‘Of Thee I Sing’ opens at Ethington at perfect time
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
It’s no accident that Ethington Theatre’s production “Of Thee I Sing” will be performed just weeks before America chooses its next president.
Rather, the timing is cunningly deliberate. What better time to produce a singing, dancing political satire than during the height of a real-life campaign?
And this isn’t just a satire, it’s a hilarious and timeless musical comedy that takes no sides as it exuberantly makes fun of the process.
“It’s a political satire,” said Mark Fearey, the show’s music director and a College of Fine Arts and Production music faculty member. “It comes at a good time of the year. Even though it was written in (the 1930s), a lot of the humor and the lines still translate pretty well for us.”
The show, with a score and lyrics by brothers George and Ira Gershwin, opened on Broadway in 1931 and in 1932 became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The mere age of the material presents learning opportunities for today’s vocalists, said Fearey, whose role includes teaching cast members the music, harmonies and all. He is also charged with overall music production.
“Of Thee I Sing” has a classical bent and requires each singer to use their whole voice, he said. Altos need to match ranges similar to those of sopranos.
Fearey also plays piano during rehearsals and performances, which add bass, drum, trumpet, saxophone and trombone.
The musicians play their instruments in a back room with a video and audio monitor so they can see and hear the stage. On-stage actors also have a video feed so they can see Fearey.
“It frees up more of the stage,” he said. “This is a pretty good-sized set. They are scrambling for as much space as they can get.”
The humor reflected in the time the musical was written also presented learning opportunities, Fearey said.
“It’s a different style of comedy than that they are used to,” he said. “The way they wrote it back then was very witty, very quick. A lot of one-liners. It’s a little over the top.”
Without giving too much away, the story centers on presidential candidate John Wintergreen.
“Lacking a viable platform, Wintergreen promises that if elected he will marry the partner chosen for him at an Atlantic City beauty pageant. When he falls for someone else instead of Southern enchantress Diana Deveraux (the winner of the pageant), a world of trouble begins,” according to the description on Ehthington Theatre’s Facebook page.
Of course there are twists and turns throughout punctuated by slapstick humor, love songs and singing and dancing.
Fearey notes that viewers might observe that women and men had different societal roles when the show was written.
The cast has more than 50 members and includes students from a variety of colleges, not only theater majors, he said.
Costume designer Nola Yergen said there are more than 150 costumes. “It’s the largest costume show we’ve ever done” Yergen said.
“It’s fun and you’ll laugh a lot,” Fearey said.
Principle cast members include:
Presidential candidate John Wintergreen — Alexander Dubois
Mary Turner — Grace Henderson
Diana Devereaux — Devaune Bohall
The French Ambassador — Andrew Dell
VP candidate Alexander Throttlebottom — Levi Roberts
7:30 p.m. shows on Friday Oct. 14, Saturday Oct. 15, Friday Oct. 21 and Saturday Oct. 22
2 p.m. shows Sunday Oct. 16 and Sunday Oct. 23
Tickets are available here, and students get tickets free with ID.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.