Homeschool Teens and Theatre HellzapoppinBy Cappies • Apr 27th, 2011 • Category: Cappies
A machine gun wielding Abraham Lincoln, spider smashing tango dancers, and a scandalous tutu clad elephant named Suzie? This combination of eccentrics is so unique that it can found only in one place — the Teens and Theatre Company’s performance of the quirky vaudeville hit, Hellzapoppin.
Hellzapoppin opened on Broadway in 1938, and ran for three consecutive years, making it the longest running Broadway musical of its time. The show combined various quaint sketches, stunt shows, and musical acts, all the while maintaining a clownish and absurd atmosphere. The show was continually rewritten over the years in order to remain resonant with its audiences.
Saturday’s production of Hellzapoppin was no less unconventional than its 1930s predecessor. At its most basic level, the show is about a vaudeville performance gone wrong. The piano player is abducted by a rabid gorilla, the chorus is threatening to go on strike, and the techs refuse to fix the sudden blackouts. Just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any weirder, the continual mayhem and an attempt to light the stage on fire persuades the producer, Anson Rutherford, to abandon the show, leaving it in the unworthy hands of Johnson (William Angel) and Olsen (Michi Hitchcock). The havoc escalates into a dramatic battle of comedic wits between the two co-hosts, and the show concludes with a vibrant sing-a-long number entitled “Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Goodbye.”
The Teens and Theatre Company’s exceptional energy and impressive stamina held the audience captivated through the entire production. The cast maintained their character focus throughout the entire show, including during their unique intermission. Jeremy Pryzby, in particular, shone for his incredible animation and dedication to each of his very diverse roles. Lauren Petrey, in her role as Howdiddi, displayed great comedic timing and a sincere will to make the audience laugh. Chanukah Jane Lilburne emerged not only as one of the strongest singers and dancers in the show, but also as an audience favorite in role as the lonely and psychotic Disneyworld hag. Although at several times, emotions seemed overblown and hysteria too constant, the cast’s spontaneity and obvious comprehension of improv translated well with the audience.
The performance was tucked inside a quaint comedy club, but the setting served the purpose of the show well. Graffiti stained walls and various quirky set pieces (such as an oddly placed water cooler) provided the cast members with an appropriately peculiar atmosphere. A variety in the lighting, from sudden blackouts to a very active spotlight also complimented the mood of the show. A wide assortment of costumes aided the absurdity, but the continuous changes never once distracted from the plot.
While the content may have seemed a bit eccentric, the Teens and Theatre Company’s obvious dedication to the difficult vaudevillian style contributed to a thoroughly enjoyable experience because, according to Anson Rutherford, “What’s a production without a little stupidity?”
by Kristina Rathjen of Centreville High School
Photos by Katy Rinaman
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6491.