Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mary Poppins

"Anything can happen if you let it."
What do you do when your children can't keep a nanny?  The two innocent looking darlings are causing many nannies to leave a home.  Why are these children chasing away many well-qualified caregivers?
What do these kids want?
George Banks works long hours causing him to be self-absorbed in providing for his family.  As a banker, he understands the importance of an image and keeps his wife's former occupation as an actress a secret.  
As a nanny leaves, George and his wife discuss placing a new advertisement in the paper.   Surprisingly, Jane and Michael, the children have written their requirements for a new nanny which don't match their parents' list, at all.  
When George reads the list which includes things like "rosy cheeks" and "plays games- all sorts" he immediately tosses this well-planned document into the fire. 
Imagine his surprise when a new nanny is at the door with the advertisement written by the children.  Is this magic?   Yes, it is Mary Poppins.
Mary Poppins opened last weekend at our own Chanticleer Community Theater.  This family oriented musical is aimed at an audience who can enjoy a musical that lasts for three hours including an intermission.
In the roles of Jane and Michael Banks, Emma Johnson and Austin Lempke excel in truly becoming these characters.  Their scheming is charming.  As Bert, Brandon Fisher is marvelous narrating much of the story in song and dance.  The parents, George and Winifred Bank portrayed by Travis Walker and Sarah Ebke were delightful in their roles of frustration and refocusing their lives.
In the role of Mary Poppins, Samantha Shatley shows immense talent in the magically, aloof lead.
Denise Putman as Mrs. Corry and her daughters Fannie and Annie portrayed by Kori Archbold and Geana Schneider are hilarious with their introducing Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious to the audience.  Between the costumes, their stage antics, and their acting abilities, this is definitely a show-stopper number.
As for stage presence, Kate Simmons as the Bird Woman sings beautifully in the number Feed the Birds.
With a large cast, on any given show there are many outstanding performances.   The dancers are terrific with their enthusiasm and energy throughout the show.  I loved Terry Schmidt as the British Admiral Boom.  He perfectly matched my image of a Gilbert/Sullivan admiral.  Eric Cavanaugh as Neleus commanded the stage in this role with a warmth and a smile.  Dan Whitehouse as the police officer was caring while showing concern.   
What is also amazing in this show is that many people have multiple roles and masterfully become each different character from being a statue to a toy to a bank clerk.   Even though you know it is the same person; each role has its individual character personality.
Even the small parts contributed significantly to the constant energy and enthusiasm in this uplifting show.
On the night I saw the show, there was a slight problem of the orchestra overpowering the singers.  Balancing sound is difficult as there are so many variables that affect sound balance in a theater.  Each instrumental member is an accomplished musician individually and perfectly blended into an ensemble.
Dwayne Ibsen showed true artistic mastery with the costumes in Mary Poppins.    The scenery was colorful and purposeful as well as functional and creative accommodating to the needs of the cast.
This massive show demonstrates mastery in both direction and production at all levels.   Every detail is considered throughout the show.
Mary Poppins at the Chanticleer Theater located at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs continues through May 22nd with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the theater at (712) 323-9955 or email costing $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and $10 for student and children.
Whether or not you attend this show, please be aware of an unusual upcoming event on May 25.  Chanticleer Community Theater will be part of Omaha Gives where every donation is increased to a charity with matching funds.   For more information, please check out
This stage production is not like the movie.   It is similar, but different even if some of the songs are the same.
"Anything can happen if you let it."   Let yourself enjoy this delightful show this weekend at our Chanticleer Theater.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lost Boy in Whole Foods

