Sister Angelica has been sentenced to a convent by her aristocratic family to atone for the sin of having a child out of wedlock. Virtually disowned, she yearns for nothing more than to be restored to her family. . .especially to the son she was forced to surrender. This is the tragic tale of Suor Angelica which is currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre under the auspices of Opera Omaha.
This opera is part of Il trittico, a trio of one acts written by Giacomo Puccini dealing with death. And death is definitely a prominent theme. Not just physical death, but also emotional death. Spiritual death. The death of hope. And all of it wrapped in a fetid box of hypocrisy masquerading as faith. In the midst of all this tragedy and gloom rises that mustard seed of faith which truly does have the power to move mountains and grant true peace.
Keturah Stickann really does yeoman work with this production. When a show is this short (barely more than an hour), a director doesn’t have the luxury of a methodical build and resolution. The beats come fast and furious and compel the director to help her or his performers reach emotional highs and lows on the turn of a dime and the spur of a moment. Stickann does this effortlessly. Her direction especially shines with the intense meeting between Sister Angelica and her aunt, La Principessa and Sister Angelica’s descent into a depressive fugue. Stickann even manages to add some humor at the top of the opera with some of the nuns trying to outpious each other with vows of ridiculously demeaning and self-abusing acts of penance for minor “sins”.
Ronnita Miller is an imperious presence as La Principessa. Miller uses her powerful mezzo-soprano like a sword as she cuts down Sister Angelica with her scorn. Clearly she holds no love for her niece and is implied to be the force that motivated the family to deposit Sister Angelica at the convent with her litany of atonement. Even her kindness, such as it is, is wrapped in a terrible cruelty as she shares the status of Sister Angelica’s son with a frigid coldness, albeit a slight reluctance to indicate she truly did want to avoid causing her niece pain.
On Elaine Alvarez’s shoulders rides the weight of this show in the title role of Sister Angelica and she bears that weight with incredible strength and grace. Alvarez has a crystal-clear soprano with superhuman projection power that always suited each emotional beat from utter joy to complete devastation. Alvarez also has some formidable acting chops as she strikes just the right note of anger and defiance with her aunt to shedding genuine tears when she learns of the tragedy of her son.
The baton of Judith Yan is a paintbrush creating a beautiful landscape. From the gentle tolling of a church bell to a nearly audible gasp of realization after poison has been drunk, Yan and her musicians create an almost living presence that serves as the opera’s lifeblood. S.A. Panfili has designed a simple and effective set highlighted by a chapel and fountain. Betty Fredrickson’s clerical garb is right on target. J. Isadora Krech has created some very atmospheric lighting especially in the final scene where a bit of fog and a backlight create a hopeful and heavenly vision.
My only disappointment is that the story takes a back seat to its themes. A lot of crucial story elements are implied rather than explicitly stated and it seemed there was a fuller story waiting to bloom. Still, the music, acting, and singing serve to fill in those gaps mighty well and make for a more than effective tragedy.
Suor Angelica has one more performance on Feb 26 at 2pm. Tickets range from $19-$99 and can be purchased at www.ticketomaha.com. The Orpheum Theatre is located at 409 S 16th St in Omaha, NE.
Auditions will be February 26 & 27 at 7:00pm Both nights at Bellevue Dance Academy (2264 Franklin St, Bellevue, NE) Callbacks may take place on February 28 Production will run weekends May 5-21 Rehearsals to start in March
Click here for audition form. Please bring it with you to the audition.
In this lightning-quick farce, four women travel to Dot’s Northwoods cabin to consume copious amounts of wine, laugh at their lives, trade stories and chat about their book club’s latest selection. However, after the third case of wine comes through the door, it becomes clear there will be more stewing than reviewing. Carol, who is monitoring her temperature for the best “window of opportunity” to get pregnant, gets a ride to the cabin from her husband, Rick, who is hoping the “time is right” for a quick tryst. She sends him home, frustrated, in a snowstorm, only to discover that her temperature shows she IS ready, and calls him to drive back and hide out in a shed until she can sneak him in with a special porchlight signal. Meg, recently widowed, is having a secret affair with Dot’s son, only to find he has shown up at the cabin unexpectedly and wants to further their relationship in stealth. Meg sends him to hide in a boathouse until he sees her special porchlight signal and the coast is clear to rejoin her in the cabin. Ellie, the youngest and Meg’s daughter, would rather not be a part of the weekend with her “elders” and meets a young townie, inviting him to hide out in a barn. When he sees her special porchlight signal, he climbs into her bedroom window and sneaks her out to a local bar after the other ladies retire. The only obstacle to each of the ladies’ secret endeavors is Dot, who wants to stay up all night and party with the girls. So they make sure they ply her with plenty of party favors, and Dot proceeds to pass out. The ladies move Dot’s lifeless body from floor to closet to room, as the bottles tip up, the secrets spill out and the men sneak in. The madcap, door-slamming chaos comes to a head when Dot wakes up and discovers her girls’ weekend is full of men!
