Photo by Dani Wilson
Sue Mueller and Gordon Cragg are the director and choreographer for Actors and Artists of the Riverbend, a group that benefits nonprofit organizations.
The show must go on — and for the members of Actors and Artists of the Riverbend, it must go on for a great cause.
About three years ago, Sue Mueller had the idea to start a theater group. They decided they wanted to use their group to benefit community nonprofit organizations. This year, they are performing the musical “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” to benefit the Alton Youth Symphony — to further connect the two organizations, the Alton Youth Symphony will be accompanying the group with live chamber music for the show.
Mueller, who directs the shows; and the group’s choreographer, Gordon Cragg of Alton, both have high expectations for the musical.
“We’re showcasing the best of the best in both vocals and dance,” says Mueller, who is also excited about the live music featured in the show.
“Live music makes all the difference,” she says.
The musical features popular 1950s songs such as “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” and even hits from Elvis Presley like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”
Mueller and Cragg are excited about the show itself — “it’s not like any other musical,” Cragg says.
Mueller says the show is predominantly vocals, featuring 42 musical numbers. Cragg says the show will appeal to all age groups and prove entertaining for the whole family.
The show’s success in rehearsals is largely due to the directors’ cooperation, Mueller says.
“We’re really fortunate to have a good production team,” Mueller says.
Cragg and Mueller started working together in the early 2000s when Cragg was hired as choreographer for one of Mueller’s shows. She was pleased with his work and asked him back for several more shows before they started the group.
“We’ve worked really well together … we click,” Cragg says.
Mueller says they were also fortunate to add Caitlin Peach to their team this year as vocal director. By coincidence, Peach was involved with the Alton Youth Symphony as well, so she has been present and active at rehearsals, Mueller says. Peach and Mueller also took dance at Cragg’s studio in the past.
“It’s a small world,” Cragg says.
The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at the Nazarene Community Center in Roxana. Mueller says she is grateful for the church’s help and expresses sincerely how much the group has appreciated the community’s support during the production of this and past shows.
“They’ve worked wonders for us and with us,” she says.
Cragg says he is excited for the opportunity to showcase the group’s talent.
“There are talented youth in the Alton and Godfrey area that all pull together to produce quality shows,” Cragg says.
Mueller says it will be enjoyable for everybody and a great example of the talent of the Actors and Artists of the Riverbend.
“We might be a small theater company, but we can put on a fabulous show,” Mueller says.