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Shows gone by: Thoughts on 'Equus,' 'The Winter's Tale' and Songbook Academy finals

July 27, 2016

Just because a show has closed, doesn't mean it's not worth writing about. 

Here are some quick notes on a trio of worthwhile evenings.

—Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” (July 21-24) in White River State Park proved a marked improvement over last summer’s lackluster “Twelfth Night”—surprising since “The Winter’s Tale” offers more challenges given its potentially problematic mix of tragedy, comedy and romance. Clarity and commitment to the opening scenes of jealousy and betrayal anchored the evening and a lovely ending brought it to a satisfying close.

The comedic elements were hit-and-miss, though, with clarity sometimes being sacrificed for audience-pandering wackiness and unnecessary off-script references. Shining performances by Constance Macy, Charles Goad and others kept this “Tale” grounded, though, and the offhand pairing of their characters in final moments felt just right.

—I have been negligent in catching the work of Casey Ross, who has been creating work in venues around town under her own production company, now renamed Catalyst Rep. Her latest, a revival of Peter Shaffer’s psychological thriller “Equus” (closed July 24) at Grove Haus in Fountain Square, demonstrated a skilled use of venue, smart casting choices and serious commitment to work that can stand with more-established and better-resourced companies.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from Catalyst.

Great American Songbook Vocal Competition—The Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition (July 23) at the Palladium once again demonstrated that sincerity and truthfulness are as important as vocal gymnastics when delivering this sort of material. The 10 finalists—whittled down from a semifinal group of 40 who participated in a week of workshops—were as strong a group as I’ve seen in the event’s seven years. Burbank, California, teen Brighton Thomas was a standout, earning first place with renditions of “It Had to Be You” and “Happy Days are Here Again.”

Of those who didn’t place in the top three, I also see a bright future for Julia Cooper of Poland, Ohio, who was equally adept at the playful “Shopping Around” as she was with romantic standard “All the Things You Are.”

Kudos go out to the Songbook Academy not just for what it offers these young singers, but also what it gives audiences every year.

—For more reviews, upcoming priorities, and ticket giveaways, visit www.ibj.com/arts

—The Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition (July 23) at the Palladium once again demonstrated that sincerity and truthfulness are as important as vocal gymnastics when delivering this sort of material. The 10 finalists—whittled down from a semifinal group of 40 who participated in a week of workshops—were as strong a group as I’ve seen in the event’s seven years. Burbank, California, teen Brighton Thomas was a standout, earning first place with renditions of “It Had to Be You” and “Happy Days are Here Again.” Of those who didn’t place in the top three, I also see a bright future for Julia Cooper of Poland, Ohio, who was equally adept at the playful “Shopping Around” as she was with romantic standard “All the Things You Are.” Kudos go out to the Songbook Academy not just for what it offers these young singers, but also what it gives audiences every year.
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