All Together Marvelous! One-night-only musical revue a showcase of NWA talent

All Together Marvelous! One-night-only musical revue a showcase of NWA talent
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

Over the years, I have often been asked why — knowing how much I love theater — that I rarely review it.

I have a couple of good reasons. First, why on earth should you care about my opinion of a touring show? And why should I want to foist it on you?

Second, if it’s a locally produced show, I can review it in one sentence: It was magical.

Every show is. A group of strangers comes together, and in a matter of a few weeks, creates a world, and the people in it, and then takes the audience to that place their imaginations have built to laugh, cry, fall in love, get their hearts broken and solve their problems — and maybe the world’s. Every show is always — whether it’s the best show I’ve ever seen or not quite — a soul-feeding, heart-filling, one-of-a-kind experience. And over the years, I get to watch actors grow and mature and do things even they never imagined they could do, which is just plain fun.

Why on earth would I offer a critique of any part of that?

And third, if a show is sold out, it just seems rude to tell you how sorry you should be that you missed it.

I was fortunate enough to see the dress rehearsal for a one-night-only show, which happened Nov. 12 at Arkansas Public Theatre, and I am about to break my own rules. It was sold out. It was a one and done. But if you want to truly understand the depth and breadth of the talent in Northwest Arkansas, you have to hear about this show. So please indulge me!

The show is titled “All Together Now!” and some 2,500 versions of it are happening this weekend across all 50 states and more than 40 countries. Created by Music Theatre International, the one-weekend-only event gives schools and theaters around the world free rights to a musical revue featuring songs from MTI’s extensive catalog of shows.

The Northwest Arkansas production was helmed by Kailey Miller Erwin, who first really caught my attention when she stepped into the role of Miss Hannigan in APT’s “Annie” on literally a moment’s notice — and was superb. Nowadays, she’s teaching 54 students piano, ukulele, guitar and voice lessons, runs the adult and children’s choirs at her church and is in grad school getting her master’s of music in music composition. Oh, and she’s written a contemporary opera that will premiere in April 2022.

But when she heard about the “All Together Now!” weekend, “I wanted to provide an opportunity for people to be guaranteed a spot in a show after an audition,” she said. “Everyone is in at least four numbers. There are some featured soloists in this production who have never had an opportunity to sing such a substantial solo in front of an audience, and that will be great for them.”

And all of those people — plus a eight-member orchestra — rose to the occasion to create something phenomenal.

For some of them, it was no surprise.

Of course Justin Stewart — who you know as Judas in APT’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” — was wonderful singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from “Les Miserables.”

Of course Blakeley Knox — seen in “Mamma Mia,” “Freaky Friday” and “Little Women” for Pilot Arts — was perfect as Elsa singing “Let It Go” from “Frozen.”

Of course Aaron Young — Davey in the APT production of “Newsies” — looked like he stepped off the Broadway stage for “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” from “Guys and Dolls.”

Then there were actors that went beyond even what I expected. The show opens with Jacob Andrews — last seen on the APT stage in “Buyer and Cellar” and in a production of “Next to Normal” in Springdale — as Lumiere singing “Be Our Guest,” and he could charm any Beauty or any Beast! Brittany Tavernaro — one of the kids from “Annie” — could have been appearing on any professional stage to sing “Meadowlark” from “The Baker’s Wife,” as could Kristyne Marveggio, who sang “She Used to Be Mine” from “Waitress.” Sarah Mouritsen Riedmueller was charming in “Take a Chance on Me” from “Mamma Mia”; Mary Maxwell nailed the all-female version of “Seize the Day” from “Newsies”; and I swear that Caity Church’s voice only gets better every year, which she proved in “The New World” from “Songs from a New World.”

And then, there were the flat-out blow-me-away surprises, like Edward Mountz, last seen in “Avenue Q,” owning “This Is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde” and Sarah Nickerson, who I knew had a commanding voice, blowing up the solo in “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”

I haven’t mentioned everyone, and I apologize for that. You should also know the names Henry Aggus, Astrid Allen, Alex Andrews, Taylor Dolan, Jennifer Flanary, Victoria Greer, Emma Martin, Maggie Perez, Sydney Schnurbusch, Jenna Scott and Daniel Terrell, all of whom you’ll see on Northwest Arkansas stages regularly, and all of whom were just plain terrific.

I am so sorry you can’t see this show. But keep an eye on What’s Up! and area theater marquees, and when you see these names, go support our local talent. I promise you too will be so glad you did!

Becca Martin-Brown is Features editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and has always been a “theater kid.” Email her at bmartin@nwadg.com.

Categories: Music