Diana Ross to Perform at Orpheum Theater



Friday, July 22, 2016 | 8:00 p.m. at Orpheum Theater

OMAHA, Neb. (March 28, 2016) – One of the most iconic female singers of all time, Diana Ross performs in Omaha for the first time in over 30 years – Friday, July 22, 2016; 8:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater.

Tickets priced $129.50, $89.50, and $69.50 will be available to the public Friday, April 1 at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through Ticket Omaha, (402) 345-0606, ticketomaha.com, or at the box office, 13th and Douglas streets.

Her musical repertoire encompasses R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz, and includes Stop! In The Name of Love, Where Did Our Love Go, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, You Can’t Hurry Love and Endless Love, which remains one of the most successful duets in pop history.

Her lustrous career was celebrated by the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 and the Grammys acknowledged her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The Guinness Book of Records has named her the “Most Successful Female Vocalist of All Time”.

Diana Ross helped shape the sound of popular music and continues to perform as one of the most identifiable, unique, beloved and influential singers of successive pop generations.

Buyers beware: Ticket Omaha is the only authorized vendor for Holland Center and Orpheum performances; tickets purchased from other sources will be more expensive with higher handling fees and carry no guarantee of delivery or being honored for admission to the performance.

For more information, visit http://www.dianaross.com/


Diana Ross’ famed and remarkable career spanning almost five decades has resulted with major awards and accolades and music history milestones. Diana Ross is a consummate performer as well as one of the most iconic female singers of all time and one of the most prominent women in popular music history and pop culture of the late 20th century.

Her international achievements were acknowledged by the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in December 2007 in Washington, DC. The honor celebrated her lustrous career of excellence in music, film, television and theatre, as well as her cultural influences, humanitarian work and her contributions to American culture. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (Grammys™) celebrated her remarkable career in 2012 with their highest honor, The Life Time Achievement Award.

The entertainment industry saluted her portrayal of Billie Holliday in the film Lady Sings the Blues with top awards and nominations. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences bestowed an Oscar nomination for her extraordinary performance as Best Actress and The Golden Globe Awards gave her a trophy for that same role. Diana Ross went on to star in further films, Mahogany and The Wiz. Ross won Broadway’s top honor with a Tony Award for her one-woman show, An Evening with Diana Ross. The same show was later broadcast as a television special.

Career milestones include induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Hero Award, NAACP Entertainer Award, Billboard’s Female Entertainer of the Century Award, The Soul Train Legend Award and International Lifetime Achievement at the World Music Awards. The icon is forever cemented in history with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stop! In The Name of Love, Where Did Our Love Go and You Keep Me Hangin’ On have all been inducted into the NARAS Hall of Fame. Stop! In The Name of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love are among The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll. In February 2012, The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences will bestow one of its highest honors to Ms. Ross by presenting to her the Grammy’s Life Time Achievement Award.

The Guinness Book of Records jointly awarded her with its Lifetime Achievement Award and the title of “Most Successful Female Vocalist of All Time.” She first reached the No.1 position on both the U.S. and UK charts with Where Did Our Love Go. This was the first of a number of consecutive No.1 hits in the U.S.

Beginning in the 60s, as lead singer of the world renowned group, The Supremes, Ross achieved the unprecedented feat of 12 number-one singles in the U.S. becoming the most successful American group in history and rivaled only by The Beatles for the position of the biggest hit group of that generation. Diana Ross went on to achieve six number-one single as a solo artist amassing a total of 18 number-ones. Diana Ross phenomenal music career is marked by chart and commercial successes. In the U.S. alone, to date, she has tallied 31 Top Ten singles and 14 Top Ten Albums selling over 100 million units around the globe.

When Endless Love hit number-one in 1981, Ross became the first female artist in music history to place six single at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Endless Love remains one of the most successful duets in pop history.

Diana Ross’ musical repertoire encompasses R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz, the recently released I Love You CD, jumped onto the chart as Billboard Magazine’s Hot Shot Debut title.

As lead singer of The Supremes, in the 60s, Diana Ross helped shape the sound of popular music, changing the landscape and paved way for contemporary music. Her love of life, never-ending wonder, the appreciation of goals and achievements and sheer human spirit define the artist that is Diana Ross and continue to make her one of the most identifiable, unique, beloved and influential singers of successive pop generations.

