When an etymology major and a tie-hack-at-heart marry and spend their first spring together working in Island Park, Idaho, a spring to remember is in the making. A play to remember could also be in the making.
Hale Center Theater's "A Spring to Remember," written by Ruth and Nathan Hale about their first spring together, may not go down in the annals of great drama, but it certainly could be recorded in the annals of entertaining musicals.The plot is plain, the characters loud and simple - just like life in Island Park during the 1930s. A fight at the bar every Saturday night and a trip to church every few years for a funeral is enough to keep everyone contented - until etymology major Linda comes to spend the summer with husband Dave.
Appalled by the spitting she sees and the language she hears, Linda tries to civilize the tie-hacks (lumberjacks). She tricks them into coming to church, only to have the meeting disintegrate into a free-for-all. Her suggestions for weekly book review and grammar classes meet with hearty and vocal disapproval. She jumps to conclusions about her husband and several of the womenfolk in the area and just generally tries to prevent herself from liking this close-knit, unruly, rambunctious likable group of people she calls "neighbors."
But by the end of the play, Linda - as well as the audience - has become quite attached and accustomed to these characters.
The musical, which is double cast, has much to offer.
Every one of the 11 characters in this show is memorable. Obviously, with two casts, there is some comparison, but both groups capture the down-home country flavor of the show.
Alisa Harris and Robin Russon Koford, who portray Linda, capture her "nasty disposition," while keeping a trace of the sensitivity and sensibility that must have attracted David to her in the first place.
Jared Shaver pulls double duty. In addition to directing the show, he takes turns with Mark Dietlein in portraying David. Both men have strong, deep bass voices, and though Dietlein is lanky and Shaver has an average build, both capture the carefree feeling of a man who belongs in the backwoods.
Other standouts in the two casts are Sharon Kenison, whose tall, thin Effie plays perfectly off tall, stout John Gilbert, who plays Big John. Gary Armstrong waltzes on and off the stage as Charlie, with the audience giggling in anticipation as soon as they see him. Glenna Jensen as Mrs. Vanorsdale is one of the finest performers in the show. Every time she shuffles on stage, she is in character.
There isn't room to mention specifics about the other characters, except to say that all do a good job. Other performers include Carole Taylor, Joan Johnson, Mike Guarino, Rosalie Richards, Jim E. Smith, Terry Spencer, Ross Clark, Tom Stam, John A. Paulk, Ryan Bower, Lenore Cambria, Jackie Forrest, Julie Watson, Janie Wallace, and Marla Smith McKinney.
High points during the two-hour production were definitely the group musical numbers and mention must be made of Lenore Cambria, whose choreography got the audience's attention every time. Ruth Hale and Sally Dietlein wrote the words to the songs, with the rousing music written by Sally Dietlein. The music was arranged by Val David Smithson.