A Fitting Tribute to Fred Astaire

September 24, 2010 Arts & Entertainment, Theater

Let’s Face the Music: A Tribute to Fred Astaire, the Winter Park Playhouse’s most recent show, had me (and the elderly woman next to me) leaning forward in my red velvet seat, trying not to sing along as lead Roy Alan tapped and waltzed his way into our hearts.

About seven years ago, my family discovered the That’s Entertainment! series by MGM, chronicling the impressive number of hit musicals it produced over the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and we fell in love with Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Vera Ellen, Bing Crosby, Van Johnson, and of course, Fred Astaire. Since then, we have filled several shelves with their movies, and my mom and I have had far too many dance parties in the kitchen with Astaire and Crosby on Pandora. Needless to say, I geeked out a bit when a friend mentioned the Playhouse’s Fred Astaire tribute show.

The production exceeded my high expectations, as well as those of the senior citizens grouped around me, and I feel that they should have some say (after all, they did reserve 25 cents of their weekly allowance to see the films’ premieres). My cute old lady friend and I repeatedly applauded as the cast made it look incredibly easy to tell Astaire’s grand life story while performing thirty dance numbers.

Alan, who starred in, choreographed and conceived the idea for the show, did a remarkable job bringing Astaire’s elegant grace to the stage. His performance constantly reminded us of the joy he took in dancing. Alan was supplemented by high school junior Cameron Jordan, who played Astaire in his earlier years. Alan and Jordan clearly outperformed the other three members of the cast, who played Astaire’s sister Adele and five of his partners. Laura Hodos played Adele and narrated the show, bringing life and personality to every line. She was relatable and silly in her banter with Astaire, and the audience loved it. Her younger counterpart was Aubrey Peeples, who had wanted to play the role of young Adele since the original production of the play in 2007. Left to play the other supporting characters was Alexandra Schudde, who donned a blond wig to play Ginger Rogers, a black wig for Eleanor Powell, and red for Rita Hayworth.

Schudde juggled the characters well, however, interacting charismatically with Alan, espe cially well in fun numbers like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” from Shall We Dance and “Pick Yourself Up” from Swing Time. Along with those two, I particularly enjoyed Alan’s solo tap routines, such as the opening to the show, “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,” from Top Hat and “I’d Rather Lead a Band” from Follow the Fleet. It was quite enjoyable to watch the emotion of his character come out, not through voice, but through dance.

The show was a tremendous success, boasting both Alan’s great talent as well as fantastic live music. It was yet another great production from the Winter Park Playhouse, central Florida’s only professional musical theater. The next Playhouse production, Pump Boys and Dinettes, plays Oct. 15 through Nov. 7; find out more about it or other upcoming shows by calling (407) 645-0145, or checking www.winterparkplayhouse.org. With inexpensive student rush tickets, I assure you that you will see me there.

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