‘Respect’ Returns to OCP

Omaha, NE.– Respect opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, June 9. Respect…is the acknowledgment of various influential female recording artists for their valuable contributions to the music industry. Respect is a journey that spans the 1960-1980’s music era honoring some of the most iconic women of our time. Together we will travel deeper into their stories and how their dedication and sacrifice paved the way for many who followed in their footsteps and will continue to empower for many years to come.

The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from June 9 through June 25, with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Director: Kathy Tyree
Music Director: Ananias “Markey” Montague


Leanne Hill Carlson
Shirley Terrell-Jordan
Dani Cleveland
Alisa Moore
Doriette Jordan
Jon Hickerson
DJ Tyree

Some Messed-Up Evening

A girls’ weekend goes off the rails when three of the women plot secret rendezvouses and a snowstorm traps them in their cabin and jams up the signals to their beaus.  This is Girls’ Weekend and it is currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

Karen Schaeffer’s script felt more like a draft.  It definitely has potential and the show’s farcical moments generate a bit of whimsy and amusement.  But the play’s first act felt more like a sitting room drama as the set-up was done a bit too quickly which necessitated extended filler conversation that didn’t do much to advance the plot.  Likewise, not all of the show’s arcs are completely or satisfactorily wrapped up. 

That being said, the talents of a capable director and cast managed to maximize the script’s strengths and downplay its weaknesses.

Jon Flower provides a steady hand with his direction.  He made good use of the theatre space, well positioning his performers so they could always be seen which was especially vital when multiple sight gags occurred simultaneously.  He also had a good sense of physical timing with the jokes with door slams and quick hiding of personages.  Flower pulls some solid performances out of his actors though I did think the pace could have been stepped up and cue pickups tightened at a few points.

The glue holding this play together is the triumvirate of Laureen Pickle, Heather Wilhelm, and Sara Scheidies.  These three actors really have some splendid chemistry and genuinely feel like they’re old friends.  Each takes full command of their individual arcs and nail their moments with hilarity and/or intelligence where the moment calls for it.

Laureen Pickle is a lushful busybody as Dot.  She’s always up on the gossip whether it’s by discussion or eavesdropping and she guzzles wine like an SUV guzzles gas.  Pickle also has an incredible sense of physical comedy as she handles most of the play’s physical jokes due to her character being slipped a mickey.  Whether she’s faceplanting into a plate of lasagna or being rolled on the floor like a ball, Pickle provides some of the show’s most humorous moments.

Heather Wilhelm’s Meg strikes me as the leader of the group.  Meg has a very blue-collar nature and a forceful personality which lets her easily and readily take charge of any situation.  She certainly thinks fast under pressure, but isn’t necessarily wise under pressure as her reactions cause more chaos as opposed to resolving it.

Sara Scheidies’ Carol appears to be the most levelheaded member of the friends.  Her rendezvous is the most innocent of the play since she’s just trying to conceive with her husband.  She also serves as the protector as Carol tries to protect the others from some of their foibles like dumping some pot after the police show up at the door.  Arguably, she also gets the show’s best running gag with her seeming inability to recognize her husband in bed.

Joey Lorincz scores again with another expertly designed set.  His rustic looking wood combined with the props and set dressings of Jenny Cupak-Carroll make the cabin feel natural and real.  I was especially impressed with Lorincz’s bay window and the effect of snowfall he had shining through it.  Jon Flower adds some ambient sounds such as crashing items and breaking dishes.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes suit the personalities of the characters with the torn jeans and casual wear of Meg and the business wear of Carol being particular standouts.

In spite of a few shortcomings, Girls’ Weekend does provide some yuks especially in the show’s farcical second act and is well fueled by the energy of its three leads.

Girls’ Weekend runs at Bellevue Little Theatre through May 21. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office, at blt.simpletix.com, or calling 402-413-8945.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

‘Practice House’ to Premiere at Great Plains Theatre Commons

Omaha, NE–Great Plains Theatre Commons (GPTC) will premiere Practice House May 31 – June 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Yates Illuminates, 3260 Davenport Street.  Tickets are available for free at www.gptcplays.com. Limited seating. Reservations are highly recommended.

