Things are Getting Peachy Keen at OCP

Omaha, NE. – James and the Giant Peach, a magical story of adventure and unexpected friends in a family-friendly musical, will run March 2 – 25, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

James and the Giant Peach is a brand-new musical guaranteed to mesmerize theatregoers of all ages. A compelling story by beloved author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda) and music composed by the award-winning team of Pasek & Paul (La La Land, A Christmas Story, television’s Smash), a young orphan named James accidentally drops magic crystals by an old peach tree. Strange things start to happen and James soon discovers a world of magic and adventure full of friendly insects and learns that love and family can be found in unexpected places.

James and the Giant Peach the musical features a score by the Tony, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning team of Pasek and Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, Dogfight, A Christmas Story the Musical, La La Land, The Greatest Showman) and a book by Timothy Allen McDonald (Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley).

Written by Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach was the first of Dahl’s well-known children’s stories that he completed, published in 1961. He also authored Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG.

To celebrate James and the Giant Peach, Omaha Community Playhouse will hold an opening night celebration from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 2 free to that evening’s ticket holders. No reservations necessary. Our friends at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are helping make opening night special by bringing some special guests…of the insect variety. Take a peek at these fascinating creatures and also grab a treat before the show!

Production:  James and the Giant Peach

Credits:  Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul | Book by Timothy Allen McDonald | Based on the book by Roald Dahl

Director:  Kimberly Faith Hickman


Maddie Smith as James

Jodi Vaccaro as Spiker

Sara Mattix as Sponge

Samantha (Quintana) Zarders as Spider

Kyle Avery as Grasshopper

Sarah Ebke as Ladybug

Zhomontee Wilson as Earthworm

Steve Krambeck as Centipede

Aaron Mann as Ladahlord

Ensemble features Tyson Bentley, Carmen Butler, Lillian Cohen, Justin Eller, Brandon Fisher, Aubrey Fleming, Cody Girouex, Jamie Gould, Elliot Gray, Ryan Laughlin, Tayler Lempke Plank, Isabelle Rangel, Aidan Schmidtke, Joshua Shapiro, Isabella Smith, Cleo Washingtion

Show dates: March 2 – 25, 2018; Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2:00 p.m.

Tickets: Available now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at or Single tickets start at $24 (Wednesdays) and start at $32 (Thursdays – Sundays) for adults and student tickets are $18(Wednesdays) and $20 (Thursdays – Sundays). Tickets for groups of 12 or more start at $22 for adults and start at $14 for students.

Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices.

Copies of the James and the Giant Peach book are available at the OCP box office for $8. Available only at the OCP box office. Not available online.

DiscountsTwilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Wednesday Performances – Discounted tickets are available for Wednesday performances only at $24 for adults and $18 for students.

Whatta Deal Wednesday – Discounted tickets for $10 will be available for the first Wednesday performance on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. $10 tickets will be available in person at the box office starting at 4:00 p.m. the day of the show.

Sponsored by: Immanuel Communities (Series Sponsor), Valmont Industries, Inc. (Orchestra Sponsor), Omaha Steaks (Artistic Team Sponsor), Children’s Respite Care Center (Special Effects Sponsor) and Cox Media (Media Sponsor).

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE)


Grave Injustice

On the morning of April 27, 1913 in Atlanta, GA, the body of a 13 year old girl named Mary Phagan was found brutally murdered in the basement of the pencil factory where she had recently been laid off.  In a desperate attempt to close the books on the crime, her boss, Leo Frank, was indicted and convicted for the crime.  Frank was an ideal fall guy due to his being Jewish and a northerner.  This outsider status triggered a bloodlust and savagery in the community of Atlanta that led to the most devastating and tragic results.  This is the story of Parade written by Alfred Uhry with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  It opens tonight at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

I’ve seen and been involved with good shows, bad shows, and great shows.  Above these categories lies a fourth category.  To be in this category, the show must transcend the normal theatregoing experience with a uniqueness that can’t be defined.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  But when it’s there, it transforms the show into something truly magical.  After last night’s show, I have added Parade to that fourth category.

Alfred Uhry has written an eminently tragic tale about the trial of Leo Frank.  It is unafraid; boldly tackling ideas such as social justice, racism, anti-Semitism, and blind vengeance.  While it is clearly a drama, it’s also a very realistic show as there are moments of happiness, fun, and laughter mixed in with the grief and tragedy.  Uhry’s script is infinitely strengthened by the score of Jason Robert Brown who has infused the musical with some of the most haunting melodies I have ever heard.