 "When God made Sudan, he smiled...and cried."
People want to do the right thing.   Christine is impressed by a worker at Whole Foods and her life changes.   Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods he opened last weekend at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Her experiences of discovering this little bit of positivity in her daily routine create an enthralling experience for everyone in this audience.
Who doesn't need a little smile and a positive perspective when dealing with a divorce and a difficult teenager?
Hope is what brings many people to this country.  Even your ancestors likely endured the treacherous journey due to dreams of a better life for themselves and their children.
Gabriel is no different.  He dreams of being the black Donald Trump. 
Gabriel's past never needs to be repeated.
He is one of the Sudanese refugees who left their country during their civil war.  He trekked over eight hundred miles in the wild African savannah while frequently carrying his younger brother hoping to live temporarily at a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Kenya.  The better life in these camps allowed only one bowl of grain each day.
Many charities, including Catholic Charities and Lutheran Family Services in our metro area, transported these children, under the age of eighteen to the .S.  While living here safely, these boys were educated and given jobs while their dreams were to return eventually to their countries as professionals.
Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods is a story about Gabriel.   He currently is working and living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2004.   Christine, portrayed by Julie Fitzgerald Ryan meets Gabriel while shopping.   She is a recently divorced mother raising a teenaged daughter.   While meeting Gabriel, she is impressed with his optimistic perspective on life and finds his positivity charismatic.
As Gabriel, Justice Jamal Jones is perfect.  I found it difficult to believe that he is a local high school student.   His accent, demeanor, and confidence created the perfect immigrant refugee and even slightly humorous while explaining his metaphors about life.    I noticed the entire audience often smiling during these times.
As Alex, the daughter, Victoria Luther excelled as the difficult and often angry teenager.   Anthony Holmes created the challenging role of Panther, who is one of the Sudanese boys in this country for assistance but lost in the system of rules.  He is lost from his country and now lost in the bureaucracy within the charitable organization.   
Michael Dolan played by Mark Kocsis and Segel Mohammed by Rusheaa Smith-Turner were superb in their roles of social workers in a rules-based system and the frustrating job of not being able to meet all the various needs of those they are helping.
Julie Fitzgerald Ryan perfectly became Christine in revealing to the audience the challenge of "doing the right thing."   Between being a part-time parent of a daughter who is the typical teenager, struggling with a divorce and the former spouse remarrying quickly, and helping those in need, she is often overwhelmed but always continues with her duties while maintaining her faith in the world.
The set itself was unquestionably unique intermixing Africa with America and adapting to the needs of each scene.   Personally, I questioned the sand on the stage, but it was inspirational with the intermixing of the two cultures.
The crew for this show excelled in every aspect.   The lighting was seamless.   The sound system was masterful with purposeful background music and sounds for each scene.  The artistry is the scenes, wardrobe, and props perfectly matched the intentions of the play.  Dialect coaches, directors, managers, and carpenters are beautifully and thoughtfully combined their talents in this thought-provoking play.
The show continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha through June 5th every Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee every Sunday at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices are $36 for adults and $22 for students.  Special group rates are available.  To purchase, contact the box office at (402) 553-0800, or toll-free at (888) 782-4338, or
The night I saw the performance, it began promptly at 7:30, a fifteen-minute intermission began at 8:25 and the show concluded at 9:40.
Lost Boy at Whole Foods is insightful and thought inducing show for all adults of all ages.   It left be wondering if I am making concentric circles in my life or simply lines.  See this show to find out more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Last of the Firedrakes

The Last of the Firedrakes
The Avalonia Chronicles
Farah Oomerbhoy
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Minneapolis, MN
ISBN: 978-1-940014-72-2
$ 17.99
488 pages
"My parents were gone, my uncle had just sold me like a slave, and there was no one to help me, no one on my side.  I was alone, I was in trouble, and I had absolutely no idea what to do.   It was all too much; I  couldn't help it; I burst into tears just as Oblek yanked my arm and pulled me into the magical, shimmering tapestry."
Aurora had not led a charmed life.  After her parents had died in a tragic automobile accident,  she lived with her uncle and his family. She should have been grateful but residing in this household was not enjoyable.  Her beautiful cousin who was her age as popular and mean, the opposite of Aurora.  Added to that, it was obvious that her aunt and uncle only tolerated her existence.  Living in an unloved home was not enjoyable.
All of that changed on her sixteenth birthday.  Aurora was delivered into another world, full of magic.
Why?  She was the heir to the throne in the kingdom of Illiador.  Did she possess any powers?  How would her life be different in this mysterious land where special magical are common?
The Last of the Firedrakes is an enthralling novel for teenage girls.  How many fifteen-year-old girls have wished they had different parents and to discover that they were of a royal lineage?
With teenagers in mind, everything in this novel is age-appropriate with no unnecessary sexual innuendos, violence, or bad language.  Aurora is attracted to the dark, handsome stranger, Rafe, who has many secrets that need to be unveiled.
The Last of the Firedrakes is the debut novel for Farah Oomerbhoy.  Her home with her husband and children is in Mumbai, India.  From the  University of Mumbai she earned her Master's degree in English literature.
The Last of the Firedrakes is the first novel in this series entitled the Avalonia Chronicles.    The story has an ending point at the end of the book, but it does not conclude the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with an intended audience of teenaged girls.  It was logical in its organization, possessed vivid characters, fast-paced with action, age-appropriate as a delightful fantasy novel.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leopold and the 5 Senseteers: Flour Power

