The McGuigans Invade Denison

Denison, IA–The McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, & Matthew) are set to bring their amazing Beatles tribute show, Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience, to the Donna Reed Theatre in Denison, IA on Thursday, Sept 29 at 7pm.

If you’ve never attended Yesterday and Today, it’s unlike any performance you’ve ever seen because the show is different every single time because you get to pick the music.

That’s right, Yesterday and Today, is an all request Beatles show where you can pick any and, I stress, ANY Beatles song and the McGuigans and their incredible band will perform it for you.

Are you a casual Beatles fan who only knows classics like “Yesterday” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”? No problem. Maybe you’re a bit more adept in your Beatleness and know “Tell Me Why” and “I Am the Walrus”? They do those, too. And, maybe, you’re that rarefied superfan who wants to separate the Beatles men from the Beatles boys and challenge them with rarities like “Old Brown Shoe” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”? They’ve got you covered.

It’s an experience you’ll never forget. Buy a ticket and see America’s finest ode to the Beatles from a band like no other. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Tickets for Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience cost $25 and can be obtained by calling 712-263-3334. The Donna Reed Theatre is located at 1305 Broadway in Denison, IA.

OCP Serving Up a Dessert of a Play

Omaha, NE.– The Cake opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, October 7. A celebrated North Carolina baker is thrilled to finally design a wedding cake for her goddaughter. But when she learns the marriage is between two women, she begins to feel conflicted. A surprising and sweet take on a modern-day controversy, seeped in humor and warmth. Disclaimer: Contains adult language and brief nudity.

The show will run on the Howard Drew Stage from October 7 – November 6, with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Directed by: Kim Clark-Kaczmarek

Cast
Kathleen Combs as Della
Doug Rothgeb as Tim
Roz Parr as Jen
Delaney Jackson as Macy

That Little Town Hurt

Chicagoan, Ren McCormack, relocates to the small town of Bomont after his parents separate.  His normal teen lifestyle and love of dancing quickly bring him into conflict with the town’s uber conservative adults and the local minister who holds the true power. Adding to the conflict is the fact that Ren is smitten with the Reverend’s wild daughter, Ariel.  This is Footloose:  The Musical and it is currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

As I said when I reviewed this show earlier this summer, this show truly benefits from the fact that the film’s original scriptwriter, Dean Pitchford, also helped to write the musical.  This allowed the movie’s intended story to make a smooth and faithful transition to the stage.  Blend it with some original tunes, add some 80s hits, and throw in some energetic and raucous dancing and you’ve got the formula for a pretty good night of theatre and the best show I’ve seen mounted at Bellevue Little Theatre.

Joey Hartshorn provides a pretty deep piece of direction for the production.  One of the dominant themes of the show is personal pain and the show’s three leading characters are just buried in their personal woes.  This provides a rich field for nuanced and subtle acting and Hartshorn probes those levels to their depths and gets some truly dynamic performances out of her leads.  Hartshorn also knows how to have a bit of fun where needed as the kids clown about in the right moments.  The staging is wonderful and makes full use of the theatre space (both stage and the theatre).

The ensemble is solid and some excellent supporting performances come from Cynthia Jones who has a quiet strength as Vi Moore, the wife of Rev. Shaw Moore, and serves as his bedrock as he poorly copes with his own pain.  Donovan Carr is a base thug as Chuck Cranston and one of my true regrets of the script is that he never gets the comeuppance he’s got coming to him.  Madison Becker Is stalwart and loyal as Ariel’s best friend, Rusty.  Becker also knows how to be present in a scene and I chuckled at some of her reactions to the goings-on about her.  Becker also has a dynamite singing voice shining in “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” and “Somebody’s Eyes”.  The only small note I have is that Rusty is supposed to be a motormouth so Becker can speak much faster.

Will Hastreiter dominates as Ren.  He’s a touch too old to be playing the teenaged Ren, but summons such youthful energy and angst that one tends to be sucked into the illusion.  Hastreiter brings the proper blend of decency and bravado to Ren and well communicates the fact that Ren’s bravado is a defense mechanism to assuage his own unhappiness at having to leave Chicago and his anger at being abandoned by his father.  Still, this is a guy who I’d want as a friend as he’d march with you to the gates of hell.  Hastreiter has a potent tenor which takes center stage in “I Can’t Stand Still”, “I’m Free”, and raps a bit in “Dancing is Not a Crime”.  He is also an impressive hoofer as he flips, slides, and glides around the stage.

