A ‘Hare’y Case

Elwood P. Dowd is a heck of a guy.  His manners are impeccable.  He always has a smile and a kind word for you.  He’ll meet you as a stranger and leave you as a friend.  Speaking of friends, his best friend is an invisible six-foot, one and a half inch tall white rabbit which deals fits to his family. Find out why in Harvey which is currently playing at the Lofte Community Theatre.

In Dowd, Mary Chase has created a true disciple to Cervantes’ beloved madman, Don Quixote de La Mancha.  Not only does Dowd see life as it should be instead of as it is, but he takes it one step further by making life as it should be the reality of his little corner of the world.  It’s quite a powerful theme and it’s truly a joy to watch the magical effect that Dowd’s philosophy of just “being pleasant” has on the world.  Had Chase focused solely on the idea of Dowd’s philosophy and madness, she’d have had a nearly perfect story.  But her use of several subplots that never really get fully developed or settled waters her work down a bit and turns a nearly perfect story into a pretty good story.

Kevin Colbert’s direction is fairly effective.  I loved his staging and use of space in the mammoth set.  His actors are precisely placed so you not only always see their faces, but it makes the cavernous library and sanitarium feel full.  Colbert also has a firm grip on the show’s primary theme and gives it the proper focus throughout the production.  He’s also guided his actors to some sweet and charming performances.  As the show does have elements of a farce, I thought the pacing could have been picked up at points and the cue pickups needed to be tighter, but I’ll qualify that by saying I did catch this show on its penultimate night and I may have just been seeing the performance fatigue that sometimes hits at the end of a run.

In this solid ensemble, you’ll see some entertaining performances from Matt Jarvis and Natalie Christina McGovern.  Jarvis makes the most of his brief time on stage by being the physical embodiment of Dowd’s philosophy.  He’s very irritable when he enters, but is transformed into a friendly, garrulous man after meeting Dowd.  Jarvis also gets one of the night’s best monologues as he tells the story of taking patients to and from the sanitarium which paints the difference between happiness and reality.  McGovern provides some laughs as a slightly snobby and man hungry high society elitist.

Neal Herring was sublime as Elwood P. Dowd.  When he first entered, I was struck by his physical similarity to Dan Duryea and his Dowd has a personality to match (Duryea was known as the nicest guy in Hollywood in massive contrast to the vicious villains he brought to life on screen).  Herring underplays the role beautifully.  He is just charming and likable and one cannot help, but be a better person just by being in his presence.  This guy isn’t crazy, he’s simply “conquered reality” which makes him saner than most.

Scott Clark is very clinical as sanitarium head, William Chumley.  This man is practically a robot, staying in his office and never interacting with patients which explains how he’s lost touch with his humanity.  Clark is truly amusing as he starts to disintegrate when dealing with the curious case of Dowd and Harvey and has a truly shining moment when he throws off his shell and you realize Chumley is a man who has merely forgotten the simple pleasures of life.

Rosalie Duffy has all the right elements in place as Dowd’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons.  Duffy’s Veta has got a good heart, but also is a little more concerned with her ranking in high society and how she’s perceived by others instead of just being happy.  Duffy also does a fine job of slowly peeling the onion of her relationship with Harvey and you learn there may be more than madness at play.  This is a truly fun role and I think Duffy has the space to go a bit bigger with some of her interpretations and reactions with some of the show’s more farcical moments.

Colbert has designed the best set I’ve seen this season.  It breaks apart and rotates like a jigsaw puzzle with one side being the library in the Dowd home with its fine stained wood, gorgeous window, bookshelves, and looming fireplace and the other being the front office of the sanitarium with powder blue walls, office doors, phones, and desk.  The sanitarium actually has a homey feeling which would put patients at ease.  Janet Sorensen’s costumes are on the mark with elegant suits for the men, splendid dresses for the wealthy women, the sterile uniform of the sanitarium orderly, and the practical nurse uniform of Ruth Kelly.  I also want to take a moment to praise the wonderful portraits Cindy Mumford has painted of Marcella Dowd plus the one of Elwood and Harvey.

And what of Harvey?  Is he delusion?  Reality?  Or that little spark of happiness that many of us tend to lose?  I have my thoughts, but I’d rather you watch it and come up with your own theories.

