This Quartet is Worth Far More than a Million

On December 4, 1956, the first supergroup of rock and roll appeared at Sun Records.  On that day, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins all happened to be at Sun Records at the same time and had an impromptu jam session recorded by Sun’s owner, Sam Phillips.  Inspired by that day, Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux wrote a little show about what might have gone on in the studio.  They called it Million Dollar Quartet and it is playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

To be honest, I was expecting a jukebox musical when I sat down to review this show, but Escott and Mutrux actually wrote a nifty little story that segues nicely into the evening’s showstopping numbers.  It’s fun, actually delves a bit into the characters of Phillips and the Million Dollar Quartet, and is even a little sad and haunting at certain points.  This strong tale is strengthened by the legendary hits as performed by a powerhouse cast who hit all the right notes musically and acting-wise.

Paul Kerr has directed a real winner with this production.  He sets a snappy pace, wonderfully stages the show, and pulls some exceptionally strong performances out of his actors.  Kerr has a good grip on the true depth of this story and hits all of its emotional beats with maximum impact.

Kerr’s cast is stellar from top to bottom.  Each fully understands his or her character and each also happens to be a darn good singer and instrumentalist.

I’d like to give special notice to the unsung heroes of this show:  Sean Powell and Darren Johnston.  Powell does double duty as the show’s musical director and in the small role of Jay Perkins.  As musical director, Powell’s work is superb as he and the cast don’t miss a trick in any of the night’s numbers.  He also does well in the role of Jay, Carl Perkins’ older brother.  Powell brings a real presence to the role and brings a natural flamboyance to it, not to mention some dynamite strumming on and skillful acrobatics with his stand up bass.  Johnston fuels all of the numbers with a deadly accurate backbeat as the session drummer, Fluke.

While all of the actors are great, Billy Rude may be the one to keep your eye on with his frenzied performance as Jerry Lee Lewis.  Rude’s Lewis has a natural gift for rubbing people the wrong way and has a self-confidence bordering on arrogance as he struggles to achieve stardom as Sun Record’s newest artist.  Rude’s ability with the piano borders on the superhuman as I had difficulty following his fingers as they blitzed across the keys.  He didn’t just play the singer known as “The Killer”, he became him as he perfectly emulated his over the top piano playing right down to kicking away the piano bench and having that hairstyle that gets just as wild as his performances in “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’”.

Sean Riley brings a surprising amount of pathos to the role of Carl Perkins.  Perkins was the first breakout star of Sun Records, but has hit a bit of a slump and is feeling overlooked by Sam Phillips.  Riley brings a bit of bitter frustration to the role as he is a bit of a curmudgeon who is only really close with Johnny Cash.  Lewis irritates him and he harbors a lot of resentment and jealousy towards Elvis who not only supplanted him on the charts, but became better known for Perkins’ hit song “Blue Suede Shoes” more than Perkins himself.  Riley is also a master guitarist and singer who flies high in “Matchbox” and his sections in “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”.

You may think Johnny Cash has been reborn when you see Christopher Essex’s take on the Man in Black.  He bears a remarkable physical similarity to the singer, effortlessly duplicates his unique style of guitar playing, and has a similar bass voice.  Essex ably plays Cash as a gentle man of faith wrestling with the problem of telling Phillips he’s leaving the label.  He also shines in classic Cash numbers such as “I Walk the Line” and “Down By the Riverside”.

I really liked Courtney Crouse’s take on Elvis Presley.  He managed to show Elvis’ congeniality which people often forget about.  By displaying this side of Elvis’ personality, he shows us that the King was actually too nice for the cutthroat world of show business as he is often pushed around by Colonel Parker and his new record label, RCA.  But Crouse also reminds us that Elvis was a versatile performer almost without peer as he rocks out with “Hound Dog” then just as easily goes Gospel with “Peace in the Valley”.

After Bradley Farmer, as Elvis’ girlfriend, Dyanne, belted out “Fever” with that sultry alto, I needed to go soak my head in a bucket of ice water to cool off.  Ms Farmer gets a lot of mileage out of this small role who ends up serving as the confidante of nearly every character in the show.  Ms Farmer adds that extra something to the show whether it be singing or dancing to the numerous numbers or boosting the beat with her tambourine.

Last and certainly not least is Eddie Urish’s beautiful turn as Sam Phillips.  As the narrator of this tale, Urish presents Phillips as the grizzled record producer who built tiny Sun Records into a starmaking factory by recognizing rock and roll for the revolution it was and seeing the talent in future stars that other labels wouldn’t glance twice at.  I loved the loyalty that Urish gives to Phillips because it made his pain at watching the Quartet dissolve around him all the more believable and moving.

