Tears of Christmas

It’s the story of one man’s salvation through the saving power of Christmas.  It’s A Christmas Carol and it is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

OCP’s classic tradition is back on stage for the 47th time and this marks my third year in a row reviewing it and, I believe, my fifth time reviewing a version of this show.  I’m sometimes asked why I would review a show I’ve reviewed before and the answer is simple.

It’s never quite the same show.

Actors change.  Directors change.  Crew members change.  And with every change comes a new bit of insight.  A different way of doing things that makes the show original unto itself.  Even if everything were identical from the previous year, it would still be different because new and fresh inspirations would be infused into the show.  As it happens this show had a number of changes this year beginning with a blend of the new and classic as Susie Baer-Collins returns to direct the holiday tradition along with OCP Artistic Director, Stephen Santa, and Jim McKain who were making their directing debuts with this show.  The end result was the most moving rendition of A Christmas Carol I have witnessed at OCP.

With the fusion of the three directors, you assuredly see elements and moments from past productions of the show, but you also see new and original ones as well.  You also get a crucial new element that I had never seen in any previous production:  somberness.  This show began with a very sad feeling, almost as if Scrooge’s essence was infused into every jot and tittle of this world.  I admit I was hooked and I shed a few tears along the way.  Baer-Collins, Santa, and McKain guided their performers to solid performances and had me believing in Christmas’ power.

I always enjoy watching the ensemble, especially when they’re really into their performances.  As I gazed about and saw the smiling faces and lights in the eyes of the actors, I was well and truly sucked into their world.  Some stellar performances in the supporting cast came from Cullen Wiley as Topper who is truly amusing when he gives clues as he plays Yes and No at Fred’s party.  Jacob Roman brings a real meekness to Bob Cratchit whose strong heart allows him to work with the miserly and unkind Scrooge.  Christina Rohling is a loving mother and the rock supporting her husband as Mrs. Cratchit.

Don Keelan-White unlocked the full potential of Jacob Marley with his attack on the role this season.  There was something truly haunting (no pun intended) in both the supernatural and the emotional senses of the word with his performance.  He seemed otherworldly and very human at the same time.  His regret at his failure to help his fellow man during his lifetime was palpable and sincere and I loved his scaring the bejeepers out of Scrooge as he smacked his chains against the floor and pointedly warned Scrooge about the length and weight of his own invisible chains.

DJ Tyree was the Ghost of Christmas Present I had long envisioned.  Tyree just bled majesty and regality and basked in the essence of this spirit.  He had the jovial nature needed for this generous ghost, but also gave Scrooge a pointed verbal jab or two as he threw Scrooge’s cruel words back in his face when discussing the potential fate of Tiny Tim.

For the 17th and final time, Jerry Longe takes the reins of this show as Ebenezer Scrooge.  Indeed, I think the knowledge that this is his last go around added to some of the somber feeling of the show and certainly lent it an additional power.  Longe’s take on Scrooge this time was an angle I’ve never seen played before in any version and I really loved it.  Longe made Scrooge spiritually dead.  By that I mean, he was utterly emotionless.  Life held no joy for him and his accumulation of wealth was just something he did as it certainly brought him no happiness or comfort.  So convincing was Longe in this spiritual death that it made his Scrooge seem very old and frail.  It also had me riding along on Scrooge’s salvation train in a way I had never experienced it before.  Longe was shedding real tears at some points as Scrooge’s dead heart was slowly resurrected and I was searching for my own tissue right along with him.  His redemption had a purity I had never seen before and left me with a sense of divine satisfaction.

Longe seemed to improv asides a bit more this year, but they were fun and one aside had me doubled over with laughter. You’ll know it when you hear it. Truly, it is a fine finale for this treasure of local theatre.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra perfectly played the Christmas carols and hymns and there was an x factor this year that gave it that extra emotional punch.  Michelle Garrity’s choreography was always charming especially in the party scenes.  Linsday Pape’s costumes transport you to the Victorian era of Charles Dickens.  Jim Othuse’s set helps add to that feeling of a bygone era with the old-fashioned buildings and his lights add emotional depths with stars, the pale green of Jacob Marley, and the near total blackness while Scrooge waits for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco’s sounds always enhance things with the ghostly voice modifications for the spirits, the gentle tolling of a clock tower bell, and the tinkling sound hearkening the appearance of Ghost of Christmas Past.  Andrew Morgan’s properties add so much with the sight of feasts, toys, and Christmas items.  Darrin Golden’s technical direction makes the supernatural realistic and Janet Morr’s artistry enhances the sets.

