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Good Out-Trumps Evil

Destry Rides Again is famous as a 1939 movie, less so as a 1959 play, even though it won a Tony award in 1960 for Best Choreography. The singer who played the lead in that play, the 33-year-old Andy Griffith, was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical. Better known as the sheriff of Mayberry, Andy did not have much chance to show off his singing abilities on the TV show that began that same year he was passed over for the Tony. If you have not seen the play, this is your chance: it is being performed at the Hill Country Community Theatre near Marble Falls.

The term “Community Theatre” is especially appropriate here as most of the actors live in or near Marble Falls, and really are family. It includes two sisters (Gwyneth and Annika Palermo), their father Jeffry, two brothers (Hunter and Hayden Holder) and the father-daughter team of Howard and Victoria Davis.  Mr. Palermo, as the sheriff who is one of the two lead characters of the play, really fills the role admirably. As the largest actor on the stage, he looks imposing and is a delightful song and dance man too!

“Frenchy” with the three young ladies under the control of Rose Lovejoy

Regular attendees at HCCT plays will recognize several of the actors in Destry, including Sally Stemac who is perfectly cast as a Madame. Suitably dressed in red, she is in charge of several lovely young ladies who are taught Respectability by Stemac’s character Rose Lovejoy. A cute song about the world’s oldest profession, sung by her young ladies, is a show-stopper. Aside from being portrayed to perfection by Stemac, the inclusion of her character in the Old West bar in Texas, near the San Pedro River Valley Bend in the town of Bottleneck, shows that such people were included in society. This was certainly not the case in the more Puritanical 20 century.

As for the name of the town, it seems the movie portrays the reason. In the opening sequence, bullets smash a whiskey bottle that is tied and hanging from the sign. A real bottleneck is left swinging. This is perhaps a metaphor for the impending fate of Gyp Watson (played by Hunter Holder), who is facing a hanging for the murder of the sheriff.

As for the name of the town, it seems the movie portrays the reason. In the opening sequence, bullets smash a whiskey bottle that is tied and hanging from the sign. A real bottleneck is left swinging. This is perhaps a metaphor for the impending fate of Gyp Watson (played by Hunter Holder), who is facing a hanging for the murder of the sheriff.

Giarratano, Kellen Koch,  Dwayne Sanders, Victoria Davis, Christine Ashbaugh, Gwyneth Palermo, Like many in the cast, Hunter is young (he has not begun 9th grade yet). I thought he did a fantastic job, exhibiting the aplomb of a seasoned actor. This is the 7th theatrical production for his brother Hayden, who also delivered a mature performance.

The lead actor playing the role of Destry, Kellen Koch, is only 18 years old. Together with the other young guys and gals in this production, he puts a new and refreshing spin on a very old play. It is especially hilarious and touching to watch his scenes with Frenchy (played by the 17-year-old Lauren Giarratano). I wonder how she approached this role, knowing Marlene Dietrich played it in 1939? Giarratano’s portrayal was both moving and saucy, just what was needed for this stage performance.

While her voice was very fine, the other singers did not project too well. This may have been due to sound issues during the show I saw, as some people in the back rows had trouble hearing the words.

 

The choreography, especially with the kids, was very fine. Since many in the cast were so young, I asked a young fellow in the audience for his assessment. “It gave me a lot of Texas Pride,” he said. “Seeing the super-exaggerated stuff brought me joy and laughter.” What better audience reaction could one hope for? The plot, while predictable, is grounded in basic human emotions of good vs evil. Whether or not the good guy gets the gal he deserves is something I won’t tell – you will just have to make that one-hour trip from Austin to find out for yourself!

 

Destry Rides Again is on thru Aug. 7, 2022

Thehcct.org for tickets.

 

Complete cast:  Sally Stemac, Annika Palermo, Jeffery Palermo, Kristi Senterfitt, Stellan Zollitsch, Hunter Holder, Jordan Jones, Hayden Holder, Kenall Collier, Howard Davis, Caprice Crowley, Lauren Kaylea Felfe

Most of the cast of Destry
Kellen Koch and Lauren Giarratano

 

Dr. Cliff Cunningham
Dr. Cliff Cunninghamhttp://sunnewsaustin.com
Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books.
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