Aimee Correa explores every crevice of Ariel’s character.  Initially, Ariel comes off as, well, slutty.  True, her morals are a little lax, but it’s her defense against the stifling imprisonment of her home life.  Ariel is also a poet, intelligent, good-hearted, and just looking to escape from her unhappy life.  Correa shows all of these facets and then some at the proper moments.  She also has a wonderfully powerful singing voice whether she’s “Holding Out For a Hero”, “Learning to Be Silent”, or thinking her time with Ren is “Almost Paradise”.

Nick Knipe is the show’s breakout performer as Willard.  Knipe nearly steals the show as the hot-tempered hick.  Knipe’s Willard always seems to be looking for a fight, but he will fight to the death in support of a friend or a just cause.  Knipe also has amazing coordination as he is able to fake lack of coordination like a champ when he is attempting to dance for the first time.  Knipe also has a real flair for comedy as he shares the unique philosophy of Willard’s mother in “Mama Says”.

Justin Dehmer gives a very complex performance as Rev. Shaw Moore.  Something in the Reverend died when 4 teens died in a tragic car accident.  That event triggered an intense anger in Moore that manifests as extreme control.  Control over the town with morality laws and control over his emotions as he attempts to suppress them.  But the anger leaks out in cutting remarks and emotional outbursts.  It’s important to remember that Moore isn’t a bad person.  He’s wounded and actually motivated to protect the town’s youth.  He just goes about it wrong.  His realization of this and subsequent confession to his congregation is one of the most beautifully real moments I’ve ever seen acted on stage.

Todd Brooks’ musical direction is very good though the volume of the music needed to be increased at a few points.  I loved Dale Hartshorn’s set with the train bridge of the city, the exterior of the Moore home and their dining room, the lockers of the school, and the burger joint.  Best of all was the cross shining in center stage as the beacon of hope needed by Bomont.  Joey Lorincz’s sounds enhance the show’s moments, especially the roaring train and its whistle that Ariel likes to answer back at the top of her lungs.  Jacy Rook’s lights are clean and clear and her use of spotlights really enhance emotional moments.  Kerri Jo Richardson-Watts’ choreography is right on the money and the best I’ve seen at BLT especially in the monstrous opening and closing numbers.  The costumes of Nancy Buennemeyer and Marya Lucca-Thyberg will take you right back to the 1980s.

This show took a little bit to get going.  I could see the nerves going at the top of the show and it felt like the cast was holding back a bit.  But, by Act II, the switch had been flipped and the now relaxed performers were tapping the full potential of the show.  I’d like to go back again and see that same relaxation in the first act so the show can bask in its full glory.

BLT definitely has a hit on its hands and I would advise you to order tickets, pronto, as last night’s nearly full house makes me think they’re going to be very hard to come by.

Footloose:  The Musical plays at Bellevue Little Theatre through Oct 2.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office, at blt.simpletix.com, or calling 402-413-8945.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

Making the Grade

Desperate to earn some money to pay rent, slacker and wannabe rocker, Dewey Finn, poses as a substitute teacher at an elite prep school.  When he learns that his students are excellent musicians, he forms a rock band with them to enter a Battle of the Bands contest, but in the process of preparing for the event, teacher and students help each other to find their voices.  This is School of Rock and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Julian Fellowes’ story is really a middle of the line story.  His use of the “discovering your real self” motif doesn’t break any new ground and the story fluctuates from being extremely engaging in any scene with Dewey and the kids to going a bit blasé in most big group adult scenes.  In fairness, that may also be by design as most of the big group adult scenes take place in the rigid environment of Horace Green.  Even Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music seems to lack a certain sizzle.  There’s no real standout with the rock numbers with the exceptions of “You’re in the Band”, “Stick It to the Man” and “School of Rock”, though his softer, slower numbers truly do shine.

The thing about a middle of the line story is that acting becomes the real difference maker.  Strong acting can help elevate it and that’s exactly what happens here.  The ferocious tsunami of energy supplied by the cast and their high quality musical chops move this show from an OK show to a very good one.

Stephen Santa rises to the challenge of directing this show.  He gets everything he can out of the slower paced scenes and the high energy scenes really crackle and pop.  I especially applaud Santa’s work with the children as they were truly natural and believable and brought me back to my own days in elementary school.  Santa also does excellent work guiding his adult actors, especially his two leads who give charming, winning performances.  I also appreciate Santa’s eye for a good gag with the Mission:  Impossible like escape from the school being a particularly good piece of pantomime.

As I previously stated, this show is mostly about the kids and they do a tremendous job.  They seemed utterly comfortable on stage and I loved how they were just willing to play which is the secret to really great acting.  I also tip my hat to their skillful playing of the instruments live onstage (I truly thought they were miming until I was just clued in).  Some of the A+ performances from the class came from Thomas Rogers and Zidyn Burton whose singing voices are angelic and utterly enthralling.  Liam Richardson gives a sweet performance as the reticent and less than cool Lawrence.  Vienna Maas had the audience roaring with some of her histrionics.

