Things are Getting Peachy Keen at OCP

Omaha, NE. – James and the Giant Peach, a magical story of adventure and unexpected friends in a family-friendly musical, will run March 2 – 25, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

James and the Giant Peach is a brand-new musical guaranteed to mesmerize theatregoers of all ages. A compelling story by beloved author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda) and music composed by the award-winning team of Pasek & Paul (La La Land, A Christmas Story, television’s Smash), a young orphan named James accidentally drops magic crystals by an old peach tree. Strange things start to happen and James soon discovers a world of magic and adventure full of friendly insects and learns that love and family can be found in unexpected places.

James and the Giant Peach the musical features a score by the Tony, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning team of Pasek and Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, Dogfight, A Christmas Story the Musical, La La Land, The Greatest Showman) and a book by Timothy Allen McDonald (Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley).

Written by Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach was the first of Dahl’s well-known children’s stories that he completed, published in 1961. He also authored Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG.

To celebrate James and the Giant Peach, Omaha Community Playhouse will hold an opening night celebration from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 2 free to that evening’s ticket holders. No reservations necessary. Our friends at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are helping make opening night special by bringing some special guests…of the insect variety. Take a peek at these fascinating creatures and also grab a treat before the show!

Production:  James and the Giant Peach

Credits:  Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul | Book by Timothy Allen McDonald | Based on the book by Roald Dahl

Director:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Maddie Smith as James

Jodi Vaccaro as Spiker

Sara Mattix as Sponge

Samantha (Quintana) Zarders as Spider

Kyle Avery as Grasshopper

Sarah Ebke as Ladybug

Zhomontee Wilson as Earthworm

Steve Krambeck as Centipede

Aaron Mann as Ladahlord

Ensemble features Tyson Bentley, Carmen Butler, Lillian Cohen, Justin Eller, Brandon Fisher, Aubrey Fleming, Cody Girouex, Jamie Gould, Elliot Gray, Ryan Laughlin, Tayler Lempke Plank, Isabelle Rangel, Aidan Schmidtke, Joshua Shapiro, Isabella Smith, Cleo Washingtion

Show dates: March 2 – 25, 2018; Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2:00 p.m.

Tickets: Available now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $24 (Wednesdays) and start at $32 (Thursdays – Sundays) for adults and student tickets are $18(Wednesdays) and $20 (Thursdays – Sundays). Tickets for groups of 12 or more start at $22 for adults and start at $14 for students.

Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices.

Copies of the James and the Giant Peach book are available at the OCP box office for $8. Available only at the OCP box office. Not available online.

DiscountsTwilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Wednesday Performances – Discounted tickets are available for Wednesday performances only at $24 for adults and $18 for students.

Whatta Deal Wednesday – Discounted tickets for $10 will be available for the first Wednesday performance on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. $10 tickets will be available in person at the box office starting at 4:00 p.m. the day of the show.

Sponsored by: Immanuel Communities (Series Sponsor), Valmont Industries, Inc. (Orchestra Sponsor), Omaha Steaks (Artistic Team Sponsor), Children’s Respite Care Center (Special Effects Sponsor) and Cox Media (Media Sponsor).

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE)

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Grave Injustice

On the morning of April 27, 1913 in Atlanta, GA, the body of a 13 year old girl named Mary Phagan was found brutally murdered in the basement of the pencil factory where she had recently been laid off.  In a desperate attempt to close the books on the crime, her boss, Leo Frank, was indicted and convicted for the crime.  Frank was an ideal fall guy due to his being Jewish and a northerner.  This outsider status triggered a bloodlust and savagery in the community of Atlanta that led to the most devastating and tragic results.  This is the story of Parade written by Alfred Uhry with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  It opens tonight at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

I’ve seen and been involved with good shows, bad shows, and great shows.  Above these categories lies a fourth category.  To be in this category, the show must transcend the normal theatregoing experience with a uniqueness that can’t be defined.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  But when it’s there, it transforms the show into something truly magical.  After last night’s show, I have added Parade to that fourth category.

Alfred Uhry has written an eminently tragic tale about the trial of Leo Frank.  It is unafraid; boldly tackling ideas such as social justice, racism, anti-Semitism, and blind vengeance.  While it is clearly a drama, it’s also a very realistic show as there are moments of happiness, fun, and laughter mixed in with the grief and tragedy.  Uhry’s script is infinitely strengthened by the score of Jason Robert Brown who has infused the musical with some of the most haunting melodies I have ever heard.

