Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

110 in the Shade
Ford's Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Moment and 1984

Ben Crawford, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Kevin McAllister
Photo by Carol Rosegg
The production of 110 in the Shade now at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., is tuneful, entertaining, and a welcome showcase for Tracy Lynn Olivera as big-hearted Lizzie Curry, a strong woman living in a time and place when such women were considered strange.

Playwright N. Richard Nash adapted the book of the 1963 musical from his own 1954 play The Rainmaker, working with the team of composer Harvey Schmidt and lyricist Tom Jones (whose legendary Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks was then only three years into its decades-long run). The Broadway production did not run long, but the musical has become more widely produced over the years.

Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge has moved the time of this production from the 1930s to the 1950s, possibly to allow Ben Crawford to play Starbuck, the charismatic rainmaker, with vivid overtones of Elvis Presley. Along with the thick dark hair and piercing gaze, Crawford has been costumed by Wade Laboissonniere in tight black jeans and a leather jacket over a plain white T-shirt. The other costumes designed by Laboissonniere have small flourishes as well, notably the red boots worn by flirtatious Snookie (Bridget Riley).

The story follows one day in a small Texas town suffering from a catastrophic drought. Lizzie has grown up with a kind-hearted father (Christopher Bloch) and two brothers, stern Noah (Stephen Gregory Smith) and sweet if simple Jimmy (Gregory Maheu), and has no patience for playing manipulative games with men like the ones Snookie uses on Jimmy. She wants love on her own terms, and that's where Starbuck comes in.

Olivera dominates her scenes with great internal strength and a ripe soprano voice, ranging from the intensity of "Old Maid" to the self-aware goofiness of "Raunchy." (She can also do a split.) Kevin McAllister, with his quiet thoughtfulness and rich, deep voice, makes File, the sheriff, a calm counterbalance to Crawford's bluster and Olivera's deep emotions.

Dodge also choreographed the production, incorporating a precision dance for Bloch, Smith, and Maheu and some flashy footwork for Maheu and Riley. (Interestingly, Smith received a Helen Hayes Award for playing Jimmy in Signature Theatre's 2003 production of the show.) Eight musicians including conductor Jay Crowder provide strong support.

Ford's Theatre
110 in the Shade
March 11th - May 14th
By N. Richard Nash
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Lyrics by Tom Jones
Based on a play by N. Richard Nash
Phil Mackey, Station Attendant: Alex Alferov
H.C. Curry, Rancher: Christopher Bloch
Starbuck, Rainmaker: Ben Crawford
Katheryn Brawner, War Widow: Maria Egler
Hanna Curtis, George's Wife: Jade Jones
Jimmy Curry, H.C.'s Youngest Son: Gregory Maheu
File, Sheriff: Kevin McAllister
Beverly Copeland, Joe's Wife: Happy McPartlin
Sammie-Sue Miller, Bobbysoxer: Ines Nassara
Lizzie Curry, H.C.'s Daughter: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Snookie Updegraff, Flirty Girl: Bridget Riley
Toby Taylor, Taxi Man: Chris Sizemore
Noah Curry, H.C.'s Oldest Son: Stephen Gregory Smith
George Curtis, Reverend: Stephawn Stephens
Joe Copeland, Rancher: Michael Yeshion
Swings: Michael Bunce, Kristen Garaffo
Directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge
Conductor: Jay Crowder
511 Tenth St. NW, Washington, DC
Box office: 202-347-4833 or Ticket information: 202-547-1122 or

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