Outstanding theater programs have a way of thriving in the face of adversity. Nowhere is that more true than in academia, where the general rule for arts programs is that you either have state-of-the-art facilities populated by meager talent or talented performers forced to toil in substandard conditions.
In the case of the CU College of Music's Lyric Theatre Program, it's clear that the efforts of both students and faculty would shine brighter in upgraded facilities. Performing musical theater in Macky Auditorium is like staging a play on a flatbed truck in an airplane hangar--the house is just too big and the stage is just too small. But the outdated performance space notwithstanding, this CU program remains one of the best of its kind in the country. The proof, as always with this group, can be found in its latest production--in this case, the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.
The show, which played in a limited run last week, drew a respectable opening-night crowd in the face of a blizzard--no doubt owing to the popularity of the Frank Loesser musical fable, which is known for its rich musical score and cast of colorful Damon Runyon characters. Under the inventive direction of Dennis Jackson and to the accompaniment of a live orchestra, the story of New York City street life unfolded against vibrant painted backdrops and noisy scene changes--understandable, since Macky has virtually no wing space.
While some of the performers are in need of additional polish, a handful demonstrated that they're ready to take the profession by storm. Among them were Charis Fliermans (Miss Adelaide) and Jeremy Aye (Sky Masterson), two talented singers whose voices are certainly ready for the Great White Way, even if their acting could use a little work. Occasionally, Fliermans and Aye's harmonic efforts were matched by the heartfelt singing of Catherine Clarke, who, as Sarah Brown, led the Save-a-Soul Mission in its humorous attempts to proselytize.
If the Lyric Theatre Program got the kind of support and budget that professional productions routinely receive, last week's production could likely have held its own against the touring endeavors that regularly play the Buell or Auditorium theaters downtown. And if the program were an athletic concern at CU, it probably would have already been accorded a shrine named for and financed by a beer or soft-drink company. For now, though, it looks as if the students will simply have to settle for being good--a label that will keep packing in audiences no matter where their productions play.
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