Dot: 50-60 something. Orchestrates the weekend. Has a 30-something year old son, Stephen Meg: 40s. Dating Stephen. has a 20-something year old daughter, Ellie Carol: 30s. Trying to have a baby with her husband, Rick Ellie: 20s. Single. Free spirit. Doesn’t really want to be there Stephen: 30s. Dot’s son. In a relationship with Meg Rick: 30s. Carol’s Husband Sheriff Tom Lane: 30s. Divorced. Newly elected Bubba: 20s. Townie. Went to college with Ellie. Currently working for his dad.
Lawrence, KS–Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express. By morning the luxurious train is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed eight times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, the passengers rely on detective Hercule Poirot to identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.
A stunning night of murder, mystery, and intrigue is in store for you when one of the finest whodunnits ever written is brought to life in front of your eyes. Written by the legendary Agatha Christie and adapted for stage by the inestimable Ken Ludwig, Murder On the Orient Express promises to be as puzzling as it is entertaining. Tickets are available now at Theatre Lawrence for $30 and can be purchased by calling 785-843-SHOW, visiting the Box Office, or visiting wp.theatrelawrence.com. The show runs from Mar 3-12. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm.
Murder On the Orient Express Adapted by Ken Ludwig from a novel by Agatha Christie
Venue: Theatre Lawrence (4660 Bauer Farm Dr, Lawrence, KS 66049)
Omaha, NE.– Dreamgirls opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, March 3. A trio of women soul singers catch their big break during an amateur competition. But will their friendship—and their music—survive the rapid rise from obscurity to pop super stardom? With dazzling costumes and powerhouse vocal performances, this Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical is inspired by some of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s—The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and more.
The show will run on the Hawks Mainstage from March 3 through March 26, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $25, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.
Directed by: Kathy Tyree Musical Direction by: Justin Payne Choreography by: Ray Mercer
Anthony Haynes – Marty
Justin Blackson – Curtis Taylor
Karissa Johnson – Deena Jones
Candace Gould – Lorrell Robinson
Zhomontee Watson – Effie White
Corbin Griffin – CC White
Jordan Willis – Jimmy Early
Monica Weber – Michelle Morris
Ensemble features talents of: Alicia Amedee, Michelle Bester, CynFranecia Brooks, Raymond Butler, Denzell Clements, Brannon Evans, Ashari Johnson, Kevin Jones, Alisa Moore, Shirleena Terrell, Nyarok Tot, Justin Tyree, and Nina Washington
Experience the teachings of Jesus and His sacrifice as told by the Gospel of Matthew in Godspell which is currently playing at Benson Theatre under the auspices of Rave On Productions.
In a sense this show marks the full circle of my theatrical life as this was the first show that made me aware of theatre waaaaay back when I was in the third grade and we listened to “Day by Day”. However, this was my first time actually seeing the production.
I was very glad to see Rave On tackle a show outside of their usual métier and they passed the challenge with flying colors. This show is a load of fun due to an incredibly talented cast and deft handling of Stephen Schwartz’s score.
The actual script is surprisingly simple. There’s very little originality in the dialogue as it’s a nearly verbatim lifting of the Gospel of Matthew. The originality comes in the handling of the dialogue and the music (many tunes were actual hymns) and that’s where the show’s strength lies.
Many varied styles of storytelling are utilized in the production: spoken word, pantomime, charades, vaudeville, even a bit of performance art and it all makes the words of the Gospel come alive. Matthew McGuigan’s musical direction is especially superb as he brought many genres into the music from Gospel to rock to a bit of blues and jazz and even adult contemporary. Yet he still gives it a flavor as if the music were just written today.
Kimberly Faith Hickman is a triple threat for this production as she not only directed and choregraphed the piece, but she also designed the costumes for the actors.
As director, Hickman does no wrong. The actors are always lively and energetic and each story has its own unique flavor. She well guides the ensemble who often have to play many different roles and each one is unique and well-defined. Hickman also handles the more emotional scenes, especially Jesus’ Passion, with power and grace.
