Monday, July 29, 2013


In "Sister Act", Whoopi Goldberg left Las Vegas for a convent. In "Nunsensations" the nuns leave the convent to perform a show in a casino in Las Vegas. Also, this particular casino is not one of the major ones, but one that is way, way off the strip. Why are they doing this? One answer is money. Their entire motivation is to receive $ 10,000 for their school.
"Nunsensations! The Nunsense Vegas Review" which is the fifth show in this series is actually a series of vaudeville acts including "the schtick" featuring the five nuns. Actually, if you examine the shoes of each nun, that can tell quite a bit about each individual sister.
As Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior is Sara Planck who brings her beautiful harmonies to this play. Sister Mary Hubert is the Mistress of Novices which is portrayed by Andrea Erickson who has a wonderfully strong singing voice. Sister Robert Anne is the streetwise nun from Brooklyn is played by Caitlin Mabon who perfectly becomes this tough character completely rebellious down to her tennis shoes. Sister Amnesia, Mary Paul along with her puppet, or Mary Annette, added humor with her forgetfulness. (Think about puppet to marionette to Mary Annette and this is the type of humor for this hour and a half show.) Ann Stergiou as Sister Mary Leo, showed that even a nun can still enjoy dancing.
There is some audience participation and you might be chosen to play one of the games onstage. Be careful though there is a fine line between gambling games that challenge the players, better known as cheating and games of knowledge and skill.
The three-piece orchestra was led by Keefer Peterson on the keyboard, Theresa Vacanti playing reeds, and Vince Krysl as the percussionist added even to the spirit with their uniformity of collars. Even the props were moved by someone definitely continuing the spirit of this musical.
The show will continue on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and at 2 pm on Sundays through August 4th. Contact the theater at (712) 323-9955 or go online to to purchase tickets which cost $ 17 for adults, $14 for seniors and $ 9 for students.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, Arizona
October 2013
Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0070-0
$ 14.95
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0069-4
$ 24.95
250 pages
When you retire, you plan to rest and enjoy life at a quieter, safer, pace. Isn't that the way it is for all of us?
For former Sheriff William K. Gastner. that was his plan. For many of his sleepless nights, he enjoys watching the night sky up on a mesa away from all lights and people in the desert of New Mexico. So when he sees distant headlights with small bursts of light, instantly his suspicions are aroused. Why is anyone out in the desert at this time of night when everyone else is at their home, sound asleep?
A longtime friend, Miles Waddell has plans for this mesa and plans to put his money into his dreams of an astronomy-themed amusement park complete with radio telescopes, a luxury hotel, a five-star restaurant, theater, and even a locomotive to transport people. Who could be against this endeavor?
Apparently someone is not looking forward to this new development and cuts down six utility poles that hold the power lines for this new dream. Unfortunately, one of the terrorists is instantly killed when one of the poles falls on him. Quickly Gastner concludes that this was not a one-person plot but someone drove away in a vehicle. Also this someone also shot and killed a deputy who had attempted to halt his escape.
Obviously, the law enforcement officers are scattered over a wide area and appreciative of the help from their former boss. With Gastner's attraction for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, he comes across a young officer in an awkward situation. She had just pulled over an RV and now the owner is pointing a shot gun at her. The former sheriff's quick responses save the day again.
That's way too much excitement for the former sheriff who is looking forward to the return of his thirteen-year-old godson. Francisco Guzman is a music prodigy who is returning home to play a special concert with a surprise. Hasn't there been enough excitement already?
NightZone is a fast-paced believable story focusing on an aging retiree who can't completely leave his old life in law enforcement. The characters are believable and flawed while still be likable. The action is non-stop and realistic with the crime overtaking the priorities of life. Also the idea of fulfilling personal dreams at any age is refreshing.
Steven F. Havill is an author by night while continuing his day job in New Mexico while during the day, he is a high school biology and English teacher. Previously, Mr. Havill has written novels about America's West, the Bill Gastner series published in the 1990s, the Posadas County mystery series featuring Undersheriff Estella Reyes-Guzman, and the Dr. Thomas Parks novels. This particular novel is considered to be in the Posados series but really feature Bill Gastner.
As usual, Steven F. Havill has written an enthralling mystery that keeps the reading wondering up to the last page.

