Come to “The Mountaintop” at OCP

The Mountaintop_4

Donte Plunkett as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Catie Zaleski as Carnae

Omaha, Neb.— The Mountaintop, which is a fictional telling of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,’s final night when he returned to his room at the Lorraine Motel, will run May 4 – 27, 2018 in the Howard Drew Theatre at Omaha Community Playhouse.


An Olivier Award-winning play of historical fiction, The Mountaintop imagines the final night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After giving his speech, “The Mountaintop,” Dr. King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel. When a mysterious woman with a secret agenda pays a visit to Dr. King, the resulting confrontation imaginatively explores destiny, legacy and mortality.
Disclaimer: Contains dialogue related to racial tension and adult language.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4. The events in this timely and powerful story take place the night before his death, 50 years ago on April 3, 1968 after Dr. King gave his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

Production:    The Mountaintop

Credits:          By Katori Hall

Director:         Denise Chapman

Cast

Donte Plunkett as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Catie Zaleski as Carnae

Show dates:   May 4 – 27, 2018; Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m.

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $24 for adults and $18 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for students.

Sponsors:      Friend of the Playhouse, The Reader (media sponsor)

Location:        Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre (6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132)

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The Bard Makes a Regional Premiere at OCP

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

Opens April 13, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, NE. – Shakespeare in Love, a play based on the Academy Award-winning film, will run April 13 – May 6, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

Based on the Academy Award-winning film by Tom Stoppard and adapted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), Shakespeare in Love is a love letter to the stage and a celebration of theatre, music and human connection. While the government threatens to close all theaters, young Will Shakespeare suffers from writer’s block, as his muse Viola disguises herself as a man to pursue her dreams of being an actor. Amidst mistaken identities, ruthless scheming, backstage theatrics and a misbehaving dog, Will’s love for Viola quickly blossoms and inspires him to write his greatest masterpiece.
Disclaimer: Contains scenes of sexuality.

To celebrate Shakespeare in Love, Omaha Community Playhouse will hold an opening night celebration from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13 free to that evening’s ticket holders. No reservations necessary. Attendees will enjoy a Shakespearean celebration, including snacks, treats, games and appearances by entertainers from the Renaissance Festival of Nebraska. It’s like a mini-faire right in the lobby.

Production:  Shakespeare in Love

Credits:  Based on the Screenplay by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard | Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall | Music by Paddy Cunneen | Based on the Academy Award-winning film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes

Director:  Jeff Horger

Cast

Jacob Roman as Will Shakespeare

Alissa Harnish as Viola de Lesseps

Janet Macklin as Queen Elizabeth

Kevin Barratt as Richard Burbage

Bradley Alexander as Wabash

Caitlin Mabon as Sir Robert

Chloe Irwin as John Webster

Christopher Scott as Philip Henslowe

Craig Bond as Ralph

Danielle Smith as Edmund Tilney

Sydney Readman as Lord Wessex

Ron Boschult as Fennyman

Will Rodgers as Sam

Jeremy Earl as Christopher “Kit” Marlowe

Julie Fitzgerald Ryan as Nurse

Michael Leaman as Ned Allen

Ensemble features Jenna Hager, Olivia Howard, Sean Johnson, Samantha Johnson, Alex Nilius, Pamela Scott, Dennis Stessman, and Catherine Vazquez

Apollo the dog as Spot the dog

Show dates: April 13 – May 6, 2018; Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2:00 p.m.

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or http://www.TicketOmaha.com. Adult single tickets start at $24 for Wednesday performances and start at $32 for Thursday – Sunday performances. Student single tickets start at $18 for Wednesday performances and start at $22 for Thursday – Sunday performances.

Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices.  For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $22 for Wednesday performances and $28 for Thursday – Sunday performances.

Discounts:  Twilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Wednesday Performances – Discounted tickets are available for Wednesday performances only starting at $24 for adults and $18 for students.

Whatta Deal Wednesday – Discounted tickets for $10 will be available for the first Wednesday performance on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. $10 tickets will be available in person at the box office starting at 4:00 p.m. the day of the show.

