Monday, April 27, 2015

Mamma Mia

"I want the perfect wedding and I want my dad to give me away."

For most brides, this is a requirement. However for Sophie, this is problematic. She doesn't know who is her father. Her mother never married and raised Sophie as a single parent.

Being proactive and wanting perfection on her wedding day, Sophie finds her mother's diary and discovers that there are three men who had relationships with her mother. So which of the three is her father? To be certain, Sophie invites all three to her wedding in the hopes that her mother will reveal the truth, she hopes. Won't her mother be surprised?

Donna Sheridan has fulfilled her lifetime dream. She has built a little hotel on a Greek island. The work is constant but she is doing what she loving and raising her daughter her way.

She is excited for the wedding and is delighted when her two-long time friends arrive. The threesome were part of a girl band years ago. Tanya has done well maintaining her youth by marrying money to support her plastic surgery. Rosie is short and stout and still looking for love.

The day before the wedding these three are reunited. Shockingly, arriving on the island are Donna's three former boyfriends shortly afterwards. They are concerned when they discover that Donna did not write their letter. Sophie did.

So who will walk Sophie down the aisle, Bill, Harry or Sam? Now her mother has to finally reveal the true identity of her father, or does she? As Tanya grasps what is inevitable, she states "I hope it's a wide aisle".

This is the story for Mamma Mia last weekend for five performances at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha. To accompany this awkward situation is the music of ABBA. This group was well-known and loved in the disco era of the 70s and 80s creating a delightfully humorous and light-hearted musical.

The leading roles excelled with ruling the stage while being certain that all cast members were included in the recognition and the spotlight. As Sophie, Chelsea Williams was delightful. Her mother was portrayed by Georgia Kate Haege who was perfect as the mother-of-the-bride. Unquestionably Donna's long-time friends, Rosie portrayed by Sarah Smith and as Tanya, Bailey Purvis were outstanding bringing numerous episodes of laughter. These two characters were the favorites of the audience. All three men, the former boyfriends of Donna, had beautiful tenor voices with each one being very different expressing their individual characters. These parts were played by Andrew Tebo, Michael Colavolpe, and Jeff Drushal.

The sets are fairly simplistic and easily moved for scene changes. Costumes, make-up, and hair were very basic but contrasted with the ensemble frequently being very colorful creating additional images and sensations for the audience. All the supporting, back-stage crew made the program completely seamless. The dancing was great with the audience frequently tapping their feet and even at times raising their arms to be included with those on stage. The only problem was the sound system with the band frequently being too loud for the soloists but back to the appropriate levels for the ensembles

Who would most enjoy this musical? By the audience response, middle-aged women. The ABBA songs of the 70s and 80s were obviously known by most of the audience. With the shiny clothes of the disco-era complete with wide-shouldered jackets and platform boots brought numerous laughs along with the shirtless young men, the mostly middle-aged female audience delighted in this fast-paced romantic comedy.

The show is a natural crowd pleaser with a standing ovation and encores. What is unusual is that the encores were actually extensions of the musical with additional costumes and laughter leaving the audience singing "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia" as they exited the theater.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Hate Hamlet

"It's Shakespeare. It's like algebra on stage," as quoted by the character of John Barrymore in Omaha Community Playhouse's latest production, I Love Hamlet.

Real estate broker, Deirdre McDavey, knows that she has the perfect New York apartment for the Hollywood actor whose show was just cancelled. The apartment was once the residence of John Barrymore. What actor wouldn't be thrilled to live in the actual space inhabited by the legendary man. Added to that, his actor has agreed to play the lead in "Hamlet" for the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park. However, Andrew is not certain that he is capable of portraying this character, knows that he really does not want to play this part, and is definitely not thrilled with this apartment.

Being that Andrew is a television actor. He really does not have the training and experience to understand and play and Hamlet. Even when his girlfriend, agent, promoter, and even the ghost of John Barrymore encourage him, he really doesn't believe he can be successful in this role and still just doesn't want it.

As Andrew Rally, Ben Beck is perfect as the television/commercial actor who doesn't view himself as a talented individual. He has thoroughly enjoyed his five years as the lead on L.A. Medical, the long running successful television show which has now been cancelled.

His girlfriend, Felicia Dantine is portrayed by Julie Fitzgerald Ryan. She is delightful as the 29-year-old-virgin with her firm belief that she will have absolutely no sexual relationship until she is married.

