Rave On Productions Roars On with 2023 Season

Omaha, NE–Rave On Productions will open its 2023 Omaha Series with Godspell, the beloved classic from the Grammy and Academy Award winning composer, Stephen Schwartz. Godspell tells the timeless tale of friendship, loyalty and community and will be presented in the newly renovated Benson Theatre. The show features a cast of Omaha favorites including Billy McGuigan as Jesus. Godspell runs February 10 – 26th.

In September, Rave On Productions brings to life the legendary songbook of Johnny Cash with Ring of Fire. Ring of Fire takes us on a journey of love and faith, struggle and success, all with the strength and downright honesty that made Johnny Cash one of the greatest songwriters and most revered storytellers in American music. Ring of Fire runs September 8 – 23 at The Waiting Room in Benson.

The 2023 Omaha Series will finish their year with two shows that have become annual traditions for Omaha audiences. The Slowdown will once again host The Rocky Horror Show in October and Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience in November and December.

Visit theomahaseries.com for show and ticketing information.

Holiday Faire

A swooning Scrooge causes Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas to linger.  A widow waits for her late husband to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  A Jewish misanthrope debates Krampus.  An elderly man deals with his failing cognitive health.  A lonely man on a lonely drive listens to the recordings of a loved one.  Is this a fever dream?  No, it’s the shorts of Holiday Lites currently playing at Benson Theatre under the auspices of Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company.

This show is the spiritual successor to the old Shelterskelter and From Shelterbelt With Love shows.  All the shows are originals, but BSB takes it one step farther as all of these shorts are written by local writers (MS Wulfgar, Moira Mangiameli, and Jason Levering).  The cornucopia of shorts varies in tone from sweet to funny to introspective to heartbreaking and the quality of the writing ranges from solid to excellent.

MS Wulfgar and Moira Mangiameli handle the directing duties of the vignettes and each does some fine work.  Mangiameli’s best effort comes in Y2K where she strikes a positively eerie and isolated tone with a man taking a lonely drive on 12/31/99.  The use of lights (or rather lack of) exude the sense of a dark and starless night and adds to the sadness of the tale.  Wulfgar shows directing versatility that matches his legendary acting chops as he shines with an introspective take on A Christmas Carol with The Old Haunts, some snarky comedy with God Jule, Shalom and heartrending honesty with Old Sy Lange.  Each director guides their actors well and pull convincing and satisfying performances from the performers.

Each member of the ensemble gets a moment to shine.  Adam Bassing has a nervous everyman quality as Neighbor in Bang the Bread while Erienne Wredt shows a real penchant for storytelling in the same short.  Jason Levering brings a real despondency to Mike in Y2K.  But some of the best work takes place in Old Sy Lange and The Old Haunts.

In Old Sy Lange, Jack Zerbe is spot on as the title character who is dealing with the declination of his mind due to Alzheimer’s.  His New Jersey accent is flawless and you can feel his sincere belief in his hallucinations and the anger he feels as he loses his independence bit by bit.  Moira Mangiameli is the rock as the understanding nurse supporting Sy.  Jessica Johnson is utterly believable as the daughter watching her father slowly fade away.

In The Old Haunts, Murphy Scott Wulfgar finds some surprising depth in the role of Jacob Marley.  He starts with the cliched ghost routine, but switches to a more introspective look as he realizes he wasn’t remembered or loved enough to be granted a chance at salvation.  Then he closes with the same ghost routine, but with a much more nuanced take that may speak more to the truth of Dickens’ vision.  Eric Griffith brings a real childlike quality to Ghost of Christmas Present as he technically is a baby as he only exists on Christmas in a perpetual cycle of birth and death.  Katt Walsh is wonderful as the Ghost of Christmas Past.  She has a little bit of denseness about her as she goes through her speech to an unconscious Scrooge and her inability to request a different card in a version of Go Fish.  But her best moment is when she becomes Scrooge’s sister Fan.  Walsh exhibits a level of vocal control I’ve rarely seen as she becomes the child on the turn of a dime.

The show had some nice effects with the lights emulating perpetually falling snow and the projections of a snowy park or Victorian England on the screen.  Costumes always suited the characters with my favorites being the period correct costumes of The Old Haunts and Griffith’s Krampus outfit with shaggy wig and horns in God Jule, Shalom.  A few minor flaws failed to dampen a charming night of holiday shorts.

Holiday Lites runs at Benson Theatre under the auspices of Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company through Dec 18.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sun at 7:30pm and matinee performances at 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets cost $35 and can be reserved here.  Benson Theatre is located at 6054 Maple St in Omaha, NE.

‘Godspell’ Opens Third Season of Rave On Productions’ “The Omaha Series”

Omaha, NE–Prepare ye for Godspell, the beloved classic from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner, Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden). Led by the international hit, “Day by Day,” Godspell features a parade of beloved songs, including “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man” and “By My Side.”

A group of people help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques, and a hefty dose of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, is employed as the story of Jesus’ life dances across the stage. Dissolving hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, Jesus’ messages of kindness, tolerance, and love come vibrantly to life. 

Boasting a score with chart-topping songs, a book by a visionary playwright (John-Michael Tebelak), and a feature film, Godspell is a sensation that continues to touch audiences.

THE VENUE:
Benson Theatre, 6054 Maple Street, Omaha NE

SHOW DATES:
Friday February 10, 2023
Saturday February 11, 2023
Friday February 17, 2023
Saturday February 18, 2023
Sunday February 19, 2023
Friday February 24, 2023
Saturday February 25, 2023
Sunday February 26, 2023

Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30pm. Sunday shows are at 2:00pm.
Doors open 30 minutes prior to performance.

