Great Plains Theatre Announces Auditions for Season 29

Auditions for Season 29 for Great Plains Theatre open December 1st, 2023! Artistic Director, Mitchell Aiello, will be holding in person auditions, and accepting virtual audition submissions for this season. All shows and roles are listed below. Please see details and information on which contracts have already been offered. In person details and virtual submission information is listed below. If you would like to be considered for any shows in the next season (2023) or would like to be acknowledged for a possible replacement track, please email Mitchell at mitchell@greatplainstheatre.com.

IN PERSON AUDITION

Saturday, January 7th

9:00am – 12:00pm & Dance Call at 1:00pm

Please bring one current head shot and resume and prepare a 32-bar cut of a song that showcases you, a 60-second monologue, and be ready with extra materials should Mitchell need to see it. The dance call will be held after lunch at 1:00pm. Please bring clothes to move in. All callback materials will be sent via e-mail and accepted by video.

To sign up for in person auditions (adult and youth slots), please click the link below!

VIRTUAL AUDITION SUBMISSIONS

Please send a current head shot, resume, and an audition video package for consideration. Your audition video package should contain a 32-bar song cut, 60-second monologue, and any dance/movement footage for consideration. All videos MUST be sent via an unlisted YOUTUBE link. All materials required should be e-mailed directly to the Artistic/Education Director, Mitchell Aiello, at mitchell@greatplainstheatre.com. If needed, callback materials will be sent out by the end of February 2023. Thank you for your time, talent, and commitment! 

VIRTUAL AUDITION SUBMISSION DEADLINE: January 27, 2023

Thank you and happy auditioning!

Great Plains Theatre’s 28th Season (Main Stage):

The Wedding Singer (Rehearsals: May 22-June 1, Performances: June 1-11)

Oliver! (Rehearsals: June 12-22, Performances: June 23-July 2)

Nunsense (Rehearsals: July 3-13, Performances: July 14-30)

Around the World in 80 Days (Rehearsals: August 28-September 7, Performances: September 8-24)

Miracle on 34th Street (Rehearsals: November 19-30, Performances: December 1-17)

Great Plains Theatre’s 28th Season (Live Literature Series):

Pinocchio (Rehearsals: February 14-28, Performances: March 1-11)

Around the World in 80 Days (Rehearsals: August 28-September 7, Performances: September 8-24)

Questions? Contact Artistic Director, Mitchell Aiello, at mitchell@greatplainstheatre.com

Click Here to SIGN UP for Season 29 Auditions

Season 29 Main Stage/Live Lit AUDITION – Breakdown

**ALL ROLES listed below are available EXCEPT for the roles notated. Mitchell receives thousands of virtual and in person auditions each season and is astounded with all of the talent and dedication. Thank you for your patience. GPT is excited to continue sharing the magic of live theatre through the sensational talent and outstanding shows presented.

PINOCCHIO

Pinocchio – The most famous puppet

Blue Fairy – Guiding Light for Pinocchio

Geppetto – Older man who builds Pinocchio

Fox/Mr. Big/Mr. Bunksterburger – Multiple-character track

Cricket/Whale/Talking Piece of Wood – Multiple-character track

THE WEDDING SINGER

Robbie Hart – Tenor. The lead singer of a band. Handsome and charismatic. A truly ‘nice’ guy that has the classic lead singer aura and personality. Also, a bit of a dreamer. In love with love until Linda leaves him at the altar and breaks his heart. Ability to play instruments a plus.

Julia Sullivan – Mezzo-Pop. Waitress. The pretty “girl next door” in looks and personality. Engaged to Glen but falls in love with Robbie and is conflicted as to who to choose. Empathetic, caring, and brave.

Holly – Mezzo-Pop. Julia’s cousin. Sexually promiscuous and always up for a good time but wants to be loved and is looking for romantic fulfillment in all the wrong places. She is in love with Sammy. Must be strong belter

Sammy – Tenor. The bass player in the wedding band and one of Robbie’s best friends. A total guy’s guy, but beneath his pretending to love being a bachelor he is actually in love with Holly.

George – Tenor. The wedding band’s keyboardist and one of Robbie’s best friends. He is sensitive and somewhat flamboyant. The foil to Sammy’s super guy attitude.

Glen Guglia – Tenor. Julia’s fiancé. A Wall Street broker. He is rich, shallow, and materialistic. Constantly tries to buy Julia’s love with money. He is a bit of a womanizer.

Rosie – Alto. Robbie’s grandmother who raised him. Motherly but adventurous and always trying to remain “hip” despite her age.

Linda – Mezzo. Robbie’s fiancé who leaves him at the altar. Keeps Robbie around as a back-up plan. Is more in love with the idea of Robbie being a rock star than she actually is with Robbie.

