by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Atlantic Beach Experiential Theatre(ABET) opened its 21st season with the musical revue “Jerry’s Girls.” The production will be on stage until September 23rd at 716 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Beach, Florida. Call 249-71277 for reservations or visit their website at abettheatre.com
Jerry Herman has been one of musical theatre’s most prolific composers. He has bookend musicals that frame his body of work, with the Tony Award Winning “Hello Dolly” in 1964, and in 1983, another Tony Award Winning Best Musical, “La Cage Aux Folles.” Other musicals include the smash hit “Mame,” “Milk and Honey,” ”Dear World,” “Mack and Mable,” “The Grand Tour,” and “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.”
“Jerry’s Girls” was conceived and debuted on Broadway in the late 1980’s and was well received all over the country. Herman’s songs have an evident simplicity combined with lyrics listeners can relate to and understand . There are almost three dozen songs in this show, and it is not possible to list them all here. You will recognize many of the songs from “Dolly,” “Mame,” and “La Cage,” since these perennially popular works are frequently staged. We found unfamiliar songs equally delightful, as did the full house audience the night we attended.
Director Lee Hamby chose to cast ABET’s version with nine lovely ladies with captivating individual vocal styles that also blended beautifully in duets and ensemble arrangements. Some names will be familiar to you if you attend theatre, especially musical theatre, in the Jacksonville area.
Cheri Walker, with expensive experience in professional theatre in New York, Vegas, and Los Angeles, now makes her home here and has been seen in “Hot Mikado,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and “Nunsense.” Although Cheri can belt out a song, she is especially good at comedy and is a wonderful moustached villain in “Just Go To the Movies.” Her impressions of Louie Armstrong and Carol Channing singing ‘Hello Dolly” were hilarious.
Patti Cole Cowgill has not done a show in 20+ years in Jacksonville but has kept up her vocal skills at a local church and as lead singer with a Christian Band, and appeared very poised in her return to the stage.
Christine Dumars has a long list of musical credits locally at Theatre Jacksonville, Players by the Sea, and the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. She was in the Award Winning “The Taffetas” at Players.
McCall Collard is debuting at ABET in her role as one of Jerry’s girls. She appeared in a number of performances while she was a student at Fleming High School, and is looking forward to future productions with ABET.
Stephanie Riner traveled extensively all over the world as a dancer, vocalist and choreographer before moving back home to Jacksonville in 2011. She appeared as Ernestina Money in the most recent version of “Hello Dolly” at the Alhambra.
Ilana Gould is a senior at Fleming Island High School and most recently appeared in Theatre Jacksonville’s “Hot Mikado.” Ilana can really belt out a song, and let’s hope she has chosen to further her education at a local college or university so we can see more of her.
The Dual Critics have had the pleasure of seeing Keisha Marie Gill in two previous productions. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Theatre Jacksonville, and at Jacksonville University as Marmee in “Little Women.” Keisha sings the haunting “If He Walked Into my Life” from “Mame” as a moving solo in Act I.
Leanne Gullo is a recent graduate of Jacksonville University, with a degree in music education. Leanne was in ABET’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” and several musicals at JU including “Little Women” as Mrs. Kirk.
Abigail Saenz is new to the local stages but certainly knows her way around a song. Ms.Saenz went to Florida State and now works in television as an Associate Producer at WJCT.
The orchestra tucked away back stage performed to almost perfection; a couple of times, the volume was such that it overpowered soloists. Zeek Smith, the very versatile Musical Director, was on Keyboard 1, with Michael Ursua on Keyboard 2, Damon Martin on Bass and Landon Baker on Percussion.
With Co-Director Alex Rodriquez as Choreographer, the ladies are poetry in motion with lots of movement relating to the songs, especially in the large ensemble numbers. Mr. Rodriquez was assisted by Dance Captains Stephanie Riner and Ilana Gould. Our favorite scene was “Hello Dolly” that closed out the first act. All nine of the gals wore long red gloves and a red headdress, and it was the battle of the Dolly’s, with all wanting center stage, all very funny.
The set design and costumes were created by Lee Hamby. The set had a black background, several doors curtained with streamers, and a small bar with a vase of red roses tucked into a corner. The women wore elegant black dresses throughout, enlivened with rhinestones – lots of rhinestones – and many accessories – think feather boas, pearls, and very dark sunglasses.
Lindsay Curry not only handled the Stage Managers position but operated the light board and took care of the many props.
This show has everything, moving romantic ballads to big brassy numbers. You will find yourself humming or singing along with many of the songs. Don’t miss this show, a great evening of musical theatre, well staged with very talented lovely ladies, under the expert direction of Lee Hamby and Alex Rodriquez.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM