There is a lot to be excited about in Twin Cities as a theater fan. One of the biggest things for me is the amount of talented artist who live here creating work that I get to be privileged enough to be one of the first people to see. One of the best places to see this is at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, where I first saw an hour long version of Jefferson Township in 2017. I fell in love then and was so excited when I heard that Park Square had decided to support a full length production of the show.
The show, by local playwright and composer Keith Hovis, brings us to Jefferson Township a small town in rural Minnesota where four friends come together for a rematch of the child pageant the town had been known for in years past but was canceled the year their competed due to a gruesome accident. The show is hilarious and heart warming, and a much kinder and honest look at Millennials reaching age 30 than you often hear in the headlines.
The show is very well suited to Park Square Theater's thrust stage. The set by Ursula K Bowden is very versatile, easily changing between a grocery store, childhood bedroom, parking lot, and gymnasium. The staging was upbeat and energetic. My one compliant was that due where I was sitting and the columns that graciously hold up the ceiling I could not see any of the staging that happened between the first two rows of the center section of the audience.
The four member cast is extremely talented, the Jefferson Township is a strong ensemble show with well fleshed out characters, which is something that I think the theatrical canon does not have enough of. Kelly Houlehan plays Frannie Foster Wallace, recently back in Jefferson after not being able to make it in the big city. She wonderly portrays the balance of Frannie wanting to be the most put together one of the bunch while also in reality being the most lost. Ryan London Levin plays Liam Ackermann, Levin's performance is hilarious and his physical comedy was spot on. Zach Garcia plays Travis Hernandez, who is the heart and soul of the group. Leslie Vincent plays Val Hutchinson, the reigning Sparking Junior Talent Pageant champion out to defend her crown. Vincent is hilarious as the closest thing the show has to a villain, plus she has a killer voice.
Jefferson Township Sparking Junior Talent Pageant is a must see for anyone who likes comedy or new works of theater. It is playing at Park Square Theater's Andy Boss Stage through July 28th. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma