Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Students shine in musical

“Pal Joey” is a musical about an arrogant, self-centered aspiring showman whose quick wit and manipulative tendencies cause great love and loss for the character. The show follows the aforementioned Joey Evans as he shoots for stardom in Chicago while engaging himself with Vera Simpson, a wealthy older woman, and Linda English, a younger naive woman.

The show premiered in UW-W’s Barnett Theatre this past weekend.

Antonio Parra played the titular character, Joey, for his fifth show at UW-Whitewater. Parra has perfected the crooner style of singing that is necessary for pulling off his character of a 1940s nightclub singer.

The entire cast fit their characters to a tee. Genevieve Paur, who played Vera Simpson, had a commanding voice that convinced the audience that she was an intelligent, no-nonsense affluent woman of Chicago.

Caitlyn Dickman, who played Linda English, is a freshman at Whitewater who is majoring in entrepreneurship and minoring in musical theater. Her voice was angelic and bright, which fit perfectly with her young, innocent character who had trouble seeing through Joey’s tricks.

The stage presence of everyone, including the background characters, was amazing. Particularly, in the song “You Mustn’t Kick it Around,” the audience could see each dancer’s character show through in each exchanging glace made while Joey was teaching the girls of the nightclub the choreography. 

There were a couple of stunts performed during the show. Near the beginning, Joey tripped on the stage stairs to get the attention and sympathy of one of the showgirls at the club. The stunt looked real enough that the audience wondered for a second if it wasn’t planned.

Another stunt happened when Vera slapped Joey. Each actor pulled this off brilliantly, having the slap look swift and impactful.

Possibly the most fun song of the show was “What is a Man?” performed by Vera. What made it stand out were the witty lyrics and the use of the nightclub girls dressing up as men who are fawning over Vera.

One aspect that cannot go with a compliment is the orchestra. Since the musical is set at a nightclub, the band was actually on stage for portions of the show. This sets the mood of the show and highlights the often-forgotten performers of a musical.

Professor Bruce Cohen added “Pal Joey” to his long list of over 60 shows that he directed or produced. Professor Cohen argues that “Pal Joey” has the musical “Oklahoma” beat as the beginning of the golden age of Broadway, despite “Oklahoma” being widely considered for that title.

“‘Pal Joey’ innovated the unification of all three elements [song, dance, and story] and beat ‘Oklahoma’ to the golden-age punch by three years,” said Cohen.

What’s next for the Barnett Theatre? Well, “Pal Joey” runs for another weekend. Then Dance Scapes ‘24 is coming back for its annual showing of student talent. This year, it will feature a guest choreographer by the name of Pate Nassalang. Nassalang is best known for being a professional Afro-Jazz and Lindy Hop choreographer and dance instructor for many African dance companies.

UW-Whitewater Department of Theatre/Dance and music present Pal Joey. Seen here is Pal Joey(center) played by Antonio Parra on stage hosting at his night club in 1940s Chicago shown in Barnett Theatre Feb. 22 2024.
(Katie McIlheran)
UW-Whitewater students dancing in Pal Joey’s night club in UW-Whitewater’s production of Pal Joey in UW-Whitewater’s Barnett Theatre Feb 22 2024.
(Katie McIlheran)
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About the Contributors
Katie Zee, Arts & Recreation Journalist
Katie McIlheran, Lead Photographer

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