Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Silver Belles
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Secret Garden

Naomi Jacobson, Nova Y. Payton, Donna Migliaccio,
Dan Manning, Peggy Yates, and Ilona Dulaski

Photo by Christopher Mueller
With the number of new works it produces each season, Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is going to have some that are enjoyable if less than inspired—and that's Silver Belles. This down-home, undemanding musical provides comfort food for the soul, buoyed by six talented performers led by Signature veterans Donna Migliaccio and Nova Y. Payton.

Above all, Silver Belles offers a relaxing break from some of Signature's more intense musicals for audiences and creative staff alike. Director Eric Schaeffer is also preparing Signature's reimagining of Titanic, which opens in December, and composer Matt Conner's previous works include the feverish Nevermore and The Hollow. Here they can go straight for laughs and heart.

In the small town of Silva Ridge, Tennessee, the "Silver Belles" perform an annual original Christmas pageant to raise money for the local orphanage. However, Oralene (Migliaccio), the organizer and author, has died suddenly only four weeks before Christmas, throwing this year's pageant into turmoil.

Allyson Currin's book plays up the eccentricities of the characters, none of whom, it seems, can get along with the others. While Oralene tries to influence the proceedings from the next world, long-ago beauty queen Ruth Ann (Peggy Yates), much-married Gloria (Payton), and slightly odd businesswoman Berneice (Ilona Dulaski) attempt to use their individual talents in a common cause. (Baton twirling! Taxidermy! Christian devotional Jello molds!) Meanwhile, Bo Jack (Naomi Jacobson), mechanic and local radio personality, tries to pull Earl (Dan Manning), Oralene's husband and songwriting partner, out of his depression with the help of Oralene's last batch of apple-and-cherry-flavored moonshine.

Payton's clarion voice and Migliaccio's belt bring the power to the ensemble, assisted by Yates' sweetness, Dulaski's quirkiness, Jacobson's deadpan, and Manning's open emotion.

Conner, who also wrote the lyrics with Stephen Gregory Smith, lays on the twangy, country-flavored charm in his songs, which also incorporate pieces of traditional carols. Choreographer Karma Camp gets into the silly spirit of things on James Kronzer's homespun set, assisted by Kathleen Geldard's costumes, while pianist Jacob Kidder provides constant support throughout the 80-minute performance.

Signature Theatre
Silver Belles
November 22nd - December 31st, 2016
Book by Allyson Currin
Music by Matt Conner
Lyrics by Matt Conner & Stephen Gregory Smith
Based on an idea by Cathy Alter & Sandra Johnson
Earl: Dan Manning
Oralene: Donna Migliaccio
Bo Jack: Naomi Jacobson
Berneice: Ilona Dulaski
Gloria: Nova Y. Payton
Ruth Ann: Peggy Yates
Pianist: Jacob Kidder
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Karma Camp
Music supervision by Warren Freeman
ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or

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