GPTC is pleased to present the world premiere of Practice House, which was developed as a PlayLab at the 2021 New Play Conference, held virtually during the pandemic.

Based on a real chapter in American history, in which women were sent to “practice houses” in order to learn how to be a housewife, and babies were leased from local orphanages for the purpose of training women in the new and improved “scientific parenting methods” Practice House explores a world turned upside-down and finds a path towards fragile hope.

“When Practice House was featured at our Conference during Covid, the reading stood out as a fan favorite among other Conference participants and the audience. It was an incredibly moving piece that resonated with all of us, and we are delighted to be producing the world premier production to close out our 22/23 PlayFest Season.” said Director Kevin Lawler.

Written by Rachael Carnes

Directed by Susie Baer Collins

Cast: Kara Davidson, Evelyn Hill, Mary Kelly, Lauren Krupski, Cork Ramer, Erika Hall-Sieff

‘Dance Nation’ Closes BlueBarn Season

Omaha, NE–Dance Nation will close BlueBarn’s Season 34.


Somewhere in America, an army of pre-teen competitive dancers plots to take over the world. And if their new routine is good enough, they’ll claw their way to the top at the Boogie Crown Grand Prix Finals in Tampa Bay. A 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist for drama, Dance Nation is a stark, unrelenting exploration of female power featuring a multigenerational cast of women portraying our 13-year-old heroines. 

Directed by: Susan Clement
Choreography by: Melanie Epps

Featuring: Kevin Barratt, Courtney Stein Cairncross, Kylah Calloway, Natalie Hanson, Francisco Franco, Daena Schweiger, Tatiana Sandoval, Nina Washington, and Julie Fitzgerald Ryan

Dance Nation performs from May 25-June 25. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm with Sunday performances at 6pm on June 4 and 11 and 2pm on June 18 and 25. Tickets cost $37 and can be purchased at www.bluebarn.org or by calling 402-345-1576.

A Blaze of Talent

TammyRa’ stars as Charlayne Woodard in Pretty Fire

Join Charlayne Woodard as she reminisces about her childhood in Pretty Fire which is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Autobiographical plays present a unique challenge in the usage of voice.  A good play must have that sense of voice, but an autographical play is literally the author’s own voice.  Sharing that is trickier because the author has to lay bare his or her soul and be supremely honest.  It’s an extraordinarily difficult task and Woodard delivers with flying colors.

Her reminisces are rich and detailed and Woodard has no fear in sharing the good, the bad, the silly, and the tragic.  Now you might feel a bit thrown as Woodard only discusses her childhood and you might feel there’s more to the story.  And you’re right, there is.  Woodard has written several plays covering her storied life and Pretty Fire is merely the first chapter.

Breanna Carodine provides a flawless piece of direction for the piece.  When your cast is one person, there is always a danger of the show becoming static.  Carodine avoids that danger by having her lone performer constantly on the move.  Even when she is still, she is frequently gesturing or using vivid facial expressions which make her incredibly fun to watch.  Carodine also has great control over the flow of the story, knowing which beats to emphasize and knowing when to slow things down or pick up the pace.  She has guided her actress to a stellar performance and has well shaped the multiple characters she plays.

TammyRa’ is a bonfire of talent and has a searing performance as Charlayne Woodard.  As previously stated, her animation is off the charts and her energy seems limitless.  What I found particularly impressive about TammyRa’s performance was her use of voice to create characters.  Outside of slight alterations to the timbre of her voice, she created characters through body language and the manipulation of her energy.  As Woodard the child, she seemed physically smaller and her energy crackled like lightning.  As her mother, she seemed to physically grow into an adult and had a quiet, strong energy.  As a neighborhood bully, her eyes went cold and her aura simmered with violence.  TammyRa’ has an incredible gift for phrasing as she knew what words to hit for maximum impact and I even found myself responding to her rhetorical questions as I so completely bought into the reality she had built.