Jeff Horger has helmed what might be the season’s best production with second to none direction and a nearly flawless cast.  What I especially appreciated about Horger’s direction is that the focus is on the community.  Yes, this is Leo Frank’s story, but the community is the central character as it’s the mentality and reactions of the citizenry that drives this series of events.  The audience becomes part of this community through Horger’s staging which has the characters of the play sitting with them, melding them into one unit.

This cast is so loaded with talent that I would like nothing more than to write a 10 page review extolling all of their virtues.  With that being said, some of the remarkable performances you’ll see are Adam Hogston as Brit Craig, a boozy, slimy reporter who sensationalizes the murder to the point where Frank would be unable to get a fair trial; Chloe Irwin who gives a spot on performance as Mary Phagan.  Ms Irwin has an impressive range for one so young as she can be such a kid at one moment and move you to tears with her reactions during Mary’s funeral in the next.

Other mighty performances come from Melissa King as Mrs. Phagan who gives a tortured performance as the grieving mother highlighted by an incredible solo with “My Child Will Forgive Me”; Grant Mannschreck as Frankie Epps, Mary’s friend and suitor.  Mannschreck has a strong, bright tenor that brought tears to my eyes with “It Don’t Make Sense”.  Mike Palmreuter also shines as John Slaton, the governor who sets the chain of events into motion for political reasons, but tries to do the right thing in the end.  Brian Priesman is menacing as Tom Watson, a hypocritical Bible thumper who knows how to stir up the masses.

One of the actors to watch out for is J. Isaiah Smith as Jim Conley.  Smith just bleeds talent and charisma with his take on Conley.  Smith’s Conley is a snarky, conniving piece of human garbage whose testimony is crucial to the conviction of Frank, but he just might be hiding secrets of his own.  Smith darn near steals the show with two showstopping numbers:  “That’s What He Said” and “Blues:  Feel the Rain Fall’”.  The latter song allows Smith to hit some searing and awesome falsettos.

Michael Markey gives a multilayered performance as Hugh Dorsey, Atlanta’s D.A. and prosecutor for Frank’s trial.  Markey gives you the sense that he does want to see justice done, but he’s more worried about the political ramifications should he fail to find and convict a killer.  When Frank is served up to him, he has absolutely no qualms about using coached testimony and suborned perjury to doom him.  Markey also has a facile baritone well used in “Twenty Miles from Marietta” and “The Glory”.

Megan Kelly blew me away as Lucille Frank.  Aptly described as “Jewish and southern”, Ms Kelly is every bit the Southern belle, but with a devout faith as well.  She is also very real as her reactions and fears about Frank’s trial and the public’s reactions to her are dead on the mark.  Ms Kelly also gets to show real strength as she overcomes those fears to stand by her husband’s side, best shown with her lovely alto in “You Don’t Know This Man”.  Not only does she overcome her own fears, but she also overcomes Frank’s pigheadedness which she wonderfully describes in “Do It Alone” to give him the help he so desperately needs to obtain his freedom.

And in midst of all of this chaos is Leo Frank, incredibly essayed by James Verderamo.  Verderamo is uncanny as Frank as he walks that line of making him a decent man, but not a likable man.  Verderamo’s Frank is definitely a square peg in a round hole.  He’s unhappy in Atlanta and would rather be back home in Brooklyn, NY.  He’s a workaholic, anal, a bit arrogant, and easily flustered and frustrated.  He is also smart, a gentleman, and well-mannered.

Verderamo depicts Frank’s high strung nature with a perpetual hunch in his shoulders and a constant massaging of his hands.  He also has a scintillating tenor voice best used in “All The Wasted Time” and “Sh’ma”.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra find gold once more with a brilliant rendering of the score, not to mention the clever staging of their being on a balcony over the town to make them a band in the parade.  Tim Burkhart & John Giblisco score with their sounds especially the wavy sound effects of an era microphone.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes evoke the memories of early 1900s southern gear with the long dresses, three piece suits, and old time prison garb.  Jim Othuse has designed a simple town square with lamps, crumbling wall, and balcony.  And his lights suit the play’s emotions down to the ground with sad blues, angry reds, and dark shadows.  Melanie Walters’ choreography shines especially in “Pretty Music” and “That’s What He Said”.

