Review: Parkland's 'Kazam!' big on nostalgia

Review: Parkland's 'Kazam!' big on nostalgia

In celebration of Parkland College's arrival at the half-century milestone, faculty member Kerry Bean has penned a pun-filled, baby boomer homage to superheroes, dastardly deeds and espionage with his musical murder mystery melodrama, "Kazam! Intrepid Inspector Ingrid of Interpol and the Crimson-Caped Killer Caper." Whew — say that 10 times fast!

This student production is an entertainment cocktail with elements of music, mystery and mayhem, all of which come together in a fast-paced farce that, by design, reaches a different conclusion at each performance.

Set in the mid-1960s, the story opens at a superhero costume party hosted by Paige Turner, the librarian. (The clever character names are worthy of a good-natured groan).

The guest of honor is a very rare first volume of a particular comic book entitled "Uranium Man!" Not only is it worth a lot of money, but also may contain plans for a deadly doomsday device. Insert thunder clap, followed by cheeky three-chord suspense music here.

Over the course of the evening, various guests try to steal the comic book, which leads to (deliberate pause) murder (gasp).

To keep audience members on track, a helpful narrator, aided by a perky "Chorus McBorus," moves the story along.

Student Director Tyler Cook has utilized the black box theater space effectively, placing the audience on both sides of the action, up close and personal, and employing minimal but necessary set pieces that rolled on and off swiftly so as not to slow the action.

Sound Designer Dominick Rosales pushes things appropriately over the top with impressive sound effects and a terrific "sounds of the '60s" soundtrack that had audience members chair dancing like no one was watching.

HeatherAnn Layman is the hard-working narrator, appearing to be, rightfully so, the only responsible adult in a madhouse. Impressive diction made the heavily alliterative dialogue roll off her tongue effortlessly.

Remaining cast members include Diane Pritchard as Swedish Super Sleuth Ingrid of Interpol, Curt Deedrich as Dr. Bob, Aubrey Brown as Paige Turner, Erin Kaufman as Philomena Folio, Jacob Smith as Russian spy Ivan Hoe, David Heckman as Professor Roman Numeral, Stacy Walker as Louise La Penne, Robert Hartmann as Rex Flexall, Hannah Longest as Sunshine and Courtney Bruner as Dawn E. Brooke. (I told you the character names were groan worthy.)

Bruner also is a member of the Chorus McBorus, along with Gennie Applebee, Samantha Odendaal and Tafadzwa Diener.

An enjoyable evening filled with nostalgic moments influenced by so many Hanna-Barbera cartoons — there's even a Hong Kong Phooey reference. I suspect many of the young cast members had to Google the toons to understand some of the humor, but the audience loved every silly minute. "They would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids ..."

Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at triciastiller@msn.com.

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