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Ten Million Dollar Melody: A two-cent review

Ken Scar, Provided

Liam Donley (left) applauding Wesley Cotter (right) as “Ten Million Dollar Melody” prepares to go on-air.

On March 6, the Clemson Players closed their most recent production, “Ten Million Dollar Melody.” The show, which played at the Bellamy Theatre, hosts a band of colorful characters who form two gameshow teams that answer musical trivia questions and sing snippets of popular songs that fit a given category. 

The show was created by a collaborative effort from directors Shannon Robert and Charis Tefft, a senior theatre major, music director Lisa Odom and the cast. 

The host, played by freshman theatre major Wesley Cotter, dished out the questions while the judge, played by junior theatre major Liam Donley, watched the players, able and willing to revoke points and performances whenever he deemed necessary. When a team answers  a question correctly, the contestants can pick a category and the hostess, played by senior theatre major Daniela La Ferrara, would reveal the topic. The teams earn points by singing songs based on the topics.

The Bellamy theatre was set up to look like a TV studio, with the audience acting as the live studio audience. Both on and off “the air,” the cast stays true to their characters, fully immersing the audience in the experience. Both Cotter and La Ferrara, as well as their camera operator, senior theatre major Rosa Marana, hold the stage like true hosts and operators of a game show.

The immersive experience of a theatre troupe performing a show about hosting a show can be overwhelming, but the Clemson Players take full advantage of it, bringing the audience that much closer to the performance. The set even includes “on-air” and “applause” lights for the audience, a touch I thoroughly appreciated.

With the show set for airing, the announcer, played by freshman secondary education major Mikie Brown, welcomes the host, hostess and judge. Once the game and rules are introduced, the characters begin to take the stage, each personality unique, delightful and hilarious. 

Having attended a rehearsal performance a week before the show opened, I was looking forward to seeing the costuming come together, especially considering the lack of attention paid to costuming in recent shows. I was delighted to see each character’s wardrobe matching their personalities perfectly. Contestants were also subtly color-coordinated to their respective teams, a detail I didn’t notice at first.

Settling in, the characters gave their introductions, set up some fun dynamics to be expanded throughout the show and began their journey to the $10 million prize. While I’d seen the songs performed in rehearsal, many of the actors were on vocal rest at the time. The  rehearsal was still incredible, but I was looking forward to seeing these actors show their true vocal ability. Once again I, along with the rest of the audience, was blown away. 

The jukebox-style show gave incredible performances again and again with hilarious choreography and props. By far, this has been the best performance of the Clemson Players’ 2021-2022 season.

Every member involved in this show helped to create a spectacular performance. Even the technical crew had a rare opportunity to add immersion by being on the stage. In their traditional roles, they facilitated a near-seamless show with smooth lighting transitions and perfect audio management, which such a music heavy show requires. The five-piece band, led by keyboardist Grace Berardo left nothing to be desired with their powerful accompaniment.

Each and every song was exciting, well-performed and well-choreographed. Looking around the audience it was impossible not to see everyone with a smile filling their face and their feet or hands keeping with the beat.

1. ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52’s performed by The Red Team

2. ‘Take me to Church’ by Hozier performed by Emily Schultz

3. ‘One Night in Bangkok’ by Murray Head performed by The Blue Team

4. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell performed by Katie Cannon and Kasey Lenzner

5. ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen performed by Devyn Byrd

The show deserves all the praise I’ve given, but it isn’t without flaws. Between all of the rapid-fire musical numbers, there was little time left for a solid overarching plot. Some characters were able to fulfill some growth, namely Byrd and senior theatre major Kasey Lenzner’s character developing a strong relationship that funneled into some of their performances. 

It was quite engaging but I only wish that there was more of it. In the end the red team won and created a plan to fund a charity started by La Ferrara’s character. The characters rallied around this idea that had only been mentioned at the beginning of the show, and did so with references to their own character traits that called back to their brief introductions at the beginning of the show. 

Although the actors did create believable and enjoyable characters, they never went anywhere. While it didn’t detract from the show, I feel like it could have added something pretty special.

Over all, the show was an absolute delight. It was fun, captivating and a worthy way to spend two hours of my time. The Clemson Players have outdone themselves with this performance and I’m excited to see what this success inspires them to improve upon and create in the future. Continue to keep an eye out for their future productions, including their last spring performance “Split in Three” premiering in April. I know I’ll be watching to see the new challenges the Clemson Players tackle. 

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