Saturday, November 3, 2012

REVIEW: CYT's "Great American Tall Tales" is a Great Tale with a Good Cast of Kids

"Great American Tall Tales" was written for Christian Youth Theater (CYT) by Adam and Courtney Walsh and it was written extremely well. The story is well conceived, the dialogue good and the catchy songs delightful in every way. I could see it being done on Broadway (with adults) to great success. Whether on the Great White Way or here in SW Washington it is a tale worth seeing.

Aimee Martin as Slue Foot Sue and Brandon Doak as Pecos Bill.
To be honest though I couldn't hear every word of the show. There weren't any problems with the wearable mics that were used, but there were problems when they weren't. That's going to be my biggest beef against the show, so I'm getting it out of the way. Several principles were not miced and I had to strain to hear them on occasion especially when contrasted with those that were miced with whom they were conversing. It was like this:

Person Two: You talking to me?

Get the picture? Don't, don't, don't do that to your audience. Everyone with lines or solos needs to be on EQUAL ground.

Aside from that the show was pretty good. It came off somewhere between a Disney Channel (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody or That's So Raven) or Nickelodeon (True Jackson or iCarly) kid's TV show and a VBS (Vacation Bible School) program. That is to say the acting is more kid friendly in a lowbrow kind of way than for adults and it's kids after all (some with and some without great talent) and parents like to see their kids in programs, regardless.

See, the thing is with CYT (and MPAA), though there are auditions, parents pay to have their kids in the show and, if they pay, their kid is pretty much in the show if they are needed, though some may be cut. Then the director casts the best of what he/she has been dealt in the leads and the rest go to the very large chorus. Which (like in this case) is a lot more girls than boys and so you have girls playing boys (like in this case). [An ideal cast for CYT, I'm told, is 65 children.]

However, the important thing to remember is that the kids are getting experience and they are being trained and are growing in the craft and, most of all, they find encouragement (there's nothing like enthusiastic applause).

The Great and the Tall

From left to right: Annie Christmas, Annie Oakley, Davy Crockett, Sally Ann
Thunder, Paul Bunyan, Slue Foot Sue, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed and
Pecos Bill in CYT's  "Great American Tall Tales."
And the performers in "Tall Tales" deserve the applause. Acting, in general, was good; no one was terrible and several were very good. All the chorus numbers were excellent. All of the the solos were at minimum bravely executed and mostly on key, though some slipped around a little and lacked a trained or well-practiced quality. However, a handful of the leads were really quite good.

Standout vocalists were Savannah Wetzler (Miss Peele), Maddie Hays (Johnny Appleseed) and Aimee Martin (Slue Foot Sue). All I Know, sung by Miss Wetzler, was my favorite of the show. The song had weight, a beautiful melody and was nicely delivered. Plant a Seed, sung by Miss Hays, was done well and had a good message. Abbi Decker (Darcy) also sang quite well (and she always looked like she was having fun).

Aimee Martin (Slue Foot Sue)
The big star of the show was veteran performer (this is her eleventh show with CYT) Aimee Martin. She was the best actress, had the best voice, the biggest smile, the most energy, and she snapped out the choreography like a pro.

Front row, left to right: Alice (Tori Jensen), Darcy (Abbi Decker) and
Travis (Tyler Lugenbeal).
Other standout actors were Emma Murgueitio (Sally Ann Thunder), Emily Warner (Annie Oakley), Brandon Doak (Pecos Bill) who sorta sounds like Larry the Cucumber when he sings (and I like that), Savannah Wetzler (Miss Peele), Madison Jooste (Sloane), Delainey Patterson (Ms. Stinson) and Tori Jensen (Alice). After Martin my other two faves were Jensen--a fun little bundle with a great spirit and lots of energy, and Patterson, who was so perfectly snippy and carried her part very well (I can't believe she's just thirteen).

The Telling of the Tale

The primary unit set was extremely well done--very nice. Some of the add-ins were troublesome to the crew, but the changes were generally quick. The lighting was adequate for the most part (a little dim at times for a musical, but the pallet was nice). The costumes were great. The show moved along at a good clip and stayed interesting.

The dance numbers were well conceived. The larger group choreography tended to be simpler while the smaller ensemble of leads had more difficult material. Kristi L. Foster served as choreographer and as director. The direction overall was good. At rare times, however, it seemed uninspired; mainly early in the show when there were uninteresting clumps, straight lines or semi-circles or throughout the production in crowd scenes (which are challenge for directors anyway).

And speaking of crowd/chorus scenes, it's hard to get a count from the program because of overlapping roles, but there were close to 40 performers--sometimes too many for the stage. But that's the nature of these kinds of shows; the more kids you can get in the show the more money you make off parents. (I know, I come off like a broken record.)

The "American" Way

Keep in mind that, like the American republic (of the people, by the people, for the people), this show was written of (about) kids, performed by kids and for kids, and you'll get what you expect (plus a little bit more). Children, and relatives and friends of the performers, will love the show. I enjoyed it, too.

Description: When a small group of kids sneak into a dusty museum exhibit during a field trip their adventure (and the exhibit) comes to life. They meet the beloved characters of American folklore and must save them from being forgotten by the next generation and being discarded by a messed-up curator.

Performances are at Fort Vancouver High School, now through Nov. 11. Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.

Advanced purchase adult tickets are $12 (a little steep for this), youth, senior and group tickets are $9; family day tickets for November 3 are $9 in advance. All tickets are $2 more at the door. There are also school day performances as follows: Tuesday, November 6 at 9:30 and 11:45 a.m. Tickets for these performances start at $5.

For tickets go to or call 360-­750-­8550 or email

By Gregory E. Zschomler

All photos provided by CYT as photography is not allowed.

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