Little Theatre brings on melodrama madness

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If thou's a'goin'

What: "Shakespeare Comes to Calamity Creek," a musical melodrama by Tim Kelly with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur.

When:8 p.m. Aug. 10-11, 17-18; and 2 p.m. matinees Aug. 12 and 19.

The $12 tickets may be purchased at ltww.org or at the door one hour before shows. The show is not part of the regular season.

Place

Little Theatre of Walla Walla

1130 E. Sumach Street, Walla Walla

— Whatever it is, it’s definitely not William Shakespeare.

“Make sure you tell them that,” whispered Robert G. Randall, in an aside from his director’s seat at Little Theatre of Walla Walla.

The Bard would be more likely to pedal backward than lay any claim to “Shakespeare Comes to Calamity Creek,” which runs from Aug. 10-19.

Given that the cast was stomping and twirling on stage and all, Shakespeare could only cringe.

In the traditions of comedic melodramas, this production offers crazy camp, catchy tunes, silly slapstick and a whale’s belly of exaggeration.

The actors just as often play to the room as they do to the rest of the cast.

And the more the audience gives back, the more ramped-up the play becomes, Randall said.

“The characters are bigger than life.”

While a comfy fit for “character” actors, a melodrama can push the envelope for others, he pointed out.

“Getting an actor to release what they know, to let go, to break through that fourth wall ....”

That’s when drama becomes melodrama, a farcical delight. Dessert for its audience.

And not usually done in Walla Walla, making “Shakespeare Comes to Calamity Creek” a rare treat, Randall said.

“The joy is in doing something different. It’s hokey and fun to watch. People ‘get’ hokey.”

As corny to the ear it all might sound, even Shakespeare would have reveled in the luscious costumes that have been assembled and sewn for this Western setting.

Red velvet, brocade, silken feathers, shiny satin, plus plenty of bonnets and cowboy boots dance across the stage in various show songs.

Calamity Creek is all wood buildings, bouldered hills, impossibly-blue skies and much innocence when Noble Hart arrives with his Shakespearian troupe to supposedly expose citizens to “culture” for the first time ever.

Although most folks are charmed by Hart and his merry band, some are suspicious. And with good reason, Randall said.

“What he really is here for, he’s hired three bandits to rob everyone while they are at the show.”

This particular work was attractive for its ability to support a cast of 32, the director pointed out.

“With no (Walla Walla Community College) summer production this year, I wanted to give people an opportunity to perform.”

The production will also have fresh flavors via nearly two dozen people who have never been in a Little Theatre play before, he said. “And 10 to 15 of those have never been in any show.”

If you go, remember booing and hissing are nearly mandatory, Randall said.

“This encourages the audience participation … to be a part of what’s going on. That’s the only way a melodrama works.”

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