Lasting friendships endure changing times at New Theatre



By Bob Evans

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Always expect New Theatre Restaurant to present diners with a wide gourmet selection of hot food items and follow that with a theatre production comprised of local talent and a special guest star from TVs vast assortment of guests, in this case, Morgan Fairchild in the comedy, “Dixie Swim Club.”

The five person comedy runs through July 2 and relies of the comedic talents of Fairchild and four of Kansas City’s most bankable actresses. In “The Dixie Swim Club” by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, five members of their high school swim team unite annually for a weekend getaway and several group swims to maintain their friendships amidst the test of time, marriages, sickness, and heartbreak. The bonds created prove that lasting friendship endures the toughest of life’s tests.

Along with Fairchild, members of the swim team are: Kathy Barnett, Debra Bluford, Jennifer Mays, and Cheryl Weaver. The beauty of this piece is that the show is tightly written and each actress share equal time and dialogue. Plenty of hearty laughs abound and the playwrights divided them equally so the piece works as an ensemble piece. Each actress shines in her own specific character and one does not outshine the other.

Another strength of this piece gives the guest star an equal and significant role. Some other shows that feature a well-known name presents them with a small part and merely relies on name recognition to sell the tickets and bring in the audience. Fairchild demonstrated on TV and stage that she can and does act and can hold her own on any stage. In “Dixie Swim Club” she’s as integral as the others to deliver laughs and dialogue.

Director Dennis Hennessy always delivers on comedy shows and this is no exception. He knows where the laughs lie and makes sure his cast hits on every one. Such detail keeps the show moving and fast. “Dixie Swim Club” relies on this fast pace to keep comedy in focus and the laughs coming. The comedic timing of the entire cast remains sharp and crisp. No one will find flaws within this piece.

As for the cast, Kathy Barnett is Dinah Grayson, a sharp lawyer on top of her game, Vernadette Simms is portrayed by Debra Bluford, complete with her baggage of a poor marriage, kids in prison, and hazzards the others avoided. Lexie Richards, Morgan Fairchild, is the rich and successful member who can’t seem to hold on to a husband–for love nor money. Jeri Neal McFeelery “blossoms” as a converted nun, as played by Jen Mays. And team captain and organizer of the annual get-together is Sheree Holinger as played by Cheryl Weaver.

All of the characters have their strengths, weaknesses, and their flaws, but throughout the play, each weakness and flaw finds a quartet of supportive teammates to help them survive another year. “The Dixie Swim Club” is warm, funny, heartfelt, and a joy to watch. Each actress brings her “A” game to the table and challenges the others to do likewise.

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The play is not destined to win a Pulitzer Prize, but it does deliver a fun evening of theater. The show is written with an eye for each character and allows each character to change, reveal, and rediscover the bonds of true friendship.

Hennessy leads the production team of: James Misenheimer, scenic design, Roger Stoddard sound design; Kathy Stengel, stage manager; Sean Glass and Randy B. Winder, lighting design; Duane Hoberg, technical director; Sarah M. Oliver, costume design; Deborah Morgan, Properties design; Ryan K Klein, company manager.

“The Dixie Swim Club” continues at New Theatre through July 2. Judging by week one availability, some shows could already be sold out. Call ahead for reservations. More information can be found on the New Theatre website. 
Tags: New Theatre Restaurant, “The Dixie Swim Club”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Dinner/Theater, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theater


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