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Roswell: The Musical at the New Mexico Military Institute Amphitheater

By Os Davis

JULY 17, 2000:  The most amazing thing about Roswell: The Musical is that, like the Roswell phenomenon itself, it exists at all.

Think about it: How does one script 28 musical numbers between dramatic scenes based on a barely-seen event and the whispered murmurings of a lone rancher? It ain't exactly Evita, is it? Having accepted these limitations, The Roswell Outdoor Theatrical Association has put together a friendly, crowd-pleasing show reminiscent in feeling of the town itself.

Scripted by Gene Murray, author of 10 musicals and Amarillo Opera's Composer-in-Residence, Roswell: The Musical proports to tell the tale of the infamous Incident, but instead tells a distinctly small-town American tale. Well, OK, not just any small town ... this is Roswell, after all.

In the best tradition of community theater, the character of cornpone sheriff (played with charm and charisma by Tim Dill in the performance this reviewer attended) warms up the crowd before the show, welcoming all in aw-shucks style. Attendees from cities from Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles provided ample material for Dill's clowning.

Roswell: The Musical displays the usual gang of 1940s small-town types, including ambitious reporter Alan Gordon (played by Caleb Y. Howl, boasting a voice waiting to be discovered), his pure and innocent love interest Jenny (Summer Savage), several gossipy housewives, straight-laced military men, and one nosey secretary named Lucille (Cassie Kermode).

The plotline contains few surprises, and characters stay uncomplicated (this is a musical, after all). Though there are times when the storyline feels padded--the love story between Alan and Jenny is given way too much stage time, apparently in deference to this couple's stage presence--Roswell remained sufficiently entertaining to elicit cheers of "bravo" following every scene from the audience's younger members. Mature audiences may find the play a tad long, though the production's trippier sequences are nothing short of hilarious.

The highlight of the show is clearly the much-touted "alien dance number," featuring romance writer Margo (Charlotte Moon), four pint-sized little gray dudes, a budget-busting spaceship prop, and a very human alien leader. Bulging with muscles and not given a line of script, this Charles Atlas-looking dude known as simply "The Hunk" (Joel Harrison) participates in a very bizarre pas de deux that can best be described as a fantasy encounter of the closest kind.

OK, so it ain't The King and I. With the same sense of humor and friendly nature permeating the town, however, Roswell: The Musical packs enough élan for which to pony up $5. With a few special effects and a marquee name or two, this thing might single-handedly squeeze a few more years out of the Roswell phenomenon. Are you listening, Broadway?

Roswell: The Musical is performed by the Roswell Outdoor Theatrical Association at the New Mexico Military Institute Amphitheater in June and July annually. The current run plays through July 29. For ticket prices, times and further information, call (505) 622-4950 or log on to www.roswellcvb.com.

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