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.”

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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.

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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”.

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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”.

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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 www.TicketOmaha.com or www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

(Photography provided by Sonia Keffer)

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It’s a McGuigan Musical Anniversary

Yesterday and Today 2

Omaha, Neb.—The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) presents the 10th anniversary of Yesterday and Today the Interactive Beatles Experience Nov. 24 – Dec. 31, 2017 in the Howard Drew Theatre featuring Billy McGuigan and his brothers.

Yesterday and Today is an interactive Beatles experience featuring Billy McGuigan, his brothers, Ryan and Matthew, and a backing band of local musicians. The performers play all Beatles music, take audience requests and interact with the audience; no two shows are ever the same. The brothers started the show as a tribute to their late father who loved The Beatles and introduced his children to the band’s music. The McGuigan brothers now tour the country with Yesterday and Today to create the ultimate living tribute to their father.

Billy McGuigan and his brothers are back for the 10th consecutive year at Omaha Community Playhouse! This all-request Beatles tribute show will have you dancing in the aisles and singing along to every song. Share your stories and relive your memories with your favorite Beatles songs. No two shows are the same, and every show is a guaranteed exhilarating time!

Production: Yesterday and Today: An Interactive Beatles Experience

Credits: Featuring Billy McGuigan, Music Director Rick Avard, © 2007 By Rave On! Productions

Group Members  

Billy McGuigan   (Vocals/Guitar/Keyboard)

Matthew McGuigan     (Vocals/Bass)

Ryan McGuigan     (Vocals/Acoustic Guitar)

Tara Vaughan    (Keyboard/Vocals)

Jay Hanson     (Vocals/Lead Guitar)

Rich Miller     (Percussion/Vocals)

Show dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 31, 2017; Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. (Nov. 26 only) and 6:30 p.m. (No performances Thursday, Nov. 30 or Sunday, Dec. 24.)

New Year’s Eve performances: Two performances on Sunday, December 31 (No group discounts on New Year’s Eve)

7 p.m. $50 per person
10 p.m. $75 per person
Complimentary champagne punch and cake will be served prior to each performance with a champagne toast at midnight.

Tickets: Available now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $40 for adults and students. Tickets for groups of 12 or more are $35.

Sponsored by:   C&A Industries, Inc. and KMTV (media sponsor).

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

It’s Christmas Time at the Playhouse

42nd Annual A Christmas Carol at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha’s Holiday Tradition Opens November 17, 2017

Omaha, Neb.— A Christmas Carol will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017. This will be the 42nd year for this holiday production at OCP. Actor Jerry Longe returns for his 12th season as Ebenezer Scrooge.

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol. Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with beautiful costumes, exquisite music, perfectly crafted sets and special effects second to none. Perfect for the whole family!

Production: A Christmas Carol

Credits: By Charles Dickens, Adapted by Charles Jones, Musical orchestration by John J.  Bennett

Directors
:  Kimberly Faith Hickman , Jeff Horger
Music Director: Jim Boggess
Choreographer: Michelle Garrity

Cast

Jacob Roman as Fred

Don Harris as Jake, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Amanda Charles as Nell

Jerry Longe as Ebeneezer Scrooge

Chris Berger as Bob Cratchit

Bob Gilmore as 1st Charity Man, Ghost of Christmas Present, Baker

Marcus Benzel as 2nd Charity Man, Mr. Fezziwig

Jake Parker as Peter Cratchit

Brodhi McClymont as Francis Cratchit

Maddie Smith as Belinda Cratchit

Annabelle DeWater as Tim Cratchit

Don Keelan-White as Jacob Marley, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Lori Lynn Ahrends as Ghost of Christmas Past

Tyson Bentley, Judson Cloudt, Daniel Davis, Cal Hernandez, Lincoln Hoffart and Neal Jochim as School Boys

Andrew Hedin as Ebby

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Fan

Brendan Brown as Dick Wilkins, Poulterer

Catherine Vazquez as Mrs. Fezziwig, Baker’s Wife

Boston Reid as Young Scrooge

Emma Chvala as Belle Fezziwig

Jen Dillon as Mrs. Cratchit

Hannah-Kate Kinney as Martha Cratchit

Elise O’Neil as Millie

Jenna Hager as Lucy

Brandon Fisher as Topper

Amanda Charles as Myrtle Crow

Julia Ervin as Mrs. Dilber, Chestnut Vendor

Ava Palmer as Child with Sled

Adult Ensemble features Annie Hekl, Isabelle RAngel, Alex Nilius

Youth Ensemble features Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Olivia Walling, and Burke Wissman

Sophia Markle as Little Bo Peep, Mary

Caeli Karasek as Little Boy Blue

Cody Girouex as Beggar

Josie Ausman as Greenery Vendor

Kristopher Fleeman as Toyshop Keeper

Fezziwig Ball Dancers will be played by Amanda Charles, Marcus Benzel, Emma Chvala, Chris Berger, Jen Dillon, Brendan Brown, Julia Ervin, Brandon Fisher, Jenna Hager, Kristopher Fleeman, Annie Hekl, Cody Girouex, Elise O’Neil, Alex Nilius, Isabelle Rangel, Boston Reid, Catherine Vazquez, and Jacob Roman