Todd Davison’s set is phenomenal as it has the perfect flavor of the former auto parts store now turned into a hitmaking machine.  Reymundo Montoya’s properties complete the picture of Davison’s set.  Shon Causer’s lighting adds a je ne sais quoi to the story as it changes from the brightness of the jam session to the dark blue of Phillips’ narration.

Believe me when I say you’re going to get more than a million bucks worth of entertainment out of this show.  The story is strong.  The performances are terrific.  The music is legendary.  Buckle up and enjoy the ride of this show.

Million Dollar Quartet plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 9.  Showtimes are at 7:30pm on June 28 and July 7-8; 2pm on June 25, 27, 30 and July 5 and 9.  Tickets cost $29 for the Main Floor and $22 for the balcony.  For tickets contact the box office at 660-385-2924 or visit the website at www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

‘Ladies’ Leave ‘Em Laughing in the Aisles

Meet Leo Cark and Jack Gable.  They are 2 struggling Shakespearian actors of dubious talent and meager means.  When they stumble onto a chance to steal 2/3 of a multimillion dollar fortune by posing as the long lost relatives of a dying woman, they throw caution to the wind and put their acting skills to the test.  And it is a mighty difficult test as the missing relatives happen to be women.  This is Leading Ladies by Ken Ludwig and currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

A big part of the magic of theatre is that if you change a few elements of a production it becomes brand new all over again.  Just a few months ago I reviewed this show for the Omaha Community Playhouse.  With that performance still fresh in my memory, I got to see an exciting, rib tickling new take on it due to a simple change of director and cast and crew.  This is why one can see the same show over and over and over again and it is still something unique and original.

Brandon McShaffrey truly knows what makes for good farce.  His direction of tonight’s show was genius as he not only knew where and when to add the ludicrous elements, but he also managed to add a sizable amount of realism to the production.  His actors were honest to goodness people as opposed to caricature and he led the lot of them to sterling performances that left the audience rolling in the aisles.

This show is truly an ensemble piece with every actor getting a chance to shine.  Madeline Thomas is simply cute as a button and deliriously ditzy as Audrey.  She may not be too bright, but she’s building her brain one complex word at a time.  Todd Davison and Sean Powell make for a great father/son act as the talentless physician, Doc Myers, and his nerdy, willowy son, Butch.  Andy Brown provides some laughs as Rev. Duncan Wooley, the cheapskate, milquetoast fiancée of the play’s leading lady.  But watch out for Jonna Wiseman as barbed tongued Aunt Florence as she steals every scene she’s in with her acidic antics.

With the supporting cast providing such a strong foundation, it would be nearly impossible for this show to fail and it gets a further boost from its three leads, Michael McIntire, Sean Riley, and Kara Overlien, who admirably carry the bulk of the show on their formidably talented shoulders.

I was extraordinarily impressed with Kara Overlien’s portrayal of Meg.  Ms Overlien is just so. . .genuine as the young heiress.  She plays Meg as a decent woman with a strong streak of integrity as she plans to marry Rev. Wooley for taking care of her after the death of her parents.  But she also gets a lot of joy out of life.  She has passion for the theatre and has a surprising amount of potential as a performer.  She loves music and is a skilled dancer.  In fact, her solo dance number to a radio song is one of the best moments of the night.  Ms Overlien also has incredible facial animation as her reactions to the events swirling about her were always extemporaneous and spot-on.

Sean Riley does so much with so little in his interpretation of Jack Gable.  A slight grin here and a little gesture there had the crowd eating out of Riley’s hand.  Riley’s Gable may be the less talented member of the acting duo, but he might be the mentally swifter of the two.  Riley comes up with absurd sign language as the deaf and dumb “Stephanie” and also knows how to sneak hugs out of Audrey.  He’s also got a bit of the devil in him as he makes Leo’s wooing of Meg more difficult with his insinuations about why we never seem to see Leo and “Maxine” together as well as messing with Leo during their performance at the Moose Lodge.  Riley clearly had a ball with the role and it showed with a stellar performance.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a skilled blending of over the topness and realism as the one provided by Michael McIntire’s rendition of Leo Clark.  McIntire’s Clark is truly a good actor, but can’t seem to catch a break.  When he hatches the plan of stealing the fortune he throws, and I mean THROWS, himself in the role of “Maxine”.  McIntire is larger than life as Clark playing Maxine and he dazzlingly moves between the over the top “Maxine” to the natural Leo without missing a beat.  His howlingly funny reactions and expression asides to the audience only further fueled his dynamic performance.

Outstanding technical elements further helped create the world of this show including Charles Johnson’s set which creates the illusion of a well to do home without being ostentatious.  Jack Smith’s costumes were snappy and elegant from the suits and tuxes for the men and the gowns and dresses for the ladies and the “leading ladies”.

