A Telekinetic, Teenage Tragedy

Carrie White is a special girl.  Sure she’s bullied and ostracized by her classmates, but she is a special girl.  And maybe her mother abuses her psychologically and emotionally, but she really is a special girl.  Do you want to know how special?  Just make her angry.  But I wouldn’t advise it.  For, if you do, you won’t live long enough to regret it.  Find out how special Carrie White is in Carrie:  The Musical adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen from a novel by Stephen King with music composed by Michael Gore and lyrics written by Dean Pitchford and currently playing at SNAP! Productions.

I admit to not being much of a fan of Stephen King’s horror works.  I’ve only read one of his books and have seen roughly six of his macabre tales. Now I have watched the film version of Carrie and I consider it to be the deepest of his horror novels.  Let me correct that.  It isn’t a horror novel.  Carrie is a tragedy with some undertones of horror.  It is actually an eye opening look at the evil of bullying.  I also admit that I was glad to review this show because I found it to be one of the top productions of the theatre season.

I congratulate Todd Brooks for a truly impressive piece of stage and music direction.  He treated the subject matter with respect and did fine work leading the score.  I also thought he told the story exceptionally well as he and his troupe of actors led us through the pain of Carrie’s existence, yet managed to drop little nuggets of hope for her before epically yanking the rug out from under her feet.  Brooks also drew very good performances out of his thespians who provided a well acted, well sung tale.

I always appreciate choruses who understand the vital part they play in shows.  Each and every member of this chorus stay involved with every moment of the show, providing fresh and strong characterizations that really livened things up.  This particular chorus also had the best harmonization I have ever heard, best exemplified in “A Night We’ll Never Forget”.

Notable performances were supplied by Josh Polack as Billy Nolan, the dimwitted and mean-spirited boyfriend of Carrie’s nemesis and Mike Burns’ portrayal of Tommy Ross, one of the few decent students at Carrie’s school.  Burns had one of the night’s best numbers as his pleasant tenor touched hearts with “Tommy’s Poem (Dreamer in Disguise)”.

Gigi Hausman really shines in the title role of Carrie White in her SNAP! debut.  Ms Hausman has incredible body language as the put upon Carrie as she closes herself off from the rest of her classmates with her clasped hands, slumped shoulders, and downward gaze.  My heart truly ached from the loneliness and sadness she communicated and she nicely evolves Carrie from mousey to somewhat confident and hopeful when Tommy asks her to the prom and she learns how to control her telekinesis to her final snapping after a cruel prank causes her to unleash the full fury of her power on the school.

Ms Hausman was equally moving on the singing side as her soprano pleaded for God’s help in “Evening Prayers” and was quietly optimistic in “Why Not Me?”

Sara Planck is scary in her role of Margaret White.  And what really sells it is how real and normal she appears.  Ms Planck’s Margaret seems like a regular mom, if a little overprotective, until she starts spouting the drivel that Carrie’s first period was a sign of sin.  Then you realize that she’s a neurotic with a religious mania who crooks scripture to satisfy her warped view of God and locks Carrie in an underground cell to pray for forgiveness due to her own guilt of having conceived of a child outside of wedlock.

Ms Planck’s alto nearly stole the night as she tells Carrie “And Eve Was Weak”, confesses about the night she succumbed to temptation in “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”, and goes soprano when she laments “When There’s No One” after she calmly decides to sacrifice Carrie, mistaking her telekinesis for demonic power.

Paloma Power also makes a fine debut with SNAP! as Sue Snell, the play’s narrator.  Ms Power’s Sue bullies Carrie at the start of the show, but genuinely regrets her actions and tries to makes amends through apology and then by getting her boyfriend, Tommy, to take Carrie to the prom.  Ms Power brings a real goodness and decency to the role and she also understands Carrie better than anyone, sharing how she sees the burning cauldron of pain beneath the quiet shell when she beautifully sings “Once You See”.

I was thoroughly repulsed by Chris Hargensen as played by Laurel Rothamel.  And, yes, that is a very high compliment.  I cannot recall a character that I detested as much as I did Chris.  Ms Rothamel’s interpretation is astonishing.  She is so cruel, so nasty, so slutty, so spoiled, and so vindictive that I found myself wishing someone would slap the taste out of her mouth and I’m a pretty peaceful, easy-going guy.  Even more amazing, she actually made me feel a tiny bit of sympathy for her when she implied that her bullying nature is the by-product of being beaten by her father, a ruthless attorney, in the night’s most fun number, “The World According to Chris”.