Matters of Faith

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell which voice is God’s and which is our own wishful self.”—Elizabeth

This quotation is the central theme of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

I don’t get to say this very often, but this show is absolutely perfect.  From top of the line direction, pluperfect acting, a gorgeous church set designed by Martin Scott Marchitto, a dandy little choir, and an intelligent script rippling with multifaceted characters and pristine dialogue, this show is nothing but tens.

Lucas Hnath rose to the challenge when he wrote the story of Pastor Paul, a megachurch pastor who rocks the foundation of his congregation when he announces there is no such place as hell from the pulpit.  From that shellshocking declaration, Hnath’s script proceeds to tackle the consequences of that belief.

The power of Hnath’s script is that, aside from asking potent questions about faith, it approaches the subject matter in very non-judgmental fashion.  There is neither rancor nor anger between the characters about Pastor Paul’s extreme change of heart.  There is only confusion, debate, and discussion as the multiple sides try to understand each other or make another see their point of view.  Because of this very wise approach this is a play for everybody from the devout to the uncertain to the non-believer.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek departs from his recent high energy comedic roles with a subtle, raw, and revealing performance as Pastor Paul which is certain to put him into the running for Best Actor come awards season.  Clark-Kaczmarek’s command of the dialogue is nothing short of astonishing as he delivers his lines with a soft-spoken, nearly hypnotic voice that seems to make every syllable an emotional beat of its own.  Clark-Kaczmarek’s interpretation of Pastor Paul is almost Christlike as he is a man of God who is leading his flock down a radical new path just as Jesus did.  The question is whether he is leading his people to Heaven or to Hell.

Clark-Kaczmarek’s performance is extraordinary as he navigates the many emotional twists and turns Pastor Paul takes on his trek and he does it with such humanness.  Even with Pastor Paul’s new vision, he still wrestles with doubt about the nature, possibly even the existence, of God.

Raydell Cordell III’s performance as Joshua, Pastor Paul’s associate pastor, is a feat of underplayed genius.  Cordell’s Joshua is the hardest hit by Pastor Paul’s new message as he was brought to Jesus by the pastor and believes acceptance of Christ as a personal savior is the one and only way to salvation.  Cordell brilliantly eschews the easy road of anger for a sad and deep disappointment in Pastor Paul.  He openly challenges Pastor Paul’s belief, but does so with an understated frustration which is best exemplified when he and Pastor Paul engage in a debate over interpretation of Bible verses.

Despite his disappointment with Pastor Paul, Cordell also infuses a great loyalty into Joshua’s character.  He never gives up on Pastor Paul, even going so far as refusing to supplant him as lead pastor and sharing a story about the death of his mother in a last ditch effort to convince Pastor Paul he is on the wrong path.  So earnest is Cordell’s performance that one and all will be deeply moved.

Bill Hutson does no wrong with his turn as Jay, an elder in Pastor Paul’s church.  Hutson’s portrayal of Jay is that of a diplomat.  He supports Pastor Paul due to their long friendship, but doesn’t agree with his ideas.  Hutson ably depicts a man who may be on the cusp of losing his faith.  Yes, he does believe in God, but his position on the Board of Directors for the church has had him focused on secular matters rather than spiritual ones and Pastor Paul’s proclamations just may push him away from faith once and for all.

Kaitlyn McClincy rolls a strike in her Blue Barn debut as Jenny, a congregant in Pastor Paul’s church.  Ms McClincy’s performance is as heartbreaking as it is illuminating.  Her Jenny had nothing before she found Pastor Paul’s church.  Divorced and broke, she found salvation, aid, and family with Pastor Paul.  In a heart-wrenching monologue which will have tears falling, Ms McClincy talks about having a faith so fervent that she tithed 20% of her meager earnings because she loved God so much and believed in Pastor Paul so much.  When she vocally wonders whether all of Pastor Paul’s good words were simply part of an elaborate con game, my heart shattered for her.

Jill Anderson provides a unique twist on the role of the minister’s wife with her portrayal of Elizabeth.  Ms Anderson’s Elizabeth does not meekly follow her husband down his rather difficult road.  She is strong.  She is smart.  And she does not accept her husband’s new way of thinking.  Ms Anderson gives the audience some interesting food for thought with Elizabeth’s logical argument about the inequality of her marriage with Pastor Paul as he always kept her in the dark about his questions, fears, and messages and is mesmerizing when she is willing to try to save the church by countering Pastor Paul’s message in her own Bible study group.