As choreographer, the numbers each have their own indelible mark. Whether from the purely fun vaudevillian dancing of Jesus and a follower in “All for the Best” to the use of flashlights and arms in a most literal kind of line dancing in “Light of the World” to the spontaneous freestyle of “We Beseech Thee”, each number is just as much fun to watch as it is to listen to.
As costumer, the costumes are very casual and bring the characters into the modern times though some have a definite taste of the show’s 1970s roots with the vests.
The show has a strong ensemble which features powerful performances and singing from Jonathan Berger who does double duty as a jubilant John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord and a tragic Judas who calmly offers to betray Jesus, yet has a moment where he nearly reconsiders that’s going to punch you in the gut. Megan Berger can belt a song like few can and gets the freight train rolling in “Tower of Babble”. Brittney Thompson nails the show’s signature number “Day by Day” with a light bluesy interpretation with a voice as soothing as running waters.
The bulk of this show lies on the shoulders of the actor playing Jesus and Billy McGuigan proves he’s as formidable an actor as he is a musician as he turns in a performance likely to have him in the mix for Best Actor in a Musical at next year’s OEAs. His energy and versatility are astonishing as he can be light and amusing in one moment and then tell a simple story in the next. But his best moments are his dramatic ones in Act II as Jesus’ death draws near. His simple, clean request to the Father to avoid death will melt your heart. His refusal to succumb to Satan’s temptations are fused with a desperation to hold onto God’s truths in Jesus’ darkest hour. And his agony on the cross will silence you with its sadness.
If you’re a person of faith, you’re apt to find this show wonderfully worshipful. If you’re not, I’m betting you’ll really reflect on this show’s message as you’re being entertained.
Godspell runs at Benson Theatre through Feb 26. Showtimes are 7:30pm Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased here. Benson Theatre is located at 6054 Maple St in Omaha, NE.
While riding the Orient Express, famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot finds himself investigating the locked room murder of an unsavory businessman. Will Poirot’s little gray cells penetrate the smoke and mirrors or has he finally been outwitted by a murderer who always seems to be one step ahead? Find out by watching Murder On the Orient Express at Community Players.
This is actually my third time reviewing a production of this show and, as always, I’m not going to get into the plot outside of my opening paragraph as I want the audience to be able to enjoy the mystery to its fullest. As I’ve noted in other reviews, Ken Ludwig not only adheres very closely to Agatha Christie’s novel, but he also plays the show pretty seriously and eschews his normal style of broad farce though his knack for humorous wordplay is still very much present.
Rachele Stoops surprised me by approaching the show from a very comedic angle. Where the humor was natural and organic, it was a dead center bullseye. The landing and feel of some of the other jokes is going to rely on one’s familiarity with the show or story. If you’re a newbie, you’re likely to laugh uproariously. If you’re super familiar with the story, some of the jokes might feel a little forced.
That being said, the quality of Stoops’ direction is very good indeed. I really liked the staging of the production as it felt small and confined which really upped the sense of danger as one quickly realizes the killer is among the passengers on the train. Pacing was incredibly brisk though some quicker cue pickups and closing spaces around words would enhance it even further. Stoops has guided her thespians to well defined performances as each has developed a fully three dimensional person.
This is truly an ensemble play as each character plays a vital role and some strong performances came from Mark Geist as the hot tempered and protective Col. Arbuthnot. Dylan Warren has a nice everyman quality as the put upon secretary of the murder victim. Vicki Cain shows some versatility as the head waiter at a hotel restaurant and the efficient conductor of the Orient Express.
Zoe Tien brought an angle to Helen Hubbard that I’ve never seen before and, by golly, I loved it. Not only was she perfectly obnoxious as the man hungry, childish American, but she was a moron. Clearly this was a woman who just doesn’t get it and her obliviousness and pettiness made for some of the show’s best moments. Of particularly fine vintage were her tap routine to irritate her mean-spirited train neighbor and her constant sniping with Princess Dragomiroff.
Diane Kahnk is deliciously droll as Princess Dragomiroff. If you look up unflappable in the dictionary, you’re going to find Dragomiroff’s picture. Nothing seems to faze her and she can more than hold her own with the formidable Poirot. Kahnk’s bon mots are always on the mark and you can almost see the lightning bolts fly between her and Tien’s Hubbard during their arguments.
