Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Nutcracker

Christmas Eve brings excitement to children of all ages.
Hosting the annual party is Clara's family in their lavish home.
Clara's little brother, Fritz, catches a mouse.   Naturally, his first thought is to tease his sister with it.  Who wants a terrified mouse being held by its tail?
Fortunately, their Uncle Dosselmeyer is attending bring a trumpet for Fritz and a very special gift for Clara, a decorative nutcracker in the large shape of a toy soldier.
Being a typical little brother, Fritz breaks it.
This is how The Nutcracker, a story told with no spoken words, begins.   A gorgeously entrancing ballet presented by Ballet Nebraska whose name next year will be American Midwest Ballet.
It is hypnotic for everyone of all ages.  The proof was a two-year-old little boy sitting near me.  He was completely mesmerized.  Strangely, I saw no one leaving the theater to go to the lobby.   No one.
The audience was completely fascinated by this ballet performance.
The timing is perfect.  The show lasts about ninety minutes with an additional twenty minute intermission.
The costumes are radiant, each one intricately individual for each person.    Deborah Overturff and Thom Peterson are brilliant in making beautiful and moveable costumes complimenting each person. The sets and props are magnificently colorful.   I was amazed at the backstage crew who are responsible for everything on stage except for the actual dancing.  These unseen diligent and attentive crew members, director, production and stage managers, lighting and sound managers, wardrobe mangers, chaperones, and even the members of the Opera Omaha Children's Chorus and director are phenomenal.
Numerous performers left me with memories of their spellbinding performances.  Tianna Hartin-Kovy was a wonderful Clara.   Fritz was played by an adorable Owen Fuesel.   Their parents portrayed by Bret Samson and Sasha York were absolutely gracefully gorgeous.
Personally, I adore both the choreography and performances by both Matthew Carter and Erika Overturff.   These two epitomize gracefulness and the essence of ballet.  They are masterful with dance.
The entire dance company is phenomenal.   I so admire the strength and grace of the male performances who are constantly catching people in their arms so effortlessly while maintaining their balance and being part of their dance.  The numerous dancers who created each character as an individual while still matching each step of the group.
Who did I enjoy the most?
Clara, Fritz, the society dog guest star from the Nebraska Humane Society, Drosselmeyer by Matthew Carter, the Ballet Doll and the Jack-in the-Box by Katherine Eppink and Alexandra Hoffman, the Rat Queen by Claire Goodwillie who happened to be the best I have ever seen in this role, The Snow Queen by Erika Overturff, The Snow King by Sasha York, The Sugar Plum Fairy by Erin Alarcon,  and The Cavalier by Ryan Christopher all made the show appear magical.  To appear to move on air or to fly in a dream, every performer added to this wonderful production.
What is special about the Ballet Nebraska performance?    Why not go to any Nutcracker performance?
First, the integration of the ballet students within the performance.    These students are so well taught, it is often difficult to realize that they are not professionals.   Secondly, Ballet Nebraska presents one of the colorfully beautiful presentations of any production.   Lastly, the production is intoxicatingly enticing, without the alcohol.
Additional performances will be December 2nd and 3rd at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha.
For a memorable and enthralling experience, see Ballet Nebraska's The Nutcracker.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

