A Lost and Troubled Soul

L to R: Noah Berry, Andy Harvey, Daniel Thompson, Karen Pappas, Kimberly Braun, Michael Perrie, Jr., Millicent Hunnicutt, Evan Raines, Horace Smith, and Matt Smolko star in “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”

He was a musical genius troubled by demons.  He was the first megastar of country music.  And he left this world far too soon.  He was Hank Williams and you can watch his story in Hank Williams:  Lost Highway currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

On very rare occasions I actually attend a show purely as a patron.  This was meant to be one of those times, but after seeing this show I felt obligated to put fingers to keyboard to share the gloriousness of this production.

Simply put, this is the finest show I’ve seen mounted at Maples Repertory since I first discovered this theatre.  It’s brilliantly directed.  It’s stellarly acted and sung.  Randal Myler and Mark Harelik conjured a pretty intriguing way of sharing Williams’ story.  It’s told in the vignette style, showing events from the life of Williams and using a nice touch of a pair of characters silently listening to Williams’ music on the radio.  They are people involved in Hank’s life, but they also serve as his id and the fans of Williams, respectively.  Williams’ numbers are skillfully placed as there’s no set up for each particular song, yet each song feels as if it was deliberately placed in its slot for a specific reason.

Todd Davison provided a spectacular piece of direction for this production.  This is a tricky show to direct as it does not tell a complete and connected story.  As such, each vignette is a mini-play in and of itself with its own build, climax, and resolution.  But there still has to be a unifying x factor to tie the vignettes together and Davison has that factor firmly in the palm of his hand as the transitions felt seamless.  He staged the show very effectively though some sightlines might be obscured from your view if you’re sitting at the farthest edges of the theatre.  His coaching of his actors is beyond reproach.  As my friend who joined me said, “There isn’t a flat tire in the lot.”  The acting is pitch perfect and the singing is angelic.

The supporting characters carry a heavy load in this show as they not only help to tell Williams’ story, but also have to play their own instruments.  Justin P. Cowan’s musical supervision is sure and certain with the cast nailing the interpretations of Williams’ songs to the floor.  Evan Raines provides some fine fiddling while Daniel Thompson sizzles on harmonica and, I think, a mandolin.  Amazing acting performances are supplied by Karen Pappas as Williams’ somewhat dominating mother, Mama Lilly.  Kimberly Braun skillfully sings badly as Williams’ wife, Audrey, whose ambitions far exceed her talent.  Andy Harvey brings a quiet leadership as Williams’ manager, Fred Rose.  Matt Smolko and Noah Berry shine as Jimmy and Hoss, friends and bandmates of Williams.  Berry especially impresses as the loyal friend who sticks by Williams until his demons become too heavy for him to support.  Millicent Hunnicutt does sterling work as a waitress who gets a one-night fling with Williams and also being a spiritual representation of his fans.  Horace Smith dominates as Tee-Tot, a street singer who inspires Williams’ career and serves as his emotional anchor and id as he appears to sing during Williams’ times of troubles to remind him of why he sings.  Smith has a beautiful, deep baritone that is Heaven sent and transports you to the heights and depths of emotion.

This show ultimately lives and dies by the performer playing Hank Williams and this show not only lives, but thrives, thanks to the talents of Michael Perrie, Jr.  If Perrie doesn’t get a Broadway World nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, it’s going to be a crime because he pulls off something truly amazing with the role.

Perrie simply IS Hank Williams.  Perrie perfectly duplicates his speaking and singing voice right down to the yodeling vibrato falsetto Williams often used in his songs.  Perrie is so much fun to watch due to his animation and attention to detail, finding little bits of business that enhance action and doesn’t pull attention away from the primary moment.  His body language was incredible as he well communicates Williams’ back issues from a botched spina bifida surgery with his grunts, grimaces, and twists.  Perrie’s drunken staggering and slurred speech in Williams’ darker moments is natural and realistic.  His song interpretation and emoting of said songs is so powerful that when he started crying during “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, I wanted to cry along with him.

Charles Johnson has designed a simple set of a barn, farmhouse front, and steps to be all of the scenes of the show.  Dominic DeSalvio’s lights really enhance the show, especially with his use of intimate spotlights to highlight the more emotional moments of the production.  Eliot Curtis’ props helped to flesh out the world of this show while Pete Nasir’s sound work was pluperfect.  Jack A. Smith’s costumes take you back to the late 40s/early 50s with the simple dresses of the women, the suspenders and dress clothes for the men, and, of course, Williams’ trademark white suit and Stetson hat.

A show like this serves to remind me of why I got into theatre and it deserves to be seen and appreciated.  You don’t even have to be a fan of country music or even know anything about Hank Williams to enjoy the show because I’m certainly not and I truly didn’t.  If you love great acting and music, you will love this show.  You’ve still got 2 chances to see this remarkable production, so give it a try.  You won’t regret it.

Hank Williams:  Lost Highway runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through August 7.  Final performances are tonight at 7:30 pm and tomorrow at 2pm. Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained at the Box Office or by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo by Kelly Lewis

Legal Dose of Love

After being dumped by her boyfriend due to not being perceived as serious enough for the political career he has planned for himself, Elle Woods hatches a plan to win back his love.  She decides to follow him to Harvard Law School.  Initially disdained by her classmates, Elle eventually shows them she’s got what it takes to be Legally Blonde which is currently playing at Lofte Community Theatre.

I had neither seen the movie nor read the original novel, but after seeing this show, I might now do so.  The character of Elle Woods is a fictionalized version of the novel’s author, Amanda Brown, who was inspired to write the book based off her own experiences as a blonde law student at Harvard.

It’s actually a really great tale that reverses the traditional “fish out of water” story.  In this case, the fish is already a highly popular student, but that popularity doesn’t follow her to Harvard due to the highly competitive, ultra-serious nature of her fellow law students.  The show also touches on themes of self-respect and not to judge a book by its cover.  A lot of Elle’s early troubles at Harvard are the result of her bubbly personality and obsession with fashion leading her peers to think she’s an idiot, conveniently ignoring the fact that she was admitted to Harvard which means she is smart (she had a 4.0 grade average as an undergrad).  But when she finally applies herself, her peers’ eyes finally open to that reality.

