An Unusually Rocking Fairy Tale

Resized_DSC_0858It’s the show that lovingly lambasts fairy tales.  A surly ogre named Shrek reluctantly comes to the aid of the fairy tale characters banished to his swamp by evil Lord Farquaad solely to regain his isolation.  Farquaad’s price for removing the characters from Shrek’s swamp is for Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon so Farquaad can marry her and become king.  But love may be blooming between the princess and the ogre when they find they have far more in common than they realize.  It’s Shrek the Musical with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori and it currently plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

What I am about to say is a lie.  Something that isn’t true.  Shrek the Musical is the most insipid piece of juvenile garbage ever to disgrace a stage and should be shunned by every man, woman, and child.

Truthfully, this show is an out and out joy.  I can’t remember the last time I felt so energized by a play.  Lindsay-Abaire wrote a script that not only well translates the film to the stage, but one that I also believe surpassed the source material on nearly every level.  He even adds a subtle theme of racism and judging books by their covers that adds a surprising amount of heft to the production.  His lyrics and the rock operaesque score by Ms Tesori will have you laughing and bopping and pining for the next number.

Kimberly Faith Hickman’s direction is simply exquisite.  Not only did she guide the cast to superb performances without a weak link in the lot, but she also brought a phantasmagorical staging to the show.  Yes, that is indeed the right word as there was something otherworldly about the staging.  The entire theatre was used to tell this story and I mean the ENTIRE theatre.  Stage, orchestra pit, aisles, rows, you name it.  It was all fair game to share this tale.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cast as on as this cast was tonight.  Every single member brought their A game to the table and created a production that has instantly vaulted into my top ten list.  Some standouts among the standouts were Kerri Forrester whose presence devoured the theatre and whose mighty voice thrilled the crowd with her take as Dragon in “Forever”; Maddie Smith who delights as Young Fiona as she pines for her Prince Charming in “I Know It’s Today”; and J. Isaiah Smith who gleefully chews the scenery as Lord Farquaad.

Jordan Smith triumphs as Donkey, the wise-cracking sidekick of Shrek.  Smith strikes a perfect balance between being the loyal friend and the hyperactive annoying chatterbox that just might test the patience of saints.  His tenor voice is stupendous and he excelled in numbers such as “Make A Move” and “Don’t Let Me Go”.  He completed his triple threat with his fluid and nimble hoofing which was made all the more impressive as he was doing it with hooves.

Mackenzie Dehmer makes for an absolutely perfect Fiona.  She ain’t your ordinary fairy tale princess.  She’s temperamental.  She’s high-strung.  She’s got a singing voice that can literally make birds explode.  She can be sweet, but also incredibly crude and crass as she happily engages Shrek in belching and farting contests.  Ms Dehmer possesses a deadly alto which can inflect ultra competiveness in “I Think I Got You Beat”, be excessively cheerful and caffeinated in “Morning Person”, or just flat out rock out in “I’m A Believer”.

I’m going to steal a descriptor from a friend and say that Steve Krambeck “ogre”achieves as Shrek.  Krambeck manages to capture the many layers of Shrek from his outer hide of irritability and crabbiness to his inner core of sensitivity and loneliness.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard Krambeck’s tenor in finer form than tonight as he managed a combination of hopefulness and sadness in “Who I’d Be” as he confesses to wanting to be a hero, despite being destined to being an ogre and the beautiful “When Words Fail” as he sweetly tries to work out a way to tell Fiona he loves her.  He handled the difficult Scottish accent well, though it did weaken at a few points, especially when he sang.

Lindsay Pape’s costumes set a new bar with spot-on reproductions from the film for Shrek, Fiona, and the other fairy tale denizens and beautifully creative outfits such as Donkey’s furry bodysuit.  Paul Pape’s prosthetic for Shrek was brilliant as it was built around Krambeck’s face and allowed him to emote with both face and eyes.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco crafted some truly unique sounds, especially for the “emissions” battle between Fiona and Shrek.  Melanie Walters supplied some stunning choreography especially with the company numbers of “What’s Up, Duloc?”, “Make A Move”, and “Freak Flag”.  Jim Othuse’s sets will take you from a quiet forest to a lonely tower to a dragon’s lair to the castle of a would-be king.  His lights will give you beautiful sunrises and romantic forest evenings.  Jim Boggess and his orchestra truly score with this score as they not only played it perfectly, but you could hear the fun they were having as well.