All My Sons

Imagine yourself as living in America in 1947.   As a young woman, what would you do if you were in love with the son of your father’s business partner?  This seems fairly simplistic, but there are a few complications.
The son was you have loved for years was a pilot, fighting in World War II, somewhere near or in China.
Now, he has been missing for three years.
His mother seems to be the only one who truly believes that he is still alive, somewhere.   She did allow a memorial for him, an apple tree planted in their yard.
Will he return?
Ann, the girlfriend, is moving on with her life.  She is in love with the missing man’s brother, Chris.  Fortunately, he also loves her.
Will they marry?   Can the family accept Ann into the family if she marries Chris?  Will the family accept the changes soon to happen in their lives or remained locked in the world of 1944?
Added to this is a problem from the past.   The business partnership was responsible for the mass production of airplane parts for the war, but something went wrong, terribly wrong causing the deaths of at least twenty-one pilots.
All of this is woven into the story of All My Sons, a Tony Award winning play from 1947 by Arthur Miller.
The play begins with a summer storm breaking an apple tree in the backyard.  The tree is the memorial to Larry Keller, the missing son.
That is the one small change seems to be the catalyst for changes for everyone.
In the Keller family, Joe, the father, is portrayed by Tim Daugherty.   He is the center of this family and play with everyone seeming to rotate around him.   He is masterful and exemplary in this role. Between keeping life simplistic for his wife and attempting to control the rest of the family, he is constantly trying to place people in their proper places, according strictly to his perspectives.
Kate Keller is played by Debbie Bertlesen and Chris by Will Muller.  Both roles are brilliant in revealing the hidden problems of the past affecting their present and future.
In the Deever family, Geana Krajicek plays Ann and Adam Haverman is her brother, George.   Both realize life is unpredictable and are great in attempting to move on and seeking justice as well as love in a cruel world.
Also, the neighbor’s child, Jabe Rounds is great in the role of Bert, learning the role of neighborhood policing by his boss, Joe Keller.   At least in playing, this continues to demonstrate Joe’s need of controlling those around him.
Dr. Jim Baylis is played by Stan Tracy and his wife, Sue, by Rita McKinney.  Frank and Lydia Lubey are played by Conner Mowery and Abigail J. Stoscher.  Each of these characters is great in these roles.
No play is successful without a magnificent “behind the scenes” crew.  Bob Putman is the theater director with Ron Hines directs the show and Tyler Orvis being the producer.
Responsible for the lighting are Darrin Golden and Sam Neff while Dave Podendorf and Jaycee Wetenkamp cover the sound.  With both the designing and building the sets are Bob Putman, Tyler Orvis and Denise Putman.
Rhonda Hall takes care of the props, Dave Podendorf is the stage manager, and Dwayne Ibsen is responsible for the costumes.
The timing for the play is 2 hours and 15 minutes including a fifteen minute intermission after the first act, approximately an hour into the play.  All My Sons is an intense show.
This production of All My Sons continues through this weekend with shows at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and at 2 pm on Sunday.  Costs for tickets is $20 for each adult, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.   This is a play that a high school student could learn many life lessons, but not likely to be understood by those younger.
To purchase tickets, contact the Chanticleer Box Hours between 9 and noon, call the theater at 712-323–9955 or at chanticleertheater@gmail.com.   The theater is located at. 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.
Even though set in the postwar 1940s, the underlying issues of justice, ambition, patriotism, integrity, home, capitalism, and even love have a relevance in even 2017.
I am in awe of this cast and crew who emotionally repeatedly tell the story for everyone.
Every adult needs to see this production of All My Sons to better understand people and even to question a little of your own morals and values.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Two Journeys Home

Two Journeys Home
A Novel Of Eighteenth Century Europe
Book 2 - The Derryname Saga
Kevin O’Connell
The Gortculinane Press
Severna, MD
ISBN: 978-0997407617
November 1, 2017
$ 14.99
295 pages

At a little over six-feet tall, long raven hair, intelligent beyond her years and Irish, all describe the beautiful Eileen O’Connell returns to her home in Ireland after spending years in the court of Empress Maria Theresa. Her duties in Austria are as nanny and friends with two of the young princesses, Archduchesses Maria Carolina and Maria Antonia. Part of her task is also to prepare each of them for their royal lives of the future, hopefully queens.
Many years ago, Eileen had been raised in western County Kerry in Ireland. Her family had earned their wealth by investing in illegal commercial maritime trading activities.
After her sixteenth birthday, Eileen’s family had arranged for her to marry a man, over fifty-years her senior. Unsurprisingly, she had hated being his young wife in this arranged situation, but within seven-months of the marriage, she had learned to love and cherish him. His death was a shock to her. The obvious solution for a wealthy young woman of the 1760s in Ireland is to be remarried.
For Eileen, there exists another option.
Her Irish relatives were already thriving in the Hapsburg court under the direction of the Emperor and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Hungary. Her “uncle”, actually her second-cousin who is much older, is a General of the Imperial Armies of Austria and Hungary as well as being The Count Morin O’Connell. Since Ireland at this time was ruled by the English, for any Irish to join the military in their own country, required enlisting in the British army currently occupying their country. For many, especially those of wealth, serving in foreign countries greatly raised their wealth, prestige, knowledge of strategies, and respect of those at home.
About six-years later, after the death of Eileen’s father, she is finally returning. Accompanying her is the General and his new wife, Countess Maria. Von
On this voyage home, she is accompanied by the General and his new wife, Countess Maria von Graffenreit-O’Connell. Eileen has mixed feelings about her home. Is it Vienna with her friend and lover, Major Wolfgang von Klaus or is home Ireland?
She realizes that besides making close friends with the royal family, this had also given her time to heal as she learns of the magnificent lives at the palaces of Hofburg, Schönbrunn and Laxenburg.
Reading the second book in most series, especially if you have not read the first, can be a little difficult. However, Two Journeys Home is easily understandable with much of the first book being reflected upon.
This book begins with Eileen’s journey to Ireland, back to the life in Vienna at court bringing into light the history of the time period after the 7 Years War between France and Austria including Marie Antoinette. This sequel concludes with her second return to Ireland.
There are conflicts, especially within her family and the expectations, as well as religion and culture of the countries and time period. Surprisingly, much of the story seems to fit together as tightly as a puzzle.
Author, Kevin O’Connell has based this Derrynane series on much of his own family history, mixing what could have logically happened into an historical fiction novel. He is a New York City native whose ancestor had been part of the Irish Brigade of the French army during the time of Marie Antoinette. The Derrynane series is expected to include four novels, starting with Beyond Derrynane and the second, Two Journeys Home.
Mr. O’Connell has spent over forty-years in the legal field of international business transactional law throughout the world.
Two Journeys Home is part of a wonderful epic-saga in the past of Ireland, Austria, and France.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Farewell to Ice

