New theater group gives green performance of "Trixie True"
In its debut show at Off The Wall Theatre, new local theatre group Assembly of Talent missed a huge opportunity with its production of a campy musical about a young, Nancy Drew-like character, "Trixie True, Teen Detective." To their credit, the missed opportunity might not have been anything they had any control over.
Set in a cheerfully optimistic mid-1940's that never really was, the amateur performances and low-budget production values available to a struggling new theatre group are well-suited to the show's milieu. The trappings of small-time local theatre are precisely what audiences might expect out of a low-budget 'B' grade production of ANYTHING from the mid-'40s. The songs, plot and overall feel of the show is deliberately, deliciously cheesy and a small, inexperienced production fits it perfectly.
Assembly of Talent has clearly made an excellent choice with the relatively obscure Kelly Hamilton musical. All they would've had to do to make the show perfect (and perfectly campy) was to juggle the cast a little bit.
The heavier acting duties are ably handled by a couple of experienced performers. Kevin Neubert plays a mid-century sweatshop publishing studio writer who is sick of bashing out Trixie True novels every week. Frequent Off The Wall talent Sharon Rise plays his boss, the inspiration for the villain in his story. They work well together here. David Kaye supports them both pretty well as the writer's co-worker and the villain's cohort.
In the world of the story, the villains are opposed by Trixie and her supporting cast of characters. In the role of Trixie's "chums," Heather Reynolds, Katie Phillips and others do an excellent job of filling out the stage while she isn't there. Kurtis Witzlsteiner puts in a humorous performance as Trixie's effeminate jock boyfriend. All of this casting is fine and is well-suited to the production. The fatal flaw here lies in the casting of the title character.
Kristin Pagenkopf-Ulrich has put in a number of memorable performances in marginal roles at the Off The Wall in the past. It's really satisfying to see her in a central role in a musical like this. She has charm and charisma that shine out through the tacky blonde wig and poodle skirt. She's also got a really exceptional voice for musical theatre. She even tap-dances remarkably well-a skill not seen all that much in the downtown theatre district. All of this is great, but there's a rather glaring problem here. She's clearly NOT a teen-ager. Granted, she IS young, but she's not as young as her character. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but there IS an actual teen in the production who would be more suited to the role and it's a bit distracting. YES, Pagenopf-Ulrich's talents would be wasted in a smaller role, but it would be doing a far greater service to the production if Katie Philips had been placed in the role instead.
Cast in the role of one of Trixie's pals, Katie Philips is a 16 year-old high school student. Being an ACTUAL high school student, her sweet, youthful presence on stage seems much more suited to the central role than the equally talented and substantially more experienced Pagenkopf-Ulrich. The fact that Philips' bio pegs her as being involved in no less than seven different extracurricular activities is probably the culprit here. She probably wouldn't have time for all the rehearsals that would go with the starring role. From where she stands, however, Philips impressively fills out her end of the stage with talent and potential.
Assembly of Talent's production of "Trixie True, Teen Detective" plays now through Feb. 26 at the Off The Wall Theatre. Tickets are $14 ($10 for students and seniors) and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at (414) 327-3552.
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Mike said: Katie you really do rock!!! Be catching you in the movies or tv soon!
Josh Dinger said: Katie is the best actress ever. she is my best friend and everyone should see her totally steal the show. congrats on getting a whole paragraph to yourself Katie!
Jay said: It was very refreshing to see a review of this show on your website! We love the smaller theatres in Milwaukee, and had the pleasure of viewing this show. It was wonderful,funny, lighthearted, and the entire cast was Amazing!They were very believable and worked very well together!
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