by DICK KEREKES
Entertaining U has always been big on movies. Over the years we have hosted more previews of new films than any other publication in the Southeast. Since I am a big movie fan, I knew I had to see Jacksonville University’s Hurray For Hollywood last weekend. This musical revue written by Bob Robinson and Robert Tudor, was a history of music in the movies starting with the first talkie, The Jazz Singer to the l950s.
The two performances were held on the JU campus in Terry Hall, which has great acoustics and was perfect for this type of show. The 33 performing students all wore black the entire 110 minutes they were on stage and the emphasis was on voice and dance. Kristen Conley narrated giving us interesting bits of history about the songs featured and the movies they came from. On a large screen on the back of the stage photos were flashed of some of the stars, like Al Jolson, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland just to name a few along with original advertising posters going back to the early years of movies. This feature really enhanced our enjoyment of the songs we were hearing.
I recognized several of the participants from previous shows I had covered at JU but most of the talent was new to me. I can trulysay Jacksonville University has some marvelous voices in their musical programs.
I was very familiar with the work of two of the students from their performances with Players by the Sea. Renee Freeman and Vincent Teschel, talented singers and dancers sure looked a lot different than they did on the Players stage as colorful characters in Hair and Pippin. Ms. Freeman was also outstanding in the drama Gee’s Bend. Nina Water’s who sang “Taking a Chance on Love” has also appeared at PBTS.
The only props in the show that I can recall were the colorful umbrellas in the lively version of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Six of the numbers featured a good portion of the cast, singing and dancing to “Hurray for Hollywood, “42nd Street Medley,” “Berlin Christmas Medley,” “Carousel Medley,” “Hallelujah/Get Happy,” and “The Varsity Drag.”
Most of the songs were done in individual solos. Such classics as “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,””Where or When,” “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and “Stormy Weather” were among my favorites.
The music was provided by Stephen Fennell on piano, Stephen Hanner on bass and Aaron Plotz playing drums, with Robert Tutor as the music and stage director. Rounding out the ensemble were Taylor Anderson, Samantha Bausemer, Crystal Blanche, Gregory Bosworth, Brittany Carter, Erick Crow, Lukas Cyr, Tracy Davis, Sara Eckman, Kristi Freeman, Ross Frontz, Alexandra Frost, Sapphire Garrett, Leanne Gullo, Rachel Harding, Stephen Johns, Kimberly Lloyd, Maggie Moore, Brittney Price, Daniel Prill, Sean Segerstrom, Damique Smith, Nikki Spies, Kathryn Sputo, Malone Thomas, Tony M. Williams II, Dean Winter and Tara Yates-Reeves.
My only suggestions for improvement concerned the solos and the chosen attire. All the solo artists tended to stay close to the musicians on the far left of the stage and only occasionally going to center stage. The audience sitting on the right side of the auditorium was never played to. Guess where I was sitting? The right side! Dressing everyone in black kept it simple but someone had on a gold cummerbund which seemed out of place and if some of the women had on earrings, then all should have had them on.
It was a delightful evening of music at Jacksonville University and very affordable as well. Adult tickets $12.00 with $7.00 for senior, military and children. This by the way is the admission for several other future performances of classical music in October. For more information about upcoming events, call Vicky Jones at (904) 256-7345 or [email protected]
I will be going back to JU sometime between Oct 15 -24 to see the Deborah Jordan directed classic All of My Sons by Arthur Miller. Performances will be at Swisher Theatre. Be sure to check out the review on line at www.folioweekly.com.
Hurray For Hollywood – A Musical Revue
by DICK KEREKES