Villa Triste

Villa Triste
Lucretia Grindle
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
New York, New York
January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0537-1
$ 14.99
645 pages
In present day Florence, Italy, Giovanni Trantemento is brutally murdered and it is the job of police detective, Alessandro Pallioti to discover the motive and the person responsible for this crime. The detective explores the life of this reclusive soul who recently received an honor for being a partisan hero during Italy's occupation by the Nazi forces. What is unknown except to the murderer and the police is that the victim's mouth was filled with salt, the known mark of a traitor. Only by understanding the past, can Pallioti solve this case through using the diary of a young woman who lived in this area of Florence back during World War II.
For 1943, the lives of Isabella and Caterina Cammaccio begins with Caterina looking forward to her approaching wedding to a doctor in the Italian navy while she continues her work as a nurse. Isabella as a young university student seems aimless and quickly joins those who need assistance to escape the country.
Villa Triste fluctuates between Pallioti's investigation presently and the lives of Caterina and Isabella through a diary that he has found in the victim's house. With each page read, Pallioti views the situation and every day lives of this partisan movement. The detective quickly realizes that to solve the crime of today, he needs to know about the past.
VILLA TRISTE is a well-written novel blending the past and the present into an enthralling story. With realistic characters and historical events that were authentic, this novel excels with being both a mystery and historical fiction. Each aspect of the story is very well-organized and developed into a logical and thrilling climax in this page turner. With each development, the reader feels that they are either with the detective or Caterina. Even with a novel of this length, the intensity never lessens and is a book that you never want to leave.
The author, Lucretia Grindle grew up with half her year in the America while the other half in the U.K. Now she makes her home in Maine.
Definitely, whatever Lucretia Grindle writes, read it. You won't be disappointed.

Come Home to Kanesville review

It always feels safe and secure coming home and that is what the musical "Come Home to Kanesville" does for each member of the audience. For the seventh consecutive year, this musical has been delighting the local community and will continue each night at 7:30 pm on Mondays through Saturdays with an additional family performance on Saturday at 4 pm continuing through August 3rd at the Kanesville Tabernacle.
"Come Home to Kanesville" this year has two additional musical numbers. While the focus of this story is the temporary settlement of our town that was previously called Kanesville with the actual setting in the town back in 1846. This settlement along the Missouri River was called Miller's Hollow but with the 13,000 refugees from the Mormon town of Nauvoo, things changed besides the name. After the Mormon families took three months to arrive at this new settlement, they realized that they could not continue with the soon approaching winter months and chose to settle here while separating into over 100 small settlements to temporarily plant crops and settle for the winter months. This was when four thousand of these people moved to the Winter Quarters in Omaha.
This musical deals with those settlers strictly in this area that became Council Bluffs.
"Come Home to Kanesville" is a fast-paced family oriented musical in the intimate setting of the Kanesville Tabernacle where the audience easily makes direct eye-contact with each member of the cast. The singing, acting, and dancing keeps your feet tapping for the entire time.
For the major parts, two people are cast and alternating in these roles. The voices were outstanding in their part in the performance I viewed. David Young is always the compassionate Thomas Kane whom Kanesville was named. Angie Blad and Jana Clark Anderson are both from Omaha with both possessing beautiful and melodic singing voices. Jon Fox was wonderful as Richard Martin, a part he had in a previous year,. as he became one of the young lovers. Rylie Hadley from Omaha and James Cruse from Council Bluffs were believable and delightful as the Lewis children.
The cast is very enthusiastic with roles that demonstrate their multiple talents with a blend of light-hearted humor with a story that delights everyone over the age of eight.
Due to funding, this program is not planned to be continued after this year.
This program is completely free. Presently, there is not funding for this program to continue next year.
What is there to do in Council Bluffs during the heat of summer? Why not bring your family to enjoy this fun musical in an air-conditioned facility that both educates and delights?