I think you’re truly in for a Christmas treat this year as this incarnation of A Christmas Carol is going to hit you in a way you’ve never been hit before.  You’ll truly marvel at the power of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec 23.  Showtimes are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets start at $40 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

Final Redemption: Jerry Longe’s Final Run in “A Christmas Carol” Begins on Nov 18

Jerry Longe (L) and Don Keelan-White (R) star in “A Christmas Carol” at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, NE.–Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will open Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Nov. 18 through Dec. 23. Performances will be held Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and two performances Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol! Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Filled with stunning Victorian costumes, festive music and crisp, wintry sets, A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder of the power of redemption and the generosity that lies at the heart of the Christmas holiday.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $40 for adults and $26 for students, with ticket prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

JERRY LONGE’S FINAL YEAR

2022 will mark Jerry Longe’s final year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He has played the iconic role for 17 seasons. The only other person to play Ebenezer Scrooge on OCP’s Hawks Mainstage is the late Dick Boyd who played the role for 30 years.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

It’s Going to Be a Blue Christmas Carol: Jerry Longe Stepping Away From Ebenezer Scrooge After 2022 Run

Omaha, NE.– This year will be Jerry Longe’s final year as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s mainstage production of A Christmas Carol. Longe has played the role of Scrooge for 17 years. He first moved to Omaha in 1980 and toured with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s production of A Christmas Carol playing Marley, Ghost of Christmas Present and Jake.

For Longe, his role in A Christmas Carol has been life changing. He says, “I’ve made lifelong friends through this production, and that has been a tremendous gift to me every single Christmas.”

Over the 47 years that OCP has produced A Christmas Carol, only two people have played the role of Scrooge – Jerry Longe for 17 years and the late Dick Boyd for 30 years. When Boyd stepped away, former artistic director Carl Beck asked Longe to play Scrooge.

“I said sure I’d love to do it, and it’s turned out to be the best Christmas present anybody ever gave me,” says Longe.

Longe started the role in 2006 and said one of the best aspects of playing Scrooge is the ability to hone and refine the character year after year. While it’s a difficult decision to step away, he feels that the role demands more energy than he is able to give it anymore. Longe is also expecting his first granddaughter in the spring of 2023, with whom he’s excited to spend the holidays.

A Christmas Carol isn’t about me. It’s about the show and what it means to the community…I felt it was time to go out on a high note,” says Longe.

Over the years, the holiday show has become so popular, it’s an annual tradition for many area families. OCP representatives say how Longe’s involvement has impacted the organization and community.

“Jerry has brought and continues to bring an enormous amount of invention, humor, pathos, and love to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. His humility and professionalism set a high bar for all of us on both sides of the stage. An extremely talented actor and a wonderful friend, Jerry leaves an indelible mark on our treasured production,” -Susie Baer Collins, former OCP Associate Artistic Director and Director of A Christmas Carol.

“Jerry has poured his heart into this role over the past 17 years, and he will be so greatly missed. He graced the show with immense humor and unmatched energy. He will probably never know how many lives he has impacted with this story of hope and redemption,” -Katie Broman, OCP Executive Director.

“Watching Jerry perform Scrooge is truly a masterclass in artistic excellence and love for theatre and storytelling. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with Jerry during his final year and he will forever leave a brilliant stamp on our production,” -Stephen Santa, OCP Artistic Director and Director of A Christmas Carol.

Longe will be honored on the final performance of A Christmas Carol on Friday, Dec. 23. The directors of A Christmas Carol will cast a new Scrooge in 2023.

Tis the Season for Auditions

Omaha, NE–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding in-person, youth and adult auditions for A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St. Omaha, NE 68132 and Pear Tree Performing Arts at 4801 NW Radial Hwy Omaha, NE 68104. To schedule an audition, please visit the website here.

