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All Together Now! is an homage to everyone involved in theatre. This international theatre event was designed as a fundraiser to revitalize local theatre after hardships endured during COVID. Music Theatre International (MTI) made this musical revue available free-of-charge to producing organizations, and over 2,500 theatre companies around the world participated during the weekend of November 12-15. Those involved in the All Together Now! performance series included audience members, backstage crews, casts of performers, and musicians.
The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem put on a performance of All Together Now! to stand up and shout, "THEATRE IS ALIVE AND GOOD FOR THE WORLD!" Their production, featuring acts from 14 different musicals, also consisted of spoken comments from local Winston-Salem directors at NC Black Repertory Co., Spirit Gum Theatre, and more. It also featured a montage of celebrities prompted by the question, "What is theatre?"
As a concert-style performance, All Together Now! lacked props, costumes, an intermission, and live music. Despite these things, it compensated with a strong cast, real input from community members, and popular selected songs. Its format felt pulled apart and unexpected, which was exciting to view. Featuring spoken moments from community members, playing a video, and compiling a varied repertoire all contributed to the disjunct feeling of the event. Each song used a backing track, which caused some lag at moments and wasn’t quite as beautiful as having a live pit orchestra.
Towards the second half of the show, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" rang from the stage, which got the audience excited. Two women were nearly jumping out of their seats. These fans were using the hand motion from Broadway's Mary Poppins to break down the spelling of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The silliness, seriousness, and framework of All Together Now! felt reinforced by this song about a nonsense word that can be used when you don't know what to say. (Interestingly, while researching "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," I came across a lot of history that even includes a copyright lawsuit. You can read about that and more in this article.)
The cast was quite young and talented. Wearing red heels and a chic, black, trim dress, Caroline Mendenhall started the show strong with "Tomorrow" from Annie. Mendenhall's vocals were full and sturdy. Another notable performance came when Mendenhall sang "When I Grow Up" from Matilda. This song voices kids' desire to be grown up, to fight monsters under the bed, and their perception of "adult problems." Normally played by a full ensemble of child actors, this production filled the stage with an assortment of kids and adults. The song ended with Caroline Mendenhall's own mother, Mary Mendenhall, standing by her, allowing Matilda to see her future self mirrored before her. The overall impression was bittersweet and nostalgic.
For something completely different, another highlight from the show was "Take A Chance On Me" from Mamma Mia, performed by soloists Erinn Dearth and Dave Wils. Themes of young love and flirtation passed through the cast. Shoes were lost, shoulders bounced. This song had some of the most energetic choreography of the evening, with all of the cast dancing together.
The tearjerker of the night was Chloe Law singing "She Used to Be Mine" from Waitress. Originally written for a character who is a pregnant, pie-making waitress, this beautiful song is incredibly relatable to anyone who has felt stuck in a bad place. Every emotion of self-doubt, hope, and longing spill out of Sara Bareilles' lyrics. Law made her phrasing and body language so real and authentic during her performance that I felt like I was observing someone actually crying out for help. There was an air of hope, too, providing a sense of forward momentum that the character will get out of her situation.
This performance felt like an appropriate moment to reflect on how the arts also have been stuck in a dark place. With no live performance or ticket sales from the past year, local theatre companies are really relying on the theatre community, COVID-era grants, and other emergency aid options to keep their doors open.
Chase Law, President and CEO of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, has been in her seat since last December. A few times throughout the program, she spoke about the long silence in the theatre community during COVID lockdown and invited different Winston-Salem theatre directors to speak. They all passed around a mic to introduce themselves and express the sense of completeness that theatre gives them. This had an impact on the audience to realize what the community directors and leaders think about the state of theatre today and why it should be a priority.
The Little Theatre of Winston Salem put on a good show and pushed forth a diplomatic message. They emotionally and physically displayed to the public why theatre should remain a priority and how fundraisers like All Together Now! keep local theatre afloat.