I think I burned off a few thousand calories just watching Thomas Gjere tear it up as Dewey Finn.  The man is indefatigable in a role that has almost zero down time.  Finn is always on and definitely has the energy of a hard rocker.  He’s also selfish and childish as he refuses to be a responsible adult and uses the kids to further his own ambitions.  Under the crud beats a pretty good heart as he is willing to listen to the kids and give them all a spot in the band.  Gjere also has a rocking tenor which can belt out a fine tune in “Stick It to the Man” and “You’re in the Band”.

Lauren Krupski is a delight as Horace Green’s principal, Rosalie Mullins.  Krupski nails it as the stiff as a board principal who lost her humanness in the pursuit of being a perfect administrator to satisfy the snooty parents who pay $50K a year to educate their children, but refuse to let the kids be themselves.  I especially enjoyed when Krupski peeled off the layers of the principal to reveal the easy going person underneath whenever she heard music.  And what a voice!  Krupski’s operatic soprano was stunning in “Queen of the Night” and my favorite number “Where Did the Rock Go?”

Vivian Rase gets a gold star for her performance as Summer Hathaway.  Rase is uptight to the extreme as Hathaway who seems bound and determined to skip childhood with her obsession for accomplishments and her blunt directness with adults.  She never really relaxes, but does positively rechannel her traits when she becomes the band’s manager where her fastidiousness keeps things rolling and organized.  Rase does need to watch her articulation a bit, especially at the top of Act II.

Steven Williams has designed one of the most creative sets I’ve seen as he frames the stage with a giant radio complete with speakers and buttons.  His classroom will take you back to your childhood days, especially with the enhancements of Andrew Morgan’s properties.  I loved Josh Wroblewski’s colorful use of lights especially in solo scenes when concert spotlights start highlighting the singers.  Melanie Walters’ choreography is simple, but effective and consists mostly of people rocking out and headbanging.  Jim Boggess and his band couldn’t fail if they tried and add real emotion to the softer numbers and pop for all they can with the rock numbers.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes hit the mark with the sloppy, uncoordinated clothing of Dewey to the stiff business wear of most of the adults to the school uniforms and their rock band counterparts.  Tim Burkhart & John Gibilisco’s sounds add the proper feel and ambiance.

Some actors needed to be a bit more animated and I heard some difficulty hitting notes on the higher and lower ends of the register, but all in all, it’s a light and enjoyable night of theatre and you’re going to have a ball right along with the kids and Dewey.

School of Rock runs at Omaha Community Playhouse through Oct 16.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $25 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Battle of the Bards

Nick Bottom is determined to be the bard of bards, but has to topple William Shakespeare from his perch to reach that goal.  Desperate to get out of debt and provide for his wife and soon to be newborn, Bottom consults a soothsayer in order discover the next big thing in theatre and to stick it to his hated rival by stealing Shakespeare’s greatest idea.  However, ol’ Will has a thing or two to say about that.  This is Something Rotten! and it is currently playing at Springfield Little Theatre.

This article is a personal milestone as it marks my 200th play review.  I was truly hoping to find something special for the occasion, but failed to do so with this show.

I didn’t find “something special”.  I hit the theatrical lottery.

I knew I was on to something from the first notes of Connor Sanders’ Minstrel and what I got was the pinnacle of theatrical kismet.  This show has everything.  An original and endearing story.  Marvelous melodies.  Dazzling costumes.  Stunning sets.  A director who knew how to put it all together.  A cast more than ready to perform and an audience hungry to be entertained.

Jamie Bower’s direction was nothing short of masterful.  The pace of the show was blitzing and started on high octane and worked its way up to volcanic fury by the end.  He had a nearly symbiotic connection with the beats as he knew when to be fast and funny, when to be slow and sweet, when to be heart attack serious, and when to be farcical and bold.  Bower made this anachronistic world quite believable and guided his troupe to virtually flawless performances.

The entire ensemble gets a standing ovation from me for their work.  All of them were always in the moment and you could see and feel the joy of performing radiating from them and contributed so much in bringing the audience into this world.  Some outstanding work in the supporting cast came from Claire Caubre as Nick Bottom’s wife, Bea.  Caubre’s Bea is the rock in her marriage and willing to do whatever it takes to support her man and makes sure he knows she’s his “Right Hand Man”.  Dean Price is hilarious as the holier than thou stick in the mud, Brother Jeremiah, determined to quash immorality (i.e. fun) while constantly making unintentional double entendres.  Joseph Galetti provides some yuks as Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who sounds like a Jersey version of Jerry Seinfeld.  Todd Smith darn near steals the show as the soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, with his over the top summoning of his visions and his ability to wring a boatload of laughter from the delivery of a single word.

