Have Yourself a Plaidful Little Christmas

A musical group returns to life. . .again. . . to spread some holiday cheer.  This is Plaid Tidings by Stuart Ross and is currently playing at the PART Theatre.

This show is less musical and more musical revue as the group, Forever Plaid, spend the evening entertaining the audience (sometimes even involving the audience) with a series of Christmas songs, standards, and pop tunes.  The revue is tied together by the story that Forever Plaid was a musical group that died en route to their big break.  They got to come back once to do the show they never got to do and now have mysteriously returned again for a new mission:  spreading the joy of Christmas.

Since this show doesn’t have the traditional narrative track, there isn’t much acting in the sense of storytelling though those playing Forever Plaid are truly characters with delightful idiosyncrasies and quirks.  Smooth, this group is not.  Forever Plaid definitely has a raw talent musically, but they lack polish which leads to much of the show’s humor.  But this show also has some deeply sensitive, bittersweet, and sad moments that will give your heartstrings a little tug.

Gordon Cantiello provides admirable direction with the piece.  He has staged the production almost as a tiny club or lounge performance and well utilizes the theatre space as Forever Plaid engages with the audience and sings throughout the performance area.  He well defines each member of the group as each person has a distinct and unique personality and history.  Cantiello has also created some of the most amusing choreography I have ever seen with some of the dance moves of Forever Plaid.

The key to this show is casting as those playing Forever Plaid need a vibrant chemistry plus be able to powerfully play off each other along with performing well musically.  Well, this cast certainly has that in spades as I genuinely believed this group had been together for years due to how well they bantered with each other.

In a group of sad sacks, Justin Dehmer’s Smudge was definitely the saddest sack of all.  Projecting the image of a high-strung nerd with his taped-up glasses and complaints about his ulcer.  Dehmer has good vocal range and usually sang the deeper parts of the harmony on the night’s many numbers.  Dehmer also has the acting moment of the night as his Smudge shares the tearjerking story of why Christmas was his favorite time of the year.  The centerpiece of his story is his using the emotion of it to turn one of the most jubilant Christmas songs, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, into a moving heartbreaker.

Jon Hickerson’s Frankie struck me as the de facto leader of the group as he was the one pushing the team to keep focus on their mission.  He has an excellent 2nd tenor voice and a good grip on humor as he had the most amusing monologue of the night with his psychological and emotional observations on Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.  Hickerson also led the night’s most entertaining number, “Matilda”.

Roger Bunnell’s Jinx just might have the potential to be the breakout member of Forever Plaid.  Jinx is the shyest member of the group with a propensity for nose bleeds, but once he gets into the music, his is a rare talent.  Bunnell’s singing voice evokes images of Gene Pitney in natural setting and range, Michael Crawford in timbre, and Lou Christie for sheer falsetto power.  Some of his standout moments are his solo scene when he busts out “Besame Mucho” and “Kiss of Fire” and shows some Gene Kellyish dancing skill when he hoofs it up with “Singin’ in the Snow”.

Josh Dewberry’s Sparky is a human joke machine.  Dewberry has a superior sense of comedic timing and knows how to be physical with his comedy, especially with his rendition of “Fever”.  His lovely tenor was also featured well in “We Wish You a Perry Christmas” which was a segue from the story Sparky shared about the night Forever Plaid met Perry Como.  He does need to be careful with his diction on that lengthy story as it got a bit mushy at some points.

Peggy Holloway’s musical direction is top of line and she does excellent song interpretation on the piano and is ably supported by Bud Phillips on bass.  Mary Mullen Ferzely and Rob Lohman did a wonderful job decorating the theatre and making it feel like the perfect setting for a festive holiday show.  Jackson Hatcher’s sound effects were spot on, especially his ominous claps of thunder.  Josh Dewberry pulled double duty with a nifty bit of lighting design.  Lee Meyer and Gentleman’s Choice teamed up to properly costume Forever Plaid with tastefully gaudy plaid tuxedos and Comoish Christmas sweaters.