A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
Peter Wadhams
Oxford University Press
New York City, New York
First published in Great Britain by Allen Lane
ISBN: 978-0-19-069115-8
$ 15.95
206 pages

How would you explain climate change to someone who does not believe it is a reality?  How could you prove to anyone of the rising temperatures of the ocean or the melting of the Arctic?
Would they believe someone who has been a polar researcher for forty-seven years and is considered an expert scientist?
Peter Wadhams, who wrote this readable scientific data-driven report for the non-scientist, A Farewell to Ice, is one person no one could disagree with the disappearance of the polar ice.
Wadhams is one of the few people who truly understands the changes since 1970, he has documented the tremendous changes of the Arctic region as a polar researcher.  His descriptions, evidence, pictures, and graphs tell a story of their own that is and should be frightening to every creature on this planet.
Even though everyone needs to see this information, the reader needs a basic understanding of chemistry to fully absorb the concepts.
To take non-fictional scientific reader and turn it into a thriller is a task of a genius.   The book is difficult to leave once you start it.   The author’s knowledge, experiences, and love of this area of the world is exhibited on every page.   Unfortunately, the tale has a grim prognosis for future generations.
Most of us are aware of the melting of the glaciers, Arctic ice, and the tremendous sections of glacier ice that has broken off and floating in the ocean as it melts and raises sea levels.  Additionally, Wadhams explains and documents additional problems such as the release of additional methane into the atmosphere and the effect on each of us.   Also discussed in depth is the importance of radiation from the sun reflecting off the ice and how this has changed in the past half-of-century.
Cambridge University has the distinction of employing Peter Wadhams as Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department Of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics as well as Professor of Ocean Physics.
A Farewell to Ice is a foretelling of the future by tables, graphs, photographs, and writing that completely engages the knowledge of the ocean.

Walk Shepherdess, Walk

Walk Shepherdess, Walk: A Sing-Along Book
Barrett Cobb-Illustrator and Performer
Dog Ear Publishing
Indianapolis, Indiana
ISBN: 978-1-4575-4893-9
$ 17.98
36 pages

Barrett Cobb’s childhood was filled with literature and songs. As a young child one tune stayed with her, almost as a lilting lullaby.
Eleanor Farjeon wrote both the words and melody which were first published in Nursery Rhymes of London Town in 1916 and adopted by the American Girl Scouts evolving the little tune into a folk song reflecting to the world a different time, place, and culture for most of the world.
As with most folk songs, throughout the years the song has been modified slightly with the tune and alternative words. This book focuses on the original version. The book is based on a basic three-versed four-lined poem. Some of the vocabulary could be difficult depending on the past experiences of the readers. The story was written with sheep wandering through the nearby hills and uses words, not always commonly spoken in today’s city culture. Some words need to be introduced such as shepherdess, ebony, ram, ewe, fleece, wether, and shan’t. The book explains that a wether is a lead sheep which could be compared to the game Follow-the-Leader.
The music is beautifully performed by the author, Barrett Cobb and can be downloaded through the website listed in the book. The melody is an easy tune which quickly can be a haunting selection, staying with you for days. The simplistic tune is sung by Barrett, who has a beautiful, well-trained voice adding accompaniment harmonies, flute and piano into a memorable performance.
Twelve gorgeous watercolor paintings perfectly parallel the story in poem form as the story progressing reinforcing the poetic story.
After a few readings, it is easy for a young prereader or early reader to sing the melody as the pages are turned with the pictures reinforcing the words.
At the conclusion of the tale, a narrative explaining the poem assists in further demonstrating the theme being jealousy and how to appropriately recognize and turn this into a positive life lesson.
Barrett Cobb is a painter, singer, flutist and now a visual storyteller turning a childhood folk song is an enchanting life lesson for everyone.