Through upholding high ethical standards, demonstrating respect for all and consciously working to provide diverse representation, OCP is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment in which all community members feel a sense of belonging, and does not discriminate in casting practices on the basis of an individual’s ethnicity, age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, country of origin or other factors. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse and inclusive casting.

Youth Auditions: Saturday, August 13, 11:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m. (taking place at the Omaha Community
Playhouse)

Adult Auditions: Those who wish to audition may choose one of the following two audition dates:
Sunday, August 14, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (taking place at the Omaha Community Playhouse)
Monday, August 15, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (taking place at Pear Tree Performing Arts)

Youth Callbacks: Wednesday, August 17, 4:00 p.m.

Adult Callbacks: Thursday, August 18, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Both callbacks will take place at Omaha Community Playhouse.

Please Bring: Please bring and prepare to sing 16-bars of a song from a musical. Dress comfortably for the dance portion of the audition.

Roles: Click here for character breakdown.

OCP Reveals 98th Season

The Legend of Georgia McBride
Aug. 19–Sept. 18, 2022
Howard Drew Theatre
By Matthew López

You’ve never seen Elvis like this.

A Southern straight boy and out-of-work Elvis impersonator discovers a hidden talent—and a way to pay his mounting bills—after a drag queen convinces him to fill in on stage for one of her shows. Now if he could only find a way to tell his pregnant wife about his new hobby. A laugh-out-loud comedy filled with music, heart and plenty of sass.

Disclaimer: Contains adult language.

School of Rock
Sept. 16–Oct. 16, 2022
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Based on the Paramount movie by Mike White | Book by Julian Fellowes | Lyrics by Glenn Slater | New Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll rock.

A middle-aged wannabe rock star lands a new gig as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school, where he transforms a group of straight-A students into a face-melting rock band. Based on the hit movie starring Jack Black, School of Rock features a cast of young rock stars who act, sing and perform all of the show’s rock instrumentals live on stage.

The Cake
Oct. 7–Nov. 6, 2022
Howard Drew Theatre
By Bekah Brunstetter

A new comedy from the writer of hit TV show ‘This Is Us.’

A celebrated North Carolina baker is thrilled to finally design a wedding cake for her goddaughter. But when she learns the marriage is between two women, she begins to feel conflicted. A surprising and sweet take on a modern-day controversy, seeped in humor and warmth.

Disclaimer: Contains adult language and brief nudity.

A Christmas Carol
Nov. 18–Dec. 23, 2022
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Written by Charles Dickens | Adapted by Charles Jones | Musical Orchestration by John J. Bennett

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol!

Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Filled with stunning Victorian costumes, festive music and crisp, wintry sets, A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder that love and generosity are the heart of the Christmas holiday.

Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
Nov. 25–Dec. 23, 2022
Howard Drew Theatre

From the creator of Late Nite Catechism.

It’s “CSI: Bethlehem” in this holiday mystery extravaganza, from the author of Late Nite Catechism, as Sister takes on the mystery that has intrigued historians throughout the ages—whatever happened to the Magi’s gold? (“We know that Mary used the frankincense and myrrh as a sort of potpourri—they were in a barn after all.”) Retelling the story of the nativity, as only Sister can, this hilarious holiday production is bound to become a yearly classic. Employing her own scientific tools, assisted by a local choir as well as a gaggle of audience members, Sister creates a living nativity unlike any you’ve ever seen. With gifts galore and bundles of laughs, Sister’s Christmas Catechism is sure to become the newest addition to your holiday traditions.

August Wilson’s Fences
Jan. 20–Feb. 12, 2023
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
By August Wilson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic.

A former Negro League baseball player struggles to co-exist with the racial trauma he still carries from his time in the league. When his frustrations lead to a series of tragic choices, his relationships with his wife and son suffer the consequences. Set in the 1950s, Fences is the sixth installment in The American Century Cycle, a series of ten plays by August Wilson that trace the Black experience through 20th century America.