Tighter cue pickups and a faster pace would have further bolstered tonight’s production, but it is still one terrific night of comedy.  The best stamp of approval I can give is that this show caused me to laugh myself into a coughing fit at several points and I saw many members of the audience doubled over in hysterics at numerous moments.  But, hey, don’t take our words for it.  Buy a ticket and experience the mirth for yourself.

Leading Ladies plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 22.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on July 1, 5, 15, and the 21 and at 2pm on June 24, 28, July 2, 7, 16, 18, 21-22.  Tickets cost $29 for the Main Floor and $22 for the balcony.  For tickets contact the box office at 660-385-2924 or visit the website at www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

A Telekinetic, Teenage Tragedy

Carrie White is a special girl.  Sure she’s bullied and ostracized by her classmates, but she is a special girl.  And maybe her mother abuses her psychologically and emotionally, but she really is a special girl.  Do you want to know how special?  Just make her angry.  But I wouldn’t advise it.  For, if you do, you won’t live long enough to regret it.  Find out how special Carrie White is in Carrie:  The Musical adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen from a novel by Stephen King with music composed by Michael Gore and lyrics written by Dean Pitchford and currently playing at SNAP! Productions.

I admit to not being much of a fan of Stephen King’s horror works.  I’ve only read one of his books and have seen roughly six of his macabre tales. Now I have watched the film version of Carrie and I consider it to be the deepest of his horror novels.  Let me correct that.  It isn’t a horror novel.  Carrie is a tragedy with some undertones of horror.  It is actually an eye opening look at the evil of bullying.  I also admit that I was glad to review this show because I found it to be one of the top productions of the theatre season.

I congratulate Todd Brooks for a truly impressive piece of stage and music direction.  He treated the subject matter with respect and did fine work leading the score.  I also thought he told the story exceptionally well as he and his troupe of actors led us through the pain of Carrie’s existence, yet managed to drop little nuggets of hope for her before epically yanking the rug out from under her feet.  Brooks also drew very good performances out of his thespians who provided a well acted, well sung tale.

I always appreciate choruses who understand the vital part they play in shows.  Each and every member of this chorus stay involved with every moment of the show, providing fresh and strong characterizations that really livened things up.  This particular chorus also had the best harmonization I have ever heard, best exemplified in “A Night We’ll Never Forget”.

Notable performances were supplied by Josh Polack as Billy Nolan, the dimwitted and mean-spirited boyfriend of Carrie’s nemesis and Mike Burns’ portrayal of Tommy Ross, one of the few decent students at Carrie’s school.  Burns had one of the night’s best numbers as his pleasant tenor touched hearts with “Tommy’s Poem (Dreamer in Disguise)”.

Gigi Hausman really shines in the title role of Carrie White in her SNAP! debut.  Ms Hausman has incredible body language as the put upon Carrie as she closes herself off from the rest of her classmates with her clasped hands, slumped shoulders, and downward gaze.  My heart truly ached from the loneliness and sadness she communicated and she nicely evolves Carrie from mousey to somewhat confident and hopeful when Tommy asks her to the prom and she learns how to control her telekinesis to her final snapping after a cruel prank causes her to unleash the full fury of her power on the school.

Ms Hausman was equally moving on the singing side as her soprano pleaded for God’s help in “Evening Prayers” and was quietly optimistic in “Why Not Me?”

Sara Planck is scary in her role of Margaret White.  And what really sells it is how real and normal she appears.  Ms Planck’s Margaret seems like a regular mom, if a little overprotective, until she starts spouting the drivel that Carrie’s first period was a sign of sin.  Then you realize that she’s a neurotic with a religious mania who crooks scripture to satisfy her warped view of God and locks Carrie in an underground cell to pray for forgiveness due to her own guilt of having conceived of a child outside of wedlock.

Ms Planck’s alto nearly stole the night as she tells Carrie “And Eve Was Weak”, confesses about the night she succumbed to temptation in “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”, and goes soprano when she laments “When There’s No One” after she calmly decides to sacrifice Carrie, mistaking her telekinesis for demonic power.

Paloma Power also makes a fine debut with SNAP! as Sue Snell, the play’s narrator.  Ms Power’s Sue bullies Carrie at the start of the show, but genuinely regrets her actions and tries to makes amends through apology and then by getting her boyfriend, Tommy, to take Carrie to the prom.  Ms Power brings a real goodness and decency to the role and she also understands Carrie better than anyone, sharing how she sees the burning cauldron of pain beneath the quiet shell when she beautifully sings “Once You See”.

I was thoroughly repulsed by Chris Hargensen as played by Laurel Rothamel.  And, yes, that is a very high compliment.  I cannot recall a character that I detested as much as I did Chris.  Ms Rothamel’s interpretation is astonishing.  She is so cruel, so nasty, so slutty, so spoiled, and so vindictive that I found myself wishing someone would slap the taste out of her mouth and I’m a pretty peaceful, easy-going guy.  Even more amazing, she actually made me feel a tiny bit of sympathy for her when she implied that her bullying nature is the by-product of being beaten by her father, a ruthless attorney, in the night’s most fun number, “The World According to Chris”.

