McDowell High School students stumbled, tripped and slapped their way onto the Little Theatre stage last weekend. But don’t worry, that’s what was supposed to happen as the Center for Performing Arts presented its final production of the year, “The Great All-American Musical Disaster.” Written by Tim Kelly, who created such works as “The Butler Did It” and “Dirty Works In High Places,” “The Great All-American Musical Disaster” surrounds film producer Junior Dover Jr. (Corey Eisert-Wlodarczyk, grade 11) and his pursuit to make his next big film. Dover’s last film was a flop at the box office, and he desperately needs a hit, which he thinks can come in the form of his latest project. In order to obtain this success, he has to trick his larger than life actors into thinking they each are the film’s star, when in reality none of them are. This scenario results in hilarious chaos.
The show itself was exceedingly funny. There was an endless amount of incredibly well-rehearsed bits that you couldn’t help but laugh at. The absurdity of the situations the characters got themselves into were a timeless kind of funny. There wasn’t a joke that fell completely flat. The comedic performance that stood out the most was junior Anna Droney as E! News style reporter Sylvia Metroland, who she played with remarkable comedic timing. She knew what made her character funny to the point of being able to nail the exact laugh this person would have.
The show also featured voice acting in order to encompass the liveliness of the characters, which can be a challenge, especially for a high school production. However, students like freshman Nina DiPlacido, who played Gee Gee Fontaine, and junior Kiaran Todd, who played Theo Bartok, had specific voices attached to their characters that stayed consistent and accurate throughout the performance.
While it featured characters with large personalities, “The Great All-American Musical Disaster” also had characters who could be overpowered by all the boisterousness. Fortunately, they were not. The characters of Junior Dover Jr., Ethel Kent (Mia Thornton, grade 11) and Gretta Gutt (Alyssa Baker, grade 9) specifically were all played incredibly well. They were actually the best performances of the show. They were able to be performed with a very natural ease and grace about them. The actors made these characters seem like real people. Baker was able to create that while only being in two scenes, which is a testament to her talent. Eisert-Wlodarczyk and Thornton also had an impressive connection in the scenes they shared together. Their characters were supposed to act very natural and casual with each other, which can come off as contrived, but in their case it did not.
The costuming in this show was also quite good, most notably with freshman Tucker Miller’s character, Bob Everlove. He was supposed to be a very nice boy-next-door type, and the all-white costuming he was put in fit that to a T. He also carried a tennis racket, which was perfect for the charm and innocence he was supposed to have.
All of this acclaim is a direct reflection of the show’s director Nicholas Emmanuele. All of the bits in the show were noticeably well-rehearsed without feeling over-rehearsed or inauthentic. He mentioned the heavy rehearsing beforehand, especially because they were dealing with the slapstick humor in the show saying “We are working more physical humor, like slaps and falls, into this show than many other shows we have recently produced, as farces call for it. This also means that we are carefully rehearsing these physical bits. I cannot just tell one actor, ‘Slap him,’ or ‘All right, everyone. Fall!’ These routines need to be taught and rehearsed for everyone’s safety.”
Through putting on plays, Emmanuele gives kids who may not sing or dance an opportunity to perform in a variety of styles, such as farces and Shakespearean pieces, like he did with last year’s “Julius Caesar.” Next year, he is adding Greek theater to that mix with the play “Oresteia.”