Buddy Storms the Stage

Jesse White stars as Buddy Holly in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”

A teenager in Lubbock, TX completely changes the landscape of rock and roll with his unique sound.  This is the story of Buddy Holly.  It’s the show that’s part biopic and part rock musical.  It’s Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story playing this weekend at several venues under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

It must be cosmic coincidence.  Back in 2002, this show was having its preview night at the Omaha Community Playhouse when inclement weather forced a halt to the show, though the audience members were entertained by Buddy in the Playhouse’s basement.  Nearly 19 years later, the first public performance is again halted by bad weather at the height of the climactic Winter Dance Party concert, but the weather was prophetic as the performers were putting on a storm of their own at SumTur Amphitheatre before the festivities had to be stopped.  And for those of you who were at tonight’s show, you’ll be able to watch the whole thing again tomorrow or Sunday by responding to the Eventbrite e-mail you’ll be receiving.

Billy McGuigan steps away from the role he originated to serve as producer, co-director, and co-musical director this time around.  In tandem with Kimberly Faith Hickman, he serves up a rocking good time with a show as their direction is spot on.  It delivers the fun and the music and hits a couple of Buddy’s serious moments well, especially during his early days when he was struggling to make rock and roll in an area dominated by country music.  McGuigan’s personal experience with the role of Buddy is especially noticeable as his lead performer had every jot and tittle of Holly’s mannerisms and personality down cold.

This show truly does rise and fall on the shoulders of its title character and Jesse White was assuredly the man for the job.  White does a marvelous job in the role of Holly with his flawless accent and he captured Holly’s one of a kind singing style right down to the little hiccup Holly liked to throw in and thrilled the audience with a slew of Holly hits such as “Oh Boy”, “Peggy Sue”, “Every Day”, and “That’ll Be the Day”.  White assuredly makes the role his own, making Holly a very polite and respectful young man who is determined to make his music his way and succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.  When I closed my eyes during “True Love Ways”, I forgot where White ended and Buddy began as his vocals were a perfect match right down to the slight vibrato in his voice.  White did some impressive guitar work and some truly dynamite improv as, in character, he directed audience members to spots of safety during the storm.

Some excellent supporting performances were supplied by Jonathan Berger whose rich baritone made him a superb narrator as Hipockets Duncan.  Ryan McGuigan swipes his scenes with his awesome comedic timing as Joe Maudlin.  Eric Perlstein is a delightful prick as a snotty Decca producer trying to bend Buddy to his will and revved up the audience with his turn as the Big Bopper when he performed “Chantilly Lace”.  And Billy McGuigan has a nice turn as the M.C. for the Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake.

The musical direction of Matthew & Billy McGuigan was right on the money with interpretations so accurate you’d swear you had gone back in time to the 1950s.  Bradley Pesarchick’s costumes took us back to another era and I especially enjoyed the dresses he made for the jingle and backup singers as they invoked memories of sock hops of yesteryear.  Craig Marsh’s sound engineering well balanced the voices and instruments.  Craig Lee’s artistry made me feel like I was really at the Surf Ballroom.

There were a few moments where some of the actors needed to be a bit bolder with their performances.  The interpretation was there, but they needed to just cut loose and go for the gusto.  That aside, this cast did have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands and dancing in their seats and is another home run for Rave On Productions’ freshman season of theatre.

Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story runs through the end of the weekend.  On Saturday, it performs at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, NE at 7:30pm and closes Sunday at 7pm at Davies Amphitheatre in Glenwood, IA.  Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at theomahaseries.com/buddyholly

Blue Barn Recruiting for 33rd Season Premiere

Blue Barn Theatre Announces Auditions for:

Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery

July 31st & August 1st, 2021: 2pm-6pm
*callbacks, if necessary: August 8th from 12-4pm
Location: 1106 S 10th St, Omaha, NE

Time Commitment: 8 weeks
Rehearsal Dates: August 30th – September 29th  
Production Dates: September 30th – October 24th
Compensation: $2,500

