The last play is titled "'S Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical." The subtle gestures, the songs and the sensational dancing sets the audience up for a wonderful (there's that word again) trip down memorylane. It takes you on a journey by using the song and dance as its storytelling.
Travel along to five different destinations, including 1940s Hollywood, 1920s New York, 1930s Paris, 1950s New Orleans and the present day. To get there, it takes a cast. And these five get the job done. They are Genna-Paige Kanago (as Jane), Sarah Larson (as Leslie), Zak McMahon (as Gene), Lexie Plath (as Nina) and Tim Wessel (as Harold).
They weave in and out of these stories with poise and perfection. Two guys, three women makes this shine. The women are sexy, sultry, and very talented, plus upbeat and energetic, too. And they have been all season.
Directed by Courtney Crouse, "S Wonderful" is a playback of some of the most popular songs ever recorded, including "I've Got a Crush On You," "Summertime," "Strike Up the Band," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Funny Face" and "Someone To Watch Over Me."
"The storytelling we do with dance adds to the universal nature of these themes. It moves us, and we identify. It’s impossible not to," said Crouse. All season long the choreography has been a sight to see. Here, it is done by Wessel and Cameron Turner. It is set in five scenes, but all the characters mix throughout and perform their way as the plot unfolds.
After the opening, it's 1924 (Harold's story), then 1957 (Nina's story) and back to 1939 for Leslie's story. After intermission, it is 1948 and Jane's stroy and then Gene's story brings it all home. It takes the performers to weave it all together - and they do.
The music is major factor as well. this time around, the musicians are on stage and that adds to the appeal. They are Cindy Blanc (piano/conductor, Emily Bressler (Reeds), Peter Minucci (Drums) and Joseph Steil (Bass).
All summer long the cast at Timber Lake Playhouse has provided a superb collection of song, dance, energy and storytelling. With "S Wonderful," it felt like an appreciation of what was witnessed on stage this season. Call it a victory lap, a fan appreciation or a thank you, as that would sum it up nicely.
"'S Wonderful is a a potent mix of beauty and talent. Call 815-244-2035. It runs through Sunday, Aug. 25. Go here for next season's lineup.
When asked after the opening night performance about the season, Executive Director James Beaudry said, "We tried to set the bar higher this year. " I think we made that happen." He was right. That was able to happen because the cast had the special mix of talent. They could do it all.