Ukuleles star in short-run variety show

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WALLA WALLA — Whitman College students created a hit this week, as their audience laughed, wowed and even sang along a few times for the original production of “Ukulele! A Variety Show.”

“The ukulele is an instrument that I think is incredibly theatrical and provides a lot of opportunities for showcasing both the musicians who play it and the instrument itself,” show creator and director Jessica Cerullo said.

The show was a tightly strung medley of classic ukulele songs and variety show acts of dancing, signing and crazy clown antics. The hodgepodge of performances followed a lose theme that always centered back to the ukulele, even if the performers didn’t always understand the connection. And that was the case when Erik Feldman, who plays one of five searching shepherds and whose role required him to sing Tiptoe Through The Tulips.

“Jessica just came to me and said can you sing this song and I said sure,” Feldman, who still hadn’t heard of Tiny Tim, said.

The show opens with a surreal scene, where a young woman who is sleeping in bed shows her disdain for waking up to the real world. Enter the Clown Family, a group of seven clowns who encourage the young woman to stop sleeping her life away and wake up and smell the ukulele.

What follows is and hour-and-fifteen minutes of zany, happy and amazing antics of one of the larger casts, 30, to ever perform at Harper Joy Theatre.

In separate acts, the cast performs vaudeville, juggling, pantomimes, shadow shows and even a spaghetti western scene with a tap dancing cowboy and yodeling heroine.

“It was probably the closest to yodeling I ever got to sing,” Emily Krause, the sleeping woman lead, said.

The show relies on little dialogue, with most of the speaking between three clown heads and a pair of nutty professors who lecture on the ukulele.

The rest of the show relies on music, lyrics, dance, action and antics. But it is the Clown Family that steals the show.

“The seven clowns in the show, they guide the production all along,” Cerulla said.

The Clown Family ensemble was made up of Gus Thomas, Leah Siegel, Nicky Khor, Susannah Ellis, Emily Huntingford, Mykhanh Pham and Evelyn Levine.

The only downside to the show was that, as with many Whitman College productions, the run was too short, according to audience members who attended a special cast interview after the show and complained that there should be more performances.

There is, however, one last chance to see “Ukulele! A Variety Show” at the 2 p.m. matinee today.

Tickets can be bought at Harper Joy Theatre starting at 1:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.whitman.edu/hjt/box_office.html or call 509-527-5180.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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