Sponsors:  Immanuel Communities (Series Sponsor), Conagra Brands Foundation (Producing Partner), Cindy and Scott Heider (Specialty Sponsor) and KETV (Media Sponsor)

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre (6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132)

Opening the Windows to the Soul

Painter Jamie Wyeth decides to paint a portrait of famed ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev.  What begins as an opportunity for both men to obtain what benefits he can from the other evolves into a lifetime friendship.  If only Wyeth can unlock the means of painting Nureyev’s Eyes by David Rush and currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Rush has written an elegant script that is beautiful in its simplicity.  This is a story of friendship.  But the simple story contains profound depth as the friendship between Wyeth and Nureyev grows.  Over the course of the play both men slowly peel off their layers, revealing more and more of themselves to the other.  Rush’s words perfectly capture the essence of the mercurial Nureyev and the more laid back Wyeth with a real and natural conversational tone.  It’s sad.  It’s charming.  It’s witty.  It’s dark.  It’s light.  In short, it has all of the elements for a strong and compelling story.

Darin Anthony unlocks the full potential of Rush’s words with a stunning piece of direction.  I often forgot I was watching a play as the conversation between his two actors was so believable.  The conversations sparked with a vitality as the two performers run the whole gamut of friendship when butting heads due to each being “artist mad”, sharing meaningful talks over brandy, and revealing parts of themselves that they would prefer to remain hidden.  The staging is absolutely magnificent especially with the constant motion of Nureyev who said he could not sit still for a portrait.  Anthony leads his actors to pristine performances chock full of nuance and skill.

Sam Woods excels as Jamie Wyeth.  What I found especially compelling about Woods’ performance is that he portrays Wyeth as an everyman.  Despite being a descendant of a successful line of artists, Wyeth is still a regular guy, comfortable in torn jeans and a blue work shirt.  That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t take immense pride in his work.  He is fully aware of his talent and refuses to let the legendary Nureyev intrude on his domain.  Woods’ Wyeth is also more than up to the challenge of keeping up with Nureyev’s intellect as he matches him riddle for riddle with a sly smile.

Woods’ calmness as Wyeth serves as a good counterbalance to the fiery Nureyev as he is able to shrug off his temper tantrums and earn his respect to even begin this project, let alone keep it alive for so many years.  Some of the show’s best scenes include their ordinary conversations which serve the dual purpose of helping Wyeth get an idea as to how to paint Nureyev as well as expanding their bonds of friendship.

How do I best describe Jed Peterson’s turn as Rudolf Nureyev?  I think the closest analogy I can find is to imagine putting a cork into Old Faithful and then watch as that mighty geyser surges against the cork, threatening to blow at any moment.  Peterson has an energy that you can almost see and feel and it seems like he is barely able to keep it contained.  Indeed, without the occasional release of a tantrum, a riddle, apple pie and ice cream, or dance, it would seem that Peterson’s Nureyev would literally blow up.

Peterson doesn’t play Nureyev.  He IS Nureyev.  Peterson perfectly captures the force of nature that was Nureyev.  He is temperamental.  He is fierce.  He is cultured.  He is smart.  He is witty.  He is driven.  But in just the right moments, he can also be soft and peaceful.  He’s also an amazing dancer.

Peterson paints a portrait of a man who is never truly happy due to his never being able to fully trust anyone and only truly feels free when he dances.  Still his Nureyev opens up to Wyeth more than he has any other person, yet still doesn’t reveal all.  Peterson’s best moments occur when his Nureyev lets down some of his guard and reveals some of his true self.  His fears.  His loves.  His humanity.

The technical elements of the show were just as strong as the storytelling.  Kathy Voecks has designed a wonderful set consisting of pillars of sketches, charcoal drawings, and paintings.  Craig Marsh’s sound design was top notch, especially his use of 70s rock numbers.  Jill Anderson’s costuming was more than up to the task especially with the 70s mod fashion worn by Nureyev.  Ernie Gubbels’ lighting was impressive.  Most notable was his use of shadows which often made the two actors look like living Wyeth paintings and his use of disco lights during the first meeting between Wyeth and Nureyev.

