A Belle of a Good Time

Beauty and the Beast_4

Timothy Vallier as Beast & Leanne Hill Carlson as Belle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Enemy, My Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t over yet.

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

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

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

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

OCP Audition Announcements

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

What:   2017-2018 Season Musical Adult Auditions

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

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

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

Requirements:
Actors please be prepared with the following:

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

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

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

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

1776

Cry-Baby

Angels in America

In the Heat of the Night

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

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

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

Ripcord – Auditions held October 14 and 15, 2017

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

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

The Mountaintop – Auditions held February 26 and 27, 2018

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

OCP Announces New Alternative Programming Season

Omaha, Neb.—The Omaha Community Playhouse is announcing its Alternative Programming series for the 2017-18 season. Alternative Programming includes a series of staged readings, special events and play development collaborations. All events are held at OCP.

The 2017-18 Alternative Programming schedule includes:

1776

Book by Peter Stone, Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a concept by Sherman Edwards
(1969 Tony Award winner for Best Musical)
July 17, 2017
Staged reading of a musical, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Ashley Laverty

It’s the summer of 1776 and the nation is ready to declare independence… if only our founding fathers can agree to do it! 1776 follows John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they attempt to convince the members of the Second Continental Congress to vote for independence from the shackles of the British monarchy by signing the Declaration of Independence.

In an effort to provide more performance opportunities for women actors and to look at familiar works of theatre through a different lens, this staged reading will be fully cast with women playing all roles.

CRY-BABY
Book by Thomas Meehan & Mark O’Donnell
Music and Lyrics by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum
Based on the Universal Pictures film written and directed by John Waters
July 31, 2017
Staged reading of a musical, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Andrew Saladino

It’s 1954. Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism and Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He’s a bad boy with a good cause – truth, justice and the pursuit of rock and roll. Cry-Baby and the square rich girl, Allison, are star-crossed lovers at the center of this world. Based on the cult classic 1990 John Waters film, Cry-Baby features a delightfully demented book from the writers of Hairspray and a rockabilly score from the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne and the executive producer of “The Daily Show.”

ANGELS IN AMERICA

Written by Tony Kushner
TWO DATES: August 7 and 28, 2017
Staged reading of a play, Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman

Part One: Millenium Approaches
In the first part of Tony Kushner’s epic story, set in 1980s New York City, a gay man is abandoned by his lover when he contracts the AIDS virus and a closeted Mormon lawyer’s marriage to his pill-popping wife stalls. Other characters include the infamous McCarthy-ite lawyer Roy Cohn, Ethel Rosenberg, a former drag queen who works as a nurse, and an angel.

Part Two: Perestroika
In the second part, the plague of AIDS worsens, relationships fall apart as new ones begin and unexpected friendships take form.
Contains adult content.

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Written by John Ball, Adapted by Matt Pelfrey
September 18, 2017
Staged reading of a play, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Marie Amthor Schuett

It’s 1962. A hot August night lies heavy over the small town of Argo, Alabama. A dead white man is discovered and the local police arrest a black stranger named Virgil Tibbs. The police discover that their prime suspect is in fact a homicide detective from California. As it happens, Tibbs becomes the racially-tense community’s single hope in solving a brutal murder that is turning up no witnesses, no motives and no clues.
Contains adult content.

FROM THE GROUND UP
Written by Denise Chapman
October 30, 2017
Special Event, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Kevin Lawler

Come share in the experience of seeing a workshopped performance of a brand new script. This community-based play will focus on North Omaha in the 1970s and the effect of the North I-75 Freeway being built in and running through the heart of the community.

An official collaboration with the Great Plains Theatre Conference, From the Ground Up is a workshop that provides a safe and nurturing playground for artists to develop new work for the theatre. The playwright’s material will be shared with an audience while still in the developmental phase then will continue to be developed to be included in the next Great Plains Theatre Conference.