Jackie Fox has designed a parklike setting with artificial grass, a couple of benches, and the hint of a living room with a coffee table and a record player.  I especially liked her suspended flowery background which reminded me of changing clouds as I kept seeing a different picture each time I looked at it.  Fox’s lights ebbed and flowed with the emotions of the scene with the midnight blue of Woodard’s most tragic story being of singular quality.  John Gibilisco provides some nice ambient sounds to support the story.  J. Isaiah Smith wraps the piece with a fine and subtle score.  Lindsay Pape provides a colorful costume with a white shirt, green jacket, and tan pants.

There’s no theme to this play. It’s just the fascinating childhood story of one of the stage’s most lauded performers and playwrights.  If you want a night of mesmerizing storytelling, this is it.

Pretty Fire runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 21. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36 and may be purchased at the Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to some mature content and language, discretion is advised. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

BLT’s 250th Production, ‘Girls’ Weekend’ Closing Season 54

Bellevue, NE–On Friday evening, May 5, Bellevue Little Theatre will open the run of its 250th live theatre production, Girls’ Weekend, a lively comedy by Iowa playwright Karen Schaeffer. This opening marks the regional debut of this fast moving farce.

Patrons attending the opening night performance are invited to join the cast and staff after the performance for a party to celebrate the milestone event. Drinks and light refreshments will be served, and all are invited to attend.

The BLT has been proud to welcome patrons for the past 54 seasons at the old ‘Roxy’ movie theatre, 203 W Mission Ave in Olde Towne Bellevue, and plans are underway for an exciting 55th season, opening in September.

The BLT has grown from a group of traveling actors who began performing over 50 years ago in numerous venues in the area to a vibrant fixture in Olde Towne Bellevue. The theatre itself has been remodeled over the years and has expanded its footprint to include the thriving ‘Class Act Thrift Shop’ next door.

This 250th production of Girls’ Weekend will run for three week-ends, from May 5 to May 21.  Curtain is at 7:30. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students. Tickets can be purchased at blt.simpletix.com or calling 402-291-1554.

Karen Schaeffer, the show’s author, will be present the closing weekend of her play to see her play come to life onstage.

This funny, frantic play begins as four Iowa women arrive at an isolated cabin to drink some wine, share some laughs and discuss their book club’s latest offering. The book ‘discussions’ are soon forgotten, and the women proceed to much juicier subjects…..the men not present in favor of juicier subjects – in the women’s case, the men they left behind.

Director–Jon Flower


D. Laureen Pickle

Heather Wilhelm

Sara Scheidies

Clair Mahoney

Daniel Henery-Cavanaugh

Chris Latta

Don Harris

Rider Mattheis

‘Pretty Fire’ is Going to Warm Up the Playhouse

Omaha, NE.– Pretty Fire opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, April 28. Charlayne Woodard takes us on an intimate and powerful journey through five autobiographical vignettes, each capturing different moments of her life growing up as a rambunctious, imaginative child in the 50s and 60s. From her loving family home in upstate New York, to her first experience with racism at her grandmother’s house in Georgia, Pretty Fire is a beautiful one-woman celebration of life, love and family, even in the face of adversity.

Disclaimer: Contains mild adult content and language.

The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from April 28 through May 21, with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Directed by: Breanna Carodine

Starring: TammyRa’

Vile Vegetation

A sad sack floral assistant’s discovery of an unusual plant opens the door to fame, fortune, and the girl he loves.  All he has to do to keep the gravy train going is to make sure his plant gets plenty of a most unique diet.  This is Little Shop of Horrors and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Basing a musical on a cult film would seem like a risky proposition, but it ended up being a monster success for the creators of Little Shop of Horrors.  The keys to its success are that it never takes itself very seriously.  In fact, the campy nature disguises the reality that this is a dark show, even a little darker than the source material.  It also has a vibrant score which will get you rockin’ and rollin’ and maybe even dabbing your eyes a bit at some points.

Stephen Santa opted for a minimalist approach with the casting which really worked.  Instead of a larger cast of supernumeraries, he opts for a very small cast where some of the featured performers end up playing all of the smaller roles.  This allowed for some very entertaining character work.  Santa also lays into the camp of the piece as nearly all of his performers go over the top, but never to an absurd degree where it would become caricature.  Santa keeps the pace brisk and culls some effective performances out of his thespians.