Jason DeLong deserves extremely high praise for his choreography which was not only fun and creative, but managed to be flowing and big despite the confines of the small theatre.  Megan Bollanger’s set invoked memories of high school dances from yesteryear.  Leah Skorupa’s costumes were pitch perfect from Carrie’s frumpy outfit to Chris’ vampy clothes to the elegant prom gear.  Joshua Mullady proves that he may be the city’s best lighting designer as his lights once more become extra characters in the show as they enhanced scenes with evil reds, hopeful glows, and soft romance.  Daena Schweiger’s sound and visuals really added that something extra to the show.

There were a few missed notes during some of the songs and some of the cast needed to speak up and project more, but this is a quality production.  The numbers are catchy, the story is surprisingly profound, and the acting is quite powerful.  Get yourself a ticket to see this as, as the cast sings, it’ll be a night you’ll never forget.

Carrie:  The Musical continues at SNAP! Productions through June 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm.  The June 25 show and an additional matinee on June 17 will be at 2pm.  Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, TAG members, Military, and seniors (55+) and all Thursday shows).  For tickets, call 402-341-2757 or visit www.snapproductions.com.  Due to strong language and mature themes, Carrie:  The Musical is not recommended for children.  SNAP! Productions is located at 3225 California Street in Omaha, NE.

OCP Announces Summer Show

Omaha Community Playhouse Announces Summer Show
Girls Like Us: The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell

June 15 – 25, 2017

Omaha, Neb.— The Omaha Community Playhouse will present Girls Like Us: The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell as its summer show June 15 – 25, 2017 in the Howard Drew Theatre. Girls Like Us is inspired by the book of the same name by Sheila Weller and features performers Laura Freeman, Beckie Menzie and Marianne Murphy Orland.  Tickets for Girls Like Us go on sale to the public Tuesday, March 7 at 10 a.m. through the OCP box office.

The trio of performers banded together in 2010 for a humorous look at Broadway and roles they were never destined to play (Miss Cast) and found that not only did their voices blend but so did their senses of humor. Starting with the laughs and the harmonies, the ladies discovered that creating arrangements unique to them was something they all enjoyed. After reading Weller’s book Girls Like Us and discussing how Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell had made such a huge impact on them and their artistry, Girls Like Us: The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell was born.

The three women blend their unique performing styles into a delightful evening dedicated to showcasing the music and stories of three singers who dared to break tradition and become what none had been before them – female confessors in song, rock superstars and adventurers of heart and soul. Songs include: “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Natural Woman,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’re So Vain” and more.

Production:      Girls Like Us:The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell

Show dates:     June 15 – 25, 2017; Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m.

Tickets:            At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets are $40. Tickets are $32 for current Omaha Community Playhouse subscribers and for groups of 12 or more.

Location:          Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre (6915 Cass Street Omaha, NE 68132)

A Belle of a Good Time

Beauty and the Beast_4

Timothy Vallier as Beast & Leanne Hill Carlson as Belle

A classic fairy tale comes to life.  A vain and cold hearted prince is transformed into a hideous beast by an enchantress when he fails to show her hospitality.  The only way to break the curse is for him to finally love and be loved in return before the enchantress’ rose sheds its last petal.  When circumstances bring the lovely Belle to the castle of the Beast, will the curse finally be brought to an end or is the afflicted prince doomed to his fearsome shape for all time?  Find out in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by Linda Woolverton with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice, closing the season at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

I’m going to make a confession. . .I have never seen any version of Beauty and the Beast nor have I ever read the fairy tale.  I share that confession with you because I want you to understand that I walked into this show with a completely unbiased pair of eyes and no influences to alter my expectations.  Having said that, I now need to tell you that this was an entrancing and beautiful production, one worthy to be viewed by every man, woman, and child in this city.

Kimberly Faith Hickman works an incredible bit of magic with her direction.  Not only did she lead her actors to a string of dynamite performances, but she also flawlessly paced the show.  So smooth was its running that I was honestly taken aback when it came to an end for it only felt like a few minutes had passed.  Her staging is pluperfect and makes use of the entire theatre and the scene changes were satin slick.

From a technical standpoint this was, bar none, the finest show I have ever seen.  The costumes of Georgiann Regan, Travis Halsey, and Amanda Fehlner are so elegant and eye catching from Belle’s simple blue dress to her opulent yellow gown to the rich oddity of the servants’ garments (they are humans transforming into household objects) to the make-up of the Beast.