Kaleb Patterson is superb in his SLT debut as Nick Bottom.  Patterson brings a real sincerity and, dare I say, vulnerability to the frustrated writer.  Patterson’s Bottom is a good man, but is slowly losing himself due to his jealousy of Shakespeare and his increasing desperation to be a good provider and make his mark in the theatrical world.  Patterson also has a gentle, soothing tenor and merges it with a wide range of interpretative ability whether he is snarking out in “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, being broad and theatrical in “A Musical”, or being honest and forthright in “To Thine Own Self”.

Andrew Wilson matches his “brother” step for step with his take on Nigel Bottom.  Wilson is wonderful as the shy, unassuming poet with an incredible gift for language.  His initial awkwardness around his love, Portia, is so natural and spot-on and his raw honesty with his brother about writing from the heart and truth always hits the mark.  The only tiny, tiny, tiny change I would make is that he got a bit shrieky on a couple of cries when a more plaintive cry would have had the audience sobbing.  Wilson has a mighty tenor of his own which is blessed with a gorgeous falsetto and put to excellent use in “I Love the Way” and his own take on “To Thine Own Self”.

Katie Orr is comedic gold as Portia.  I believe her to be sincere about attempting to be a good Puritan, but she just can’t deny her poetry loving heart.  Orr is just a scream as she has a “When Harry Met Sally” climax moment as she swoons to Nigel’s poetry and is a convincing drunkard after accidentally chugging a stein of alcohol at Shakespeare’s party.  Orr also has an angelic soprano, beautifully utilized in “I Love the Way” and “We See the Light”.

Eli DePriest is an arrogant, smug prick as William Shakespeare.  The Shakespeare of this story is the equivalent of a modern rock star and he just laps up the adulation.  DePriest’s Shakespeare is fully aware of his status as #1 and lords it over all and appears to have a pansexual appetite as he openly flirts with girls and guys and would sleep with himself if he could.  DePriest is also gifted with his own strong tenor as he wallows in his own greatness in “Will Power” or grouses about the hard work involved in being the best in “Hard to Be the Bard”.

This is my third time reviewing a show at SLT and, in my nearly thirty years in the business, I don’t think I’ve found a choreographer to match the skill of Chyrel Love Miller.  Miller’s dance numbers are always flashy, big, and full of pizzazz and this show is no exception.  Favorite numbers of mine were “Welcome to the Renaissance”, “A Musical”, “We See the Light”, and “Make an Omelette”.  John R. “Chuck” Rogers has designed another sensational set with the period correct village buildings, but my favorite piece of scenery was the raised stage with the lanterns for Shakespeare’s “Interpretation in the Park”. Jamie Bower pulled triple duty as he also designed the lights & sounds along with directing and my favorite moments with these were “Will Power” with the lit lanterns, star patterns in the spotlights, and the colorful backdrop which looked like the NBC logo and was also reused in the closing number, “Welcome to America”.  Kaley Jackson and Bailey Doran nailed the costumes with the period correct jerkins, cod pieces, tights, Puritan outfits, and petticoats and bustles.  But I truly loved the zing of the colorful Puritan garb when they started rocking out in “We See the Light”.  Danielle Hardin and her orchestra’s handling of the score was heavenly and pinpoint precise.

Truly, I can’t say enough good things about this show.  You just have to go and see it.  I promise you a good time and you may just want to go back again and again before the run is through.  It is amazing!!

Something Rotten! runs at Springfield Little Theatre through Sept 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets range from $23-$37. For tickets, visit http://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Box Office at 417-869-1334.  Springfield Little Theatre is located at 311 E Walnut St in Springfield, MO.

Feeling Flushed

In a dystopian world where water has nearly dried up, private toilets no longer exist.  Now people are forced to pay to use pissoirs and woe betide any who think they can simply publicly relieve themselves for they will pay a high price indeed.  This is Urinetown:  The Musical and it is currently playing at the City Theatre of Independence.

It’s amazing how fate works.  I was sitting in my hotel room in Oak Grove, MO looking for something to do when I stumbled upon this theatre and it happened to be opening night for this show.  I’d heard good things about the production so decided to buy a ticket.  But, dang it, it was so good that I felt compelled to write a review for it.

This show is a lot of fun.

Greg Kotis has written a very clever and satisfying show.  Kotis is obviously a fan of musical theatre as this show has influences from Newsies, Les Miserables, and West Side Story.  But he turns the genre on its head and inside out.  The show is meta as the two narrators are aware they’re in a musical and often reveal salient plot points before they occur.  It’s also surprisingly dark, but that’s often forgotten due to the comedic presentation and the light and fun music of Kotis and Mark Hollman.  Kotis and Hollman borrow from many types of music as you get show tunes, ballads, and a truly rocking Gospel number that brought the house down.

