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Rainbow Company recycles bits

It’s clear, after multiple seasons of Rainbow Company’s Nevada history series, that the response to these mini-musical skits likely will be affected considerably by how many of the annual shows a viewer has seen.

The irreverent sketches, performed by adults, are meant to give grade-school children an easy-to-swallow introduction to the people and events that have given our state its backbone.

The current “Mark Twain’s Nevada” is typical of the kind of enjoyment the series offers. The actors — Michael Button, Michael Connolly, J Neal, Ellis Rice and Martha Watson — are charming and/or surprisingly versatile. In particular, Neal and Watson create a parade of postures and attitudes to ably suggest a multitude of humorously one-note characters.

The script condenses the events surrounding Samuel Clemens’ introduction to journalism in the type of tongue-in-cheek manner that’s likely to please both adults and kids. And writer-director Karen McKenney keeps the pacing fast and bouncy so that you’re always eager to experience the next bit of action.

But there’s no denying the chain is showing its age.

Neal’s musical score, while often pleasant, is just as often so generic that the tunes could be interspersed into any of the series’ episodes. McKenney’s choreography seems to rely on recycling the same 10 dance steps every year. And McKenney’s style of dialogue never wavers season to season. No matter what the story is about in any given year, you usually feel you’ve been there already.

I have little doubt schoolchildren will find the production entertaining (as I did) and educationally valuable (the show is touring for months throughout Clark County elementary schools). But I suppose I’m disappointed by the easy route Rainbow has chosen to take. I wonder what the group might discover if it challenged its members with new approaches now and then, instead of relying on the comfort of the proven.

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

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