Kevin Colbert’s direction is truly marvelous in this production.  Energy starts at a fever pitch and manages to be maintained throughout the show.  Pacing was right on the mark and Colbert knew how to merge the serious with the funny, expertly following those beats as those two elements were often in the same scene and, sometimes, the same moment.  Colbert has molded a wonderful set of performances from his actors that were utterly believable and just a load of fun to watch.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, an invested ensemble adds so much to a large scale production and I was extremely impressed as to how much the ensemble was into this show.  In bigger scenes, I kept my eyes on them just to see what little reactions and touches they would add and it really helped this world to blossom. 

Some great performances in the supporting/featured cast include Wade Mumford who nearly got a standing ovation mid-show for the way he simply walked into a salon to make a delivery and let the women ogle him.  Peyton Banks is shallow as the status chasing Warner Huntington III and has a nice falsetto with “Serious”.  Zoe Tien exudes a great superior than thou attitude with her take on Vivienne Kensington, a rival of Elle’s who has a rod up her backside which had a rod up its backside that I strongly suspect had a rod up its backside.  Max Antoine is very convincing as Professor Callahan, a popular law professor who is predatory inside and outside of the courtroom and classroom.

It was great seeing Anna Rebecca Felber grace a stage again as the theatre community has sorely missed her talents.  Felber shines as Paulette Buonofuonte, the hairdresser with hutzpah who befriends Elle.  Felber has comedic timing which can’t be taught and does more with a look or expression than some can with multipage monologues.  Felber has the loyalty and “take no guff” attitude needed for the hard as nails New Englander.  Felber can also belt out a tune like few can with a stirring rendition of “Ireland”.

Alex Rownd makes for a fine everyman as Emmett Forrest.  Normally, he would be the traditional “fish out of water” as he came from the poor side of town and had to make it to Harvard based on grit and grades.  But it’s his “fish out of water” nature that allows him to support Elle as he recognizes that same out of placeness in her and helps her to find that “chip on her shoulder” needed to succeed and quiet the naysayers.  Rownd brings real decency and an honorable nature to the dedicated student and he has a pristine tenor which he can use to humorous effectiveness in “Chip On My Shoulder” to a sweet sadness in “Legally Blonde”.

I rather hope Lofte qualifies for OEA nominations because Olivia Sis’ portrayal of Elle Woods not only deserves a nomination for Leading Actor in a Musical, it was also, for my money, one of the best performances of the season.

Sis just exploded onto the stage and had energy that would light up New York.  She perfectly captures Elle’s essence with that supreme self-confidence, enthusiastic personality, and devotion to fashion.  Most importantly, she doesn’t play her dumb.  Elle is smart, but not always a dedicated student unless the subject matter interests her.  Sis laid out a beautiful arc for Elle as she actually starts this show with a lack of self-respect, though she may not be aware of it as she follows (almost stalks) her ex-boyfriend to Harvard to win him back.  But when she realizes how vapid he is and the joy of using the law to help the underdog, she really begins to peak personally.

Sis also has an incredible singing voice as she consistently knocked balls out of the park with “What You Want, “So Much Better”, “Bend & Snap”, and “Legally Blonde”.

Benjamin Pettiford and his band nailed the peppy score to the floor and I give them bonus points for an item I’ll discuss shortly.  Becca Schmucker has crafted the new best piece of choreography I’ve seen on a metro stage.  It’s fun.  It’s exciting.  It’s inventive.  And the dancing in “Whipped Into Shape” is easily the best dance number ever performed locally.  Mark C. Koski at Sceneographics designed a very ambitious three tiered set with columns painted by Linda Dabbs whose rotations and incoming and outgoing properties of Shila Hansen & The Cast changed locales.  Kevin Colbert’s lights help add some ambiance with the almost pinkish light in Elle’s room to the use of focused spotlights on more serious moments.

For all the great things this show offered, it had one powerful thing working against it and that was microphone volume.  I had a very difficult time hearing the cast during Act I and they would sometimes be drowned out by the music of the band.  And here’s where the bonus points come in as the band picked up on that and lowered the volume in Act II so the actors could be heard more easily and the issues finally cleared by the climax of the show. 

That being said, this is still a virtually perfect night of theatre.  It’s a fun story with some surprising depth fueled by a high powered cast more than up to the challenge.  Take advantage of its last weekend and see a fantastic production.

Legally Blonde performs at Lofte Community Theatre through July 31.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets cost $24 and can be purchased at www.lofte.org, visiting the Box Office, or by calling 402-234-2553. Lofte Community Theatre is located at 15841 Manley Road in Manley, NE.

The Candy Man Can

From L to R: Bodie Kuzminski, Lennon McGuigan, Jay Hanson, Brinlee Roeder, Lily Sanow, Pieper Roeder star in ‘Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka’

Reclusive confectioner, Willy Wonka, holds a contest to find an heir to his chocolate factory.  Through the discovery of golden tickets hidden in Wonka candies, five children arrive at the factory for a fantastical tour and a series of morality tests to determine who is worthy to succeed the legendary candymaker.  This is Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and is currently playing at Scottish Rite Masonic Center under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

I’m glad to see Rave On experimenting with their content.  After a series of highly successful maturely themed rock musicals, Rave On does a 180 with a family show highlighting the students of the McGuigan Arts Academy.

Now this is a youth version of Willy Wonka so it runs a bit shorter than the traditional version as well as making a few changes to the story.  For example, in the youth version, only the children take the tour of Wonka’s factory.  The adults are left out.  In either case, Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald’s adaptation of the tale blends Dahl’s novel with the famed 1971 film.  It’s a faithful retelling, though I wish the writers had gone with the film’s climax which, surprisingly, is superior to the novel’s climax.  Bricusse and Anthony Newley also have written a series of fun songs, some original and some lifted directly from the film.

Kimberly Faith Hickman really provides a fine piece of direction and I especially applaud her work with the children.  Their work ranged from promising to excellent with some providing performances that were as good or better than work I’ve seen performed by some adults.  Hickman generates a real sense of whimsy and fun and tosses in a bit of theatre magic along the way with a brisk pacing that just makes the show fly.

Outside of the title character, the adults take a back seat in this production though Brandon Fisher does get to shine with an eccentric Grandpa Joe who fills Charlie’s head with tales of Wonka’s factory and acts as a bulwark to Charlie’s disappointments with “Cheer Up, Charlie”.

