Monday, September 12, 2011

Zahren and Schiano Shine in Give My Regards

by Meghan D'Souza

Amana - The Iowa Theatre Artists Company brought a rare treat by inviting Way Off Broadway from Fairfield, Iowa's only professional musical theatre, to deliver Give My Regards!, a collaboration of favorite Broadway songs, an idea conceived by WOB director Randy West.

Because this was less of a musical, per se, and more of a concert showcasing various songs and famous Broadway songwriters, the set was simple. There was a wide platform to help give the set dimension and wood columns plastered with posters from the shows in the performance gave the illusion of walls. A clever addition to the set was a large screen that showcased images from the various shows featured in this performance.

The lighting was generally fine, with the whole stage lit up or a spotlight to change the atmosphere. It was particularly impressive during a Sweeney Todd number when a blinking red spotlight gave the necessary eerie ambiance. However, a few numbers used distracting purple floodlights along with the regular lighting, making the actors look washed out in situations that did not call for this look.

While the ensemble consisted of four performers, it was Ian Zahren who took the music and turned it into a fabulous performance. The show is not about watching a choir sing, but about talented actors performing Broadway hits. He added the passion and personality necessary to make this show worthwhile. Especially noteworthy was his solo performance as Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a difficult song to sing, but he managed it, exuding an intense struggle in emotion, pulling goosebumps up from my arms.

Cassandra Schiano also gave a particularly moving performance during a song from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. For the song I Love You, she portrayed a child longing for her parents' support. She even cried while singing, drawing the hearts of the audience towards her.

Some improvements could be made now that opening night is over. The dancing was not fluid when the ensemble performed together. Opening night blunders were handled awkwardly by some members of the crew, taking the audience away from the spirit of the show and giving it more of a dress rehearsal feel at times.

At the end of the night, the talent of Zahren and Schiano won the audience's hearts, literally making them laugh, cry and leaving satisfied with their night at the theatre.

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