New & Notable
THEATER REVIEW: Backwards in High Heels’ a powerful visual spectacle
Musical worthy of Giancarlo’s enduring legacy
By LEE JUILLERAT H&N Regional Editor
Oct 2, 2014
It’s a show Jim Giancarlo would have loved.
“Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Rogers Musical,” is the Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s first play since the death of Giancarlo, one of the Cabaret’s founders who died in August. While it’s not a tribute, the “Backwards” is enlivened with the high-energy dancing and intricate staging techniques that were signatures of Giancarlo, who directed and produced more than 100 Cabaret musicals since the Ashland theater opened in 1986.
“Backwards” tells the life of Rogers through song and dance, with Kelsay Slater as the dancer and movie star who eventually settled in Medford.
While the show features flashy choreography, classic George Gershwin and Irving Berlin hit songs and often dazzling acting, “Backwards” isn’t just an entertainment. Written by Lynette Barkley and Christopher McGovern, the play probes into Rogers’ often difficult times, from her over-protective mother to a series of failed marriages to sometimes testy times with her managers and long-time dance partner, Fred Astaire.
“Backwards” moves forward from Rogers’ as a headstrong 15-year-old growing up in Texas. She wins a Charleston contest that allows her to go on tour, a cross-country swing that, although not mentioned in the play, included a performance that, as the Cabaret staff are proud to point out, at the then new Medford theater, The Craterian.
Her life story bounds forward, enhanced by liberal use of film clips of Rogers at different stages of her career. Some of the scenes, crafted by projection engineer Mitch Weisbrod, are especially impacting, including several of Rogers dancing with Astaire, performing moves that Slater and John Ramsey, who appears as Astaire, strive to duplicate. The play’s title stems from Rogers’ comments about the challenge of having to dance backwards in high heels during her many 1930s films with Astaire.
Slater, dances and sings, and also comes convincingly across as the self-driven Rogers. The strong supporting cast, which include Ramsey, Christie Dabreau, Robert Arthur Altman, Renee Hewitt and Tim Fuchs, does it all, variously doing everything from wacky dances to beautiful waltzes while also singing an array of hit songs and displaying nuanced acting skills.
The classic songs associated with Rogers are part of the fare — “Fascinating Rhythm,” “A Fine Romance,” “They All Laughed,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “Embraceable You” — along with some written by McGovern for the show, including the delightful “Tame Those Feet,” “The Domesticity” and “The Art of Sport.” “Changed Partners” is masterfully inserted as the story of Rogers’ five divorces is disclosed.
“Backwards” is often brightened with cameos of famous performers, with the best featuring a stuck-on-herself Ethel Merman.
The acting, dancing, singing, along with the creative videos and imaginative staging, powerful script and Patterson’s creative directing, combine to make “Backwards In High Heels” a visual spectacle, one worthy of Giancarlo’s enduring legacy.
Patterson To Perform One Man Show Live, Laugh, And Love It All! At Oregon Cabaret Theatre
Patterson's one man showLIVE, LAUGH, AND LOVE IT ALL! was scheduled to be a one night only event on March 11th at 8PM at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Due to the overwelming response, a matinee performance has been added at 2PM on March 11th. The show will feature Music Director, John Taylor on Piano and Tom Freeman on Drums. Click here for ticket information.
Patterson Directs, Choreographs, And Stars In Five Guys Named Moe In South Florida
The Stage Door Theatre, a Regional theatre in South Florida presented Patterson's revival of Clark Peter's Tony Award winning musical revue, Five Guys Named Moe. The show features the music of Louis Jordan who was known as the original father of R&B and Rock & Roll. Patterson also co-starred in this production as No Moe which also starred Brandon Hanks No Max, Micah Jeremiah Mims as Four Eyed Moe, Daryl L. Stewart as Little Moe, Philip Bolton and Big Moe, & Don Seward as Eat Moe (later replaced by Lamont Lamar Whitaker). This production is the 5th re-mount of Patterson's staging after playing the Depot Theatre, Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Lake Placid Performing Arts Center, Cohoes Music Hall and touring the Adirondack Theatre Region. Read the reviews.
For producing or investment opportunities CLICK HERE.
Broadway Legend, Leslie Uggams Attends Performance of Swing! At The Wick Theatre Featuring CGP
My One And Only at Cohoes Music Hall Recieves Rave Reviews
Patterson directed and choreographed a revival of George & Ira Gershwin's MY ONE AND ONLY, a tap spectacular that made it's Broadway debut in 1983. The original production starred top model Twiggy and Tommy Tune who also directed and choreographed the show. Patterson teamed with Scenic & Lighting designer, David Goldstein, to re-imagine this new production for the Cohoes Music Hall, a regional theatre located in the Capitol Region. The show featured Erin West & Nicky Rominello and a cast of 17. Check out the reviews:
Patterson Guest Directs & Choreographs Kiss Me Kate at West Michigan Unniversity
Patterson served as guest Director/Choreographer for the West Michigan University production of the Cole Porter Tony Award-winning musical Kiss Me Kate. The show has become one of the most beloved musical comedies of the century, packed full of merriment and fun. Love interests and costars Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi go on a raucous journey in this zany and delightfulstory of two individuals who find themselves in backstage chaos before acknowledging true love. Check out the review here.
"...Director Christopher George Patterson successfully accomplishes what he set out to do: Put on a charming classic musical that pays homage to the silver screen musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. It’s exactly the kind of gorgeous, funny, sweeping musical that leaves its audience members literally dancing out the door, humming one of the many witty and memorable Cole Porter songs."