Susan Clement-Toberer may have topped herself with her direction of this piece.  The staging is magnificent.  The pacing of the story is rock solid.  The coaching of her actors is of championship caliber and she smoothly moves from beat to beat to beat, making the most out of each and every moment.

The Christians is the epitome of transformative theatre.  This show is going to give you a lot to think about.  Wherever you lie on the spectrum of belief in God, your beliefs are going to be challenged and that is a gift only the best theatre can grant you.  As two shows are already sold out, be certain to get a ticket as tonight’s nearly full house is an indicator of the monster hit this show will be.

The Christians plays at the Blue Barn Theatre through April 17.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm.  There is no show on Easter Sunday (March 27) and the March 26 and April 2 shows are sold out.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), T.A.G. members, and groups of 10 or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri or visit the Blue Barn website at www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

Shelterbelt to Hold Auditions for “Shattering the Glass: A Celebration of Omaha Women in Theatre

The Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to announce auditions for Shattering the Glass:  A Celebration of Omaha Women in Theatre, organized by Elizabeth Thompson

Playwrights: Laura Leininger–Campbell, Moira Mangiameli, Kaitlyn McClincy, Marie Schuett, and Daena Schweiger

Directors: Sonia Keffer, Moira Mangiameli, and Jayma Smay

Production Dates: July 8–31, 2016
Performances Thursday–Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm

Auditions: April 26 and 27 at 7pm
Location: Shelterbelt Theatre (3225 California Street in Omaha, NE)

An array of actresses and actors will be needed for this production. More details will be posted soon.

The Shelterbelt Theatre believes in non-traditional casting and will cast the best performer for a role, regardless of race or disability.

Shattering the Glass is a new collaborative project featuring Omaha’s female playwrights, directors and actresses. Showcasing the remarkable talent Omaha’s pool of XX-chromosomed theatre artists possess, the Shelterbelt is thrilled to give their voices a platform in which to present their newest works.

For questions, please contact Elizabeth Thompson at artistic@shelterbelt.org.

Auditions for “A Stranger from Paradise”

Opera Omaha will hold workshop auditions on April 23, 2016 for “A Stranger from Paradise,” a new musical work by librettist Kevin Lawler and composer Nevada Jones to be premiered at the 2017 Great Plains Theatre Conference. The workshop will take place early July 2016.

Director: Kevin Lawler
Composer: Nevada Jones
Librettist: Kevin Lawler

Time: noon-3:15 p.m.
Requirements: Men and women auditioning for the workshop must be at least 18 years of age and able to read music. Those auditioning are asked to prepare one English song of their own choosing, not to exceed 3 minutes in length. Arias, art songs, oratorio and musical numbers are all acceptable audition selections. Please provide a printed copy of all music, as an accompanist will be available at no cost.

Call Backs:
Call Backs for men and women will take place immediately following the first round of auditions. All singers are asked to remain on-site until Call Backs have been announced.
Time: 3:45-5:00 p.m.

Location: Auditions will be held at the Opera Omaha Rehearsal Hall, located on 1850 Farnam Street in Omaha.

Contact: Advance reservations are required. To RSVP or for more information, contact Stella Fritzell at sfritzell@operaomaha.org or (402) 346-4398, ext. 106. Reservations will be accepted no later than April 20, 2016.

“The Christians” to Have Regional Premiere at Blue Barn

Press Photo

The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to present the regional premiere of The Christians by Lucas Hnath.

BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan Clement-Toberer directs, with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Carol Wisner, costume design by Lindsay Pape, sound design by Craig Marsh, projection design by Bill Grennan and properties design by Amy Reiner.

Shows run March 24 – April 17, 2016; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday April 3, 10, and 17 at 6 p.m. Single tickets for The Christians are $30 for adults; and $25 for students, seniors 65+, TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.

The Christians is generously sponsored by Dr. Amy Haddad and Steve Martin, Roger B. Devor, and Giger Foundation.

Following the Sunday, April 3rd performance, the BLUEBARN Theatre will host a panel discussion with Tri-Faith Initiative featuring Rabbi Azriel from Congregation of Temple Temple Israel, Rev. Elnes from Countryside Community Church, and Dr. Mohiuddin from the American Muslim Institute-AMI.

About The Christians

Twenty years ago, Pastor Paul’s church was nothing more than a modest storefront. Now he presides over a congregation of thousands, with classrooms for Sunday School, a coffee shop in the lobby, and a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool. Today should be a day of celebration. But Paul is about to preach a sermon that will shake the foundations of his church’s belief. A big-little play about faith in America—and the trouble with changing your mind.

