August 21, 2008

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Change for the moment
Palace’s summer series seems like a success so far
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change — besides having an annoyingly long name — sounded to me like the kind of show that was made for dinner theater.

But I was pleasantly surprised at the Palace Theatre’s staging. They are producing six performances of it as part of their new community repertory program this summer.

I Love You doesn’t get too heavy or dark. It’s a reflection of male-female relationships using vignettes that are mostly songs that address some aspect of a relationship. The first song, “Cantata for a First Date,” sets the tone as a scene that one can easily relate to, and welcome the comic relief. The tune lists in detail the obnoxious and time-consuming rituals a person must go through to prepare for a date.

Though the series is billed as nonprofessional, the four actors who take on the different characters in the songs are strong vocalists. The two men are New York actors Gus Curry and Kenny Lear, who have both appeared in Palace Professional season titles. The two women are from the area and active in the theater scene. Local choreographer Jessica Scalese has also performed in Palace roles. Jennifer Sue Mallard has acted at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre as well as the Palace, off-Broadway and around New England.

One of my favorite scenes of the show was “Single Man Drought,” during which Mallard and Scalese sang what was going through their heads while sitting through mind-numbing dates. The two guys went for sketch-like comedy in several of the scenes, including that one.

The play squeezes some touching moments in with the laughs. The scene “Funerals are for dating” with Lear and Mallard is one of those, when an elderly widower tries to pick up a widow at a funeral.

Although some of the actors had done professional work, this is community theater and the actors aren’t paid, explained MarcyKate Perkins, the Palace’s marketing director. Paid Palace staff does work on the series, though. Company manager Rebecca Peterson directed I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change and Grease. Artistic director Carl Rajotte directed Disney’s High School Musical.

High School Musical had nine performances scheduled and Grease had eight. Both have three shows left, while I Love You runs twice more. The Summer Community Repertory Theatre opened July 24.

The reason New York actors who have done professional shows there are appearing is that some have family or friends in the area, and happened to be in town at the right times, Perkins said, noting, “We’re very lucky to have them.”

As for Scalese and Mallard, Perkins has noticed a crossover between professional and community theater locally.

At the Thursday, Aug. 14, show, the middle section of the orchestra level seating was mainly full, with a good number of folks sitting in the two side sections.

“It’s actually been pretty successful, which is great,” Perkins said. It’s been nice to have something on stage all year, she said. Normally, a professional children’s series runs on weekdays in the summer at the Palace, as do youth theater camps. The summer community theater series may be continued next year.

A few travelers who were staying at the Radisson sat behind me. Travelers seemed like the kind of people a repertory schedule is ideal for. Once the season is over, the Palace will have a chance to analyze more about the audience, including where they came from. The Palace has partnered with some hotels to offer tickets, particularly the series sponsor, Clarion.

At $20 for adults, the cost is higher than most area community shows, which are usually more like $10 or $15. But Perkins said she’s not aware of any complaints. “It’s a lot lower than our professional shows,” Perkins said. Those tickets can cost $40.

Perkins said ticket sales for the community repertory have gone a little better than expected. They are attracting between 200 and 300 people per show, and the historic theater seats 840.

Summer at the Palace
• High School Musical: Thursday, Aug 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
• Grease: Friday, Aug. 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m.
• I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change: Saturday, Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: adults $20, children $10. The Palace Theatre is at 80 Hanover St., Manchester. Find tickets by calling 668-5588, visiting the box office, or visit www.palacetheatre.org..


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Wake up to ‘night Mother