Sunday, June 3, 2018

Singin in the Rain

Singing and dancing in the rain is a little different for most people is a little unusual.   On stage, it seems almost impossible.   However, the Omaha Community Playhouse is successfully proving that you can sing and dance on stage with rain coming down.    Obviously, difficult and slippery put with an effect that is mind boggling.  Yes, it is raining inside the theater.   Don’t worry, you won’t need an umbrella.
With remembrances of the movie “Singin’ in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, the show is a remembrance of the past times in the world of silent movies emerging into talkies.   More than appearance is now needed and certain voices just wouldn’t be successful with the new technology.  
The story is about two silent movie actors, Don Lockwood (Nate Wasson) and Lina Lamont (Cathy Hirsch). Change is coming to the movie business after “The Jazz Singer.” which included sound.   For Don and Lina to transition to the talkies, something has to change, Lina’s voice.  She has a squeaky, difficult to understand voice.   To cover the problem, another actress Kathy Selden (Taylor Lempke Plank) sings and dubs her voice as Lina’s.   Added to that is the difficulty of Don secretly loving Kathy.  How will Lina react when she learns the truth about her career and her love?
Kimberly Faith Hickman demonstrated her talent with incorporating the technology of rain on part of the stage with a play being written from a movie musical.  How do you make the raining stage appear natural?   How do you keep the rest of the stage dry?
“Singin’ in the Rain” is full of delightful songs such as the title song and “Good Mornin’, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and “Fit as a Fiddle.”   Each song is uplifting with the melody and the dancing.
OnPxl with Matt Bross and Chad Eacker excelled with their movie productions within the show.  The cleverness of these short snippets greatly enhanced the entire show using people from the cast.   The comical short films were obviously fun for the cast.
The sets were amazing representing legendary locations in the movie business, moving quickly and almost invisibly.
As Cosmo Brown, J. Isaiah Smith shined in this role.  He was energetic, comical and a very talented actor.  He was amazing with his onstage antics, acrobatic dance moves, and enthralling singing.   He is unquestionably a name to watch for in the future.  He is enthralling.
“Singin’ in the Rain” continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 24th.   Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.    Ticket prices are $32 for Wednesday’s and $42 for Thursday through Sunday shows.   Special student and group prices are available.  To obtain tickets, call or visit the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha or by calling the box office at 402) 553-0800.   Tickets can also be purchased online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Company

