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TBT serving up cool summer fare

July 20, 2011
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

Lightweight summer fare currently is on the playbill at Thunder Bay Theatre, where the second and final week for "The Miss Firecracker Contest" runs today through Sunday only.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley, the show provides a means to escape the current heat wave into an air-conditioned theatre and to laugh away about 90 minutes of the evening. TBT core company member Derek Spack single-handedly keeps the comedy rolling as maladjusted Delmount Williams, though the rest of the six-member cast also are entertaining in their own right.

Henley's script doesn't have an excessive amount going on a small-town girl with a soiled reputation hopes to redeem herself by winning a local beauty pageant. The pageant contestant's limited world of Brookhaven, Miss., is populated by eccentric friends and relatives who mostly learn by show's end the value of loving oneself in the midst of life's disappointments.

Article Photos

Courtesy Photo
Starring in Thunder Bay Theatre’s current production of “The Miss Firecracker Contest” are, from left, Tracie Papin, Kendra McInerney, Ashlynn Stachlewitz, Derek Spack, Chelsea?Prettyman and John Martin.

The play originally was staged in Los Angeles in 1980, so TBT's version is filled with its share of eighties big hairdos and a few other period touches.

Besides turning in a really fun performance, Spack as technical director at TBT also had a big hand in creating a set that starts out the first act as the family homestead and then during intermission with a collective effort by cast and crew ingenuously converts to the county fair/pageant venue.

Kendra McInerney stars as Carnelle, the ever-hopeful Miss Firecracker pageant contestant who comes up with a talent show act in which she tap dances and lights sparklers to the "The Star Spangled Banner." McInerney gives her pleasingly dizzy character a fair measure of vulnerability and wide-eyed loopiness.

Tracie Papin is Carnelle's cousin, Elain, herself a prissy former pageant winner who has just fled her boring, wealthy husband for reasons never made entirely clear. As in shows past, Papin turns in a solid performance.

Chelsea Prettyman serves as Carnelle's costume seamstress, Popeye. Her character is a bespectacled, awkward young woman who began her career making outfits for bullfrogs and who harbors a major crush on Delmount. John Martin plays Mac Sam, a former flame of Carnelle's with a wide range of communicable diseases, and Ashlynn Stachlewitz is Tessy Mahoney, the pageant organizer who also carries a torch for Delmount.

But it is Spack's wacky portrayal of Delmount fresh out of a lunatic asylum that keeps the laughs coming in succession. Besides being just plain humorous, Spack manages to incorporate a sort of jumpy physicality that conveys Delmont's restlessness and unfocused anger which seem to keep him from accomplishing much in life.

Director Nickie Hilton did a nice job with the material and the collection of peculiar characters that Henley bundled together with behavioral quirks and odd childhood memories.

Remaining performances of "The Miss Firecracker Contest" are today through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For reservations, call the box office at 354-2267.



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