FEATURED ENSEMBLE INCLUDING:

(Many of these roles will be combined into multi-track ensemble roles)

Harold & Debbie Fonda – First bride & groom in the show.

David Fonda – Drunk brother of the groom at the first wedding; gives the worst speech ever.

Priest – Priest at Robbie and Linda’s wedding

Angie – Julia’s mom. Divorced and still bitter about it. Good Singer.

Crystal & Mookie – A stereotypical Jersey guy and girl. Mookie is very macho and Crystal loud and pushy. Crystal should be a good singer

Tiffany & Donnie – Another couple who gets engaged at the restaurant. Tiffany should sound like Janice from “Friends”

Waiters 1 & 2 – Waiters at restaurant where Glenn proposes to Julia

Donatella & Shane McDonnough – Bride and groom at the second (disastrous) wedding. Donatella speaks in an obnoxious baby‐talk voice.

Donatella’s Mother – A very assertive woman

Sales Clerk, Ricky, Bum, Agent – Good singers throughout show with solo lines

Impersonators – Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T, Ronald Reagan, Tina Turner, Nancy Reagan, Imelda Marcos

OLIVER!

Fagin – Baritone. Middle aged leader of a children’s band of thieves. Cockney accent. Described as devious, a user, sly fox, con man, very personable. Must work well with young actors.

Nancy – (Offer Pending) Mezzo. When she was younger worked for Fagin, now a “barmaid” at the Three Cripples Bar. Cockney accent. She lives with and loves Bill Sykes, pretty, intelligent, longs for a better life. Must be a belter and move well. Must work well with young actors.

Bill Sykes – Baritone. Also worked for Fagin as a youth now a feared master criminal. Cockney accent. Good looking in a rough sort of way, sociopath, a killer who only looks out for himself

Mr. Bumble/Others – Baritenor. The Master of the Workhouse. Cockney accent. A large, pompous and corrupt bureaucrat. Must work well with young actors. Will be other small roles throughout the show.

Widow Corney/Others – Mezzo-Soprano. The Mistress of the Workhouse. Cockney accent. Sharp tongued widow, also corrupt. Must work well with young actors. Will be other small roles throughout the show.

Bet – Mezzo. Nancy’s friend, may also have worked for Fagin. Cockney accent. She idolizes Nancy. Must move well and work well with young actors.

FEATURED ENSEMBLE INCLUDING:

(Many of these roles will be combined into multi-track ensemble roles)

Mr. Sowerberry – The undertaker. Cockney accent. Kind of creepy, “buy” Oliver from Bumble to work in the funeral home as a coffin follower. Good Singer.

Mrs. Sowerberry – The undertaker’s wife. Cockney accent. More business savvy than her husband. Good Singer.

Noah Claypole – Undertaker’s apprentice. Cockney accent. May have also come from Workhouse. Feels threatened by, dislikes and torments Oliver.

Charlotte – Sowerberry’s daughter. Cockney accent. Attracted to Noah, kind of flirty.

Mr. Brownlow – Older gentleman. British (not cockney) accent. Kind upper class gentleman, Oliver’s grandfather.

Dr. Grimwig – A doctor. British (not cockney) accent. Upper class, friend of Mr. Brownlow.

Mrs. Bedwin – A housekeeper. British (not cockney) accent. Works for Mr. Brownlow. Warm personality.

Solo Singing Roles – The Rose Seller (mezzo), Strawberry Seller (soprano), Milk Maid (soprano), Knife Grinder (baritone) and Long Song Seller (Tenor)

NUNSENSE

Sister Mary Regina (Mother Superior) – Mezzo-Belt. A feisty, Sophie Tucker-type who can’t resist the spotlight. The head of the convent, she is respected greatly by the sisters. While she is strict, she has a hard time keeping the craziness of the convent at bay. She keeps her guard up in front of the nuns but has an extroverted side. Role requires some very physical humor. Must be able to move well.

Sister Mary Hubert (Mistress of Novices) – Mezzo-Belt. Hubert is in charge of novices but fancies herself a Mother Superior and is constant competition with Mary Regina. She exudes maternal wisdom to novices, but also likes to let loose. Must be able to move well and tap.

Sister Robert Anne – Mezzo-Soprano Belt. Once a child delinquent herself, this rough tough nun is a jokester and constantly challenging authority. She speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent and constantly displays her lack of refinement. Must be able to move well and tap.

Sister Mary Amnesia – Soprano Belt (classical and Country). As the name suggests, she has lost her memory and does not know who she is except that she is a nun. She is spacey and incoherent, often slipping into displays inappropriate for a nun. Must be able to move well and tap. Extra: puppetry and ventriloquism a plus.

