by Lorie Lewis Ham
This past weekend The People Vs. Mona opened at the Reedley Opera House. The People Vs. Mona is a courtroom musical comedy set in the tiny town of Tippo, Georgia, starring an eclectic and crazy group of characters.
Mona (Jacquie Nuckels), the accused, is the owner of the local hangout the Frog Pad. She is accused of killing her husband, C.C. Katt, on their wedding night with her guitar. Her lawyer is Jim Summerford (Don Applegate), who is engaged to the prosecuting attorney Mavis Fry (Tidy Gill) and has never won a case. Judge Ellis Jordan (Michael Westpy, recently seen as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables with RCTC) presides over the case. The rest of the cast is made up of the two people in the bar (Joseph Ham and Marianne McFarlin) who also go on to play several different characters during the show. Oh and the Frog Pad doubles as the courtroom.
Throughout the show, Jim often addresses the audience as if they are the jury, and draws them in to some fun audience participation. Mavis is a controlling woman who may just have a conflict of interest as the prosecutor. Judge Jordan sings every time he swears in a witness. And Mona may end up being innocent of murder, but definitely isn’t innocent.
Marianne shows up as two of the witnesses and the “coroner.” Joseph Ham shifts with the speed of light between four or five different characters, which include the officer at the scene Officer Bell, a wanna be Broadway singer; Rafsanjani Patel, a motel owner; a Reverend, and a blind street singer. Joseph also makes an appearance in a flashback scene as the deceased.
This show is hilariously over the top. Joseph had the crowd falling out of their seats laughing with his crazy characters, especially his performances as C.C. and Patel. Marianne also played quite the variety of funny characters and got a couple of death scenes. Don, Tidy and Jacquie provided plenty of comedic courtroom “drama.” Most of the songs in the show are all pretty silly and fun, and mostly with a country or gospel flavor. Jacquie and Tidy have lovely voices, and Don is a believable shy southern gentleman torn between Mona and Mavis. Michael also had some very funny moments as the judge, and has an incredible voice. To top it all off, I have to say that the reveal of the killer was a surprise–so all nicely done.
Steve Jones is the director of this RCTC production and deserves a nod for putting together all of this fun craziness. If you are in the mood to laugh, you have three more weekends to see this show which closes on October 13. More info can be found on their website, and tickets can be purchased on their website or by phone 559-638-6500, 866-977-6500.
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