This is what theatre is all about.  When it operates at its pinnacle, theatre is a galvanizing force for action.  In his notes, Jeff Horger called this a historical piece and that is absolutely correct.  For what is history, but a chance to learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them.

Parade plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Feb 9-Mar 11.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students.  Due to mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  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.

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

Thomas is a playwright/director who is holding auditions for his adaptation of the erotic novel, Venus in Furs.  As he is about to leave for the night, Vanda bursts into his auditions, pleading for a chance to read for the show.  Impressed by her choice of costume, he auditions her and then the life of the play begins to bleed into the real world. . .or is it the other way around??  This is Venus in Fur by David Ives and playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

The best way to describe this play is that it’s a simple story wrapped up in a web of complexity.  On the surface, it seems to be a story of an audition that segues back and forth from the world of the play to the real world, but it is so much more than that as it touches on themes of lust, sensuality, domination, and control.  I actually rank it as one of the most brilliant scripts I’ve seen as Ives has intimate knowledge of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s controversial novel and expertly weaves it into his own tale.  By doing so, he not only pays homage to the original work, but manages to give it a bit of a twist as well.

Guest director Ablan Roblin has sculpted a show that is surely going to be one of the most talked about of the season.  His staging is sensational as his two performers constantly glide about the stage as the layers of the story are peeled off.  His direction is deep and nuanced which results in powerful performances from the actors who bring the audience deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole of a show.

Matthew Olsen makes an incredible debut at the Blue Barn with his rendition of Thomas.  He begins the show as the elitist writer/director lamenting that he hasn’t been able to find a suitable actress for his show, enumerating all the things the actresses lacked or did wrong.  Then he meets Vanda, his frustration palpable as she is the epitome of all the things he disdained in the other performers.  Once she shows him a proper costume, he gives her a chance and then Thomas’ transformation begins.

Olsen finds dynamic balances in the role of Thomas.  He is the snooty intellectual, but an underconfident actor.  He’s engaged, but doesn’t want to be tied down.  He wants to be in charge, but ends up being led by the nose.  What I found most engaging was that the stronger the character Thomas was playing became, the weaker Thomas became.  Or was Thomas always weak and his character now reveals the truth?  It’s a stimulating and intelligent performance that will leave you enthralled and guessing.

Sarah Carlson-Brown will have you hooked from the moment she enters the room with her Vonda.  Inappropriately dressed as a dominatrix (complete with impressive tattoos) due to a perceived misunderstanding of the story, Ms Carlson-Brown also finds those crucial balances that make her character so compelling.

Though she looks like a dominatrix, she is, in fact, the dominated to start.  She is under the influence of the director who tells her where to stand and how to read.  But as she effortlessly becomes the character she’s reading for, suddenly she’s in control and calling the shots and soon takes over the position of power.  Or was she really in control the whole time?  Ms Carlson-Brown finds wonderful mixtures of sass and submission; strength and begging; power and weakness until her final form thunders in at the finale.

Sound, lights, and set are more crucial to this story than any other I’ve seen.  And the combination of Steven Williams and William Kirby is truly a winning one for this production.  Williams has constructed a fairly simple set of a raised platform with some stage lights, a divan.  But the pieces de resistance are his towering windows complete with the effect of pouring rain.  His lights are also stunning with the complete blackness of brief power outages to soft fluorescent to sensual (and hostile) reds.  Kirby’s sounds go hand in hand with the set and lights with the gentle patter of rain, the booming claps of thunder, and the intense and creepy music as the show heads into the climax.

Georgiann Regan’s costumes are a perfect fit (pun intended).  Most striking are Ms Carlson-Brown’s leather and lace outfit for Vonda and her elegant dress as Wanda.  Olsen is costumed in the elegant rich as the character Kusiemski, but later switches to a footmen’s coat as  Kusiemski falls into servitude.  Or does he??

This play is going to get people talking as I heard numerous conversations taking place after the opening night performance.  The play is a dandy little mindbender anchored by stellar direction and a pair of stellar performances from its two actors.

