Marquee: A community gathers its talent to tip its hat to yesteryear

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Lauren Bergman talks to her sister Carolyn Bergman while waiting for her cue during rehearsal of "A Fabulous Night at the Gilded Garter Music Hall." 6/9/10

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Pianist Rhonda Lineberger during rehearsal. 6/9/10

MILTON-FREEWATER - It's unabashedly campy and unadulterated fun. And it's coming to Milton-Freewater with plenty of exclamation marks and general hubbub.

"A Fabulous Night at The Gilded Garter Music Hall!" will play at the Milton-Freewater Community Building, 109 N.E. Fifth Ave., 7:30 p.m. June 24 and 25.

The show, a local first for director Broderick Graves, is a combination of American vaudeville, British music hall and small town determination.

Musical hits from a century ago, performed by residents of Milton-Freewater, Walla Walla and beyond, include classics such as "Hello, My Baby," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Alexander's Rag Time Band."

For Graves the production is a nod to his own performing days. Under stage name Broderick Brodie, Graves performed daily in Las Vegas and in traveling shows for many years, he said. He has also written plays and directed.

When he moved to Milton-Freewater and took a position with Blue Mountain Community College, he uncovered a deep interest in musical and live theater in his new community. A little checking around revealed several others willing to partner with Graves to put together a show, he said.

While not exactly Las Vegas, there's plenty of showmanship. Straw hats and sequins and headdresses, oh my. Even the support crew and front-of-the-house workers are costumed for the occasion and titled "Happy Hatters."

Also, the Milton-Freewater Blue Mountain Sounders men's chorus, a dozen or more voices strong, will add to the aura with numbers such as "The Story of the Rose," "I Love You Truly" and "Shine on Me."

It's the second public performance for the group, which is still in its infancy, noted director Doug Boedigheimer.
"Most had never sung the barbershop style of music before. For our size and experience level, I've been very pleased and proud of the work the chorus does, and the musical product in sound they make," he said.

Casting for the musical revue was not done with the usual suspects - that much was clear at a recent rehearsal. After a number by the Milton-Freewater Frogettes, the singers tell the audience a little about themselves.

There's Don Ehrhardt. "I've never done anything like this before," he said. Or Sarah Bergman, who conscripted her daughters to be in the show. "I needed a good reason to get out of the house," she said with a laugh.

Clint Sloan from Athena announced that he used to sing, but choreography is new to him. "And we're having a ball."

The Culjaks, June (who is codirector) and Andrew, lightheartedly claim they each joined the show to have time with their spouse.

The show is peppered with one-line comedy skits, and bagpipe music takes a turn, too.

"All we need now is an enthusiastic audience that's eager to have a wholesome and jolly good time, Graves said.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for military veterans, seniors and children under age 18. Those can be purchased at the door or at Sun Catcher Studio, 508 N. Main St. For more information call 541-938-6379.

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