RENT
Feb. 10–March 19, 2023
Howard Drew Theatre
Book, Music and Lyrics by Johnathan Larson

The cultural phenomenon that has inspired audiences for a quarter century.

A raw and emotional year in the life of a diverse group of friends and struggling artists, chasing their dreams under the shadow of drug addictions and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize, this iconic rock musical has become a cultural touchstone, rite of passage and source of joy and strength for millions.

Disclaimer: Contains adult content and language.

Dreamgirls
March 3–26, 2023
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen | Music by Henry Krieger

Stars rise and fall, but dreams live forever.

A trio of women soul singers catch their big break during an amateur competition. But will their friendship—and their music—survive the rapid rise from obscurity to pop super stardom? with dazzling costumes and powerhouse vocal performances, this Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical is inspired by some of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s—The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and more.

Little Shop of Horrors
April 14–May 7, 2024
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman | Music by Alan Menken

The gleefully gruesome cult comedy with an infectious 60s-style score.
Seymour, a nerdy store clerk at Mushnik’s flower shop, is thrust into the spotlight when he happens upon a new breed of carnivorous plant. But his newfound fame comes at a cost when Seymour discovers the sassy seedling has an unquenchable thirst for human blood. Ravenously fun, dripping with camp and nostalgia.

Pretty Fire
April 28–May 21, 2023
Howard Drew Theatre
By Charlayne Woodard

A profound celebration of life and the Black experience.

Charlayne Woodard takes us on an intimate and powerful journey through five autobiographical vignettes, each capturing different moments of her life growing up as a rambunctious, imaginative child in the 50s and 60s. From her loving family home in upstate New York, to her first experience with racism at her grandmother’s house in Georgia, Pretty Fire is a beautiful one-woman celebration of life, love and family, even in the face of adversity.

Disclaimer: Contains adult content and language

In The Heights
June 2–25, 2023
Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda | Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights.

From the revolutionary mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, this Tony Award®-winning musical recounts three days in the vibrant neighborhood of Washington Heights, NYC, where the Latino residents chase American dreams. This bubbly fusion of rap, salsa, Latin pop and soul music boasts an infectious enthusiasm from beginning to end.

Christmas Ghost Story Truly Has the Spirit

Greedy miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, learns that his soul is doomed for all time.  His one chance for salvation lies in the visitation of three Christmas spirits.  Will Scrooge find the path to redemption or is he cursed to walk eternity in the chains of his sins?  Find out by watching A Christmas Carol over at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

The late singer, Gene Pitney, once summed up a great performance when he said, “On a given night when everything works.  When the lights are right.  When the sound is right. When you’re up for the game and you’re feeling right.  Some of them are intangibles.  They’re either going to happen or they’re not going to happen.  But on a given night when they do happen, it’s just an amazing feeling.  You just feel the electricity going back and forth.” 

Well, let me tell that all of those factors were in place last night and the result was the best incarnation of OCP’s A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen.  You had an audience hungry to be entertained and a cast ready to feed that hunger and they served up a Christmas feast.

Susie Baer-Collins joins forces with a returning Carl Beck and Ablan Roblin to direct this Yuletide extravaganza and I was hooked from the smooth as silk opening sequence to the final “God bless us, everyone”.  This directing triumvirate has this show down to a science with the coaching of their performers to the staging of the scenes (I could always see the face of each actor in the massive crowd sections) to the nuanced little change-ups they made from years gone by.  Though this show has been running for 46 years, they made it feel like it was brand new and fresh.

As I’ve stated in past reviews, never, ever, underestimate the power of a good ensemble.  When they’re operating on all cylinders, it just adds rocket fuel to the production and they were ready to rock.  Such energy!  And you could feel the joy of the performance radiating out of them.  Some of the many wonderful performances you’ll see from the ensemble came from Anina Frey who had a gleeful energy about her as Scrooge’s younger sister Fan; Seth Maisel brought some stunning pathos to the role of Jake; Jon Hickerson presents a Ghost of Christmas Present who is drunk on the milk of human kindness, but has a very serious and somber farewell when his time is up; Julie Huff makes for an angelic and commanding Ghost of Christmas Past as well as the scheming thief, Myrtle Crow.