Venus in Fur plays at the Blue Barn through Feb 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6:30pm (the Feb 18 show will be a 2pm matinee).  There is no performance on Feb 4.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for seniors (65+), students, and TAG members.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 or visit www.bluebarn.org.  Due to strong language and mature themes, this show is not suitable for children.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10 St in Omaha, NE.

The Spirits are Restless

In an attempt to learn “the tricks of the trade” for a new book, novelist Charles Condomine takes part in a séance conducted by the eccentric Madame Arcati who inadvertently summons the spirit of Charles’ late wife, Elvira.  The trouble is that Charles has remarried and now he’s literally caught between two worlds as each wife wants him for herself.  This is Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward and currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

I was a little surprised to learn that this play was actually written in the early 1940s because it has the feel of a 1920s play with its drawing room style of writing.  While Coward’s idea is a gem, this play was definitely a play for its time or earlier due to its incredibly talky nature.  Plays of this type require colossal amounts of energy to keep the interest of today’s audiences and credit is due to the cast of BLT’s production for mustering all of the positives possible out of the show.

Todd Uhrmacher provides a solid bit of direction for this show.  He has a good instinct for movement and has his performers continually animate the scenes which helps liven up the massive amount of dialogue supplied by the characters.  He’s also coached his actors well.  Each and all give well defined, focused performances.

Strong supporting performances are provided by Sherry Fletcher as Edith, a maid who has to physically keep herself from rushing throughout the house and who is more than she seems and by Ruth Rath as the daffy Madame Arcati.  Ms Rath has definitely picked up on Madame Arcati’s weirdness and I think she has a bit of room to make her peculiarities even more pronounced.

Gene Hinkle is very, very British as Charles Condomine.  Epitomizing the British ideal of having a stiff, upper lip, Hinkle’s Charles could teach a masterclass in patience and control as he always has a tight grip on his emotions even when his world gets turned upside down by Elvira’s return.  Hinkle cuts a very elegant figure with a strong well modulated voice that makes for an ideal Charles.  But I thought his performance could have been even funnier if he would have lost some of that incredible control when his world began falling to pieces.

Therese Rennels makes for a beautifully understated shrew as Elvira.  Ms Rennels strikes the perfect tone of snide with Elvira’s interactions with Charles and blithely snaps off verbal ripostes in her “conversations” (only Charles can actually see or hear her) with other characters.  Her Elvira is an incredibly selfish individual.  It’s always about her and her wants even when what she wants isn’t really what she wants.  Ms Rennels also has a good sense of pantomime as she rattles off a series of amusing gestures to the characters that can’t see or hear her.

I found Marti Carrington to be the most amusing character of the night with her rendition of Ruth, Charles’ current wife.  Like her husband, Ms Carrington’s Ruth is the very, very proper and stoic British woman, but Ms Carrington brings a vital and needed energy when Ruth begins to collapse in the second act due to Elvira’s machinations and disruptions.  Ms Carrington melts into a hysterical, weeping mess while never letting Ruth’s disintegration go overboard.

Energy is truly what the show needed last night as the sheer bulk of dialogue can be wearying to both cast and audience alike.  A brisker pace and tighter cue pickups would greatly aid in maximizing the show’s comedy.

The technical elements were quite strong.  A Joey Lorincz set is always one of the highlights of a BLT production and this is no exception with the gorgeous sitting room of the Condomine estate with its massive crackling fireplace, wood bookcase, and understated elegance of the furniture.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes evoke wealth and class.  I also thought the special effects of spectral paintings and flying knick knacks were exceptional.

This show’s style is going to require a bit of patience on the part of the audience.  The idea is genuinely humorous, the script does have some good zingers and a few twists and surprises, but it takes its time getting there.  But a strong group of performers (with a splash of more energy) will help audiences reach the payoff.

Blithe Spirit continues at Bellevue Little Theatre until Feb 4.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets prices are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students with valid ID.  For tickets, contact 402-291-1554 between 10am-4pm, Mon-Fri.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

A Tragic ‘Parade’ Performs at OCP

PARADE

Opens February 9, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, Neb. – Parade, the true story of a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murdering a young girl in a small Southern town, will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Howard Drew Theatre.

