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Seton High School Boomtown

By • Apr 20th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

There are cowboy heads hangin’ low and cowboy tears drippin’ in the drinks at the Gold Nugget Saloon. Are they mourning a failed gamble? A sickly herd? Certainly, thwarted hopes for a railroad wouldn’t be the first thing that jumps to mind – yet in Boomtown, staged with spunk and style at Seton High School, the cowmen’s heartstrings are hopelessly tied to those rail trestles.

Written in 1958 for the students of Loretto Heights College, Boomtown was commissioned as part of Denver’s centennial festivities. The musical chronicles Denver’s quest to build a railroad that will connect it to the rest of the nation. Bart Matthews (Justin Wykowski), an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, visits the hopeful township of Denver and, due in part to the machinations of the wicked Jed Harris (Brian Nagurny), concludes that the railroad can’t be built there. Undettered by failure or Harris’s threats, the town decides to construct its own railroad – and Bart, swayed by a newfound romance with local beauty Nancy Oliver (Shannon Bartnick), decides to pitch in.

Boasting smooth vocals and a gentlemanly air, Wykowski’s Bart was consistently appealing. His understated charm provided the perfect complement to Bartnick’s coquetry, whip-smarts and dulcet voice; the duets between the two, particularly the delightful “Someone Like You,” were among the highlights of the show.

Yet in a musical about a town on the rise, the townsfolk must be just as engaging as any romantic lead – and the supporting cast of Boomtown rose to the task. Hank (Neil Blanchard) and Slim (Andrew Minarik), a pair of lily-livered cowboys, were the uproarious epitome of an old-style comedy team; whenever onstage, their charisma and characterization drew belly laughs. Likewise, Kelly Craige‘s cameo turn as cantankerous Amanda Wilberforce was a comedic jewel, showing off both adept timing and a gift for slapstick. Jacob Akers‘ warmly paternal Judge Oliver never faltered, while Michael Hill, as the judge’s lowly assistant, added amusing depth to the age-old nerd stereotype. And as Mattie, the feisty saloon owner, Mimi Myers featured a voice as stout as it was glorious. Ensemble members occasionally looked less than involved, while others had difficulty expressing during musical numbers, but the tonality and intricate harmonies of Seton’s chorus were nothing short of outstanding.

Detailed, extensive and often adorable, Kelly Craige‘s choreography was not only creative but well-executed. The set design team also excelled, creating a Western atmosphere around numerous challenges in the space, and the pompadours and curls of the cast members’ hair, designed by Lisa Hill and Leslie Zapiain, were enough to transport an audience back in time. Transitions could sometimes have been smoother, but the technical aspects of Boomtown were generally laudable.

Early in Boomtown, the proud denizens of Denver label it “the only town for you and me.” One might not see what’s so special about a ramshackle mining junction – yet the energy, effort and exceptional ability of Seton’s cast and crew illustrated what a real “heck of a town” it could be.

by Sarah Marx of Homeschool Teens N Theatre

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