In the role of John Barrymore, the ghost, is Kevin Barratt. He wonderfully captures the dignity of the legendary actor while still being realistic character that is known as an alcoholic, seducer and experienced Shakespearean actor whose reputation as Hamlet is considered one of the best of all time. He successfully became the larger than life Barrymore while still being obviously flawed.

Kim Jubenville is in the role of Lillian Troy. She is Rally's agent who unquestionably wants him in this role. However years ago she had a fling with Barrymore in that actual apartment.

As the real estate broker/psychic Deirdre McDavey, Kim Jubenville possesses the New York accent. With her high-heeled, short-skirted, flashy clothes she is delightful as the flirtatious real estate broker.

Rounding out the cast is Dave Wingert as Gary Peter Lefkowitz who has the Hollywood connections for Rally's future and fortune. He truly became the sleazy promoter looking for the best moment to optimize every opportunity.

This adult play is a fast-paced, delightfully humorous journey accompanying a present day television heartthrob who needs to find a new acting gig. Being thrust into the world of John Barrymore is more than a little unsettling for Andrew. The apartment is styled from the first half of the twentieth-century and definitely not one that a television star would value. Added to that, Andrew learns from the actual ghost of Barrymore who must stay within the walls of the apartment as he both educates and entertains Andrew along with the audience and most of the cast.

The sets, costumes, hair, props, lighting, sound, and direction are perfect. Obviously this behind-the-scenes support crew is outstanding with this well-organized and well-managed production with the actual scene for the entire play being only the living room of the apartment.

Additionally, the two lead male roles needed to interact while fencing. This was effective and masterfully done with no obvious injuries.

The play consists of two acts of about an hour separated by an intermission.

I Hate Hamlet continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha through May 10th, 2015. Shows are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices are $ 36 for adults and $ 22 for students with special group prices available and can be purchased of the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at or

I Love Hamlet is a delightfully humorous show for those who enjoy Shakespeare, those who feel a little intimidated with Shakespeare, those who would like to better understand Shakespeare and for any adult that enjoys a light-hearted humorous show.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Meluhhan Oracle

The Meluhhan Oracle
I. J. Roy
Scorpio Books
Charleston, South Carolina
$ 12.99
324 pages

The words of a storyteller can magically weave images of places far away and times long past. However, the people in these tales are memorable while still being realistically human with their personal errors in judgments, selfishness, and risk taking. These stories, even adult ones as in this novel, still reveal life lessons while revealing the people and everyday life of the culture.

The Meluhhan Oracle is the creation of author I. J. Roy who envisions the world of long ago in the lands between Meluhha and Sumer which is now known as the Indus Valley Civilization currently recognized as Northwest India and Pakistan. He utilized information from archeological finds to construct this tale.

Each chapter builds upon the characters and consequences of the previous ones, all revolving around a few central figures as their quests filled with learning experiences and adventures. These characters believe in their fates, each one fulfilling their personal destiny and purpose in life. The mastery of interweaving of the characters throughout the entire novel is phenomenal.

The first character is a woman who has light hair and light skin making her different from her family and others. An albino is usually not safe and is endangered in any species. Zayaa fortunately survives and has a daughter, Tiraa.  When her daughter draws the attraction of the Chief High Priest, Zayaa knows that her family now has to make a crucial decision.   By being proclaimed by the gods, The-Dreamer-of-Truths-Yet-to-Come, she knows that she is The Meluhhan Oracle. How can she be saved from her destiny? Who decides your fate? 

 The second involves a man who dreams of being a trader while in search of the White Gods of the Great Northern White Mountains. He possesses a knowledge of people, problem solving and uncommonly common sense which breaks through the barrier of being an outsider. He seems to magically penetrate communities that need to be inclusive for their survival. However, there is always a price to pay and risks.

Even with evidence of active trading in these areas, the residents of the numerous cities were distrustful of outsiders and besides having their own languages, oftentimes also had mannerisms and customs unique to that individual community. Building trust and close friendships is integral for the success of each character.

Finally the last is a servant to the second, caring for the sick man through his death. He is burdened with not listening attentively for the one thing that he needs.

The Meluhhan Oracle is an adult novel. The intended audience needs to be adults due to the imagery of the tortures and sexual content.

These vignettes which comprise this novel resemble the tales of past cultures that have passed through generations but are actually the fiction created by I. J. Roy.

The Meluhhan Oracle is a treasure of stories revealing small snapshots of the past about people who have lived in an area with a rich heritage and numerous conflicts endured throughout time from a masterful storyteller, I. J. Roy.