Review: Dear Edwina sets high bar for 2018-19 season

Granbury junior Kiersten Mathis performed the role of Edwina, the lead of the show, alongside Waco sophomore Chris Coley who played the awkward, lovable role of Bobby. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

The Baylor Theatre production of Dear Edwina opened Friday and, under the direction of Lisa Denman and musical direction of Lauren M. Weber, the show was a success.

“Dear Edwina” is a short, hour-long production and features a “show within a show.” Edwina, played by Granbury junior Kiersten Mathis, is a thirteen-year-old girl, desperate to prove to herself and others that she has equal talent to her peers and siblings. Each week, Edwina produces a musical show out of her garage during which she reads letters and offers advice to the senders in the form of song and dance. “Dear Edwina” breaks the fourth wall to engage the audience as onlookers of one of these weekly performances. During this particular week’s performance, Edwina is hoping to attract the attention of a talent scout from the “Advice-a-palooza” festival. Ultimately, Edwina goes unnoticed by the scout, while Scott, Edwina’s admirer, played by Jared Fleming, is selected to perform at the festival. In the end, Edwina embraces her own advice and accepts that she should do what she loves, regardless of what others think about her.

The simple set design involved colorful sheets hanging from clotheslines, boxes stacked on top of one another, ladders and other miscellaneous materials that a child might use as a backdrop in her musical garage production. The set allowed for hilarious entrances and exits of characters and gave the stage a sense of childlike wonder.

Whitney senior Keele Halbert hit the nail on the head with her costume design, reminiscent of John Gordon’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Dressing college students to look like a motley ensemble of children from a neighborhood is a challenging task; however, the ruffled socks, scrunchies, white sneakers, short shorts and striped T-shirts gave the characters an extra boost of childish charm beyond their own acting abilities.

The musical accompaniment consisted of piano, played by Alexander Kostadinov, and drums/percussion, played by Brian Crowder. The simplicity of the accompaniment felt consistent with the casual style of the show and provided opportunity for the vocalists to stand out, which some absolutely did.

Mahomet, Ill. junior Autumn Hodge humored the audience with her peppy portrayal of Becky. Tyler senior Lexi Rains’ rendition of the Fairy Forkmother was absolutely hilarious and her impressive vocals filled the house. Waco sophomore Chris Coley perfectly embodied the spirit of a painfully awkward teenage boy and his fidgety character had the audience in stitches. Jackson, Ala. junior Kelli Jo Crosby’s vocals impressed as she transitioned seamlessly between head voice and chest voice throughout one of the musical’s more challenging songs, “Put in in the Piggy.” Kiersten Mathis’ performance of “Sing Your Own Song” was compelling and emotional. The list goes on and every actor and actress stole the spotlight at one point or another during the show.

On a few occasions, it was clear the vocalists were having trouble hearing the piano — one of the biggest challenges of having simpler accompaniment. Some of the songs in “Dear Edwina” are uptempo which made it difficult to hear the hilarious lyrics, but this might have been a reflection on the sound system and not the performers’ articulation.

All in all, the show was a success and the performers were met with a standing ovation during curtain call. “Dear Edwina” has set a high bar for the rest of the 2018-19 season.