Jeff Horger has helmed what might be the season’s best production with second to none direction and a nearly flawless cast.  What I especially appreciated about Horger’s direction is that the focus is on the community.  Yes, this is Leo Frank’s story, but the community is the central character as it’s the mentality and reactions of the citizenry that drives this series of events.  The audience becomes part of this community through Horger’s staging which has the characters of the play sitting with them, melding them into one unit.

This cast is so loaded with talent that I would like nothing more than to write a 10 page review extolling all of their virtues.  With that being said, some of the remarkable performances you’ll see are Adam Hogston as Brit Craig, a boozy, slimy reporter who sensationalizes the murder to the point where Frank would be unable to get a fair trial; Chloe Irwin who gives a spot on performance as Mary Phagan.  Ms Irwin has an impressive range for one so young as she can be such a kid at one moment and move you to tears with her reactions during Mary’s funeral in the next.

Other mighty performances come from Melissa King as Mrs. Phagan who gives a tortured performance as the grieving mother highlighted by an incredible solo with “My Child Will Forgive Me”; Grant Mannschreck as Frankie Epps, Mary’s friend and suitor.  Mannschreck has a strong, bright tenor that brought tears to my eyes with “It Don’t Make Sense”.  Mike Palmreuter also shines as John Slaton, the governor who sets the chain of events into motion for political reasons, but tries to do the right thing in the end.  Brian Priesman is menacing as Tom Watson, a hypocritical Bible thumper who knows how to stir up the masses.

One of the actors to watch out for is J. Isaiah Smith as Jim Conley.  Smith just bleeds talent and charisma with his take on Conley.  Smith’s Conley is a snarky, conniving piece of human garbage whose testimony is crucial to the conviction of Frank, but he just might be hiding secrets of his own.  Smith darn near steals the show with two showstopping numbers:  “That’s What He Said” and “Blues:  Feel the Rain Fall’”.  The latter song allows Smith to hit some searing and awesome falsettos.

Michael Markey gives a multilayered performance as Hugh Dorsey, Atlanta’s D.A. and prosecutor for Frank’s trial.  Markey gives you the sense that he does want to see justice done, but he’s more worried about the political ramifications should he fail to find and convict a killer.  When Frank is served up to him, he has absolutely no qualms about using coached testimony and suborned perjury to doom him.  Markey also has a facile baritone well used in “Twenty Miles from Marietta” and “The Glory”.

Megan Kelly blew me away as Lucille Frank.  Aptly described as “Jewish and southern”, Ms Kelly is every bit the Southern belle, but with a devout faith as well.  She is also very real as her reactions and fears about Frank’s trial and the public’s reactions to her are dead on the mark.  Ms Kelly also gets to show real strength as she overcomes those fears to stand by her husband’s side, best shown with her lovely alto in “You Don’t Know This Man”.  Not only does she overcome her own fears, but she also overcomes Frank’s pigheadedness which she wonderfully describes in “Do It Alone” to give him the help he so desperately needs to obtain his freedom.

And in midst of all of this chaos is Leo Frank, incredibly essayed by James Verderamo.  Verderamo is uncanny as Frank as he walks that line of making him a decent man, but not a likable man.  Verderamo’s Frank is definitely a square peg in a round hole.  He’s unhappy in Atlanta and would rather be back home in Brooklyn, NY.  He’s a workaholic, anal, a bit arrogant, and easily flustered and frustrated.  He is also smart, a gentleman, and well-mannered.

Verderamo depicts Frank’s high strung nature with a perpetual hunch in his shoulders and a constant massaging of his hands.  He also has a scintillating tenor voice best used in “All The Wasted Time” and “Sh’ma”.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra find gold once more with a brilliant rendering of the score, not to mention the clever staging of their being on a balcony over the town to make them a band in the parade.  Tim Burkhart & John Giblisco score with their sounds especially the wavy sound effects of an era microphone.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes evoke the memories of early 1900s southern gear with the long dresses, three piece suits, and old time prison garb.  Jim Othuse has designed a simple town square with lamps, crumbling wall, and balcony.  And his lights suit the play’s emotions down to the ground with sad blues, angry reds, and dark shadows.  Melanie Walters’ choreography shines especially in “Pretty Music” and “That’s What He Said”.

