Monday, May 12, 2014

REVIEW: OCT's "Fancy Nancy" is a Dancy, Prancy, Joyful Romp for Everyone

Oregon Children’s Theatre presents the West Coast Premiere of "Fancy Nancy: The Musical" based on the books by Jane O’Connor.

Don your most glamorous attire, pour a spot of tea, and join OCT for the most elegant musical of the year—"Fancy Nancy!" Nancy and her pals Wanda, Rhonda, Bree, and Lionel are super-excited to be dancing in a school recital. Nancy is sure she will be cast as a shimmering mermaid, but ends up as an ordinary tree instead. When Bree lands the coveted role, Nancy realizes that being fancy comes in many forms—all it takes is a dash of imagination, camaraderie, and a little joie de vivre!

Nancy (Madison Wray) and her friends Lionel (Brendan Long) and
Bree (Haley Ward) are ready for the school play in Oregon Children's
Theatre's "Fancy Nancy." Photo by Owen Carey.
"Fancy Nancy" was originally produced at New York's Vital Theater, the same company that originally brought the wildly popular "Pinkalicious" to the stage.

It is based on the bestselling children’s book series by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Book and lyrics bySusan DiLallo. Music and lyrics by Danny Abosch. Original orchestrations by Danny Abosch. This magnifique musical—that’s fancy for great show—is sure to please.

“I love Nancy,” says director, Stan Foote. “She just aspires to be a better person. And when she comes up against obstacles, she recovers and glories in the greater good!”

Some of the show’s big ideas include:
  • Adding a little extra color, music, vocabulary or fancy flair is a great way to make your day special.
  • Being fancy isn’t just for girls.
  • Even when we try our hardest, we can’t always get what we want.
  • It’s okay to feel jealous sometimes.
  • Make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in.
  • Celebrate the victories of others
Nancy (Madison Wray) and her friends Lionel (Brendan Long) and
Bree (Haley Ward) have très magnifique (that's fancy for cool) tea parties
in Oregon Children's Theatre's "Fancy Nancy." Photo by Owen Carey.

Shining Stars:

The cast features Madison Wray as Nancy, Haley Ward as Bree, Annie Barker as Rhonda,
Hannah Wilson as Wanda, Brendan Long as Lionel, and Dani Baldwin as Nancy’s mom.

Madison Wray (whom we reviewed as Mildred in OCT's "Zombie in Love") was smashing! (that's a fancy British word for "wonderful") in the lead. She brought an extreme amount of energy and enthusiasm to the role. She sang wonderfully and danced really well. Such a treat (makes me want a cupcake). A lot of talent here folks.

The effervescent and extremely talented Haley Ward (who I saw but did not review in OCT's "The Magic Treehouse") was excellent as Bree. That girl can sing and dance as well. I like how she throws everything she has into the roles she plays. What an expressive and rubbery face, too!

I also enjoyed the "twins" Annie Barker as Rhonda and Hannah Wilson as Wanda. Both girls did a nice job and were strong, expressive dancers. Both had lovely voices. I think of all the actresses in the show these two best expressed the child-like manners of the ages they represent.

The remaining cast members, Dani Baldwin (Nancy's mom) and Brendan Long (Lionel), also did well. Long, as the token boy, seemed unnecessary really and not quite a match for the girls, but was none-the-less enjoyable and talented.

The book on which the
musical is based.
Baldwin was good, but she played the mom too straight--too natural, too realistic--while the other roles had a comic nature to them. She is talented, but even though she is "the voice of reason" in the production, I felt there should have been more of comic edge to the portrayal. I loved her delivery of the wonderful song "The Best Part I Play is Your Mother."

One final observation about the acting: During opening night a bead necklace broke unexpectedly. Neither Wray or Ward broke character. Oh, sure they laughed and tried to deal with the random event, but they did so in character and with professionalism. Such a joyful, spontaneous moment.

The creative team includes: 

Stan Foote (Director), Darcy White (Musical Director), Daniel Meeker (Scenic Designer), Mikaela Gladstone-Saucedo (Costume Designer), Kristeen Crosser (Lighting Designer), Sara Mishler Martins (Choreographer), Em Gustason (Sound Designer), and Kaye Blankenship (Props Master).

All did a merveilleusement exceptionnel (that's a fancy French way to say "wonderfully exceptional") masterful job. I loved the beautiful, but simple set, the equally colorful costumes, the fun dances, the lovely lighting and, well, everything. Perfecto!

SW Washington's Local Angle

15 year-old Skyview High 
School sophomore 
Hannah Wilson.
It never ceases to amaze me what talent pours from our little corner of the state--Washington State that is. County Clark. And several of our local students have appeared in OCT productions such as Lindsey Koehler in "Zombie in Love" and Ashlee Walbaurer in "The Magic Treehouse" (she also served as Apprentice Choreographer for this show) to name those I know of.

Now 15 year-old Skyview sophomore Hannah Wilson joins the OCT distinction. Her role in "Fancy Nancy," as the twin Wanda, marks her debut with the company. Not just anyone can get a role with OCT and Wilson definitely deserves it.

According to an article in The Columbian she said, “I do want to do this for the rest of my life. Theater, it is my passion." We look forward to seeing here again and again in the limelight around the metro area.

Read more about her here.

The Info

"Fancy Nancy" is playing now through June 1; 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays at at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. Portland, Ore.

Audience members are invited to attend in their most elegant attire—that’s fancy for stylish.

Tickets are $18-$30 for adults and $15-$26 for children (group rates also available). Box Office: 503-228-9571 or TicketMaster (503-790-ARTS or Recommended for ages 4 and up.

By Gregory E, Zschomler
Photos, by Owen Carey, provided.
For another perspective from Dennis Sparks click here.

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