About the Stars of The Christians

Award-winning actor Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek returns to the BLUEBARN stage in the pivotal role of Pastor Paul. Anthony was last seen in Arcadia (2003.) Jill Anderson (God of Carnage, BLUEBARN), Raydell Cordell III (A Behanding in Spokane, BLUEBARN), and Bill Hutson (Vieux Carré, BLUEBARN) return to the BLUEBARN stage in the roles of Paul’s wife, Paul’s Associate Pastor, and the church Elder, respectively. Kaitlyn McClincy (Harbor, SNAP! Productions – 2016 OEA Award) also makes her BLUEBARN debut as the young Congregant, Jenny. The Christians also features a live choir to enhance this compelling story: Fred Goodhew, Doug Good, Dan Luethke, Kim McGreevy, Jenna Peterson, Sara Planck, Mike Rosenthal, Erin Stoll, Becky Trecek, Carrie Trecek, Debbie Trecek-Volkens , Homero Vela, and Kelsi Weston.

About the Playwright, Lucas Hnath

Lucas Hnath’s plays include The Christians (2014 Humana Festival), Red Speedo (Studio Theatre, DC), A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney (Soho Rep), nightnight (2013 Humana Festival), Isaac’s Eye (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Death Tax (2012 Humana Festival, Royal Court Theatre), and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Lucas has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011 and is a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre. Lucas is a winner of the 2012 Whitfield Cook Award for Isaac’s Eye and a 2013 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citation for Death Tax. He is also a recipient of commissions from the EST/Sloan Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizons, New York University’s Graduate Acting Program, and the Royal Court Theatre.

About the BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

War for the Heart, War in the Soul

It’s a twist on the love triangle when John takes a break from his boyfriend only to fall for a girl.  Now forced to decide between the two, John finds himself in the middle of a vicious, emotional cockfight between the two loves in his life.  This is Cock by Mike Bartlett and currently playing at SNAP! Productions.

I confess to being a little taken aback when I was asked to review a show with such a title as many connotations of the word flew through my mind.  And, yes, this play does utilize multiple definitions of the play’s title from the innocent to the vulgar.  More importantly, this show is also one of the season’s best.

Mike Bartlett has written a whip smart script with dialogue that surges with intensity and compelling characters.  Bartlett leaps straight into the action with little build, but manages to fill in the gaps as he rapidly moves John between his boyfriend and girlfriend until the inevitable confrontation between his two significant others.

Without question, Joshua Mullady’s direction is the finest I have seen this season.  Mullady displayed an intimate understanding of the script with brilliant staging.  Not only is there not a single static moment in the show, but Mullady uses the play’s words to establish the movements of the characters.  As they grow apart, they physically move further from each other.  As they grow closer, they literally move closer and show intimacy.  Mullady has also perfectly cast this show with 4 actors who have pitch perfect chemistry and give nearly flawless performances.  Mullady also designed the beautifully simplistic lights which pulsed with a life of their own as they shifted with the beats of the show.

Joseph Schoborg’s portrayal of John is as haunting as it is powerful.  Schoborg’s John is a complete train wreck of a human being as he struggles to determine who and what it is he wants.  Schoborg’s body language is deadly accurate.  With his failing relationship with his boyfriend, he is stiff-necked with his shoulders up in his ears.  With his burgeoning relationship with his girlfriend, he is relaxed, loose, and tender.  Schoborg also has an incredibly nuanced voice capable of capturing deep frustration and running the gamut to whispering sadness.  The only tiny issues were that Schoborg spoke too quickly at the top of the show and I lost some of his dialogue, but he brought that under control as the play continued.  He also needed to keep his vocal strength up as it was just a hair below where it needed to be.

I was blown away by Eric Grant-Leanna’s interpretation of the nameless boyfriend.  Grant-Leanna gives what may be his best performance with a character he has developed down to the minutest detail.  As M, Grant-Leanna misses no beat as he bounces from lightly teasing John about his lousy cooking, to intense arguments about John’s cheating with a woman, to delivering nasty verbal jabs to the other woman, to nearly begging John to stay with him.  Grant-Leanna’s always spot-on facial expressions greatly added to his brilliant line readings which he enhanced even further with always appropriate gestures.

