Shelby Gray & Joy Beth Dewitt in Unhindered and Ungendered 2017: Once Upon A Spinning Wheel. Photo courtesy Wayward Actors Company.

Unhindered and Ungendered 2017: Once Upon a Spinning Wheel

Musical Direction by Doug Jones
Directed by Valerie Canon 

Reviewed by Janelle Renee Dunn

Entire contents are copyright © 2017, Janelle Renee Dunn. All rights reserved.

What do you get when a bunch of Disney characters walk into a bar singing popular Disney tunes? A toe-tapping, hand-clapping, belly-laughing good time is what. Wayward Acting Company’s latest installment in their Unhindered and Ungendered series, Once Upon a Spinning Wheel, is a show you should run, not walk, to go see.

Director Valerie Canon has spun together a rather enchanting cabaret. The concept of the show is very simple: there is a spinning wheel with all the characters on it. One by one, the characters come up to spin the wheel – whomever the wheel lands on performs the next song. Of course, there are a few group numbers sprinkled in the mix.

The monotony of one character after another coming to spin a wheel to sing can get tedious rather quickly. However, Canon was smart by casting James Thompson as Flynn Rider (yes, Rapunzel’s guy), as the host for the evening. Thompson was the perfect emcee, keeping the energy up throughout the entire show. He was able to masterfully banter back and forth with the other characters, even when some of them might not have given him much to work with. We are even treated, for a brief moment, to his beautiful booming singing voice during a duet with one of his “lovely” cast mates. I will not say which “lovely” cast mate the duet is with, but just remember the show is called Unhindered and Ungendered.

Thompson was not the only stand out of the evening. Taylor Clemons as Quasimodo just makes your heart melt and fall completely in love with him. He sings “Once Upon a Dream” with such vulnerability that it didn’t feel as if he were singing for or to the audience. Rather, it was as if he had someone in mind and was singing it directly to them and the audience was just lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

There were a few glitches in the show. As Fairy Godmother, Kim Hartz’ rendition of “Cruella De Vil” just did not seem to be the right song choice for her voice and she came off as uncomfortable singing it. However, she turned around during the second half of the show and gave us a crowd pleasing rendition of “Down in New Orleans.” Sallie Proffitt makes a gorgeous Snow White, yet projection was not on her side, and her singing was a bit strained. The fellas got a little out of rhythm for their “Hercules” ensemble number. Remember when it comes to gospel, you always clap on two and four. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the show is the performance space. The Bard’s Town is a wonderful space (with wonderful food), however, for this production it felt a little too crowded for the performers to truly move around.

Other than the few glitches, the cast overall was a delight and you could tell they were really enjoying not only the audience, but also each other. Even musical director Doug Jones, as Captain Hook, was able to get in on the fun with the opening number to the second half of the show.

Once Upon a Spinning Wheel is a delightful show that will leave you smiling from ear to ear and make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. With everything that’s going on in this country today, who couldn’t use a little warm and fuzzy?

Featuring James Thompson, Jake Minton, Mandy Kramer, Joy Beth Dewitt, Jeremy O’Brien, Kim Hartz, Shelby Gray, Josh O’Brien, Taylor Clemons, Sallie Proffitt, Andrew Mertz, Chris Meier, JoAnne Sweeny

Unhindered and Ungendered 2017: Once Upon a Spinning Wheel

January 19-29 @ 7:30pm

Wayward Actors Company
At The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 749-5275


JanelleJanelle Renee Dunn, originally from Duncan, South Carolina, is an actor, singer and teaching artist. She has a MFA in Acting from the University of Louisville and a BA in Theatre (Directing) from Berea College. Before becoming the Performing Arts teacher at Chancey Elementary this school year, Janelle Renee taught drama workshops and drama clubs to students for three years. She also appeared in the title role of a local kid’s touring show, Kylie for President (Drama by George). Janelle Renee is also the Co-Artistic Director for Smoked Apple Theater Group. She recently made her professional directorial debut with SATG’s production of Oh Lord! Mamma Done Burnt the Biscuits. Acting credits include: Click, Clack, Moo (Stage One), ShowBoat (Kentucky Opera), Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Bunbury Theatre), Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and Rocky Horror Show (Pandora Productions), Much Ado About Nothing and Becoming Mother’s (Looking for Lilith) and Doubt (Wayward Actors).