“Are We There Yet?” provides some very sweet moments
by Jami R. Smith
August 5, 2008
If you’ve been looking for the perfect “stay-cation” or “holi-stay” to pull your family out of the hot summer doldrums, make your reservations to see the latest from Circa ’21 today.
There is something fun for everyone in this wholesome and sometimes moving production at Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse. Take the teenagers and Grandma to see this one for plenty of entertainment-and possibly some thought-provoking conversation on the way home. Now, the poster and title are slightly misleading. This is not a family car vacation story, but rather a poignant journey through life itself.
The very talented cast of two young women — Erin Dickerson along with Sandra D. Rivera — and two men — Tom Walljasper working alongside Tristan Layne Tapscott — take us through different family life scenarios both musical and otherwise.
Sometimes the plotlines are expectedly sentimental, like bringing home the first baby and leaving the house you raised your family in. But there are some pleasant well-acted surprises in Anne Nieman’s production.
Tom Walljasper is the most talented and seasoned member of the cast. His characters are rich and he steals every scene with shameless flourish.
My personal favorite was his portrayal of an uppity preschool administrator during “Inutero Interview” who does pre-natal analysis of possible applicants. This scene would be hilarious anyway but Tom Walljasper makes it just so much more fun!
His presentation of a Little League coach who never married but considers the players his “kids” was right on. In “Coach Bob” he makes you want to go say thank you to someone who taught you as a child how to be a good person.
Erin Dickerson is as cute and perky as she was in “White Christmas” earlier in the season. She played one of the Haynes sisters where she displayed her awesome dancing and singing skills.
In this production, her impressive versatility is showcased from her portrayal of an adopted teenager searching for her birthmother on the internet in “I Know She’s Out There” to a retired Gramma babysitting to help out her kids in “What Happened to the Good Old Days?”
She is charming at any age but my personal favorite was her realistic version of an overzealous mom yelling from the Little League bleachers in “Batting Zero.” Believe me, you have seen someone like this at every game!
Tristan Layne Tapscott appears yet again this season in another Circa ’21 production and by the time the show is over, it’s easy to see why. Tristan’s versatility is on par with the rest of the cast but he’s such a baby! A very talented baby.
His youth is most difficult to remember during his monologue in “Inheriting Laura — accepting your DNA” where he plays an Alzheimer’s victim in his 80s who has volunteered for a medical study.
His portrayal is heart-wrenching as his character describes watching his own mother’s deterioration from the disease. He expresses fears about his own future in a tender yet humorous manner. So sweet…
Finally, Sandra D. Rivera hails from Louisville — the latest discovery by Producer Denny Hitchcock. Apparently, Louisville boasts the only other dinner theater in the country where the wait staff performs.
It seems Mr. Hitchcock saw her perform with the rest of the wait staff and hired her that night. She is a treasure; both talented and lovely. Her best number is “Cause I’m a Mommy” and maybe it’s partially because it’s her own personal favorite.
Whatever the reason, she shimmies and shines her way through the rousing scene; extolling the virtues and vices of Mommyhood.
One of the best things about the show is a three-piece band right on stage featuring Musical Director Ron May on keyboards, John Ladson II on percussion and Stephen Hopkins on bass guitar.
The musical score is nicely reminiscent of the music in all the old Charlie Brown cartoons and really adds a special element to this presentation.
“Are we there yet?” is a great way to lighten up your summer load in a nice air-conditioned beautiful theater.
For those of you who have never visited Circa ’21, here is a brief description.
Upon arriving, you are directed to your table in one of the most stunning theatres in the area. The stage set is always visible and you begin to get a sense of what’s in store from the design effects. This part is crucial to the experience for me and I am never disappointed.
The ticket price includes a fantastic all-you-can-eat buffet with everybody’s favorites so even your picky eaters can be satisfied.
There is a well-stocked bar and they create a new libation in honor of every new production. A free one goes out to some lucky audience member before each performance.
Once the meal is finished, you have the opportunity to order a specialty dessert or coffee to enjoy either after the wait staff performs or during intermission. This is where you can really enjoy something special.
I recommend the Italian coffee…Mama Mia. See you at the theater!
You could call it the parents’ edition of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!
You’ll leave the theatre humming and feeling better about being human.
– Wichita Eagle