Company Members Needed
JUSTIN (38): ex-military, plays guitar, writes stories
EMILY (25): empathic, walks with a cane, appears to suffer from Lyme disease
KEVIN (28): drunk mostly, recites poetry, pines
THERESA (29): ambitious, coke-fueled, writes a neo-conservative blog
GINA (64): professor, Goldwater Girl, mentor or mother to the others

Auditions will consist of prepared sides, and cold readings from the script. Prepared monologues under 2 minutes are welcome, though not required. To request a copy of the script, sides, or to schedule an audition contact Barry at: bcarman@bluebarn.org                   
 ***All artists working at the BLUEBARN are required to have been vaccinated for COVID-19***

Casting Statement of Principle: BLUEBARN Theatre acknowledges the historic exclusion and lack of opportunity for artists who identify as Global Majority (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), LGBTQIA2S+, neuro-diverse, and artists with disabilities. We are committed to identity-conscious casting, and actively working against the field-wide implicit bias and systemic inequities that result in default white, cis, heteronormative casting. BLUEBARN is likewise committed to countering ableism, ageism, sexism, sizeism, lookism and other modes of discrimination in casting that continue to create barriers to participation in the theatre.  
Casting Notes Specific to Heroes of the Fourth Turning: BLUEBARN encourages actors of all identities to audition, with the following caveat: this play is, in part, about Whiteness and the way it operates in America. Each character is implicated. When considering actors who identify otherwise, an openness to investigate ‘passing’, ‘assimilation’, ‘adoption’, ‘erasure’, etc. is required in approaching these characters. Both the creative team and interested actors should enter the process with intentionality with regards to that responsibility. Actors from their early 20s to early 40s are encouraged to audition for Emily, Kevin, Justin, and Theresa. Relative rather than specific ages are sought. Actors from their early 50s to early 70s are encouraged to audition for Gina. 

About Heroes of the Fourth Turning: August 19th, 2017. Two days before the solar eclipse. One weekend after the Charlottesville riots. It’s nearing midnight in Wyoming, where four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party. They’ve returned home to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood. Heroes speaks to the heart of a country at war with itself.

High Risk Element Disclosure: Heroes of the Fourth Turning features physical violence, trauma-inflected character work (particularly Emily), emotional violence, and language and ideas that are potentially harmful to a number of intersecting identities (particularly the TGNC and BIPOC community). BLUEBARN is committed to a creating a community of care around this production with the appropriate professionals and an intentional process to mitigate harm and provide a safe space for this work and the artists engaged in it to thrive. 
For more information, contact Barry Carman at bcarman@bluebarn.org or (402) 345-1576 ext 4

The Music Lives Again with Rave On Productions’ ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Jesse White stars as Buddy Holly in ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Omaha, NE–Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story tells the true story of Buddy’s meteoric rise to fame, from the moment in 1957 when ‘That’ll Be The Day’ hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later on “The Day the Music Died”.  The incredible legacy of the young man with glasses, whose musical career spanned an all-too-brief period during the golden days of rock & roll, continues to live on in Buddy.  Seen by over 22 million people around the world, Buddy will have you on your feet and “send you out of the theatre on an unstoppable high” (The Boston Globe).

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is the second show in Rave On Productions’ Omaha Series – a season of rock musicals presented in various venues around the Omaha Metro.  The Omaha Series debuted in February with Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room.

Billy McGuigan, known for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in Omaha and across the United States is making his directing debut alongside Kimberly Faith Hickman.  “I remember watching Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story in London when I was in my late 20s and I was completely blown away.  It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” says Billy McGuigan.  “It’s been a career goal of mine to produce and direct this show and I waited until I knew I could find the perfect person to take on the role of Buddy because it’s a role that’s very personal to me.  As soon as I met Jesse White in our drive-in production of Don’t Stop Me Now last summer, I knew that was my guy.  He was my Buddy.”  