If you miss this show, you truly don’t know what you’re missing.  It’s fun.  It’s memorable.  It has something for the whole family with jokes aplenty for the adults and cartoony enough for the kids.   And it even teaches a little something about accepting yourself and the uniqueness of others.

Shrek the Musical performs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Oct 14.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.   Tickets start at $42 and can be purchased at www.ticketomaha.com or at the Omaha Community Playhouse box office.  Contact the box office at 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Age in the Cage

Ladies and gentlemen!  This is it.  The battle for the heavyweight championship of the room.  In the house right corner, wearing the muted colors, she is known as the Brooding Brawler. . Abby!!!!  Her opponent, fighting out of house left, wearing the light, bright colors, she is called Sinfully Sweet. . .Marilyn!!!  And now. . .LET’S GET READY TO RIPCORD!!!!!!!! at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord tells the story of two senior home roommates who mix about as well as oil and water.  Curmudgeonly Abby is used to having the room to herself and cannot stand her new perky roommate, Marilyn.  When Marilyn claims never to get angry and Abby claims never to get scared, the two ladies make a bet.  If Abby angers Marilyn, then Marilyn will move to a different room.  If Marilyn scares Abby, she gets Abby’s bed by the window.  The result is an escalating war of pranks between the two women as they pull out all the stops to win the bet.

Lindsay-Abaire has written a clever script reminiscent of The Odd Couple with the exception that the two main characters are not friends, giving their interactions a bit more of an edge.  The script moves quite fast and is seasoned with hot zingers, sautéed with some well placed over the top moments, has a dash of drama and sensitivity, but has a peculiar palate cleanser of an ending.

Kimberly Faith Hickman has gathered a gaggle of comedic talent which she leads to solid and uproarious performances.  Ms Hickman has mastery of the beats as she knows when to let her performers go huge, be normal, or pluck the heartstrings.  The staging of the show is quite strong as, even in the slower moments, there is always a bit of movement from the actors to keep the scenes animated.

Three character actors playing multiple roles support the action of the play, but each also has a particular role that allows them their best moment in the spotlight.  Matt Tarr’s towering presence and rich voice serve him best as a zombie butler in a haunted house.  Kaitlyn McClincy serves up some laughs as Marilyn’s somewhat devious daughter who gleefully assists her mother in winning the bet.  Kevin Goshorn shines in the show’s most poignant scene as the estranged, recovering addict son of Abby who visits her for the first time in years.

For a debut performance, Sahil Khullar is quite capable in the role of Scotty, the aide at the senior living center.  Khullar definitely has the personality for the kindly Scotty who is implied to be a struggling actor.  He also has a good instinct for timing, though his gestures need to be a bit more economical and precise.

But this show does indeed rest on the shoulders of its leading ladies.  Rest assured that Charleen Willoughby and Judy Radcliff are more than up to the task as the pair deliver gutbusting performances and have a chemistry and repartee bordering on the symbiotic.

Charleen Willoughby is a bitter delight as Abby.  Ms Willoughby well communicates Abby’s cynicism with a stony, stoic expression and bearing that says, “Just let me read and leave me alone”.  She always has a quiet sense of mourning about her, lamenting the things she either lost or never had.  Despite this downer description, Ms Willoughby does make this stick in the mud quite entertaining as her sense of delivery always makes Abby’s retorts and put-downs funny.  Ms Willoughby also allows Abby’s long buried decent heart peek out from time to time with her love of her plants and the wistfulness of wanting grandchildren.

Judy Radcliff is a darling scream as Marilyn.  Ms Radcliff makes Marilyn so sweet and sunshiney that one could probably spit in her face and she would laugh it off.  Ms Radcliff brings an incredible sense of fun and kindness to the chatty Marilyn who just wants to bring a little brightness to the days of others.  But a bit of orneriness lies beneath the sweetness as Marilyn dreams up the more dangerous pranks played in her war of oneupmanshp with Abby and the fact that she does it with a smile on her face makes it all the funnier.

Paul Pape has designed a fluid, open set bordered by ropes that easily transforms into the bedroom at the senior living facility to an airplane and to the airiness of a haunted house and the outside.  Jim Othuse’s lights are some of the best I’ve seen in a Playhouse show as they really help define the scenes with the eerie greens and reds of the haunted house to the shadows of trees and sunlight outside of Abby’s window.  John Gibilisco delivers on sound once again, especially with an impressive propeller sound effect in the skydiving scene.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes well define the personalities of the leading ladies with Marilyn’s bright, pretty dresses and Abby’s muted, sedate pantsuits.  I also was quite pleased with the original score composed by Timothy Vallier.

