Newport's Porthole Players will present a homegrown treat this Friday, Aug. 9, when they raise the curtain on “She Loves Me Not,” a musical comedy written by coastal playwright Milo Graamans.
Graamans is popular with patrons of the arts as a pianist, composer, performer and accompanist. Now he steps to a new level, penning the script, music and lyrics, as well as directing.
Originally this show was produced in reader’s theatre format in 2014, under the direction of Carl Foster Miller. It received an overwhelming, enthusiastic response from audiences in Newport, Lincoln City and Florence.
“Carl really encouraged me all throughout the writing process,” Graamans said. “I was writing songs and idea fragments that had a common theme. It wasn’t based on anyone I know, but the characters and storyline evolved and tied together.”
It really works. Graamans has created a show that is relevant, thoughtful, timely and entertaining. The story follows Caitlin, a young college student returning home for the summer. Her boyfriend, Jim, arrives to meet her family and high school friends. The next day, Caitlin comes out as a lesbian.
Graamans says he’d like the show to be described as thought provoking and fun. It delivers this and much more. The characters are honest, peppered with spirited humor, delving into subject matter and dialogue that is germane to our times. The 20 songs give the storyline additional texture, featuring complex, spirited harmonies and diverse styles of blues, rap, even a bump-and-grind routine. This is pure entertainment at its finest.
The cast consists of veteran performers as well as newcomers, filling out the multifaceted characters with humor and powerful vocals. Caitlin is played by Cassie Lihou, who has a tremendous range, giving Caitlin a lot of depth. Graamans portrays Jim, the soon-to-be-ex boyfriend, and plays him well. Caitlin’s parents, Sarah and Richard Walker, are well cast with Miranda Carter and Gary Herd exploring the stereotypes of an unaware generation. It is serious stuff with the right amount of humor.
Caitlin’s sister, Sarah, is played by Cassie Beal, who does an excellent job playing the girl with a huge crush on Jim. Jami Ivory and Leo Johns are Sam and Josh, friends from high school who add new dimension to the storyline. Both are very talented and gifted vocalists. And don’t miss Annie Pusey as Grandma, who gives the right amount of comedic relief to this thought-provoking show.
The staging is intimate with the set depicting the family living room and dining area. Graamans takes creative liberty by including the seven-piece band onstage. It adds another layer of fun to the quick timing and witty dialogue.
The band features Jessica Treon on piano, Ian Smith on guitar, Kevin Kemper on bass, Curtis Colt on drums, Richard Henrickson on violin, Tonia Peterson on viola, and Cory Watson on organ. The music is complex and these musicians deliver throughout the performance. Ian Smith also serves as the assistant music director.
Producers are Cyn Wilkes, Sara Coxen and Jed Hansen. Stage manager is Denise Parker, set design is by Cyn Wilkes, lighting design by Jed Hansen, with Hansen and Elizabeth Kosydar as lighting technicians. Sound technician is Zach Doyle, set construction lead is Chris Graamans and house manager is Linda Capshaw.
So, did Graamans enjoy his time in the director's chair?
“I don't think that's the word I would use," he said. "It's difficult wearing so many hats, so I think my enjoyment comes from seeing things come together.”
Yes, he wears many hats, but he wears them well.
The show runs from Friday, Aug. 9, through Saturday, Aug. 25. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 pm. Sunday matinees are at 2 pm. Tickets are $22 for adults; $20 for students/seniors. For more information and tickets, go to: www.coastarts.org or call 541-265-2787.