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Youmans: 'Americans All' celebrates country's core values

September 22, 2011|By Heather Youmans

Charismatic Nick Lazaris tackled the role. His confidence allowed him to effectively carry the show with the poise and maturity of an actor far beyond his years.

The collection of students is your stereotypical cast of characters.

Sheila, the A-plus student; Mary, the head cheerleader; Preston, the jock; Brandijo, the burnout; Daryl, the goth; Micah, the golden boy; Michael, the computer geek; Troy, the comic book nerd; and Katelyn, the shy girl who later breaks out of her shell.

Not only was the casting spot on, but the costuming, coordinated by Lia M. Hansen, effectively enhanced each personality. This man-made high school microcosm taps into each high school label garnering different types of representation and individual voices on issues.

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Throughout the course of the production, Mr. Gray covers many topics of contention in American society, including citizenship, the environment, family, education, prejudice and self-respect.

Stand-out moments include: "Everyday," a powerful, well-written duet with haunting harmonies portraying the plight of many adolescents who cry out for support and comfort; and "Pick it Up", in the style of "Stomp," emitted an intoxicating energy as brooms and trash cans hit the floor in a beat-heavy break down.

Also, Bretlyn Schmitt's choreography in the hip-hop style "It Just Takes One" was a highlight.

Performances by Sheila Jenkins, Micah Stratton, Preston Butler III, Katelyn Spurgin along with those of ace character actors Michael Fidalgo and Troy Iwata drove a strong connection among the company that transcended the vocals.

A robust vocal ensemble with a smooth harmonic blend characterized large production numbers like "We Call Ourselves Americans," a patriotic anthem in which Michael reveals the death of his father overseas in Afghanistan.

However, it was Brandijo Kistler's exceptional vocal performance in "Salaam" that stole the show. Her rich, enticing voice possesses a power and stylistic agility only heard from the most seasoned performers.

"Salaam," a Middle Eastern-style piece, and the Latin-inspired "Viva El Trabajo y la Paz," added significant musical diversity to the production and were executed by a solid four-piece band.

"Americans All" provides unsullied material for fresh eyes and open minds with writing that will make those young and old ponder the deeper meaning of life.

"I would like audiences to see it as a timeless piece in the sense that it's not just for kids in high school," said director Eggington. "Even as an adult I still need to hear some of these things as personal encouragement to not be afraid to make my own trail, to not be afraid to believe in myself, to not be afraid to dream. It seems like the older we are, the less we dream and it's never too late."

If You Go

What: "Americans All"

Where: Lyceum Theatre, Vanguard University, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

When: at 8 p.m. Sept. 22-24 and Sept. 30-Oct. 1; and at 2 p.m. Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2.

Tickets: $17 general admission and $14 for seniors and children. To buy tickets purchased, go to http://www.vanguardtickets.com or call the Theatre Department box office at (714) 668-6145.

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