This show is the essence of theatre.  It’s just real.  And it tells a touching story of friendship between two men from different cultures bound by the brotherhood of mad artistry.

Nureyev’s Eyes plays at the Blue Barn through April 15.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat and 2pm on Sundays.  There are no performances on March 25 or April 1.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for seniors (65+), students, and TAG members.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 or visit www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10 St in Omaha, NE.

‘Nureyev’s Eyes’ to Open at Blue Barn

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents

NUREYEV’S EYES

by David Rush

REGIONAL PREMIERE

During the 70s, the painter Jamie Wyeth did a series of studies and paintings of Rudolf Nureyev, the legendary ballet dancer who defected from Russia and revitalized western ballet. This play imagines what their electric, artistic encounters may have been like, what secrets were revealed about the world of painting and international dance, and how their relationship evolved…changing each of them.

Performance dates:

March 22-April 15, 2018

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances at 7:30 pm

Sundays, April 8 and 15 at 2:00 pm

Tickets are on sale now!

Call the BLUEBARN box office 9:30am-4:30 pm M-F

Or visit www.bluebarn.org

Ticket prices:

Adults                   $30

Seniors 65+        $25

Students              $25

About the BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company.  Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

Thomas is a playwright/director who is holding auditions for his adaptation of the erotic novel, Venus in Furs.  As he is about to leave for the night, Vanda bursts into his auditions, pleading for a chance to read for the show.  Impressed by her choice of costume, he auditions her and then the life of the play begins to bleed into the real world. . .or is it the other way around??  This is Venus in Fur by David Ives and playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

The best way to describe this play is that it’s a simple story wrapped up in a web of complexity.  On the surface, it seems to be a story of an audition that segues back and forth from the world of the play to the real world, but it is so much more than that as it touches on themes of lust, sensuality, domination, and control.  I actually rank it as one of the most brilliant scripts I’ve seen as Ives has intimate knowledge of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s controversial novel and expertly weaves it into his own tale.  By doing so, he not only pays homage to the original work, but manages to give it a bit of a twist as well.

Guest director Ablan Roblin has sculpted a show that is surely going to be one of the most talked about of the season.  His staging is sensational as his two performers constantly glide about the stage as the layers of the story are peeled off.  His direction is deep and nuanced which results in powerful performances from the actors who bring the audience deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole of a show.

Matthew Olsen makes an incredible debut at the Blue Barn with his rendition of Thomas.  He begins the show as the elitist writer/director lamenting that he hasn’t been able to find a suitable actress for his show, enumerating all the things the actresses lacked or did wrong.  Then he meets Vanda, his frustration palpable as she is the epitome of all the things he disdained in the other performers.  Once she shows him a proper costume, he gives her a chance and then Thomas’ transformation begins.

Olsen finds dynamic balances in the role of Thomas.  He is the snooty intellectual, but an underconfident actor.  He’s engaged, but doesn’t want to be tied down.  He wants to be in charge, but ends up being led by the nose.  What I found most engaging was that the stronger the character Thomas was playing became, the weaker Thomas became.  Or was Thomas always weak and his character now reveals the truth?  It’s a stimulating and intelligent performance that will leave you enthralled and guessing.

Sarah Carlson-Brown will have you hooked from the moment she enters the room with her Vonda.  Inappropriately dressed as a dominatrix (complete with impressive tattoos) due to a perceived misunderstanding of the story, Ms Carlson-Brown also finds those crucial balances that make her character so compelling.

Though she looks like a dominatrix, she is, in fact, the dominated to start.  She is under the influence of the director who tells her where to stand and how to read.  But as she effortlessly becomes the character she’s reading for, suddenly she’s in control and calling the shots and soon takes over the position of power.  Or was she really in control the whole time?  Ms Carlson-Brown finds wonderful mixtures of sass and submission; strength and begging; power and weakness until her final form thunders in at the finale.