Jim Othuse continues to pull from his neverending bag of tricks with his sets, lights, and special effects for this show.  You will travel from a simple, homey village to a dark and foreboding forest to a sprawling, cavernous castle.  John Gibilisco’s sounds help animate every moment and Darin Kuehler’s properties give life to the audience’s imaginations.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra never miss a note of the epic score and Michelle Garrity nails the choreography with lavish dance numbers and I must say that “Be Our Guest” is the single best bit of dancing I have seen in nearly 21 years of theatre.

And the acting?  Well, where does one begin?  Such a universally marvelous cast makes it very, very difficult for me to center on select performances.  But kudos go out to Kyle Wright who is delightfully dorky as Gaston’s lackey, Lefou and Brian Priesman as Belle’s eccentric father, Maurice, and he especially shines with his melodic tenor in “No Matter What”.

However, I would be sorely remiss if I failed to mention the fantastic work done by the actors playing the Beast’s servants.  These include Bob Gilmore as the too tightly wound Cogsworth, the castle’s major-domo; Steve Krambeck as Lumiere, the charming candelabra with an eye for the ladies; Dawn Buller-Kirke as Mrs. Potts, the castle’s cook who also dazzles with her sweet and moving rendition of the title song; and Joey Galda as Madame De La Grande Bouche, the diva wardrobe.

The role of Belle seemed to be tailor made for Leanne Hill Carlson.  She brings intelligence, warmth, sensitivity, and strength to the part.  Ms Hill Carlson well communicates Belle’s outsider status due to her peculiar pater and her love of reading while also bringing nobility when she selflessly volunteers to take Maurice’s place as the Beast’s prisoner.  With expert ease, she carefully undergoes the transformation from fearing and detesting the Beast to falling in love with him.  Her beautiful soprano will keep you mesmerized all evening with such numbers as “A Change in Me”, “Belle”, “Is this Home?”, and “No Matter What”.

Timothy Vallier makes a triumphant debut at the Playhouse with his interpretation of the Beast.  Vallier has a phenomenally well modulated voice, capable of a wide range of nuances ranging from animalistic snorting to cold anger to desperate loneliness to tender love.  He excellently executes Beast’s transformation from his temperamental, arrogant old self to his emergence as a kind and loving man.  Vallier also has a honey sweet tenor which is well utilized in “If I Can’t Love Her” and “How Long Must this Go On?”

Ryan Pivonka rounds out the three leads with his own worthy performance as Gaston.  Gaston isn’t your typical villain as he really isn’t evil.  He’s simply full of himself and his need to win Belle’s heart does drive him to a few dirty deeds.  Pivonka brings a macho swagger to Gaston who routinely roughs up the sycophantic Lefou while singing his own praises in “Gaston”.  He also manages to bring a small touch of sympathy to the role as he does genuinely love Belle, it’s just become twisted due to his overwhelming arrogance and selfishness.

I thought the pratfalls and violence could be smoothed out and punched up a bit, but that did little to dampen a magical night of theatre.  There are tickets still available, but I highly suggest ordering yours right away as I’ve heard they are rapidly dwindling.  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is fun for the whole family and I promise you a Belle of a good time.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 25.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students.  Wednesday night shows are $32 for adults and $20 for students.  For tickets call 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

My Enemy, My Friend

One of my favorite TV shows is a science fiction series called Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, the series shares the adventures of a mysterious time traveler known only as the Doctor.  He is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in his time machine, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), fighting evil.

The show is wildly popular in England where it enjoyed a 27 year run from 1963 to 1989 and a revived run that began in 2005.  The secret of the show’s success is due in no small part to the Doctor’s ability of regeneration.  When his body gets too old or suffers a fatal injury, he can repair all of his cells which cause him to assume a new form complete with a new personality, though his genius intellect and core values always remain intact.

While the Doctor has many iconic enemies I’ve always had a particular affinity to his greatest foe, the Master.  The Master is a fellow Time Lord whose intelligence surpasses that of the Doctor.  The two were best friends in their childhood, though the Master’s insanity and his desire to dominate sent their friendship off the rails at some unknown point.  The two have shared a very complex relationship that has altered dramatically over the years and I’d like to spend this article analyzing that relationship.

When the Master was first introduced in Terror of the Autons, it was clear that he and the Doctor had crossed swords before.  The Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) summed up the Master (played by Roger Delgado) well when he said, “All he ever does is cause trouble”.  The episode did a brilliant job rapidly building up the relationship between the Doctor and the Master.

The two are definitely foes and rivals, but I wouldn’t exactly call them enemies.  Remnants of their past friendship still exist as the Doctor clearly respects the Master’s intelligence and the Master respects the Doctor’s tenacity and resourcefulness best demonstrated when he said, “He (the Doctor) is truly a worthy opponent.  I admire him in many ways.”  The two easily engage in civil conversation and smoothly join forces to stop the much greater threat of the Nestene consciousness.