Chris Berger outCratchits Bob Cratchit with his take on Scrooge’s put-upon clerk.  Berger has a wonderful everyman quality and portrays Cratchit as a truly good and decent man and his love for his family is genuine and palpable.  Some of my favorite moments were watching Bob’s reactions such as his giggling and snickering “Merry Christmas” after the counting house is invaded by a group of children who tease Scrooge and his playing with his children in the Cratchit home scenes.

Still, the biggest burden of the show rides on the shoulders of Jerry Longe as Ebenezer Scrooge.  And I’m amazed that Longe still finds new things to try with the character after playing him for so long.  Longe’s on point delivery is enhanced by his stellar facial expressions.  His pre-salvation Scrooge can wither you with a steely glare as he reduced the cartman to tears and always managed to put the fear of God into Bob Cratchit.  I truly loved how Longe drew out the process of Scrooge’s salvation this year.  You could see the cracks appearing in his icy heart with his wistful glances at his beloved sister in his past, saw him experiencing joy for the first time in years as he tasted the milk of human kindness in his present, watched him repent under the horror of seeing his cold and wasted future, then saw him truly embrace the spirit of Christmas upon his redemption.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra made the Christmas carols feel extra jubilant this year.  Jim Othuse’s sets take you back to Victorian-era London with its old time shops and street lamps, the cold, lonely home of Scrooge with its sterile walls, to the poor, but homey abode of the Cratchits, to the stars of the night sky as Scrooge and Christmas Past fly on his 4 poster bed.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco’s sounds always add that something special from the ringing of the bell to end the work day to the chiming of Scrooge’s clock to the tinkling sounds accompanying the arrival of ghosts.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes will transport you to Dickens’ world with the poor, but functional clothing of the Cratchits to Scrooge’s dark finery, and gorgeous dresses and suits of ladies and gentlemen in celebration scenes.  Michelle Garrity’s choreography is spot on and elegant and her dancers are so graceful. 

It’s an Omaha classic, but you’ll feel like you’re experiencing it for the first time this year.  Come forth and know it better, man.

A Christmas Carol runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse until Dec 23.  Showtimes are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased by visiting the Box Office, calling 402-553-0800, or visiting www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

It’s Back!! OCP’s Holiday Tradition, ‘A Christmas Carol’ Returns in its Full Glory

Omaha, NE.– Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will open Friday, November 19, 2021 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from November 19 through December 23. Performances will be held Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Wednesdays beginning in December at 7 p.m. There will be no performance on Thurs., Nov. 25 due to Thanksgiving.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $40 for adults and $26 for students, with ticket prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

SYNOPSIS

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol! Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Filled with stunning Victorian costumes, festive music and crisp, wintry sets, A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder of the power of redemption and the generosity that lies at the heart of the Christmas holiday.

Directed by: Susie Baer-Collins
Co-directed by: Carl Beck & Ablan Roblin

Cast

Jerry Longe as Ebenezer Scrooge
Chris Berger as Bob Cratchit
Vienna Maas as Tiny Tim
Noah Jeffrey as Fred
Don Keelan-White as Jacob Marley
Julie Huff as Ghost of Christmas Past/Myrtle Crow
Jonathan Hickerson as Ghost of Christmas Present/2nd Charity Man/Toyshop Keeper
Christina Rohling as Mrs. Cratchit
Mark Haufle as Mr. Fezziwig/1st Charity Man/Baker
Lauren Johnson as Mrs. Fezziwig/Baker’s Wife
Benjamin Brickner as Young Scrooge
Bethany Folks as Belle Fezziwig
Megan Morrissey as Millie
Hannah Rembert as Lucy
Cullen Wiley as Topper
Seth Maisel as Jake
Kim Clark-Kaczmarek as Nell/Mrs. Dilber
Sara Tiemann as Chestnut Vendor
Brandon Fisher as Poulterer
Joshua Orsi as Beggar
Emma Powell as Martha Cratchit
Tyson Bentley as Peter Cratchit/School Boy
Madeline Scarsi as Frances Cratchit
Anina Frey as Belinda Cratchit/Fan
Cruz Martinez as Ebby
Carter Frey as School Boy/Greenery Vendor
Benjamin Rohling as School Boy/Boy with Sled
Cadee Scheer as Toyshop Assistant
Halaina Hunter as Little Bo Peep
Claire Caskey as Little Boy Blue
Adult Ensemble features Tom Neumann and Elizabeth Fleissner
Youth Ensemble features Grace Messina