TICKETS:
Tickets start at $35 | Reserved Seating
Groups of 10 or more receive a 10% discount. Contact Kate Whitecotton to reserve your group tickets at kate@billymcguigan.com.

Directed & Choreographed By: Kimberly Faith Hickman
Musical Direction By: Matthew McGuigan

Cast

Billy McGuigan as Jesus
Jonathan Berger as Judas/John the Baptist
Megan Berger as Gilmer
Carly Frolio as Sonia
Brandon Fisher as Lamar
Ejanae Hume as Peggy
Brittney Thompson as Robin
Cullen Wiley as Jeffrey

Unfortunate Son

An estranged, biracial couple confront their personal feelings, biases, perceptions, and demons on race and bias as they try to uncover the truth about their son’s involvement in an incident with the police.  This is American Son and it is currently playing at Benson Theatre.

Ladies and gentleman, this is theatre at its pinnacle.  At its peak, theatre not only entertains, but also educates and gets you to ask hard questions and look deep into yourself.  Christopher Demos-Brown has written a phenomenal script that raises excellent talking points and presents terrific POVs on race and bias.  Demos-Brown does superior work in showing how experience and reality influence perception and belief and how often we are unable to see the whole of a situation or story because we automatically filter it through said perceptions and beliefs.  Demos-Brown’s dialogue sparks with intensity and believability and you’ll feel as if you were paintbrushed with a brick, then had your stomach punched with a gauntlet from the inside out before the night is through.

This script is fantastic fodder for a great cast and director and this show has that in spades and then some.

Kathy Tyree does some of her finest directorial work to date with her deft handling of the material.  Tyree makes this show move as the performers ride their lines as if they’re riding bucking broncos.  The words don’t just move, they gallop.  Pacing was smooth as silk and the staging was brilliant as the performers are always on the move and take needed energy breaks (as much as they can be in a story this charged) during the quieter moments.  Tyree’s coaching of the cast was top of the line as each gave a spot-on performance with cue pickups as tight as the passing of a baton in a relay race.

Jared Cernousek and Jus. B help anchor the show with dynamite work in supporting roles.  Cernousek is in fine form as the green, newbie police officer who is still polishing his people skills and meticulously following the book as he tries to balance duty and protocol with assisting the concerned and frustrated parents.  Jus. B, who is fast becoming one of the city’s must watch performers, adds another feather to his cap with his portrayal of the polite, but no-nonsense liaison officer who can clearly take command of any situation in which he finds himself and can cut to the heart of a matter with a few well-spoken words.

But this show rides on the shoulders of the couple who have the bulk of the show’s grueling dialogue and Kerri Forrester and Matt Allen deliver the goods all night long.

Kerri Forrester is perfect as Kendra.  Forrester is utterly believable as the concerned mother as she frantically dials and redials her son and his friends in order to learn of his whereabouts and condition.  Forrester’s Kendra can come off as very abrasive, though said abrasiveness is born out of concern for her child and her frustration at the seeming inability of the white characters to understand things from her point of view as a black woman.  Forrester’s versatility is incredible in her numerous scenes with Allen as she vacillates between her anger with him at their separation to intelligent discussions about their different worlds to some very tender moments of love remembered between them.

Matt Allen is as natural as they come in the role of Scott.  An experienced FBI agent, Allen’s Scott comes off as more diplomatic than his estranged wife due to his understanding of the bureaucracy of police work and having likely dealt with high-pressure, life-threatening situations.  But he’s also capable of his own moments of anger and frustration that begin to bubble up into violence.  Allen adeptly carries his end of his conversations with Forrester especially his frustrations as one of the causes of their separation is his belief that she inserts race into situations where he believes it never came into play.

John Forsman is a technical force of nature as he designed a comfortable waiting room in the police department with its couch, chair, coffee table full of magazines, and billboard with announcements and wanted posters.  I was especially impressed with his window which displayed actual rainfall of a storm that intensified with the rising stakes of the story.  Forsman also made good use of sounds with the beep of incoming texts, thunder, and the sound of a video sent to Scott concerning the incident with his son.  Bradley Pesarchick well costumes his actors with the uniform of Officer Larkin, the suits of Scott and Lt. Stokes, to the rumpled clothes of Kendra who clearly had a sleepless night.

Benson Theatre is the newest artistic venue in Omaha and a work of this caliber has me convinced that it has a fine future.  This show asks some powerful questions without being judgmental.  Each character has valid points and each is also wrong at various moments as they let their biases and perceptions prevent them from seeing the whole.  This show is not an easy watch, but you also won’t be able to turn away.

American Son plays at Benson Theatre through August 27.  Showtime is 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday.  Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at bensontheatre.org.  Due to mature themes and language, this show is not suitable for children.  Benson Theatre is located at 6054 Maple St in Omaha, NE.

The ‘American Son’ Rises at Benson Theatre

Benson Theatre is pleased to announce the next production in Benson Theatre- Season 1, Coming Home . .

Christopher Demos-Brown’s American Son
Directed by Kathy Tyree

Production Dates: August 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27
Curtain Times: 7:30pm Thursdays through Saturdays, 2pm Matinees on Sundays

Synopsis
An estranged bi-racial couple must confront their feelings about race and bias after their son is
detained by the local police following a traffic stop incident. Their disparate histories and
backgrounds inform their assumptions as they try to find out what happened to their son.

Tickets cost $22 and be purchased at http://www.bensontheatre.org.

Benson Theatre is located at 6054 Maple St in Omaha, NE.