November 29, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
Composer and lyricist, Matt Conner (past Sig shows include Crossing, The Hollow, Nevermore, and Partial Eclipse) in collaboration with lyricist, Stephen Gregory Smith gets us in the Christmas spirit with the world premiere of Silver Belles. Set in Silver Ridge, Tennessee this rollicking musical (book by Allyson Currin) begins with a funeral. But don’t let that get you down. The death of Southern diva and Cherry Apple moonshiner, Oralene (Donna Migliaccio, but think Dolly Parton’s tongue-in-cheek Southern charm), sets in motion a crazy, countrified mission to continue their bestie’s legacy – writing and staging the fundraising Christmas pageant for the local orphans at the River of Life Church.
Determined the show must go on, three of her gal pals, Berneice (Ilona Dulaski) owner of Berneice’s Taxidermy Emporium, Gloria (Nova Y. Payton) a four-time divorcee, and Ruth Ann (Peggy Yates) a former beauty queen with mad baton-twirling skills, take up the reins. Unfortunately, Oralene’s husband, Earl (Dan Manning), still in mourning, was her guitar strumming musical composer and he’s got writer’s block. That is until Oralene gives him the inspiration and the show’s theme, “Take what you can. Give what you should, while the gettin’ is good.”
Meanwhile Earl’s best friend, Bo Jack (Naomi Jacobson), the show’s stage manager and local radio personality for the call-in show, “Swap Meet”, is under pressure from the community to deliver the news that the pageant Oralene calls “serious Christmas for serious Christians”, is still on.
The ladies are all aflutter until Oralene’s ghost returns as their as muse and they begin to see the light. Think Golden Girls meets The Andy Griffith Show for hilarious plot twists. I couldn’t help thinking this could be a terrific TV series.
It’s hard to say who gets the most laughs, Migliaccio is absolutely magical, but Dulaski is an endearing scene stealer. Berneice’s suggestion that they save production costs by using her Nativity-outfitted stuffed animals in the crèche scene, “The Friendly Beasts” is classic.
Credit goes to Karma Camp for the lively choreography, Kelly Rudolph for some clever lighting surprises, and solo pianist Jacob Kidder who keeps the spirit with a few Christmas standards interwoven with thirteen original numbers. And keep in mind these are some of Sig’s finest voices. For Sig insiders, Payton riffs off of “And I am Telling You”, from her big show Dreamgirls. Watch for it.
Highly recommended for a boatload of Christmas cheer!
Through December 31st at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.