Even from chorus, great performances shine through

It's only natural that performers sometimes feel they are nonentities when cast in chorus roles. But I often want to tell these people, "When you're onstage, you are being seen just as clearly as anyone else."

Case in point: In the Onyx Theater's current revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (onyxtheatre.com), my eyes were often drawn to Cynthia Lynn (aka Cynthia Abney). The actress sings "in the background" during several numbers but is never the center of attention.

So why did I keep watching her?

She somehow managed to create an in-depth character with the slightest of strokes. Her Pre-Raphaelite presence brings alive a woman of little financial means who has been burdened with a lifetime of living nightmares. Yet, all Lynn seems to be doing is standing there. She never makes false faces to signal emotion. She never moves arbitrarily. She simply is. And she's not playing herself. Offstage, Lynn comes across as youthful, attractive, animated, carefree. I guess it's true: There are no small roles, only small actors. ...

Local playhouse producers often have a nasty habit of violating their licensing agreements by altering music and dialogue. They claim they have no choice. But an Associated Press story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week suggests otherwise.

A Salt Lake City high-school production of "All Shook Up" (a compilation of Elvis Presley's songs) was shut down due to parents' objections to sexual material. The administrators, though, got permission from the licensing company to make alterations. The show is now back on the boards; parents, schoolkids and administrators are declaring it a "win-win" situation.

Licensing company reps tell me they are eager to resolve content problems. They'd rather you do their show than not. Violating a contract is apparently not the only option. And even if a troupe can get away with it, I'd hope people would see this as a moral issue as well as a legal one. ...

The recently released 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness includes "passion" and "spoiler alert." I'd add a few others related to theater: "edgy" (what exactly does that mean these days?), "awesome" (every theater's show is awesome if you believe Facebook posts) and "life-changing" (I've loved theater forever, but I've never seen a play that changed my life. I've enjoyed a lot of them, but come on, let's put things in perspective). ...

In a recent column I talked about former UNLV professor Jerry Crawford's intriguing new memoir, "Past Light: A Spirit Marooned." In my eagerness to discuss the work, I forgot that I'd been given an advanced copy that was not yet available. Look for an e-book version on Amazon and Barnes & Noble by Feb. 1. For die-hard local theater buffs, it's well worth the wait. ...

Easily available is local Paul Atreides' fictional "Marvin's World of Deadheads" about a man who learns how to handle the afterlife after being run over by a bus. Atreides, whose "real" name is Paul Thornton, is well known around here as the Las Vegas Little Theatre's former president and as a local playwright. Knowing people who publish books makes me feel important.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.


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