Sister Mary Leo – Soprano. Leo is the novice nun who has entered the convent with the firm desire to become the first nun ballerina. Still learning the way and coming to terms with her decision to give up “civilian” life, she deems herself quite the ballerina and displays her talents through much of the show. She is easily swayed to join in mischief. Must be able to move well, tap, and pointe ballet.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

Phileas Fogg

Actor 1 – Plays multiple roles.

Actor 2 – Plays multiple roles.

Actor 3 – Plays multiple roles.

Actor 4 – Plays multiple roles.

(All actors may be played by any gender.)

MIRACLE ON 34th STREET

Doris Walker – Mezzo-Soprano. Special Event Coordinator for Macy’s Department Store. She is a driven career woman and free thinker who has recently divorced. Hard-working and cynical. Must work well with young actors.

Fred Gaily – Baritenor. A handsome Military Captain mustering out into civilian life. Smart, hopeful and warm. Must work well with young actors.

Kris Kringle – Baritone. Kind old man who believes he is Santa Claus. He embodies all of the classic characteristics of the jolly, friendly, warm-hearted icon. Must work well with young actors.

Marvin Shellhammer – Baritone. An aggressive but somewhat bungling junior executive and the head of Public Relations.

R.H. Macy – Baritone. The boss of Macy’s. Very concerned with public opinion.

FEATURED ENSEMBLE INCLUDING:

(Many of these roles will be combined into multi-track ensemble roles)

Judge Harper – Presides over Kringle’s hearing; Judicial; likeable; a bit political.

Dr. Pierce – -Physician at Maplewood Home; warm, caring

Sawyer – Macy’s vocational guidance counselor; character role requiring great comic timing.

Mara – Prosecuting attorney; somewhat jaded; sticks to the letter of the law.

Halloran – Judge Harper’s political campaign manager.

Finley – Bailiff in Judge Harper’s court.

Bloomingdale – Owner and manager of Bloomingdale’s Department Store

ENSEMBLE

Season 29 YOUTH Main Stage AUDITION

Saturday, January 7th

9:00am – 12:00pm & Dance Call at 1:00pm

Please bring one current head shot and resume and prepare a 32-bar cut of a song that showcases you, a 60-second monologue, and be ready with extra materials should Mitchell need to see it. The dance call will be held after lunch at 1:00pm. Please bring clothes to move in. All callback materials will be discussed with Mitch after the dance call.

To sign up for in person auditions (adult and youth slots), please click the link below

Click Here to SIGN UP for Season 29 Auditions

Season 29 YOUTH Main Stage AUDITION – Breakdown

Seeking the following youth roles for the 2023 Main Stage Season

TEEN ENSEMBLE – The Wedding Singer – Male & Female, 13-18

FEATURED ENSEMBLE – The Wedding Singer – Male & Female, 13-18

OLIVER TWIST – Oliver! – Male, 7-13, An orphan workhouse boy. British (not cockney) accent, bright and innocent. Must be strong singer and actor. Must be good at memorizing.

ARTFUL DODGER – Oliver! – Male or Female, 8-15, A street kid. Cockney accent. Very energetic, highly personable, intelligent and savvy beyond his/her years.

ORPHANS – Oliver! – Male & Female, 6-15

FAGIN’S CREW – Oliver! Male & Female, 8-18

SUSAN WALKER – Miracle on 34th Street – Female, 7-13, Daughter to Dorris. She is wise beyond her years and a self-sufficient city girl. Must be good actor and singer.

YOUTH ENSEMBLE – Miracle on 34th Street – Male & Female, 8-18

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.

Cut Loose. . .Footloose

Ren McCormack relocates from Chicago to the small, rural town of Bomont.  He struggles to fit in as he is eyed with suspicion by the town’s adults who beat him down spiritually with their morality laws banning dancing and rock music within the town limits.  A budding relationship with the rebellious daughter of a powerful, influential preacher inspires Ren to challenge the town’s ordinance and provide some emotional healing for himself. . .and others.  This is Footloose currently playing at Great Plains Theatre.

If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, then you know this play was inspired by a hit teen movie of the same name.  Teen movies of this time frame embraced similar themes and characters.  You had the loner hero, the rebellious kid trying to escape from under the thumb of controlling parents, the crusty authority figure, and the smug and pompous bully that you can’t wait to see pulverized.  Well, this show has all those cliches and then some.  It’s also one of the five best musicals I’ve ever seen.

The show is helped greatly by the fact that Dean Pitchford, who wrote the original film, also helped write the musical.  This allows the show to mostly retain its original themes and ideas.  It’s also a surprisingly sensitive story whose dominant theme is finding peace.  A great many of this show’s primary characters are emotionally wounded or broken and all are following a path towards patching up those spiritual injuries.  Throw in a fun score laced with original songs plus hits from major 80s stars and you’ve got a fun-filled night that might even squeeze some tears from your eyes.