Sound, lights, and set are more crucial to this story than any other I’ve seen.  And the combination of Steven Williams and William Kirby is truly a winning one for this production.  Williams has constructed a fairly simple set of a raised platform with some stage lights, a divan.  But the pieces de resistance are his towering windows complete with the effect of pouring rain.  His lights are also stunning with the complete blackness of brief power outages to soft fluorescent to sensual (and hostile) reds.  Kirby’s sounds go hand in hand with the set and lights with the gentle patter of rain, the booming claps of thunder, and the intense and creepy music as the show heads into the climax.

Georgiann Regan’s costumes are a perfect fit (pun intended).  Most striking are Ms Carlson-Brown’s leather and lace outfit for Vonda and her elegant dress as Wanda.  Olsen is costumed in the elegant rich as the character Kusiemski, but later switches to a footmen’s coat as  Kusiemski falls into servitude.  Or does he??

This play is going to get people talking as I heard numerous conversations taking place after the opening night performance.  The play is a dandy little mindbender anchored by stellar direction and a pair of stellar performances from its two actors.

Venus in Fur plays at the Blue Barn through Feb 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6:30pm (the Feb 18 show will be a 2pm matinee).  There is no performance on Feb 4.  Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for seniors (65+), students, and TAG members.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 or visit www.bluebarn.org.  Due to strong language and mature themes, this show is not suitable for children.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10 St in Omaha, NE.

A Tragic ‘Parade’ Performs at OCP

PARADE

Opens February 9, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, Neb. – Parade, the true story of a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murdering a young girl in a small Southern town, will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Howard Drew Theatre.

Parade is the Tony Award-winning musical based around the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murder in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. Religious intolerance, political injustice and racial tensions are already prevalent in this small Southern town, and when reporters begin to sensationalize the case, the likelihood of a fair trial is put in jeopardy. With a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges Of Madison County), this true story reveals the beauty of the human condition, even when faced with tragedy.

Disclaimer: Contains language and situations related to racial tension and mob violence.

The events surrounding the investigation and the trial of Leo Frank led to the birth of the Jewish civil rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League.  Following the Sunday, February 25 performance, staff members from the Omaha chapter of the Anti-Defamation League will participate in a post-show discussion about the history of the ADL. Open to all attendees of that day’s performance

Production:  Parade

Credits:  Book by Alfred Uhry.  Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  Co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince.

Director:  Jeff Horger

Cast

Brendan Brown as Riley

Breanna Carodine as Minnie

Brooke Fencl as Essie

Adam Hogston as Brit Craig

Chloe Irwin as Mary Phagan

Megan Kelly as Lucille Frank

Melissa King as Mrs. Phagan

Nelson Lampe as Judge Roan

Grant Mannschreck as Frankie Epps

Michael Markey as Hugh Dorsey

Rebecca Noble as Sally Slaton

Mike Palmreuter as John Slaton

Joshua Lloyd Parker as Ivey

Brian Priesman as Tom Watson

Tony Schneider as Mr. Turner

Christopher Scott as Luther Rosser

Jonathan Smith as Jim Conley

Jill Solano as Lizzie Phagan

Grace Titus as Iola

Scott Van Den Top as Starnes

Catherine Vazquez as Monteen

James Verderamo as Leo Frank

Randy Wallace as Mr. Peavey

L. James Wright as Newt Lee

Show Dates:  Feb 9-Mar 11, 2018; Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $42 for adults and $25 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students.

DiscountsTwilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Sponsored by:  Carter and Vernie Jones

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE  68132)

You Say You Want a Musical Revolution

Tony and Maria are in love, but their love faces numerous obstacles.  Her brother and his best friend are the leaders of rival gangs that refuse to let them be together.  The world also tries to keep them apart due to its racism as they come from different cultures.  When they try to rise above these problems, they get dragged back down and crash to a hideous reality.  This is West Side Story based on a concept by Jerome Robbins, written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  It is currently playing at Springfield Little Theatre.

It isn’t often that I find myself tongue-tied when I start to write a review, but I am still in a state of glorious shock at what I just saw.  Prior to tonight, I had never seen West Side Story in any capacity though I had read that the original mounting of the show revolutionized what could be done with choreography.  While I have no real comment to make on that, I can say that SLT’s take on this show completely revolutionized what I considered possible with musical theatre.  This was, by far, the single best musical I have seen mounted on any community theatre stage.