Parade is the Tony Award-winning musical based around the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murder in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. Religious intolerance, political injustice and racial tensions are already prevalent in this small Southern town, and when reporters begin to sensationalize the case, the likelihood of a fair trial is put in jeopardy. With a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges Of Madison County), this true story reveals the beauty of the human condition, even when faced with tragedy.

Disclaimer: Contains language and situations related to racial tension and mob violence.

The events surrounding the investigation and the trial of Leo Frank led to the birth of the Jewish civil rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League.  Following the Sunday, February 25 performance, staff members from the Omaha chapter of the Anti-Defamation League will participate in a post-show discussion about the history of the ADL. Open to all attendees of that day’s performance

Production:  Parade

Credits:  Book by Alfred Uhry.  Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  Co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince.

Director:  Jeff Horger

Cast

Brendan Brown as Riley

Breanna Carodine as Minnie

Brooke Fencl as Essie

Adam Hogston as Brit Craig

Chloe Irwin as Mary Phagan

Megan Kelly as Lucille Frank

Melissa King as Mrs. Phagan

Nelson Lampe as Judge Roan

Grant Mannschreck as Frankie Epps

Michael Markey as Hugh Dorsey

Rebecca Noble as Sally Slaton

Mike Palmreuter as John Slaton

Joshua Lloyd Parker as Ivey

Brian Priesman as Tom Watson

Tony Schneider as Mr. Turner

Christopher Scott as Luther Rosser

Jonathan Smith as Jim Conley

Jill Solano as Lizzie Phagan

Grace Titus as Iola

Scott Van Den Top as Starnes

Catherine Vazquez as Monteen

James Verderamo as Leo Frank

Randy Wallace as Mr. Peavey

L. James Wright as Newt Lee

Show Dates:  Feb 9-Mar 11, 2018; Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $42 for adults and $25 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students.

DiscountsTwilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Sponsored by:  Carter and Vernie Jones

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

A Winter’s Respite: Marshfield, MO & Dickey House Bed & Breakfast

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Taking advantage of a freak warm spell, I answered the call of the road once more.  This time the road would be taking me to Marshfield, MO where I would be visiting the Dickey House Bed and Breakfast.

Getting to Marshfield would prove to be. . .interesting.  Having been burned by Mapquest one time too many, I had recently taken to using Google Maps.  That app plotted a route that would take about 6 hours.  I was delayed from leaving by about 20 minutes, but nothing to worry about.

I enjoyed a pleasant, sunny car ride with surprisingly little traffic for a Friday.  About 3:45, I pulled over to a Hardee’s in Clinton, MO for a very late lunch or an early supper depending on one’s point of view.  With my slight delay and a brief stop for gas and to stretch my legs, I estimated that I should arrive at the inn by about 5:30pm.

However, the reality proved to be quite different.  The next road I was looking for was State Highway CC and I found it shortly after leaving town.  I thought it had come up a little too early, but I took the road as I figured 10 miles out of my way was better than 70.

As you may have guessed, it was the wrong CC.

Five miles in I saw a sign saying that the road would end in water so I know I was on the wrong path.  I turned around and drove back to my original road, probably losing another 20 minutes in the process.  I got back on the right road and found the CC highway I needed about 70 miles later.

I still thought I would be fairly on target until I reached State Highway E.  It was a pitch black road full of twists and turns that required constant adjustments of speed, eating up even more of my time.  I finally rolled into Marshfield and had difficulty locating the street I needed as there weren’t street signs on every corner.

Fortunately, I stopped at a Conoco and found Dickey House was a mere few blocks away and arrived at roughly 6:35.  Now at this point, you may be wondering why I was so focused on the time.

I had reached an agreement with the Springfield Little Theatre to review their production of West Side Story and that started at 7:30 and was about a half hour away from the inn.  Needless to say, I was feeling a bit under the gun.

I grabbed my laptop and luggage and rang the doorbell.  I was greeted by Michaelene Stevens, one of the owners of the inn.  She offered to give me a tour of the inn, but I had to decline due to being rushed.  Originally, I was to have stayed in the Fontaine Room, but Michaelene moved me to the Heritage Room which allowed me a connected bathroom.

I quickly put down my bag and laptop and knew I had to skip shaving and changing into my suit in order to reach the theatre.  On my way downstairs, I met Michaelene’s husband, Larry, and their dog, Miss Taylor.  Michaelene showed me how the door lock worked and I dashed off to my car and headed to Springfield.

