A Triple Treat Of Theatre At Valdosta State’s Peach State Summer Theater

Hello Dolly, Photo by Paul Leavy

If you love musical theatre, and you’re looking for a weekend getaway, try Valdosta! With a rotating schedule of three shows in their repertory, Valdosta State University’s Peach State Summer Theater (PSST!) makes it possible to catch three shows in a weekend. Head to their website for the full line-up so you can schedule accordingly thoudh mid-July. When you aren’t catching a show you can walk nature preserves, golf, shop, or visit Valdosta, Georgia’s historic areas.

Just a scant two hours from Jacksonville, it’s easy to pop up for one show, or make a weekend trip of it to see all three shows. Shows currently in the rotation for 2018 are Million Dollar Quartet, Hello Dolly and Newsies.

Million Dollar Quartet, Photo by Genny Muncy, Valdosta University's Peach State Summer Theater
Million Dollar Quartet, Photo by Genny Muncy

Million Dollar Quartet

The musical Million Dollar Quartet is actually based on an historic jam session that came together by chance through Sun Records Sam Phillips. Four legends of rock-n-roll did a jam session over the evening.

Everybody thinks they know what Elvis Presley was like, but most of what they know is the public Elvis, and the later Elvis when he became a sort of exaggerated version of himself. Michael R. Bradley’s turn in the role is more like the earlier version of Elvis, and he’s got the performance footwork down for sure.

Quinn Tierney Varia fairly smoulders in the role of Dyanne, who isn’t supposed to be anyone in particular, but stands in as Elvis’ current squeeze, an excuse for sympathique feminine energy to get the men to talk about themselves, and a couple of female sung numbers such as Fever and I Hear You Knockin.’ Her real-life analogue, the woman who came to the recording historically and was in the picture (which they show portion of on the screen during the show) was actually a sweet teen and dancer who Elvis briefly dated.

Ethan Ray Parker has the most fun onstage as a delightfully over-the-top Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chance Michael Wall’s performance as Carl Perkins charms, with excellent vocals. Joe Mason’s performance as Sam Phillips formed an excellent bedrock to the five vocalists.

Backing up the singers was Parker on piano (he could hardly play Jerry Lee Lewis without being a master of the keys), incredible bass work from Trent Harper, and a swinging beat from Chris Williams.

For me the standout was Pat Constant’s performance as Johnny Cash. I think everyone watching will have their favorite member–I was surprised it was Cash, but Constant nailed the  vocals and body language, so close to a young Cash at times.

The closest any of them come to feeling like an impression was Parker’s performance, more in keeping with the singer’s reputation than what he was actually like in interviews, but as the rest of the cast is so serious, it’s refreshing, and his pianowork was awesome to watch.

HELLO DOLLY, Jacque Wheeler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and Ensemble, Photo by Paul Leavy
HELLO DOLLY, Jacque Wheeler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and Ensemble, Photo by Paul Leavy

Hello Dolly!

Out of the three, Hello Dolly! Has the most laughs packed in, so if you’re looking for a musical with a sense of humor, chose this one!

Rob Kahn’s turn-around as a character, making him more suitable to Dolly seemed rather sudden, and I wish I’d seen more latent attraction between his Horace Vandergelder and Jacque Wheeler’s Dolly. Still, it all hangs together well with strong performances from the incredible Quinn Tierney Vaira as Irene Molloy, Larren Woodward as the delightfully giggly Minnie Fay (paired perfectly with Andrew Poston’s Barnaby Tucker) and Ethan Ray Parker’s earnest-but-adventure-seeking Cornelius Hackl.

NEWSIES, Photo by Genny Muncy
NEWSIES, Photo by Genny Muncy


Based on the Newsboys strike of 1899, it’s a real David-and-Goliath tale set to music, sure to capture the heart of any audience member.

The most dance-heavy of the selections, Newsies is a solid show. If you can only see one of the three, this is the show that brings all the elements together, plus stellar ensemble work. As in the past year and in this year’s Hello Dolly, Andrew Poston was a joy to watch, in his turn as as the main character of Jack Kelly in Newsies.

Kudos to choreographer Jason Celaya for the staging. In some of the chase scenes to there was masterful blocking, which included some intricate movement of the well-designed set pieces from Jason Lee Courson.

About Erin Thursby