If you are a fan of standards and pop tunes, you are going to enjoy this show.  And if you’re a fan of Christmas songs (and I know I am) you are REALLY going to enjoy this show.  Spend a bit of the Yuletide season with Forever Plaid.

Plaid Tidings runs at the PART Theatre through Dec 15.  Showtimes are 7pm Thurs-Sat and 2pm Sat-Sun.  Tickets cost $35 ($30 for seniors and $25 for students).  For ticket information, contact 402-706-0778.  PART Theatre is located inside Crossroads Mall at 7400 Dodge St in Omaha, NE.

Join ‘A Chorus Line’

BLUEBARN THEATRE announces auditions for 

A Chorus Line    

Sunday, January 5th from 3pm-6pm

& Monday, January 6th from 6-9pm

Auditions will be held at the theatre: 1106 S. 10th St Omaha, NE 

The BLUEBARN will hold auditions for A Chorus Line in two sessions. Participants are asked to choose either the Sunday or Monday session and be available for the entire three-hour block.

Auditions will consist of cold readings, singing and dancing.

Please wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear. Formal dance training not specifically required, but confidence in learning and executing a variety of dance styles, along with visible fluidity of movement, is necessary.

Please prepare 16 to 32 bars of music (or about 1 minute of singing) that showcases your vocal and storytelling abilities. Given the deeply personal and biographical content of A Chorus Line, we are specifically looking for physical and emotional connection to your material. Please do not choose a song from A Chorus Line. An accompanist will be provided. Please bring printed sheet music, double-sided, and in a three-ring binder. If your audition cut is two pages, single-sided and side-by-side in a three-ring binder is preferred.

Actors of all ethnicities and gender identities over the age of 16 are encouraged to audition. Please contact Barry, at bcarman@bluebarn.org, to sign up for a session.

A Chorus Line runs May 14th through June 14th, 2020. Rehearsals begin April 13th.

For a casting breakdown please visit us at www.bluebarn.org/auditions.

THE CUT DANCERS (18-40) All Genders & Ethnicities.  Perform entire opening sequence until cut. Dance in “At The Ballet” (looking for 2 women who can dance on point). Some may be asked to understudy. Entire ensemble will be off stage singers throughout the show.

It’s an ‘Everlasting’ Audition

Bellevue Little Theatre Presents Auditions for:

Tuck Everlasting

Location:  Central Elementary (510 W 22nd St in Bellevue, NE)

Dates:  December 15 and 16 at 7pm.  Callbacks on December 18

Director:  Suzanne Withem

Music Director:  Liz Stinman

Performance Dates:  March 13-29 (Fridays-Sundays)

Auditioners should prepare 16 to 32 bars of music (or about 1 minute of singing) that showcases your vocal and storytelling abilities. Please DO NOT choose a song from Tuck Everlasting. An accompanist will be provided. Please bring printed sheet music, double-sided, and in a three-ring binder. If your audition cut is two pages, single-sided and side-by-side in a three-ring binder is preferred. In addition, there will be a dance audition as well as scene work and reading from the script.

CAST REQUIREMENTS
WINNIE FOSTER – 11 years old
MOTHER – Winnie’s mother
NANA – Winnie’s grandmother
JESSE TUCK – the youngest of the Tuck family
MILES TUCK – Jesse’s older brother
MAE TUCK – Jesse’s mother
ANGUS TUCK – Jesse’s father
MAN IN THE YELLOW SUIT – a nefarious leader of a traveling carnival, in search of the fountain of youth
CONSTABLE JOE – head of the police force in Treegap
HUGO – Constable Joe’s sidekick and son
ENSEMBLE- performers ages 8 & up including 2 very strong dancers

Cause Some Trouble, My Friend. Trouble Right There at the Chanticleer.

Chanticleer Community Theater presents
The Music Man Auditions

November 9 & 10 @ 2:00 pm

Audition Material:
Please prepare 16-24 bars of a song and bring music for the accompanist – no acappella.
Please, wear comfortable shoes for dance audition.

