There was a “whole lot of shaking going on” as this year’s Bigfork Summer Playhouse cast prepared for the final show of the theater’s 58th season, “The Hit’s of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”
The remaining six cast members of the original 20 took the stage for their first dress rehearsal Tuesday evening, working through wardrobe malfunctions, music glitches and other pre-show mishaps “one way or another.”
Cast member Christian Fary said their last show will be a bit different from the other four the company has put on throughout the season.
“I think once the audience gets in here we’re going to be able to play with them more,” he said. “The fun part is watching them remember everything and sing along with us. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
The show will feature beloved songs that topped the charts during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, complete with singing, dancing, comedy and fun facts to end each number.
For instance, who knew that “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin was written on a dare by a friend who bet him he couldn’t write a song that started with the now iconic words, splish splash?
The actors shared their excitement for the final performance as they got stage-ready in their dressing room, slicking back hair and putting on dancing shoes.
But, at the mention of the season’s end, a chorus of groans and sighs filled the room.
With the final performance of “Mamma Mia” on Aug. 26, the other 14 cast members went their separate ways as the final six stayed behind to rehearse and put on a final show.
“It’s been sad saying goodbye to all our friends over the last couple of days,” said Fiona Moweray, a cast member who traveled from her home in Kentucky to be a part of this season.
BIGFORK SUMMER Playhouse Associate Producer Brach Thomson said he travels across the country auditioning thousands of actors to assemble the 20 “high-caliber, triple threats” he hires each year.
Since its beginning in 1960, Thomson said the company’s shows have grown from humble beginnings with local Montana kids in a community center to the professional, big-name shows, such as this season’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and last season’s “Grease.”
Thomson took over the theater and its productions from its founder, Dr. Bo Brown, in 2001 and has grown the business into one of Bigfork’s biggest summer attractions.
“As people get more and more flash with theater and with entertainment, we can’t rely only on a good show anymore. You need more smoke. You need more fog. You need more explosions,” he said. “Things over the years just evolve for the wow factor.”
With a background in theater spanning most of his life, Thomson’s passions have steered him more toward the musical side of the stage.
From the time he was in eighth grade, he said he has been writing and playing music everywhere from his high school orchestra to Yamaha showrooms.
Today his primary roles in the company’s productions are conducting the choir and orchestra and running things from “the pit,” or control room.
“People are coming out going ‘Oh my gosh. This is as good as any Broadway show I’ve ever seen.’ And that’s what we’re hoping,” he said. “That’s ultimately what theater’s about ... not necessarily changing lives as much as just affecting their lives, touching them somewhere where they’ll remember it.”
BACKSTAGE, THE actors recalled moments when that “high caliber” misfired.
During one performance of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” they remembered how the actor playing the oldest brother, Adam, forget the words to three of the four versus of his solo. Instead, he sang the same verse all four times, leaving his other “brothers” to interject with lines that didn’t rhyme.
Even as the cast went through their first dress rehearsal Tuesday night, one of the members experienced a wardrobe malfunction mid-song.
The actors formed a line across the stage with Tyler Pirrung at the front for a choreographed ripple effect, jumping in the air and then crouching back down.
Starting off the chain, Pirrung jumped up smiling, but landed with a loud rip as the seat of his pants split down the middle.
The experienced actor finished the number without fault, though most of his cast mates struggled to contain their laughter.
After changing into his Act II pants, Pirrung reappeared and continued unphased.
Following their final performance on Sept. 9, the remaining six cast members will go their separate ways on their own theatrical journeys.
Brittany Ambler will head to Colorado where she will play a blind librarian in a show called “Toxic Avenger.”
Fary plans to follow every actor’s dream of moving to New York City in October, where he hopes to move up from baby-sitter to professional performer.
Kelly Kapur will join a Nebraska theater company’s national tour of “The Christmas Carol” as the ghost of Christmas past.
For the next week, though, they’ll be performing “The Hits,” sharing a stage for the last time.
“The Hit’s of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s” performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31, Sept. 1-2 and Sept. 7-9 at the Bigfork Performing Arts Center, 526 Electric Ave. in Bigfork.
Tickets are available for purchase now for $26 for adults and $22 for seniors 65 and older.
For more information, call 406-837-4886 or visit http://bigforksummerplayhouse.com.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.