Coralyn Martin provides some truly fine directing for this piece as she just dives into its absurdity.  The staging is the best I’ve ever seen in a production as she doesn’t just use the entire theatre space.  She uses the entire building.  Cast members were wandering the lobby before the show and coming out during intermission to keep the story going.  I also truly admired how the cast members slowly appeared on stage before the show began and stayed in character from their first appearance to their final bow.  Martin gets all she can out of the script and guides the actors to very strong performances as they know how to be over the top just enough to be funny, but keep under the point where it would be caricature and ridiculous. 

The supporting cast is chock full of good performances, but some real standouts came from Wendy Buchheit who gives a PhD level class in how to be present in a scene.  Seldom have I seen such animation in body, facial expressions, and eyes (which seemed to operate independently of each other) as she just threw herself into Hot Blades Harry.  Adeana Carr is hilarious as Little Sally.  Carr is very convincing as a precocious little kid and I love the touch that she is also the smartest character in the show.  Cora Hoaglin has a sizzling debut for the theatre as the crotchety, semi-villainous Penelope Pennywise who manages the pissoir on the poor side of town.  Hoaglin has mastered the fine art of projection and could have a fine future in opera with that superhuman soprano which gets to take center stage when she belts out “It’s a Privilege to Pee”.

De’Markus Howell had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he stepped on the stage as Officer Lockstock for he just has that natural “it” presence.  It’s an interesting twist to have a villain be the narrator and Howell seems to wallow in his corrupt nature especially as he knows he’s virtually bulletproof from repercussions due to his godlike status as the narrator.  I was also extremely amused by his theatrical poses every time he said the show was a musical.  Howell also has a deadly baritone which thrilled the audience in “Urinetown” and “Cop Song”.

Alex West epitomizes the greedy CEO as Caldwell B. Cladwell.  West revels in his power as the ruler of this pathetic world as he takes every last cent from the public to fund a lavish trip to Rio.  But West also gives Cladwell the minutest picoparticle of decency because his policies have actually enabled people to survive.  He just snuffs out the decency by making them pay through the nose to use a toilet.  West also has a superlative tenor which shines brightly in “Mr. Cladwell” and “Don’t Be the Bunny”.

Olivia Franklin is very sweet as Hope Cladwell.  Assuredly, she isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree and comes off even less intelligent as that due to her innocence.  But you have to admire her determination to see the best in every brigand and every hopeless situation, even as she helps to contribute, albeit unwittingly, to that hopelessness by not understanding just how truly dire things are in this world.  Franklin’s honey of a soprano gets to do the heart tugging numbers of “Follow Your Heart” and “I See a River”.

Ken Koval makes for a worthy hero as Bobby Strong.  Koval ticks all the boxes of a hero’s rise as starts as the unwilling participant in the machine of this world before the death of his father and the awakening of his heart inspire him to lead a revolution against the greedy elite.  Koval gives Bobby a unique blend of courage, naivete, and cowardice.  He also has a bright tenor which can be hopeful as in “Look to the Sky”, loving as in “Tell Her I Love Her”, or just plain fun as in my favorite number “Run, Freedom, Run”.

Mike Hadley has designed a nice derelict set of a beaten concrete edifice so realistic that I thought it was stone.  Hadley also skillfully designed the lights with the green phantasmagoric lights used when the dead show up to the use of a simple pinkish spotlight on Hope whenever she launches into a solo number.  Valerie Minniear’s costumes well suit the status of the characters from the cheap clothes and rags of the poor to the elegant suits and dresses of the elite and I really liked the sparkling vests and dresses of the performers in the “Mr. Cladwell” number.  Carlye Stone’s choreography really got to sparkle in the second act with the big flashy numbers of “Snuff that Girl” and “Run, Freedom, Run”.  Blair Walker and his orchestra rise to the challenge of the varied score like champs and strike every emotional note and fun tone with aplomb and kudos to Walker for the funniest cameo of the night.

There were a few blips during the night.  Feedback drowned out dialogue at certain points.  Microphones seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag.  Some members of the supporting cast also need to be more animated in the group scenes.  I could tell they were working the scenes in their heads.  Now they just need to push out the mental work to their bodies.

This show was a delightful and fun surprise with a little something for everyone.  If you’re looking for an immersive, rib-tickling good time, then go see Urinetown:  The Musical.

Urinetown:  The Musical runs through Sept 18 at the City Theatre of Independence.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the Box Office, by calling 816-370-6654, or visiting citytheatreofindependence.org.  The City Theatre of Independence is located in the Powerhouse Theatre within the Roger T. Sermon Center at 201 N Dodgion in Independence, MO.

