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Published: Thursday, 8/4/2005

Young thespians take on Li'l Abner, Cinderella

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joe Jackson plays the role of Marryin' Sam in Li'l Abner. Joe Jackson plays the role of Marryin' Sam in Li'l Abner.
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Two musicals, presented by young performers for young people, are due on area stages this weekend.

At the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, Li'l Abner takes the spotlight.

"It's a revival of an old musical based on Al Capp's cartoon," said Rep artistic director Gloria Moulopoulos. "There are lots of opportunities for kids to have parts."

The cast comprises young performers ages 13-19, most of whom are either in high school or are recent graduates. Sixteen schools in northwest Ohio and southwest Michigan are represented, she said.

The high school venture is a first for the Rep, Moulopoulos said. "In the winter, the kids are so busy they can't put the time into a production like this. In the summer, we were able to attract a wide variety of performers."

The play concerns the rural village of Dogpatch, U.S.A., and the antics of its inhabitants, including Li'l Abner and his parents, Mammy and Pappy Yoakum; Daisy Mae, and several strange and wonderful people, including Marryin' Sam, General Bullmoose, Stupefyin' Jones, Moonbeam McSwine, and Dr. Rasmussen T. Finsdale.

Dogpatch is looking forward to the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race, when the unattached women can acquire a sweetheart, simply by chasing and catching one. Daisy Mae has her eye on Li'l Abner.

Unfortunately, the government has its eye on Dogpatch. The bigwigs in Washington have decided that it's the most unnecessary place in the entire nation, and the residents are ordered to evacuate so that atomic testing can take place.

But the independent rural folk are not about to give in without a fight.

The show, with music by Gene de Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, opened on Broadway in 1956 and ran for two years. Songs include "Jubilation T. Cornpone," "Progress Is the Root of All Evil," and "The Matrimonial Stomp."

For the Rep's production, Li'l Abner is played by Drew Ochoa of Whitmer High School; Daisy is Cassandra Zahm of Bedford High; Mammy and Pappy Yoakum are Emily Gedert of Notre Dame and Mark Hoffman of Whitmer, and Marryin' Sam is Joe Jackson, a Whitmer graduate.

Directing Li'l Abner is Amelia Sheperd, and her sister, Sara, is the choreographer. Veterans of the Young Rep program, Amelia is a recent graduate of Wright State University in Dayton, and Sara attends the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Their father, Scott, is the music director, and their mother, Sandy, designed the sets.

"Li'l Abner" is scheduled at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, 16 Tenth St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Information: 419-243-9277.

Orphan Productions, which has presented Annie Warbucks, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Seussical the Musical in this, the first year of its existence, is preparing a production of Disney's Cinderella Kids.

The show is the culmination of a weeklong theater workshop for 50 youngsters, ages 7 to 15, according to secretary Jennifer Boney Reynolds. Jane Williams and Brandi Shepard are co-directors, and Donna Cheung is coordinating costumes, props, and scenery.

"This is one of four classics that Disney reworked to make more accessible and age-appropriate for young performers," Reynolds said.

The songs were rearranged to make it easier on young voices, and lots of roles were expanded to give more youngsters a chance to participate.

"There's some really clever choreography, too," Reynolds said. For example, the pumpkin that turns into Cinderella's coach is made up of paper parasols that separate to become the wheels, the body, and the roof of the vehicle.

"It's a really nice ensemble piece, Reynolds said. "It gives everyone a chance to be a star."

Orphan Productions will present "Disney's Cinderella Kids" at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant St. Both shows are free, and doors open at 10 a.m. and noon for first-come, first-served seating. Information: 419-824-0106.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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