Mitchell Aiello’s direction is precisely on point with this show.  He definitely embraces the 80sness of the show, but does an excellent job emphasizing the show’s themes with the quieter, more emotional sequences being quite potent and mesmerizing.  He’s staged the show well, utilizing the whole theatre and well placing his actors so all faces can be seen.  Aiello has also guided his troupe to very strong, developed performances.

There were way too many good performances for me to cite in this review, but some of these performances come from Hannah Hill who’s a lovable motormouth as Rusty and, man, can she belt out a tune, especially the show’s namesake number and “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”.  Erica C. Walker is sweet and sensitive as Vi Moore, wife of Rev. Shaw Moore and her beautiful, plaintive voice shines in two of the show’s saddest numbers “Learning to Be Silent” and “Can You Find it In Your Heart?”.  Dylan Ray Herrin is utterly punchable as the local thug and bully, Chuck.

Carson Zoch is not only a gifted actor, but he’s also, in my nearly thirty years in the business, the best hoofer I’ve seen grace a stage.  He brings an irresistible charm to Ren and is immensely likable, yet you can see the anger bubbling under the surface.  The anger takes the form of his fighting against authority and ramming his foot into his mouth when he gets nervous.  But he’s also a guy you’d want as a friend as he is noble and would follow a friend to the gates of hell to provide support.  That nobility is important because it allows Zoch to really reflect the pain he feels from the distrust, poor treatment, and outright hostility from Bomont’s denizens.  Zoch has a fantastic tenor to go along with his flaming feet which lets him shine in numbers such as “I Can’t Stand Still” and “Dancing is Not a Crime”.

Maddie Allen really gives a multifaceted performance as Ariel Shaw, daughter of the town’s preacher.  At first, she comes off a little mean-spirited, even slutty.  Then you realize the mean-spiritedness is really a reflection of her own anger at her crumbling relationship with her father and her looseness is her attempt to escape from the prison of her life.  But underneath she’s got a heart of gold and hidden depths.  Allen really does a superlative job letting Ariel’s real nature peek out and regain control over the course of the show as she opens herself up to Ren.  Allen’s voice is ideal for rock and she sizzles with turns in “Holding Out For a Hero” and “Almost Paradise”.

Tim Falk is the crusty authority figure as Rev. Shaw Moore.  However, there’s a twist to this character.  He isn’t a villain because he’s nasty.  On the contrary, he’s actually motivated by very good intentions which is the element from which the best villains arise.  And villain is probably too strong a word.  Antagonist would be better.  Falk’s Moore can be unbelievably cold.  He never loses his cool.  He just has a matter-of-fact way of talking that leaves you feeling like you were slapped.  A devastating loss in his past prompts him to try to protect Bomont’s youth with morality laws, but also blinds him to the reality that he is just promulgating his own pain on the town.  Falk is good at showing flashes of the inspirational person he once was and the conflict between the man he was and the man he is gets center stage in “Heaven Help Me” where he asks God to help him reach others again.

Matthew Glen Clark is a joy to watch as Willard.  The character is a bit of a stereotype as he is a hick all the way from clothes to personality.  But his Sean Astin-like charm makes you forget all that.  Clark’s Willard is a decent kid and a loyal friend who will jump into a fight wherever he sees a wrong that needs to be righted, be it with his words or his fists.  Clark has got some impressive dance moves which is best proven by the character’s seeming inability to dance in “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”.  But when he learns how to dance, watch out.  His feet are greased lightning.  Clark’s Willard is also a bit of a town philosopher as he often shares the wisdom (and insanity) of his mother particularly in his featured number “Mama Says”.

Melissa Ford has provided one of the two best pieces of choreography I’ve seen on stage.  She truly excels in large group numbers as her performers flawlessly execute her moves with smooth as silk dancing with the finale being a particular success.  Alicia Santee and her honkytonk band (Gaby Fluke and Jacob Andres) do an incredible job of playing this score with simply keys, guitar, and percussion.  Becky Dibben’s costumes suit the locale and the personality of the characters from the southwestern/rural clothes of Bomont’s youth to the more formal gear of Bomont’s adults to the more laid-back Midwest clothes of Ren.  Mitchell Aiello has designed a simple, bare bones set of water tower and phone lines to depict Bomont and uses a wooden entryway to depict a club entrance and a window to show a private home.  Kent Buess’ lights really add a certain zip to the musical numbers with their use of colors and spotlights.

