FRONT ROW CENTER
By Cindy Paul

     All in all, Design for Murder, by George Batson, turned out to be a typical LLT production, with the solid cast rising above a fairly pedestrian script. But the set and some knockout acting vignettes put this play over the top, giving the audience their money’s worth.
     Director Andrew Krumbhaar chose a fine cast and crew. Lois Vlahov, Michael Neiderman and David Splittstoesser all presented most credible leading roles.
     The large supporting cast, made up of Pat Varcoe, Annabelle Runsat, Marcia Valvo, Sylvia Bitting, Harry Walker, Ann Clegg and Tod Jonson with a miniscule walk-on, worked well together. This play, like most murder mysteries, is rife with complex innuendos and twists and turns manufactured for the sole purpose of creating suspense and casting suspicion about in every possible direction. Almost every character in this play is designed to be a possible murder suspect, with moments practically oozing slimy manipulation. When your character is not likable, but not out-and-out evil, you – the actor – are in a tough position onstage, and if it´s done right, nobody even notices!
     I must mention Pat Varcoe’s energetic and charming portrayal. This is one of Lakeside’s outstanding actresses and it’s nice to see her back on the stage again, giving us such delight.
     Technically, the show was good. The set was a Tod Jonson/Ektor Carranza masterpiece. Deep and colorful, exuding just the right kind of opulence with an enormous oriental rug, marble and even stained glass, it contributed vastly to the play itself. Set changes were fast and practically seamless. Wardrobe and makeup were lovely.
     The incidental music created by Alan Bedford enhanced the entire show, perfectly reflecting the dynamic curves of the script. Special care was evident in a recording and delivery of the main character singing — the sound was put through speakers directly in front of the audience, thus believably emanating from the stage itself, and the volume (always a dilemma) was correct.
     So often sound is the last problem to be addressed in these productions, with a clumsy result. There was evidence of this common flaw in this particular show. Such mistakes as cutting off sound cues abruptly and allowing music to overwhelm the dialog are distracting. Another problem often occurring in community theatres is unmotivated blocking, actors walking around for no apparent reason. Though not constant, this occurred throughout the course of the play and eventually had a disquieting effect. Most likely this error was committed with the understandable idea of jazzing up the 50-year-old script. The difficult play was otherwise meticulously handled by a director with an eye on acting.
     Crew for this massive undertaking included Robbie Krumbhaar as stage manager, Sue and Len Breitfeller on lights and sound, Barbara Ruffalo and Lerna Keddy on wardrobe, Nancy Kendrick and Sheila Quinn doing makeup and Terry Jo Kennedy handling the props.
     A poll was taken each night during the intermission of this play to find out who the audience believed was the murderer. I understand that at least one night yours truly received a vote… for which I am sincerely honored.
     When such a well-rehearsed and hard-working team can pull off the subtleties required by an intricate murder mystery, it’s just good clean fun for everybody.

Ajijic FilmFest Kickoff
LET´S GO TO THE MOVIES!

     The Filmfest kickoff show was simply spectacular. Produced by go-getter Sandy Vandermeer, directed and choreographed by talented Barbara Clippenger, music directed by Douglas Livingston (who also accompanied with his usual sure hand and sensitivity), written by Gordon Weaver, and set-designed by the ubiquitous Jonson/Carranza team … this show was an entertainment triumph, proving yet again the viability of musical revues. It featured Ann Clegg, who has an astonishing voice and poise, Sandy Vandermeer turning in a top-level performance, and Mac Morrison and Mike Niederman in solos to die for. Ray Himmelman and Pat Carroll were comical and bright, Ron Richter, Carmen Carranza, Eileen Bednarz, Barbara Hawkins, and Ektor Carranza made full use of the large stage for wonderful dance routines, and also sang in production numbers. In spontaneous appreciation of such verve, talent and sparkle, the audience stood up and cheered for this remarkable collection of 75 years of movie music, initiating the fourth annual Filmfest in real style.

AN EVENING OF MUSIC
FOR MUSIC LOVERS

     I have rarely been so moved by a show as the evening last month when I attended the concert benefit for the Niños Incapacitados. Presenting Peter Schaefer on piano and the Los Cantantes del Lago choir, the concert warmed a packed and appreciative auditorium audience, eliciting a standing ovation thank-you at the final curtain.
With a pure expression of his beautiful spirit, Peter Schaefer played several of his own compositions along with some familiar numbers, my favorite being a crystalline rendition of “When I Fall in Love.” The Cantantes deserve special plaudits for an excellent performance, accompanied by Douglas Livingston and directed by multi-talented Darel Walser.
In this full program there was no showboating, just a reflection of the chosen title, “Music for Music Lovers.”

— One person’s opinion