as this quartet.
I think there are a couple of reasons that this show has never been done locally. Few female vocalists would be up to doing material that was specifically written for Lisa Minnelli. Secondly, the age has to be right, and so does the vocal talent. It takes a special vocal style to sing these songs, and Director Judy Hulett found exactly the right person for the role in Peg Paschal.
Ms. Paschal has been performing in musical theatre, cabaret and dance for more than twenty years. Alhambra Dinner Theatre fans have seen her in many varied roles over the years. In addition, Peg has had her own cabaret act that she performs on and off at resort hotels, like Jekyll Island Club, so she knows the business. The versatile Mr. Paschal has choreographed a number of musicals over the years, including some of the big ones, like Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, and Singin in the Rain just to name a few.
I enjoyed all of the songs, which were interspersed in between the scenes with lyrics related to the action on the stage. I think Peg was absolutely at her best in two slow very dreamy ballads, “There When I Need Him” and “My Own Space”. With these songs, Peg was able to display the richness and quality of her fine voice.
Ms. Paschal was fortunate to have Shelli Long as Musical Director and on the keyboard andalong with John Cochran on percussion. They are true professional with vast experience in musical theatre.
Pam Larson’s set featured a rainbow curtain across the back stage and colored drapes on the side. Wooden boxes painted to look like dice (this is Vegas you know), were the only real props and effectively moved around in various numbers. Bryan Frank’s light and sound design completed the show. Light and Sound Technician Janet Davies and spotlight operators, Jane Bull and Bob Glazener made this look and feel like a night club cabaret show.
The costumes by Jane Bull and the Nancy Dance Studio had the dancers make four changes with outfits that were both colorful and stylish (and well fitting). Mr. Alterman and Mr. McMahon both made several changes so that we in the audience could experience a feeling of time passing from scene to scene.
Terry McCants as stage manager, kept things moving smoothly. I appreciate ABET’s program provided for patrons. It has photos of the actors which is a big help especially with new actors in productions. ABET also always put the dates of the production on the front cover, which is a great help when someone asks how long the show will be running.
The Act is an interesting and different evening of theater. I actually felt like I was in a Vegas night club with the only thing missing was the small round tables and the booze. It is a great show case of the talents of Peg Paschal, a charming lady on and off the stage. ABET is located at 716 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach. Visit their website at www.abettheatre.com. Catch this act if you can.

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