Joco Diversions

Mother-daughter teams make memories at The Theatre in the Park

Updated: 2013-06-20T19:18:46Z

By JOE HENDERSON

Special to The Star

The Theatre in the Park became a special place for Debbie Blinn in 1978 when she was in the cast of “Carnival” and it’s special for her again this year.

It’s where she met her future husband, Mike Blinn, who was the play’s director. “We started dating after the show and married the following year,” she said.

And now Debbie is making new family memories. She and her daughter Renee, who live in Leawood, are sharing a stage for the first time, in The Theatre in the Park production of “9 to 5, The Musical,” which opened Friday.

It’s first time Renee has performed at The Theatre.

“Because I grew up in a musical family, going to The Theatre in the Park was a large part of my life. But I was always in the audience,” Renee said. “Now I’m on stage with my mother. It is exciting, so different.”

Renee is a senior at the University of Kansas, majoring in psychology. “I’ve always been a singer, not an actor. In ‘9 to 5’ I sing in the ensemble and I play Margaret, the office drunk,” she said. “I’m so glad I auditioned for the show. Now I want to do more.”

Debbie portrays Roz. “I’m a crotchety older woman who likes to order people around and is hopelessly in love with her boss. It’s a fun character to play.”

The musical, based on the 1980 movie, follows three female co-workers who are pushed to the boiling point by their sexist boss and conspire to take over the company. Dolly Parton wrote the music and lyrics.

The Blinns are not the only mother-daughter team in the production. They are joined by rehearsal accompanist and keyboard player Amy Cramer and her daughter Abby, who plays Kathy, both of Prairie Village; and choreographer Liz Ernst and her daughter Hannah, a featured dancer, both of Overland Park.

“My mother owns a dance studio, so I’ve been dancing all my life,” said Hannah, a senior at Point Place University in Pennsylvania. “We’ve worked together so many times we connect well. We don’t need to talk. I can tell by her look what she wants done.”

Monica Sigler, who just graduated from Olathe East, plays Judy, the youngest, of the unhappy workers plotting against their boss. “I like Judy, seeing her grow up as the show progresses. At first she’s kind of mousey, has no self-confidence and has just been dumped by her husband,” Sigler said.

Sigler was in “Seussical” in 2011 at The Theatre in the Park. She is one of the finalists in the metro-wide KC SuperStar singing contest and is a member of Starlight Theatre’s training program.

The other conspirators are Violet, played by Cassaundra Sutherland and Doralee, played by Ramsey Self. Sutherland lives in Shawnee and teaches middle school choir in the Blue Valley School District. Self lives in Kansas City and just graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City UMKC with a degree in criminal justice.

Sutherland performed in “Legally Blonde” last summer at The Theatre in the Park. “This is my second show there. I like being Violet. She’s a very strong woman, snobby when she needs to be. Acting is a stretch for me. Usually I just sing,” she said.

This is Self’s first appearance at The Theatre in the Park. “It’s fun playing Doralee,” she said. “I like being someone I’m completely not like in real life.”

The target of the women’s ire, Franklin Hart Jr., is played by Craig Boyd of Olathe, a regular performer in community theater. “My character is an egotistical, pompous, male chauvinist pig, a character I don’t want to be like,” Boyd said with a laugh. “But I enjoy portraying him in a strange sort of way.”

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