But this show is ultimately about the kids and the featured characters admirably carried the weight of the show.  Lennon McGuigan is clearly having a ball, not to mention being round as one, as Augustus Gloop and adds just the right level of theatricality with his number, “I Eat More”.  Pieper Roeder is snidely competitive as Violet Beauregarde who is drawn to gum like a moth to a flame.  Bodie Kuzminski is not only obnoxiously disrespectful as Mike Teavee, but adult actors can take lessons in projection and articulation from him. Lily Sanow has a bright future in theatre ahead of her as evidenced with her turn as Veruca Salt.  Sanow was perfect as the snotty, spoiled rich girl who demands catering to her every whim.  Sanow also has a pretty and powerful voice as she belts out Veruca’s personal anthem, “I Want it Now”.

Brinlee Roeder is very effective as Charlie Bucket.  Roeder brings a real sincerity and decency to the good-hearted Charlie who constantly encourages the family to “Be Positive” even in the most dire of circumstances.  Roeder also has a nice singing voice, shining in “Flying” and reducing the audience to tears of laughter in “Burping Song”. 

For a guy only acting for the second time in his life, Jay Hanson has some potent instincts for storytelling.  Hanson beautifully underplays the role of Willy Wonka, giving him a quiet impishness and a natural sardonic nature useful for bantering with the naughty brats in his tour group.  I was especially impressed with Hanson’s turn as an unnamed candy seller (implied to be an incognito Wonka) who seems to have a bit of magic about him as he helps Charlie obtain the final golden ticket.

Hanson’s singing is in its usual fine form with stellar turns in “Pure Imagination” and a creepy performance of “There’s No Knowing”.

Matthew McGuigan’s musical direction is in rare form.  No pun intended, but he doesn’t kid around with the music.  He keeps it light and fun, but the tunes also have underpinnings of rock with a smidgen of jazz that just gave it a unique and pleasing flavor.  Carly Frolio’s costumes are right on the mark, suiting the personalities of the characters and hearkening back to the film’s depiction of said characters.  I especially liked Wonka’s outlandish outfit of green pants with purple coat, vest, and brown hat and her Oompa Loompa outfits which conjured images of 90s hip hop performers with colorful stocking hats, black shirts, suspenders, and long colored striped socks.  Kate Whitecotton well utilizes the backdrops at Scottish Rite to take us from the poor home of the Buckets to the magnificent innards of Wonka’s factory.  Kyle Toth’s lights help to support the show with his LSD inspired colors for the “There’s No Knowing” number being particularly effective.  His technical skills were also quite impressive especially with the transformation of Violet into a giant blueberry.

There were some technical squoinks as the microphones would go from being so sensitive that I could hear normal breathing to going so soft that I’d lose singing to the instruments, but the cast didn’t let these slight bobbles have an impact on their performances.

If you’re a fan of the film and/or novel, you’re likely going to be a fan of this show as well.  The children put on a fine production with a little help from the adults and you’re going to have a scrumdiddelyumptious time.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka plays at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center through July 31.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/willywonka.  Scottish Rite Masonic Center is located at 202 S 20th St in Omaha, NE.

Photo Credit: Rave On Productions

Practical Evil

When a violent encounter with a creepy, conservative conspiracy theorist results in his death, a group of liberal master’s students decide to better the world by killing those they deem to be a potential danger. . . which happens to be those who disagree with their way of thinking.  This is The Last Supper and it is currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre under the auspices of SNAP! Productions.

After two years, SNAP! returns to live theatre with a pretty dark and disturbing play by Dan Rosen.  This had actually been a movie and is a combination of a grislier version of Arsenic and Old Lace and the living out of the question, “Would you kill a young Hitler when he was innocent in order the prevent the horrible atrocities he would later commit?”  Rosen has a good grip on the current political climate and his play is actually an interesting commentary on the dangers of political extremism across all spectrums.

That being said, the script is weakened a bit by its lack of character development, dearth of sympathetic characters, and an ambiguous ending (though this becomes less so if you follow the clues.  Here’s a hint.  They’re all visual, so pay close attention.  Happy hunting!)

Todd Brooks has a tremendous sense of atmosphere as he bookends the play between a pair of thunderstorms which well represent the violence of the material and the moment.  He also does an excellent job with the subtlety of the final scene.  Brooks also has led his performers to fairly effective performances, especially with the victims who are the most compelling characters in the show.

Strong ensemble performances come from Dennis Stessman who exudes a cold and palpable menace as the creepy truck driver who gets the victim train going.  Don Harris provides some needed levity as the sheriff.  Randy Wallace is oblivious to his own hypocrisy as the man of God who has a horribly warped view on the horror of AIDS and perceives homosexuality as a disease.  Chloe Irwin is a blend of naivete and arrogance as a high schooler suing her school due to a belief that mandatory sex education is an invasion of her privacy.

As I stated earlier, there is a great lack of character development in the show.  As such, it’s hard to delineate the performances of the primary characters as they simply are what they are.  The only thing that seems to differentiate them is their degree of bloodlust.  The worst of them is willing to kill at the drop of a hat while the best of them comes to realize just how monstrous the group has become.

Roz Parr’s Jude is the primary character that gets the most character development.  At first, she is keen to get in on the killings and is one of the first to suggest eliminating those who don’t adhere to the groupthink.  But she is also the one who truly realizes how corrupted they have become through their heinous acts.  Parr really shines when the focus isn’t on her as her visceral reactions show how appalled and horrified she has become as the murders get easier, but the “crimes” justifying them get significantly minor.

Chris Scott does exemplary work with Norman Arbuthnot.  A conservative pundit in the vein of Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity, Scott’s Arbuthnot is used primarily in interstitials promulgating more and more outlandish bilge until a chance meeting leads to him having dinner with the students where he seems to be a much more reasonable person.  He freely admits that a lot of what he says is just schtick to get attention onto a subject he cares about and almost convinces the students that there is room for differing opinions.  But just when he has you convinced he’s decent, he pulls an act that shows he fully buys his own hype which Scott handles with smarmy aplomb.