While I wouldn’t call them enemies, per se, rest assured that this version of the Master was certainly a dangerous man.  He killed without hesitation and had no issue with killing the Doctor, though “not without considerable regret” which clearly indicates a remembrance of friendship past and the fact that he does enjoy the intellectual challenge presented by the Doctor.

Arguably this first version of the long war between the Doctor and the Master was the best and due largely to the amazing chemistry between Delgado and Pertwee who happened to be real life best friends.  Indeed their real life friendship adds dimension to the dynamic between the Doctor and Master, especially their past friendship.

So popular was Delgado as the Master that he appeared in every episode of his first season on Doctor Who and would return to plague the Doctor repeatedly over future seasons.  This Master’s greatest weaknesses were his arrogance and his inability to think outside the box.  His plans were incredibly brilliant, but if you found that one lynchpin and tugged, they all fell apart.  And the Doctor, whose thinking always skipped the box, was always able to find the one hole in the Master’s machinations.

The creators of the series definitely had an end game in mind for the Master.  Originally, Delgado was to have appeared in Pertwee’s final season in a story entitled The Final Game in which the Master would have died saving the Doctor and it would have been revealed that the two were actually brothers.  Sadly, Delgado perished in a car accident prior to the final season.  So hard did Pertwee take Delgado’s death that he nearly didn’t return for his last season and only did so after intense persuasion.

In one of those unusual twists of fate, Delgado’s death actually saved the life of the Master who would vanish for a few years before returning to engage the Doctor in battle once more.

It would be 4 years before the Master and the Doctor fought once more and things had really changed between them.  For starters, the Doctor was now in his fourth incarnation (played by Tom Baker) and the Master was now hideously disfigured, looking like a withered skeleton.  For another thing, there was no longer any semblance of friendship between the Doctor and the Master when they met again in The Deadly Assassin and they were definitely mortal enemies.

Delgado’s death forced the writers to create new motivations for the Master.  The disfigurement was used to explain why the Master no longer looked like Delgado (it was the Delgado body, but his face had been shot by the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, which added a further dimension to their eternal war).  It was also decided that the Master was now in his thirteenth life which is the last in the life cycle of a Time Lord.  Instead of seeking domination, the Master was now desperately searching for a way to survive.  But if he were going to die, he was going to make sure that the Doctor joined him and that he was thoroughly humbled before doing so.

Limited by a mask, the BBC needed an actor with a powerful presence and awesome speaking voice for the role and they did well when they chose Peter Pratt for the part.

The Pratt/Baker dynamic was decidedly different from the Delgado/Pertwee version.  While there was still an undercurrent of friendship between Delgado and Pertwee, there was none but the tiniest kernel between Pratt and Baker.  Baker’s Doctor expressed admiration for the Master’s brilliance while Pratt’s Master acknowledged that “the Doctor is never more dangerous than when the odds are against him”.

Their conversations have a hard and bitter edge and Pratt’s Master would kill the Doctor with the greatest pleasure while Delgado’s Master would have done so reluctantly.  I also appreciated that they decided to drop the idea about their being brothers (though the idea would be teased again before being buried once and for all in the revived series) as that is too common of a trope.

The Master would temporarily extend his life through his machinations in this episode and would return to haunt Baker’s Doctor in his last season in the role, though this time he would be played by Geoffrey Beevers in Baker’s penultimate episode The Keeper of Traken.

This episode would introduce Delgado’s permanent replacement, Anthony Ainley who bore more than a passing resemblance to the late actor.  Ainley’s appearance would also alter the dynamic between the Doctor and the Master once again as the evil Time Lord finally achieved survival by using the powers of Traken’s keepership to steal the body of Tremas, an ally of the Doctor’s, to cheat his imminent death.

Ainley’s Master didn’t hide in the shadows as he returned in the very next episode, Logopolis, which was Baker’s final appearance as the Fourth Doctor.  Now assured of his survival, Ainley’s Master brought back the desire to dominate exhibited by Delgado’s Master, but still retained his need to humiliate and kill the Doctor introduced by Pratt’s Master.  Indeed, this need to embarrass the Doctor before eradicating him would often prove his undoing as it bought the Doctor enough time to wreck the Master’s plans.

However, Ainley’s first appearance as the Master was impressive as he finally obtained a victory over the Doctor, albeit a pyrrhic one.  The Doctor managed to foil the Master’s primary plan of conquering Earth through the threat of its destruction by entropy, but the Master finally “killed” the Doctor when he sent him careening off of a scaffold which triggered his regeneration into his fifth life (played by Peter Davison).

Anthony Ainley would continue to challenge the Doctor throughout the remainder of the original series retaining nearly the same dynamic as that introduced in Logopolis.  The only changes were in the actor playing the Doctor and the fact that the Master had now developed an ability to cheat death not unlike the Joker of the Batman comics, though, in the Master’s case, it was never explained how he escaped certain death every time he came back.

