It’s a show worth catching, Plaza Theatre Co.’s production of “The Will Rogers Follies: A Lifetime in Revue” but catch it quick as only four performances remain.
The play plays 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, then 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Though his is a name I’ve known all my life, my personal knowledge of Rogers was a humorist, star of screen and radio and that, before I was born, somebody for some reason named a coliseum after him in my hometown of Fort Worth.
Whether your knowledge of Rogers is as scant or more filled out than mine, Plaza’s take on his life delivers an informative, and very entertaining, primer on what made him tick, what he accomplished and why his star still shines nearly 90 years after his death.
Switching between the then and present day — Rogers as played by JaceSon Barrus makes frequent reference to current events not to mention his own demise in 1935 — the play delivers an extravaganza of music, comedy, history and heartfelt moments. An intoxicating mix as well of realism and fantasy what with the action of one section taking place in outer space. Not to mention the show at one point literally going to the dogs, the importance of the Times-Review and the fact that, for this production only, Plaza has added Moon Pies to their regular concession offerings of popcorn, pop and candy. Crazy stuff indeed, but it all makes sense upon seeing the play.
Along the way a love story figures in between Rogers and Betty Blake (Ashley Tysor) his wife to be, as does the price of fame, the often difficult dynamics of father/son relationships and wacky aviator Wiley Post (Tom Bloss) who perished along with Rogers in Alaska after their plane went down.
For all the funny business and at times chaos on stage, the play remains focused enough throughout to fairly accurately recount the events of Rogers’ life and enormity of his fame and impact.
Rogers homespun observations of humor pepper the show as do musical and dance numbers elaborate.
Credit costume designer Tina Barrus for capturing the 1920s and ‘30s so well yet at times going a bit elaborate, one cast member at one point appears to be dressed as a cake.
JaceSon Barrus captures perfectly Rogers’ warm if laconic demeanor and even look while Browning and Bloss shine in their respective roles. Rogers’ father, Clem Rogers (Evan Faris) balances the difficult feat of bringing a mix of humor, tenderness, anger and tension to his role.
The musical numbers accentuate, enhance and drive along the action of the play with several of the songs being good enough to stand on their own outside the context of the play, always a good sign.
All in all, “The Will Rogers Follies” delivers another Plaza success, but also one that wraps its run this weekend so grab your ticket fast.
New York bound
Plaza Operations Director Aaron Siler last week proudly announced that several Plaza Academy students have been chosen to attend iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival summer camps in New York, honors the students earned through their participation in the Atlanta JTF festival earlier this year.
“We have 12 students who were chosen to go to New York,” Siler said. “Which, no other theater group [participating in the Atlanta festival] had that many students chosen. But, they still have to raise money to pay for their plane tickets to New York.”
Which is to say, should you feel in the mood to assist a dozen good and talented Cleburne kids chase their dreams then by all means feel free to toss a few bucks Plaza’s way to help out.
For tickets and other information, visit plaza-theatre.com or call 817-202-0600.
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