Jason DeLong deserves extremely high praise for his choreography which was not only fun and creative, but managed to be flowing and big despite the confines of the small theatre.  Megan Bollanger’s set invoked memories of high school dances from yesteryear.  Leah Skorupa’s costumes were pitch perfect from Carrie’s frumpy outfit to Chris’ vampy clothes to the elegant prom gear.  Joshua Mullady proves that he may be the city’s best lighting designer as his lights once more become extra characters in the show as they enhanced scenes with evil reds, hopeful glows, and soft romance.  Daena Schweiger’s sound and visuals really added that something extra to the show.

There were a few missed notes during some of the songs and some of the cast needed to speak up and project more, but this is a quality production.  The numbers are catchy, the story is surprisingly profound, and the acting is quite powerful.  Get yourself a ticket to see this as, as the cast sings, it’ll be a night you’ll never forget.

Carrie:  The Musical continues at SNAP! Productions through June 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm.  The June 25 show and an additional matinee on June 17 will be at 2pm.  Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, TAG members, Military, and seniors (55+) and all Thursday shows).  For tickets, call 402-341-2757 or visit www.snapproductions.com.  Due to strong language and mature themes, Carrie:  The Musical is not recommended for children.  SNAP! Productions is located at 3225 California Street in Omaha, NE.

SNAP! Productions Holding Auditions for Horror Musical

Carrie the Musical
directed by Todd Brooks

SNAP! Productions
3225 California Street
Omaha, NE 68108

Auditions begin at 6:30pm

 

SNAP! Productions’ Summer show, CARRIE The Musical, will have auditions on March 13th and 14 th. The run of the show will be from June 1 – 25 (Thursday – Sunday only). The rehearsals will start on April 19th. Todd Brooks will Direct and Music Direct with Joshua Mullady (Producing) and Jason DeLong (Choreographer).

Please have a memorized piece of music to sing. An accompanist will be provided, so have sheet music. NO acapella singing. Remember this is a rock score and most females need to be able to belt. Men need to sing something that shows off high notes. There will be dancing for the high school roles, so wear appropriate shoes and clothes. There will also be cold readings from the script.

 

SYNOPSIS

Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her loving but cruelly over-protective mother. But Carrie’s just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it…

 

CAST BREAKDOWN
CARRIE WHITE:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

A painfully shy outsider who, in spite of her best efforts to belong, has been the victim of her classmates’ cruel jokes since childhood, as well as her mother’s strict, biblically-ordained control at home. She transforms from ugly duckling into graceful-and then vengeful- swan. Vocally, she must be capable of lyrical sweetness as well as fierce power.

 

MARGARET WHITE:  (Female – Carrie’s Mom – 40’s to 50’s)

A woman of visceral extremes, she balances her fervent religious convictions with equally sincere true-believer spirituality and tender, maternal love for Carrie. Like Carrie, with whom she shares several duets, her voice must range from expressive and melodic to ferocious and frightening.

 

SUE SNELL:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

A straight-A student who’s been popular her entire life, she’s remarkably level headed for her age. Her unthinking participation in a cruel act of bullying causes a crisis of conscience that leads her on a journey to try to right things. Vocally, she has a pop ballad voice that delivers sweet sincerity and strength.

 

TOMMY ROSS:  (Male – able to look like a senior in high school)

Popular star athlete, valedictorian, and all around stand-out, he’s the boy that all the girls want to be with, and all the boy want to be. Yet he also has unexpected, quirky sensitivity and is just starting to mine his personal life and feelings – a budding poet. His voice should have an effortless pop quality.

 

CHRIS HARGENSEN:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

Rich, spoiled-rotten, and wickedly funny, Chris is a popular beauty whose arrogant self-assurance makes her believe that the rules don’t apply to her. Loaded with sexual dynamite, she has serious daddy and anger-management issues. Her voice is pop-rock percussive and powerful.

 

BILLY NOLAN:  (Male – able to look like a senior in high school)

Now in his sixth year in high school, Billy’s a sexy, stupid·like-a-fox bad boy whose wise mouth troublemaking has led him to spend more time in detention than in class. All these qualities make it easy for his girlfriend Chris to manipulate him to do her bidding. His voice is that of a wailing rocker.