This is what theatre is all about.  When it operates at its pinnacle, theatre is a galvanizing force for action.  In his notes, Jeff Horger called this a historical piece and that is absolutely correct.  For what is history, but a chance to learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them.

Parade plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Feb 9-Mar 11.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students.  Due to mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  For tickets call 402-553-0800 or visit or  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

A Tragic ‘Parade’ Performs at OCP


Opens February 9, 2018 at the Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, Neb. – Parade, the true story of a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murdering a young girl in a small Southern town, will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Howard Drew Theatre.

Parade is the Tony Award-winning musical based around the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murder in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. Religious intolerance, political injustice and racial tensions are already prevalent in this small Southern town, and when reporters begin to sensationalize the case, the likelihood of a fair trial is put in jeopardy. With a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges Of Madison County), this true story reveals the beauty of the human condition, even when faced with tragedy.

Disclaimer: Contains language and situations related to racial tension and mob violence.

The events surrounding the investigation and the trial of Leo Frank led to the birth of the Jewish civil rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League.  Following the Sunday, February 25 performance, staff members from the Omaha chapter of the Anti-Defamation League will participate in a post-show discussion about the history of the ADL. Open to all attendees of that day’s performance

Production:  Parade

Credits:  Book by Alfred Uhry.  Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  Co-conceived and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince.

Director:  Jeff Horger


Brendan Brown as Riley

Breanna Carodine as Minnie

Brooke Fencl as Essie

Adam Hogston as Brit Craig

Chloe Irwin as Mary Phagan

Megan Kelly as Lucille Frank

Melissa King as Mrs. Phagan

Nelson Lampe as Judge Roan

Grant Mannschreck as Frankie Epps

Michael Markey as Hugh Dorsey

Rebecca Noble as Sally Slaton

Mike Palmreuter as John Slaton

Joshua Lloyd Parker as Ivey

Brian Priesman as Tom Watson

Tony Schneider as Mr. Turner

Christopher Scott as Luther Rosser

Jonathan Smith as Jim Conley

Jill Solano as Lizzie Phagan

Grace Titus as Iola

Scott Van Den Top as Starnes

Catherine Vazquez as Monteen

James Verderamo as Leo Frank

Randy Wallace as Mr. Peavey

L. James Wright as Newt Lee

Show Dates:  Feb 9-Mar 11, 2018; Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at or Single tickets start at $42 for adults and $25 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students.

DiscountsTwilight Tickets – A limited number of tickets are available at half price after noon the day of the performance at the Box Office. Cash or check only. Subject to availability.

Sponsored by:  Carter and Vernie Jones

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE  68132)

Age in the Cage

Ladies and gentlemen!  This is it.  The battle for the heavyweight championship of the room.  In the house right corner, wearing the muted colors, she is known as the Brooding Brawler. . Abby!!!!  Her opponent, fighting out of house left, wearing the light, bright colors, she is called Sinfully Sweet. . .Marilyn!!!  And now. . .LET’S GET READY TO RIPCORD!!!!!!!! at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord tells the story of two senior home roommates who mix about as well as oil and water.  Curmudgeonly Abby is used to having the room to herself and cannot stand her new perky roommate, Marilyn.  When Marilyn claims never to get angry and Abby claims never to get scared, the two ladies make a bet.  If Abby angers Marilyn, then Marilyn will move to a different room.  If Marilyn scares Abby, she gets Abby’s bed by the window.  The result is an escalating war of pranks between the two women as they pull out all the stops to win the bet.

Lindsay-Abaire has written a clever script reminiscent of The Odd Couple with the exception that the two main characters are not friends, giving their interactions a bit more of an edge.  The script moves quite fast and is seasoned with hot zingers, sautéed with some well placed over the top moments, has a dash of drama and sensitivity, but has a peculiar palate cleanser of an ending.

Kimberly Faith Hickman has gathered a gaggle of comedic talent which she leads to solid and uproarious performances.  Ms Hickman has mastery of the beats as she knows when to let her performers go huge, be normal, or pluck the heartstrings.  The staging of the show is quite strong as, even in the slower moments, there is always a bit of movement from the actors to keep the scenes animated.