WHITE RABBIT, RED RABBIT
by Nassim Soleimanpour
THREE DATES: November 6, 2017; February 19, 2018 and May 14, 2018
Special event, Howard Drew Theatre

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit has been called a play. But it’s a lively, global sensation that no one is allowed to talk about. Its award-winning playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, is Iranian. His words have escaped censorship and are awaiting your audience. Slyly humorous and audaciously pointed, this ‘theater-entertainment-meets-social-experiment’ is unlike anything, and will make you question everything. This show is always performed by a single actor who has never read the script before and has no idea what it’s about. Come experience a truly unique piece of theatre, then come back to see it again with a different performer.

 
EMOTIONAL CREATURE
Written by Eve Ensler
February 17, 2018
Special Event, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Emma Rasmussen

Performed by an ensemble of young women, Emotional Creature is made up of original monologues—and irresistible songs—about and for girls. Placing their stories squarely center stage, it gives full expression to their secret voices and innermost thoughts, highlighting the diversity and commonality of the issues they face. Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls and an illumination for parents and for us all.
Contains adult content.

APPROPRIATE
Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
March 26, 2018
Staged reading of a play, Howard Drew Theatre
Directed by Christopher Scott

Every estranged member of the Lafayette clan has descended upon the crumbling Arkansas homestead to settle the accounts of the newly-dead patriarch. As his three adult children sort through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, they collide over clutter, debt and a contentious family history. But after a disturbing discovery surfaces among their father’s possessions, the reunion takes a turn for the explosive, unleashing a series of crackling surprises and confrontations.
Contains adult content.

THE PATCHWORK PLAY PROJECT
April 23, 2018
Special Event, Hawks Mainstage Theatre

A completely original piece of theatre with a twist! Omaha is home to many talented playwrights, both well-established and up-and-coming. A group of local talent will be teaming up to write an original play—one piece at a time. Where the story goes… nobody knows! Come watch a staged reading of the final project to find out what the creative minds of Omaha can concoct.
Contains adult content.

Alternative Programming events are free and open to the public with an opportunity for donations. No tickets or reservations are necessary. Some events may be intended for mature audiences. For more information on Alternative Programming, contact Jeff Horger at jhorger@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890, ext. 158.

 

Be Their Guest

Beauty and the Beast_4

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Themed Events

Opening Night Celebration and Sunday Tea Parties

Omaha, Neb.— In celebration of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Omaha Community Playhouse’s first  Disney production running in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre May 26 – June 25, 2017, OCP will host several themed events for ticket holders, including an Opening Night Enchanting Extravaganza on Friday, May 26 with free pre-show activities for ticket holders beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Pending weather and availability, opening night activities will include a “provincial village” mini-petting zoo outdoors featuring small farm animals; “Gaston’s Strength Challenge” high striker game; and “Belle’s Beauty Boutique” hair styling for boys and girls. Complimentary desserts and beverages will also be available. Activities take place from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. for ticket holders of that evening’s performance. No separate registration is required for these activities, which are generously supported by Great Western Bank.

Omaha Community Playhouse will also host Beauty and the Beast Royal Teas before all Sunday matinee performances May 28 – June 25, 2017 beginning at 12:45 p.m. Guests will enjoy a dessert and beverage, participate in a themed craft, and be visited by a special guest before attending the 2:00 p.m. performance. Space is limited to 30 people per date and advance registration is required for these events  at $15 per guest. The May 28 Royal Tea is sold out and there is limited seating for the June 11 event. For questions, contact Jana Coburn at (402) 553-4890, ext. 147 or jcoburn@omahaplayhouse.com.

Additionally, 20 minutes prior to the start of each performance an actor from the show will lead the children in the audience in educational warm-ups. Children in the audience will also receive a child-friendly printed program with activities. This is in conjunction with OCP’s educational wing, the Henry Fonda Theatre Academy.

Production: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Show Dates: May 26 – June 25, 2017 (Wednesdays – Sundays)

Director: Kimberly Faith Hickman

Step into the enchanted world of the beloved musical, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. This classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress, is guaranteed to entertain all audiences.  If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self — but time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. This “tale as old as time” is filled with spectacular costumes and sets and is a must-see for the whole family.

Show dates: May 26 – June 25, 2017; Wednesday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m.