Ainley was often accused of overacting, though I think the worst he could be accused of was being a little broad.  I personally don’t share that sentiment as most of his “overacting” was actually at the behest of the directors.  Even then, Ainley would be able to muster an exceptional performance given the right script.

Some of Ainley’s best Master performances include his appearance in The Five Doctors where he shows signs of the friendship he once shared with the Doctor when he agrees to rescue the Doctor’s incarnations in exchange for a full pardon of his crimes and a new life cycle (the latter being of more interest than the former).  His exchanges with the First, Third, and Fifth Doctors are well worth the watch especially with the slight changes in attitude he adopts with each Doctor.  Another good performance is in Peter Davison’s penultimate episode, Planet of Fire, noted for teasing the idea that the Doctor and the Master were brothers.  His two appearances with the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker)in The Mark of the Rani and the final two episodes of the season long The Trial of a Time Lord are also noteworthy due to the fact that his villainy was well matched by Baker’s blustering arrogant blowhard of a Doctor.

But without question, his best episode was in the original series’ final episode, Survivial, where he faced off against the Seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy).  Once more the Master had returned to simply trying to survive as he was losing his sense of self as he slowly changed into a Cheetah person due to being trapped on their planet.

What made this conflict so good was that he was facing a darker version of the Doctor who could scheme and manipulate as well or better than he could, but it was also the only time he got to play the Master the way he wanted to do it.  Ainley played the Master with a subtle, understated menace that he had often attempted in other episodes before being directed to be broader with his performance.  The restraint of his performance made his Master the deadliest he had ever been.

Alas, this episode marked the end of a series for a long while.  An attempt was made by the United States to revive the series in 1996 when a telemovie was made by Fox and starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Eric Roberts in the role of the Master.

Though the movie failed to restart the series, it did give us another chapter in the neverending conflict between the two Time Lords.  The only real change in their dynamic was that this Master decided to forego the humiliation of the Doctor, instead embarking on a plan to steal the Doctor’s remaining lives which included the ingestion of a super deathworm (read The Eight Doctors to fill in the gaps left open by the film), then allowing himself to be captured and executed by the Daleks (arguably the Doctor’s other great nemeses), which would pass his life essence on to the deathworm which would then possess the Doctor.  Things went awry causing the Master worm to usurp the body of a EMT and then attempt to steal the Doctor’s lives using the TARDIS’ power source, the Eye of Harmony.  What was particularly notable about this battle was that the Master finally died when he was sucked into the Eye of Harmony.

But something as ordinary as death could never stop the Master.

Twelve years later the Master would finally return to war with the Doctor once more in the third season of the revived TV series.  In the revived series it was revealed that the Doctor was now the last of his people as the Time Lords waged a war with the Daleks that was so devastating in nature that the Doctor was forced to destroy both sides as the Last Great Time War threatened to annihilate the universe.

The Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, still carried the weight of the war on his shoulders.  While he was mostly a happy go lucky adventurer who would dive into the fray with an “Allonsy!!”, he also carried a dark edge and granted no second chances to his enemies.  In his second season, a friend known as the Face of Boe told the Doctor, “You are not alone.”

This cryptic message would be explained when the Doctor met Professor Yana (played by Derek Jacobi) in Utopia.  Yana was a brilliant, kindly, somewhat doddering old man who complained of a constant drumbeat in his head.  Eventually, it was revealed that Yana was actually the Master (who had been resuscitated by the Time Lords with a new life cycle to fight in the Time War) who had made himself a human to hide from the Time War.  The Face of Boe’s message referred to Yana’s name (You Are Not Alone).

When Yana finally regained his Time Lord nature, it made for one of the most brilliant moments of the series as Jacobi changed on the turn of a dime from the friendly professor to the epitome of evil.  I truly wish Jacobi had a few more turns as the Master because he was brilliant.  So cold blooded and murderous.  Regrettably, he only got to be the Master for a few minutes as he was shot and killed by his assistant whom he had just electrocuted.  However, the Master regenerated into a younger body (played by John Simm) and really changed the dynamic of their war.

Tennant’s Doctor wanted nothing more than to end their war since they were now the only two Time Lords left, but Simm’s Master was a more maniacal version of Delgado’s take.  Once more, he wanted to dominate and best the Doctor, but he also served as a twisted mirror image to the Doctor as he mimicked his foe’s sense of humor and even began using a laser screwdriver, aping the Doctor’s reliance on his sonic screwdriver.

Of course, this Master still wanted to humiliate the Doctor and nearly defeated him as he suspended the Doctor’s ability to regenerate causing him to age into his true years rapidly and began treating him like the family dog.

