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Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

An Unusually Compelling Children’s Musical

‘The Quiltmaker’s Gift’ at Marquette University

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Based on Jeff Brumbaugh’s book, Alan J. Prewitt and Craig Bohmler’s children’s musical, The Quiltmaker’s Gift, is a remarkably concise and compelling story. As directed by Bo Johnson, the Marquette University staging is enjoyable and briskly paced. A cast of eight delivers the fantastic story of a king who wants everything and the quiltmaker who is unable to give him the one thing he really wants. The story plays out as a group of attractive, young apparent derelicts tell the fairytale to a kid passing through their corner of the world.

Terry Lee Watkins plays the king. He’s got an impressive presence onstage and quite a bit of potential in musical comedy. He has a strong, magnetic singing voice and a savvy sense of delivery. Squared off against him is the quiltmaker played by Catherine Audette. Audette is given the challenge of drawing in an audience’s attentions and sympathies without the kind of emotional amplification that often goes along with that type of role. Giving only to those who truly need, the character is altruistic, which can be difficult to deliver to the stage with total charm. Audette has a steady approach, giving the character life that never feels forced or under rendered.

The chorus has a pleasantly fresh-scrubbed, ragged quality about it that suits a children’s show quite well. Mackenzie Possage and Peter Sisto provide precision with attitude as a couple of the king’s reasonably loyal servants. Melia Gonzales lends a warm introduction as storyteller to the child, rather dynamically played by Katherine Shanahan.

Marquette University’s production of The Quiltmaker’s Gift runs through Jan. 19, at the Helfaer Theatre, 525 N. 13th St. For tickets, call 414-288-7504 or visit showclix.com/events/marquettetheatre.
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