There will be two Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on June 17 and June 24, 2017 only.

Tickets: At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets are $42 for adults (Thursdays – Sundays) and $25 for students (Thursdays – Sundays). Wednesday prices are $32 for adults and $20 for students. Tickets are $32 for groups of 12 or more. Single ticket discounts do not apply to this show

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre (6915 Cass Street Omaha, NE 68132)

Blue Barn Closes Season with ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical’

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The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to conclude Season 28 with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical.

BLUEBARN Producing Artistic Director Susan C. Toberer co-directs with Associate Artistic Director, Randall T. Stevens with set design by Martin Scott Marchitto, lighting design by Alberto Segarra, costume design by Jenny Pool, sound design by Craig Marsh, and properties design by Amy Reiner.

Shows run May 18-June 25, 2017; Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday June 4, 11, 18, and 25 at 6pm.

Single tickets for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical are $35 for adults; $30 for students, seniors (65+), TAG Members, and groups of 10 or more. The BLUEBARN Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical is generously sponsored by Dr. Devin Fox,  Jeff Grinnell and Dan Gallagher, Dr. Merlyn Knudson and James Davis, and Rich and Fran Juro.

About Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical

Based on the smash hit movie, Priscilla is the heartwarming, uplifting adventure of three friends, Tick, Bernadette, and Adam, a glamorous  Sydney-based performing trio who agree to take their show to the middle of the Australian Outback.  They hop aboard a battered old bus, “Priscilla”, searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they could have ever dreamed.

Featuring a hit parade of dance floor favorites including “It’s Raining Men”, “I Will Survive”, “Hot Stuff”, “Finally”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Go West”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, and “I Love the Nightlife”, this wildly fresh and funny musical is a journey to the heart of FABULOUS!

About the Stars of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–The Musical

Priscilla features veteran actor, Cork Ramer (Man of La Mancha, Omaha Playhouse) as Bernadette and Mark Hinrichs making his BLUEBARN debut in the role of Tick.  Newcomer Matt Bailey, last seen dancing in Heathers:  The Musical, plays Adam.  Also featured in the large cast are Roderick Cotton, Justin Eller, Aubrey Fleming, Eliot Gray, Julian Hinrichs, Don Keelan-White, Grant Mannschreck, Roni Shelley-Perez, Randall T. Stevens, Erin Stoll, Cammy Watkins, and Sam Woods.

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.

Scenic South Dakota: Sioux Falls & Steever House

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Steever House

It was one of those weekends where everything falls into place.  I’m just finishing up a stay at the Steever House in Lennox, SD and my only regret is that I can’t stay for an extra day or two.

But let’s start at the beginning.

It was an absolutely perfect spring day for one of my jaunts.  The sun was bright.  There wasn’t a cloud to be seen.  And the temperature was, mmm, just right.

I hopped into my car and began the drive to the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota where I would be staying at Steever House as well as reviewing Jesus Christ Superstar for the Sioux Empire Community Theatre.

The drive was great and it was nice to enjoy some new scenery as I headed north to South Dakota.  Once I crossed the border into the state, I admit I did a double take when I saw the 80mph speed limit.  Maybe I’ll try the max speed on the empty Sunday roads, but not being used to that type of speed, I kept things to about 75mph.

I arrived in town about 12:30pm.  Regrettably, I was only doing an overnight so I didn’t have the normal time that I usually allow my explorations.  But if I were going to do one thing, it had to be a visit to the town’s namesake falls.  So off I went to Falls City Park.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in a park in my life.  As a testament to the absolutely gorgeous day, families galore were having picnics, exploring the Sioux Falls, riding bikes, and meandering.  Heck, a group was even taking wedding photos there.

The Sioux Falls once powered a hydroelectric plant for the city and you can actually take a self-guided walking tour full of informative tidbits about the falls’ past including the remains of the first hydroelectric plant and mill.

The falls themselves were quite the sight and I found myself mesmerized by the beautiful waterfalls and even saw salmon trying to swim upstream for the first time.  The day was so pleasant that I took a nice shady spot under a tree to catch up on my reading.