What do neighbors and friends think about a thirty-five year old bachelor?    Um....he should find a wife?   Why can’t he find a wife?   What is wrong with him?   Is he gay?   These are the questions Robert’s friends are asking?   Why doesn’t he have a partner?
The company is the story of Robert or Bobby as some of his friends call him and his 35th birthday. How will he deal with his friends who are all married?    Strangely, each marriage is different with its own individual uniqueness.   Does each marriage have its own problems, personalities, and its own individual type of love?
Sarah (Angie Helm) and Harry (Chris Ebke) are phenomenal in their roles.  Their relationship is a little different than most, definitely more physical.   Both deserve praise for their outstanding stunts.   Their relationship is full of doubts, with the challenge of proof.   To understand further, you must see this musical.
The other couples slowly reveal their own secrets.   Susan (Kelly SchlottO and Peter (Travis Wilcox) deal with a questionable conflict.   Jenny (Sarah Ebke) and David (Mark Haufle) along with Amy (Carrie Beth Stickrod) and Paul (Brandon Fisher) show the progression of many marriages.  Joanne (Heather Wilhelm) and her onstage husband (Tim Daugherty) are the aging couple with money who is having difficulty connecting.  As possible mates for Robert are Marta (Lindsey Tierney, Jack), Kathy (Lauren Anderson), and April (Brenda Smrdel).
Each member of the cast is extremely talented in becoming their character revealing the complications of marriage.
The company is a well-known Stephen Sondheim musical that also won the Tony Award for the best musical in 1971.   To make the show appropriate for today, the choice was made to modernize with life in 2018 rather than the 1970s.  
As with every live performance, excellence can be found.    On Company, I found the outstanding stunts of Chris Ebke and Angie Helm masterful and hilarious.   I also discovered a mesmerizing voice, Heather Wilhelm.  Her voice is rich, powerful, musical and memorable.  
The success of this show and all community theater shows is due to the many volunteers who usher, help with the box office, the opening night foods and all the numerous behind-the-scene jobs to assist with a successful performance    We should all appreciate the sharing of their talents to assist in making the theater a delightful experience.
Numerous behind the scenes crew members are responsible for this amazing insightful show.   Serving as both director and musical director is Todd Brooks with other musicians Keefer Petersen also on the keyboard, Nicholas Swoboda on percussion and Paige Costignola on bass.  Members of the lighting crew are Darrin Golden, Mandy Adkins, and Jozalyn Harrison.   Responsible for the sound is Dave Podendorf and Jaycee Wetenkamp. The choreographer is Courtney Stein, Stage Manager is Mike Jones and Scenic Designer is Joey Lorincz.  Ibsen Costume Gallery provided the costumes.   Constructing the set was Joey Lorincz, Mike Jones and along with the theater manager, Bob Putman.  Rhonda Hall is the props designer.   
This show is an adult show with quite a bit of adult language.  The audience is for unmarried and married be people with reflection, humor, music, and quite a bit of drama.
The timing of the show is about an hour and a half for the first act with the usual intermission and concluding the second act in approximately forty-five minutes.
This show continues through this weekend on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.  The dates are June 1st through the third.
The price of the tickets is $20 for adults; $16 for seniors over the age of sixty; and $10 for students.  
The Chanticleer Community Theater is located at 830 Franklin Ave.   Tickets can be reserved  by calling the box office at 712-323-9955.

Have you ever identified your marriage?  How would it be described?  How do others see it?   See Company for some great music and possibly answers to your questions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Mountaintop

What really happened on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee?   Did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sense that he would soon die?  Did he struggle with the guilt whether he should be at his home in Atlanta with his family or continue with what he believed was his purpose in life as a civil rights leader?  Did he feel torn between the two?   Could he rest at night with death threats to his family or himself?
The Mountaintop is an Olivier Awatdwinning play showing a fictional possibility of what could have happened the night before Dr. King’s death beginning at his room at the Lorraine Motel the night before he was assassinated.   Previously that day, Dr. King had delivered his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” to the people of Memphis.
The Mountaintop opens with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entering his hotel room, exhausted from his speech and a day of marching with the sanitation workers of Memphis.  One of his friends is suppose to be purchasing him some cigarettes.   Between the exhilaration of the day, the physical and emotional tiredness, and a little guilt for not being with his family, he can’t sleep even though he needs it.
Donte Plunkett masterfully portrays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Catie Zaleski is Camae, the maid.  Both of these performers are superb and it is difficult to realize that they are saying their lines, not just talking.  Denise Chapman is the director who somehow manages to make each individual in the audience feel as if they are in the motel room also.  Assisting backstage in the stage manager, Gabi Rima, costume designer is Amanda Fehlner, sound designer and electrician is John Gibilisco, composer is Alfonzo Lee Jones, properties is Darin Koehler, lighting designer is Herman Montero with scenic designer being Jim Othuse with numerous other assistants, staff, and volunteers.
The setting is Dr. King’s motel room, rather ordinary, a little dirty with a little seediness that almost creates a musky smell.
Once in a while I see a play that is perfect.   There are likely flaws that the audience doesn’t recognize, but the play somehow communicates with every person in the audience, creating a special intimacy between the audience on stage and off.  The Howard Drew Theater at the Omaha Community Playhouse is the perfect venue for this production.
The play is aimed at a mature audience with adult language, racial tension, and talk of the inequities of society, violence and societal inequities along with the concepts of mortality, destiny and legacy.  The play lasts about ninety-minutes without an intermission.
The Mountaintop continues at the Omaha Playhouse through May 27th with performance on Thursday’s through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m.   Tickets can be purchased at the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, by ball (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com.   Single adult tickets are $24 with $14 being the student rate.  Ticket prices can change based on the date, seat, and demand.  Special group rates are available for 12 or more.  Contact the Box Office for any questions.
See The Mountaintop to relive the event of fifty-years ago of a man struggling with his mortality, his destiny, and his legacy.