The theatre is located in the downtown Springfield area which meant parking was not easily available.  Precious time ticked away as I searched for a spot.

At long last I caught a break when I noticed a sign pointing to parking and I found a free parking garage several blocks away from the theatre.  I parked my car and sprinted and I mean, SPRINTED, to the theatre.  I grabbed my tickets and reached my seat with 7 minutes to spare.

The trials and efforts were worth it as I watched the greatest community theatre musical I have ever seen.  You may read the review here.

After the show, I returned to the inn where I quietly began my explorations (I was the only guest) and took pictures.

Dickey House is a 108 year old Greek Revival mansion built for Sam Dickey around 1908.  Dickey was a lawyer who did a lot of pro-bono work for Confederate soldiers whom he thought were getting a bad deal from the government.  Having a massive interest in politics, Dickey hosted seven MO senators and governors during his lifetime.  This would include the governor who brought the World’s Fair to St Louis.  Dickey was also a friend of William Jennings Bryan of the famed Scopes Monkey Trial.

The home remained the family until the 1970s where it passed through several hands and then lay empty for several years.

In 1987 a couple from California bought the home and turned it into an inn before selling out to the Stevens in 1998.  The Stevens restored the house and grounds to its original glory and then some to become the fine inn it is today.

The Heritage Room was quite comfortable with a canopied queen bed, electric fireplace, and reading porch.  I was so exhausted after the day’s adventures I collapsed into bed and slept.

The next morning I banged out my play review, caught a shave and shower and headed down to breakfast.

I had a long conversation with Larry and Michaelene over orange juice, fruit, cookie, and a puff pastry filled with ham, veggies, and other goodies.  I learned that Larry was a talented artist with a studio on the property.  So if you’re an artist or enjoy paintings, this is the inn for you.  And if you ask really nicely, Larry might show you his sanctum sanctorum (his studio).

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After a long drive the previous day, I didn’t feel like running all over Springfield which I had visited on a previous excursion.  I decided to simply take it easy.  I took a long walk about noon.  Finished a novel.  Watched a little educational TV.  I had forgotten the simple pleasure of really doing nothing.

About 5:40, I headed out for the evening.  I started by attending services at Holy Trinity Parish which has to be the smallest church I have ever visited.  From there, I drove back to the downtown Springfield area where I had dinner at Riad.  This is a Mediterranean restaurant and I enjoyed a gyro with a small side of fries.  As I dined I was surprised to notice that I saw far more cars than I had seen on Friday, but I was seeing fewer people and I wondered how that worked.

After my dinner I went around the corner to 1984 where, for $7.50, I could play all the vintage arcade games I wanted.  I certainly got my money’s worth as it took me twice as much as the entry fee to defeat P.O.W. Prisoners of War.  I also played Tron, Marble Madness, Shinobi, Burgertime, Q-Bert, Rampage, Sinistar, and Tapper.  I did get a great deal of fun out of it, but had hoped for a more varied selection of games as most of these games are available in the vintage arcade in my hometown.

From there it was back to Dickey House and a good night’s sleep.

The next morning featured another great conversation with Larry and Michaelene about movies and travels while I enjoyed a fruit parfait and an oven baked German apple pancake along with my orange juice.  Afterwards I got a quick peek at Larry’s studio before settling my tab and making the drive back home.

Larry and Michaelene have been some of my favorite innkeepers and they are great conversationalists and cooks.  Come to Dickey House.  You’ll stay in a beautiful home, visit with some lovely people, have some great food, and have the benefit of a major city nearby for activities.

Until the next time, happy travels.

You Say You Want a Musical Revolution

Tony and Maria are in love, but their love faces numerous obstacles.  Her brother and his best friend are the leaders of rival gangs that refuse to let them be together.  The world also tries to keep them apart due to its racism as they come from different cultures.  When they try to rise above these problems, they get dragged back down and crash to a hideous reality.  This is West Side Story based on a concept by Jerome Robbins, written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  It is currently playing at Springfield Little Theatre.