About 2:15, I headed over to the small town of Lennox to check into Steever House, owned and operated by John & Sara Steever.  This lovely home is certain to trigger relaxation as it is on a secluded piece of property about ten miles outside of Sioux Falls.

As I pulled into the driveway, I was greeted by John who introduced me to his wife Sara.  He led me to the Dakota Suite, the inn’s newest room and my base of operations for the night.  This is the biggest room I’ve ever had at a B&B and I instantly felt calmer with the room’s soft blue walls and carpeting.  It consisted of a massive bedroom/living room area with a comfortable king sized bed and a couple of plush leather easy chairs set in front a fireplace.  I also had a sitting room and a ginormous bathroom with a whirlpool bathtub.

I had an early dinner reservation so I organized my belongings and drew a bath.  The tub was actually a “smart” tub with a little computer panel to activate the jets and even warm up the water (so I assume as I saw the temperature go up a few degrees during my bath).  I rested my head on the bath pillow and let the jets work their magic.  There was a set of jets shooting water into the small of my back and it felt like a massage therapist knuckling the area.  I could have sat there for an hour or more having the area kneaded.

But since I didn’t have an hour or more, I lingered for as long as I could then got into my suit for dinner and a night of theatre.

I had made dinner reservations at Carnaval Brazilian Grill and, trust me, if you’re in the area, you need to eat here.  Reservations are highly recommended as the place was packed when I got there and it was only 5pm.  Thanks to my reservation, I was immediately led to my table where I ordered a Brazilian cream soda and the famed Rodizio meal.

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Carnaval Brazilian Grill

Brazilian steakhouses are fun because it’s almost like a buffet.  Instead of ordering a standard meal, you get to visit a hot and cold salad bar plus waiters will bring skewers of meat to your table so you can have as much or as little as you want.

This was probably the most in depth and impressive salad bar I have seen with gourmet style vegetables such as champagne soaked onions.  I whipped up a little plate of spinach salad topped with onions, fresh jalapenos, bacon bits, and ranch dressing along with a spoonful of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and caviar medley.

I returned to my table to enjoy my salad, then flipped my tower for the meats.  Brazilian steakhouses give you a disc (or a tower in my case) that is green on one side and red on the other.  When you want some meat, you turn it to green so the waiters will stop by with their skewers and flip it to red when you want a break.  Over the next 90 minutes, I had a sampling of top sirloin, lamb, glazed barbecue pork, and a signature beef marinated in Carnival’s homemade marinade.  That last was the tastiest dish.  I also tasted grilled pineapple basted in cinnamon which was amazing.  Coming from me, that’s something as pineapple is one of the few foods that I genuinely dislike.

I realized I had made a wise choice in having an early dinner as I exited.  Where the restaurant had been packed before, it was now overflowing and spilling out the doors.

From there I hopped into my car and made my way to the downtown area of Sioux Falls which is quite reminiscent of the Old Market area of my hometown of Omaha, NE right down to the lack of parking.  I easily found the Sioux Empire Community Theatre and you are permitted to use most of the empty business parking lots in the area which one-ups Omaha since you now have to pay at the Old Market parking meters during the weekend.

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Sioux Empire Community Theatre

This was one of the best nights of theatre I have experienced.  The theatre is beautiful and it was a sensational production.  You can read my review here.  I even had the pleasure of meeting the theatre’s artistic director Patrick Pope and the show’s director, Eric Parrish.  Patrick told me I’d be welcome back at the theatre any time so I look forward to reviewing more shows at this little jewel.

Then it was back to Steever House for a little writing and a most restful night’s sleep on my bed’s soft mattress.

I felt fully refreshed when I awoke the next morning and went downstairs to enjoy a tasty meal of fruit, granola and yogurt, ham, Dutch baby, and baked apples.  I also had a pleasant conversation with the Steevers and another couple staying at the inn.

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But now it’s back to reality.  But if you’re in the Sioux Falls area, stay a night at Steever House.  It’s comfortable, secluded, quiet, and the hospitality can’t be beat.

Until the next time, happy travels.