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Saucy musical review opens OST season

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OKOBOJI, Iowa -- Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST) opens its 52nd season with a breezy, colorful musical revue, so fast-paced that we barely had time to catch a breath before these talented young women had moved on to the next number.

The title song, "A . . . My Name Is Alice," opens the show and then is reprised as the finale. What does the title really mean? My guess is that Alice could be any contemporary woman working through problems of living and loving.

On the Okoboji stage the six Alices are played effectively by Stephens College students: Sarah Casey, Amber Hurd, Evann Jones, Sarah Marshall, Rachael Rogers, Kiely Schlesinger. Each proves to be an excellent singer and actress. The ensemble performs together in a way that no one dominates and none can be pinpointed as the star. A series of vignettes gives almost equal opportunity to showcase the talents of each. My personal favorite from the cast is Amber Hurd because of her graceful movements and natural stage presence. Wearing a beret, she sings her charming ballad, "French Song," in which she mixes life memories with favorite French foods.

The popular Lamby Hedge serves as director-choreographer and also brings down the house when she pops on stage, a gray-haired woman in a fantastic hat, making several brief appearances in the role of writer-poet with an accusatory attitude toward men.

"My Name Is Alice" is not an easy play to describe since there's no real plot. The idea for it was conceived by Joan Micklin and Julianne Boyd. Rumor has it that 28 people contributed material for the vignettes and songs as they re-worked the acts over a period of years. I saw the show first in 1986 at the Twin Cities' Mixed Blood Theatre, and I recall it as somewhat different from this current production, yet also appealing in its presentation.

Lyrics bear a satiric resemblance to Stephen Sondheim, though lacking his special brilliance with rhyme. As with Sondheim, clever word combinations roll out so fast that it's easy to miss phrases of the songs. Some of the racy snatches can be skipped without regret. Before there's time to think "did she really say THAT?" the moment passes, and it's on to the next saucy line.

Sketches range in subject matter from variations on falling in and out of love to a sisters' duo, a parent-teacher confrontation, a psychiatrist-patient interview, etc.

Simple staging works while costuming in brilliant pastels helps create the scene. A quartet on keyboard, woodwinds, bass guitar and percussion provides accompaniment that is just right to set and hold the mood.

"A . . . My Name Is Alice" continues through Sunday, the first of nine plays on OST's summer schedule. While "Alice" won't be my favorite show of the season, there is much to admire in Okoboji's classy presentation.