Scott Clark is a most effective Hercule Poirot. Clark not only brings Poirot’s intelligence to the role, but he also brings his sense of mastery. He is always in control of every situation and I liked the comfort he found in the law for, in his mind, justice and the law were always one and the same. This makes his inner turmoil all the more intense when, for the first time, he is faced with a situation where justice and the law are on opposite sides of the line. Scott foreshadows this struggle beautifully at the top of the show with a reference to a recently solved case and you can see that weighing on his mind when he is faced with the human factor of this denouement.
I was extraordinarily impressed with Jamie Ulmer’s set design. He has an amazing sense of proportion as he was able to make the Orient Express feel like a behemoth in the small confines of the theatre. He skillfully blends three sleeper rooms with the dining car and the design allows the actors to all be present and seen without feeling bunched up or blocking and upstaging each other. His lighting is also excellent especially with the use of the spotlight on Poirot to bookend the start and finish of the play and his use of light and dark to get the audience looking in the wrong direction like a magician performing sleight of hand. Ashley Hothan, Morgan Fox, and Diane Kahnk have well costumed the cast with period accurate clothing that suits the personality of the characters from Poirot’s elegant and perfectly measured suit to the royal dress of the proud Dragomiroff. Jamie Ulmer, Brandon Clark, Doug Stokebrand, and Brielle Toland team up for some spot on sounds from the gentle chugging of the Express to this eerie siren sound that would blast at key moments of the case.
All in all, this is a very worthy show and the size of the audience and their proportional enjoyment have me convinced that Community Players has a definite hit on their hands.
Murder On the Orient Express plays at Community Players through Feb 19. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $20.43 and can be purchased at www.beatricecommunityplayers.com. Community Players is located at 412 Ella St in Beatrice, NE.
Come experience a year in the lives of the people of a poor neighborhood in NYC. This is Rent and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
I’ll make this short and sweet. This is the season’s first masterpiece. Good night, everyone!
Oh, very well. I’ll share some more.
I actually had never seen this show before tonight and did not know any of its songs, though I did remember this show being extremely hot property back when it debuted in 1996. Little did I know what I had been missing.
Jonathan Larson wrote an incredible tour de force with compelling stories and amazing songs. I detected influences from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Shakespeare mixed in with Larson’s heart and vision. His show is also very prescient with its powerful theme of inclusiveness which makes it very much a show that fits in today’s environment.
I’ve occasionally referenced theatrical kismet when a show gets all the right elements in place to create an indelible piece of magic and this show has that from top to bottom. Superior musical direction. A perfectly cast ensemble. Dead on the mark direction. Flawless technical elements. Lovely voices and brilliant choreography. Spot on acting. There’s even a little audience participation (and I mooed with the best of them).
Stephen Santa is on fire with this show. Not only is his direction pluperfect, but it’s one of the very best, if not the best, pieces of staging I’ve ever seen. Santa uses the entire theatre with his actors joining the audience on the risers to make us part of the story. And “Contact” is, without question, the single most perfectly staged moment I’ve ever witnessed. Santa also led his actors to superlative performances. Never did he let them cheat or shortchange an emotional moment and this show has them in droves.
This show has the truest ensemble I’ve ever seen. By that I mean that each role holds a crucial level of vitality and necessity and everyone gets a moment to shine at some point. Some stellar performances come from Evelyn Hill who is larger than life as Maureen, a performance artiste trying to fight the good fight against a lot owner attempting to evict the homeless. Brandi Mercedes Smith is incredibly effective as the no nonsense lawyer, Joanne, who is in a tumultuous relationship with Maureen. DJ Tyree Is not only eminently likable as Tom Collins, but he has a voice like a warm and comfortable quilt and an unbelievable vocal range from soaring tenor to deep baritone. I defy you to listen to him sing “I’ll Cover You” and not start crying.
Isa Gott has one killer Playhouse debut as Mimi. Gott displays some masterful versatility with her depiction of the old before her time teenaged exotic dancer/junkie further bolstered by her sizzling chemistry with Jesse White’s Roger. In one moment, she’s hungrily eyeballing Roger as she flirts with him while trying to get a candle lit. In another, she’s emotionally gutted by Roger’s constant distrust and pushing her away. Her reactions are always natural and right on the money and her jones for heroin when overpowered by stress is palpable. Gott also has the voice of an angel and just smacks emotional pitches out of the park with the flirty “Light My Candle”, the seductive “Out Tonight”, and the haunting “Without You”.