Three character actors playing multiple roles support the action of the play, but each also has a particular role that allows them their best moment in the spotlight.  Matt Tarr’s towering presence and rich voice serve him best as a zombie butler in a haunted house.  Kaitlyn McClincy serves up some laughs as Marilyn’s somewhat devious daughter who gleefully assists her mother in winning the bet.  Kevin Goshorn shines in the show’s most poignant scene as the estranged, recovering addict son of Abby who visits her for the first time in years.

For a debut performance, Sahil Khullar is quite capable in the role of Scotty, the aide at the senior living center.  Khullar definitely has the personality for the kindly Scotty who is implied to be a struggling actor.  He also has a good instinct for timing, though his gestures need to be a bit more economical and precise.

But this show does indeed rest on the shoulders of its leading ladies.  Rest assured that Charleen Willoughby and Judy Radcliff are more than up to the task as the pair deliver gutbusting performances and have a chemistry and repartee bordering on the symbiotic.

Charleen Willoughby is a bitter delight as Abby.  Ms Willoughby well communicates Abby’s cynicism with a stony, stoic expression and bearing that says, “Just let me read and leave me alone”.  She always has a quiet sense of mourning about her, lamenting the things she either lost or never had.  Despite this downer description, Ms Willoughby does make this stick in the mud quite entertaining as her sense of delivery always makes Abby’s retorts and put-downs funny.  Ms Willoughby also allows Abby’s long buried decent heart peek out from time to time with her love of her plants and the wistfulness of wanting grandchildren.

Judy Radcliff is a darling scream as Marilyn.  Ms Radcliff makes Marilyn so sweet and sunshiney that one could probably spit in her face and she would laugh it off.  Ms Radcliff brings an incredible sense of fun and kindness to the chatty Marilyn who just wants to bring a little brightness to the days of others.  But a bit of orneriness lies beneath the sweetness as Marilyn dreams up the more dangerous pranks played in her war of oneupmanshp with Abby and the fact that she does it with a smile on her face makes it all the funnier.

Paul Pape has designed a fluid, open set bordered by ropes that easily transforms into the bedroom at the senior living facility to an airplane and to the airiness of a haunted house and the outside.  Jim Othuse’s lights are some of the best I’ve seen in a Playhouse show as they really help define the scenes with the eerie greens and reds of the haunted house to the shadows of trees and sunlight outside of Abby’s window.  John Gibilisco delivers on sound once again, especially with an impressive propeller sound effect in the skydiving scene.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes well define the personalities of the leading ladies with Marilyn’s bright, pretty dresses and Abby’s muted, sedate pantsuits.  I also was quite pleased with the original score composed by Timothy Vallier.

There were a few blips in this preview night performance.  Actors broke character on a few occasions with some of the jokes.  There also seemed to be a bit of a dead spot on house left as microphones didn’t seem to work quite as well there as they did on house right.  But these are easily fixable items.

I also thought the leading ladies were a little young to be in a senior living facility, but I also recognize the tough balancing act as I’m not certain older ladies would have been capable of handling the needed physicality for the roles.

This show has all the right ingredients for a most amusing night of theatre.  It’s got laughs.  It’s got heart.  It’s got sensitivity.  Get a ringside seat and watch the comedy brawl to win it all.

Ripcord plays at the Omaha Playhouse from Jan 19-Feb 11.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students.  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit or  A little discretion is advised due to some coarse language and inappropriate gestures.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

OCP Begins Second Half of Season with ‘Ripcord’

Omaha, NE–Ripcord, a comedy of one-upmanship as two feisty senior ladies fight for their rightful place, will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse January 19-February 11, 2018 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.

Pranks and practical jokes abound when cantankerous Abby and chipper Marilyn are forced to share the nicest room at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility.  As Abby attempts to get rid of her unwanted new roommate, a series of bets soon escalates into a hilarious game of one-upmanship as the two women try every trick in the book to claim their space in the apartment and their place in the world.  Ripcord is a hilarious tale with a lot of heart.

Disclaimer:  Contains adult language spoken by a cantankerous old lady.

Ripcord is written by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Rabbit Hole, and who wrote the book and lyrics for Shrek the Musical (nominated for the 2009 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical).


