Friday, February 12, 2010

Kalmbach and Levingston: stars being born in Shreveport Little Theater Academy's production of Big River; see it Feb 12 through Feb 21

Roger Kalmbach, barely age 16, captures the winsome contrariness of Huck Finn in the Shreveport Little Theater Academy production of Big River. His movement, singing and sense of timing were excellent on opening night at Southfield School's Dickson Theater.

Matching him with voice and style was Zhailon Levingston, 15, who played the slave, Jim.

Big River is a long show. But the sweet harmonies of the chorus and standout singers such as Kalmbach, Levingston, Kaylah Williams and Lindsey Fileccia made the stage glow in scene after scene.

SLTA director Jared Watson mixed adult actors with teens to seamless effect. Among the standout non-teens were Carolyn Bryant, Bradley Silman, Matt Carroll and Mark Crawford.

The greatest moments in Big River, however, arrived when the teens had their breakthroughs. Favorite scenes: Christopher White singing "Arkansas," Kaylah Williams wailing on a gospel tune, Lindsey Fileccia cannily elevating the intensity of a romantic tune, Levingston revealing Jim's passion, and Levingston and Kalmbach harmonizing. Gentry Williams was a winning dancer and singer as Tom Sawyer. And the whole company rocked on "The Royal Nonesuch."

One wishes there was a way to magically improve the teens' enunciation.

But the acoustics of the Southfield's new theater are helpfully lively. The Americana music of William Parsons' seven-piece band, located behind the stage, added richness to the show.

Big River is a vast production but Watson and the SLTA team were successful in making the performance roll like a wheel. If you enjoy seeing the young stars of tomorrow hitting their early marks, you'll particularly enjoy this evening of musical theater.

Tickets: $10, $18.
SLTA box office, noon to 4 pm: 424-4439.
Southfield School, 1100 Southfield Road
Shreveport, LA 71106

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