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell

Who would guess that many people in this area are "blue grass" fans? Anyone at the Holland Performing Arts Center last Sunday would obviously know that by the sell-out crowd for Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell. This audience of mostly middle-aged adult couples were delighted as the night ended with an instantaneous standing ovation of all three levels of the Holland.
The light-hearted humor of the headliner Steve Martin as the master of ceremonies for the two-hour concert proved that his banjo playing is not just a hobby, but that he definitely can play with the best even demonstrating the differing styles of banjo playing.
The Steep Canyon Rangers were my surprise of the night. These phenomenal musicians won a Grammy for their album "Nobody Knows You" this year while previously being nominated in this category. In 2011, this group was voted the International Blue Grass Entertainers of the Year. They overwhelmingly succeeded in showing the audience that they unquestionably deserved these honors.
Woody Platt is the lead singer and guitarist for the Steep Canyon Rangers. His voice is strong and his harmonies bewitching while playing a "down home" style. He definitely is a singer that I hope to hear more from in the future. Graham Sharp also is a wonderful musician playing banjo most of the time and singing bass. Mike Guggino adds his harmonies and is a magical mandolin player. Charles R. Humphrey III plays a "mean" string bass which also provided much of the percussive sounds for many of the songs. Mike Ashworth joined the performers playing a variety of percussive instruments. Edie Brickell, known also as Paul Simon's wife, both has written some of the songs besides singing and harmonizing.
Nicky Sanders is the final member of this ensemble being a phenomenal fiddler. When he begins to play his fiddle, all his body is part of his fiddling. Whether walking in place, bending, stretching, to Nicky, fiddling is an entire body experience. (I really wonder if he could play without using his legs.) However, listening and watching Nicky Sanders let's everyone know that music for him is a complete and masterful experience. He literally becomes one with the instrument.
Also, the Steep Canyon Rangers are wonderful singers and instrumentalist. However, when these gentlemen sing without their instruments, their harmonies are clearly exposed in their acapella singing which is splendid and perfectly balanced as the singers surround one microphone.
Between the singing, the harmonies, the humor, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell created a magical night of good old “down home – honky tonk” blue grass music at the Holland.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Broadway Dreams 2013

The 2013 Broadway Dreams show last Saturday at the Holland Center was different this year. The Broadway performers were not identified so the audience really had no way to identify the professionals from the students unless they happened to be male with facial hair.
With this particular show being "Circle of Dreams", there definitely was a feeling of a circus the entire night. With elaborate costumes and make-up, at times the audience had the feeling of observing an old time freak show.
This year some of the selections were obviously for older students rather than children with selections especially with the selections from "Moulin Rouge".
What is fun is to view these Broadway show snippets before the touring companies are in the area.
For me, the selections from "Big River" and "Xanadu" were by outstanding. "Big River" featured two talented student interns as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer who perfectly blended for their various songs and as the slave, Jim, Quentin Earl Darrington definitely commanded this role and demonstrated why he won a Tony Award. His powerful voice literally commanded the stage. These selections demonstrated also why this particular musical won the Tony's many years ago.
"Xanadu" was fun to watch complete with glow sticks and confetti guns. The energy was exhilarating as the leads with roller skates and sweats from the 1980s told the story of this Cinderella-like musical. Yes, the lead actress did lose a roller skate reminiscent of Cinderella's glass shoe as she hobbled around on stage. Two performers from "Xanadu" unquestionably stole the show. These two were Zeus's daughters that were looking forward to the demise of one their sisters as she fell in love with a mortal. Their singing, acting, and meddling were comical as this twosome observed the love story.
With songs also from "Pippin", "Shrek", and "Side Show" all of which required unusual costumes and make-up as the performers delighted the audience with their dancing, acting, and wonderful singing. This was a fun night that ended all too soon.
What will the show be like in 2014?

Come Home to Kanesville

Can you possibly imagine what this town was like in 1846?
For one thing, this town was then named Kanesville and was the edge of civilization. Across the river, life was still rough and inhabited by Native Americans.
Many families of the Mormon faith had previously left Missouri to peacefully live in Nauvoo, Illinois to escape religious persecution. Unfortunately, again these people faced persecution with the death of their leader Joseph Smith and came to Kanesville for safety and to begin their trek to Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Come Home to Kanesville" is a musical about the history of Council Bluffs with the Mormon families settling here before moving across the river to their Winter Quarters in North Omaha.
What is unusual about this musical is that many of the leading roles are shared by two people. This allows for more development of the characters and the focus on the message rather than individual performers. Being this is the seventh and final year for the show, the performers search for ways to have the audience become more a part of the story. This year, two new songs have been added to the musical. Each year the show looks for ways to make it better than the previous ones.
With performers from Washington, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and locally, each lead had to learn two roles completely before meeting in Council Bluffs. The cast then intensely worked long hours for ten days to bring this to the community.
For some of the performers, this musical is a challenge and a learning experience teaching dancers to become actors, actors to become singers, and singers to become dancers. To achieve this, the cast of 63 members have to learn the value in trusting each other as they become a family on this stage.
Performances begin July 19th and continue through August 3rd on Tuesdays -Saturdays at 7:30 pm and a special family performances every Saturday at 4 pm at the Historic Kanesville Tabernacle located at 222 East Broadway. The show last about an hour and twenty minutes. These performances are free with limited seating on a first come first served basis.
With performers from Washington, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and locally, each lead had to learn two roles completely before meeting in Council Bluffs. The cast then intensely worked long hours for ten days to bring this to the community.
For some of the performers, this musical is a challenge and a learning experience teaching dancers to become actors, actors to become singers, and singers to become dancers.To achieve this, the cast of 63 members have to learn the value in trusting each other as they become a family on this stage.
Performances begin July 19th and continue through August 3rd on Tuesdays -Saturdays at 7:30 pm and a special family performances every Saturday at 4 pm at the Historic Kanesville Tabernacle located at 222 East Broadway. The show last about an hour and twenty minutes. These performances are free with limited seating on a first come first served basis.
With the value of relying on people rather than material possessions, the learning to trust in others to do what is right and pride of your heritage are just a few things experienced by both the early settlers and this cast.
During these hot summer months, come in and cool off at the Kanesville Tabernacle to enjoy some great music that will leave you smiling.