Fools and Mortals

Fools and Mortals
Bernard Cornwell
ISBN; 978-0-06-225087-2
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
Originally published: Great Britain
2017
$ 27.99
370 pages

Are all mortals foolish?  In Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character Puck is quoted as saying, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
Yes, we have all done innumerable foolish things in our past.   William Shakespeare revealed the true nature and foolishness of people of his time period through his keen eyes of observation.   Whether death, romance, love, stupidity somehow he was able to develop his characters into real people in his comedies or tragedies.  Even though Shakespeare wrote years ago, the time and place is different, but people are still the same. Surprisingly, even though the setting is different from four-hundred years ago.
Bernard Cornwell also wondered about the brilliant author, William Shakespeare.  In Fools and Mortals, Cornwell explores the world of theater in London with Shakespeare during the late 1500s.  The story is told through the perspective of William’s younger brother, Richard, who is an actor in his brother’s company.
Unlike Cornwell’s other books, Fools and Mortals reveals the backstage theatrical world of William Shakespeare.  He is the writer and partial owner of his numerous, well-respected plays favored by Queen Elizabeth.  
Since Richard was ten-years younger than his brother William, the brothers were not close.   Richard ran away from him due to his father’s brutality and arriving in London required additional financial obligations for the writer.
Fools and Mortals excels in allowing the reader a sense of time and place.   In Shakespeare’s time, the printing press was not available to him.   The scripts were copied by hand.   The complete script was prized with often only one complete copy.   The actor’s script consisted only of their own lines.  These scripts were hidden from rival theatrical companies in the hopes that they would not be stolen.
 Fools and Mortals are very different from Cornwell’s other books which consist of historical battles and struggles for power.   This particular book does have some battles, but most of them are on stage or in small fighting situations.
Bernard Cornwell is a masterful storyteller.  He specializes in historical fiction utilizing the well-known and little-known facts about the people, time, place as well as the accepted results and actions weaving into a memorable, logical and readable and thrilling stories based on facts.   He has numerous stand alone and series of historical tales, including his The Saxon Tales with ten novels, The Sharpe Novels with twenty-one novels, The Grail Quest Series with three, The Nathaniel Starbucks Chronicles with four, The Warlord Chronicles with three, The Sailing Thrillers with four and one non-fiction book, Waterloo.  I highly recommend to read the series books in order.
Fools and Mortals is exceptional reading.   The little known life of the theater at the time made me feel that I was actually witnessing the stress of being part of the theatrical world.
To all readers, I found myself wanting to watch a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” again.   After Fools and Mortals, I feel that now I understand Shakespeare’s writing and enjoy it much more for the humor and the capture of real personalities.
Maybe you are not a Shakespeare fan, after reading Fools and Mortals, you will feel as if you want to embrace every play and poem written by the master and described by the masterful story teller, Bernard Cornwell.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Shakespeare in Love