Sarah Kolcke has designed a very warm and welcoming home with a comfortable living room and kitchen which serves as a stellar counterpoint to its cold occupants.  Joey Lorincz should win an award for these lights especially with the lightning, the use of shadow, and use of spotlights on silent actors.  Daena Schweiger does some nifty A/V work with the use of the intros for the shows of several conservative pundits as well as her original creation of an intro for Arbuthnot’s show.  Connie Lee’s costumes are natural and suitable to the characters.

Act I felt pretty rough and almost like a rehearsal.  Cue pickups were very loose and the acting in the aftermath of the first death lacked a needed shock and intensity.  In Act II, the conversations felt a lot more natural and in tune with the ever-increasing stakes of the situations.

In the end this show takes a pretty absurdist look at the dangers of extreme political thought, but it also points out the very real threat posed by those who close their minds instead of truly opening up to discuss and debate our differences in order to reach a place of true understanding.

The Last Supper plays at Bellevue Little Theatre under SNAP!’s auspices through July 24.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thursday and Friday and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at the BLT Box Office or by visiting www.snapproductions.com.  Due to strong language and mature subject matter, this show is not suitable for children.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission St in Bellevue, NE.

Seasons of the Valli

Four guys singing under a streetlamp become one of the most iconic pop groups of all time.  This is Jersey Boys and it is playing at Great Plains Theatre.

The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has got it all.  Pathos, greed, temptation, petty jealousies, the triumph of the underdog, the terrible price of success, and so much more.

And it’s all true.

It’s a fascinating story especially as it’s told from the point of view of each band member, all of whom have their own slant on the events of their career.  It’s also an incredible case study on super success as two handled it gracefully, one walked away from the pressure, and another caved to its excesses.  Combine it with the excellent pop tunes and you’ve got the makings for an incredible night of theatre.

Mitchell Aiello understands the many complexities of the script and his direction reflects that understanding.  This is a hard show to direct because, in a sense, the show tells 4 separate stories and the director has to make certain each tale gets the proper weight and focus and that becomes trickier when the stories start to intersect.  Aiello handles this task admirably as his four leads get ample opportunity to shine.  He also has done some terrific staging with some of my favorite moments being when the lights fade out on the Seasons as they fall away from the group.  Aiello also has coached his actors to a rock-solid set of performances.

Some wonderful performances in the supporting cast come from Braden Cray Andrew who adds just the right element of peculiarity to Bob Crewe, the eccentric, but talented, producer and lyricist who let astrology guide his business decisions.  Madelynn Washburn gives a fierce performance as the tough as nails Mary Delgado, Valli’s first wife and then flips that ferocity on its head with a turn as the airheaded lead singer of the Angels.  Washburn’s vocals match her fiery Delgado especially with her lead on “My Boyfriend’s Back”.  Annika Andersson finds some deep layers in the small role of Lorraine, a reporter who has a relationship with Valli, but isn’t wiling to share him with his career or family.

Matthew Ruehlman is a true con artist as Tommy DeVito.  Ruehlman’s DeVito has a certain likability crucial to a good con man, but he can be a real prick, too, as he writes checks his butt can’t cash and rubs the other Seasons the wrong way.  Ruehlman also brings a good sense of vanity to DeVito who thinks he’s the leader of the group (he’s not), but melds it with a tremendous force of will which arguably did hold the group together until they hit it big.  Ruehlman also brings some pathos to DeVito when his love of the high life and get rich quick schemes nearly sink the group at its zenith as well as endanger his continued well-being.

I was extremely impressed with the depth Bobby Guenther brought to the role of Nick Massi.  At one point, Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr, but George Harrison is the more apt comparison as Massi is the quiet Season.  Guenther’s Massi was content to go with the flow until the pressures of success and DeVito’s irresponsible behavior cause him to crack.   His breakdown was honest and true and you could feel his regret at the way he let stardom blow his family life to smithereens.  Guenther also has a big, beautiful bass voice who served as the foundation of the Seasons’ harmonies.

I really enjoyed Clayton Sallee’s take on Bob Gaudio.  Sallee plays the legendary songwriter with an ironclad sense of confidence with just the slightest sprinkling of ego.  Gaudio’s music was a big part of the equation in the success of the Four Seasons, but he never lords it over the others even though he argues, and pretty strongly, that “they couldn’t have done it without him”.  Sallee well communicates Gaudio’s knowledge of the music business with his negotiations with DeVito and his business dealings with Valli.  Sallee also an angelic tenor and knocks it out of the park with “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”.

This being my second go-around reviewing this musical, I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the role of Frankie Valli has to be one of the most difficult to cast in theatre as talent isn’t enough.  You also need an actor of a certain physicality who can emulate Valli’s singular vibrato falsetto and tenor.  Luckily, this show has the talents of Bear Manescalchi who fits the role to a T. 

Manescalchi lays out a beautiful arc for Valli starting with him as a shy, hesitant teenager smoothing out the rough edges on his singing and evolving him into the strong, confident leader of the Seasons and mimics that falsetto and tenor to perfection from “Sherry” to “Rag Doll” to “Dawn” and all the rest. Manescalchi brings some raw emotional power to the role and knows how to act through a song with renditions of “My Eyes Adored You” and “Fallen Angel” that made me want to burst into tears.  Manescalchi can act up a storm away from a song with his smoldering fury and frustration with DeVito and his personal collapse upon learning of the death of his youngest daughter being particular treats.

Mitchell Aiello’s choreography is right on the mark.  This show isn’t known for big, flashy numbers though he gets some boppin’ in with “Short Shorts” and the curtain call reprise of “December, 1963”.  Rather it just needs well-coordinated, simple moves as the singers perform and he does that in spades.  Aiello has also designed a simple set of risers and crisscrossed slats to create the world of this show.  Kent Buess’ lights add fantastic detail and are highly emotional with a tragic blue for sadder moments, red for angrier moments, and a sunset purple for passionate moments.  He also has a good use for shadow as he brings the lights down on each Season as he leaves the group and also leaves the replacements (at least initially) in the shadows to emphasize the star that is Frankie Valli.  Becky Dibben’s costumes fill the bill with the trademark colorful suits of the Seasons as well as the period correct clothing of the cast as the show evolves from the 60s to 2000s.  Donna Rendely Peeler’s musical direction is spectacular.  The harmonies are gorgeous, the solos are heavenly, and never is a sour note sung.