And so Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story starring Jesse White as Buddy will perform a three-show amphitheater tour, July 30th at SumTur Amphitheater (Papillion, NE), July 31st at Soaring Wings Vineyard (Springfield, NE), and August 1st at Davies Amphitheater (Glenwood IA).  All tickets are $35 and are available at TheOmahaSeries.com

Prior to each performance My Boomer Radio will be on site with a live DJ, taking audience requests and audience members can participate in 1950’s dance lessons with Kimberly Faith Hickman and students from the McGuigan Arts Academy.

Photo provided by Rave On Productions

The Con Man’s Band

Con artist Harold Hill decides to fleece the citizens of River City, IA by selling them on the promise (and equipment) of a boys band and then split with the cash.  However, his shenanigans actually begin to spark a bit of life into the staid town and the local librarian/music teacher sparks something in the heart of The Music Man currently playing at Great Plains Theatre.

Meredith Wilson’s story is considered one of the finest musicals ever made and for good reason.  It’s funny, sweet, and serious.  It also teaches valuable lessons about the importance of family, the folly of narrow-mindedness, and the transformative power of love.  In fact, the script’s only weakness is its incredibly abrupt ending.  That being said, this show does have a little something for everyone.  Memorable tunes.  Unforgettable characters.  And some lengthy dance numbers.

Mitchell Aiello provides a worthy piece of direction for the production as well an exemplary piece of choreography.  As director, Aiello demonstrates a strong understanding of the characters and their motivations as he knows what moments to emphasize to maximize the humor or the emotion.  He has also guided his troupe to solid performances and has well shaped the quirky personalities of the characters.

But Aiello truly shines as choreographer as he has assembled some impressive, larger than life dance numbers that utilize the entire theatre.  Some notable moments were the opening “Rock Island” where the actors perfectly emulated the jostling of a train, the theatrical “Seventy-Six Trombones”, and the energetic “Shipoopi”

This particular musical depends on its chorus and featured players more than any others as the two leads are the only fully developed characters and this group comes through in the clutch.  Some truly wonderful performances are supplied by the barbershop quartet of Bear Manescalchi, Brayden Krikke, Billy Eric Robinson, and Joshua Steckelberg who will entertain you with “Lida Rose”, “Sincere”, and “Goodnight”; Kendra Campbell as Eulalie Shin, the mayor’s wife and town’s cultural bastion who also happens to be a raspy voiced, talentless hack; and Susie Jolink as the steadfast matriarch of the Paroo family. 

But I’d like to give special notice to Margaret Campbell and Jacobi Robinson for their performances.  Campbell skillfully vacillates between being an obnoxious brat and a sweetheart as Amaryllis.  Though he has no lines, Robinson gives a master class in how to be present in a scene and he has an absolutely flawless sense of rhythm as his dancing is so precise and on target.

Corbin Eakes is a blast to watch as Marcellus.  His animation could power a city and he milks the role for everything it’s worth.  He is so delightfully high strung as he helps his old partner in his schemes and he throws himself into his dance routines, especially in “Shipoopi” and “The Sadder but Wiser Girl”.

Rachel Weinfeld is a darling Marian.  She perfectly captures Marian’s aloof, somewhat condescending nature at the start of the show complete with the ramrod posture of a very proper librarian.  As she slowly opens up to the world, her body language becomes more fluid and graceful as Hill helps her gain a new lease of life.  And her soprano is heavenly.  She provided some of my favorite musical moments with her soaring and sustained final note in “My White Knight” and her touching take on “Till There Was You”.

Gregory Gore provides a refreshingly original take on the role of Harold Hill.  Gore adeptly underplays the character and gives him a fierce intelligence.  His Hill thinks fast on his feet and seems capable of turning the most impossible situations to his advantage.  With every victory, he gives a knowing and smug smile suggesting that he knows he’s a step faster than these bumpkins.  Gore also has that oily charm that makes his insincerity seems sincere and he makes certain to imbue his Hill with enough positive qualities so his transformation into a decent person is realistic and believable.  Gore also has a well-modulated baritone that shines in “Ya Got Trouble” and “Marian”.