I was absolutely gobsmacked with Caitlin Staeball’s work as the unnamed girlfriend.  At the show’s start, she sat with the audience watching and reacting to the byplay between John and M.  Jealousy was quite apparent as she glowered at M.  Ms Staeball beautifully maneuvered through the ebbs and flows of her character’s story arc with clear and clean delivery and sure understanding of where she was heading.  Most telling was a scene where she sleeps with John for the first time.  Using just the power of her voice along with Mullady’s stellar lighting, she paints a vivid picture of what is happening without either performer actually doing anything physically.  Her subtle emotional manipulation of John in the climactic confrontation was also a nice piece of character work.  I look forward to seeing Ms Staeball in other roles after this fantastic Omaha debut.

Brent Spencer is very capable in his role as M’s father.  His British accent needed a bit of work, but his interpretation was quite good.  As F, Spencer is clearly devoted to his son and cares a great deal about John as he is quite hurt that John wants to leave his son for a woman.  Spencer also was responsible for some of the night’s more humorous moments as he jousts with John’s girlfriend.

What I found most interesting about the show was that it was not about whether John was gay, straight, or bisexual.  The show’s true tragedy was that John had lost himself.  He didn’t know what he needed in order to be happy and was fearful to take the risk of finding out for himself.  That is a message that will echo profoundly in every person who watches this wonderful dramedy.

Cock plays at SNAP! Productions through March 27.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm.  Tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for students, seniors, T.A.G. members, and the military.  Thursday night shows cost $10.  This show contains adult situations and extremely strong language and is not suitable for children.  SNAP! Productions is located at 3225 California St in Omaha, NE.



Traditional Dance, Mexican Music, Flamboyant Costumes Make This Dance Group a Cultural Treasure

Omaha, Neb. – March 10, 2016 – Ballet Folklorico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz brings the flamboyant tradition of Mexican folkloric dance to the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St., Thursday, April 14, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10, and are available at TicketOmaha.com, 402.345.0606 or at the Ticket Omaha Box Office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center. This performance is sponsored by the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Hospitality sponsor is Hotel Deco.

Founded in 1985 by Maestro Hugo Betancourt, Ballet Folklorico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz makes its home in Xalapa, the capital of the Eastern Mexico gulf state of Veracruz. They have toured internationally performing traditional folkloric dances, as well as their Afro-Caribbean spectacular, “Carnaval Veracruzano”. The company has been the official representative for the Secretary of Tourism and Economic Development for the State of Veracruz since 1986, having given hundreds of performances across Mexico and the United States, South America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. They have also recently performed in Peru, Spain, Germany, Dubai, Taiwan and Canada. In all, the company has performed in more than 20 different countries on 4 continents. 2015 marked the group’s 30th anniversary which included a U.S. tour as well as a gala performance in the home city of Xalapa’s Teatro del Estado and appearances around Mexico.

Mexican Folkloric Dance

The history of Mexican dance starts with ancient cultures, which flourished in the country during the 3000 years preceding the arrival of the first Europeans. Highly refined representations of shamans (medicine men or those who worked with the supernatural), acrobats, musicians and dancers dating back to as early as 1500 B.C. have been found across Mexico, along with a great number of pre-Colombian musical instruments. Whistles, flutes, trumpets, ocarinas, drums (composed of metal, wood and clay), bells, rattles and scrapers all accompanied the dances and song of the religious and festive ceremonies.

The Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519 A.D., and added new ingredients to the culture. Along with the language, the Spanish added new songs, new dances and new musical instruments, which contributed to the diversity of expression. In the music and dance of sones (the generic name given to folk melodies) such as those of Veracruz, one more element is present, the influence of African rhythms. They were contributed by slaves who worked the sugar cane in colonial times. Each region of Mexico has its own dances, corresponding to its physical climate and traditions, and the dances of individual regions can contrast significantly with each other.

Opera Omaha Auditions

Opera Omaha is holding auditions for its 2016-17 season.

April 19, 2016, 6:30–8 p.m.
April 21, 2016, 6:30–8 p.m.

Opera Omaha Rehearsal Hall
1850 Farnam Street (Omaha, NE)

Requirements: Singers auditioning for the Chorus must be at least 18 years of age and be able to read music. Singers are asked to prepare two vocal selections, one in English and one in a foreign language, not to exceed a total of 5 minutes per audition. Arias, art songs or church solos are all acceptable audition selections. Please provide printed music as an accompanist will be available at no cost.

