Thingamajig Summer Theater season spreads its wings

Photo courtesy Jeff Laydon
Dr. Jekyll (Perry Davis Harper) explains his crusade to discover a new drug capable of addressing mental illness in Thingamajig Theatre’s “Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical,” now playing at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
Thingamajig Theatre Company last weekend held the exciting opening of its fifth 2019 Broadway in the Mountains production — Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland JR” — to a sold-out audience.
The family-friendly show is playing every Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts through Aug. 24. The production features updated songs from Disney’s original 1951 motion picture and is a fast-paced take on the classic tale with a running time of about 50 minutes — the perfect length for a family theater experience.
The show includes several local Pagosa teens acting side by side with professional actors from Thingamajig’s summer repertory company. It’s directed and choreographed by Louisiana-based theater artist Pia Wyatt.
The 2019 summer season also includes four other notable Broadway musicals performed through the end of August with one of the shows, “Ring of Fire,” continuing through Sept. 15.

Photo courtesy Jeff Laydon
Alice (Elise Yeager) is amazed by the metamorphosis of The Caterpillar (Trevor Brown) into The Butterfly in Thingamajig Theatre Company’s “Alice in Wonderland JR” now playing at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

The professional acting company and technical crew hails from all across the U.S., from Portland to Phoenix to New Orleans to New York. Residents and visitors can attend repertory performances almost every night of the week, as well as matinees performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
‘Ring of Fire’
“Ring of Fire” celebrates the music of one of America’s most popular singer/songwriters, Johnny Cash. The show does not, however, attempt to portray The Man in Black directly. Instead, the contours of Cash’s life and art can be seen through narratives woven by his music. The story — told through Cash’s music — develops an earnest dialogue about home and family, the people you love and what holds people together in the face of tough times.
Under the direction of Colorado theater artist Christopher Willard, a group of five singers, actors and musicians that make up the “Ring of Fire” cast — Steven Sitzman, Rayshaughn Armant, Allie Tamburello, Nick Abbott and Tommy Paduano — sing and play a variety of instruments to bring Cash’s musical legacy to life right before your eyes.
‘Mamma Mia!’
ABBA, the Swedish band active from 1972 to 1982, was one of the most popular international pop groups of all time, with songs topping the charts again and again in Europe, North and South America, and Australia. Following the premiere of the theatrical adaptation of “Mamma Mia!” in London in 1999, ABBA Gold topped the charts in the United Kingdom again.
The musical includes such ABBA hits as “Super Trouper,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Voulez-Vous” and, of course, the title track, “Mamma Mia.”
Over 60 million people have seen the show, which has grossed $2 billion worldwide since its debut. “Mamma Mia!” has been played in more than 50 countries on six continents, and has been translated into 26 languages.
‘The Who’s Tommy’
Based on the iconic 1969 rock concept album, “The Who’s Tommy” is an exhilarating story of hope, healing and the human spirit. After witnessing the murder of his mother’s lover by his father, Tommy is traumatized into a catatonic state and, as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbors. As an adolescent, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball and, when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar — and the next savior?
The Pagosa Springs version of the rock opera will feature the 16 members of Thingamajig’s summer repertory company, plus special appearances by Gabriel Gonzales (as the 4-year-old Tommy) and Christian Gonzales (as the 10-year-old Tommy). Other featured performers include Trevor Brown as Tommy; Danielle Poznanovic as Mrs. Walker; Steven Sitzman as Mr. Walker; Tommy Paduano as Uncle Eddie; Caleb Michael as Cousin Kevin; and Bailey Claffey as The Gypsy.
Townshend’s ground-breaking rock opera has been performed by entities ranging from the London Symphony Orchestra to the Seattle Opera to high school marching bands. Film director Ken Russell created a ostentatious film adaptation in 1975, with Townshend’s participation; the film included entertainment celebrities like Elton John, Tina Turner, Ann-Margaret and Eric Clapton. In 1992, McAnuff and Townshend spent a year creating a new interpretation of the 1969 concept album of the same name.
‘Jekyll and Hyde,
The Musical’
The Thingamajig Theatre’s production of “Jekyll and Hyde, The Musical opened June 28 under the guidance of three Thingamajig veterans: Director Melissa Firlit, Musical Director Boni McIntyre, and Choreographer Wyatt. The production features Perry Davis Harper as Jekyll/Hyde, with Bailey Claffey and Samantha Luck as his conflicting romantic interests.
While writing his Gothic novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson probably had no idea that his character names would become a permanent fixture in the English language, along with a small selection of other mythical characters from 19th century English writers: Frankenstein and Dracula. Now, about 130 years later, the basic outline of the story remains familiar. In Stevenson’s Gothic tale, the good doctor develops a potion that brings about, within himself, a very distinct separation between the well-loved Dr. Jekyll and the universally hated Mr. Hyde.
Said Firlit, “Jekyll and Hyde is a story that we all sort of take for granted; we all know something about it. But I don’t think we’ve truly explored it … The music has such a feeling of movement and propels the story forward. The show feels epic, in many ways, just because of the music behind it.
“So if you think you know the story — you should come see the musical.”
About Thingamajig
Thingamajig Theatre Company is a professional 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization in residence at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
For information on how to donate, purchase tickets and get further show information, please visit pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).

This story was posted on July 14, 2019.