Trinity Adams wows as Annie Oakley for Summer Stock Austin

August 3, 2017  

Only two Austin theatrical performances this year have sent me into the streets singing, nay, shouting the praises of a performer. Both are relative newcomers to the scene, but if there’s any justice, they won’t ever become strangers.

The first was Chanel‘s profoundly inspired take on Billie Holiday in Zach Theatre‘s “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill.” How many times I’ve turned over in my memory her point-on patter, unvarnished vulnerability, ravishing voice and total embrace of the audience.

The second was Trinity Adams as Annie Oakley in Summer Stuck Austin‘s “Annie Get Your Gun,” currently running at the Long Center. Just 17, Adams is an award-winning actor who recently graduated from Dripping Springs High School.

Hey, Dripping, do you know what ya got in this gal?

The minute Adams bounded onto the stage at the Rollins Studio Theatre, the room just expanded exponentially to take in her radiance. Not that everything she did in the Irving Berlin classic was big and grand, no, she electrified the audience with slightest grin or aside.

As my theater companion, Suzie Harriman, pointed out, she’s like Broadway star Sutton Foster. No matter where she is in director Scott Thompson‘s stage-filling production — you won’t believe how well these kids dance! — your eyes are drawn to Adams.

She was capably complemented by Max Corney and a host of other troupers. Almost all of them also appear in “Spamalot,” a wonderfully cute Summer Stock musical directed by Ginger Morris. In that show, I was particularly taken with Lydia Kam, Ben Roberts, Michael Morran, Coy Branscum and Matthew Kennedy.

But why kid? All the the Summer Stock players are talented. Adams, however, at this precious theatrical moment, shines like the brightest stars in the heavens.

Summer Stock Austin’s ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ brings young stars to stage

August 8, 2017

Every year, Summer Stock Austin presents repertory productions of several musicals, classic and new, starring and crewed by the best and brightest of Texas’ young performers from throughout the state’s high schools and colleges. This summer, the series includes “Annie Get Your Gun,” a charming production that introduces a bright new star to the Austin stage, running through Aug. 12 at the Long Center.

“Annie Get Your Gun” is loosely based on the true story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveling show in the late 1800s alongside her husband, fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler. Oakley and Butler first met when she defeated him in a traveling-show shooting match, and this meeting becomes the inciting incident in the musical, as created in the 1940s by Dorothy and Herbert Fields, who wrote the book, and songwriting legend Irving Berlin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

The Summer Stock Austin production of “Annie Get Your Gun” wisely uses some of the revisions created by Peter Stone for the 1999 Broadway revival of the show, which eliminates some of the most insensitive and racist caricatures of American Indians that were originally part of the show (though a few wince-worthy moments do remain).

As with most of Summer Stock Austin’s fair, the production most potently serves as a performance vehicle for Texas’ rising musical theater stars, and director/choreographer Scott Thompson puts his vibrant, talented cast center stage with few frills to get in the way of their direct, energetic engagement with the audience. The entire ensemble helps to create a dynamic performance that moves at a rapid pace, with some notable standouts.

Ben Roberts, as Charlie Davenport, is pitch-perfect and hilarious in a thankless role that switches hastily between exposition and sarcasm. David Peña treats the role of Chief Sitting Bull with enough respect, dignity and good-heartedness that he manages to overcome some of the outdated humor. Brian Corkum and Kate Brimmer, meanwhile, as the young lovers Tommy Keeler and Winnie Tate, shine with innocence, charm and great chemistry as both scene and dance partners.

The standout of the show, though, is its leading lady, Trinity Adams, as Annie Oakley. With a vocal acuity that covers both the comedic and romantic sides of the Berlin score and a remarkably expressive face that is able to simultaneously connote comedy and elegance, Adams is a dynamo of musical theater talent, and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her in Austin. She is aided and abetted in her talent by her leading man, Max Carney, as Frank Butler, whose smooth charm keeps the character likable despite the play’s skewed and sometimes troubling gender dynamics.

Though a classic of the American musical theater, aspects of “Annie Get Your Gun” may not have aged very well. Fortunately, the prodigious strength of its young cast helps Summer Stock Austin’s production overcome this hurdle and create a fun, quick-moving, family-friendly show with a leading lady whose name we should expect to someday see in lights.

‘Annie, Get Your Gun’
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive
Cost: $20-$47
Information: 512-474-5664, thelongcenter.org

Monty Python's Spamalot

With Eric Idle's screen-to-stage musical spoof, Summer Stock Austin makes the Knights of the Round Table so very enjoy-able

REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH COBBEFRI., AUG. 4, 2017

Lydia Kamm as Lady of the Lake in Monty Python's Spamalot (Photo by Summer Stock Austin)

Musical theatre fans will recall the classic Camelot, Lerner and Loewe's earnest and somewhat silly depiction of the court of Camelot and the adventures of the Knights of the Round Table. Then there's Monty Python's Spamalot, an entirely silly depiction of the Knights of the Round Table. Relatively speaking, its humor and commentary fall safely within the comedic range of author Eric Idle (book and lyrics).

Which is to say, it's funny and occasionally outrageous, but not as outrageous as the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, on which Spamalot is based. It's a different creature, really. One is a film that broke cinematic convention with a humor and sensibility rooted in the comedy troupe's Oxbridge background. The other is what happens when you force a movie like that to conform to the current conventions of Broadway shows. For example, the song "Knights of the Round Table" in the film is over almost before it's begun. The humor comes from seeing armored knights form a sloppy kick line, interspersed with quick glimpses of the general nastiness of medieval life. In the musical, it's an extended, polished number whose humor comes from the deliberately over-the-top presentation, with grand costumes and amusing choreography.

Summer Stock Austin's production of Spamalot is strong. The high school and college student company has great singers and dancers, and their many British accents are quite good considering there's no credited dialect coach. (The French is nearly there.)

With this kind of comedy, there's a fine line to walk between overly broad and too subtle, and the cast, as directed and choreographed by SSA co-founder and producer Ginger Morris, finds a good balance most of the time. As Sir Robin, Coy Branscum delivers an especially delightful performance. He occasionally does that surprisingly difficult thing of just standing there without moving his hands or arms, trusting that stillness can sometimes be even funnier than big gestures. Spamalot doesn't afford much in the way of women's roles outside of the chorus, but the Lady of the Lake supplies some truly great songs. Lydia Kamm has an impressive and powerful voice, and she takes a part without much meat and makes it fabulous.

Like Monty Python and the Holy GrailMonty Python's Spamalot is an ensemble show with a lot of talent in the cast. Summer Stock Austin's production is an enjoyable addition to Austin's summer musical season.

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside
www.summerstockaustin.org
Through Aug. 12
Running time: 2 hr.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 4, 2017 with the headline: With Footwork Impecc-able