The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Concert and Dance Reviews

Title SouthFork Confessions
Organization Imagination Theater
Date(s) of show Sept. 15 - Oct. 8, 2017
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Honestly, I have never seen a show let alone a musical like this. And I bet you haven’t either. Everything about it is local: the setting of the story, the writers, the composer, the actors and everyone else involved. But the appeal of SouthFork Confessions isn’t limited to a local audience: it would delight audiences wherever it was performed.

The idea is that a group of townspeople from the booming Coloma of the 1850s all deceased are gathered in the town cemetery for the rare opportunity for their spirits to “go up higher.” But to do so, they have to seek redemption by telling their life stories. And as they do, there is conflict, tension, surprise and a lot of humor as they give and get forgiveness for their many sins.

Over the course of the evening, each character gets a chance to tell their story, and as they do, the audience gets a peek into the private lives of over a dozen colorful individuals. Not only are they well acted, but they have the benefit of an intelligent, insightful script from Director and co-writer, Chrissie Addison and co-writer, Peter Tyner.

And then there’s the music. Accompanied by a 5-piece band that stays hidden in the “church” on stage, there are 8 original songs the kind that you would like to hear over and over again, most with a bit of country flavor. The music was written by Music Director Betsy Moore, who also wrote the lyrics, except for the opening number “Make Way” and “Dust from the Gold,” a song that could easily have commercial success on its own.  Co-writer Peter Tyner wrote the lyrics to those last two pieces.

There are so many good singers that the ensemble numbers are really impressive. Moreover, there are many excellent individual voices showcased in different ways. And besides their accompanying the singing, the instrumentalists provide incidental music throughout the show. It almost feels like the music never stops.

Along with the good music and good writing, it’s the good acting that gives this show its special appeal. The central character, played by Tom Loeprich, is Father Jimmy Flanagan, the leader/confessor of this motley group of spirits. He anchors believability in what is fundamentally an unbelievable situation. The couple of Michelle Harwell and Chris Rimoldi go through an incredible range of emotions, and give the show its most poignant moments. Sadly, there’s not space to acknowledge the other actors individually, but each makes an important contribution in a setting that has nearly 15 main characters. And when the stage is full, as it is through much of the long first act, there are nearly 25 actors on the stage, each in character and in almost constant motion. There’s not a dull moment.

A lot of historical characters telling their personal stories and confessing their sins may not sound on its face like much of a plot. But this show is full of surprises, and clever, creative staging ideas that catch and hold an audience’s attention. And the well-crafted set and authentic costumes, hair styles, hats, etc. contribute to the magic of transporting the viewer to another time.

There’s not only magic in this show, but a bit of mystery. For example, there are frequent unexplained sound effects or moments when the actors move in slow motion. I’m still puzzling over those mysteries. But I’m also thinking about the great music, interesting characters, and thought-provoking dialog. That does it. I’m seeing this show again it’s that good.

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