Encore Michigan

Review: Tibbits takes us back with the “Best of Broadway” as theaters re-open

Review June 21, 2021 Julie Linderleaf

COLDWATER, Mich.–“The Show MUST go on.”  Peter Riopelle, the new Artistic Director for The Tibbits Opera House, opens with this ages old quote at Tibbits Opera House’s 2021 season program.

Tibbits is returning for a second season a la Covidat The Ponds, an outdoor event center with a covered pavilion here. The summer theater company is not yet ready to re-enter its inside space in the historic opera house.

Music Director Matthew Everingham and Show Director CharlesBurr took it upon themselves to compile a wide range of show tunes to showcase the “rhythms of America.” They have created a 2-hour compilation of the best of Broadway musical tunes from 1903 -2015, mainly in chronological order, saving some of the most memorable shows for the finale.

The cast of six highly musically trained performers transition through Broadway’s history with over 40 classic hits with their powerhouse vocals, connected emotions, and skilled choreography on a limited and leveled stage area. The entire company of six open the show with “Little Johnny Jones” from Give My Regards to Broadway. Liz Davis then makes a beautiful and moving rendition of “Make Believe” from Showboat.

Fan favorite songs included: “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof, performed by Stephanie Burdick, Liz Davis, and Brooke Jackson–their rendition had the audience laughing in their seats. Ms. Burdick also knocked it out of the park with her solo of “Someone Like you,” from Jekyll & Hyde. Michael Motkowski and Max Antonio Gonzalez have stunning moves in “You and Me, but mostly me” from The Book of Mormon. Niles Birch nails “Alexander Hamilton,” from Hamilton. The crowds were already giving a standing ovation after the Andrew Lloyd Webber medley, even though it wasn’t the last song. “Seasons of Love” from Rent appropriately wraps up the show with the entire cast linked arm and arm together.

As the songs flow from one year to the next, the actors seamlessly flow from simple costume changes designed by Dusti Donbrock to help emphasize the show, such as cowboy hats in “Oh,What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma! to complete suits in “Fugue for Tinhorns” in Guys and Dolls,  or the King George costume Michael Motkowski dons to steal the show in “You’ll Be Back” from Hamiiton.

Lighting is always tricky in an outdoor venue. From natural lights to the lower tones of after dusk, a lighting designer has so many variables. Lighting designer and master electrician Catie Blencowe rolled unique lighting from song to song, such as green lighting used during “Defying Gravity”from Wicked, and splashing red lights throughout “Agony” from Into the Woods. The use of powerful flash lights as follow spots is ingenious.

The outdoor seating is adequate, and certainly better than no show. However, the drawback of the venue is that there are pillars that hinder viewing. The Best of Broadway is open for another week, June 22-25. To obtain tickets, go to www.tibbits.org or call 517-278-6029.

Week of 5/23/2022

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