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BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

UMPO: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN/written by Kate Pazakis/directed by Emma Hunton/musical direction by Gregory Nabours/Rockwell Table & Stage/thru September 29, 2019

Powerhouse vocalist/actress Emma Hunton (onstage for many a UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF... show) switches gears, exhibiting her directing prowess in her inaugural directorial UMPO production of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. Hunton keeps the punchlines, the pop songs, the sweet moves coming at you in a machine gun-pace with just enough time to react with laughter or applause. As expected of a project from UMPO executive producer/writer Kate Pazakis, UMPO: A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN consists of her very clever selection of pop songs to further the narrative, combined with some of the wittiest lines to parody the already existing funny moments of the Penny Marshall-directed A League of Their Own. Probably, the most memorable line from this 1992 film about a budding girls' baseball league has to be Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, the Peaches' team manager barking, "There's no crying in baseball." In this UMPO version, Garrett Marshall, with his amazing, multi-ranged vocals, follows up this iconic quote with his beautiful falsetto in The Four BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWNSeasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry," morphing into a full-on performance as the multi-selling recording group, complete with fancy footwork and doo-wop back-up by the Peaches team. Toooo funny and wellll done!!!

Show opens with the entire cast singing in harmony and dancing Mallory Butcher's inspired formation-to-formation choreography in The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter." Butcher's effectively uses bats as dance props in Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer," later presenting an intricate jitterbug, well performed by all in a medley beginning with Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like A Woman."

In Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," all the ladies receive their individual moments to show off their respective melodious pipes. Marshall, in drag, teases with a verse or two of his gorgeous falsetto.

As the sibling rivals, Natalie Masini (in the Geena Davis role of Dottie) and Amanda Kruger (in the Lori Petty role of the younger Kit) grab centerstage in their duet of a mash-up of Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" and Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." Masini's very sturdy vocals shine through all group numbers, as her Dottie's supposed to be the 'star player' on the Peaches team. Kruger seizes her opportunity to shine in Queen's "Under Pressure" and "We Are the Champion," changed to "I Am the Champion."

BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWNAnother vocal standout in this group of vocal standouts - Teya Patt as Marla Hooch. Her booming pipes coupled with her sharp comic timing nails Marla's stoned, yet seductive rendition of the classic 'It Had To Be You." Patt actually excels in three roles - Marla (with her spot-on impression of Rosie's Brooklynese), the acerbic Penny Marshall barking out her directorial orders, and the cow being milked by Masisni and Kruger. (You have to see it to believe it. Howls of laughter from all!)

One of the funniest, funniest segments features Masini and Emerson Boatwright, as husband and wife Bob and Dottie entangled in a comic ballet/love duet to Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years." (Tears from laughing so hard!) Boatwright, also as Jon Lovitz, the baseball scout, makes his vocal mark in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."

Molly Stilliens, in the Rosie O'Donnell role of Doris, com.mands. the stage in her powerful solo of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats."

Katie Powers alluringly takes the lead as Madonna's character Mae in the medley of Madonna's "Like a Prayer and Like a Virgin," sensually vamping and seducing the semi-willing Jimmy. Powers' sexy bartop writhing and very impressive full split on the floor excellently complements her strong vocals.

BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWNWait until you see what Pazakis does to the lyrics of Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes." Don't want to spoil this ingenious number of Marshall's, heightened with the dancers' props.

Musical director Gregory Nabours provides solid musical support and arrangements, as always, heading The UMPO Band with Liam Kevany on guitar, Blake Estrada on bass and Sterling Laws on drums, and Nabours himself on piano.

In UMPO's usual methodology, most parts get double cast. So depending on what performance you attend, you might see the other talent performers Pazakis has cast in these triple-threat roles.

If you haven't seen the movie, no worries. You'll still get most of the jokes, while appreciating all the incredible talent you're watching on, off and around the Rockwell stage. Just follow all the infectious laughter all around you.

BWW Review: UMPO Hits It Out Of The Park With A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWNFinal thought: Only with the combined genius of Pazakis, Hunton, Nabours and Butcher, would anyone dare to include a very serious, un-comic number to end the first act. Gabriela Carrillo gets the chance to display her potent acting chops as Betty Spaghetti, the receiver of some very bad news. In The Beatles' "Blackbird," all collectively pull off a very sad and poignant scene. There's no crying at Rockwell! Bravo to All!

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From This Author Gil Kaan