“Quilters” a Well-Spun Debut from Town Center Theatre

With this month’s exciting debut of Town Center Theatre, there may well be a new Golden Age of theatre blossoming in The Woodlands, Texas. Reflecting on the current run of “Quilters,“ a rich musical tale of pioneer life for American women in the 19th century, the company’s energetic Managing Director, Aaron Stryk, has aptly compared the show to the pioneer spirit that carved The Woodlands out of a once dense pine forest. Anyone pretending to have an interest in truly excellent theatre needs to hurry to this week’s final performances. This show is not to be missed! No wonder the list of corporate, foundation, and individual donors supporting a long overdue resident theatre for The Woodlands is growing longer by the day in support of this company. I would suggest any possible contributors immediately send representatives to see this exquisitely crafted production. They will not be disappointed.

Now why do I carry on so? First, let me say the content of the piece, authored by Molly Newman & Barbara Damashek, is a richly detailed look at the struggles, hardships, and yes, the joys experienced by pioneer women for whom the closest thing to a modern convenience may have been a wagon wheel. But with all of that, they had an appreciation of devotion to family and friends that offers many lessons for our hurried lives today. The period atmosphere is well established with the rugged rural set design from Chris Tennison, who is also co-director with Joseph Milillo. Both deserve gold stars for the performances they have drawn from their superb cast.

And what a cast it is, each with an extensive professional résumé. These are not local amateurs. Six very lovely and talented young actresses (Kelly Green, Katie Harrison, Shondra Marie, Ivy Rush, Meg Schneider, and Maredith Zaritski) play the daughters. This group would have been perfect if the entertainment had been a beauty pageant. And, oh, the talent. Their acting skills are first-class as each plays a variety of roles in the unfolding drama. Both the ensemble singing and the solo moments were sublime. The delicate folk dancing (choreographer, Jacquelyn Oldham) added to the show‘s many charms, not the least of which were the quaint country dresses of Costume Designer, Tiffini Fuller. Musical Director, Christopher Burt, led the fine onstage orchestral trio (nicely placed atop a wooden wagon), while Ron Putterman ably handled the show’s lighting and enhanced the set simplicity with his subtle designs.

Rounding out the fine cast in the role of Sarah, the girls’ mother, we have a standout performance from the vocally gifted Zona Jan Myers, who seemed to glow with some inner warmth that made this very ensemble piece a true portrait of a family. The music was sometimes spirited, sometimes poignant, but always an insightful look at the difficult lives of these hardy early Americans. They share the joys of marriage, family and childhood, and they encounter Indian raids, house fires, bitter cold, wild animals, childbirth, illness, death, and devastating drought. Punctuated with warm humor, all of this is revealed as the family works on sewing a quilt that tells the story of their heritage. Each block of the quilt elicits yet another delightful song or charming dance as the tale unfolds. Songs like “Pieces of Lives,” “Quiltin’ & Dreamin’,” “Every Log in My House,” “Never Grow Old,” and “Everything Has a Time,” have a universal and really spiritual appeal. And who could resist the delightful “Needle‘s Eye” number that closes Act I with the most joyful display of singing and dancing maids since the brilliant “Spring Spring, Spring” scene in the classic MGM musical, “7 Brides for 7 Brothers.” But what really knocks the ball out of the park for this production is the outstanding quality of the singing. With lovely melodies, sweet harmonies, exquisite counterpoints, and occasional fine forays into the world of a cappella, it is dreamlike perfection and a joy to listen to. If you do nothing else this coming week, go and see “Quilters.” Here’s hoping it is only the first in a long list of Town Center Theatre productions.

While awaiting a hoped-for future house of its own, Town Center Theatre is currently performing in the beautiful Woodlands College Park High School Auditorium on Highway 242. This week’s performances of Quilters will be Friday July 20th and Saturday July 21st at 8 p.m., with the closing performance a special matinee on Sunday July 22nd at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors) with discounts available for groups of 10 or more. For reservations or information, call 832-592-9697. The theatre’s website is http://www.towncentertheatre.com.

[NOTE: At every show, members of selected area quilt guilds will have displays set up in the lobby area, where guild members will provide quilting demonstrations, raffle off select quilts and answer any questions about the craft.]

(The Courier    7.20.07)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
This entry was posted in The Courier Columns, Theater Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply