Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

February 20, 2011 at 9:06am

Girl ties run deep in "Vanities"

Billie Wildrick as Mary, Jennifer Sue Johnson as Joanne, and Cayman Ilika as Kathy, in "Vanities: A New Musical" at ACT Theatre / Photo: Chris Bennion

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It is always a treat to see a premiere of an up-and-coming show because even when a show is bad, the troubled areas are generally fixed by the time the show comes around at another stage.

Vanities: A New Musical, directed by David Armstrong, opened at Seattle's ACT: A Contemporary Theatre last weekend and proved my point. But it already landed a solid showing based on the talent of its three, lone cast members. Any changes made by the next time it takes to a stage will be largely cosmetic.

The show spans decades as it follows the lives of three high school cheer leaders who then go off to college and seek their "perfect lives" in the waning years of the turbulent 1960s. Their bonds grow and strain as their lives take different paths and don't turn out as they first projected during cheer practice, but they come together as age and life passes to bring realism to their once idyllic fantasies. Think Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes set to music.

Based on the original play by Jack Heifner, it is not suitable for young children as it contains some adult language and sexual references. But it isn't gratuitous.

What made the show strong were not only the balance of talent but also the staging of the three actresses who never leave the stage during the intermission-free show. The passage of time comes through simple wig and costume changes, nuanced by tweaks to their gait and ever-growing vocabulary.

South Sounders will likely notice one of the actresses in the trio, Cayman Ilika, who plays the ever-organized Kathy, was in Patsy Cline, an ACT joint production with Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way. The cast is rounded out by Billie Wildrick as the rebellious Mary and Jennifer Sue Johnson as the straight-laced Joanne.

Vanities: A New Musical

Through May 1, click here for show dates
Tickets start at $65, $15 students
In The Falls Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle
206.292.7676

LINK: Local stage shows

Filed under: Theater,
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