‘A Christmas Carol’ Provides Dose of Cheer

Even the pandemic isn’t able to stop A Christmas Carol which is currently available to stream from the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Just when it seemed the pandemic was about to steal Omaha’s annual holiday tradition, Kimberly Faith Hickman was able to give the city one final gift before she steps down as the artistic director of the OCP.  In conjunction with Geoffrey Jones, son of former artistic director Charles Jones, Faith Hickman was able to rewrite the elder Jones’ adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless Christmas ghost story.  Slimming down the cast from 40 to 8 and filming one performance for streaming, Faith Hickman was able to mount a version of A Christmas Carol that maintains the charm and cheer of OCP’s traditional, full strength version.

The production was directed by both Kimberly Faith Hickman and Ablan Roblin who did an admirable job of staging the production.  The 8 performers are always well placed on stage and the performers are so animated that one almost doesn’t notice the extremely subtle use of social distancing throughout the production.  Faith Hickman and Roblin have also coaxed solid performances out of their cast, though the pace could have used some quickening and the cue pickups could have been snappier at some points.  I also enjoyed the realism both directors applied to the production as they tamped down some of the show’s historically over the top moments.

Slimming the cast placed an extra burden on their shoulders as they had to play many multiple roles in order to properly tell this story and they do so fairly effectively and sometimes quite sublimely.  Some fine moments of the show include Jonathan Berger’s magisterial and effervescent Ghost of Christmas Present; Brandon Fisher’s genuinely good hearted Fred; Serena Johnson’s angelic Ghost of Christmas Past; Megan Kelly’s skittish rendition of Mrs. Dilber; and Brinlee Roeder and Dominic Torres provide some levity as the various children. 

But I’d like to cite Josh Peyton’s acting range for his disparate portrayals of the kindly and put upon Bob Cratchit and his supernatural Jacob Marley.  His Marley was especially impressive as he had an otherworldly quality and his voice was tinged with a menace and authority certain to put the fear of God into Scrooge’s heart.

Even after a decade and a half, Jerry Longe is still able to find ways to make his take on Ebenezer Scrooge fresh and original.  Longe underplayed the tar out of Scrooge and I loved it.  That underplaying made his Scrooge ice, ice cold and clearly a man who needed salvation.  And you could see the iciness of his heart get chipped away bit by bit as he slowly came to understand that he was a real scoundrel.  As much as I enjoyed his performance, there were a few moments when his reactions didn’t quite suit the moment.

Jim Othuse utilized a less is more set for this particular version of A Christmas Carol.  A beautiful backdrop became London at Christmas and just a few set pieces (a bed, a fireplace, a streetlamp) managed to become the various locales of the play.  Lindsay Pape’s Victorian costumes transport the viewer to the proper time and place.  John Gibilisco added some nice effects to the voices of the ghosts to give them that phantasmagorical presence.  Jim Boggess and Anita Clark Jaynes do the work of an entire orchestra in performing the show’s full contingent of Christmas carols.

I salute OCP in managing to preserve its 45 year tradition and bring a little Christmas at a point where we could use a little joy.  Take a moment and enjoy some Christmas cheer with your family and make an evening of A Christmas Carol in the comfort of your home.

A Christmas Carol is available for streaming from the Omaha Community Playhouse at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/43126  until January 3.  Rental prices begin at $40.

OCP Reimagines 96th Season

OCP ANNOUNCES REVAMPED 2020/21 SEASON LINEUP, SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse has announced a new, revamped 2020/21 season lineup with special precautions in place to protect audiences, volunteers and staff from COVID-19.

A SEASON REIMAGINED

This year, COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, and the performing arts—including live theatre—were hit hard. From London’s West End to Broadway, New York, to right here in Omaha, stages around the world have gone dark.