Contact: Advance reservations are required. To RSVP or for more information, contact Stella Fritzell at sfritzell@operaomaha.org or (402) 346-4398, ext. 106.

Opera Omaha is holding auditions for the Ragazzi Chorus (Children’s Chorus).

April 19, 2016, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
April 21, 2016, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Opera Omaha Rehearsal Hall
1850 Farnam Street (Omaha, NE)

Children with unchanged voices between the ages of 10 and 16 are invited to audition. Children are asked to prepare 1 selection with piano accompaniment (this selection may be in English).

Please provide printed music as an accompanist will be available at no cost.

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Contact Stella Fritzell at sfritzell@operaomaha.org or 402-346-4398 x 106 to RSVP or for more information.

Someone Clipped the Wings of these Angels

It’s a story of the reel world and the real world.  Successful author, Stine, is trying to translate his hit novel into a screenplay while traversing the politics of Hollywood and attempting to save a marriage failing due to his philandering.  His creation and alter-ego, hard-boiled detective Stone, is trying to solve the mystery of a missing heiress while being re-edited into a shadow of his original self.  This is City of Angels by Larry Gelbart with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Gelbart’s script is actually a very bold experiment as it tries to tell two stories simultaneously.  I think Gelbart somewhat fails in this aspect as his fictional tale of Stone gets the bulk of the focus which makes the real world story of Stine feel like filler.  However, the mystery is quite interesting and is peppered with just the right amount of comedy when the characters rewind and redo scenes as Stine edits them.

Cy Coleman’s score is a good fit for the film noir story with a nice mix of standards, jazz, and blues.  With that being said, the musical is somewhat weakened by the fact that there is no real standout song.

Director Jeff Horger did a fairly good job with the direction of the piece.  I found the staging to be on target with smooth scene changes.  But I also thought his direction suffered a bit from poor pacing in Act I and a rather mixed bag of performances from his cast.

I give a big thumbs up to the ensemble players for always remaining in the thick of the action.  They always stayed involved with appropriate bits of business that added a nice bit of atmosphere to the show.  Special notice goes out to Patrick Kilcoyne who was quite amusing as the spiritual healer, Dr. Mandril and Aubrey Fleming who was a delightful surprise in the dual roles of the missing heiress, Mallory Kingsley, and as Avril Raines, an actress willing to do whatever it took to boost her role.

Isaac Reilly needed a little bit of time to get going, but once he did, his interpretation of Stone was right on the money.  Once he fixed his projection problem, Reilly’s Stone was the perfect hard-boiled detective with his cynicism, wit, and doggedness.  Reilly’s singing had a rather impressive range as he has a natural baritone speaking voice, but could go tenor with the notes when required.  Reilly especially impressed with “The Tennis Song” and his argument with his alter-ego, Stine, in “You’re Nothing Without Me”.

John E. Jones needs to take the energy he puts into his singing and transfer it to his acting.  I thought his portrayal of Stine was bland and colorless, but he finally showed some life at the very end of the play.  There’s a lot to Stine.  He’s a talented writer, but not built for Hollywood as he deals with the constant butchering of his screenplay by a hack producer/director.  He’s a bit of a repressed milquetoast who caves in easily, can’t seem to help himself from sleeping around, and created Stone as the man he wished he could be.  There’s definitely a lot of material for character work.  Jones’ singing made up for his acting as he’s got a good, strong tenor voice which was highlighted by “You’re Nothing Without Me”.

Steve Krambeck stole this show from the rest of the cast with a stunning performance as Buddy Fiddler and his fictional counterpart, Irwin S. Irving.  Krambeck’s energy was absolutely incredible and he was overflowing with a disgusting, slimy charm.  As Fiddler, Krambeck constantly alters Stine’s script reducing it from art to garbage.  He callously cheats on his wife, gleefully steals writing credit, and is pretty obsessed with exerting total control over his films.  Krambeck could also give most of this cast lessons in volume and projection as his vocal control was of excellent quality.

Samantha Quintana was superb in the dual roles of Donna & Oolie.  Ms Quintana brought all of the necessary ingredients to Oolie, the secretary to detective Stone.  She was brassy, a wisecracker, intelligent, capable, and loyal.  Ms Quintana also has a wonderful alto voice that shone in “What You Don’t Know About Women” and “You Can Always Count on Me”.

