BWW Review: GONE WITH THE WINDWAGON at Mosley Street Melodrama, 'Frank Lee Scarlett, I Don't Give a Damn!'
Wichita, Kansas. Population of 390, 591 and home to the top 40th outdoor celebrations in the world, The Wichita River Festival, now in its 46th year. If you've never been to River Fest, then you have missed out on hearing the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Pops Concert, or having breakfast with the Admiral, or a stellar firework show under a Kansas sky, or even the axe throwing Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show. That's right. Nothing says 'good old Midwest' like pronto pups and lumberjacks. And if you don't want to have anything to do with the crowds, then visit Mosley Street Melodrama for their current production of Gone with the Windwagon, a spoof on both the Wichita River Festival and the second most favorited novel next to the Bible, Gone with the Wind. Written by Carol Hughes and Directed by Cindy Summers, this melodrama plays every weekend from now until July 13th.
Six local actors of three gentlemen and three ladies headline the show. They are Bryson Cole (Jim Bob), Jessica Curtiss (Melanie), Shannon McMillan (Annie Bellum), Briley Meek (Sue Bob), Kyle Vespestad (Frank Lee Scarlett) and Max Wilson (Rhett Butler). The dialogue for this melodrama takes quite a bit of time to fully grasp, appreciate and understand. In fact, it is almost about forty minutes into the farce for there to appear any kind of plot, mainly the plot lines of back taxes and consenting marriage, ultimately resulting in a lack of sharp pacing at the beginning. Thankfully, it was the audience participation that gave a sense of ease and enjoyment to the presentation keeping at the very least the hilarity on track. The night I went, an audience member named Gayle to be exact, whom frankly just did not give a damn, was selected to stand every time the villain, played by Vespestad, entered onstage aiding the pacing. Wichita references were even comical and so were current jokes about CBD or cannabidiol. Props were also effectively executed by Monte Wheeler as well as costumes by Julia Faust. Overall, however, I wanted to see the revamped concept of the Mosley Street Melodrama with the use of song, dance and pop culture humor that I remember seeing earlier in the season.
The musical comedy revue, appropriately titled Take Me to the River, saved the energy of the night. Steve Hitchcock achieved wonderful choreography using elements of opposition in feet work and movement. Resident music director Tony Harshbarger wisely picked tunes pertaining to metaphors of water, rain, and of course, the river while showcasing the six principals' talent. Meek's rendition of 'Orange Colored Sky' was powerful and hilarious, especially when interacting with the patrons and touching their jaws to move their mouths to make it look like they were singing along as well. Vespestad's solo of 'Rainbow' was tender, a side he does not often get to show. Curtiss belted out 'Pocketful of Sunshine' with assured strength and volume. 'I can see clearly now' was McMillan's ballad which showed off her great breath control and beautiful voice, earning her genuine applause from the audience towards the finale. But I will have to admit, Cole's performance of 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' was quite fun, especially getting to hear a sort of rocker's style voice which is a rare find in the talent pool here in Wichita. There were even new games played with the audience and also a new sound system which meant brand-new wireless microphones for each and every performer; none being left out and a remarkable progress forward. There were some technical difficulties with the new system, but overtime, I feel these issues will be overcome. This musical revue is sure to leave you walking on sunshine.
Gone with the Windwagon runs until Saturday, July 13th with plays every Thursday through Saturday starting at 7:50 pm and now Sunday matinees starting at 2:00 pm. Buffet is still offered at every performance except Sundays. For ticket reservations, visit mosleystreet.com or by calling 316.263.0222 during the business hours of 10:00 am to 5:00 pm or visiting the box office at 234 N. Mosley Street.
Photo and Poster Design Credit: Jon Kline