Key of E(xcellent)

From L to R: Cassie Slater, Karl Hamilton, Emily Gardenhire, Andrew Scoggin, Taylor Kraft, and Jacob Barton star in ‘I Love a Piano’

It’s a tribute to the music of Irving Berlin.  It’s I Love a Piano and it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

Yes, the show is a tribute to the works of Berlin, but it’s so much more than that as well.  In many ways, it’s one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever seen staged as it’s, essentially, dozens of mini-plays mashed together.  As, arguably, America’s greatest composer, Berlin was not only extremely prolific over his 50 year career, but he also possessed rare versatility as he could write standards, comic songs, love songs, heartbreakers, and even patriotic songs.  Over 60 of his songs are performed in this production and each is a vignette which requires effective direction and triple threat performers as they need to be able to sing, dance, and, most importantly, act through the songs.  And, trust me, this show has that in spades and then some.

Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley did a stellar job arranging this show as each song flows naturally into the next and essentially tells the story of America from the turn of the century through the 1950s.  I was especially impressed with the framing device of a covered piano and the piano is actually the central character as you follow its journey through the joys and heartaches of America over five decades.

Courtney Crouse’s direction is some of the most nuanced I’ve seen in a show.  As I earlier stated, a director really has to be rock solid to direct this production as he or she is, more or less, directing 60 tiny shows and needs to string it all together logically.  Crouse’s direction has just that assurance.

His staging is impeccable as he makes full use of the stage and I always had a clear line of vision to every performer and there was never a single moment of upstaging.  His knowledge of the beats was dead on target.  Doubly crucial as the beat changes came with lightning speed.  He guided his troupe to utterly flawless performances and they knew how to hit the song points that made them funnier, sadder, more serious, more gleeful, and just more fun.

Jacob Barton and Taylor Kraft have absolutely unmatched stage chemistry.  The real-life couple have the panache and polish of Fred & Ginger combined with the timing of Abbott and Costello.  Each just consistently builds on small things the other does, creating something magnetic and mesmerizing in the process.  Both have the capability to make you cry such as their touching work in “Blue Skies” or can make you laugh such as their battle of one-upsmanship in “Anything You Can Do”. 

Both Barton and Kraft also get their own individual moments to shine.  Barton will tickle your ribs as a draftee in World War I who just wants to sleep in as he sings “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and brings you home for the holidays with his soaring tenor in “White Christmas”.  Kraft is equally amusing in “Gee, I Wish I was Back in the Army” as she pines for the plethora of available soldiers and will make you swoon with “They Say it’s Wonderful”.

Cassie Slater and Karl Hamilton were the funniest couple of the afternoon.  Both have astonishing comedic chops which they use to fullest potential.  Their shining moment was “Let’s Go Slummin” as they delightfully spy on other classes to get their jollies.  Hamilton also gets to show off his equally potent dramatic chops with my favorite song “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” as he plays an army sergeant trying to help his private get through the fear and loneliness of war.  Likewise, Slater will stir your soul with the moving “Russian Lullaby”.

Last, but certainly not least, is the dynamic duo of Andrew Scoggin and Emily Gardenhire.  Both also possess the grand gift of comedy and are the most symbiotic twosome as their best moments come in their duets as they usually play a couple who are not quite on the same page.  Some of their best moments include the thoroughly entertaining “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” as an arguing couple who literally get caught in the spotlight.  They can also be syrupy sweet as in the duet “Isn’t it a Lovely Day”.  Or downright intimidating as they glare down an overexuberant bell ringer in “Lazy”.

Jennifer Hemphill’s choreography is elegant, expansive, and utterly perfect.  Never is there a wasted bit of energy or step.  Clayton Dornbach’s set gives off the sense of a Broadway theatre with is lighted columns and steps.  Shon Causer’s lights really enhanced the production especially with emotional blues for some of the sadder numbers and the use of spotlights as police officers breaking up a speakeasy.  Darrell Wagner’s costumes will take you on a trip through the decades with coats and tails, three piece suits, lovely dresses, and military fatigues.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds provided a subtle backdrop for the show and Kevin Casey and his band (Katie Hutton, Sophia Indelicato, Jordan Perry, Nick Welker, Jamie Baker) gave full justice to the score.

It truly is a show that has a little something for everyone (comedy, drama, acting, singing, and dancing) and a dandy kickoff to the MRT season.

I Love a Piano runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 11.  Showtimes are at 2pm on June 27, 29-30, July 9 and 11 and at 7:30pm on June 27, July 2, 7, and 10. Tickets begin at $26 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo provided by Maples Repertory Theatre

Maples Repertory Theatre Announces 2020 Season: Clearer Vision

Maples Repertory Theatre announces its 2020 Season:  Clearer Vision.

The summer season (June-Aug) will feature:

You Can’t Take it With You

June 17-July 12, 2020

A classic comedy by Kaufman and Hart about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured, but decidedly eccentric, family. A heartwarming and hilarious reminder of beauty all around us.

Greater Tuna

June 26-July 26, 2020

Two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages who live in the second smallest town in Texas. It’s an affectionate comment on small-town life and attitudes. Two of Maples Rep’s favorite comedic actors, Michael McIntire and Sean Riley, are slated to star.