The performers definitely needed to tighten the cue pickups both internally and in dialogue to help boost the energy and some moments of violence and horseplay need some smoothing out to be a bit more realistic. I’d also like to see this show again with a more demonstrative crowd as the quiet crowd of this performance wasn’t giving the cast enough energy to feed upon and that high octane flow between cast and audience is essential for a production such as this one.

That being said, this show is still another feather in the cap of Great Plains Theatre and you should get a ticket to see it.  And don’t be shy.  Be big.  Be boisterous.  Let it all hang loose because this cast is going to give you a show to remember.

Jersey Boys plays at Great Plains Theatre through July 31.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wed, Sat, and Sun and 7:30pm Thurs-Sat.  Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.greatplainstheatre.com, or calling 785-263-4574.  Parental discretion is advised due to some strong language.  Great Plains Theatre is located at 215 N Campbell St in Abilene, KS.

Something’s Rotten, But it Sure Ain’t this Show

Nick Bottom is determined to write a hit play and best his hated rival, William Shakespeare.  Saddled with debt and with a child on the way, Bottom consults a soothsayer to dip into the future and decides to create the world’s first musical and steal Shakespeare’s greatest idea to create his magnum opus, Omlette.  This is Something Rotten! and it is currently playing at Ralston Community Theatre.

Let me get this out of the way first:  not only is this the new best musical I’ve seen mounted on an Omaha stage, it’s now also one of my personal top five shows.  If you love musicals, you’re going to love this show.  If you HATE musicals, you will still love this show because it points out that genre’s inherent absurdities and plays them up to the fullest especially with the musical in the musical.

Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell came up with something truly unique with this show.  It’s historical, anachronistic, parodic, and even brings in some literary theory concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.  Throw in a score by Wayne & Karey Kirkpatrick that not only lifts elements from all types of musicals, but includes a showstopping number that includes a mash-up of some of the biggest musicals ever written and you’ve got the elements for a heckuva good time.

Todd Uhrmacher gets this show and his sparkling direction reflects that.  This show goes in a lot of different directions and Uhrmacher knows when to be serious and when to be silly.  His staging is top notch.  The pace is lightning quick.  The characterizations are sublime and the cue pickups were right on the button.

The ensemble did a very good job of breathing life into this world and there were some incredible standouts in the supporting cast.  Chloe Rosman brings the comedy stylings of Kate Micucci along with an angelic soprano in her rendition of Portia.  Jenna McKain is the rock of her family as Bea Bottom and can really belt out a tune, burning brightly with “Right Hand Man”.  But I specifically want to shine a spotlight on Jon Flower who gave his best performance to date with his take on Nostradamus.  Flower was not only hysterical, but I think the operatic world lost a potential star with that magnificent tenor and he just soars in “A Musical”.

David Ebke is pitch perfect as William Shakespeare.  Ebke brings a Johnny Depp/rock star vibe to the role and is arrogant, oozes sex appeal, and wallows in the excesses of celebrity.  Ebke’s Shakespeare admits the work it takes to get famous isn’t as fun as the being famous part and it’s implied he uses a few shortcuts to retain that fame and fortune.  Ebke also possesses a dynamic tenor and made the ladies swoon with “Will Power”. 

The role of Nigel Bottom seems to be tailor made for Kyle Avery.  Avery is utterly natural and perfectly believable as the gentle, soft-spoken poet & writer.  His gentle tenor can either tug your heartstrings or fill you with the warm fuzzies and has two hallmark turns with the romantic “I Love the Way” and the moving “To Thine Own Self Be True”.  However, he does need to be careful not to go overboard with the pitch on his speaking voice in some of his more lamentable moments.

Steve Krambeck adds some serious layers to the role of Nick Bottom.  Bottom is a pretty conflicted guy.  He’s a decent sort, but his jealousy of Shakespeare’s success and his desperation to dig himself out of a financial and creative hole compel him to act recklessly and behave childishly.  Krambeck admirably balances and reflects Bottom’s many sides and adds his own mighty tenor with turns in “Bottom’s Going to Be on Top” and “God, I Hate Shakespeare”.

Chris Ebke and his orchestra show some impressive versatility with their handling of the highly varied score.  Debbie Massy-Schneweis has supplied the best piece of choreography I’ve seen in a local production.  This show has big numbers and Massy-Schneweis rises to the occasion with some of my favorite numbers being “A Musical” and “Make an Omlette”.  The production was fortunate to have the skills of Joey Lorincz as he designed yet another stellar set with the Renaissance building cutouts and utilizing a screen which projected illustrations of London Bridge, streets, and parks to indicate locale changes.  His lights always add something special such as tight spotlights on intimate numbers and his going to town with colors in “A Musical”.  Leah Skorupa-Mezger’s costumes suit the Renaissance period with the poofy pants, the colorful jerkins, the period correct dresses, and an elaborate scene with dancing eggs and omlettes.

Some of the dancing needed to be a bit cleaner and relaxed and a few bits of dialogue weren’t picked up by the mikes, but that did little to stop the avalanche of awesomeness that was this show.

If you’re looking for some fun and are a fan of theatre or even an opponent of musicals, then this is the show to see.  It’s the best thing going this summer.

Something Rotten! plays at the Ralston Performing Arts Center in Ralston High School under the auspices of Ralston Community Theatre through July 24.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 2pm.  Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased at the Box Office, calling 402-898-3545, or visiting www.ralstoncommunitytheatre.org.  Parental discretion is advised for this production.  Ralston Community Theatre is located at 8969 Park Dr in Ralston, NE.

A Most Unwelcome Pest. Err. . .Guest

Willum Cubbert is dealing with quite a bit of frustration in his life.  His creativity is being whittled down to blah by a dull client.  The woman he loves is moving to D.C. to be a weather girl.  On the upside, he’s about to meet the man who saved his life in Vietnam.  But, when he arrives, Willum discovers he’s a creature beyond terror.  He’s. . .He’s. . .The Nerd!!!!  And it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

The plays of Larry Shue are enjoyable in every conceivable aspect (reading, performing, watching, and directing) and The Nerd is one of his finest and best known.  Shue not only had a great gift for wordplay, but he also had a flair for the ridiculous and a penchant for creating a title character who takes absurdity to the zenith.  As such, his farces are a rich source of fodder for directors and performers.