At OCP, we have worked tirelessly to invent new ways to keep performing art alive during this crisis. From streaming productions online to moving shows outdoors, we have adapted and innovated to keep art in our community.

While we’ve been imagining new ways to stay connected, we’ve also been reimagining what a safe in-theatre experience could look like in the era of COVID. We believe we’ve created a plan that places the health of our community first while creating a safe environment for live theatre to thrive. It begins with our reimagined 2020/21 season lineup.

OCP’s New 2020/21 Season Lineup

Billy McGuigan‘s Pop Rock Orchestra*

Aug. 5 – 23

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals

Aug. 28 – Sept. 20

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Grounded

Sept. 25 – Oct. 18

Howard Drew Theatre

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience*

Oct. 2 – Nov. 1

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

I Am My Own Wife

Oct. 30 – Nov. 15

Howard Drew Theatre

A Christmas Carol*

Nov. 13 – Dec. 23

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Title To Be Announced

Nov. 27 – Dec. 23

Howard Drew Theatre

The Last 5 Years

Jan. 15 – Feb. 7

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

The Candy Project Presents: Guttenberg! The Musical!*

Feb. 12 –March 14

Howard Drew Theatre

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Feb. 26 – March 21

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

In The Heights

April 16 – May 9

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Clybourne Park

May 7 – 30

Howard Drew Theatre

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

May 28 – June 27

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

*Special engagement; Not a regular season production

We reimagined our season lineup.

  • We added concert-style drive-in shows to take advantage of our outdoor space as long as possible.
  • We removed shows with large cast sizes from our fall and winter time slots. In their place, we have added four wonderful productions with two performers or fewer. The new shows are compelling, entertaining and—most importantly—safe. The small cast sizes will allow our actors to safely rehearse and perform, create plenty of room for our backstage crew to social distance and help protect our patrons by reducing the overall number of people present in the theatre.
  • Fan favorite Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience will move to the larger Hawks Mainstage theatre and open in October. The larger stage will allow the band to socially distance and the larger theatre will safely accommodate the show’s many fans.
  • The holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol will live on for 2020 in a unique and imaginative small cast format.
  • Finally, we shuffled four titles from our original lineup to the end of the season. While these shows do feature more cast members, we are hopeful that these productions will be safe to carry out by next Spring. These four shows were selected based on existing ticket sales (via subscriptions), director availability, and royalties logistics.

We reimagined our performance spaces.

  • Patrons attending a show in either theatre will be socially distanced from other guests with all groups at least 6 feet apart.
  • In the Howard Drew theatre, a plexiglass barrier will be installed around the perimeter of the stage to provide separation between guests and performers.
  • Productions will not incorporate any physical audience participation.

We reimagined our safety precautions.

  • All audience, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Masks will be available free of charge and must be worn properly in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Audience members will be required to self-screen for a fever and symptoms of illness prior to arriving at OCP. Those with fever or other symptoms may exchange their ticket at no cost.
  • New arrival and dismissal procedures will help encourage social distancing, including staggered vehicle loading/unloading, assigned will call pick up times and row-by-row dismissal after a show.
  • Lobbies, reception areas and lines will be arranged and marked to encourage social distancing.
  • Plexiglass barriers will be installed in the box office windows with cash-free payments encouraged, touchless credit card transactions offered and touch-free ticket pickup available.
  • Common areas and performance halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis with both cleanser and electrostatic technology.
  • All restrooms will be outfitted with touchless fixtures and will be sanitized daily and throughout performances.
  • We will no longer hold post-show meet and greets with the actors in the lobby.
  • Concessions and drinks will not be available and public water fountains will be closed.
  • For a full list of safety precautions, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse website at omahaplayhouse.com

OCP will continue to evaluate our processes and procedures to ensure we are constantly creating the safest environment possible for our patrons, artists, volunteers and staff. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website.

The Omaha Community Playhouse has served our community for nearly 100 years. We are confident that with a little (re)imagination, the art will always live on. We hope you enjoy our reimagined 2020/21 season, and we can’t wait to have you back at OCP!

