All theater groups make shows their own – some more than others.
The latter is the case with The Forst Inn Arts Collective and the coming-of-age musical “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”
Cast members factor into such creative elements as having actors double on instruments – some more than others. Also, members put together the choreography and took care of the set design. Doing that stuff is kind of in the soul of key players.
Also, this edition directed by company co-founder Michael Sheeks has a distinctive quality that speaks of a society broadened in 2018 versus that of 1975, when the musical was first presented. Go see this production, and you will see what I mean.
The story and characters include a lot of sassy/pubescent comedy. Action starts when the characters are nearing high school age, with all hormonal cylinders firing – though like in a jalopy.
The show’s true nature is deeper stuff about growing up. The main character, Eddie, is something like Charlie Brown stumbling through puberty and friendship and affection and quandaries and trying to envision his future. Kevin Sievert is excellent at shaping and singing Eddie. It’s a sensitive role.
Much time is spent in classroom antics – late primary and high school. The schools are Roman Catholic, so there are dealings with dominating nuns, kids being kids/misbehaving and punishments and impossible rules and tenets of faith with such quaint whatchamacallits as pagan babies, along with serio-comic considerations of “Private Parts” and “How Far Is Too Far?” (those are songs).
Trips to the confessional are filled with laughs.
So is the profound “advice” of the character Mike’s older brother, a know-all on all things religious and sexual.
Clouds of guilt and shame about “impure thoughts” comically darken the kid characters except for Felix, who is pretty much liking the experience(s).
The story is a flashback to the 1960s. Eddie has come back to school to find out something. All the frazzled energy of youth is played out, and Eddie is seen developing vibes with Becky. Becky is played Tessa Komorowski, who shares sensitivity wavelengths with Kevin Sievert in such songs as “Little Fat Girls” and “Friends, the Best Of.”
The cast works as a lively team, delivering the comedy and some fantastical scenes. One is the surreal, strobe lighted “Doo-Wha Doo Wee” led by Phillip Jindra as his character musters the courage to ask a girl to dance – with all the dramatics of super-shyness overblown and sensationalized. (Jindra has stepped away from the keyboard for the song, with Kevin Sievert taking over for him. The imagination of those two guys activates this production). The other scene is a montage surrounding senior prom night, with seriousness and silliness undulating all over.
“Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” is legend at The Forst Inn. In the inn’s previous life as home to Little Sandwich Theatre, the show was presented regularly – 19 productions at last count. Nineteen! (Maybe more). The show certainly suits the place – the place being the inn and the surrounding community and its makeup. This production strikes chords of its own.
Creative: Music and lyrics – James Quinn, Alaric Jans, from novel by John R. Powers; stage direction – Michael Sheeks; scenic design – the ensemble; music direction/main keyboards – Phillip Jindra; choreography – Kevin Sievert; costumes – Claran LaViolette; stage management – Jeff LaFond, Hannah Otto, Sean Stalvey; incidental music – Kevin Sievert, Katie Ann Sievert, Tessa Komorowski
Cast: Eddie – Kevin Sievert; Becky – Tessa Komorowski; Sister Monica/Secretary – Ariel Ducat; Sister Helen – Sam Gretz; Sister Lee – Melissa Schamburek; Father O’Reilly – Michael Sheeks/Bill Jindra; Virginia – Katie Ann Sievert; Felix – Phil Kuenzi; Mike – Kana Coonce/Jamees Willoughby; Nancy – Grace Kolb; Mary – Halle Nagel; Louie – Phillip Jindra
Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes
Remaining performances: 2 p.m. Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 6; 2 p.m. Oct. 7; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11, 12, 13; 2 p.m. Oct. 14
“Prologue”/“Get Ready, Eddie”
“The Greatest Gift”
“Little Fat Girls” – Becky
“It’s the Nuns”
“Cookie Cutters” – Sister Lee
“Queen of the May”
“Patron Saints” – Eddie
“Private Parts” – Father O’Reilly
“How Far is Too Far?” – Girls
“Act I Finale”
“Doo-Waa, Doo-Wee” – Louie
“I Must Be in Love” – Eddie
“Friends, The Best Of” – Becky, Eddie
“The Greatest Gift” (Reprise)
“Mad Bomber”/“We’re Saving Ourselves for Marriage”
“Late Bloomer” – Eddie
“Friends, The Best Of (Reprise) – Becky, Eddie
“Thank God” – Eddie
NEXT: “Mistletoe Musings,” Nov. 24-Dec. 16.
THE VENUE: The Forst Inn stage is wide and narrow. The space is intimate. Seating is at small tables on two levels in a slight arc in front of the slightly raised stage. To the audience’s left is the stage director’s space, with light and sound controls. The space is essentially a black box in theater style in the front – with additions: two chandeliers above the audience, a street lamp the seating area and the ambiance of 1920s style elements to the rear in a service area. A seating/serving area is in the middle of the building, along with a ticketing counter. The bar area out front includes the bar, table seating, more 1920s ambiance and a passage to an art gallery (rotating artists) that is now part of the offerings of The Forst Inn Arts Collective. The building dates to 1868, with assorted lives over the years. For a notable period – 1990 into the 2000s – the place was popular for productions of Little Sandwich Theatre, which Manitowoc attorney Ron Kaminski (deceased 2018) nurtured with a caring hand as artistic director/performer/do-all for a wide array of productions. The present venture is of that spirit.
Contact me at . Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.