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See Trustus Theatre's See Rock City and Other Destinations For a Warm Evening At the Theatre

Review by August Krickel

A vocal dream team, comprised of some of the best voices in local theatre, combine their talents to take us on a musical tour through famously kitschy vacation spots - Niagara Falls, The Alamo, and the title locale - in See Rock City and Other Destinations. Resembling a collection of short stories set to music, the new show at Trustus Theatre is at times inspiring, at times sentimental, at times edgy, and at times amusing. Sometimes it's all of those at once, and the resulting effect makes for a warm little evening at the theatre.

Eight actors are featured in combinations of one, two and three, in six separate vignettes. Technically all are related thematically, in that all feature someone looking for some type of connection or sense of belonging, and in most cases, someone must make an important and potentially life-changing decision. Which really just means that all six vignettes are about human beings. Three dysfunctional sisters gather to scatter their father's ashes, an elderly man is brought by his granddaughter to the site where he met his late wife, a jittery bride has second thoughts about taking the plunge - literally - and two teens cut school to hit the amusement park. The dialogue, by Adam Mathias, is simple and natural, but his lyrics allow his characters to become more eloquent, expressing their feelings to the accompaniment of Brad Alexander's pretty score.

A couple of stories are fairly traditional, wistful romances where lonely souls find one another; several play like scenes from a Woody Allen or Nora Ephron comedy, and one or two resemble cleverly witty episodes of the Twilight Zone. Chase Nelson has some of the best moments on stage, first as a true believer in search of aliens in the desert near Roswell, NM, then opposite Kendrick Marion as preppies looking for excitement among the attractions at Coney Island. Their three songs together are perhaps the most lyrical, and the most like tunes found in contemporary Broadway hits. Their interaction gets some of the show's biggest laughs, especially in a number where each tries to dominate the other, using just about every profanity imaginable. 

Many of the other songs, expertly performed by musical director Randy Moore on keyboard, Ryan Knott on cello, and Jeremy Polley on guitar, are pleasantly soft pop rock. "Grampy's Song," however, performed by Matthew DeGuire, is reminiscent of an earlier era, with echoes of Lerner and Loewe, or perhaps Schmidt and Jones (composers of stage ballads like "Try to Remember") which is a nice touch, allowing an older character to sing in the musical style of his youth. There is no weak link in the cast, from Kyle Collins as a smarmy tour guide with an agenda, to Linda Posey Collins, Vicky Saye Henderson and Caroline Weidner as the battling siblings, to Kevin Bush as an uncomplicated wanderer who takes the roadside advertisements urging him to "See Rock City" as a command to find meaning in his life.

Chad Henderson's set is minimalistic, but significantly augmented by inventive use of projected scenery from Baxter Engle. Stars over the southwestern desert, glaciers and the icy waters off Alaska, the walls of the historic Alamo, and posters depicting sideshow entertainment are among the many images we see, projected onto two screens and the side of a steep, elevated platform. That platform is put to good use, its top becoming observation decks for visitors to Rock City and Niagara Falls, and then the deck of a cruise ship, with the projected images filling in the remainder below. Director Dewey Scott-Wiley keeps a really lively pace going at all times, and ensures that her cast performs even the most random of throwaway lines, jokes, or lyrics with intensity and conviction.

While the show is intentionally episodic, each component has a clear story arc and a satisfying resolution. Actually, one plot ends ambiguously in the script, but Scott-Wiley offers a potential solution by a simple bit of blocking that creates a nice “Awwww” moment. Nevertheless, there is only so much depth to be found in a short story, which may leave some wishing for something with greater meaning. I often feel cheated when a gimmick is used, like locating the scenes at tourist destinations when in actuality the settings aren’t particularly relevant to the storylines, but here I didn’t mind at all. There's not necessarily any greater message to be found, but just about anyone who has enjoyed previous work by these talented performers will be more than satisfied by this excellently realized musical production.  See Rock City and Other Destinations runs through Sat. April 5th; visit www.trustus.org or call 803-254-9732 for ticket information.











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