What has a dog, a leading lady dressed as a man, men dressed as women, women acting as men, sword fighting, leather pants, sexual liaisons, low-cut dresses (on women and men), Queen Elizabeth 1 and is a hilariously funny play?
The Omaha Community Theater has the answer with its newest production of Shakespeare in Love.   No, this was not a play William Shakespeare wrote, but a play about the playwright.
Did William Shakespeare ever experience writer’s block?    With the immense number of his plays recognized today, it almost seems unlikely.  Being human, though he likely was always searching and modifying ideas to become a play.   Remember, over four hundred years ago, plays in England were hand written with only one complete hand written copy. Each actor’s script only consisted of their lines.
Shakespeare in Love opens with a young Shakespeare (Jacob Roman) being encouraged to write with a welcoming crowd awaiting his every word.   During this time period, Queen Elizabeth adored plays.   An already established playwright, Christopher “Kit” Marlowe (Jeremy Earl) encourages Shakespeare with the struggles of writing.
In Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed to perform in theaters.   That was illegal.   All the female parts were usually played by young men having little facial hair.
The business of a theater is extremely competitive and seems to be on the verge of being closed by the government.
Being Shakespeare, naturally, an unattainable female, Viola de Lesseps (Alissa Hanish) catches his eye and immediately distracts him with her beauty.   Um....does fiction imitate life?
Viola is also fascinated by Shakespeare and looks for an opportunity to be close to him.  Her solution is simply to dress as a man and audition for the role of Romeo creating hilarious comedy.
The leading roles of William Shakespeare (Jacob Roman) and Viola (Alissa Hanish) are phenomenal. These talented individuals created characters who were confident and even lovable in their roles. This is a show where every performer is outstanding.  Certain roles are notable such as ChristoperMarlower (Jeremy Earl), Queen Elizabeth (Janet Macklin), Lord Wessex (Sydney Readman), Sam (Will Rodgers), John Webster (Chloe Irwin) and unquestionably Nurse (Julie Fitzgerald Ryan).   Yes, the Nurse is absolutely delightful.  Also on stage are many multi-talented ensemble members Bradley Alexander, Kevin Barrett, Craig Bond, Ron Boschult, Jenna Hager, Olivia Howard,  Sean Johnson, Samantha Johnson, Michael Leaman, Caitlin Mabon, Alex Nilius, Pamela Scott, Danielle Smith, Dennis Stessman, and Catherine Vazquez.
An unusual actor throughout the production is the singer and music director (Zach
 Kloppenborg).  His countertenor songs are hypnotic while singing in his delightful falsetto voice as well as his expert direction with the madrigal and various music backgrounds.   The madrigals were light, comical and expertly performed complete with beautiful and precise voices.
The scenic design is marvelous with the set movements moving quickly while being maneuvered by those on stage.
The costumes are beautifully elegant and true to the time period.
No production can be successful without the support of the crew and volunteers.
Directing the show is Jeff Horner, who is phenomenal with his contributions to the show while also being the owner and trainer of Apollo, his dog who is also cast in the show.  Unfortunately, Apollo does not always appreciate how much the cast assisted his show contribution.   Assisting him is Suzanne Withem.
Courtney Stein creates time appropriate choreography.   Erik Diaz is the scenic designer while Wesley Houston is the stage manager.   John Gibilisco is the resident sound designer and production electrician with Aja Jackson is the lighting designer.  Darin Koehler is in charge of properties and Lindsay Pape is the costume designer. Also assisting are numerous crew members, interns, as well as Playhouse volunteers and staff.
All of us need a little sunshine in our lives with the weather lately, Shakespeare in Love is guaranteed to lift your spirits while awaiting a spring that seems as if it will never arrive.
Act One consists of 13 scenes in ninety minutes.  Act Two is shorter after the fifteen minute intermission.
Shakespeare in Love continues through May 6th on Wednesday’s through Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2pm.
The cost of the tickets is $24 for adults and for students at $24 on Wednesday performances and starting at $32 for adults and $22 for students on Thursdays through Sundays.   Tickets can be purchased at the Omaha Playhouse Box Office, online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or by calling (402) 553-0800.  The Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha.
Granted, I was a little skeptical about a play based on an Academy Award winning movie.  While I did enjoy the movie, I adored this performance greatly enhancing the story.