Rehearsals are tentatively scheduled to begin December 10, 2019 at Chanticleer (830 Franklin Avenue, Council Bluffs, IA) with the production scheduled for March 13 – 22 in our new home at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center. Some music rehearsals may begin sooner in preparation of the February 19th Gala at our new home.

Show Summary:
The Music Man follows fast-talking traveling salesman, Harold Hill, as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he vows to organize – this, despite the fact that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian, the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain’s fall.
Stage Director: Dwayne Ibsen | Music Director: Jerry Gray | Choreographer: Robin Putnam and Patti Zukaitis

Contact Information: Chanticleer: 712-323-9955 or Email:  chanticleertheater@gmail .com

Creatures of the Night

Rocky_5

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Newly engaged Brad and Janet have a vehicle breakdown in the middle of nowhere.  They stop at the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter to seek assistance and find that the good doctor has created a new. . .playmate.  This is The Rocky Horror Show with book, music, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien and is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it is an homage to cheesy sci-fi films of the 1950s, but with a lot of raunchiness thrown in.  There’s risqué behavior, performers in various states of undress, and a bit of fondling.  So for those uncomfortable with that, consider yourselves forewarned.

I was pretty much a newbie to this show.  I kind of, sort of watched most of the film version once upon a time, but wasn’t paying that close of attention to it.  After watching the stage version, I can honestly say this show is one of the best in the history of the Playhouse.  It is a tremendous amount of fun with catchy songs (brilliantly executed by Jennifer Novak Haar and her band), an intentionally hokey story, some spritely and original choreography, and a great opportunity for audience participation as they are encouraged to bring noisemakers, rubber gloves, toast, flashlights, and even dress up in costume.

Kaitlyn McClincy directs her first full production at the Playhouse with this endeavor.  This is not an easy show to direct due to the colossal amounts of energy required and the suggestive behavior actors need to be led through.  As my friend succinctly stated, “If you ain’t committed, you’re screwed”.  I assure you McClincy and her cast are most thoroughly committed and McClincy’s direction is immaculate and dead on target.

The staging is incredible with Matthew Hamel creating an old-fashioned movie theater for this show to take place.  McClincy makes phenomenal use of the small Howard Drew as she utilizes the entire theatre from stage to seating area to balcony for her actors to tell this story.  She hits all of the hot points of the show to milk the funny and even drilled the rare sentimental moments of the show.  McClincy also has boldly and deftly led her cast to sterling performances from top to bottom.

As I previously stated, energy is crucial to this show and the ensemble hits the ground running and never lets up in a supercharged night of singing and dancing.  Some standout performances came from Jason DeLong who gives an innocent performance as Rocky, Frank ‘N’ Furter’s new creation and shows an impressive set of pipes in “The Sword of Damocles”; Erika Hall-Sieff does well as the sultry domestic, Magenta, and also gets to let her own rich alto shine in “Science Fiction”; Olivia Howard has one of the night’s funniest moments as Columbia with a series of gyrations and movements after having her brain zapped by Frank; and Kevin Buswell is eerily mysterious as the enigmatic butler Riff Raff.

Benn Sieff comes out roaring in his Playhouse debut as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter.  Sieff has incredible instincts and nails the oversexed, over the top mad scientist to the floor.  Sieff has wonderful timing, knowing how to precisely punch a funny line and has a flair for physical comedy, best demonstrated by his bedroom romps with Brad and Janet and he does it all while wearing lingerie and fishnets and gliding around the stage in lifts that add a good six inches to his already towering presence.

Sieff also has a smooth baritone with which he nails comedy in the doctor’s introduction number “Sweet Transvestite” or downright sad and melancholy in one of the night’s few serious moments in “I’m Going Home”.