Credits:  By David Lindsay-Abaire

Director:  Kimberly Faith-Hickman


Charleen Willoughby as Abby Binder

Judy Radcliff as Marilyn Dunne

Sahil Khullar as Scotty

Kevin Goshorn as Benjamin/Lewis/Clown

Kaitlyn McClincy as Colleen/Woman in White

Matt Tarr as Derek/Zombie Butler/Masked Man

Show Dates:  Jan 19-Feb 11, 2018 (Wed-Sat performances with Sunday matinees)

Tickets:  Available now at the OCP Box Office.  Please call 403-553-0800 or visit or  Tickets cost $24 (Wed) or $30 (Thurs-Sun) for adults; $16 (Wed) or $18(Thurs-Sun) for students; $20 for adult groups of 12 or more; $14 for student groups of 12 or more.

Sponsored By:  Immanuel Communities (Series Sponsor), Security National Bank, Gale and Judy Wickersham (Producing Partners), and Waitt Outdoor (Media Sponsor).

Location:  6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE

A Season of Deja Vu

Déjà vu:  The sensation that you are doing something that you have done before.

It’s almost eerie how much this season mirrored the last one.  Like last year, it ended quite early and I only was able to audition for a couple of shows.

This season actually began unusually early.  Back in March, to be precise.

I had attended the Omaha Playhouse’s announcement of the 2017-18 season and they announced the season premiere would also be a world premiere as they would kick off with an original play called Eminent Domain written by local actress/playwright, Laura Leininger-Campbell.  They further announced that the auditions for this show would take place the next week as the actors would be helping to refine the show.

I managed to get a PDF of the script from Laura and found it to be a fascinating read.  The play explores themes of family with the framing device of a Nebraska farm family being threatened by an oil company claiming eminent domain to annex part of their property to lay a pipeline.

I was especially drawn to the character of the autistic Evan MacLeod whom I found to be a deep well of character acting.  I spent the next week taking a crash course in autism in order to properly present my take on Evan.

When I went to the auditions next week, I found that Laura’s play had really struck a chord with the community.  It seems as if the entire theatre community had come out to audition.  Not only was I up against some of the brightest names in Omaha theatre, but I was also up against much of the original cast who had been part of the show back when it was a staged reading.

My old shipmate, Frank Insolera, was one of the hopefuls and we started catching up on old times.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Christina Rohling, whom you might remember as the director of Elephant’s Graveyard and A Heavy Rain, heading in our direction.  Frank and I reached a pause in our conversation and both looked her way.

Addressing me, she said, “I just want you to know that you made my job (for Elephant’s Graveyard) very difficult.  It just came down to the 2 different energy levels between you and the guy I chose.”

Once more, I felt that strange mixture of pride and melancholy as I added another story to my ever growing pile of “good” rejections.  It only lasted for a moment as I thanked her for the compliment and then found out I would actually be reading with her when I made my stab at Evan.

Christina also happens to be one of the top talents in Omaha, so I was glad for the opportunity to bounce ideas of the scene as I explained to her my vision of Evan.  She seemed surprised at my attention to detail as she said, “It sounds like you’ve done some serious homework.”

We walked into the conference room on the 2nd floor of the Playhouse under the scrutinizing eyes of director Amy Lane and Laura.  Christina and I sat on the floor and I immediately started becoming Evan.  From my research, I decided that Evan was on the more severe side of the autism spectrum and had developed physicality and vocal patterns to suit that.  I adopted an awkward sitting position as I twisted my legs together and thrust my right hand between them, resting my hand on my left knee.  I slightly tilted my head and avoided any eye contact with Christina.  I also adopted a monotone, sing-song cadence for my speech.

I was actually extremely pleased with my take and felt as if I were hitting the right notes.  It also ended up being my best bite at the apple as my second read was for a different character who didn’t have a lot to do in that side.

Intellectually, I knew that I was up against a formidable challenge, but I still hoped against hope that I mustered up enough magic for a callback.

Alas, that hope was dashed shortly afterwards.

For the first time in a long while, I really felt the bitter disappointment of defeat.  I was surprised, yet not surprised at the same time.  With the extra effort I had put into it and with the full power of my heart behind it, I think it would have been more of a surprise had I not felt stung by the rejection.  And, of course, the lack of a callback made me wonder, “Did my efforts make any sort of an impact?”

Nowadays, I don’t dwell on those moments for long and I was quickly back to my old self.

I would next read for the staged readings of Angels in America and In the Heat of the Night, but there isn’t much of a story there.  Solid reads and no casting.  Que sera, sera.

Then came Ripcord.

I knew that I had to read for this show from the moment I read the synopsis.  The thrust of the story is that Abby and Marilyn share a room at the nursing home.  Abby had had the room to herself for a long while and wasn’t particularly keen on getting a new roommate.  Even worse, Marilyn’s sunshiney nature really grates on Abby’s curmudgeonly personality.  When Marilyn claims never to get angry and Abby claims never to get scared, the two women make a bet.  If Abby can anger Marilyn, Marilyn will get another room so Abby can be on her own again.  But if Marilyn can scare Abby, then Marilyn gets Abby’s bed because she likes it better than hers.  The result is an increasingly dangerous game of one-upsmanship.

There were 3 roles for men which included the nurse, Scotty, and two character actors who would play 3 distinct characters apiece.  I felt a little too old to play Scotty and relished the idea of the two character roles as I would get the rare opportunity to go completely over the top.

This play would mark my second reading for Kimberly Faith Hickman, the new artistic director of the Omaha Playhouse.  The first had been Angels in America.

I was surprised when my first side was for Scotty, but figured it was because not many men showed up to that first day of auditions.  Then I stepped inside the dance hall and it happened.

I felt the magic.

This was my most enjoyable audition in several years.  I didn’t care about getting cast.  I just wanted to go in and have some fun and I did just that.  I understood Scotty from the get-go and felt strong as I read the role.

When I finished the read and went back outside, I was given a side for one of the character actors.  After reading this side, I have come to the conclusion that I must project a natural aura of niceness as my side was for one of the regular roles performed by the character actors.  I actually felt a twinge of disappointment as I had been hoping to sink my teeth into one of the broader sides.

Not that the side I had was dull, but it was the same type of character I often find myself reading for and I just wanted to show that I could do more than essentially play myself.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked to stick around for a third read.  Once more I read as Scotty and varied my performance a bit from the first read.  After this read, I was let go, but there was also only one more group to read after I had finished.

Needless to say, I had quite a bit of hope as it had been ages since I had been at an audition from start to finish.  A few days later, my hope was rewarded when I got the call asking me to come to callbacks where I would be considered for the role of Scotty.  I laughed at the irony as the role I thought I had the least chance for ended up being the only role I would be considered for. . .or so I thought.

At the callbacks, I was given a side for Scotty that would FINALLY allow me a chance to go over the top.  I felt so giddy, I nearly broke into a soft shoe routine.  I had been chomping at the bit for this for eons and I let loose for all I was worth when I read the side.  I won’t spoil the scene, but I will say that I unleashed a scream not unlike the one emitted by Daniel Stern when he was mugged by the pigeons in Home Alone 2.

Immediately after finishing the read, Kimberly said, “I know I said I was only considering you for Scotty, but I want you to read this side for Benjamin.”

I was floored by the side.  It was a tremendously powerful and poignant scene as Benjamin is the estranged son of Abby and this was a complete 180 from the previous side and I looked forward to performing it.

When I went back in, I gave the most honest and heartfelt read I could muster and was really feeling Benjamin’s angst and heartache.  Shortly after this read, I was dismissed.

A few days later, I found an e-mail waiting for me from Kimberly.  The fact of the e-mail told me I did not make it in, but the fact that it was from the director told me that it was also something more.  I opened it up and read the following message:

Hi Chris!

I wanted to personally thank you for attending auditions and callbacks for RIPCORD.  I really enjoyed watching you and your work throughout the process.  This was a very difficult play to cast as so many talented people came to the auditions.  I ended up going with another actor for the roles of Scotty/Benjamin, but I wanted to let you know of that decision from me personally rather than a general notification e-mail.  I also want to encourage you to continue auditioning at OCP.  You have tremendous talent and I look forward to the next opportunity we may have to work together.

I was proud of this message and moved it to my scrapbook.  I had no regrets and had thoroughly enjoyed myself and I had made an impact.  You can’t ask for more than that.

We’ll talk again next season.

The McGuigans Shine On (Like the Moons, and the Stars, and the Sun)

It was ten years ago this day

That these boys got the chance to play

Some great music that will make you smile

And forget about life for a while.

So may I introduce to you

The act you’ve known for ten great years?

