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Summer Theater Season Opens with 'The Last Night of Ballyhoo'

By Lisa Stratton

JUNE 15, 2007--New faces and veterans alike assembled in River Falls, Wis., this week to begin work on the St. Croix Valley Summer Theatre (SCVST) season opener, the Tony Award-winning drama, "The Last Night of Ballyhoo."

Written by Alfred Uhry, author of "Driving Miss Daisy," the show takes place in the 1939 German-Jewish society of Atlanta. As Hitler invades Poland and American movie classic "Gone With the Wind" premieres less than five miles away, the Freitags are consumed by thoughts of Ballyhoo, the annual lavish social event held by the city's exclusive Standard Club. Filled with side-splitting comedy, "Ballyhoo" is also laced with introspection about ethnic identity and prejudice that resonates with audiences everywhere.   

Director Ken Hill is no stranger to the stage. A professor at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis., Hill was awarded certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for his work in design and directing.  

"When I first read 'The Last Night of Ballyhoo' I was impressed with the wonderfully-written characters and the sense of hope that filled the play," says Hill. "It is a warm-hearted and funny play that will remind the audiences of their own families as well as let them explore a different time and place."

Topping the cast list is Ambrosia J. Webb as Lala Levy, a socially awkward woman in her 20s who switches proposed vocations weekly. Webb, from Hudson, Wis., who has previously played Mrs. Hardcastle in "She Stoops to Conquer," Ellen in "Two Rooms," and Nancy in "Seascape," says she is happy to be in a younger role.  

"It's really delightful to play a character that is my own age," says Webb. "Lala is different. She's much more girly than I am."

Having played Snoopy, the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," and even a turn in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," actor Tom Monn is a favorite of young theatre-goers. In "Ballyhoo," Monn plays Adolph, businessman and patriarch of the Freitag family. From Woodbury, Minn., Monn is a veteran of SCVST as well as The Phipps Center for the Arts, the Old Gem Theatre, and the Lakeshore Players.

"I was attracted to the role of Adolph for the tender humorous person he is. You always see or bring some part of yourself to each role," says Monn.  

Visitors to the River Falls Public Library will recognize Nancy Miller of River Falls as Reba Freitag, the ex-sister-in-law of Adolph. Miller, who is director of the library, has been a frequent participant in SCVST productions in past years. She has appeared in "Our Town" and "The Female Odd Couple" at the River Falls Community Theatre.

"I just love to do theatre when I get a chance," says Miller. "It's always part of my day."

Virginia-native Janet Fogg, whose mother told her to "never underestimate the power of a Southern woman," says she feels right at home as former belle Boo Levy, mother of Lala and socialite matchmaker extraordinaire. Now residing in Hudson, Wis., Fogg has previously appeared in "The Importance of Being Earnest" as Lady Bracknel, in "Arsenic and Old Lace" as Martha, and most recently starred as undercover journalist Barbara in "Nickel and Dimed."

UWRF student Kristy Reid returns to SCVST as Sunny Freitag, the beautiful and witty daughter of Reba, at home on break from prestigious Wellesley. Reid's past theatre credits include Anne in "The Diary of Anne Frank," Constance Neville in "She Stoops to Conquer," Patty Andrews in "Sisters of Swing," Columbia in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and Helga in "Cabaret." Reid hails from Waconia, Minn., and currently interns with the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.    

Gregory Lund is set to walk on the stage as Peachy Weil, a brash visitor to Atlanta from Lake Charles who can rarely be taken literally. Lund, who resides in Woodville, Wis., previously appeared as Peter Van Daan in UWRF's production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

"I'm enjoying playing the character of Peachy Weil because he is kind of an Eddie Haskal [from the 1950s-60s television program "Leave It To Beaver"]," says Lund. "He is always teasing the other characters and is just about having a good time."

New Richmond, Wis., native Karl Gfall completes the cast of "Ballyhoo" as newcomer and New Yorker Joe Farkas, who attempts to woo Reba's attractive daughter Sunny.  

Artistic and production staff members include managing director Michael Norman, River Falls, Wis.; set designer and scene and costume technician Amanda Baker, Hudson, Wis.; lighting designer and technical director Alex Clark, Woodbury, Minn.; costume designer Denise Baker, Hudson, Wis.; sound designer and board operator Maggie Hall, River Falls, Wis.; costume design intern and scene and costume technician Sylvia Wadzinski, Phillips, Wis.; lighting design intern, shop foreman, and scene and costume technician Erin Morris, Bloomington, Minn.; sound design consultant Jason Unseth, Westby, Wis.; stage manager Holly Conwell, St. Michael, Minn.; properties manager Alicia Hermsen, Hudson, Wis.; assistant stage manager Brittany McMillan, River Falls, Wis.; master electrician Amanda Piccirillo, Ripon, Wis.; scene and costume technician Keith Carl , New Richmond, Wis.; scene and costume technician Justin DeLong, River Falls, Wis.; scene and costume technician Saori Ugari, Japan; and scenic and costume technician Hunter Stofferahn, Hudson, Wis .

Performances of "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" will be held June 26-30 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee showing on July 1 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets range from $9-16 and are available at the SCVST box office located in the Kleinpell Fine Arts building of UW-River Falls. Season tickets are available. Tickets may also be purchased by phone at 715-425-3114 or toll-free at 800-228-5423.

The St. Croix Valley Summer Theatre is a semi-professional summer stock troupe based at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Located 25 miles east of Minneapolis-St. Paul in the scenic St. Croix River Valley of western Wisconsin, SCVST has provided quality summer entertainment to thousands of theatre patrons since 1966. For more information on St. Croix Valley Summer Theatre, contact Melanie Nelson at 651-214-2281.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:21 Central Daylight Time


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