Fashion icon’s story gives punch to Spinning Tree production

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By Bob Evans

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A lavish red set sets the tone and mood for the story of fashionista, Diana Vreeland, well-known fashion editor from Harper’s Bazaar and later managing editor of Vogue fame, in a one-woman show at the Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Cheryl Weaver, directed by her husband, Doug Weaver, gives a strong, poignant character study of Vreeland at a low point in her career–about a month after she’s been fired from Vogue and returns from a trip to Europe to rekindle her spirits. Weaver’s performance unmasks the stylish matron’s strong facade to show the layers of events that led to Vreeland’s career as one of the top fashion consultants of the 20th Century.

“Full Gallop” opens with Vreeland planning a dinner party to celebrate her return to the States after a European trip to the world capitals where she learned and honed her eye for fashion from her youth in Paris through her early married years in London. While in Europe, the socially-connected Vreeland learned the style of Paris’ leading designers, their annual openings, and the style trends of each.

According to “Full Gallop,” Vreeland considered Ballenciaga the best designer the world ever knew and devoted some time extolling his command of style as part of the dialogue. While the play gives insight into the world of fashion, “Full Gallop” paints a vivid picture of Vreeland as she talks to the audience as though they were within her lavish digs listening to her.

“Full Gallop” allows Weaver to present an inspirational performance of the fashion maven in retrospect as she worries about her future. Several lines from within the play shine light on the blow suffered by Vreeland with her dismissal from Vogue. One friend tells he that her future lies behind her, which signals that Vreeland must re-make herself to scale a new mountain to maintain her success and her lavish lifestyle.

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Such is the focus of “Full Gallop” and the fuel that gives Weaver a strong, composite character to develop and portray. Weaver shows the decisive spirit of the legend along with her insecurities. While watching the show, the audience can not help but feel the pain and aguish Vreeland feels as she faces an uncertain future.

As a character study, “Full Gallop” gives Weaver the chance to fully explore and develop a complex character and show a multitude of emotions and layers. Just being a solo actress on stage alone and holding the audience attention for two acts presents a challenge. Weaver meets the challenge head-on with no flaws in her performance.

“Full Gallop” was written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson with the title coming from a line in the play that characterizes the life and determination of Diana Vreeland. To create the theater magic of this production the technical aspects help with the fashionista’s motif. The production crew responsible for this show are: Nicole Jaja, lighting design: Jeff Eubank, sound design; Russell Bagwell-Schein, hair design; Cheryl Weaver, costume coordination; DeDe DeVille Scenic and properties design; Taylorrae Burton, stage management. The team was led by director Doug Weaver.

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“Full Gallop” continues at the Just Off Broadway Theatre through Feb. 11. Tickets may be purchased at the box office or via the Spinning Tree website.

Tags: Spinning Tree Theatre, Just Off Broadway Theatre, “Full Gallop”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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