Frederick's Best Little Whorehouse - Volume Two
Fredericktowne Player's (FTP) summer musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, is struggling through Tech Week, the theater's equivalent to Hell Week in the military academies.
Tech Week for a theatrical production occurs the week of the show's opening. As I write this, we're four days from Friday's opening night (tonight).
We spent the month of June and the first week of July rehearsing in FTP's rehearsal space at the old McHenry's Auto Parts warehouse at the corner of East and Patrick Streets.
On Sunday, July 17, the cast and crew moved sets, props, and costumes from the studio to the Weinberg Center. Called load-in, this process took several hours, followed by another several hours of set construction.
As with the music and acting, I am amazed at how the sets, props, and costumes magically come together as the show moves into its final few rehearsals.
That first walk through the backstage loading door onto Frederick's premier theatrical venue was a humbling experience. The largest venue I've ever performed in prior to this week was the Old Opera House (OOH) in Charles Town, WV.
The Weinberg Center is more than twice the size of the OOH. Standing there, center stage, looking out at the seating, is an amazing and overwhelming experience. If you've never been backstage, it is an interesting place.
The dressing rooms are located below the stage, with two hallways with three separate dressing rooms on each hallway. Men dress on the left, women on the right. A green room is located between the two dressing areas, a sort of informal gathering spot for people waiting to go upstairs and onstage.
Actors can't wait in the stage wings, since the tech crew has to move set pieces on and off the stage quickly and efficiently.
I've always been impressed by the Weinberg Center staff. They do an incredible amount of work in a very politically difficult environment. Michael Stup and Suzie Miller are doing an incredible job, and the technical crew is staffed by some of the best minds and hands in professional theater.
The talented technical production team helped the FTP tech crew set lights, sound, and hang the drops (set pieces that hang from the grid). I got a hands-on lesson in constructing a piece to hang from above, so if you go, look for the "Watchdog Report" sign in Act One.
The sign, beautifully painted by FTP member Diane Causer, has a combination of Broadway and Hollywood construction styles. According to Greg, production manager at the Weinberg, Broadway set construction involves techniques that have function as their primary purpose, while Hollywood sets have style and appearance as the primary purpose.
Now for a few words about my colleagues in the show. As I stated in the first column in this series, this is a large cast with amazing talents (present company excluded).
Our director, Lee Hebb, has already earned his stripes with some outstanding performances for FTP. Lee had a vision for this show that he has been able to bring to the stage, and his set designs, while minimalist, transport the viewer right into the living room of the Chicken Ranch.
Lee has figured out how to draw out the best of the entire cast, and I'm really impressed by his energy and vision.
Our stage manager, Amy Thoma, is sort of the chief operating officer of the show. She manages thousands of little details, not the least of which is the needs and egos of almost thirty actors/actresses. She has assembled the most professional backstage crew I've ever worked with, and they truly make the show work.
Ann Raugh, our musical director, has led me by hand through the nightmare of singing somewhere other than in the shower. Ann will be leading a five-piece band throughout the show, and they're worth the admission price alone.
The "working girls" of the Chicken Ranch are great singers/dancers/actresses. I still shake my head in amazement at the level of energy and dedication they bring to rehearsals. They are all feature players in their own right, and deserve every accolade I know they'll receive.
The "Texas Aggie's" are similarly talented. The big Aggie song and dance number is really fun to watch, and these guys poor their hearts and souls into the performance.
There are several featured performers, and I'll try to give them the credit they deserve, although you could do that much better by coming to see the show.
Alyce Luck plays Jewel, Ms. Mona's right hand lady. Alyce will light (maybe I should say heat) up the Weinberg during her song "24 Hours."
Blaine Young makes his theatrical debut as Senator J.T. Wingwoah, but anything I write will steal from the fun of seeing Blaine play this part. He 's great. You've got to see him!
Pam Neely, an accomplished FTP veteran, does a wonderful job as Doatsy Mae, the sarcastic but lovable owner of the Texas Twinkle Diner. Her signature song is a showstopper. She has been one of the most helpful cast members in helping this rank amateur fit in.
Bob Brown plays Melvin P. Thorpe, the watchdog of Texas, and he has Broadway-quality talent. My character has to get into a major confrontation with Melvin, and Bob is so good he makes it easy to hate him!
Finally, our leading lady, Sheree Stevens as Ms. Mona, proprietor of the Chicken Ranch, has so much talent it seems almost unfair to cast her with a group of amateurs. Not only does she have a wonderful voice, she brings a human side to Ms. Mona. She really seems to care for her girls, and I expect the Weinberg to disgorge a bunch of teary-eyed patrons after Sheree's final song.
So hopefully, I've given you enough to whet your appetite for the show. Performances are July 22 and 23 at 8 P. M., July 29 and 30th at 8 P. M., and July 31st at 2 P. M. You can buy tickets at the Weinberg, or call (301) 228-2828, or visit them online at www.weinbergcenter.org