‘On the Town’: Glenwood Springs meets New York City
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Actor Jimmy Coates seems comfortable dressed as a 1940s-era sailor for the Glenwood Defiance Community Players’ production of “On the Town,” opening Friday night. And, with good reason.Coates has been told he sounds a lot like Frank Sinatra – who starred in the 1949 film based on the Broadway musical – when he sings. Or, his upbringing could also have a little something to do with it.”I just went with the character, because I grew up in a military family,” he said. “My father was in the Navy in World War II and I remember the stories I’d hear from my dad about being in New York for a day.”Sitting outside the Jeannie Miller Theatre at Glenwood Springs High School, Coates speaks of his lead character, Ozzie, like they’re old friends – as if they were both from the neighborhood outside of Boston where Coates was born and raised, a neighborhood where baseball and cracking jokes trumped acting and tap dancing.”I really like that it was a story of the friendship of three sailors together. I just went with the character. He’s kind of a clown, and I like playing crazy characters. I’m kind of a clown,” Coates said. “I really focused on the role to develop the character, to be the complete Ozzie. I didn’t think I was that funny, but I guess I make people laugh.”Coates looked to the work of the late comedy legend Red Skelton for inspiration as he developed his character. He studied Skelton’s facial expressions and mannerisms to become Ozzie, one of three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York City in “On the Town.” The performance is Coates’ fourth with Glenwood Defiance Community Players since embracing theater three years ago, at the age of 45.”It’s about focusing. It’s high energy – a lot of fun and a lot of silliness,” Coates said. “I like the challenge of it all, and bringing it to the next level.”That’s exactly as “On the Town” director Eileen Martin intended. Martin said she has watched the actors, singers and dancers surpass her expectations.”The theme of it is extraordinary, and I wanted everyone to want to take it to the next level. I wanted them to have the desire to make an extra effort, to go that one step further, and they have,” she said.Along with Coates and Chandler Meldy (as Chip), Martin’s 18-year-old son, Jake Roehrs, plays one of the lead roles as the sailor named Gabey. Roehrs can also relate to his character, as he will be leaving for duty in the Air Force in 2011.”It’s been really hard since this is his last performance before he’ll be going into the Air Force,” said Martin, president of the Glenwood Defiance Community Players board.The family connections run deep with the “On the Town” cast. Actor Van Sea’s daughter, Kari, is the production’s choreographer. His granddaughter, Charli Corcorn, is the youngest cast member at age 5. Martin said 26 actors and singers, ranging in age from 5 to 70, comprise the cast, along with 50 performers from the Glenwood Dance Academy’s Danse Arts Theatre Company.”It’s a true community collaboration, and it’s very exciting that it’s happening,” Martin said. “We have amazing dancers and beautiful singers. It’s one of the few evenings people can come out and watch ballet, tap dancing, and singing and forget all their troubles of the economy and the war.”Martin hopes audiences enjoy revisiting “On the Town’s” 1940s setting, which features music by beloved American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. “I think it’s family-oriented, and we’ve made it fun for everyone,” she said. “It goes back to that time when there was some innocence. I think that’s my point. I’d like to bring us back to that mentality.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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