Dowagiac’s Beckwith spoofs musicals this weekend with ‘Forbidden Broadway’Published 9:14am Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Niles Daily Star
“Forbidden Broadway” satirizes the Great White Way, so in that regard, saying it’s a musical “about nothing” is like saying “Seinfeld” is a show about nothing.
Even if the send-ups escape you, the songs will sound hummably similar to staples of the stage such as “Phantom of the Opera” or “Les Miserables.”
Director Melissa Clanton said the “Forbidden” revue has been compared to “Saturday Night Live” in the way it lampoons stars such as Carol Channing, Ethel Merman and Liza Minnelli.
“I’ve actually seen the show,” she said.
Another analogy is if “Weird Al Yankovic got ahold of Broadway,” adds Jeff Gunn.
Though they look like a troupe of mimes all dressed alike in black before a yellow backdrop on a spare stage, costumes change in a flurry in every scene.
Fasten your seatbelts because songs come fast and furious.
“It just goes,” Clanton said. “They’re all together in the beginning, the end and right before intermission.”
Otherwise, they sing solos or in small ensembles.
Jessica Cornelius of Niles last appeared at the Beckwith in “Evita.”
She graduated from Western Michigan University in December with a major in organizational communications.
Colleen Menter, also of Niles, moved here last year and was encouraged to try out by Brittany Townsley.
Menter, who has taught kindergarten, “did theater in high school and in college a little bit” five years ago.
Townsley, also of Niles, has “done shows here, shows in high school and shows in college. I have a minor in theater.” She attends the other SMC, St. Mary’s College near South Bend, Ind.
Since 2001, Townsley has performed at the Beckwith in “Evita,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Dowagiac is represented in the cast by Rebecca Maxey and Sidney B. Curtis.
Maxey, of St. Joseph, works in Dowagiac for Wolverine Mutual Insurance Co. After DUHS Maxey attended the University of Michigan. She also appeared in Beckwith’s previous show, “The Uninvited.”
“I’m excited because this is my 10th show here,” Maxey said.
Curtis earned a vocal performance degree at Ohio’s Muskingum College, now University.
“I graduated in December 2005,” Curtis said. “I work for Teachers Credit Union in South Bend,” where she sings with a choir.
She also sings locally with the Dogwood Chorale.
Sidney literally learned of this production’s auditions from Director Melissa Clanton’s Facebook page.
And what would Beckwith Theatre be without an actual Beckwith?
Brian Beckwith of Niles is majoring in theater at Southwestern Michigan College.
His first show at the Beckwith was the ghostly previous one this summer, “The Uninvited,” for Director Branden Pompey.
Given older Niles demographics of the cast, Brett Mitchell would seem to be the odd man out.
He just graduated from Edwardsburg High School after participating in four shows in the Eddies’ new Performing Arts Center.
About to start college at SMC Sept. 8, Mitchell expects to minor in theater while majoring in psychology.
Performing “started for me in middle school,” he said during a break in Tuesday night’s rehearsal. “Friends who helped out with choir really got me into theater. My freshman year of high school I tried out and got a lead and I’ve been doing it ever since. I was in ‘The Uninvited’ after getting a phone call from the director. I just like to act and I’m very at home in musicals.”
Contrary to the image of college students cribbing their political knowledge from satirists such as Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” or Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, Mitchell admitted, “I actually started watching more actual news” to appreciate the humor targets.
Likewise, some Broadway spoofs sent him seeking out the source material.
Rounding out the trio of male voices is Gunn, who has been appearing with the troupe since 1991, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Mousetrap,” “Plaza Suite,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Prelude to a Kiss,” among many, many others.
Accompanist Heidi Ferris of Niles just signed on a week ago today, but she is a professional musician with a voice degree from Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind.
This is her Beckwith debut after “running into a girlfriend at aerobics” to learn the musical needed a piano player.
“It can be a little crazy,” Ferris said of her accelerated preparation, “but I looked at the music and I’m familiar with all the songs. I thought, ‘I can do this. It’s right up my alley.’ Luckily, they’re very well prepared.”
Beckwith presents “Forbidden Broadway” Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and twice on Sunday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.