Ultimately, the Doctor would turn the tables on the Master and he would be fatally shot by his wife.  This Master actually got an emotional victory over the Doctor by refusing to regenerate so he wouldn’t be the Doctor’s prisoner.  Knowing that his death would wound the Doctor, he smugly remarked, “What do you know?  I win.”

Simm’s Master would return to battle Tennant’s Doctor in the latter’s final two episodes as the Doctor which altered the dynamic even further.  In the two part, The End of Time, the Master was resurrected by a coven, but was sabotaged by his wife, resulting in a failing body with electropowers like Emperor Palpatine and an extreme hunger for flesh.  It also gave a reason for the Master’s insanity as the neverending drumbeat in his head which drove him crazy was actually an implant from the Time Lords in an attempt to pull Gallifrey (and the Time War) into the present day.

It seemed as though the Master and the Doctor had finally reached the end of their personal conflict as the Doctor spared the Master’s life (killing him would have returned Gallifrey to its proper place) and the Master repaid the favor by protecting the Doctor from Gallifrey’s president, Rassillon, and finally exacting his revenge for the lifelong torment he had undergone due to his machinations and getting sucked back into the Time War.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The Master would return nearly 4 years later and things really got turned on their head.

The Master had escaped from Gallifrey and had regenerated into the body of a woman now calling herself the Mistress or Missy.  Remarkably essayed by Michelle Gomez, Missy has the insane, murderous nature of her predecessor, but has an attitude towards the Doctor similar to Delgado’s Master.  She’d kill him if she had to, but now she’s more bent on showing the Doctor that the two of them aren’t so different because as she states, “I want my friend back.”  Like Pertwee & Delgado, Gomez and Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth and current Doctor) have an amazing chemistry.  I also like the role reversal as Missy is the lighthearted character while Capaldi’s Doctor is more of an irritable crab.  Also, like Delgado’s Master, Missy has plagued the Doctor in each of Capaldi’s seasons.

And this brings us up to the present day.  Sadly both Capaldi and Gomez have announced their departure from the series at the end of this season, but it promises to go out with a bang as this season will feature the first multi-Master storyline with John Simm returning to the role to team up with Missy.  I will be interested in seeing if the Master gets along any better with himself/herself than the Doctor does with his other selves.

The Master and the Doctor have had a most unique relationship over the nearly 40 year run of the series.  They’ve been friends, foes, blood enemies, allies, and frenemies.  It will be interesting to see what the series has up its sleeve when the Doctor (perhaps even the Thirteenth Doctor) meets the next version of the Master in the next chapter of their war.

OCP Audition Announcements

Omaha, NEOmaha Community Playhouse will hold auditions for all five musicals for the 2017-2018 season, including adult auditions for A Christmas Carol, on Monday, June 5 and Tuesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m. Actors 16 years and older, of all genders and ethnicities, that are interested in Mamma Mia!, A Christmas Carol, Parade, James and the Giant Peach and Singin’ In the Rain should plan to attend. Youth auditions for A Christmas Carol and James and the Giant Peach will be held at later dates.

What:   2017-2018 Season Musical Adult Auditions

When:  Monday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse | 6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE

Actors attending season auditions who are interested in Mamma Mia! – Callbacks for Mamma Mia! will be held on June 12 and 13.

Requirements:
Actors please be prepared with the following:

  • Sheet music with 16 bars ready to sing (an accompanist will be provided)
  • There will be a dance audition, so actors should be dressed to move (no boots, sandals, flip-flops, etc.)
  • There will be a second dance call specifically for tap dancers. Actors wishing to participate in the second dance call should bring tap shoes or hard sole shoes.
  • You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and schedules available to complete the form.
  • A recent photo to attach to your audition form. Please note, the photos do not need to be professional and will not be returned.

Show Dates:       Mamma Mia!September 15 – October 15, 2017 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
A Christmas Carol November 17 – December 23, 2017 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
Parade – February 9 – March 11, 2018 (Howard Drew Theatre)
James and the Giant Peach – March 2 – 25, 2018 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)
Singin’ In the Rain – June 1 – 24, 2018 (Hawks Mainstage Theatre)

There will be additional auditions held throughout the season for the following productions:

Alternative Programming productions – Auditions held June 28 & 29, 2017 for all of the following:

1776

Cry-Baby

Angels in America

In the Heat of the Night

Appropriate (separate auditions at a later date for this title only)

Stupid F@#%ing Bird – Auditions held July 31 and August 1, 2017

A Christmas Carol Youth Auditions – Auditions held August 2017 (specific date TBD)

Ripcord – Auditions held October 14 and 15, 2017

James and the Giant Peach Youth Auditions – Auditions held November 18, 2017

Shakespeare in Love – Auditions held February 12 and 13, 2018

The Mountaintop – Auditions held February 26 and 27, 2018

For more information, contact Jeannine Robertson, jrobertson@omahaplayhouse.com, at (402) 553-4890, ext. 164.