The Journeymen

How many men's quartets have been around since 1957 and are still actively touring?
The Journeymen is one of the few who are in this rare category for longevity. How have they survived? Their message in music through their harmonies proves to be enriching and invigorating to everyone.
These four gentlemen continue the tradition of previous members with their singing of Southern gospel music. The current members of the quartet are Paul Allman who has a strong and powerful bass voice, with Jordan Akers singing his beautifully blended baritone voice, Stacey Akers and Blake Bledsoe are both tenors with complimenting voices.
Through this weekend, The Journeymen will continue to sing for various churches near this area. With voices that are clear, energetic, and blending in harmonies, The Journeymen are an invigorating force for gospel music and all performers. Their blend of music and humor make for a delightful evening for people of all ages.
Most of the songs sung at their concert are available on their new CD entitled "The New Chapter" which can be purchased at their performances at a discounted rate.These songs are outstanding with beautifully balanced rich harmonies. What was and is outstanding is when this group sings what they know best, old-time Southern gospel music with no accompaniment, strictly accapella in a downhome bluegrass style straight from the hills of West Virginia. The balancing of their voices as well as their blended sound, creates an exhilarating experience for the listener.
The cost of their concert is free. They do ask for a freewill offering to defray their costs. Why not discover The Journeymen this summer to cool your soul with the music to warm your heart?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Broadway Dreams Promotional - :Lauren Philips

Lauren Philips seems like a typical middle school student. In reality, she is not. She has big dreams and is actively taking gigantic steps towards her goal. What does it take to be a Broadway performer?
This summer Lauren is attending her fourth intensive production week of Broadway Dreams at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. From 9:30 am - 6 pm each day for one week is filled with classes in singing, dancing, and acting. Already a competitive dancer for Nebraska Dance, she realizes that every year she attends, she improves with her talents by learning more strategies and techniques in her aspiration to become an actress in making her dreams come true.
On Saturday night at 7:30 pm., Lauren will demonstrate with poise and maturity beyond her years, her talent along with the other 100 participants, some actual Broadway performers, talented intern students, and musicians as “Circle of Dreams” comes to life. With selections from Moulting Rouge and Xanadu, along with possible selections from Shrek, Pippin and possibly some roller skating, each person will develop the skills to become one with the music, the stage, their peers, and the audience.
As I was observing one of their classes early this week, participants from age 9 to 25 were learning the lesson of becoming one living entity on the stage. Watching as they learned how to breathe and move as a single unit with a common goal was fascinating. Seeing Lauren as both an individual and a part of the whole activity was a delight as I observed many people making the shift from the "me" to the "we".
"We're all working together as one, learning and trusting each other. We move together, share together, linking ourselves into unity. We need attention and focus so that individually, no one zones out. Only when this happens will the group create the single positive energy towards a common goal in performance."
Lauren has greatly valued this experience of the past years in allowing her to become part of the Lewis Central Middle School choir and show choir.
Saturday night will be the final group performance entitled "Circle of Dreams" as the entire ensemble, teachers included, will both audition for visiting producers of touring companies and demonstrate their talents to their families, friends, and the community at 7:30 pm. at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha.
For only $ 19 a seat, this production is a phenomenal deal to see the stars of tomorrow.
For tickets, contact Omaha Performing Arts at (402) 345-0606 or (866) 434-8587 or
You will be amazed at how much talent there is in this area. In the past, it has been difficult to differentiate between the professionals and the participants. Maybe there should be a show "Metro Omaha Area Has Talent".