Angela Jenson-Frey did remarkable work in the challenging dual roles of Gabbi Stine and Bobbi Edwards.  Unlike the other characters whose fictional counterparts were fairly similar to their real selves, Ms Jenson-Frey’s two characters were the complete opposite of each other.  As Gabbi, Stine’s wife, Ms Jenson-Frey displayed great love and loyalty to Stine in spite of his infidelities.  As Bobbi Edwards, a lounge singer, Ms Jenson-Frey embodied Stine’s guilt at his cheating as she is the one who repeatedly cheats on Stone and readily takes advantage of his love when he covers up a criminal act of hers.  Ms Jenson-Frey has a beautiful alto capable of all styles of singing from a great blues performance in “With Every Breath I Take” and an amusing ripping apart of Stine’s so-called apology in “It Needs Work”.

Jodi Vaccaro  does a fine job in the dual roles of Alaura Kingsley/Carla Haywood.  As Kingsley, Ms Vaccaro was the mysterious client who hires Stone to find her stepdaughter and one never understands her true motives until the denouement.  But Ms Vaccaro has one of the great moments of the night as Carla, the actress wife of Buddy Fiddler.  After rattling off the denouement speech smooth as silk as Aluara, she gets to do it again as Carla playing Alaura and her overwrought, stilted line delivery had me grinning from ear to ear.

The evening’s production was plagued with a lot of issues.  With few exceptions, the cast was way too quiet, relying on the microphones to do their projecting instead of allowing it to augment their projection. This was especially noticeable in some of the songs where the orchestra was louder than the singers.  The pace was terribly slow and cues were incredibly pausey, though that noticeably improved in Act II.  Articulation needed a lot of work as some of the performers were nearly unintelligible.  The choreography seemed off.  The fights need to be smoother and quicker as they looked rehearsed.  There was also some weak acting in some of the minor roles.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra brought their A game once again.  Jim Othuse’s lighting was of tremendous quality as it weaved from the bright colors of the real world to the monochromatic colors of the reel world.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes were perfect period pieces.

I’ll be very interested in seeing how audiences take to this show as it isn’t your typical musical.  Not only are there no standout songs, but the songs only pop up once in a while making me wonder if this story wouldn’t have worked better as a straight play.  As it was, my thumb is squarely in the middle, but a clean-up of the problems I noted would push it up a bit.

City of Angels plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse until April 3.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students on Wednesday and $40 for adults and $25 for students Thurs-Sun.  Contact the Box Office at 402-553-0800 or visit their website at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  This show has some rough language and adult situations and is not recommended for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Hal Holbrook Brings Mark Twain to Holland Center


Timeless Laugh-Out-Loud Humor Makes This One-Man Show a Treasure of the American Theatre

Omaha, Neb., March 3, 2016 – Emmy®- and Tony®- award winning actor Hal Holbrook brings the longest running show in American Theatre history, Mark Twain Tonight!, to the Kiewit Hall at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas Street, Friday, April 8, 2016, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30 through Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606, TicketOmaha.com, or the Ticket Omaha Box Office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center. Special thanks to hospitality sponsor Hotel Deco.

Once called “America’s Voltaire,” Samuel Clemens, known by the pen name Mark Twain, preceded today’s social critics with scathing but humorous satires focusing on the corruption and lies of 19th Century politicians and journalists. Twain’s novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer top the lists of American classics and have weathered the tests of time and include subjects that still seem significantly relevant today.

Holbrook portrays Twain as the aging character that we recognize – the white hair, brows and mustache; white suit; and the illusion that Twain is speaking in his time. “Let the audience update him,” Holbrook said. “That has made the show more powerful because human behavior doesn’t change. Neither does its foolishness. That’s the joke.”

The Washington Post said, “Holbrook’s characterization of the great novelist and raconteur is, to this day, a work in progress. The transformation is so complete as to be unsettling at times. The combination of Holbrook’s physical and vocal talents and the potency of Twain’s words is a mesmerizing thing to behold.”

A legendary star of television, movies and the stage, Holbrook has built his career on a variety of roles with no connection to Mark Twain, including Don Quixote, King Lear, Shylock, Abe Lincoln, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and more than 50 feature films.

He won the Tony Award for Mark Twain Tonight! in 1966 and was nominated for an Emmy Award for the show in 1967. Since then, he has received five Emmy Awards between 1971 and 1989. Holbrook was presented the National Medal of the Humanities in 2003 by President George Bush. In 2008, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Into the Wild.