By Tim O'Brien
AM 1240 WSDR
O'Brien News Service
MT. CARROLL - It's no coincidence that the theme for the 50th season at Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll is "New Ways To Dream."
That is what the business they are in is all about. Plus, that is also a recurring theme in the kickoff production, "Sunset Boulevard," by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
From the outset, the audience is transported both in time and place. That place is Hollywood and the time is the Golden Age, where dreams are made and broken, only with hopes of being rediscovered and loved once again. And it's that line between reality and illusion that always seem to overlap.
This TLP production plays perfectly into that theme, and the audience itself feels like they are playing a part in the lives of these characters. Most notably, Norma Desmond (Katherine L. Condit), Joe Gillis (Brandon Ford), Betty Schaefer (Colleen Johnson) and Max Von Mayerling (John Chase).
Each portrayal was played to perfection and the singing top-notch. We cared about these characters, and our hopes and dreams were dashed right along with theirs.
Yet, at times, this play is haunting and exhilarating, and then downright heartbreaking.
Simply put, this is a stunning adaptation and the ideal way to start what is sure to be a fine summer for that theater in the woods, known as Timber Lake Playhouse.
- Outstanding lighting and scenery. The way the motion pictures (black and white, blended with the live action was a nice cohesive part of the show. I'm always amazed how they act, move the sets and act again. The timing and practice needed, is immense. And to note, per Artistic Director James Beaudry, they had 11 days to get this one staged.
- Max (John Chase) bears a closer look. When he first emerges, one thinks, fine, the butler. As the show progresses, a remarkable turn and acting force was he. And a great character.
- Can't say enough about the leads of Katherine Condit and Brandon Ford as Norma and Joe. Even with a humorous wardrobe incident, it did not hurt a thing. In fact, it made them more human. Ford can be heard here on this site below talking about TLP and his roles. He owned the role as Joe Gillis. He will be a force this summer. Condit surely made this jump from the stage right into the audience's lap. A splendid take on this forgotten silent film star. She takes those songs and adds depth and passion.
- Colleen Johnson as Betty, is so likable it hurts. From singing with grace to falling in love with Joe, it works.
- The rest of the cast seemed to relish the script, the singing and being a part of Hollywood in the woods. Even co-founder Andrew Bro, was on hand to play the role of Cecil B. DeMille. A nice touch.
- This was the opening salvo to TLP's 50th season. President of the Timber Lake Playhouse Board of Directors Larry Libberton, offered up many thanks and introduced those in attendance. One could see the love and passion this community has for theater. Surely dreaming new dreams and reliving some old ones, were those in attendance of this night (June 1).
- A cake was presented after the show and yes, it was shared. Before the show, a welcome greeted the patrons with wine, cheese and fruits, among other items, thanks to Shaw Foods of Mt. Carroll.
For tickets and more information, call the box office at 815-244-2035.
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