By RENEE FITE
Tahlequah boasts a large artistic community, and an upcoming production by Tahlequah Community Playhouse Inc. will feature its fair share of local talent.
“The Drowsy Chaperone,” a musical directed by Shawn Arthur, will have toes tapping and laughter echoing throughout the production, which opens Friday, Sept. 20.
“I saw this show when it made its initial Broadway run and then again on a subsequent national tour, and I liked it very much,” Arthur said. “The tunes are infectious and the music lends itself to a number of dance and production numbers.”
Since moving to Tahlequah from Southern California a few years ago, Arthur has had roles in the past two TCP musical adventures.
“I figured it was my time to take the reins of the musical. I have directed, assistant directed and or musical directed many, many musicals over the last 30 or so years,” he said.
What has Arthur most excited is the high level of talent and willingness to audition. Each of the 13 main characters is integral to the show and must be brought to life by an artist who can act, sing, and dance.
“I did not expect we would be able to cast the show with this many wonderfully talented individuals, from a professor of voice at NSU, to a distinguished local physician, to a choreographer/actor associate of mine who came to town from Southern California just to be part of this show,” Arthur said. “Plus three of the roles are played by members of the same nuclear family.”
The Man in Chair, a mousy, agoraphobic Broadway fanatic seeking to cure his “non-specific sadness,” listens to a recording of the fictional 1928 musical comedy, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Arthur explained.
“As he listens to this rare recording, the characters appear in his dingy apartment, and it is transformed into an impressive Broadway set with seashell footlights, sparkling furniture, painted backdrops, and glitzy costumes,” Arthur said.
Assistant Director Bryn Smith would have taken any volunteer job in the show just to work with Shawn Arthur.
“He’s dynamic, professional and he knows show business like no one else I know,” Smith said.
Several performers have a least one musical under their belts, while others are professionals.
NSU Voice, Opera and Music Workshop Professor Dr. Shannon Unger plays the character Drowsy, her first role in a community theater production. She describes her character as over the top.
“It’s a chance to play broad comedy. I’ve played villains and other roles in operatic repertoire,” Unger said.
Choreographer Chantz Ward also portrays character Robert Martin, love interest to Dr. Tracey Childers’ character. He’s been a choreographer for about six years.
“I’m pleased with the amount of pure talent that’s on the stage and the pure dedication of the performers to this show,” Ward said.
As the Underling, Zack Zimbelman is excited to play his ukulele on stage in his second TCP production.
“The comedy we’re doing is relevant to the audience in very cheesy way,” he said.
Jo Ella Retherford was hooked after being in a musical last year. She plays Trix the aviatrix.
“I love to sing. TCP has allowed me to meet new friends and be a part of the community,” Retherford said.
At each performance of the six-show run, a guest “higher-profile” community member will tackle a “walk-on” role. Community members who have already committed include Brian Woodliff, CEO of Tahlequah City Hospital; Jason Nichols, mayor of Tahlequah; Brian Hail, CEO of Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital; and Sandra Becker, legendary creative artist and TCP veteran.