Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 13, 2014

"Golden Oldies"

NSU kicks off three separate summer shows, with something for every musical taste

TAHLEQUAH — Local fans of Branson-style music revue shows don’t need to travel to Missouri to enjoy top-drawer entertainment during the summer.

The River City Players will take the stage with three productions at the Northeastern State University Playhouse, 300 N. Muskogee Ave. The shows are presented by the Sequoyah Institute and run from now until Aug. 2.

“These shows are for everybody in Tahlequah,” said Tori Giles, River City Players performer. “Anyone from ages 9 to 90 will love one of the shows.”

The 2014 season offers the shows “Country Legends,” with classic country music from the ‘50s-’80s; “Golden Oldies,” a melody of hits from the ‘50 and ‘60s; and “Super Hits of the ‘70s and ‘80s,” featuring iconic songs of those decades. The shows contain pieces of over 140 different songs.

This season began long before the 300 hours of rehearsal time the performers put in. The shows had to be created, songs had to be selected, and then the music arranged for the live band.

Robyn Pursley is the artistic director who chose the music. She turns the song clips over to the music director, Dr. Tommy Poole.

Pursley, an assistant professor of theater at NSU, has been involved with River City Players for 16 years. She is a former stage manager, and this is her 10th year as artistic director.

“I’m happy to be a part of something in Tahlequah of this caliber,” said Pursley. “This is the third year the shows are consolidated into one venue. I think we have worked out a lot of the kinks and hit our stride.”

The River City Players troupe the audience will see this summer has evolved since its first season in 1983. Downtown Country began in 1995. The shows combined to become Stars in the Summer, but returned to the name River City Players last year.

All the performers are veterans of the show. The cast of four male and five female singing dancers boasts a combined 18 years’ experience with the Players. Pursley said that in years past, they have had eight performers, and the addition of one more cast member allowed for different dance formations and lightens their individual loads a bit.

“All nine of us do all three shows,” said Giles. “Robyn gave us difficult songs and there are many nine-part harmonies. I’m happy to be back! It’s like getting paid to hang out with family.”

The shows also rely on behind-the-scenes staff and a live band, with seven musicians overall. Some play for different shows, depending on what sound is required.

“We have a fiddle player for ‘Country Legends’ and then other songs need a horn line,” said Poole. “This is a special thing for our community. Not many towns of this size have something of this level.”

Poole is the director of Jazz Studies and assistant professor of music at NSU. This is his fifth summer as music director. He said this year’s cast is extremely talented.

Pursley also had high compliments for the performers and staff. She encourages those in the area to make show reservations early, as they are anticipating a lot of sellouts this season.

The Playhouse seats about 170 people. Tour buses come to Tahlequah throughout the summer just for the River City Players’ shows, and the cast will perform for over 5,000 patrons this season.

“I try to choose songs that people have connections with,” said Pursley. “There’s always a variety of ages in the audience – people who have grown up with these songs and little kids dancing in their seats who know them from commercials and games.”

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