Over the past few years, Jesse White has made his mark as one of Omaha’s finest musical actors and is in especially fine fettle as Roger. There’s a real nimbleness to White’s portrayal of the recovering junkie musician as he leaps from emotional beat to emotional beat and those beats swing huge as Roger can go from upbeat to broken on the turn of a dime. White even had a remarkable way of making his eyes seem hollowed out to show his former dependence on drugs and his sickliness from battling HIV. White shows Roger’s weariness, his distrust, his reluctance to open up emotionally, and even his hopefulness, especially as he struggles to write one great song before he shuffles off this mortal coil. White has got a sensational voice as he fights to achieve that “One Song Glory” which he certainly does with a phenomenal take on “Your Eyes”.
Personally, I saw the character of Angel as the lynchpin of this group of friends. His indefatigable joie de vivre serves as the fuel for everyone’s happiness. When he hits the scene, the day gets a little brighter and when he’s not around, things go awry. In Wayne Hudson II’s hands, the role is a piece of acting gold. Hudson’s Angel just eats life with shining teeth. He never seems to have a bad day and is always willing to be a supportive rock for those struggling emotionally. Hudson is incredibly sweet in the role and he and Tyree’s Tom Collins make for an adorable couple. Hudson has got a nice light tenor which he uses well in “You Okay, Honey?” and the gut wrenching “I’ll Cover You”.
Mark is the closest thing this show has to a central character as he serves as narrator and I got the sense that the show might have been the great documentary he was trying to create. Billy Ferguson gives a top rate performance as the hopeful documentarian. Ferguson’s take on Mark is that he’s always searching for something. He’s searching for that great documentary. He’s searching for that sense of connection in a community. Heck, he’s even searching for the rent money. It’s interesting to watch Mark’s inner turmoil as he battles suppressing his artistic vision to the expediency of money when a tabloid show wants to employ him after his footage of a riot hits the news. At the same time, he is tormented by watching friendships fray and decay in Act II and fears being the only one of his group left alive as nearly all of his other friends suffer from HIV and AIDS. Ferguson shows some emotional musical versatility of his own as he commiserates with his ex’s new girlfriend over her selfishness and libido in “Tango Maureen”, snarkily sticks it to a former friend in “La Vie Boheme”, and frets over his future and the potential deaths of his friends in “Halloween”.
Jim Boggess was in especially rare form (and that’s saying something!) with his work on this show. Not only was his conducting of the orchestra infallible, but his molding of the singers was of tremendous quality with their beautiful harmonies and blended voices. I’d also like to tip my hat to the band as Colin Duckworth, Mark Haar, and Vince Krysl did yeoman work. But I especially want to laud Jennifer Novak Haar’s keyboard work as it just transported me to another realm.
Aaron Derell Gregory supplies some phenomenal choreography for the show. What I liked best about it was its spontaneity. It never felt staged. It always seemed so natural as if the characters just felt like dancing for the sheer fun of it. And “La Vie Boheme” is easily the most infectious piece of choreography I’ve ever seen as I almost succumbed to the temptation to get up and start dancing with the cast.
Nora Marlow Smith has designed a fantastic set as it looks like a dingy street in NYC with the placement of ladders and lights really feeling like the industrial loft of Mark and Roger. I especially liked the rotating crosswalk which Santa skillfully used to represent emotional distance between characters in key scenes. Andrew Morgan’s properties add that sense of poorness with discarded TVs and is enhanced by Janet Morr’s protest graffiti. Darrin Golden adds some technical wizardry with snowfall, confetti, and balloons. Josh Wroblewski’s lights add something special especially with the Christmas lights and the street corner light used when the homeless comically deride another Christmas season. The sounds of Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco suck you in even before the show starts with the horn honks, bustling traffic, and police whistles pulling you into another morning rush hour in NYC. Lindsay Pape’s costumes well communicate the bohemian lifestyle of the denizens of this neighborhood. But she also gets to show off some other personalities with the rigid business wear of the TV exec trying to hire Mark and the matronly wear of the mothers of Mark and Roger when they’re leaving voice mails.
Truly, this was an extremely satisfying night of theatre and one of the top five musicals I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It’s a nearly perfect story with wonderful characterizations and unforgettable music. Do yourself a favor and get a ticket yesterday because this one is already selling out.
Rent runs at Omaha Community Playhouse through March 19. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $45 and may be purchased at the Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to strong language and some mature themes, parental discretion is advised. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.