‘Show Boat’ director makes main stage debut

May 5, 2009

By David Hayes

village-showboat-20090501

‘Show Boat’ Director Jerry Dixon is all smiles in from the balcony of VIllage Theatre, as the river boat set is constructed on the main stage last week. By David Hayes

First thing’s first — Jerry Dixon, director of Village Theatre’s “Show Boat,” is not currently, nor has ever been, the bass guitarist for 1990s hair metal band Warrant.

Dixon said the two have been mistaken enough times in correspondence that he had to put a disclaimer at the top of his Web page.

“We get each other’s e-mail all the time. I’ve even had to return some very large royalty checks to him,” Dixon said.

He said it’s funny until he has to clear up the mistaken identities with the Internal Revenue Service.

Besides appearances, the other obvious difference between the two is heavy metal Dixon has probably never been to Issaquah, while theater Dixon has. He directed a Village Theatre original production of “Barnstormer.”

And he had such a fabulous time working on a play at its inception stage that he jumped at the chance to travel across country from New York City to work here again on “Show Boat.”

“You get what a great facility this is in layers,” Dixon said. “First, it’s ‘What’s a theater doing in a little town like this?’ Then, you go inside and say, ‘Wow, nice lobby.’ And when you finally open the doors to the theater, it’s so impressive you’re speechless.”

A former fulltime theater actor, Dixon slowly transitioned to directing 10 years ago to where he directs 80 percent of his time and acts 20 percent of it. His credits include “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Tick, tick… Boom!” and most recently “Next to Normal.” It was after this production that Dixon was recruited by Village Theatre alum Brian Yorkey. Next thing he knew, executive producer Robb Hunt hired him.

“This will be the biggest show I’ve ever directed,” Dixon said of “Showboat’s” 28-member cast. “A fellow director asked why I’d ever want to direct such an over-the-top production.

“While it is big in scope, you don’t get that in but a few scenes. Mostly, it’s full of small, intimate scenes.”

Dixon admitted he had a tough time in the casting process, saying with a production that had been on Broadway and the silver screen, there are many preconceived notions for each character. In the end, he brought in Village Theatre alums Megan Chenovick (“Bye, Bye Birdie” and “Oklahoma!”) as Magnolia Hawks and Greg McCormick Allen (“Beauty and the Beast”) as Frank Schultz.

Dixon, however, turned to his old friend Richard Todd Adams, from New York, who had experience portraying Gaylord Ravenal.

“It’s exciting for the audience to see their favorites, people they know mixed with new faces,” Dixon said.

Audiences should also be excited by the set pieces, which includes a section of a full-sized, 6,000-pound riverboat.

“This requires actors to adhere to an old school style of acting,” he said. “With something that size on stage, it’s easy to get lost. It requires acting that bursts out of the set.”

Dixon adds that while the story is set in the 1800s, its message is timeless — Magnolia, who believes in love at first sight, learns the harsh reality of life too late as her man has left her a single mom.

“Sound familiar?” Dixon asked.

Audiences should recognize some old favorites from the production, including the classics “Ol’ Man River,” “Bill” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”

Just don’t expect Dixon to break out any classics from Warrant. Dixon will leave those to the one with the long hair.

If you go

‘Show Boat’

May 13 – July 3

Francis J. Gaudette Theatre

303 Front St. N.

Tickets are $22-$58.

392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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