OCP Taking You to School

Omaha, NESchool of Rock opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, September 16. A middle-aged wannabe rock star lands a new gig as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school, where he transforms a group of straight-A students into a face-melting rock band. Based on the hit movie starring Jack Black, School of Rock features a cast of young rock stars who act, sing and perform all of the show’s rock instrumentals live on stage. 

The show will run on the Hawks Mainstage from September 16 through October 16, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $25, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com

Production: School of Rock 

Production Dates: September 16, 2022 – October 16, 2022 

Show Times: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 2:00 p.m. Sundays 

Tickets: Starting at $25. Prices vary by performance. Tickets are available for purchase by phone at (402) 553-0800, online at OmahaPlayhouse.com, or in person at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132                                                 

Cast: Thomas Gjere (Dewey Finn) 
Lauren Krupski (Rosalie Mullins) 
Jonathan Berger (Ned Schneebly) 
Elizabeth Avery (Patty Di Marco) 
Logan Graves (Theo/Mr. Noble/Bar Guest) 
Brent Goetzinger (Doug/Mr. Green/Bar Guest) 
Brenden Brown (Bob/Gabe Brown/Policeman) 
Joey Galda (Snake/Mr. Hamilton/Teacher/Bar Guest) 
Mason Jaeger (Stanley/Mr. Sandford/Mr. Sanders) 
Bob Gilmore (Mr. Mooneyham/Mr. Janes) 
Dana Smithberg (Mrs. Hathaway/Ms. Bingham) 
Alex White (Mr. Williams /Mr. Woodard) 
Justin Parsley (Mr. Spencer/Mr. Wagner) 
Kimberly McGreevy (Ms. Sheinkopf) 
Alicia Amedee (Ms. Gordan/Bartender/Mrs. Turner/Security Guard) 
Victoria Krol (Ms. Macapugay/Jill Sanderson/Bar Guest/Mrs. Travis) 
Vivian Rase (Summer Hathaway) 
Oakland Anderson (Zach Mooneyham) 
Zidyn Burton (Tomika) 
Liam Richardson (Lawrence) 
Whitney Ingvoldstad (Katie) 
Johnathon Kreiling (Freddie Hamilton) 
Lily Sanow (Marcy) 
Charlotte Ziegler (Shonelle) 
Cruz Martinez (Mason) 
Thomas Rogers (Billy) 
Samuel Fong (James) 
Anina Frey (Sophie) 
Vienna Mass (Madison) 
Emmitt DeWater (Noah) 
Vivian Rase (Summer Hathaway) 
Oakland Anderson (Zach Mooneyham) 
Zidyn Burton (Tomika) 
Liam Richardson (Lawrence) 
Whitney Ingvoldstad (Katie)  
Johnathon Kreiling (Freddie Hamilton) 
Lily Sanow (Marcy) 
Charlotte Ziegler (Shonelle) 
Cruz Martinez (Mason) 
Thomas Rogers (Billy) 
Samuel Fong (James) 
Anina Frey (Sophie) 
Vienna Mass (Madison) 
Emmitt DeWater (Noah)

Auditions Galore at OCP

Omaha, NE–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding in-person auditions for Fences, Dreamgirls and Rent at the Omaha Community Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St. Omaha, NE 68132 and several off-site locations. To schedule an audition, please visit the website here.  

Through upholding high ethical standards, demonstrating respect for all and consciously working to provide diverse representation, OCP is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment in which all community members feel a sense of belonging, and does not discriminate in casting practices on the basis of an individual’s ethnicity, age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, country of origin or other factors. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse and inclusive casting. 

Production: Fences  

Credits: Written by August Wilson 

Director:  Brady Patsy  

Show Dates: Jan. 20 – Feb. 12, 2023 

Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre 

Rehearsals: Begin December 4, 2022 

Show Synopsis: A former African American League baseball player struggles to co-exist with the racial trauma he still carries from his time in the league. When his frustrations lead to a series of tragic choices, his relationships with his wife and son suffer the consequences. Set in the 1950s, Fences is the sixth installment in The American Century Cycle, a series of ten plays by August Wilson that trace the Black experience through 20th century America. 

Auditions:           Sunday, Sept. 11, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Off-site location – Pear Tree Performing Arts, 4801 NW Radial Hwy) 

                               Monday, Sept. 12, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Callbacks: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Production: Dreamgirls 

Credits: Written by Tom Eyen 

Director:  Kathy Tyree   

Show Dates: March 3 – March 26, 2023  

Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre 

Rehearsals: Begin January 9, 2023 

Show Synopsis: A trio of women soul singers catch their big break during an amateur competition. But will their friendship—and their music—survive the rapid rise from obscurity to pop super stardom? with dazzling costumes and powerhouse vocal performances, this Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical is inspired by some of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s—The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and more. 