 

MISS LYNN GARDNER:  (Female – able to play mid 30’s)

Mid-30s, this girls’ P.E. teacher can be a strict disciplinarian if necessary, but when Carrie arouses her maternal instinct, she surprises herself by also revealing a protective “fairy godmother” side. Her voice is warm and strong, just like the woman.

 

MR. STEPHENS: (Male – able to play mid 30’s)

Late-30s, this well-intentioned English teacher and guidance counselor struggles to help his students realize their potential. A dedicated educator, he’s stretched thin in his duties, woefully underpaid, and a bit overwhelmed as to how to handle the Billy Nolans of the classroom combat zone.

 

NORMA:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

Bitchy, gossipy and a shameless suck-up to authority, Norma is second-in-command to Chris’ queen bee.

 

FRIEDA:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

Sue’s brainy pal, she’s an easy-going, get-along follower and a tireless extracurricular committee volunteer.

 

HELEN:  (Female – able to look like a senior in high school)

Giggly and easily shocked, her immaturity and need to belong make her the perfect example of the herd mentality.

 

GEORGE:  (Male – able to look like a senior in high school)

Tommy’s jock wingman since childhood, George idolizes him. Perhaps a little too much …

 

STOKES:  (Male – able to look like a senior in high school)

A bit of a nerd, he’s happy to be included as one of Tommy’s posse.

 

FREDDY:  (Male – able to look like a senior in high school)

The wisecracking class clown and official yearbook photographer, be can’t believe any girl would ever give him the time of day.

Any questions, please contact Todd Brooks @ Brooks1965@aol.com. Please put “Carrie The Musical” in the subject line.

Tepid, Tiresome Tale Dooms Dracula

When Dr. Seward’s daughter, Lucy, begins exhibiting the same symptoms that preceded the death of her friend, Mina, Dr. Seward calls in his old friend, Professor Van Helsing for help.  Van Helsing suspects the work of a vampire and it is up to the two doctors and Lucy’s fiancée, Jonathan Harker, to discover the vampire and save Lucy from certain doom.  This is the plot of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker and currently playing at the Chanticleer Theater.

This is, quite possibly, the dullest script I have ever seen produced on a metro area stage.  Even by the standards of the year this play was written, 1924, it isn’t scary.  It’s a sitting room melodrama and that is not suited to a gothic tale like Dracula.  Aside from the lack of scares, Deane and Balderston have done the cast and audience no favors by leaping straight into the action with no sense of build and eliminating 3 crucial characters from the story though the presence of one, Mina Murray, is felt throughout the play.  The tension is nearly non-existent and the resolution is anti-climactic.

I tip my hat to Daena Schweiger and her group of actors for a valiant effort in trying to do something with this script, but it hates them with a passion and practically defies them to do anything with it.  It truly is a pity as Ms Schweiger’s direction is of very good quality.  The show is well staged, well paced, and Ms Schweiger has guided her actors to mostly very good to excellent performances.

Andy Niess shone in the role of Renfield, Dracula’s insane servant.  Arguably the most well developed character in the play, the script still tries to hamstring the actor by making Renfield the clichéd slavering lackey.  Niess turns the tables on the script with a deep, multilayered performance.  He demonstrates great understanding of Renfield’s nature by leaping from sane to insane and back again at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes even within the same sentence.  When he laughs it is with purpose and it is sinister and scary.  When he begs to be restrained and sent away to protect Lucy, he is strangely sympathetic.  The only flaw in Niess’ performance is that he needs to commit more fully when Renfield physically attacks  others.  He was obviously holding back during those moments of violence.

Amanda Vyhnalek does remarkable work with the relatively one note character of Lucy Seward.  Ostensibly, she is the stereotypical damsel in distress and Dracula has already begun attacking her as the play opens.  Ms Vyhnalek communicates Lucy’s fear and sickliness well with a weary, fearful delivery and stooped body posture.  She truly gets her moment to shine when her vampiric nature begins to dominate her.  She is sultry and coy as she tries to pry the group’s plans for Dracula out of Jonathan.  Ms Vyhnalek’s diction is some of the best I’ve heard out of a local performer and she is also capable of a bloodcurdling scream guaranteed to send chills down one’s spine.

Mark Reid is pretty effective in the role of Professor Van Helsing.   I thought his soft spoken approach to Van Helsing worked especially well as it made the character’s intelligence and strength of will more pronounced.  This Van Helsing is clearly a step ahead of everyone else intellectually and it is that crucial step that makes one believe that he will defeat the evil Count.  Reid does need to be careful with his accent as it seemed to come and go and sometimes sounded more British than Dutch.