For a play of this type, I can think of no better director than Peter Reynolds who has a positive bent towards handling this kind of material.  Once again, he rises to the occasion with his direction of this piece.  Not only has Reynolds guided his actors to superior performances, but he knows how to get his thespians to mobilize the frenetic words so that they not only sound funny, but believable, no matter how outrageous the situation.  Reynolds also knows how to craft bits so funny with timing so smooth and coordinated that you’ll laugh until your ribs ache.

Splendid supporting performances were supplied by Holden White who’s an obnoxious brat as Thor Waldgrave.  Sandia Ahlers is darling as the meek Celia Waldgrave whose repressed anger manifests in the destruction of breakable objects.  Trevor Belt is the blustering, unimaginative hotel magnate.  Kimberly Braun is a unique blend of supportive friend and proponent of women’s lib as Tansy McGinnis.

Michael Perrie, Jr. darn near steals the show as Axel Hammond.  Perrie is perfect for the role and just glows as the cynical theatre critic.  His witty asides are so extemporaneous that I wondered if some of them were improvised.  Perrie is also a great deal of fun to watch as he always finds bits of business that keep him involved in the scene, but enhance the primary action as opposed to drawing attention away from it.  He’s also great at the absurd parts of farce and his chant at the play’s climax is one of the show’s hallmark moments.

Nick Ferrucci is the consummate everyman as Willum Cubbert.  Cubbert epitomizes most of Shue’s leads:  a nice guy who has difficulty standing up for himself and going for what he wants until an outside force galvanizes him.  Ferrucci is completely believable as the kind-hearted architect, but his life spirals out of control when he finally meets his nerdy pen pal who once saved his life.  Ferrucci skillfully walks that line of a man trying to maintain his gratitude while simultaneously losing his mind.  His meltdowns are hilarious especially when he practices speeches throwing out his pesty acquaintance and has a knack for farcical improv with his machinations to get Steadman out the door.

And the source of all this turmoil is Rick Steadman, brilliantly essayed by Andy Harvey.  Anything you can think of when you hear the word “nerd” is embodied in Harvey’s take.  Steadman has a nasally, adenoidal voice.  His dress sense is godawful.  He’s completely oblivious to social cues.  He has weird hobbies like adapting songs for tambourine.  He’s also good-hearted and well-meaning, but he has the Sadim (read that backwards) touch as everything he touches turns to blech.  Harvey doesn’t chew the scenery.  He devours it and has a grand time doing so and brings you along for the ride.

Dana Weintraub has designed a comfortable apartment for the level-headed Cubbert and the properties of Eliot Curtis give it that homey atmosphere (bonus points for digging up the Fry Guy on the bookcase to give the place that 80s feel).  Jack Smith’s costumes suit the personalities of the various characters from the suits of the urbane Axel and business minded Walgrave to Steadman’s rainbow-colored suspenders and ill-fitting clothes to the smart dresses of Tansy. 

This show is pure escapism.  Grab a ticket and laugh yourself into a happy place. It’ll cure what ails you.

The Nerd plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on July 16, 22, and 30 and 2pm on July 12, 17, 22, 26-27, and 31. Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained at the Box Office or by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Gaslit

A cruel sociopath slowly drives his wife insane and her only hope for escape lies in an eccentric detective obsessed with solving an open case from early in his career.  This is Angel Street and it is currently playing at Brownville Village Theatre.

I had heard of this story under its more famous name of Gaslight, but this was my first time seeing it in any medium and I had really been missing out on something special.  Patrick Hamilton wrote a tight, taut thriller that had me hooked from start to finish.  Hamilton has a grand gift for words and knows how to use them to build mood, tension, intrigue, and emotion.  This play is completely dialogue driven, but Hamilton’s skill in plotting had me feeling as if I had run a marathon by the time it was all said and done.

Now a play needs more than good words to sell it.  It also needs fantastic acting and direction to unlock the full potential of those words and this play has all of that and so much more.

Mitch Bean’s direction is spot on.  He understands the many twists and turns of the play’s mazelike plot and knows how to build and resolve the play’s many intense scenes.  Some of his finest moments were the final confrontations between Mr. Manningham and Detective Rough and Mr. and Mrs. Manningham.  The Manningham/Rough scene is particularly gripping and is the verbal equivalent of a savage fistfight with the way the two men continue circling each other and fling words at each other like knives.  Bean has also coached his entire cast to sterling performances with nary a weak link among them.

Bella Walker and Lucy Haarmann are very strong in the smaller roles of household servants.  As Elizabeth, Haarmann is very loyal to her mistress and is actually the character that first leads Mrs. Manningham to her first steps on her road to freedom.  Walker is very smug and saucy as Nancy, a servant who acts like and has ambitions to be the mistress of the house.

I have to admit that when I first saw Benjamin Salazar, I thought he was a little young for the role of Mr. Manningham, but, the second he opened his mouth, I completely bought into the illusion.  Salazar has a rich and powerful voice that belies his youth and is suited for the evil Manningham.  And, believe me, evil is defined by this man.  Though he has the manners of a gentleman, Manningham is a cruel, vicious monster.  Salazar knows how to use Manningham’s words like a weapon as he constantly pummels his wife emotionally and even teases her with occasional bursts of kindness.  Salazar plays Manningham with an uber controlled menace and his ramrod posture makes Manningham seem like a cocked gun threatening to go off at any moment.  And that control is crucial as it makes his explosive moments of anger and violence truly frightening as the play surges to its conclusion.

Trevor Comstock is a delight as Detective Rough.  Comstock’s take on Rough reminded me of Jim Hutton’s interpretation of the fictional detective, Ellery Queen, as he seemed to be a bit of an absent-minded genius.  He clearly listens to Mrs. Manningham as he questions her about her current situation and husband, but his eyes show that he’s thinking ten steps ahead which make his replies seem cryptic, yet they’re not.  Comstock brings an indefatigable energy to the character as he warps about the room and you can practically taste his excitement in finally closing the lone open case of his career.  Comstock also brings the commanding presence needed to both buoy Mrs. Manningham and cow the steely Mr. Manningham.

