Living

AFTER HOURS: Belated respect for a Webber musical

Maybe it was the unlikely pairing of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman -- better known for the hits on which he collaborated with rock and pop legends Meat Loaf and Barbara Streisand -- that made the musical drama, “Whistle Down the Wind,” a wallflower for years.

The stage adaptation of the 1961 movie premiered in 1996 to poor attendance and reviews, languishing in near obscurity until a renewed interest in the early 2000s, particularly in the United States and more specifically, in Southeastern community theaters.

Tapping the pulse of a more culturally aware generation where prejudice and generalities about race, gender and others who live outside the societal norm are considered with a more rational, informed approach is the metaphorical message of Webber’s play.

The Backlot Players opened the play at the Rose Theater in Forsyth on July 24 to a sold-out house.

The plot centers around a fugitive who arrives in a small Louisiana town in 1959 and is discovered hiding in a barn by a young teenage girl, Swallow, who takes him at his word when he tells her he is Jesus. With her young allies, she keeps his secret from her parents and the other adults in town, dreading what may happen to him if he is discovered and his intentions misunderstood.

Greg Nickle was coaxed by his son to try out for the part of the protagonist, known only as “The Man,” a role Nickle commanded like a seasoned thespian. Lindsey Kinsella, as Swallow, embodies the innocence and naivety of youth in her earnest efforts to avoid exposing her new friend.

The music ranges from classical to rock, the tension of the plot enhanced by a live band, which equips itself well with the Webber/Steinman lyrics. “Whistle Down the Wind,” directed by Marion McDougall and Tullye Ralph, closes Sunday with a matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased at the box office, are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, students and active military.

FROM IMPROMPTU JAM SESSION TO FAMILY FEST

Russell Walker was assuaging his grief when he organized a jam session, in summer 1999, to celebrate the lives of Braxton and Tate Bragg after the devastating news reached Macon that the brothers, who were talented musicians -- stars in the making -- had died.

How could Walker know that 16 years later there would be more than 80 bands plus a children’s festival scheduled to commemorate the lives of his friends on the last Saturday of July?

Billed as a family friendly event, children were welcomed on July 25 to the Cherry Street Plaza and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame to laugh at clowns’ antics, gasp at fire breathers, and be happily duped by magicians before their parents left them at home to return for the pub crawl later that evening.

With the increased popularity of the annual festival, more venues were added this year, stretching the walk from one end of downtown to the other, and outside the boundaries to Mount de Sales Academy, Coleman Hill and Twang Southern Tastes and Sounds in Payne City.

The former Cassidy’s Garage on Mulberry Street was draped in lights and a super night spot for four of the bands including The Norm and Stokeswood. The problem this year was logistics -- how to hear all the bands in one night!

Fortunately, for Gary Ballard, his wife, Betsy, acted as wing man and chauffeur to hear as many bands as possible before the music festival ended.

Jessica Weatherford, former board member of Bragg Jam, was grounded by an acute illness but her husband, Jamie, looked as relaxed as a past board chair leaving the Cox Capitol Theatre -- after replacing his festival responsibilities last year in favor of fatherhood.

A surprise tribute, park benches emblazoned with a B, were placed in the courtyard of Mount de Sales and dedicated to the Bragg family during the performances held that day on campus.

BEACH MUSIC FOR LANDLUBBERS

The Carolina Breakers band brought their beach music to Macon for the local shag club’s dance at the American Legion on July 25. The shag is synonymous with the Carolinas where it evolved from a combination of jazz, jitterbug and the Charleston in the late 1930s to a smooth, synchronized and unique dance.

Shag clubs are found all over the nation, but Carolina shag is still considered the gold standard. Julie and Todd Suttles, who never miss an opportunity to polish their routine, joined other shag aficionados who had to substitute a dance floor for beach sand.

Jennifer and Tryon Reynolds, instructors and owners of Dance Arts Studio in Dublin, epitomized the syncopated rhythm of shag -- a dance that appeals to all ages.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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