Adam Haverman does good work with his interpretation of Jonathan Harker.  Haverman has a nice, natural delivery style well suited to the earnest Harker.  He is brave and he is determined.  Haverman also reacts well to others.  A sterling example of this talent is his determination not to reveal the heroes’ pursuit of Count Dracula to Lucy despite his body language clearly indicating he wants nothing more than to do just that.

Alfred Salanitro is fairly solid in the role of Dr. Seward.  I liked the clinical air he brought to the psychiatrist as it made it very believable that this man would be very logical and not open to the idea of a supernatural beast hunting his daughter.  However, I did think he overused it a bit as, even after he accepted the reality of a vampire, he still seemed very clinical towards Lucy’s plight and I did not sense a great deal of concern for his daughter’s well-being.  Salanitro also needs to step up his volume.

Matthew Kelehan seems a bit out of his element in the title role.  He lacked the regal presence needed for the Count and he had difficulty with Dracula’s Romanian accent.  Kelehan’s interpretation also needs to be nuanced as it came off a bit stiff and wooden.

The technical pieces of the show were some of its strongest assets.  Particularly impressive was Michael Taylor Stewart’s set, the imposing stone edifice of Purley Sanitorium and Dave Podendorf’s sound design with its intense bass beats, creepy music, and haunting cries being the perfect support for a gothic story.

I’ve long said that bad writing will sink good acting each and every time and this particular story seems to support that belief.  The cast deserves much better than what this play gives them, but they certainly do give their all to the tale.

Dracula plays at the Chanticleer Theater through November 1.  Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  An additional 10:30pm performance will be given on October 30.  Tickets cost $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.  For reservations, contact the Chanticleer at 712-323-9955.  The Chanticleer is located at 830 Franklin Ave in Council Bluffs, IA.  Dracula is a horror show and parental discretion is advised.

“Dracula” Lacks Bite

The evil vampire, Count Dracula, stalks the streets of London. He, himself, is hunted by a group of adventurers pledging to end his reign of terror. This is the story of Dracula written by Steven Dietz and based off of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and is currently playing at the UNO Theatre.

I have always considered this version of the legendary tale one of the better ones as it is based much more closely on the novel. Dietz manages to capture the most important elements of Stoker’s novel though he does eliminate two crucial characters and compresses events down to size for the sake of the play.

D. Scott Glasser’s direction is fairly solid. He makes good use of the cobblestoned three tiered stage (wonderfully designed by Robbie Jones) and had his actors well placed for the multiple simultaneous scenes that take place during the course of the show. But I did disagree with his staging. The actors presented the story in a very theatrical manner which seemed over the top at certain points which resulted in snickers and chuckles from the audience. A more realistic approach would assist in making this show a true spellbinding chiller.

Michael Judah does fine work in the title role. He has a nice intimidating physical presence and lent an air of mystery to the character as he quickly appeared and disappeared on stage. I was especially impressed with his rejuvenated Dracula as he was truly a beast. He took what he wanted, succumbed to his appetites without regret, and oozed danger. His weaker, aged version of Dracula (a stellar make-up job from Charleen Willoughby) was a bit too energetic and animated. I also thought Judah needed to be more authoritative as weaker Dracula as he is a nobleman and warrior with centuries of experience and cunning on his side.

Andrew Prescott is excellent as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula’s chief nemesis. Prescott’s marvelously powerful speaking voice was well suited to his bold, decisive characterization. He was truly a man of action and convinced me that this was somebody I would want leading me into a dangerous situation. Prescott does need to be careful not to upstage himself as he turned his back on all of the audience members in the round on a couple of occasions.

Enrique Madera made some odd choices in his interpretation of Renfield. When he opened the play, he spoke with a Received Pronunciation accent and had utterly flawless diction. When he transitioned into the Renfield of the story he fell into a Cockney accent and his diction vanished. At certain points he also seemed to imbue the character with some effeminate qualities which I didn’t think worked very well. Madera also didn’t seem to quite get Renfield’s true nature, though he was on the right track. Renfield is a man of massive extremes. When he is sane, he is completely calm and controlled. When he goes through a psychotic fit, it is savagely violent and he is capable of making those changes on the turn of a dime. Madera was making those changes but they need to be sharper and more pronounced. I also thought his choice to consistently giggle was a little too clichéd.

