For Young Area Stars: The Jury is Out and Broadway is In

For young thespians at the John Cooper School, April has been a fine time for their first experience with “jury duty.” An eager young cast took on the task of performing the play, “12 Angry Jurors” in the Black Box Theatre of the school’s new theater building. Directed by Joseph DeMonico, the play is an adaptation by Sherman Sergel of Reginald Rose’s suspenseful courtroom drama, “12 Angry Men,” known to many through the classic 1957 film. In this edition, female jurors are added to the mix in the tale of a lone juror (wonderfully played by Natalie Hee) who struggles to convince fellow panel members that a young Hispanic teen charged with murdering his father is not “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” The journey is one that surely convinced many of us in the audience that jury duty is nothing to be taken lightly.

The jury cast included fine performances from Whitney Brandt, Caitlin O’Neill, Nisha Balsara, Becky Schwartz, Kathryn Meyer, and Emily Jacobson. Spencer Summers gave a solid performance as the jury foreman who tries to keep order when tempers flair. Alex Novak brought a convincing foreign accent to his role as a thoughtful and caring juror trying to get the verdict right in spite of his immigrant background. Outstanding performances on that same jury included Caitlin Lashier, who capably portrayed a bored and blasé juror who just wants everything over quickly so she can get on with her own life. She clashes sarcastically with Miss Hee’s character as she shouts, “Why don’t we have them run the whole trial again so you can get everything straight?” More impressive drama emerges when the juror portrayed by Margie McGregor horrifies her fellow jurors by exploding in a violent and prejudicial rant against Hispanics as she screams, “These people…they’re all no good!” Christina Bray (the clerk), David Seekatz (the judge), and Michael Taylor (the guard) do nicely in minor roles; but the standout performances belong to Miss Hee, as the juror trying to overturn the nearly unanimous opinion of “guilty”, and Jim Brock, as the juror most adamant that “guilty” is the correct decision. When they clash the dramatic sparks fly until he actually lunges at her threatening, “I’ll kill you!” It is compelling theater as we watch the tension build between these two fine actors, Brock portraying ever-escalating rage and certainty of guilt, and Hee depicting a passion for the truth that ultimately wins the day, as her mother, seated beside me in the audience, looked on with justifiable pride. When all was said and done, we had learned the important lesson uttered by one juror, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone.”

Meanwhile, on the same lovely April weekend, several young performers from the “Houston on Broadway” contingent of the increasingly popular DLP Productions group were entertaining the crowd of visitors at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival on the riverbanks of beautiful Town Green Park. Performing on the International Stage under the direction of DLP founder, Deanna Peden, these performers offered a variety of musical theater treats, including several numbers from their forthcoming production of “Guys and Dolls.” First up was 9th grader, Cristen Morris, singing “Adelaide’s Lament.” With riverside breezes tossing her lovely long hair, she joined her mature voice with a mix of coyness, comic timing, and theatrical flair during a confident performance of the song’s witty lyrics. Alyssa Weathersby brought her fine voice to a pleasant duet of “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” co-starring Josiah Miller. Their performance was marred a bit by a musical soundtrack that was played at too loud a volume. Reema Patel showed off her developing voice in an enthusiastic performance of “Take Me or Leave Me,” from the musical, “Rent.” In still another duet, Weathersby shared playful vocal interactions with Janet Yost for the tune, “Marry the Man Today,” from “Guys and Dolls.” And perhaps it was Yost who had the musical homerun of the afternoon with her performance of “All That Jazz” from the musical, “Chicago.” This number featured a fine soundtrack to complement Yost’s solid voice, stage presence, and confident air. With sexy black outfit, red garter in place, and cigarette in hand, she nicely captured the sensual moves of Fosse-style choreography, and even if the final phrase or two needed vocal tightening, it was understandable after her sassy and exhausting performance. At curtain call, the audience rewarded all the young performers with a rousing round of applause.

John Cooper School will perform GREASE May 7th and 8th. For tickets and information visit www.johncooper.org or call 281-367-0900.

DLP Productions and “Houston on Broadway” will present “Guys and Dolls,” June 18th-21st at the Nancy Bock Center for the Performing Arts. For information visit www.dlpproductions.org.

(The Courier Online    4.13.09)

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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 Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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