Harvey has one final performance at Lofte Community Theatre on April 10 at 2pm.  Tickets cost $24 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 402-234-2553, or visiting www.lofte.org.  Lofte Community Theatre is located at 15841 Manley Road in Manley, NE.

Magnificent “Man of La Mancha” Reaches the Unreachable Star

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“Facts are the enemy of truth.”—Miguel de Cervantes

This line is the crux of the deepest and most philosophical musical ever written.  When minor nobleman, Don Miguel de Cervantes, find himself in prison awaiting the Spanish Inquisition, he is put on trial by his fellow prisoners.  To protect his manuscript, Cervantes pleads guilty and presents the tale of his mad knight, Don Quixote, as his defense.  This is Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion and is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Hilary Adams’ direction is outstanding, flawless, and inventive.  This includes subtle little touches such as having prisoners moving around the dungeon and sharing conversation before the play even begins to the pinpoint accuracy of the beats to the effortless scene changes.  Ms Adams has also coached stellar performances from a dynamic and talented cast which was more than up to the challenge of this epic musical.

Cork Ramer is sensational in the grueling triple role of Miguel Cervantes/Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana.  Ramer’s awesome physical presence draws eyes to him, but it’s his powerful interpretation that will keep eyes riveted to his performance.  Ramer glides smoothly from the witty and well-spoken Cervantes to the staunchly noble Don Quixote to the kindly, but sickly, Alonso Quijana with body language that is just as appropriate.  As Cervantes, he exudes a smooth confidence.  As Quixote, honor and decency.  As Quijana, a withering weakness of the body.  His transition from Quixote to Quijana was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the night as Ramer’s body seemed to collapse in on itself as he transformed from the proud knight to the gravely ill old man.

Ramer is also blessed with a rich and supple deep baritone voice that was capable of an astonishing musical and emotional range.  Ramer was an absolute joy to listen to whether he was heroically singing about finding great glory (I, Don Quixote) or singing about and to his perfect lady (Dulcinea) or proudly reaching tenor quality notes in the play’s signature song, The Impossible Dream.

Noel Larrieu, who plays Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza, has, without question, the most natural delivery style I have ever heard.  Every word and syllable that came out of his mouth was completely extemporaneous and Larrieu underplayed Panza so beautifully that it made his proverbs and observations infinitely funnier.

Larrieu was just as spot on with the singing.  His sweet tenor voice shyly telling Aldonza why he squires for Quixote (I Really Like Him) or trying to galvanize the dying Quijana (A Little Gossip).

Jennifer Gilg gives a strong, multilayered performance as Aldonza/Dulcinea.  She does a fine job of evolving from the sullen, hopeless whore to the fair and honorable lady as her eyes are slowly opened by Don Quixote’s philosophy.  However, I thought her Aldonza needed to start at a much lower level to make the evolution to Dulcinea more marked.  Ms Gilg assuredly had the right intentions in mind, but just needs to take it a bit further and be even coarser and bitterer to begin the show.

Ms Gilg’s performance was strengthened by her gorgeous soprano voice.  She also displayed a strong talent for being able to act through a song as she found the precise emotional points of each number whether she was listlessly singing about her life as a whore (It’s All the Same) or trying to get Quixote to look at her the way she perceived herself (Aldonza) or accepting herself the way Quixote saw her (Dulcinea Reprise).

Steve Krambeck excelled himself with the finest performance of his career as The Duke/Dr. Sanson Carrasco/Barber.  The triple role permitted Krambeck to demonstrate some incredible versatility.  As the Duke, he is a cynical, odious prisoner who is bound and determined to see life as it is and requests to prosecute Cervantes due to his dislike of Cervantes’ idealism and his own hatred of “stupidity, especially when it masquerades as virtue.”  As Dr. Carrasco, he is arrogant and selfish, but motivated by good, if misguided, intentions.  He truly does want to help restore Alonso Quijana to sanity, but wants to do it because he doesn’t relish having a lunatic for an in-law.  However, his flamboyant Barber is the showstopper as his energetic and wimpy interpretation had the audience splitting their sides.  Krambeck also makes for a pretty convincing horse.