Information for Subscribers:

  • Subscribers may select any regular season production from the new lineup above to replace any canceled productions from their original subscription package.
  • To select a new show for your package, call the OCP Box Office during the Subscriber Presale to reserve tickets to the new show of your choice.
  • New Subscriber Presale dates for all shows will be announced on a rolling basis throughout the season via email and the OCP website.
  • For additional information, please contact the OCP Box Office by phone at (402) 553-0800. For Box Office hours please visit the OCP website at omahaplayhouse.com

OCP Holding Auditions for 96th Season

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse will hold auditions for its 2020-21 season musicals July 11-13 for children under age 16 and July 23-26 for adults. Auditions are by appointment only. Special COVID-19 safety precautions will be observed.  Vocal auditions will be on the Playhouse’s Hawks Mainstage. Dance skills will be evaluated at callbacks.

Musicals this season include:

A Christmas Carol, Nov. 20 through Dec. 23, Hawks Mainstage. Directors: Kimberly Faith Hickman, Ablan Roblin

The Scottsboro Boys, Feb. 12 through March 14, 2021, Howard Drew Theatre. Director: Kimberly Faith Hickman

Kinky Boots, Feb. 26 through March 21, 2021, Hawks Mainstage. Director: Ablan Roblin

In the Heights, April 16 through May 9, 2021, Hawks Mainstage. Director: Kathy Tyree

Willy Wonka, May 28 through June 27, 2021, Hawks Mainstage. Director: Kimberly Faith Hickman

Music director is Jim Boggess. Choreographer is Michelle Garrity.

Audition dates and times:

Children (under age 16)

Saturday, July 11, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, July 12, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 13, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Adults (16 or older)

Thursday, July 23, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, July 24, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday, July 25, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, July 26, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Auditioners must fill out paperwork in advance, not at the audition. They can return completed paperwork by email or bring it with them. Specific dates and time slots will be set in advance for each auditioner. Auditions will be in groups of no more than 15. Temperatures of auditioners will be taken upon arrival. You may wear a facemask if you prefer. Auditioners will be allowed to sing only 16 bars of a song of their choosing, for which they should bring sheet music. Provided seating will be plastic or metal chairs only, no fabric upholstery. The audition space will be sanitized between groups. When arriving to audition, please enter through the south entrance lobby doors.

Those who cannot attend in person may submit a vocal-audition video.

 

The Omaha Community Playhouse has scheduled auditions for three Fall 2020 plays.

Auditions will be by appointment only. Special COVID-19 safety precautions will be observed.

The show titles, run dates and audition schedule:

CLYBOURNE PARK, by Bruce Norris

Show runs Aug. 21-Sept. 20 in the Howard Drew Theatre.

Director: Kimberly Faith Hickman

Hickman was assistant director of the original Tony Award-winning Broadway production   

Audition dates and times:

Monday, July 6, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 7, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Callbacks will be Wednesday, July 8, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Agatha Christie’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, adapted by Ken Ludwig

Show runs Sept. 25-Oct. 18 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

Director: Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek

Audition dates and times:

Sunday, July 12, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, July 13, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Callbacks will be Tuesday, July 14, and Wednesday, July 15, starting at 7 p.m. both evenings.

OUTSIDE MULLINGAR, by John Patrick Shanley

Show runs Oct. 16-Nov. 8 in the Howard Drew Theatre.

Director: Kaitlyn McClincy

Audition dates and times:

Saturday, Aug. 15, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Callbacks will be Saturday, Aug. 22, starting at 2 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 23, starting at 7 p.m.

Specific dates and time slots will be set in advance for each auditioner. Auditioners must fill out paperwork in advance, not at the audition. They can return completed paperwork by email or bring it with them. Tryouts will be in groups of no more than 12 per hour. COVID-19 screening questions will be asked of each auditioner upon arrival. You may wear a facemask if you prefer. Provided seating will be plastic or metal chairs only, no fabric upholstery. The audition space will be sanitized between groups. When arriving to audition, please enter through the west-entrance stage door.

To make an audition appointment, email Becky Deiber at bdeiber@omahaplayhouse.com.