Last Monday I was excited to see the first show of the Depot Theatre’s 35th season and was not disappointed. Route 66 tells the story of two unlikely partners travelling the historic American highway Route 66–its glory days have passed but it has become part of classic americana.
I enjoyed the simple set that was easily arranged for each scene with a large projection shifting from place to place. The car that could retract backwards out of the way was an ingenious method of having one onstage for the roadtrip. I also liked the map design around the edges of the set, which bracketed each side of the stage and along the top charting a trip from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California–tracking the journey of the protagonists and the Route 66 highway.
Here’s a short overview of the plot:
Liz’s boss is obsessed with Route 66 memorabilia and sends her on a journey with the rough photographer Drew to write the story of the old highway. This is her chance to get a promotion if she can deliver a great story. Drew is determined to just get through this trip and conclude some unfinished business with the money he was paid for this job, even if he doesn’t agree with the clinical methods Liz demands.
Eventually, Liz comes to realize with the help of Drew that her story must be about the people she meets who live along the route, but her boss disagrees. Can she change his mind with a story written about the heartfelt and gritty stories she learns? If she does succeed and gets her promotion will this mean leaving her new-found connection with Drew behind?
Find out for yourself by seeing Route 66 at the Depot Theatre before the last show ends on July 14! Call the Box Office at (519) 962-4449 to get tickets.
A Colorful Cast of Characters
The show had a wonderful cast of characters–each of actors played multiple roles to create memorable people we met with Liz and Drew along their journey.
Margaret-Ellen Jeffreys who plays the lead, Liz, has a very expressive face, which added a great comedic timing to her emotions during humorous scenes. Her introduction “Runnin’ A Little Late” was one of my favorite musical numbers–the use of other actors as props was was a perfect addition to the song and it was hilarious! As a writer I sympathized with her journalistic plight of trying to write great articles and move up in the publishing world, but I cheered when she realized that moving up wasn’t everything.
Like Liz does, we first see Drew (Kip Taisey) in an unflattering light, but slowly we learn that there is much more underneath his blunt facade. Taisey gives Drew a country charm and we easily commiserate with him when Liz is difficult.
Bruce Sabath humorously fulfilled his role as Liz’s eccentric boss, but also played several others characters, including a cameo as a grumpy roadside attraction manager who got to have an anger filled and amusing duet with Drew on guitar.
David Finch was a familiar face for me because I saw him last year in the Depot’s Careless Love. This year he brought back his musical talent for the band and stepped out on the main stage with his fiddle to light-heartedly play Russell the square dance caller. Finch was also the omniscient narrator following Liz and Drew on their Route 66 journey, and his voice and charm were perfect for that role.
Scott Johnson played several humorous roles, but my favorite had to be the deputy mayor volunteering at the Our Lady of the Highway Shrine who couldn’t quite remember his rehearsed script about the shrine and so started it over and over again (with hand gestures!).
Dominique Plaisant, Yvette Monique-Clark, and Catherine Yudain each played several remarkable women, including a sassy diner waitress, a strong policewoman, and a sneaky and excitable corporate assistant…Each was able to quickly shift character with a change of costume, a wig, and a new accent.
A great moment during the show was actually unscripted. A long freight train went by early in second act during a diner scene—the actors froze, but as the wait lengthened the band began improvising music and the actors sitting at a bar started bopping along…That’s something that only happens at the Depot Theatre!
- Depot Theatre Mixer Welcomes Route 66 Cast & Staff (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Depot Theatre: Route 66 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Taber’s Folklore Inspired Art and Shadow Boxes at Depot Theatre Gallery (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Amazing Grace Vineyard & Winery (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex, NY: Fourth of July 2013 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)