Guild show reunites mother and daughter

Originally Posted Online: March 27, 2013, 11:48 am
Last Updated: March 27, 2013, 10:42 pm
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By Jonathan Turner,

With"Something's Afoot" at Quad City Music Guild, frequent choreographer Martha Taylor, of Moline, puts on a directing hat for the first time, and puts the dancing shoe on the other foot -- of her daughter Kathy, who's making her Q-C debut teaching the steps.

"I'm really proud of her," Martha (who's choreographed 20 Guild musicals) said this week. "One thing I always tried to do when I choreographed was, people couldn't tell where the director stopped and I started. She picked that up, from hearing it so many years."

"I grew up dancing with her; it was the perfect way to learn," said Kathy, who performed in her first Guild show in 1982 ("The King & I") at age 6. "It's not 'tell me, but show me.' It was natural lifelong learning, growing up in it."

"She compliments me on my choreography, but that's exactly where I learned it," Kathy added. "When I compliment her, she doesn't take it. You're only as good as your teacher." Over the years, Martha gave her constructive feedback, and built up her confidence, she noted. "That is the continuous learning cycle. There's always something to work on."

"If you don't work on it, it becomes stale, complacent," Martha said. "Then your work deteriorates."

Martha -- who studied ballet for several years and taught private dance and musical theater classes for years out of her home -- got involved behind the scenes at Guild because of Kathy, who's been in eight or nine shows. She first choreographed "HMS Pinafore" in 1983 and then "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" in '84. Mike Schmidt -- who directed that "Pinafore" -- plays the Colonel in "Something's Afoot," and Tom Naab -- the lead in her "Seven Brides" -- portrays Dr. Grayburn in this spring show.

The last show mother and daughter did together was "Meet Me in St. Louis" in 1994; Kathy (a United Township High alum) has only been back full-time in the Quad-Cities for two years, after earning bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Illinois State in Bloomington, where her mother also helped on shows.

Kathy's Ph.D is in educational administration, is the principal at Frances Willard School, Rock Island, and this fall will become the school district's director of assessment and accountability.

Why come back to Guild then?"It's part of giving back to the community, providing some entertainment in a creative, fun way," she said. "Most people don't know you do this, from your day-to-day job. It's like a teacher to kids -- 'You go to the grocery store? You're a real person?' It's the opportunity to work with people who are talented in different areas."

Martha wanted to take the directing gig because she can't choreograph or teach dance anymore since she's been dealing with Parkinson's disease. The last Guild show she choreographed was "White Christmas" in 2010. "The disease doesn't play favorites," Martha said.

Of leaving her dance and music theater students (from kindergarten to high school) a few years ago, she said: "I think I was more upset with that more than anything. I put my whole heart into it."

"Something's Afoot" -- which premiered in 1972 in Atlanta, and played Broadway in 1976 -- is a definite spirit-lifter, Martha said, noting she's wanted Guild to do it for years.She choreographed it at Alleman High School in 1985.

"It's just fun," she said. "It's just funny, very clever. It's well-written."

The show is described as a "zany, entertaining musical that takes a satirical poke at Agatha Christie mysteries and musical styles of the English music hall of the '30s. Ten people are stranded in an isolated English country house during a raging thunderstorm. One by one they're picked off by cleverly fiendish devices. As the bodies pile up in the library, the survivors frantically race to uncover the identity and motivation of the cunning culprit.

Guild veteran Mark Holmes designed and built the impressive hunting cabin set, complete with fireplace and mounted animal heads.

A New York Times review last year of a revival said: "The creators don't seem to have written another Broadway musical, and strictly on the merits, this may not be a bad thing. The songs in 'Something's Afoot' are utterly undistinguished, and many of the jokes fall flat. But the show is loopy and fun, and even garnered an Olivier Award nomination for best musical in London."

"This show is a good choice for this theater," Martha said. "You have to familiarize people with other works, you know? This is different. And it is a family show."

She and her husband Jerry (who is Dispatch/Argus publisher and has served many years on the Music Guild board) have six kids altogether, and 16 grandchildren, but Kathy is the only one really into theater. They continue a proud tradition of Guild families -- spouses and generations active in the community theater group simultaneously. Martha noted several people have met their mate at Guild.

Dan Pepper and his wife Melissa, both in this show, met at Augustana College and have done area musicals together. The 10-member cast also includes Sara Nicole Wegener as Tweed, the detective; Heidi Pederson, Tommy Ratkiewicz, Bruce Rickert, Stephen TouVelle and Pami Triebel.

If you go

-- What: Quad City Music Guild's "Something's Afoot"
-- When: 7:30 p.m. April 4, 5 and 6, and 2 p.m. April 7.
-- Where: Prospect Park Auditorium, 1584 34th Ave., Moline.
-- Tickets: $16 for adults, $11 for children, available at 309-762-6610.


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