The only disappointment of the show is that the bully never gets the comeuppance he deserves.  There were also some sound difficulties in Act I when microphones seemed to go dead at various points.  Still, that did little to stop the momentum of this show which is truly fun and has more than a bit of heart.  So pardon me for being a little corny, if you gotta cut loose, go see Footloose.

Footloose plays at Great Plains Theatre through June 12.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wed, Sat, and Sun and 7:30pm Thurs-Sat. 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.

Professional Auditions for Great Plains Theatre

Great Plains Theatre Announces Audtions for Season 28: Season of Possibilities

Artistic Director, Mitchell Aiello, will be holding in person auditions as well as accepting video submissions. All shows listed below will be cast by February 2022. Please see the audition details below.

IN PERSON AUDITION

Where: Great Plains Theatre – 215 N. Campbell St, Abilene, KS 67410

When: Saturday, December 11, 2021 – Registration @ 8:00am – Auditions begin @ 8:30am

What: Please prepare one 32-bar cut of a song that showcases you as well as a 60 second monologue. You may be asked to sing something else from your repertoire. A group dance call will be held at 11:00am. Any needed callbacks will be discussed at 11:45am or conducted virtually. Please bring one copy of a current head shot and resume for the Artistic Director to keep. Must sign up below to audition.

Sign up for In Person Audition at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4fabae23a3face9-gptseason

VIRTUAL AUDITION SUBMISSIONS

Where: All audition submissions must be sent to the Artistic Director at mitchell@greatplainstheatre.com

When: Audition Submissions must be received by January 28, 2022 for consideration. All callbacks will be virtual and sent/received between January 31 and February 28.

What: Please submit a current head shot and updated resume. In addition, please send one 32-bar cut of a song that showcases you, a 60-second monologue, and any dance footage. All videos MUST be submitted as a viewable YOUTUBE link. You may be asked to sing something else from your repertoire. You may also submit any musical theatre reels for considerations. 

Thank you and happy auditioning!

Great Plains Theatre’s 28th Season (Main Stage):

Footloose (Rehearsals: May 23-June 2, Performances: June 3-12)

Matilda the Musical (Rehearsals: June 13-23, Performances: June 24-July 3)

Jersey Boys (Rehearsals: July 4-14, Performances: July 15-31)

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (Rehearsals: August 29-September 8, Performances: September 9-25)

The Christmas Schooner (Rehearsals: November 20-December 1, Performance: December 2-18)

Great Plains Theatre’s 28th Season (Live Literature Series):

The Ugly Duckling (Rehearsals: February 23-March 4, Performances: March 5-12)

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (Rehearsals: August 29-September 8, Performances: September 9-25)

Questions? Contact Artistic Director, Mitchell Aiello, at mitchell@greatplainstheatre.com

Great Plains Theatre Announces Season 28: Season of Possibilities

Abilene, KS–Great Plains Theatre has announced its 28th season. Dubbed Season of Possibilities, the season will consist of the following productions starting in the summer of 2022:


Footloose
June 3-12

Kick off your Sunday shoes with this classic movie turned musical about inspiring a town through the importance of love and dance while witnessing the powers of wisdom and forgiveness. Gotta cut loose!

Matilda: The Musical
June 24-July 3

Follow the classic Roald Dahl story of an astonishingly witty girl with special powers that teaches us to use our extraordinary imaginations to change our destiny. Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty!

Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
July 15-31

Join us for the international musical phenomenon that takes you behind the story and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Come be a part of the challenges, the rise, and the ultimate triumph a group’s music that became symbolic of a generation. Oh, what a night!

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Sept 9-25

The classic literary character of Sherlock Holmes is teamed up once again with John Watson and over 40 other characters to solve a kooky and educational whodunnit. “Elementary, my dear Watson, Elementary.”

The Christmas Schooner
Dec 2-18

This Holiday treat will have you leaving the theatre with warm fuzzies about a story of the Great Lakes voyages of Christmas Tree ships and a family’s positive spirit to share the power of classic inspiration and Christmas miracles. The heartbeat of life is in our stories and our songs!

Season Tickets are on sale now! Early Bird Season Tickets are only $150. This is $10 off per ticket in savings! You can buy your season tickets online or by calling the office. Individual Main Stage tickets will go on sale Monday, January 31. Season Tickets and more information are available at www.greatplainstheatre.com or (785) 263 – 4574.

That Beloved Blockhead

It’s a day in the lives of the Peanuts gang.  Join them in their adventures of life in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown currently playing at Great Plains Theatre.

This show is what theatre is all about.  After viewing this production, I think it should be the first show any performer should undertake because it offers actors the opportunity to completely embrace their inner child and just get into the simple enjoyment of pretending and that is the place from which great acting arises.  And, believe me, this ensemble cast understands that and blasts the ball right out of the park with a merry, fun filled production suitable for the entire family.