Cale Albracht is delightfully dorky as Brad.  Albracht’s Brad is a real square and he adds a wonderful stilted and stiff delivery to his lines to emulate the poor actors of cheapo sci-fi films.  Albracht is also a nimble dancer and has a great tenor used to superior effect in “Damn it, Janet” and “Once in a While”.

Charlotte Hedican is sweet and a bit repressed as Janet.  Hedican skillfully handles her hokey dialogue with perfectly sincere camp delivery.  She is also on the mark with the flip from the virginal Janet to the shark smelling blood version after being deflowered by Frank and wants more in “Touch A Touch Me”, one of the top numbers of the evening.

Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco supply some fantastic sounds from the zap of laser guns to the sounds of storms and the electronic whine of viewscreens.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were on target with the tuxedoes of the Transylvanians, the lingerie and fishnets of Frank (and eventually other characters), Rocky’s form fitting golden tights, and the goody-goody look of Janet’s pink dress and Brad’s dark suit.  Courtney Cairncross provides a dazzling bit of choreography especially with the energetic “Time Warp” and the ensemble dancing in “Touch A Touch Me”.

There seemed to be some microphone difficulties at a few points and some of the actors needed to project a bit more strongly.  That being said, I also want to salute the cast for great poise under pressure by not allowing themselves to get thrown off course when a group of theatregoers began to get a bit disruptive halfway through the second act.

It’s cheesy.  It’s hokey.  It’s just plain silly.  But, heavens, this show is fantastic fun and definitely a treat for the Halloween season over at the Playhouse.  Grab your tickets while you can because I foresee many a sellout for this one.

The Rocky Horror Show plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Nov 10.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Special midnight showings will take place on Oct 19, Oct 26, and Nov 2 with no Sunday show on the following day.  Ticket prices start at $42 for adults and $25 for students at can be obtained at the OCP box office, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to mature content, this show is not suitable for children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

OCP Set to Do the Time Warp with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Rocky_5

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Omaha, NE–Cult classic The Rocky Horror Show will make its long-awaited return to the Omaha Community Playhouse when it opens on Friday, Oct 4, 2019.  The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from Oct 4-Nov 10.  Special midnight showings will be held on Oct 19, 26, and Nov 2.  No performances will be held on Oct 20, 27, and Nov 3.

After a flat tire renders them helpless in a storm, Brad and his fiancee, Janet, take refuge in the mansion of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a dangerously eccentric cross-dressing scientist with an insatiable libido.  As the night unfolds, a host of wild characters plunge in and out of rock songs and elaborate dances, stripping the couple of their innocence and leading them to question their traditional stance on sexuality.  This gender-bending musical extravaganza is the most fun you can have in fishnets!  Audience participation and costumes are encouraged.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $42 for adults and $25 for students with prices varying by performance.  Tickets can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed by:  Kaitlyn McClincy

Cast

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Bob Gilmore as Eddie

Cale Albracht as Brad

Charlotte Hedican as Janet

Erika Hall-Sieff as Magenta

Jason Delong as Rocky

Jerry Van Horn as Dr. Scott

Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff

Olivia Howard as Columbia

Rob Baker as Narrator

The Transylvanians will be played by Colin Burk, Connor Meuret, Ejanae Hume, Erin Florea, Evelyn Hill, Jesse White, Jessie Kellerman, Julianna Cooper, Lacey Kiefer, Liliana McMahon, Nathaniel Belshan, Nina Washington, Nora Shelton, Raymond Butler, Riley Perez, and Tonya Stoakes

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

Charming ‘Catch’ Could Use a Charge

At sixteen, Frank Abagnale, Jr. began the path to becoming one of the greatest con men of all time.  Posing as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, he bilked the country out of nearly $2,000,000.  Finally cornered by the dogged FBI agent determined to capture him, Abagnale decides to tell (and sing) his story in Catch Me If You Can:  The Musical by Terrence McNally with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.  It is currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

McNally’s script is a mixed bag.  It does a fine job of highlighting Abagnale’s life and his most notable impostures and I think sharing this might have been enough as his life had enough drama and natural humor for a great story.  Where the script falters is when it tries to needlessly force humor into the story such as making the FBI agents with the exception of Hanratty seem like inept fools.  Kudos to Matt Karasek, Randy Wallace, and Jackson Hal Cottrell for a superb job of playing the characters as written.