Jim Wohler Restorations has constructed a terrific “less is more” set with the outlines of store fronts, houses, windows, and an excellent footbridge.  Becky Dibben’s costumes invoke memories of the early 1900s with straw hats, classic suits, and billowing dresses.  Kent Buess’ lights make one think of clear, starry nights and also enhance emotional moments with soft colors.

There were a few blips in the evening’s production.  Cue pickups could have been tighter at some points and the pacing needed to be a bit brisker at certain moments.  Some actors really needed to speak up as I lost a few bits of dialogue and there were a few instances of microphone issues.

In the end, it’s a very enjoyable night at the theatre and, to paraphrase one of the show’s songs, you really ought to give The Music Man a try.

The Music Man plays at Great Plains Theatre through July 25.  Showtimes are Wed, Sat-Sun at 2pm and Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm.  Tickets cost $40 ($20 for students) and can be purchased at www.greatplainstheatre.com.  Great Plains Theatre is located at 215 N Campbell St in Abilene, KS.

OCP Needs Some Passengers for the Locomotive of Death

Omaha, NE.–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding auditions for the upcoming production of Murder on the Orient Express on Saturday, July 10 at 10:30 a.m. at Revive! Center Omaha, Sunday, July 11 at 1 p.m. at OCP and Monday, July 12 at 1 p.m. at OCP.

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: Murder on the Orient Express

Adapted by: Ken Ludwig

Director: Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek

Show Dates: Sept. 17 – Oct. 10, 2021

Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Performances are Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Actors are called to the theatre one hour before curtain.

Rehearsals: Begin August 1, 2021

Show Synopsis: A thrilling whodunit set aboard the world’s most famous luxury locomotive, Murder on the Orient Express will keep you guessing until the very end. When the Orient Express becomes stranded by a snowstorm, a passenger is found stabbed to death in his private room. With the murderer still on board, a detective must solve the crime before the train reaches its destination.

Roles: Hercule Poirot – Male identifying, all ethnicities: A famous Belgian

Monsieur Bouc – Male identifying, all ethnicities: A Belgian man

Mary Debenham – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A governess

Hector MacQueen – Male identifying, all ethnicities: Rachett’s personal secretary

Michel and Conductor/Marcel – Male identifying, all ethnicities: one actor will play two roles

Princess Dragomiroff – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A Russian dowager

Greta Ohlsson – Female identifying, all ethnicities: Princess Dragomiroff’s traveling companion

Countess Andrenyi – Female identifying, all ethnicities: A countess through marriage

Helen Hubbard – Female indentifying, all ethnicities: an outspoken and flamboyant American from the Midwest

Colonel Arbutnot – Male identifying, all ethnicities: Scotsman

Samuel Rachett – Male identifying, all ethnicities: middle aged American businessman

Auditions: Those who wish to audition may choose one of the following three audition dates:

§ Saturday, July 10, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Revive Center Omaha, 2402 Lizzie Robinson Ave. (24th & Lake), Omaha, NE. 68111

§ Sunday, July 11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68132

§ Monday, July 12, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68132

Callbacks: Monday, July 19, 7:00 p.m.

Notes: Auditions are by appointment only. Please contact Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com to schedule an audition appointment and request audition paperwork and sides.

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script provided at auditions.

When arriving to audition at the Playhouse, please enter through the Stage Door entrance on the West side of the building.

Please Bring: All contact information, personal schedules and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form. To expedite the check-in process, please bring a recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

COVID-19 In accordance with the CDC, if an individual is not vaccinated, they must wear a face mask. If

Protocols: an individual is vaccinated, they can decide whether to wear a face mask or not. All performers are required to be fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination will be required upon casting.

Contact: For more information, contact Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890.