Clark Goeser’s script does a remarkable job capturing the spirit of the original comic strip.  Astonishingly, this show holds together despite the fact that there is no singular plot.  It’s like watching a series of comics come to life before your eyes.  In fact, some of the interstitials and scenes were pulled straight from the newspaper.  And, yet, it all flows so naturally and truly feels like just another day in the neighborhood.

Goeser’s songs are also a great deal of fun, sometimes incredibly sad and sweet and the additional dialogue of Michael Mayer and songs of Andrew Lippa seamlessly merge into Goeser’s original story.

Directors Mitchell Aiello and Melissa Ford effortlessly bring this production to life.  It’s clear they understand the spirits of Charles Schulz’s characters and bring them to colorful and vibrant life.  They nail the beats of each individual scene and use the power of imagination (the show has very little staging) to pull the audience into the world of the Peanuts gang.  They’ve also guided their performers to pitch perfect depictions of Schulz’s iconic characters making them all instantly believable and recognizable.

Some of the terrific performances you’ll see in this production come from Emi Fishman who is a delight as Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally.  Fishman truly shines as the obnoxious younger sister as she wrestles with stupid jump ropes and develops new philosophies to shift blame away from her poor work in school.  Ben Jaeger is also right on the money with his take on Schroeder.  Jaeger’s Schroeder has that slightly snooty attitude needed for the Beethoven loving piano player.  His bare tolerance for Lucy’s constant presence at his piano is spot on and he is quite the athletic dancer with his backflips in “Beethoven Day”.  Nolan Hall brings a cute charm as Snoopy’s best friend, Woodstock.

Matthew Cox brings real intelligence and wisdom to the role of Linus.  Cox’s Linus has that even keeled nature one would expect from the gang’s resident philosopher and would especially be required of the younger brother of the combustible Lucy.  Cox’s Linus does have a tendency to be too smart for his own good as demonstrated by his doctoral level psychological analysis of the characters of Peter Rabbit, but I especially enjoyed his dependency on his blanket and the little things he did with it.  He didn’t simply drag it around.  He wore it, cuddled it, and even had an impressive tap routine with it in “My Blanket and Me”.

Given how much I disliked the character growing up, I’m amazed at what I’m about to say next.  Erica Lee Bigelow made Lucy my favorite character in this show.  Her commitment to the role is staggering and she perfectly captures the bullying, crabby, bellicose, arrogant, self-centered, selfish, overbearing nature of the neighborhood fussbudget.  Whether she’s doling out questionable advice to Charlie Brown, dreaming of being a queen, or simply pushing around her younger brother, Bigelow is just a scream as the resident brat of the group.

Mitchell Aiello is a hoot as Snoopy.  Aiello perfectly captures Snoopy’s free spirited nature as he truly marches to his own beat.  With Snoopy it’s hard to tell who’s the master and who’s the pet with his refusal to do traditional dog things like fetching and chasing rabbits (though he acquiesces on the latter to get Sally to stop bugging him) and harbors a certain disdain combined with a fierce loyalty to his beloved round-headed kid.  Highlights of Aiello’s performance were his interpretation of Snoopy gleefully escaping into his imagination to battle the Red Baron as the World War I Flying Ace and his showstopping performance in “Suppertime” as Snoopy’s well known mealtime dance morphs into a Broadway dance production.

Ultimately, the show needs to be anchored by its central character and Billy Eric Robinson is the Charlie Brown required for this show.  Robinson ably shows Charlie’s doubts, fears, and insecurities.  But he also shows his decency, his purity of heart, and his perseverance.  While Charlie never notices his more positive traits, it’s those traits that his friends admire most about him.  They may often chide him for his foibles, but they also gladly tell him that he is truly a good man.

Susie Jolink’s musical direction is a pristine piece of precision and having her onstage playing the piano for the musical pieces was an inspired bit of creativity.  Becky Dibben’s costumes look like they were taken right out of the comic strip with bright colors that just pop and match the clothing of the characters’ comic strip counterparts.  Jim Wohler Restorations provides a set that appears simple, but may be a bit more complex than this show typically gets.  Restorations sucks the viewer into the world of the show with the pillars of comic strips, the top of Snoopy’s doghouse, and Lucy’s psychiatric booth.  Mitchell Aiello’s lights also had that needed X factor with the lonely spotlight of Charlie’s sadder and more contemplative moments and the pizzazz of the flashing lights for the equally flashy “Suppertime”.

Great Plains Theatre has conjured a real gem with this production and you should get a ticket to enjoy it.  Bring the family.  Bring your friends.  Revel in your childhood once again and experience theatre in its purest and fullest sense.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs at Great Plains Theatre through August 22. 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.