It isn’t often that I find myself tongue-tied when I start to write a review, but I am still in a state of glorious shock at what I just saw.  Prior to tonight, I had never seen West Side Story in any capacity though I had read that the original mounting of the show revolutionized what could be done with choreography.  While I have no real comment to make on that, I can say that SLT’s take on this show completely revolutionized what I considered possible with musical theatre.  This was, by far, the single best musical I have seen mounted on any community theatre stage.

Lorianne Dunn does double duty as both director and choreographer and excels in both aspects.  As director, she has put together an absolute masterpiece of a production.  Her direction is certain as she expertly maneuvers her actors through the emotional beats of the stories and songs and leads them to sterling performances.  Her staging is impeccable.  It makes full use of the performance space and none of her actors upstaged themselves or others.

Her choreography is genius.  Never have I seen such lavish dance numbers especially standouts such as “America”, the prologue, and “The Rumble”.  Her work is all the more impressive given the youth of her cast who absolutely nail their performances with a polish and poise that experienced veterans would envy.

This cast is just amazing.  Their energy (and fitness levels) was off the charts.  They were clearly having fun and that added further fuel to nearly flawless performances.  The chorus remained in each and every moment adding vital life and reality to this staged world.  Exceptional supporting performances were supplied by Richard Bogue as the racist and thuggish Lt. Schrank; Lysander Abadia as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks; Robert Hazlette as the always angry Action and he also gets the lead on the night’s funniest number, “Gee, Officer Krupke”; and Miriam Stein as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s best friend.  Ms Stein especially shines with a velvet lower soprano in “America” and “A Boy Like That”.

Asa Charles Leininger stuns as Riff, the leader of the Jets.  Leininger makes Riff far more than a brainless brute with his multilayered take on the character.  His Riff started the Jets to have a sense of belonging.  He’s proud of his gang because of the support they provide.  He’s tough.  He’s loyal, remaining friends with Tony despite his walking away from the gang.  His Riff even has a code of honor as he’s willing to settle his issues with the Sharks with one fistfight.  He even has some common sense as he refuses to react to those that call him and his gang hoodlums and prefers to stay cool.  Leininger’s New York accent is spot on and he retains it as his lower tenor entertains us with “Jet Song” and “Cool”.

Tanner Johnson is scary smooth as Tony.  Johnson takes the audience by the hand and gracefully leads it through Tony’s emotional journey.  He’s got the perfect personality for the likable Tony who is trying to escape his former world of violence by holding down a job and finding love.  You will be swept along with him as he experiences the highs of love, the horror at his violent actions when he gets dragged back into the gang world, and his heartbreak when he thinks he has lost Maria.

Johnson also has a gorgeous tenor voice.  More importantly, he knows how to act through the songs, striking each emotional beat with unerring accuracy.  Some of his best moments were his joyous “Maria” and his beautiful take on “Somewhere”.

Genevieve Fulks is a powerhouse of talent and will steal your hearts as Maria.  She has such innocence and sweetness in the role and you can believe she has the power to evolve Tony into a better person.  But she just as easily handles anger and pain when her world begins to fall apart due to the lifestyle of violence lived by her loved ones.  And, my word, what a heavenly voice she has.  Ms Fulks’ operatic soprano gave a performance for the angels with showstopping turns in “I Feel Pretty”, “I Have Love”, and “Tonight”.

Susan Gravatt and her orchestra perfectly play the score of this musical.  John R. “Chuck” Rogers has designed a magnificent set of fences, crumbling tenements, and fire escapes.  Jamie Bowers’ lights and sounds enhance the story.  Kris Haik and Ginny Herfkens are winners with their precise costuming with the t-shirts, jackets, and jeans of the gangs and the elegant dresses for the ladies.

As I said earlier, this is the best community theatre musical I have ever seen staged in nearly a quarter century of theatre involvement. I have seen professional productions that couldn’t hold a stick to this show.  It’s just a blitzkrieg of perfection from the fantastic story to grade A direction to stunning choreography to flawless acting and entrancing singing.  If you love theatre and live in or near the Springfield, MO area, buy a ticket to see this show.  You will be blown away.

West Side Story plays at Springfield Little Theatre through Feb 4.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets range from $16-$36.  For tickets visit http://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Box Office at 417-869-1334.  Parental discretion is advised for coarse language and gestures and some scenes of violence.  Springfield Little Theatre is located at 311 E Walnut St in Springfield, MO.