Auditions:           Saturday, Sept. 17, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Off-site location – Pear Tree Performing Arts, 4801 NW Radial Hwy) 

                               Sunday, Sept. 18, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 
Monday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Callbacks: Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Production: Rent 

Credits: Written by Jonathan Larson 

Director:  Stephen Santa    

Show Dates: February 10 – March 19, 2023 – 

Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre 

Rehearsals: Begin January 2, 2023 

Show Synopsis: A raw and emotional year in the life of a diverse group of friends and struggling artists, chasing their dreams under the shadow of drug addictions and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize, this iconic rock musical has become a cultural touchstone, rite of passage and source of joy and strength for millions. 

Auditions:           Saturday, Sept. 24, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Off-site location – Latino Center of the Midlands, 4821 S 24th St.) 

                               Sunday, Sept. 25, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 
Monday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Callbacks: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse) 

Notes: Auditions are by appointment only. Please complete the audition form to schedule a time. When arriving to audition at the Playhouse, please enter through the Stage Door entrance on the West side of the building. Those auditioning should be prepared to spend 60-90 minutes at the audition. 

For audition preparation, character breakdown and compensation details for each show, please visit omahaplayhouse.com.  

A Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Fun

Casey, an Elvis impersonator, loses his performing job at a Panama City nightclub just as he learns he is about to become a father.  In a twist of fate, he suddenly has to sub for one of the drag queens in the act that replaced him and learns that he not only has a knack for this performance style, but that it can pay really well, too.  Determined to provide for his family, Casey forges The Legend of Georgia McBride and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

When I was asked to review this show, I cocked an eyebrow at the synopsis as I wasn’t certain how much mileage could be gotten out of the joke of a drag queen Elvis.  Turns out it was quite a bit as this show flies.  Matthew Lopez has written one of the best comedies I’ve seen as it truly made me laugh out loud with jokes and one-liners I never saw coming, but also has sensitivity and depth with several moving, heart-wrenching moments. 

OCP’s new Associate Artistic Director, Brady D. Patsy, has a fabulous directorial debut with this production.  Patsy has a firm grip on the beat changes of this story which is especially impressive as it often slides from over the top hilarity to raw, heart attack seriousness, sometimes within the span of a few beats.  Patsy does some impressive staging with Jim Othuse’s unique three pronged set (1/3 being the club’s dressing room, 1/3 being the club’s stage, and the other 1/3 being the apartment of Casey and his wife, Jo) as he makes use of each tiny space in such a way that it never feels bunched up or cramped.  Patsy has also led his thespians to platinum performances with nary a weak link in the group.

The show has some singular supporting performances from Dennis Collins as the prickly club owner/manager whose awkward introductions improve as the influx of money into the club increases.  Olivia Howard shines as Ryan’s wife, Jo, the level headed partner who justly frets about the lack of income to cover their living costs, especially with their incoming arrival.  Brock McCullough generates laughs as the soused Anorexia Nervosa whose passion for booze matches her inflated ego, but McCullough also gets one of the most devastating moments of a night with a monologue about true bravery in the face of prejudice.  Giovanni Rivera is a delight as the slightly nerdy best friend of Casey.

Ryan Figgins has one incredible acting debut as Casey.  Figgins has some fine instincts, a sincere delivery, and the guts to just dive into a role.  Figgins gives Casey a very decent nature and a slight immaturity as he’s a big kid who hasn’t fully adapted to adult responsibilities with his obliviousness to the family finances.  But when the pressure is on, he rises to the occasion as he’s willing to become a drag queen to pay the bills.  Figgins has phenomenal facial expressions from his heart in this throat looks when he does his first Edith Piaf number to his extreme confidence once he’s formed the identity of Georgia McBride.  Figgins also has a fine tenor voice with his song “Lost and Found”.  Figgins just needs to be a little louder in his more serious moments and to move the fingers on his left hand when he is playing the guitar to show chord changes.

Ryan Eberhart just eats the role of Miss Tracy Mills.  He is so theatrical and fits the larger than life nature of Mills to a T.  His mentoring of Casey in the art of drag queening are hilarious, but Eberhart is also capable of some serious acting such as when his Mills teaches Casey an important life lesson of figuring out who you are and hopefully to figure it out faster than she did (though Mills is enjoying the third 20 years of her life).

