In 2013, local playwright Nancy Carlson Dodd won the Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival with a music-free version of The Wedding Gift, a theatrical property she began working on in 1980.
But it has long been her dream to have the show produced with a full score.
The Civic Theatre has helped her bring that dream to fruition.
A full musical production of The Wedding Gift can be seen this weekend at Arts United Center.
Dodd transformed the play into a musical extravaganza with the help of her niece, Dori Erwin Collin, arranger Ryan Shirar, the Civic’s music director Eunice Wadewitz, and choreographer Olivia Rang.
The Wedding Gift has a plot that hearkens back to the heyday of the screwball comedy. Flossie Marvel (Rebecca Nelson) is the linchpin in a family of grifters who have a talent for leaving young, rich men at the altar and absconding with the wedding gifts.
Just as Jean Harrington does in the Preston Sturges’ comedy The Lady Eve, Flossie falls genuinely in love with one of her guileless marks (the whimsically named Austin Austin, played by Timothy Miles).
Comic mayhem ensues, as it tends to do in these sorts of entertainments.
Any show succeeds or fails on the strength of its performances and The Wedding Gift boasts some tours de force, especially Nelson as Flossie Marvel.
Aimee Lackey and John P. Gardner as Flossie’s parents are also top-notch.
The always excellent Aaron Mann has a lot of fun as a jilted cowboy who causes the Marvels more trouble than they bargained for.
The sets by Adam Fletcher are stunning. Fletcher’s realization of the Austins’ mansion is an eye-popper.
Locally written musicals are a rarity and locally written musicals that are given the full Civic Theatre treatment are rarer still.
The Civic tends, understandably, to gravitate to proven Broadway hits when assembling its seasons.
The Civic is to be commended for having the courage to guide Carlson Dodd’s vision to the stage.
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