Rachel Curtiss brings her all to the role of Mrs. Manningham.  This is not an easy role to play due to the massive emotional shifts of the character, but Curtiss nails it to the floor.  Curtiss does a good job of vacillating between being nearly broken emotionally and mentally, to a brief burst of happiness, to the wonderment of Rough’s story, to a little gaslighting of her own when she confronts her brute of a husband.  Curtiss’ body language is phenomenal as she seems like a spring that has been wound too tight and seems apt to break at any moment.

Mitch Bean has designed a fine upper middle-class house with well to do furniture such as a desk and secretary with fine china.  Sara Scheidies’ costumes suit the period of the time especially with the Victorian dress of Mrs. Manningham and the elegant wear and ascots of Mr. Manningham.  Trevor Comstock’s usage of lights is one of the best I’ve seen in a show as he uses it to set mood, particularly with the gaslights as the room darkens and lights based on the flow of gas.  Benjamin Salazar’s sounds help to enhance the action with the sounds of footsteps being a favorite of mine.

This is a truly intense and gripping night of theatre and I highly recommend seeing it and bringing a friend or loved one to get you through the spooky moments.  While this may be my first visit to Brownville Village Theatre, I can guarantee it won’t be my last.

Angel Street plays at Brownville Village Theatre through August 12.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on July 16 and 24, and August 4 and 12 and 2pm on July 23 and 31 and August 7.  Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.brownvillevillagetheatre.com, or calling 402-825-4121.  Due to intense scenes and subject matter, this show is not suitable for children.  Brownville Village Theatre is located at 222 Water Street in Brownville, NE.

Tender Trash

From L to R: Millicent Hunnicutt, Lisa DeChristofaro, Andy Harvey, Sandia Ahlers, Julia Rocchio, Noah Berry, Alexis Reda star in “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”

A love quadrangle breaks out at Armadillo Acres Trailer Park between a toll collector, his agoraphobic wife, an exotic dancer, and her crazed, fume huffing ex-boyfriend.  It may sound like an episode of Jerry Springer, but it’s The Great American Trailer Park Musical and it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

Betsy Kelso seems to have been heavily influenced by both Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Show.  Like Shop, the story is narrated by a trio of women who serve as the Greek chorus and the weird characters definitely hearken back to Rocky.  Two big differences are that this show lacks the darkness of the others and the songs of David Nehls are much deeper and add some character depth that the dialogue does not.  The end result is a truly fun show.

Deep this show is not, nor is it intended to be.  What sells it is that the characters are such, well, characters.  It’s an actor’s delight as they can throw caution to the wind, chew the scenery, and blow the lid off as they go over the top.

Brandon McShaffrey understands that and his actors are sterling with their larger than life, stereotyped performances.  Any cliché that pops into your mind when you hear “trailer park” is found in this show and then some.  McShaffrey gets his actors to lean into it with everything they’ve got and mixes it with their golden voices to serve up a rib-tickling good time.  McShaffrey also throws in suitable choreography.  Nothing fancy or flashy.  Just fun and catchy.

Millicent Hunnicutt, Lisa DeChristofaro, and Alexis Reda kill it as the Greek chorus.  Unlike other choruses, each actress has actually molded a well-defined character which adds a vital bit of pep to the production.  Hunnicutt is the group’s leader as Betty, the trailer park manager with an Ethel Merman type presence, but a more powerful and developed singing voice.  DeChristofaro is hilarious as Linoleum who moons over her death row husband and constantly seeks to prolong his life by keeping the power on to prevent the electric chair from working.  Reda is a riot as Pickles, a dumb as a post ditz suffering from a hysterical pregnancy.

All three ladies have beautiful singing voices and maintain perfect harmony and shine in “This Side of the Tracks”, “That’s Why I Love My Man”, and “Storm’s A-Brewin’”.

Noah Berry excels in the role of Duke, the fume huffing, loose cannon ex-boyfriend.  Berry knows how to be big and just eats the role with shining teeth.  What I like best about Berry’s interpretation is that he makes Duke unpredictable, but not excessively dangerous.  Rest assured, he’s got a screw loose, but wouldn’t really hurt another person.  Small animals, on the other hand, need to be wary, lest they become the “Road Kill” he seems likely to create when driving and sniffing.

Julia Rocchio brings a new take to the stereotypical “bad girl with a heart of gold” role.  Rocchio’s Pippi does not have a heart of gold.  To be honest, she’s downright selfish as she gladly fools around with a married man, but she manages to be sympathetic at the same time.  Pippi has been wounded a lot in her life and is constantly on the run from her ex so one can understand that she would grab happiness wherever and whenever she could find it.  Rocchio does a fantastic job of showing that woundedness in her best number “But He’s Mine”.

Andy Harvey gets the deepest character with Norbert Garstecki.  Harvey’s Garstecki seems like a pretty decent and likable guy at the top of the show.  He’s deeply in love with his wife and has been trying to help her through her agoraphobia for the entirety of their marriage.  He only gives up when an anniversary outing to the Ice Capades fails to entice his wife out of their trailer and it is then that his eye starts to rove.  Harvey actually does a good job of making Norbert’s behavior understandable, if not acceptable.  Harvey also has an amazing bass voice and gets some of the show’s more emotional numbers including brilliant renditions of “One Step Closer” and “It’s Never Easy”.

Sandia Ahlers is very sweet as Jeannie Garstecki and she makes Jeannie’s struggle with agoraphobia a very real battle.  It’s almost as if her phobia is a physical enemy as she painfully (and humorously) works her way down the patio stairs by any means necessary (think ropes and flotation devices) in an attempt to conquer her fears.  Ahlers can also belt out a tune like nobody’s business and has mighty turns in “Owner of My Heart” “Panic” and “Flushed Down the Pipes”.

Justin P. Cowan and his band (Chris Fritschie, Kate Hutton, and Nick Ferruci) rock out with the show’s score.  Denise Warner’s costumes fit the trashiness of the characters from cheap dresses to jean shorts and T-shirts to tight leather pants and tops to cowboy hats and cut-offs.  Dana Weintraub’s set is perfect with the dilapidated trailers of Armadillo Acres and the cheap furniture inside the Garstecki trailer.  Dominic DeSalvio’s use of spotlights bring the right focus on characters during musical numbers and the malevolent red and shade used for the nightmare sequence really sells it.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds help to enhance the show from radio static and stations at the top to the gunshot in the final confrontation.