Jim Othuse’s lights help to enhance the show especially with the sometimes failing Cleo’s sign.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes are top of the line especially with the gowns and dresses of the drag queens and Casey’s Elvis costumes.  John Gibilisco’s sounds really suit the mood of the show from the use of Elvis numbers for the scene changes and the songs used in the revue scenes.  Roderick Cotton’s choreography help the realism of the revue scenes and make for a very entertaining curtain call.

If you’re looking for a laugh filled night that will put a squeeze on your heart at the same time, then go see The Legend of Georgia McBride.  It’ll cure what ails you.

The Legend of Georgia McBride runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Sept 18.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $36 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to adult language and themes, this show is not suitable for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Unfortunate Son

An estranged, biracial couple confront their personal feelings, biases, perceptions, and demons on race and bias as they try to uncover the truth about their son’s involvement in an incident with the police.  This is American Son and it is currently playing at Benson Theatre.

Ladies and gentleman, this is theatre at its pinnacle.  At its peak, theatre not only entertains, but also educates and gets you to ask hard questions and look deep into yourself.  Christopher Demos-Brown has written a phenomenal script that raises excellent talking points and presents terrific POVs on race and bias.  Demos-Brown does superior work in showing how experience and reality influence perception and belief and how often we are unable to see the whole of a situation or story because we automatically filter it through said perceptions and beliefs.  Demos-Brown’s dialogue sparks with intensity and believability and you’ll feel as if you were paintbrushed with a brick, then had your stomach punched with a gauntlet from the inside out before the night is through.

This script is fantastic fodder for a great cast and director and this show has that in spades and then some.

Kathy Tyree does some of her finest directorial work to date with her deft handling of the material.  Tyree makes this show move as the performers ride their lines as if they’re riding bucking broncos.  The words don’t just move, they gallop.  Pacing was smooth as silk and the staging was brilliant as the performers are always on the move and take needed energy breaks (as much as they can be in a story this charged) during the quieter moments.  Tyree’s coaching of the cast was top of the line as each gave a spot-on performance with cue pickups as tight as the passing of a baton in a relay race.

Jared Cernousek and Jus. B help anchor the show with dynamite work in supporting roles.  Cernousek is in fine form as the green, newbie police officer who is still polishing his people skills and meticulously following the book as he tries to balance duty and protocol with assisting the concerned and frustrated parents.  Jus. B, who is fast becoming one of the city’s must watch performers, adds another feather to his cap with his portrayal of the polite, but no-nonsense liaison officer who can clearly take command of any situation in which he finds himself and can cut to the heart of a matter with a few well-spoken words.

But this show rides on the shoulders of the couple who have the bulk of the show’s grueling dialogue and Kerri Forrester and Matt Allen deliver the goods all night long.

Kerri Forrester is perfect as Kendra.  Forrester is utterly believable as the concerned mother as she frantically dials and redials her son and his friends in order to learn of his whereabouts and condition.  Forrester’s Kendra can come off as very abrasive, though said abrasiveness is born out of concern for her child and her frustration at the seeming inability of the white characters to understand things from her point of view as a black woman.  Forrester’s versatility is incredible in her numerous scenes with Allen as she vacillates between her anger with him at their separation to intelligent discussions about their different worlds to some very tender moments of love remembered between them.

Matt Allen is as natural as they come in the role of Scott.  An experienced FBI agent, Allen’s Scott comes off as more diplomatic than his estranged wife due to his understanding of the bureaucracy of police work and having likely dealt with high-pressure, life-threatening situations.  But he’s also capable of his own moments of anger and frustration that begin to bubble up into violence.  Allen adeptly carries his end of his conversations with Forrester especially his frustrations as one of the causes of their separation is his belief that she inserts race into situations where he believes it never came into play.

John Forsman is a technical force of nature as he designed a comfortable waiting room in the police department with its couch, chair, coffee table full of magazines, and billboard with announcements and wanted posters.  I was especially impressed with his window which displayed actual rainfall of a storm that intensified with the rising stakes of the story.  Forsman also made good use of sounds with the beep of incoming texts, thunder, and the sound of a video sent to Scott concerning the incident with his son.  Bradley Pesarchick well costumes his actors with the uniform of Officer Larkin, the suits of Scott and Lt. Stokes, to the rumpled clothes of Kendra who clearly had a sleepless night.

Benson Theatre is the newest artistic venue in Omaha and a work of this caliber has me convinced that it has a fine future.  This show asks some powerful questions without being judgmental.  Each character has valid points and each is also wrong at various moments as they let their biases and perceptions prevent them from seeing the whole.  This show is not an easy watch, but you also won’t be able to turn away.

American Son plays at Benson Theatre through August 27.  Showtime is 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday.  Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at bensontheatre.org.  Due to mature themes and language, this show is not suitable for children.  Benson Theatre is located at 6054 Maple St in Omaha, NE.