There were a few blips in this preview night performance.  Actors broke character on a few occasions with some of the jokes.  There also seemed to be a bit of a dead spot on house left as microphones didn’t seem to work quite as well there as they did on house right.  But these are easily fixable items.

I also thought the leading ladies were a little young to be in a senior living facility, but I also recognize the tough balancing act as I’m not certain older ladies would have been capable of handling the needed physicality for the roles.

This show has all the right ingredients for a most amusing night of theatre.  It’s got laughs.  It’s got heart.  It’s got sensitivity.  Get a ringside seat and watch the comedy brawl to win it all.

Ripcord plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Jan 19-Feb 11.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students.  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  A little discretion is advised due to some coarse language and inappropriate gestures.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

OCP Begins Second Half of Season with ‘Ripcord’

Omaha, NE–Ripcord, a comedy of one-upmanship as two feisty senior ladies fight for their rightful place, will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse January 19-February 11, 2018 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

Pranks and practical jokes abound when cantankerous Abby and chipper Marilyn are forced to share the nicest room at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility.  As Abby attempts to get rid of her unwanted new roommate, a series of bets soon escalates into a hilarious game of one-upmanship as the two women try every trick in the book to claim their space in the apartment and their place in the world.  Ripcord is a hilarious tale with a lot of heart.

Disclaimer:  Contains adult language spoken by a cantankerous old lady.

Ripcord is written by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Rabbit Hole, and who wrote the book and lyrics for Shrek the Musical (nominated for the 2009 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical).

ProductionRipcord

Credits:  By David Lindsay-Abaire

Director:  Kimberly Faith-Hickman

Cast

Charleen Willoughby as Abby Binder

Judy Radcliff as Marilyn Dunne

Sahil Khullar as Scotty

Kevin Goshorn as Benjamin/Lewis/Clown

Kaitlyn McClincy as Colleen/Woman in White

Matt Tarr as Derek/Zombie Butler/Masked Man

Show Dates:  Jan 19-Feb 11, 2018 (Wed-Sat performances with Sunday matinees)

Tickets:  Available now at the OCP Box Office.  Please call 403-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  Tickets cost $24 (Wed) or $30 (Thurs-Sun) for adults; $16 (Wed) or $18(Thurs-Sun) for students; $20 for adult groups of 12 or more; $14 for student groups of 12 or more.

Sponsored By:  Immanuel Communities (Series Sponsor), Security National Bank, Gale and Judy Wickersham (Producing Partners), and Waitt Outdoor (Media Sponsor).

Location:  6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE

Barn Players Bring a Little ‘High Fidelity’ to their Stage

The Barn Players Proudly Present

High Fidelity

Lyrics by Amanda Green
Music by Tom Kitt
Book by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby and the Touchstone Pictures Film

March 3-19, 2017
Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30PM, Sundays at 2:00PM
plus INDUSTRY NIGHT, Monday, March 13, 7:30pm

Directed by Tiffany Garrison-Schweigert
Music Direction by Delano Mendoza

When Brooklyn record store owner Rob finds himself unexpectedly dumped, his life takes a music-filled turn toward the introspective. Based on the popular novel by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity follows Rob as he struggles to discover how his relationship went awry, and strives to change his life in order to win back his sweetheart Laura. With memorable characters and a rock-and-roll score, this homage to music geek culture explores love, heartbreak, and the power of the perfect soundtrack.

Cast

ROB – Austin Stang
DICK – Michael Golliher
BARRY – Jeremy Walterman
LAURA – Brighton Gray
LIZ – Cori Weber
MARIE – Natasha Gibbons
IAN – Chris Zimmerman
ALISON/ANNA – Camille Breckenridge
JACKIE – Emmy Hadley
CHARLIE – Katie Pugh
SARAH – Kristen Altoro
PENNY/BACKUP SINGER – Larissa Briley
T.M.P.M.I.T.W. – Christoph Nevins
MOHAWK GUY/BRUCE – Nate Graybill
NEIL YOUNG – Andy Portwood
SOUND GUY – Mark McNeal Jr.
HIPSTER/ROADIE – Scott Salem
FUTON GUY – Miles Wirth

Tickets cost $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $12 for students (w/ID) and groups of 10 or more.  Industry night tickets are $12 at the door.  To order tickets, visit the Barn Players website at www.thebarnplayers.org or call 913-432-9100.  The Barn Players Community Theatre is located at 6219 Martway in Mission, KS.