Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Playhouse's Play Day gives a taste of sizzling 'Chicago'

Allen Young, Sandy O’Brien, Allenda Jenkins, Mary Kay Hallen, Duanne Zinger, Jamar Jenkins, Gail Liston, Brian Plebanek and Suzanne Maris performed in the preview of “Chicago” last Saturday for Play Day. The show will be directed by O’Brien. - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Allen Young, Sandy O’Brien, Allenda Jenkins, Mary Kay Hallen, Duanne Zinger, Jamar Jenkins, Gail Liston, Brian Plebanek and Suzanne Maris performed in the preview of “Chicago” last Saturday for Play Day. The show will be directed by O’Brien.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

“It’s Agatha Christie meets Tennessee Williams meets Robin Williams,” said organizer Juila Locke as she set up the scene for the play “Murder in Magnolias.”

Laughter spilled from the nearly sold-out audience.

The scene was one of five shows previewed by the Whidbey Playhouse for next season, which will include the blockbuster “Chicago,” “Annie” and the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The free event, known as Play Day, was held last Saturday night.

As the end of the season nears, a new strategy for the playhouse will begin, said board president Allenda Jenkins: appealing to wider audiences.

“All of the plays have name recognition,” she said. “We’re very optimistic about this season.”

Part of the plan was to let audiences have a sneak peek at the coming plays. Play Day is usually a time to vote on shows, after a committee tediously narrows down the selection to 15 or 20 scripts. But this year, both the director and the plays were pre-selected.

“We decided, let’s go with the show the directors want to do,” Chandler said.

With only costumes and a few props, actors gave a 15-minute snippet of each play. Layered into the segments were performances by longtime stars for the building’s 30th anniversary. It was a night to celebrate the last few decades and get a glimpse at what’s to come, Jenkins said.

Among the performers were actress Mary K. Hallen who flirtatiously worked the crowd with the song “Shy” from “Once Upon a Mattress,” and Sue Rhiney who sang “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.”

The show came to a surprising climax when, near the end, Jenkins, Hallen and other playhouse veterans emerged in boas and fishnets for a look at the musical “Chicago.” The audience gasped and applauded as the women performed a sizzling dance to “All That Jazz.” It was followed by an audience sing-along of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

In the next few years, Jenkins said the playhouse staff will continue working on fundraising to expand the theater with a major remodel.

“In this economy, we’re learning to take baby steps,” she said.

They are also searching for new talent and volunteers. For more information about the Whidbey Playhouse or to find out about upcoming shows, call 360-679-2237. The Whidbey Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd. in Oak Harbor.

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