There were some moments when the microphones went soft and I lost pieces of dialogue and songs, but that did little to detract from the entertainment.  It’s truly fun theatre and definitely an escape from life for a while.  If you want to feel better about yourself, go immerse yourself in the plight of these characters.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical continues at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 10.  Showtimes are 2pm on June 28-29, July 3, 8, and 10 and 7:30pm on July 2, 6, and 9.  Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924.  Parental caution is suggested due to some language and themes.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo by Kelly Lewis

Oh, What a Night!!

Four guys from New Jersey form one of the most successful musical groups of the 1960s.  This is the story of The Four Seasons.  This is Jersey Boys and it is currently playing at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

Few things thrill me more than walking out of a theatre and knowing that I’ve seen something truly special.  This show didn’t just hit a home run.  It hit an out of the park, ball leaving my scope of vision home run.

While I am familiar with the music of the Four Seasons, I was unfamiliar with their personal story.  And what a story!  The Four Seasons were no saints.  Petty crime, infidelities, family struggles, tax issues, group strife, debt to the wrong people were just some of the problems plaguing the group.  Aside from their gripping story, I even learned there truly is a difference between The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice do an incredible job sharing this fascinating tale as each of the Four Seasons presents his own viewpoint on what went on in the group and shows the powerful influence of perception.  Throw in the group’s legendary hits and you’ve got a compelling show from start to finish.

The entire ensemble did a superlative job.  Each was always in the moment and really fleshed out the little world of the musical.  Some of the outstanding performances featured were supplied by Grace Bobber who is a combustible fireball as Valli’s first wife, Mary Delgado.  Steve Isom is a force as fixer, Gyp DeCarlo.  Lauren Echausse has some diverse turns as the lead singer of the Angels whose impressive pipes are matched by her dimwittedness and a sweet turn as Valli’s lover, Lorraine.  Anthony De Marte provides some levity as Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci) who played a key role in the formation of the Four Seasons. 

I was stunned to learn that this was Michael Ingersoll’s directing debut as he has the poise and polish of a director with numerous shows under his belt.  The energy of this show is relentless.  It starts at a fever pitch and just gets higher, pulling the audience in deeper and deeper.  His knowledge of the beats is spot on and he knew how to emphasize each crucial moment with proper setup, tension, and resolution. Ingersoll guided his actors to top quality performances with well defined interpretations and precision pacing and cue pickups.

Depending on one’s point of view, Ryan Williams’ Tommy DeVito is either the guy you hate to love or the guy you love to hate.  Williams just oozes confidence and charm as the founder of the Four Seasons.  DeVito is a lovable scoundrel and con artist and it’s hard to separate the truth from his bull because it is so finely blended together.  He claims to have watched over the group as a big brother and handled the seedier sides of show business during their salad days and there probably was some truth to that.  But he can also be a real prick and the way he rubs the others the wrong way and his own personal financial troubles nearly sink the group at their peak.  Williams deftly portrays all sides of DeVito’s complex personality getting you to despise, respect, or even be amused by him at his discretion.

Jason Michael Evans is an ideal Nick Massi.  At one point, Evans’ Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr and there is a lot of truth to that.  According to Evans’ interpretation, Massi was the most easygoing member of the group and his gift for harmony was equal to Starr’s gift for rhythm due to its intense precision.  Evans also brings a real depth to Massi with his being uncomfortable with success as its stress leads him to drink and the temptations of the road inspire him to screw around on his family.  Eventually the weight of the business forces Massi to make a life altering decision and Evans handles that moment with a gracefully understated honesty.

Bob Gaudio is to The Four Seasons what Pete Townshend is to The Who.  Gaudio was the genius songwriter of the group and already had a major hit at the age of 15 with “Short Shorts” before he joined The Four Seasons.  Erik Keiser is a sheer joy in the role as he plays Gaudio with a wise beyond his years vibe and keen intelligence.  Keiser’s Gaudio is nobody’s fool given how he negotiates his way into the group as an equal partner and never loses sight of the business aspect of music.  What I liked best about Keiser’s take is that he is fully aware of his role in the group’s rise, but isn’t arrogant about it.  It was just the truth. 

Courter Simmons is gold in the role of Frankie Valli.  Valli has the most distinctive falsetto in pop music and is instantly recognizable.  When I closed my eyes during Simmons’ singing, I would swear it was Valli himself singing as Simmons perfectly emulates Valli’s falsetto and singing style.  Simmons’ singing is well matched by his acting and he does beautiful work with Valli’s arc.  Evolving from the shy teenager whom DeVito wrangles into the group to the strong, confident leader who never forgets family.  Simmons skillfully handles the more dramatic moments of Valli’s life from his fractured relationships with his first wife and youngest daughter to dealing with the implosion of the original Four Seasons.

Brett Kristofferson and his band were so subtle and skillful that it took me until the end of the first act to realize that the actors weren’t playing their own instruments.  His music direction is spot on as the four principals nail the iconic songs to the floor and are always in perfect harmony.  Courtney Oliver’s choreography is exactly what’s needed for the show.  There aren’t any flashy dance numbers, just the well-organized movements of the singers as they perform, though she gets a wonderful big moment in the curtain call.  Ryan J. Ziringibl has designed a simple set of stairs, walls, and fence, but it is quite effective as it allows furniture to roll in and out to change the scenes.  Jonathan A. Reed’s lights greatly enhance the story from making you feel you’re at a concert or club to a fine moment when you see the group performing from a backstage point of view and his stage lights fuel that illusion.  Garth Dunbar’s costumes bring you back in time with the perfect suits and dresses from the late 50s to the late 60s.  Jon Robertson’s sounds help bolster the show and keep it in fine form.

This is an excellent show and I highly encourage you to grab a ticket while you can because they are selling like hotcakes.  For myself, this show was a superior introduction to Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre and I look forward to my inevitable return.

Jersey Boys plays at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre through July 3.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and 2pm and 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets cost $46 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.lyceumtheatre.org, calling 660-837-3311, or visiting Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall, MO where single tickets can be purchased from Michelle England from 9am-3pm Mon-Fri.  Due to some of the subject matter, parental discretion is advised for this show.  Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is located at 114 High Street in Arrow Rock, MO.