The McGuigans and their rockin’ Beatles band!!!!!

It’s the tenth anniversary run of Yesterday and Today and it’s playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Now it’s possible that there are some reading this review and wondering, “What is Yesterday and Today?”  Well, allow me to enlighten you.  Yesterday and Today is the tribute of three brothers (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) to the music of the Beatles and to their late father who passed on his love of the Fab Four to his sons.

There’s no gimmickry with this band.  They don’t ape the Beatles.  They just play the music of rock’s greatest group, but fuel it with their own special energy for one amazing night of entertainment.

It’s also never the same show twice.  This is a request show where the audience chooses the night’s numbers.  Pick anything you like because this band can play them all from their biggest hits to their obscurest tunes.

Two years ago, I had the honor of reviewing this show and I felt privileged to come back and review its 10th anniversary run.  As a writer, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What new insights might I glean to share with the public?”  As it turns out, I had very little to fear because, as the Beatles did, this show just continues to evolve and grow with each passing year.

Not only did the audience get a new, simplified two tiered stage from Jim Othuse, but a slight change in the formatting of the show put more control in the hands of the audience than ever before.  As Billy correctly states, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own fault.”


This band plays the music of this legendary group with a reverence and passion no mere tribute band could ever hope to match.  I have seen this show in many, many incarnations over the years and I assure you, tonight’s performance was the best I have seen yet.  Not only were the performers beyond on, but this audience picked some of my all time favorite Beatles tunes.


Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan is your Sgt. Pepper of the evening.  Using his magical wit and charm, Billy serves as the band’s spokesperson as he banters with the audience and shares a few heartfelt stories along the way.  He also dazzled the crowd with his skill on guitar and keyboard.  He got the night off to a fiery start with “Get Back”, sang a catchy cover of “When I’m Sixty-Four”, and paid heartfelt tribute to his father with his favorite Beatles song, “Let it Be”.


Ryan McGuigan

Ryan McGuigan was a force to be reckoned with in tonight’s show.  Proving he may well be the second coming of John Lennon as he possesses the same beautiful, raw tenor singing voice; Ryan sang lead on quite a few numbers, blasting all of them out of the park.  Some of his standout performances were his harmony part on “It Won’t Be Long”, his haunting rendition of “A Day in the Life”, and an unbelievably nuanced take on the ethereal and stream of consciousness “Across the Universe”.


Matthew McGuigan

Matthew McGuigan lent a hand with his top notch bass playing and own formidable tenor.  He got the crowd rocking with “Hey Bulldog”, took us back to yesteryear with “Eight Days a Week”, and poured his heart into “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

And let us not forget the rest of the talented group.  Jay “Superman” Hanson blew the crowd away with his fluid and difficult guitar work and got a moment in the spotlight with the sweet “Here Comes the Sun”.  Rich Miller’s drumming kept a steady beat and his own baritone voice was put to good use in “Yellow Submarine”.  Tara Vaughan had great presence with her animated tambourine and keyboard playing and was splendid with a solo in “Oh, Darling!”.  Aaron Slagle satisfied the audience’s need for more cowbell in “A Hard Day’s Night”.

This show is fantastic for any Beatles fan from the casual to the ultrafan and from the young to the young at heart.  I defy anyone who watches it not to feel like they’re flying ten feet off the ground when the night is over.  My only disappointment is that two hours feels like two minutes and I (and the rest of the crowd) could have easily spent all night rocking out with the band.

The opening night production was completely sold out, so if you’ve never seen this show, get a ticket right away.  And if you are a fan, you better have a ticket because I don’t see them lasting very long.  Find out why Yesterday and Today is the hottest show this holiday season.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

They’re the McGuigans and their Beatles band,

You’re going to enjoy the show.

The McGuigans and their Beatles band,

You’ll be sorry when it’s time to go.

The McGuigans and their

The McGuigans and their

The McGuigans and their rockin’ Beatles band!!!!

Yesterday and Today plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat and 6:30pm on Sundays.  There will be an extra performance at 2pm on Nov 26 and no performances on Nov 30 and Dec 24.  Tickets cost $40 a person.  On Dec 31, there will be performances at 7pm ($50 tickets) and 10pm ($75 tickets).  For tickets, contact the Omaha Playhouse at 402-554-553-0800 or visit or  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

(Photography provided by Sonia Keffer)