BWW Review: SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! Rocks at the Coterie

BWW Review: SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! Rocks at the Coterie

Whoever says that learning is not fun, has not seen Schoolhouse Rock Live! at The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City? Schoolhouse Rock Live! opened Friday night April 11 to a sold-out house. The show is without a doubt the best production of an already fantastic season, but they are not done yet with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang coming in June.

Based on the ABC-TV educational animated series, the Coterie production directed by Ron Megee includes marvelous choreography designed by Missy Koonce. Jeff Church, Artistic Director for the Coterie, stated the opening night production was the third performance of the day for the cast.

The production stars Emily Shackelford, Shelby Floyd, Seth M. Jones, Martin Buchanan, and Francisco Javier Villegas. Far into the future a classroom of students and their teacher land on the planet Pop Culture, a planet filled with items discarded from earth. The audience quickly learns that each item teaches a lesson, about verbs, the number three, or "Interplanet Janet" among a large array of other topics.

Sarah White designed the set, which includes a space ship, powered by the cast, and a disco ball. Costume designer Georgianna Londre Buchanan created wardrobes that were as far out as the planet Pop Culture.

Emily Shackelford plays Dori, one of the students on the space field trip. She is one of the most energetic performers in Kansas City, and she never disappoints. It would be easy to kick back and listen to her sing all day long. As if her voice were not enough her body language and facial expressions are exceptional. She is definitely the whole package, in a cute little wrapper. Shelby and she perform "Interplanet Janet" and as you listen to how marvelously their voices blend, you wonder why there is not a CD.

Shelby Floyd plays the other female student, Shulie. She has a dazzling voice whether she is singing about a noun or about women's rights to vote with, "Sufferin' Till Suffrage". It is a delight to watch as she sings, dances, and interacts with the other performers and the audience. She is such a talent that it is easy to see why Egads Theatre Company starred her in a solo production of Tell Me on a Sunday.

The teacher and leader of this highly talented expedition is Mr. E, played by Martin Buchanan. His performance is fabulous as he dances around the stage, while teaching his class and the audience. Buchanan is one of the most talented male performers in Kansas City. He previously has appeared at the Coterie in Lyle the Crocodile, Night of the Dead, and Slashdance. One of his best performances came with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre production of The Foreigner.

Seth M. Jones as Tom and Francisco Javier Villegas as George complete the cast. Both actors have superb voices and a good sense of comedic timing. Together they performed a brilliant production of "Just A Bill", with Seth manipulating the puppet, which resembles rolled papers tied with a ribbon. Seth makes his Coterie debut as Tom. He has appeared with Egads Theatre Company, Spinning Tree Theatre, and the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. Villegas has appeared at the Coterie in The Wiz and Red Badge Variations.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! continues at The Coterie Theatre through May 18. Purchase tickets at the Coterie Theatre website or call the box office at 816-474-6552 for additional information. Photos are by Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

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Steve Wilson Steve Wilson is a professional writer, artist, and photographer living in the Kansas City metropolitan area. For the last two years, he has been writing theatrical reviews, covering more than a dozen theatrical companies in the area. Previously he has written comedy material for nationally known entertainers, taught comedy writing at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and has had two books published. He continues to write for an internet news service covering sports, travel, and art in the area.

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