John Morrissey is cast perfectly as the Governor/Innkeeper.  As the Governor, he rules the dungeon and presides over the trials with an attitude that he is one to be respected.  As the Innkeeper, he is humble, a bit befuddled, and hilarious as he readily accedes to Don Quixote’s fantasies.  He also has a nice lower tenor singing voice that hits all the right moments after he dubs and renames Quixote The Knight of the Woeful Countenance.

The ensemble also deserves praise for always being in the moment which lent vitality to the show.  Special acknowledgement goes to John E Jones for his portrayal of an exuberant, somewhat dim prisoner who transforms into the kindly and pious Padre and to Ryan Pflug, Andrew Stone, John Ryan, and Adam Hogston for their portrayals of the rowdy and raucous muleteers.

Jim Othuse’s dungeon/inn set is a masterful bit of stage craftsmanship, but it is his lighting design that truly makes it all worthwhile as the simple light changes is what transforms the set from dungeon to inn and back again.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes are pitch perfect from the rags of the prisoners to the cheap armor of Don Quixote.  Jim Boggess and his orchestra deliver once more with a seamless musical performance.

There were a few flaws present in the evening’s performance.  Several lines and lyrics were mixed up and a few actors needed to project more strongly.  A huge fight scene also could use some tidying as it was a bit on the clunky side.

Man of La Mancha gives the audience much more than an enjoyable night of theatre.  It also gives them the gift of hope and the courage to see life as it should be.  How much better would this world be if we all pursued the good in life instead of accepting things as they are?  To paraphrase Cervantes, “God help us.  We should all be men of La Mancha”.

Man of La Mancha plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Oct 18.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students on Wednesday and $40 for adults and $25 for students Thurs-Sun.  Contact the Box Office at 402-553-0800 or visit their website at www.omahaplayhouse.com. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

“Man of La Mancha” Opens Omaha Playhouse’s Main Stage Season

MAN OF LA MANCHA
Written by Dale Wasserman, Music by Mitch Leigh, Lyrics by Joe Darion

Sept. 18 – Oct. 18, 2015
Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

Summary:
Winner of five Tony Awards, Man of La Mancha is a tale of hope and inspiration. When Miguel Cervantes is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition, he is able to keep only one possession: a manuscript of a play he has written. As Cervantes sets the stage with his words in a bleak prison cell, he transports the inmates to another world — the world of Don Quixote. The inmates become characters in his story as he sings about “The Impossible Dream” in this moving demonstration of the power of imagination.

Curtain Times:
7:30pm – Wednesday – Saturday
2pm – Sunday

Ticket Prices:
Wednesday: $30 for adults, $20 for students
Thursday-Sunday: $40 for adults, $25 for students

Twilight (half-priced) tickets will be sold each performance day beginning at noon, cash or check only at the Box Office window. Seating is subject to availability. Mention you are a TAG member for a $10 discount; membership card must be shown when picking up your ticket.

Box Office:
(402) 553-0800

Directed by Hilary Adams

Cast

Cork Ramer: Miguel de Cervantes/ Alsono Quijana / Don Quixote
Noel Larrieu: Sancho Panza/ The Manservant
Patrick Wolfe: Captain of the Inquisition
John Morrissey: Prisoner called The Governor/ The Innkeeper
Steve Krambeck: Prisoner called The Duke/ Dr. Carrasco/ Knight of Mirrors/ Barber/ Horse
Jennifer Gilg: Prisoner/ Aldonza
Lori Lynn Ahrends: Prisoner/ Maria
Sydney Readman: Prisoner/ Fermina/ Dancer
John E. Jones: Prisoner/ The Padre
Samantha Quintana: Prisoner/ Antonia
Judy Radcliffe: Prisoner/ Housekeeper
Julia Ervin: Prisoner/ Horse
John Ryan: Prisoner/ Onstage Guitarist/ Tenorio
Ryan Pflug: Prisoner/ Juan/ Pedro
Jason DeLong: Prisoner/ Paco
Adam Hogston : Prisoner/ Anselmo
Andrew Stone: Prisoner/ Jose

Auditions for Man of La Mancha at Omaha Community Playhouse

Audition Dates: Monday, June 22 at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

Production Dates: September 18 – October 18, 2015
Performs in: Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Director: Hilary Adams
Synopsis: Winner of five Tony Awards, Man of La Mancha is a tale of hope and inspiration. When Miguel Cervantes is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition, he is able to keep only one possession: a manuscript of a play he has written. As Cervantes sets the stage with his words in a bleak prison cell, he transports the inmates to another world—the world of Don Quixote. The inmates become characters in his story as he sings about “The Impossible Dream” in this theatrical celebration of the power of imagination.