Lorianne Dunn does double duty as both director and choreographer and excels in both aspects.  As director, she has put together an absolute masterpiece of a production.  Her direction is certain as she expertly maneuvers her actors through the emotional beats of the stories and songs and leads them to sterling performances.  Her staging is impeccable.  It makes full use of the performance space and none of her actors upstaged themselves or others.

Her choreography is genius.  Never have I seen such lavish dance numbers especially standouts such as “America”, the prologue, and “The Rumble”.  Her work is all the more impressive given the youth of her cast who absolutely nail their performances with a polish and poise that experienced veterans would envy.

This cast is just amazing.  Their energy (and fitness levels) was off the charts.  They were clearly having fun and that added further fuel to nearly flawless performances.  The chorus remained in each and every moment adding vital life and reality to this staged world.  Exceptional supporting performances were supplied by Richard Bogue as the racist and thuggish Lt. Schrank; Lysander Abadia as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks; Robert Hazlette as the always angry Action and he also gets the lead on the night’s funniest number, “Gee, Officer Krupke”; and Miriam Stein as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s best friend.  Ms Stein especially shines with a velvet lower soprano in “America” and “A Boy Like That”.

Asa Charles Leininger stuns as Riff, the leader of the Jets.  Leininger makes Riff far more than a brainless brute with his multilayered take on the character.  His Riff started the Jets to have a sense of belonging.  He’s proud of his gang because of the support they provide.  He’s tough.  He’s loyal, remaining friends with Tony despite his walking away from the gang.  His Riff even has a code of honor as he’s willing to settle his issues with the Sharks with one fistfight.  He even has some common sense as he refuses to react to those that call him and his gang hoodlums and prefers to stay cool.  Leininger’s New York accent is spot on and he retains it as his lower tenor entertains us with “Jet Song” and “Cool”.

Tanner Johnson is scary smooth as Tony.  Johnson takes the audience by the hand and gracefully leads it through Tony’s emotional journey.  He’s got the perfect personality for the likable Tony who is trying to escape his former world of violence by holding down a job and finding love.  You will be swept along with him as he experiences the highs of love, the horror at his violent actions when he gets dragged back into the gang world, and his heartbreak when he thinks he has lost Maria.

Johnson also has a gorgeous tenor voice.  More importantly, he knows how to act through the songs, striking each emotional beat with unerring accuracy.  Some of his best moments were his joyous “Maria” and his beautiful take on “Somewhere”.

Genevieve Fulks is a powerhouse of talent and will steal your hearts as Maria.  She has such innocence and sweetness in the role and you can believe she has the power to evolve Tony into a better person.  But she just as easily handles anger and pain when her world begins to fall apart due to the lifestyle of violence lived by her loved ones.  And, my word, what a heavenly voice she has.  Ms Fulks’ operatic soprano gave a performance for the angels with showstopping turns in “I Feel Pretty”, “I Have Love”, and “Tonight”.

Susan Gravatt and her orchestra perfectly play the score of this musical.  John R. “Chuck” Rogers has designed a magnificent set of fences, crumbling tenements, and fire escapes.  Jamie Bowers’ lights and sounds enhance the story.  Kris Haik and Ginny Herfkens are winners with their precise costuming with the t-shirts, jackets, and jeans of the gangs and the elegant dresses for the ladies.

As I said earlier, this is the best community theatre musical I have ever seen staged in nearly a quarter century of theatre involvement. I have seen professional productions that couldn’t hold a stick to this show.  It’s just a blitzkrieg of perfection from the fantastic story to grade A direction to stunning choreography to flawless acting and entrancing singing.  If you love theatre and live in or near the Springfield, MO area, buy a ticket to see this show.  You will be blown away.

West Side Story plays at Springfield Little Theatre through Feb 4.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets range from $16-$36.  For tickets visit http://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Box Office at 417-869-1334.  Parental discretion is advised for coarse language and gestures and some scenes of violence.  Springfield Little Theatre is located at 311 E Walnut St in Springfield, MO.