Garrett Garniss’ portrayal of Dr. Seward was a superior work of storytelling. His rich voice captured all of the subtle nuances needed for the character. I could feel his pain when he lost Lucy, his confusion and irritation with Van Helsing who would not reveal the whole truth of the situation, his anger and disgust at what needs to be done with Lucy, and his courage and determination when he decides to accept the burden placed upon him. It was truly fine workmanship.

The only flaw in Mike Burns’ Jonathan Harker was its theatricality. Toned down a few notches, it is a gripping performance. Burns did good work in portraying Harker as the hungry new solicitor determined to do good by Dracula as his leasing agent. Most impressive was his turn as a nearly catatonic patient after the horrors he experiences at Castle Dracula.

I thought Sarah Nickolaisen made for a very sweet Lucy Westenra. She could be playful as when she was teasing Mina, empathetic when she rejected Seward’s marriage proposal, and I was chilled when she transformed into the eerie and bestial Bloofer Lady. She does need to be certain to overenunciate when she has the fangs so she can be understood.

Likewise, I thought Jordyn Petersen was loyal and steadfast as Mina Murray, but she also needs to watch her diction as her dialogue was mushy at points during the play.

Charleen Willoughby’s costumes were perfect for the gothic tale. Aaron David Wrigley’s sound was an ideal match to the mood of the story. Adam VanOsdel’s special effects could not be improved upon. Audrey Wardian’s lighting was well suited, but was a bit too dim and shadowy. For a large portion of the play, I had difficulty seeing the actors and could not read their reactions and expressions.

The play did have some group issues as well. The theatre is a black box so the actors need to really belt out their lines to be heard. Accents were a mixed bag and sometimes were dropped and changed. The pace of the show also needed to be greatly picked up and scenes of violence need to be tighter and cleaner. Still, I see untapped potential in this show. As this was the first of two preview performances, there is still time for adjustments to be made to allow the show to reach the heights I believe it can reach.

Dracula plays at the UNO Theatre in the Weber Fine Arts Building through October 10. Performances are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $16, but UNO students get one free ticket. Reservations can be made at 402-554-PLAY or their website at www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre. Dracula is a horror story and is recommended for mature audiences.

Auditions for Dracula at Chanticleer Theater

Auditions for the second production of the Chanticleer Community Theater 2015 – 2016 season, Dracula, by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, will be held on Sunday, September 13 at 6:00 p.m. and Monday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m. at Chanticleer Theater (830 Franklin Ave, Council Bluffs, IA).

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script.  Please bring a calendar and a list of ALL conflicts from September 16 – November 1, 2015.  Cast read-thru tentatively scheduled for audition week with rehearsals beginning week of September 21.

Dracula opens October 23 and runs through November 1, 2015.  Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons for two weekends. For this production we will be including an additional midnight performance on Halloween!

Show Summary
Lucy Seward, daughter of the physician in charge of a sanatorium near London, is mysteriously anemic. Doctor Van Helsing, a specialist in obscure diseases, suspects a vampire which, according to legend, is an ugly soul that, grave-bound by day, roams the earth at night, and sustains its earthly life by sucking the blood of approachable victims.

The Players
Dracula: A tall, mysterious man. Polished and distinguished. Continental in appearance and manner. Age 40 – 60.

Harker: A young man age 20 – 30; handsome in appearance; a typical Englishman of the Public School class, but in manner direct, explosive, incisive and excitable.

Dr. Seward: Age 50 – 65; intelligent, but a typical specialist who lives in a world of text books and patients; not a man of action or force of character.

Van Helsing: Age 50 – 65; Clearly a man of resourceful action; nervous, alert manner; an air of resolution; incisive speech, always to the point; raps his words out sharply and quickly.

Renfield: Repulsive young man age 20 – 30; repulsive; face distorted, shifty eyes, tousled hair.

Lucy Seward: Daughter of Dr. Seward; A beautiful young girl age 20 – 30; her face is unnaturally pale and she walks with difficulty; fiancée of Harker.

Maid: An attractive young girl age 20 – 30; possibly to double in non-speaking role of Mina.

Attendant: Young man of 20 – 30; Sanatorium worker for Dr. Seward.

Dracula will be directed by Daena Schweiger and is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French. For more information or to check out a script please contact the Chanticleer Community Theater at (712) 323-9955