Leopold and the 5 Senseteers: Flour Power
Author: Joshua Tabachick
Illustrator: Dustin Dahlman
Sixth Sense Entertainment Group
Marina del Rey, CA
ISBN: 978-0-9965503-0-7
$ 21.99
32 pages

Leopold, who is six years old, is looking forward to helping his mother in preparing to celebrate his little sister's birthday.  Jesse will soon be five years old.
Leopold's mother wants to bake a cake for this special occasion.  While planning, she realizes that the two of them need to go to the market for all the ingredients to make a chocolate cake, Jesse's favorite.
While at the store, Leopold's mother sends his to find a five-pound bag of flour.  To achieve this goal, he needs the assistance of his five friends, one for each of his five senses.
The friends are Miss. See for the visual sense, Senor Hearwell for hearing, Mr. Touchovsky for touch, Mrs.Goodsmell for smell and Mr. Budtaste for taste.  Each character's head resembles their sense varying in shape, gender and color.  This visual illustration is perfect for beginning readers in associating words.
The pictures perfectly the text as the story progresses logically while focusing on the senses of a preschool child.    Each page unfolds with bright, engaging illustrations focusing on the senses with a muted background making it simple to understand the natural need of utilizing each sense into the everyday life.
Another focus of the story is the cooperative activity involving measurement in cooking wonderfully demonstrating for parents how to turn a daily chore into an involved learning experience for their child.
Additionally, the book contains a page for the child to find differences between two illustrations that are supposedly identical and online resources for the series with more games, puzzles, songs, videos, t-shirts, hats, and more activities with connections on Facebook and You Tube.
The author, Joshua Tabachnick is a Canadian who now resides in Los Angeles, California and works as a film/television composer and author.  Dustin Dahlman, the illustrator is a native of Wisconsin who currently lives in Savannah, Georgia where he studies graphic design and illustration.
Flour Power is the perfect book for young children who are learning to use their senses to discover today's world.  Leopold and the 5 Senseteers: Flour Power is for children from the age four to six.  Personally, this book is appropriate for all children in preschool or with special needs.
Flour Power is the first in this smart series featuring Leopold and his five friends.  Through the utilization of illustrations, the senses become involved in assisting Leopold to achieve whatever goal he chooses.

Monday, May 2, 2016

America's First Daughter

America's First Daughter
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie
Harper Collins Publishing
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-234726-8
Trade Paperback
$ 15.99
590 pages

"And I knew I'd never want to be anyone else's daughter."

Being Thomas Jefferson's daughter was a privilege and a curse for Martha Jefferson. 

As Martha's mother was dying, she made both her husband and daughter make eternal promises to her.   Thomas promised to never remarry and to victimize their daughters to having a step-mother.  Martha, nicknamed Patsy, being the oldest daughter promised to care for her father and two younger sisters, one of which was an infant.

Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamdie collaborated in this marvelous historical fiction novel based upon the multitude of letters kept in Jefferson's correspondence.    Giving a personal voice to Patsy is innovative in bringing to the reader a real person.   Seeing Thomas Jefferson through her eyes reveals his idealism along with his daily challenges considering the practice of being a Southern gentleman and owner of slaves while being a proponent of "all men are created equal."

America's First Daughter beautifully explains the unusual relationship with Sally Hemmings and her children.  The varying perspectives of this slave/master life in terms of life in the South, while living in France prior to their Revolution, residing in the newly formed United States, Presidential life in Washington, and life heavily in debt while maintaining a life as a Southern gentleman.

While caring for her father constantly, there was a price.  Martha, by following her father's wishes, lost the love of her life.   Added already to her responsibilities of being the mistress of the house, she married and gave birth and raising many children.  Being a daughter first resulted in her paying a price for that choice.

America's First Daughter is insightful and a much-overdue biography of a woman strongly influenced by the ideals of our country while in contrast having to maintain the status of the period, even though it went against her personal values.