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.

Walking Into History: Abilene, KS and Abilene’s Victorian Inn

Abilene's Victorian Inn

Abilene’s Victorian Inn

So it was on an overcast and gray day that I found myself once more answering the call of the road.  I was headed to Abilene, KS, the home of former President, Dwight D Eisenhower, and Abilene’s Victorian Inn, owned and operated by Jay and Adrian Potter.

I felt like the Henry David Thoreau of the highway because of the solitude of my drive.  I was the only motorist on the road for long stretches of time.  Since there wasn’t much in terms of scenery, I had lots of time for thinking and rocking out to the shuffled up tunes on my MP3 player.  About 1pm, I thought that I was ready for some lunch, but no restaurant appeared on the horizon.  By 2pm, I knew I was hungry and decided to stop at the first place I could find.

Luckily, I had just entered the town of Clay Center, KS and found a Wendy’s.  What I expected to be a quick lunch break ended up being an early start to the adventure.  While I munched my burger and enjoyed a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, an elderly gentleman laid his cap down on the chair across from me and politely asked how my day was going.  I told him my day was going great and the gentleman headed to the counter and ordered a drink.

He then sat across from me and asked if I were a local.  When I replied in the negative, he said I had that look about me.  I chuckled softly and the gentleman started asking me where I was heading.  I handed him my business card and told him about my project.  We began to talk and I learned his name was Francis and that he was retired military.  Francis was a fount of knowledge about the city of Abilene and its neighboring cities, telling me a great deal about the history of the area.  After a half hour of chatting, we warmly shook hands and I continued on the road to Abilene.

I arrived at Abilene’s Victorian Inn at 4pm and was pleasantly greeted by Adrian.  She brought me into the gift shop (yes, there was a gift shop) and checked me in.  Adrian then gave me a tour of the inn.  There is a whole lot of house to explore and all of it beautiful.  Aside from the spacious suites, there is a good sized front parlor with a splendid chess set for anyone interested in a game.  The living room is very cozy with a large gas fireplace and a piano.  The dining room was well stocked with cookies, teas, cocoa, soda, and snacks for the guest.  Most interesting was a piano in the front corner.  Adrian explained that the piano had once been owned by Nat King Cole who had actually visited her parents back in the day and had played his signature song, “Mona Lisa”, on it.  I felt honored to touch such a piece of musical history.

Adrian then led me to the Eisenhower Room, my home for the next couple of nights. I loved the rich blue color of the carpet, the large comfortable bed, and the semi-private balcony.  In fact I’m sitting on it right now while I write, people watch, and soak up the scenery.

The gift shop at Abilene's Victorian Inn

The gift shop at Abilene’s Victorian Inn

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The Eisenhower Room

The Eisenhower Room

This piano was once owned by Nat King Cole

This piano was once owned by Nat King Cole

My semi-private balcony

My semi-private balcony

Dinnertime soon arrived and I decided to give Mr. K’s Farmhouse a try.  This restaurant is off the beaten trail and it actually is in a farmhouse.  Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the restaurant.  The experience was a bit of a disappointment.  Despite the restaurant not being very full, I was forgotten about moments after being seated.  After noticing that I hadn’t been served for 10 minutes, a kindly lady at a nearby table came to my rescue when she walked into another room and found a server for me.

I opted for the house’s specialty, steak strips.  The meal began with a very tasty soup which I believe was cream of potato.  It had a nice zip, was creamy, and the bacon bits were a nice touch.  The steak strips were a bit of letdown, being a touch on the bland side.  I finished my meal and returned to the inn where I spent the rest of the night working on a mystery game before retiring.

The next morning I awoke and was more than ready for breakfast.  I was especially looking forward to this meal because Adrian Potter has a great reputation for her culinary skills.  She has even written a cookbook of the inn’s meals which is available for sale in the gift shop.

Let me assure you that Adrian’s reputation as a chef is well deserved and then some.  Adrian started the meal off with an ambrosia parfait that consisted of cream, granola, bananas, blueberries, and the freshest, sweetest cherries I have ever tasted.  After that came Adrian’s specialty:  Coconut Praline Pecan French Toast served with a side of baked bacon with strawberries and sweet cream.  The breakfast looked so wonderful, I almost didn’t want to eat it, lest I ruin the presentation.  Needless to say that feeling lasted for all of a second before I began savoring the cuisine.

Braced by that terrific meal, I decided to explore the town.  I meandered through the business district for a bit and then made my way to visit Seelye Mansion.

