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Depot Theatre to Present New Adirondack Awards at Summer Fundraiser

Gold StarThe Depot Theatre invites you to attend an evening of summer fun to support the theatre AND some very special people!  On Thursday, August 3, from 5:30 – 8:30 PM at the home of a board member in Westport, NY, supporters, staff, and casts of The Depot Theatre will gather to enjoy Hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and drinks (provided by My Cup of Tea Catering), music from the show The Taffetas, and to inaugurate the presentation of two new distinguished awards. The Adirondack Arts Leadership Award honors someone who has made a significant contribution to the arts in the North Country, and The Adirondack Community Service Award honors someone for service done in the larger community.

“We wanted to expand our annual awards from simply honoring those who had assisted the Depot Theatre in some way, to those who have contributed to the community and the arts in a larger capacity,” said Amy McNamara, President of the Depot Theatre Board of Trustees.

The first Adirondack Arts Leadership Award will be presented to Connie Meng, announcer and former theatre critic of NCPR. Connie served as the theatre critic-at-large for NCPR for 19 years. Putting in countless miles and hours traveling to theatres, Connie was and continues to be a champion for theatres large and small all over the North Country, parts of Canada and Western Vermont.  After a successful career on and off Broadway as an actor and conductor, Connie relocated to her hometown of Canton.

The first Adirondack Community Service Award has two recipients:  William Hollister, Sr. Manager, Government Affairs, Amtrak and Jay Green, District Manager, Station Operations, Amtrak.

Together, Bill and Jay, through their work at Amtrak, enhance the vitality of our region by connecting communities from New York City to Montreal and everywhere in-between.  The presence of daily train passenger service to Westport and the greater Adirondacks, provides residents and visitors with opportunities to experience the natural beauty and culture that exists year-round in our towns and villages.

Tickets for the event can be obtained online at depottheatre.org/upcoming-events or by calling the Box Office 518.962.4449. Single tickets are $75. Also available is the Silver Sponsor for $250 (includes 2 tickets) and Gold Sponsor for $500 (includes 2 tickets).  Please RSVP by July 28. The event address will be provided to those who register.

ABOUT THE DEPOT THEATRE

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”  The Depot Theatre’s 2017 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by the Essex County Arts Council.

Greater Tuna: North Country Public Radio Review

[This theatre review of “Greater Tuna” by Connie Meng was aired and published by North Country Public Radio as “Theatre Review: ‘Greater Tuna’ at the Depot Theatre in Westport NY” on August 04, 2014. Listen to the story.]

The two-man comedy “Greater Tuna” opened Off-Broadway in 1982 to rave reviews. It’s been an audience favorite ever since. It runs at the Depot Theatre through August 17.

Chan Harris as Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Trip Plymale as Jody & Charlene (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Chan Harris as Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Trip Plymale as Jody & Charlene (Photo: Depot Theatre)

“Greater Tuna” by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears is a show that provides the opportunity for a tour de force by the two actors involved.  Amidst the laughs and giggles it has some pithy things to say.  Although it’s set in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas, similar characters exist in rural areas throughout the country.  They just may not have that Texas drawl.

The framework for the piece is a local radio show hosted by Arlis Struvie played by Tripp Plymale and Thurston Wheelis played by Chan Harris, who also directed.  Through call-ins, interviews and commercials we meet several Tuna residents.  The two actors play town big-wigs and the members of a dysfunctional family – young, old, male, female, and even a very noisy dog.

Bonnie Brewer’s simple set of two tables with chairs and a big cabinet radio up center is backed by a nice three-part painting of east Texas fields.  Margaret Swick’s lighting is just fine.  I assume the multitude of costumes were a group effort and work very well.  Kudos to whoever’s backstage helping with the lightning fast changes.

Chan Harris is very good as Pearl Burras, local chicken farmer and dog poisoner.  I love the scene in the funeral parlor with Pearl’s serenade to the dead Judge and the comment, “You look so…waxy.”  As the energetic Reverend Spikes he gives a very funny eulogy made up entirely of platitudes and song lyrics.  He’s also excellent as Bertha Bumiller, harassed mother of three.  We know exactly how she feels about her husband when we watch her chop vegetables. By the way, he also plays her husband.

Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Jody & Charlene onstage (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Jody & Charlene onstage (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Tripp Plymale is terrific as snippy Vera Carp, head of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order who plan to clean up the high school dictionaries. Her reactions to Reverand Spikes are hilarious.  He’s excellent as gentle Petey Fisk, protector of lost animals including ducks.  Mr. Plymale gives all his characters unexpected depth and three-dimensional humanity.  This is especially so with the three Bumiller children: forlorn young Jody whose only friends are the dogs who follow him around, overweight Charlene, shy amateur poet and failed cheerleader, and fresh out of reform school Stanley, his edgiest character.  Stanley’s powerful scene with the dead Judge takes a sudden twist and ceases to be funny.

The juxtaposition of prayers in Act II is funny, chilling and touching by turns.  That of Elmer Watkins, NRA member, reminds us that bigotry isn’t always to be laughed at, while that of Petey Fisk is very moving.  Director Harris has also chosen great songs that perfectly set up the atmosphere.

“Greater Tuna” is a very funny play with some wonderful serious moments.  Mr. Harris and Mr. Plymale have brought out all the nuances of the piece.  Its mixture of affectionate comment and dark satire provides a solid evening’s entertainment at the Depot Theatre.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre’s production of “Greater Tuna” gets four and five-eighths box cars.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

(Theatre review via North Country Public Radio)

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra – North Country Public Radio Review

[This theatre review of “My Way” by Connie Meng was aired and published by North Country Public Radio as “Theatre Review: “My Way” at the Depot Theatre in Westport” on July 14, 2014. Listen to the story.]

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is a lively journey through the Sinatra song-book. It runs at the Depot Theatre overlooking Lake Champlain in Westport NY through July 27.

Tiffan Borelli, Paul Binotto, Erik Keiser, Maggie Politi in "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" at The Depot Theatre, July 2014 (Photo: Bonnie Brewer)

Tiffan Borelli, Paul Binotto, Erik Keiser, Maggie Politi in “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at The Depot Theatre, July 2014 (Photo: Bonnie Brewer)

The Depot Theatre in Westport has opened their 36th season with a tuneful production of “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra.”  Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, the show contains over 50 songs out of the nearly 1400 Sinatra recorded.  Most of the songs are familiar, but there were a couple I hadn’t heard.  With having had only five days of rehearsal, even this old “lyric Nazi” can overlook a couple of slips.

The four cast members, ably accompanied by Joe Schermann in a pianistic marathon, are all very good singers with sparkling stage presence.  Erik Keiser is an appealing song and dance man and does a specially nice job on a duet with Maggie Politi of “Nice and Easy.”  They do justice to the frisky staging of Director Evan Pappas.  Miss Politi is a natural comedienne and had me giggling with her take on “South of the Border.”

Tiffan Borelli is just an all-round good singer, who is particularly fine on various ballads.  Last but certainly not least is Paul Binotto, not only a good singer but an excellent actor who plays a mean guitar.  He’s especially strong on “One for My Baby,” “Young at Heart” and “Summer Wind,” all very different emotionally.

Music Director Joe Schermann has done a fine job on the many group vocals and the vocal blend is great on “My Way” and the encore, a lovely 4-part arrangement of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Bonnie Brewer’s simple set of draperies upstage, a grand piano, a short bar and a couple of small tables works extremely well for the show.  Her lighting is effective, complete with stars and a mirror ball.

Debbi Hobson’s costumes for the men are fine and allow for some versatility, while the dresses for the ladies, while well-designed and colorful, aren’t particularly flattering.

Director Evan Pappas has done a terrific job of staging a show that could easily have become static.  Especially clever are “It Was a Very Good Year,” “My Way,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “That’s Life” and the tour of the cities.  Perhaps my favorite was “I Only Have Eyes for You,” in an unusual arrangement, with great lighting and inventive staging.

If you like Frank Sinatra’s choice of songs this show is for you.  There are some snippets of dialogue, but it’s really about the music.  Sinatra was part of the music scene for so long that these songs will take you back no matter your generation.  “My Way” is solid entertainment – perfect fare for a summer afternoon or evening.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre’s production of “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” gets four and one-third boxcars.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

(Review via North Country Public Radio.)