Renzellous Brown, Keiria Marsha, and Ejanae Hume are dynamite as a do-wop Greek chorus that helps propel the story along.  Seth Maisel slays as the greedy, cranky, and opportunistic floral shop owner, Mr. Mushnik.  Maisel adds some depth to the character with his sympathy towards Audrey’s treatment at the hands of her abusive boyfriend.  Kerri Forrester has an angelic singing voice and her Audrey scorches in her solo turns in “Somewhere That’s Green” and “Suddenly Seymour”.  Josh Peyton clearly has a high old time in multiple character roles and his featured performance as the abusive and off kilter dentist, Orin Scrivello.  Peyton brought an intensity to “Be a Dentist” that I’d never heard before and it truly made Orin seem like a dangerous and scary man.  Dave Wingert has a nice pre-recorded intro as the voice of doom setting the stage of the story.

Paul T. Hanson is an ideal Seymour Krelborn.  From head to toe, he is the beaten down nerd from the poor dress sense to his slumped shoulders to the perpetually glum expression on his face.  Hanson makes you feel for Seymour as he is a genuinely nice guy who deserves a break who ends up succumbing to temptation to enjoy the nicer things in life.  Hanson has a real flair for comedy and timing with an extended routine with a cut thumb that reveals his plant’s bloodlust and a bit of puppetry magic where a smaller version of Audrey II keeps trying to take a chomp out of the Greek chorus.  Hanson has a splendid tenor which has a plaintive, desperate quality as he begs to get out of “Skid Row” and a real gentleness in “Suddenly Seymour”.

They say it takes a village, but I say it takes a trio to bring Audrey II to life and the synergy of Cullen Wiley, Tabor Cross, and Tyler Marshall fuse into one dynamic character.  Wiley and Cross provide the animation of II’s mouths and vines and Marshall provides the vocal animation.  Marshall adds just the right blend of snark and meanness to Audrey II who acts as a modern day serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt Seymour while achieving its own devious ends.  Marshall also has some killer vocal chops as he pushes Seymour towards murder in “Git It” and hungers in “Suppertime”.

Matthew Hamel has designed a suitable set for Skid Row with the rundown flower shop whose visage improves with renovations, a graffiti filled wall, and a billboard in the corner.  Andrew Morgan’s properties help add to the derelict nature with garbage cans and less than pristine flowers for the shop (at first).  Janet Morr paints a beautiful home on the billboard which serves as a bit of foreshadowing when the Greek chorus bursts through it to kick off the show.  Tim Burkhart & John Gibilisco add the right ambient sounds with ringing phones, the mechanical whine of a dentist’s drill, and gunshots.  Bradley Pesarchick’s costumes are right on the mark for the characters with Seymour’s sweater and plaid pants, Audrey’s tight dresses, the gorgeous sequined gowns of the chorus, and Orin’s starched white dental coat.  This show isn’t known for big, flashy dance numbers, but DJ Tyree makes his punches count where he can with the choreography for the chorus which suits their do wop numbers and the Jewish dancing of Mushnik in “Mushnik & Son”.  Darrin Golden’s technical work combined with Jim Othuse’s lights make for some pretty good neon signs in Skid Row. Jim Boggess and his orchestra worked this score with the energy of a fiery comet.

This show doesn’t try to pretend to be anything other than what it is and what it is is a fun-filled dark comedy rocker.  You’ll dance.  You’ll laugh.  You’ll have a good time.  Take a visit to this little shop and see what I mean.

Little Shop of Horrors plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 7.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $25 and may be purchased at the Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Care to Step Into the “Ring of Fire”?

Omaha, NE–Rave On Productions announces video auditions for Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.

To submit an audition, email info@billymcguigan.com. Please email your headshot, resume and a video of you singing 16-32 bars of a song of your choice. If you play an instrument, please provide an additional video playing the instrument. Video audition submission deadline is April 30th.


