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Friday, September 24, 2021

Hippodrome celebrates female empowerment with ‘It’s A Woman’s World’

The theater’s second main stage show of the year featured hits from prominent female artists, performed by an entirely female cast

Attendees enter the Hippodrome State Theatre in downtown Gainesville to view a performance of “It’s a Woman’s World, Songs of Celebration” on Friday, July 2, 2021. The Hippodrome, which which moved into the historic old Federal Building in downtown Gainesville in 1979, aims to provide a first-class artistic space to North Central Florida residents.
Attendees enter the Hippodrome State Theatre in downtown Gainesville to view a performance of “It’s a Woman’s World, Songs of Celebration” on Friday, July 2, 2021. The Hippodrome, which which moved into the historic old Federal Building in downtown Gainesville in 1979, aims to provide a first-class artistic space to North Central Florida residents.

The lights went down at the Hippodrome Theatre July 2 to reveal a single quote sprawled across the side screens. 

“Bloom beautifully, dangerously, loudly. Bloom softly. However you need, just bloom.”

The quote, from poet Rupi Kaur, was just one of a host of mantras displayed throughout the show, “It’s A Woman’s World.” 

The show featured a slew of hits from female artists through the ages, performed by some of the Hippodrome’s company performers. Serving as a celebration of female empowerment, it ran July 1-3 and acted as part of the Hippodrome’s return to live shows.

Sheryl Sanberg, Michelle Obama and other prominent women were quoted by the performers in between songs, connecting agents for a show centered on love, friendship and female strength. 

Featuring Hippodrome company performers Kelly Atkins Morgan, Savannah Simmerly and Zöe Wilde, “It’s A Woman’s World” showcased songs from some of pop culture’s most prominent female artists. The lineup included modern hits from singers like Kacey Musgraves and Lady Gaga as well as songs from musicals like “Sister Act” and “Fugitive Songs.”

Stephanie Lynge, the artistic director at the Hippodrome, said this combination of classic and contemporary strived to engage the audience, ideally calling back to old favorites and inspiring new discoveries.

“It’s a nice mixture of things people will recognize and things they may not have heard, but they’re probably going to look up when they leave,” Lynge said.

“It’s A Woman’s World” was conceived as a “celebration in song” of women through the years, Lynge said. The show aimed to highlight not only female singers and songwriters through the ages, but the women performing.

Lynge said the timing of the show — the Fourth of July weekend along with continuing emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic — was perfect for highlighting the company’s female performers.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we’re celebrating America, let’s celebrate women,” she said.

Clara Kelly, the costume designer at the Hippodrome, said the female-centric setlist struck a chord with her as she watched the performance. Kelly and her friend Jordan Wiedenbaum cheered from the crowd all night, and they said the show made them feel empowered.

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“The songs are all female centered and specifically about issues that women have, so it’s very personal to, I assume, all the women in the audience,” Kelly said.

The weekend performance was one of several small shows the Hippodrome has produced as in-person shows make their return. “It’s A Woman’s World” was only the second show hosted in the main theater since the onset of the pandemic, but shows in other locations across Gainesville took place as part of the ongoing “The Hipp Pop-Up Series.”

The series, which began June 23 and runs through August 12, functions as a “traveling show” of cabaret performances in spaces like the 4th Ave Food Park, Bo Diddley Plaza and Depot Park. Similar to “It’s A Woman’s World,” which ran at just under an hour, these performances are shorter and more low-key than a full-scale production.

“It was not feasible for us to try to throw together a big summer musical as we were coming out of COVID with the CDC guidelines changing and the union guidelines changing,” Lynge said. “We decided to do a couple more smaller, cabaret-type shows to allow us to perform and invite the community back into the theater.”

Lynge said the Gainesville community was “thrilled” with the Hippodrome’s reintroduction of live shows. With the company back on the main stage for the Fall Season, Lynge said “It’s A Woman’s World” and other summer productions are signs of an anticipated return to normalcy.

“That’s what we wanted these summer shows as we step back into our regular season to be,” she said, “celebrations of being together and being together, and being together again after what we’ve all gone through.”

Additional information on upcoming summer shows and the Fall season can be found on the Hippodrome’s website

Contact Heather at hbushman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.

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