OGDEN — Make Me A Song, directed by Kenneth Plain, is a Weber State University revue that gives students an opportunity to perform, stage, and choreography different songs in order to showcase the things they have been learning throughout their study, and also worked to include much of both classic and contemporary musical theatre.
The first thing I noticed was the three-piece orchestra, with Kenneth Plain on piano, Daniel Tracy on bass, and Tyler Torrico on drums. I have said in many reviews that the presence of live music can change a performance, and this was no exception. I know that using canned music may have given a fuller orchestral sound, but the inclusion of live musicians as part of the production increased the quality of the performers through the ability to connect with the music at a deeper level. Especially in the smaller space of the theater, these musicians did a fabulous job of enhancing all of the different numbers.
Additionally, the stage set up and set design by Sam Transleau added much to the evening. The stage was set as a cabaret scene, and while there were normal seats on the risers, the front row was several tables and chairs that added to the showcase feel of the show, though the use of the stage fog and haze was perhaps a bit much, making it hard to see the first number.
Costume choices by Catherine Zublin and lighting by Jessica Greenberg were also pleasing. I was impressed with each of the dresses and suits and how well they flattered the different cast members and coordinated with each other.
Throughout the evening, some of the song choices seemed to work better than others. Choreographer Angenette Spalink created great dance sequences, especially with the tap numbers “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Moses Supposes.” Some of the choices showed that the actors really understood their strengths. Aaliyah Jenks brought down the house with “Simple Joys,” from her costume to the staging to the sound of her voice, she represented exactly what I want to hear in that song. Seth Foster did a rendition of “Waving Through A Window” that made me hope that he auditions for a production of Dear Evan Hansen at some point.
The song “Telephone Wire” from Fun Home was performed by Riley French and Cassidy Wixon, and the pair put such emotion into the story of the song that I was riveted. Because this production was slated to show off the skills that have been learned regarding direction, musicality, acting, and staging, this scene was the one that accomplished all of those aims of Make Me a Song.
Some of the group numbers could have been better staged or thought out, and some of the song choices did not seem to best suit the actors that chose them. However, others, such as “Glitter and Be Gay,” as performed by Kaitlyn Hipwell, were very astute choices. While that was a number that I may not have initially cared for, the choices in costuming, staging, and humor did win me over when I was watching.
Having seen many shows at Weber State over the last few years, I appreciated the opportunity to see a showcase of the talents that these students have gained through their studies. I would encourage the department to consider that and element that would have increased the value of this production would have been to include original writing from some of the students, as well as acting scenes or monologues in place of some of the songs.
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