The Ovation Theater summer camp program held its inaugural performance of “Jonahs Druthers” at Grace Life Church in Bristow. A small cast of children ages 7-15 shined in the religious musical, which featured acting, singing, dancing and some cowboy twang as directed by Sherry Doyle.
This pop country musical adaptation of the Old Testament, written by Cyndi Nine, Rob Howard and David Guthrie of Little Big Stuff, takes the allegory of Jonah and the Whale and retells it as a fun, old time cowboy tale for kids.
If Jonah had his druthers he would be spreading the word of God to respectable, God-fearing types; however, God chose him to spread the message to some no good heathens in the town of Nivevah, which seems to resemble Las Vegas.
When Taylor Swifty relays God’s message to Jonah via a text, Jonah takes the train in the opposite direction. Running from his destiny, Jonah runs into a world of trouble, and learns he can only run from God for so long.
The show offers an unmistakable Christian message (at one point the play equates Jonah with Jesus.) Though adults might have preferred a less literal interpretation from the chorus, the songs function as sermons within the morality play.
Ovation Theater musical director Sherry Doyle knew the play was heavily religious, but thought it was a good way teach theater, song and dance along with Christian values. In the future She plans to direct secular as well.
However, despite the play’s propensity to get preachy, its catchy tunes and comedic lines made it accessible to everyone. Moreover, it was really the lead players who brought the performance to life on Friday.
Jonah was played by 10 year-old Ofir Abramson. Luckily Abramson was cast as the star, because he easily steals the show, bringing energy, enthusiasm and comedy to the role of Jonah. Abramson portrays the preacher a good-natured, though flawed individual, who does not take himself too seriously.
Surprisingly, Abramson is a new comer to acting, but not to the stage. He said he was not nervous before the performance, because he is used to dancing hip-hop in front of big crowds for Gainesville Dance Center.
Anna Turner, age 11, also brought her precocious spirit to the role of Swifty. Even though Jonah is the prophet of Israel, Swifty is the one with a direct connection to God. Turner portrays the character as a friendly guardian, who chides Jonah, but never getting angry with him.
Turner has previous experience acting with the Pickwick Players of Loudoun County. To get her accent just right and memorize her lines, Turner said she listened to the play over and over again on a CD before writing her lines out on paper.
Both Abramson and Turner would be interested in making acting a career in their future.
Second only to the acting was the tremendous vocal talent in the show. Because of the way the musical was arranged, the lead characters are not the biggest voices. This structure allowed for a greater number of children to demonstrate their varying talents.
Allison Jordan and Cecily Thomas were two outstanding vocalist, who stood out for their solos in the performance.
The dance numbers added a lot of energy to the production but were somewhat limited by the small stage. The set effectively conveyed the Biblical play in the old west setting without being too elaborate.
Supporting cast members added to the story through their comedic relief and set the tone with their western accents.
In order of appearance, the cast included Eleanor Hrin, Amanda Gore, Christopher Lincoln, Allison Jordan, Kayley Crabb, Leah Salentine, Stephanie Waller, Garbiel Deitz, Gavin Deitz, Michelle Valcinch, Caleigh Tirrell, Lilly Kettner, Lucie Kettner, Alexandra Diaz, Hannah Moore, Hannah Tirrell, Cecily Thomas and Linley Tirrel.
The Production Team included drama and technical director Jessica Bateman, dance instructor and choreographer Kelly Blackburn, sound and lighting engineer Jim Sample, counselor Jennifer Turner and counselor in training Cecily Thomas.
Whereas student productions usually require months of practicing this one went from casting to tearing down the set in a matter of two weeks. Perhaps next year the group will return and add a second and third performance night.
More information about the Ovation Theater can be found on their website: theovationtheater.com.
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Category: Arts & Entertainment