The legendary songbook of Johnny Cash comes to life in a musical experience that will lift your heart and stir your soul. Ring of Fire takes us on an adventure of love and faith, struggle and success all with the strength, humor and honesty that made Johnny Cash one of the greatest songwriters and most revered storytellers in American music. —-This is a paid performance opportunity. Rehearsals take place at ROP Studio in Countryside Village (8708 Countryside Plz). Rehearsals will begin mid-late August. Performances are Sept 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23 at The Waiting Room (6212 Maple St).

The Place I Began

Afong Moy came to the United States from Guangzhou, China in 1834 at the age of 14.  As the first woman from China to enter America, she was used as a sideshow attraction to attract the masses.  Hear her story in The Chinese Lady at BlueBarn Theatre.

Seldom do I find myself falling so deep into a show that I physically snap back to reality as though awakening from a dream.  But that’s exactly what happened with this show.  Lloyd Suh has written a deeply immersive tale.  It’s very stylized as 9/10ths of the show is presented as a sideshow.  But Suh has a tremendous gift for words as the stylized nature plus the delivery of the actors gives them an almost hypnotic power and makes one forget she or he is simply watching a show.

Wai Yim provides the production with an enthralling piece of direction.  Clearly he understands the play inside and out.  He makes full use of the stylized nature of the play, even having his actors add balletic movement which adds another layer to an already nuanced production.  I absolutely loved his staging as he placed Moy in a living painting which is apropos for the woman who was always being looked at.  He’s led his two actors to ironclad performances whose sizzling chemistry is reflected in some of the smoothest cue pickups and back and forth I’ve ever heard.

Jimmy Nguyen is not only an amazingly versatile actor, but he also has a voice made for storytelling.  His Atung is referred to as being irrelevant, but his irrelevance is his strength as he knows how to hide in the background.  His power is that he goes unnoticed which also serves as his prison.  Nguyen’s delivery is so adroit and sardonic and it serves the dual purpose of being humorous, but also showing that Atung suppresses a lot of anger and darkness.  Nugyen has two shining moments.  The first is when he acts as a translator between Moy and Andrew Jackson and he effortlessly transitions between the proper and serious Atung with ramrod posture to the laconic slouching and southern drawl of Jackson.  The second is when he shares a dream (or at least part of it) where it’s clear he is fully aware of how poorly he and Moy are treated and his longing to be in the foreground and to be treated as an equal.

Lisa Tejero demonstrates a true mastery of the craft with her arc as Afong Moy.  Tejero is completely believable as the innocent 14 year old who is unaware that she was virtually sold into slavery.  With her coy and coquettish chuckles and naiveté, Tejero’s Moy truly believes she is on a two year journey of presenting her culture to America and then two years stretches into decades.  With each passing year, Tejero seems to age and wither before our eyes as Moy loses her sense of identity from being away from her homeland and the realization that her value is simply to be gawked at until she gets too old for even that.  Her final moments when she “goes back to where it began” and is what she truly should be is a game changer and a moment of clarity for both audience and actor.

Bill Van Deest aids Yim’s living picture staging by literally framing Moy within a giant picture frame and a room that almost looks like it was brushed into existence by the strokes of a painter and has a surprise or two in store for you.  Moy’s room is greatly bolstered by Amy Reiner’s props which give it the feel of a traditional home in China from the 19th century.  Izumi Inaba’s costumes are both culturally and period correct with gorgeous gowns, robes, and a headdress for Moy and Atung’s hat and garments.  The lighting of Maya Pacana-Bredenkamp add to the show’s hypnotic nature with ethereal colors of watery green, purplish, and red that change with a strike of a gong. 

The autobiographical presentation of the show really lends it strength and allows the audience to truly put themselves in Moy’s shoes and feel her sense of innocence, disconnect, and especially her loss of her sense of humanity with the cruel treatment visited upon the Chinese people living in America after the passing of the Chinse Exclusion Act.  Ladies and gentleman, this is theatre.  It entertains.  It educates.  And it changes you.  Walk into this show and you’ll be transformed.

The Chinese Lady runs at BlueBarn Theatre through April 23.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm with the exception of a 6pm show on April 16. Tickets cost $37 and can be purchased by calling 402-345-1576 or visiting www.bluebarn.org. BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.