You might say Heidi Turnquist is a woman on her way up. The Eugene thespian was first cast this spring as a lowly member of the ensemble in a production of Lady, Be Good! that opens Friday, July 8, at The Shedd Institute. Next thing she knew, she was asked to also take on a supporting role.
Then, in the second week of rehearsal, director Richard Jessup suddenly withdrew from the production for personal reasons, and Turnquist was invited to step in and direct the entire show.
If this reminds you of the plot of a zany backstage musical, imagine Turnquist’s reaction when she got the call from Shedd Executive Director Jim Ralph asking her to take over. “There was absolutely a lot of, ‘Oh, geez, can I do this?’” she says. “What have I gotten myself into?”
But Turnquist was already involved with the show and knew the overall design laid down by Jessup. She has plenty of experience directing student shows. And, you know, the show must go on. Turnquist said, “Yes.”
“It’s really come together really nicely,” she says. “And the team’s just been fantastic.”
First produced in New York in 1924, Lady, Be Good! is an example of very early American musical comedy that works on the contemporary stage. With music by George and Ira Gershwin, it’s full of tunes like the title song and “Fascinating Rhythm,” which are so much a part of American culture that you probably know them even if you don’t think you do.
The fast-moving book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson also contains a lot of timeless comic schtick, from mistaken identity to a pair of handcuffs, and clever multi-lingual wordplay.
In the story, Dick and Susie Trevor, a brother and sister dance team (played by Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele Astaire in the 1924 production), have run out of money and are about to be evicted from their apartment. Their complicated romantic lives and financial pressures fuel the quick-witted hijinks that drive the story from one song to another.
Turnquist says one reason Lady Be Good works for contemporary audiences is that its humor follows a timeless formula. “You know, we always joke that musical comedy is a revue with a chase scene and a wedding at the end,” she says, “This one is a musical revue with a chase scene and an engagement at the end.”
In The Shedd’s production, Dick and Susie Trevor are played by Trevor Eichhorn and Claire Kepple. Other cast principals include Brandon B. Weaver, Tate Foshay, Jim Peerenboom, Lucy Geller, Kara Churchill, Riley Given, Hannah Rudkin and Kelsey Stewart.
Robert Ashens is music director. Choreography is by Laura Sue Hiszczynskyj, and set design is by Jim Ralph.
Lady, Be Good! opens at 7:30 pm Friday, July 8, and runs through Sunday, July 17, at The Shedd Institute’s Jaqua Concert Hall. Tickets are $29 to $39 at TheShedd.org.