Seelye Mansion

Seelye Mansion

Seelye Mansion was the home of Dr. Seelye and his family.  Dr. Seelye created a pharmaceutical empire that lasted from 1898-1938.  The empire came to an end when the FDA told Dr. Seelye that he could no longer make the medicine that brought him his wealth.  The house was once known as the Mystery House because nobody was ever allowed inside.  This all changed when Dr. Seelye’s two daughters, who remained in the mansion until the end of their days, befriended a young college student who became the caretaker of the estate.  In the eighties, the sisters began offering tours of the house and it is well worth a visit.

The house is in pristine condition and many of the home’s original items are still present.  I learned that Dr. Seelye’s wife and I share the same great love for Christmas.  Mrs. Seelye always loved decorating the house for the holidays, usually setting up 80 Christmas trees!!  That tradition is still maintained today as each room had a Christmas tree or 3.

Mrs. Seelye loved Christmas.  Note the figurines above the fireplace.  It was a magnet powered toy made by Thomas Edison that played 23 different Christmas carols.

Mrs. Seelye loved Christmas. Note the figurines above the fireplace. It was a magnet powered toy made by Thomas Edison that played 23 different Christmas carols.

Aside from the rich history and festive nature of the mansion, one of the more interesting exhibits was the bowling alley in the basement.  The old fashioned bowling alley was not only the predecessor to modern bowling, but it also was the predecessor to skeeball.

All of the visitors got to try their hand at the alley.  The rules for this version of bowling were that five paddles were set at the end of a long alley.  You used an oversized skeeball and threw it down the alley.  The best shot would be to take out two paddles.  You had three shots and if you could knock out all 5 paddles, it was a strike.  Otherwise your points were based off the number above the paddle you hit.  I scored a 4.

The alley is also a very valuable antique.  A collector had visited the mansion last year and offered one million dollars for the alley!!  The foundation turned down the offer.

The Seelye private bowling alley

The Seelye private bowling alley

I spent a couple of hours inside the mansion and then started walking back down the street to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  As I walked down the street, I decided I should get something small for lunch and I passed a restaurant called Taco Grande.  I stepped inside and the place was packed!  I took that as a good omen for the food.  I ordered a couple of tacos and found that feeling to be right on the money.  These were some of the tastiest tacos I had ever eaten.  If you’re just looking for a quick bite and you’re in Abilene, stop here.

Once I had finished my quick lunch, I continued on to the Presidential Library.  The museum was interesting, but I was a bit surprised as it seemed more concerned about the history of World War II and the technological advances that took place during Eisenhower’s lifetime than the life of Eisenhower.  If you’re a history buff, I would definitely recommend a visit.  I just would have expected more focus on Eisenhower’s personal history as opposed to the history of World War II.

What I found more appealing was Eisenhower’s boyhood home which exists on the grounds.  This house is tiny.  Maybe 7 rooms, at most.  The tour only took 5 minutes and I just tried to imagine how this house managed to contain the Eisenhower’s 4 energetic sons.

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Dwight D Eisenhower

Dwight D Eisenhower

Eisenhower Museum

Eisenhower Museum

After finishing my tours, I returned to the inn where I organized my photos.  From there, I attended services at St Andrew’s and then went to the M and R Grill for my supper.

By all means, have a meal here.  If you like sports, there are plenty of TVs around the restaurant, each on a different game.  I ordered a Kansas City Strip sautéed with onions, mushrooms, and green peppers.  After enjoying an excellent salad, I supped on a truly excellent cut of meat.  My steak was cooked to perfection and the corn on the cob served on the side hit the spot.

As I enjoyed the feeling of a full stomach, I returned to the Inn where I began working on this article and relaxed the night away.

This morning I got cleaned up and headed downstairs for another one of Adrian’s fantastic meals and some more stimulating conversation with the guests.  Today’s breakfast began with a goblet of grapefruit dusted with powdered sugar and topped off with a cherry.  That sugar really did wonders on the grapefruit as it reduced its acidity and brought out its sweetness.  From there, the main course was a frittata that had an alphabet of ingredients such as egg, turkey sausage, tomatoes, and several different kinds of cheese to name a few.  On the side were some small links of turkey sausage and a light, fluffy, buttery biscuit.

With another tasty breakfast under my belt, I went to my balcony to put the finishing touches on this article and get ready to return home.

In closing, let me say that Abilene is the best town I have visited since I started this project.  The people here are so friendly, especially the hospitable Jay and Adrian Potter.  There are a lot of historic homes to see.  There’s a lot of history to experience.  There’s just a lot to do.  I loved it so much that I’d like to return in the summertime so I can experience the seasonal attractions and more of Adrian’s fine cooking.  If you haven’t been to Abilene, go there.  Get yourself a room at Abilene’s Victorian Inn and tell them Chris’ Corner sent you.