Character Descriptions:
Notes: Some of the doubling & assignments of roles may change, depending on vocal range and score / script needs. ALL PARTS REQUIRE SINGING unless noted below. Quite a lot of physicality and violence for most of the company.

Miguel de Cervantes / Alonso Quijana & Don Quixote : Male, 40s
Poet, actor, playwright, and would-be knight. He is a romantic, and has a vision of a far better and nobler world, where knights and chivalry rule the day. Often portrayed as a tall, thin man in his late forties, but this description has flexibility. Baritone.

Sancho Panza / The Manservant: Male, 40-50s +
Older than Don Quixote, he has served Quixote/Cervantes for many years and is devoted to him, even with all his idiosyncrasies. Usually portrayed as shorter than Cervantes, and quite stout – this trait is flexible. Tenor.

Captain of the Inquisition: Male
Strong, dedicated to his work and the cause. Any vocal range.

Guard 1 & 2: Male
Soldiers of the Inquisition (Non-speaking but may sing; we will consider non-singing for the guards.) If singing, any vocal range.

Prisoner called The Governor / The Innkeeper: Male 30s +
As the Governor is the leader of the inmate society in the prison, but is a kindly Innkeeper. Gives the impression of largeness and power. Bass.

Prisoner called The Duke / Dr. Carrasco / Dr. Carrasco playing the Knight of Mirrors: Male, 30s +
As the character of the Duke he is the sidekick to the Governor; however, when he plays Dr. Carrasco, he is Antonia’s fiancé. He thinks Don Quixote is mad and insists that he come home and be treated for his malady. The Knight of Mirrors is a role Dr. Carrasco puts on to trick Quixote into realizing that he is not a knight but rather a squire. Baritone.

Prisoner/ Aldonza: Female, Late 20s +
As a prisoner, she often keeps herself separate from the others. In role as Aldonza, she is a serving woman at the inn, and a part-time prostitute, Aldonza is rough on the exterior, but has a gentle heart inside and yearns to believe what Don Quixote tells her. Quixote falls in loves with her and insists her name is Dulcinea and that she is a beautiful, gentle woman. Also, the character of Aldonza is brutally attacked by the muleteers. Soprano with belt.

Prisoner / Maria, Female, 30s +
Innkeepers wife, supportive of the Innkeeper and of their establishment.
Any vocal range.

Prisoner/ Fermina, Female, 20s +
Serving girl at the inn. Mezzo.

Prisoner/ The Padre, Male, 30s +
Administers to Quioxte’s wishes on his deathbed, and handles his relations and housekeeper when they visit his church for guidance. Well-meaning.
Tenor.

Prisoner/ Antonia, Female, 20s +
Quixote’s niece and Dr. Carrasco’s fiancée. Soprano.

Prisoner/ The Housekeeper, Female
She is housekeeper to Quixote; pretty sure he’s lost his mind and wants him to come home and be well. Mezzo.

Prisoner/ The Barber, Male
Comic role, thinks Quixote is mad but willing to play along. Tenor.

Prisoner/ Horse 1 & 2 One Male, one Female
Dancing / movement roles when playing horses. One male, one female.
Any vocal range.

Prisoner/ Dancer, Female, 20s +
Strong dancer. Dance includes a gypsy-inspired belly-dance. Mezzo.

Prisoner/ Muleteers: muleteer – a driver of mules; think rough band of rovers on the road.
Note: Except for Pedro and Anselmo, the vocal parts are interchangeable & we will assign based on actor.

The following are all male roles:
Prisoner / Tenorio, a muleteer.
Prisoner / Juan, a muleteer – smallest muleteer.
Prisoner / Paco, a muleteer
Prisoner / Anselmo, a muleteer. Tenor.
Prisoner / Pedro, the head muleteer; leads the attack against Aldonza. Baritone.
Prisoner / Jose, a muleteer
Prisoner/ Onstage Guitarist, a muleteer; need to have own guitar. Will play during rehearsals and performance; Spanish influenced incidental music primarily at the beginning of the show, and accompaniment for LITTLE BIRD.