Phantom of the Country Opera

July 17-August 9, 2020

This hilarious country and western send-up of The Phantom of the Opera takes place backstage at the Country Palace in Nashville, Tennessee where former operate ingénue Christina Joseph (now Chrissy Jo) gets a job singing back up to the reigning “Queen of Country Music”. Great music, funny characters and a falling chandelier.

The fall season (Sept-Dec) features:

Menopause:  The Musical

Sept 16-Oct 4, 2020

Four women at a lingerie sale have nothing in common but a black lace bra AND memory loss, hot flashes, and night sweats. This hilarious musical parody set to classic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s will have you cheering and dancing in the aisles. Find out why millions of women AND MEN have been laughing at this show for 18 years.

Ripcord

Oct 14-Oct 25, 2020

Abby has always had a quiet room to herself at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. If a new roommate was assigned to the second bed, Abby – cantankerous and private – quickly got them out. That is until enthusiastic, optimistic Marilyn arrives. Soon Abby realizes that unseating Marilyn is going to take something special. The high-stakes bet that the two women make leads quickly to an all-out war of comic proportions. Ripcord is an often slapstick, always surprising comedy about enemies who may or may not become friends.

I Love a Piano

Nov 27-Dec 13, 2020

This celebration of music and lyrics of Irving Berlin follows the journey of a piano as it moves in and out of American lives from the turn of the century to the present. Along the way, the story comes to vibrant life as the cast sings and dances over sixty of Irving Berlin’s most beloved songs including “Blue Skies”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, “Always”, “White Christmas”, and, of course, “I Love a Piano”.

Tickets are available now.  For more information, visit http://www.maplesrep.com, e-mail info@maplesrep.com, or call 660-385-2914.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

 

Maples Repertory Theatre Auditioning for Actors & Hiring Techs for 2020 Season

Maples Repertory Theatre is holding auditions and accepting applications for actors and technicians for the 2020 season!

Audition dates and times:

2020 UPTA; Memphis, TN February 7 – 10.

2020 Open Audition at Royal Theatre; 102 N. Rubey St.; Macon, MO February 15, 2020
Actors: Please bring headshot/resume and a comic monologue and song. (Accompanist Provided)
Technicians: Please bring resume (and portfolio if applicable)

2020 MWTA; St. Louis, MO February 21-23, 2020

2020 Auditions in Kansas City: February 24, 2020 at Quality Hill Playhouse. 1 – 4pm and 530 – 830 pm

For audition appointment email info@maplesrep.com

To submit electronically email todd@maplesrep.com

Note: If there is inclement weather, auditions may be postponed. Please double check by calling the box office or visiting our Facebook page on the day you plan to audition.

Maples Repertory Theatre 2020 Season

You Can’t Take it With You (June 17-July 12)

Greater Tuna (June 26-July 16) (The roles for this show have been cast.)

Phantom of the Country Opera (July 17-Aug 9)

Menopause:  The Musical (Sept 16-Oct 4)

Ripcord (Oct 14-25)

I Love a Piano (Nov 27-Dec 13)

 

Start Dreaming of a White Christmas

OMAHA IS GUARANTEED A WHITE CHRISTMAS!

The holiday classic skates into the Orpheum Theater November 15

OMAHA, NEBRASKA (October 18, 2016) — Everybody will get in the holiday mood when the stage production of the beloved musical IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS plays at the Orpheum Theater November 15 through 20, as part of the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway Series.

Tickets, starting at $30 each, are available by going online at TicketOmaha.com; by phone at 402.345.0606; or by going to the Ticket Omaha box office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center, 12th and Douglas. Groups of 10 or more may purchase tickets by calling 402.661.8516 or toll-free at 866.434.8587.

Omaha Performing Arts will honor the men and women of the armed forces, veterans and their families at the third annual Omaha Performing Arts’ Heroes’ Night at the Wednesday, November 16 performance of IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS. Gold Star and Blue Star Families – families who have lost a service member in the line of duty and Blue Star Families will be honored. Blue Star is the nation’s largest chapter-based military family support organization which strengthens military families and our nation by connecting communities and fostering leadership. Its members are military families from all branches of the armed services including National Guard and Reserve.

A 15% discount on tickets has been extended to all members of the military for the Tuesday and Wednesday evening performances of IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS. Military members must use the promo code GOLD when purchasing tickets through Ticket Omaha. The promotion is not valid after November 16.

A private reception will be held for Gold Star and Blue Star Families, and a color guard will present the colors before the start of the performance as the audience sings the National Anthem.

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS tells the story of two showbiz buddies putting on a show in a picturesque Vermont inn owned by their former Army general. The now successful Broadway partners become romantically involved with two sisters also staying at the inn. The show is the perfect opportunity for lots of dancing, singing, romance, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sister,” “Blue Skies” and the unforgettable title song. IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS promises to be a merry and bright experience for the entire family!

The stage production is based on the Paramount Pictures film, written for the screen by Norman Kransa, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank.  It starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen.

Performances will be at the Orpheum Theater located at 409 S 16th St in Omaha, NE on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Nov 15-17 at 7:30pm; Friday, November 18 at 8pm; Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm; Sunday, November 20 at 1:30pm and 7pm.

For more information on IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS, go to www.ticketomaha.com or visit www.whitechristmasthemusical.com