Theatre Downtown’s 21st Birthday Bash
Directed by Kevin Bee, Tim DeBaun, Fran and Frank Hilgenberg, and Steve MacKinnon
Theatre Downtown, Orlando Fl
For more than two decades, Theatre Downtown has been a stalwart of the local theater scene. Sure, the Hilgenberg’s tend to like plays about baseball and Tennessee Williams, but they also gave us David Lindsay-Albaire and Charles Busch and Del Shores. They also did the most amazing play I’ve ever seen, Patrick Meyers’ mountain climbing epic “K2.” If you know where to look, you can still see the bolt holes in the ceiling. Tonight we recap some of those great moments with scenes and songs from previous shows, often as not with the original cast.
The opening number sort of sneaks up on you as Frank Hilgenberg’s famous curtain speech is missing. Emily Patterson, Jessica Hondel and Victoria Burns sing “Home” from “The Wiz” and while the audio is a bit off, the audience’s attention is now properly focused. The second scene features Frank Hilgenberg and James Zelly doing Mamet’s “American Buffalo”, the first show ever performed by Theatre Downtown. I can say I was there, although not in a professional capacity. Now we run through a quick refresher on American Theater : Atticus Finch explains racism and rape to his daughter Scout, Jim Cassidy does a wonderfully mush-mouthed Big Daddy from “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”, James Zelly returns to beg for his job in “Death of a Salesman,” there’s a three way with Jenn Gannon, Tommy Keesling and Marion Marsh from “Tale Of The Allergists Wife”, a medley form “Little Shop of Horrors” with Steven Pugh reprising his demented dentist role, and Adam DelMedico and Scott Poole discuss the possibility of actual sex with an actual woman from “Biloxi Blues.”
After the intermission there’s a nice little documentary on the history of the theater from the folks at Poison Coyote Video. Over the years the building was a car dealership, a packing house and an appliance store before (Yes, I bought my first air conditioner there in 1982.) In the early days there was no air conditioning in the theatre, and donations were collected to cool the stage. Naturally, there’s a ghost, supposedly that of Edgar Allen Poe, but its unclear why he isn’t haunting Baltimore instead of Central Florida. More snippets follow from “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”, “Rocky Horror Show” and the devil comes out of the woodwork to repose a soul in the “Seafarer.” It’s amazing how many productions Theatre downtown has put up, and that doesn’t count the dozens of other production companies and readings and workshops that have used their space. Theatre Downtown has produced hundreds of high quality shows over the years, and we all hope that can carry on for a few more decades. To quote Frank Hilgenberg: “I’ll see YOU at the show!”
For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net