D. Laureen Pickle does an admirable job of directing this piece. The staging is well done, seeming more like a sixties sitcom and full performance space is used in telling this story. She found some great beats to add some heart to this story especially in the conversations between Abagnale and his father and she has guided her actors to solid and moving performances.

The ensemble does fine work supporting this story as they were clearly enjoying themselves and really helped to flesh out crowd scenes and provide some snappy dancing courtesy of inventive choreography provided by Kerri Jo Watts and Eastin Yates.  That being said, I did note a couple of points where the execution of the dancing needed to be a bit cleaner.

Some great supporting performances are provided by Kevin Olsen as Frank Abagnale, Sr. who was a minor league con man that taught Junior everything he needed to know about running a scam.  Olsen’s Abagnale, Sr. is quite pitiable as the purpose for his cons is simply to provide a better life for his family, though he does seem to derive a pleasure out of outsmarting the government.  Heather Wilhem is marvelously entertaining as an Atlanta housewife who is quite taken with the smooth Abagnale, Jr. who wishes to marry her daughter.

Thomas Stoysich gives a rather entertaining performance as Frank Abagnale, Jr.  He is a very likable and charming person and these traits are crucial to being a good con artist.  Stoysich is so darn likable that you don’t want to believe that he’s really a crook.  Stoysich also adds a remarkable emotional depth to the performance as he portrays Abagnale’s con artistry as a compulsion.  He can’t seem to help himself.  Stoysich does good work in showing the three reasons why Abagnale does what he does:  1.  He’s trying to survive.  2.  He hopes to earn enough to reunite his broken family.  3.  It’s fun.

Stoysich also has a very pleasant tenor voice which was well utilized in “Live in Living Color” and his attempt to end Abagnale’s story prematurely in “Goodbye”.

Eric Micks is rock solid as Carl Hanratty, Abagnale’s determined pursuer.  This is a man who is completely dedicated to his job and that came at the cost of his own family.  Micks gives Hanratty intelligence and tenacity, but he also gives him a haunting loneliness.  The job is all he has, even spending the holidays by himself except for an annual phone call from Abagnale with whom he shares a sort of friendship in spite of their adversarial relationship.  Micks also possesses a fine baritone shown when he tries to discover “The Man Inside the Clues” as he investigates the crimes of Abagnale.

Chris Ebke and his orchestra do justice to the score of the show with an energetic performance.  Nancy Buennemeyer’s costumes suit the sixties settings especially with the pilot and flight attendant uniforms of the time as well as the elegant clothes for Abagnale and the rumpled suit for Hanratty.  Joey Lorincz does it again with another stellar set with a stairway lit by runner lights and a pair of revolving doors for speedy entrances and exits while locales are projected behind the stairs.

This show badly needed doses of energy and volume last night.  The volume was especially important with the orchestra situated behind the cast as I lost bits of dialogue at various points.  There also seemed to be something up with the microphones as they didn’t seem to work except for a brief burst towards the end of Act I.  Part of the energy issue came from an audience not giving the cast much to work with.  In a show like this, the cast needs the fuel supplied by a lively crowd to further heighten their own performances.  Cue pickups could also be tightened to help the energy.

When all is said and done Catch Me If You Can is a slightly surreal telling of Abagnale’s story.  It’s got the potential to be a great crowd pleaser thanks to a talented crew and a spritely orchestra and a “Strange But True” story.

Catch Me If You Can:  The Musical plays at Bellevue Little Theatre through Sept 29.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $10 for students.  Tickets can be obtained at bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com or calling 402-291-1554.  Some discretion is advised due to some strong language and suggestive moments.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.