MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

July 18, 2013

River City Players traveling through musical decades

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Johnny Cash, The Supremes and Journey are just a few of the artists whose songs will be performed when the cast of River City Players take the NSU Playhouse stage for the last three weekends of the show in Tahlequah.

Roxann James, secretary for the Sequoyah Institute and Galaxy of Stars that helps with the production, said tickets remain available for a few shows before the season ends Aug. 3. You can get your name on a waiting list or buy remaining tickets at (918) 458-2075. Some tickets, starting at $12, are available at the door at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays for “We Love the ’80s” and 7:30 p.m. Fridays for “Guitars and Cadillacs.” The Saturday afternoon shows, “At the Hop,” are sold out.

When Micheal Rappe of Muskogee first saw a River City Players show at age 10, he knew it was something he wanted to do. He’s now doing it for the third time. He is a Northeastern State University theater alumnus, said Dr. Robyn Pursley, the artistic director of the show and coordinator of theater at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

“Micheal is a great performer and leader, and we were so lucky to have him returning this season,” she said.

Rappe, the assistant director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, said the show has no stars. It’s a cast of young people who love singing and dancing. Each has a time to shine. Most of his is during the country show. He doesn’t have a favorite show of the three.

“I love them all for different reasons,” he said. “It’s a great experience in a very professional show.”

Pursley said the three “diverse” shows offer “a little something for everyone.”

“We Love the ’80s” is full of many of the most recognizable songs from the decade, including ‘Whip It,’ ‘Workin’ for the Weekend,’ ‘Anyway You Want It,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘Here I Go Again,’ ‘What About Love,’ ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ ‘Jesse’s Girl,’ ‘Jenny 867-5309,’ ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ and ‘Straight Up,’” she said.

Dance captain Sydney Jennings of Tahlequah said the most dancing is in the ’80s show during a medley of Michael Jackson hits, with several crowd-pleasing Jackson signature moves. This is the second season for Jennings, who is majoring in dance education at the University of Central Oklahoma. Pursley said Jennings is “filling a great leadership role in the cast.”

“She’s a crowd favorite and a fabulous young lady to work with,” Pursley said.

On Friday nights, Jennings and Rappe put on their boots for “Guitars and Cadillacs.”

“Our country show has a great collection of classic country songs by your favorite classic country artists including Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Charley Pride, The Judds, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Strait, Garth Brooks, and many more,” Pursley said. “We end the show with a great rendition of the classic ‘If You’ve Got the Money Honey, I’ve Got the Time.’”

The sold-out Saturday afternoon show takes you back to the 1950s and ’60s for “At the Hop” with music by The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Elvis and The Beatles.

“We have heard from some longtime fans that this is the best season yet,” Pursley said.

She credits part of that to the new stage configuration and more comfortable seating.

“The shows really are spectacular this season,” she said. “I am so impressed with the talent that we have on stage and the incredible job that my colleagues have done. This season RCP alum Anderson Daniel took on the role of vocal director, and he was spectacular. The vocal arrangements are pretty incredible. I think the audience will be impressed. We were fortunate to have Kira Jobe returning as choreographer, and of course, she did a tremendous job as usual.”

Jennings also sang the praises of Jobe. Jennings, who has done some choreography, hopes to do more in her career that started with a dance class at age 3 with Melissa Weeks Curtis.

“This is a wonderful opportunity if you love dancing and singing,” Jennings said. “It’s all local kids. It’s a good thing for our community to showcase the arts in the area and NSU.”

If you go

WHAT: River City Players.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday, through Aug. 3.

WHERE: NSU Playhouse, downtown Tahlequah.

LINEUP: Thursday and Saturday evenings, “We Love the ’80s;” Fridays, “Guitars and Cadillacs;” and Saturday afternoons, “At the Hop.”

ADMISSION: $12, adults; $10, NSU alumni and staff; $8, seniors and groups of 12 or more; and $6, students.

INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: (918) 458-2075. Shows for today and Aug. 2, and all Saturday afternoons are sold out. Call to be put on a waiting list.