Broadway and Beyond Compare

Take 3 friends and legends of the Omaha musical stage and what do you get?  Something completely sublime.  This is Broadway and Beyond which was performed at the Jewish Community Center under the auspices of Performing Artists Repertory Theatre.

Sometimes all one needs is the simple things in life.  Three magnificent singers performing show tunes from some of Broadway’s best (and some lesser known ones) and sharing stories from their long history of performances and I’m as happy as a clam.  And the rest of audience seemed to be in the same state of euphoria as Camille Metoyer Moten, Paul Tranisi, and John Patrick Morrissey swept us away in an amazing afternoon of songs and stories.

The friendship between the three was palpable as they bantered with each other as they reminisced about shows past, but when they started singing, that’s when things really got cooking.

Under the accompaniment of Katherine Turner on piano, Metoyer Moten, Tranisi, and Morrissey each held the audience in the palms of their hands as they took turns singing some of their favorite songs.  My only regret is that they never joined forces on anything but the intro and outro of the show.

Camille Metoyer Moten’s golden alto dazzled the audience with the sonorous “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from Evita and the soaring “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar.  But she swept me away in a cloud of musical ecstasy with the hauntingly beautiful “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music.

Paul Tranisi got the show off to a thunderous start with the godly “Rain” from Once On this Island.  From there, he blended his mighty baritone with a bit of theatricality as he morphed into Tevye musing about what he would do with a small fortune with “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof and then blew the audience away with “I, Don Quixote” from Man of La Mancha.

John Patrick Morrissey exudes youthful energy and has quite the vocal range.  Morrissey belted out “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha with extreme confidence and optimism, serenaded us with a determined take on “My Corner of the Sky” from Pippin, but could also handle pieces with more gravitas such as the thoughtful “Pilate’s Dream” from Jesus Christ Superstar.

I audibly “awwed” with disappointment when the afternoon ended as I could have spent a few more hours enjoying the trio’s songs and stories.  Sadly, it was also the only day to enjoy this concert, but I hope they consider doing this production again in the very near future.

Until then, you can still enjoy a fine performance from Performing Artists Repertory Theatre with its closing performance of Always. . .Patsy Cline on October 31 at 3pm at the Jewish Community Center.  Tickets are $37 and can be purchased by calling 402-706-0778.  The Jewish Community Center is located at 333 S 132nd St in Omaha, NE.

A Honkytonk Friendship

It’s a story of friendship between a down to earth country star and her biggest fan.  This is Always. . .Patsy Cline and it is currently playing at the Jewish Community Center under the auspices of Performing Artists Repertory Theatre.

Ted Swindley has written a pretty effective script.  While the show does pay tribute to Cline’s music (skillfully performed by Vince Learned and his band), it is more about the true story of the friendship between Louise Seger and Patsy Cline.  Swindley deftly cuts the duties of this show between a top flight storyteller and a world class singer as the character of Seger shares the story of how she became a fan of Cline’s music and then befriended her when she performed at a honkytonk in the early 60s.  The character of Cline doesn’t do much acting, but needs a mountainesque presence to go with a superior set of vocal chops.  Fortunately, this show has both elements in spades.

Gordon Cantiello’s direction is quite exceptional.  Not only do his two actresses perfectly embody their characters, but the relationship between them feels organic and genuine.  Cantiello also found a surprising number of beats in the script and keeps it engrossing as the story of Seger and Cline is, at turns, sweet, humorous, loving, and sad.

Connie Lee turns in a winning (dare I say award winning?) performance as Louise Seger.  Seger is definitely a character.  She’s iron willed, free spirited, and brassy as all get out.  But she’s also loyal, caring, and an awful lot of fun to be around.   Lee is a delight to watch with her incredible animation.  I just got a kick watching her react to Cline’s performances as she swayed to the music, outright danced to it, and made VERY sure that Cline’s drummer didn’t rush the backbeat.  More impressive is how she does it in a way that you notice it, but it doesn’t pull attention away from Cline.  Lee also does a bit of nifty improvisation to get the audience involved in the show.

Kellyn Danae Wooten was so spot on as Patsy Cline that if my eyes were closed I would have thought she was Cline.  Wooten perfectly emulates Cline’s throaty alto as she performs her classic hits including “Crazy”, “Sweet Dreams”, and “Walking After Midnight” just to name a few and also threw in a few encores for the audience at the end.  Though the character of Cline has very little spoken dialogue, Wooten had the warm, welcoming presence of the down to earth singer who I’m certain was “greatly relieved” to be treated like a regular person by Seger.

It’s a fun and amusing show and you don’t even have to be a fan or know much about Patsy Cline to enjoy the show.  If you enjoy a good bit of storytelling and enjoy good music, you will have a fun time watching this production.

Always. . .Patsy Cline runs through October 31.  Showtimes are 1pm and 4pm on October 23 and 3pm on October 31.  Tickets cost $37 and can be purchased by calling 402-706-0778.  The Jewish Community Center is located at 333 S 132nd St in Omaha, NE.