If you came for a Shakespearean drama or a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, you came to the wrong place. If you came for a great evening of entertainment with plenty of laughs and excellent singing, not to mention delicious food, then the Archerwill Centennial Centre was the place to be on opening night Friday, Nov. 29.
Gathered to take a bow after the opening night performance of Inspector Incognito and the Kansas City Kid in Archerwill on Nov. 29 are (left to right, back row) prompter Sue Calder, Annette Kozak, Doris Wilson, Blaize Lipinski, Garry Lisoway, Mason Campeau, Greg Maslin, Ryan Calder; (third row) Sarah Barker, Betty Schweitzer, Sharon Quaal, Kassie Ord; (seated, second row) Myrna Christianson, Caelan Lupien, Megan Miller, Lisa Lupien, Sheila Graham; (front) Shayla Christianson, Montana Graham, Cailen Schweitzer and Holly Schweitzer.
Inspector Incognito and the Kansas City Kid is a farce on the nepotism and corruption involved in the development of Tumbleweed, Arizona Territory, in the 1800s.
As the curtain comes up on the Oats Boarding House, the cast performs the jaunty tune “Trouble in Tumbleweed.” You would expect to have such a musical introduction accompany any of the old Western movies that Hollywood produced; it sets the tone for the entire play.
Obidiah Oats, mayor of Archerwill — er, Tumbleweed (the cast used this intentional faux pas quite effectively) — deserves a heap of trouble. Played by Ryan Calder, Mayor Oats has been hired by a Boston businessman to develop the town. Instead of spending the businessman’s money wisely, Mayor Oats has hired his entire family as businessmen. Unfortunately, they are totally incompetent. When the family learns an inspector is coming, there is panic.
A newcomer to town, huckster Professor Burns (played by Greg Maslin) is mistaken for the detective and is only too happy to take advantage of the error. In cahoots with femme fatale Lily De Lilac (played by Lisa Lupien), they soon have the flustered relatives tripping over themselves. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the real Inspector Incognito shows up.
This play was filled with witticisms and bad puns, such as the professor’s reply to the question Gert the stagecoach driver (played by director Sheila Graham) poses: “What is a medicine show without a dancing bear”?
The most challenging role in this production had to be that of Miranda Oats (played by Sharon Quaal). The mayor’s wife, described as a “culture vulture,” attempts to portray the society lady she thinks she is, but falls well short in the eyes of her fellow citizens. This role was filled with biting lines, sharp wit and vocal variety, and Quaal met and excelled at all these challenges, from her operatic renditions to her sharp responses like “You can dress up a monkey but you still have a monkey.”
This was a musical comedy because, claimed Graham with tongue in cheek, “Most of us sing off key. By choosing a musical comedy, the audience does not know if it is supposed to be that way or not.”
Off key or not, the singers did an excellent job of the dozen or so numbers throughout the piece. In a duet by Lily De Lilac and Professor Burns, the two talented voices harmonized very well. Another, by Julie Oats (played by Megan Millar) and Luther (Caelan Lupien), a smitten young prospector, gave these two young thespians a chance to show off their powerful singing voices.
There were some rookies in this year’s cast. Myrna Christianson, as the Widder Haskins, made the move from prompting to stage and did a fine job portraying the longsuffering merchant from whom the Oats are often borrowing items — and forgetting to pay. New to the theatre troupe were Sarah Barker, who took on the role of the mousy schoolmarm Opal Crabtree; Mason Campeau, assuming the role of an undertaker with a “dying” business; and Kassie Oats, the sassy chambermaid Electra. Lending a hand from the Archerwill High School were Shayla Christianson as the village doctor a.k.a. veterinarian; and Montana Graham and Cailen Schweitzer, who played giggly, wiggly teenage sisters Ottillie and Antoinette Dobbs. According to director Graham, these two did not have to stretch much to fit their roles.
Rounding out the family were returning actors Blaize Lipinski as seedy disbarred Lawyer Maxwell; Holly Schweitzer as the chicken-raising Sherriff Plunkett; Annette Kozak, the nosy postmistress who reads everyone’s mail; Garry Lisoway as the town engineer Harry Dobbs; Betty Schweitzer as his wife Victoria Dobbs, concerned with marrying off her daughters; and the only cultured person in Tumbleweed, a visiting Mrs. Baywater, played by Doris Wilson.
Wilson also had the job of decorating the set. Its 19th-century style was elegantly appointed, as Mrs. Oats would definitely demand for her establishment.
This was the Archerwill Community Players’ 12th annual dinner theatre and its 10th musical. Director Sheila Graham summed up the production. “It was the most challenging, for the performers, that we have done.” She went on to explain that there was very little physical action described in the script, so the actors had to be vigilant about projecting their onstage personas.
Reflecting upon the performance, one noted that those onstage while not directly involved in an ongoing conversation still appeared to be listening and reacting, the way people would in real life. This is a small but important thing, as it adds that touch of authenticity to a well-polished production.
Once again, a whole year is too long to wait for the next Archerwill Community Players presentation.
Break a leg!
By Pat Casement
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