Marley Minions will be played by Jennifer Bonge, Katie Hoskins, Evelyn Kinney, and Reese Uptmor

Tyson Bentley as Joseph

Andrew Hedin, Cal Hernandez, and Neal Jochim as the Wisemen

Daniel Davis as the Innkeeper

Shepherds to be played by Judson Cloudt, Annabelle DeWater, Lincoln Hoffart, Brodhi McClymont, Bruke Wissman

Angels to be played by Josie Ausman, Jennifer Bonge, Stella Clark-Kaczmarek, Katie Hoskins, Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Caeli Karasek, Evelyn Kinney, Ava Palmer, Maddie Smith, Reese Uptmor, and Olivia Walling

 

Show dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017; Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m., Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
and Sundays, 2:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. (No performances on Weds., Nov. 22 and Thurs., Nov. 23.)

Tickets: On sale now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Before Dec. 13, tickets start at $38 (adults) and $25 (students). Dec. 13-23, tickets start at $42 (adults) and $29 (students). For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $32 (adults) and $18 (students) for all dates.

Sponsored by: First National Bank, KPMG (orchestra sponsor), JK Barker Foundation (cast dinner sponsor), Rotella’s Bakery (bakery shoppe and snow sponsor) and KETV (media sponsor)

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre

6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132 

Performance note: A shadow interpreted performance for the hearing impaired is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Food drive: Audience members are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to OCP to benefit the Food Bank for the Heartland as part of Conagra Brand’s Shine the Light on Hunger campaign.

The Bird is the Word!

Conrad loves Nina who is smitten with Trigorin who is the boyfriend of Emma.  Mash adores Conrad, but is pursued by Dev and Dr. Sorn just wants a hug.  This is Stupid F@#!ing Bird, a sort of adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull written by Aaron Posner and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This is one of the smartest, cleverest, funniest scripts I have ever seen produced.  Posner has a great gift for wordplay and his writing shows a love for and a frustration with the work of Chekhov.  A sort of adaptation is the best way to describe this piece as it is not a complete parody of The Seagull.  It mostly retains its story, but modernizes the language and peppers it with light-hearted comedy and fourth wallbreaking self-awareness.  But it also has its fair share of deep and serious moments as well.

Suzanne Withem deserves high praise for her direction of the play.  Her direction has a decisive energy which emerges in the constant movements of the actors, preventing the show from ever being static.  Her staging is precise and utilizes the full space with the actors even getting up into the stands with the audience.  Ms Withem has also done a sterling job leading her actors through this play as there isn’t a weak link in the lot.

Beau Fisher is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers to watch due to his naturalness and boisterous energy.  He scores another hit with his take on Conrad.  Fisher easily comes off as an innovator seeking to create new forms of artistic expression.  He is also the tortured artist who loves Nina too much and is frustrated by the fact the Nina does not love him back to the same degree.  Fisher skillfully vacillates between the emotional highs and lows of Conrad while deftly handling the character’s difficult wordplay.  While his love for Nina is a bit smothering, it does pull at your heart as it is a genuine love from a man who has never really known love himself.

Raydell Cordell III anchors the show as Conrad’s best friend, Dev.  Dev is the only truly likable character in the show.  He’s also one of two characters who end up truly happy at the show’s end.  Cordell brings a cute awkwardness to Dev with his pursuit of Mash and inability to say the right thing in a group setting.  Yet, in one on one conversations, he proves himself to be an able listener, a wise advisor, and a rock of support.

Sonia Keffer gives an eye opening performance as Emma Arkadina, Conrad’s mother.  Ms Keffer’s Emma is a slightly boozy, extremely cynical and successful actress who, like her son, doesn’t really understand love and happiness and readily admits to it.  She is content to live a life being hated quietly and filling it with money and men.  Emma does have a kind of caring for her son, but it never really germinated into love.  Instead it takes the form of a territoriality as she will fiercely protect what belongs to her when she sees it threatened or hurt.

Alissa Hanish cuts a very pitiable figure as Nina, the seagull of the play.  Hanish gives us a Nina who is a lost child who thinks she knows what she wants out of life, but when she gets what she thinks she wants, she learns that it was just poisoned fruit.  She is easily swayed by the illusion of the surface and cannot see the truth below.  Ms Hanish conveys these ideas not only through her delivery of the dialogue, but through her superior sense of movement.  Through movement, Ms Hanish displays comedy with her moves during the performance event “We.  Are.  Here.”; confusion, love, and a desperate search in a prolonged sequence when she constantly kisses Conrad, but blindly searches for something greater; and a descent into madness when she collapses into hysterics at the play’s climax.

Potent supporting performances are also given by Michael Markey as the lonely Dr. Sorn; Aanya Sagheer as Mash who sings depressing songs inspired by her unrequited love for Conrad; and Kevin Anderson as the pretentious genius writer, Doyle Trigorin.

The sounds of John Gibilisco and the lights of Darrin Golden become supporting characters in the play as they had a crucial extra dimension.   This is especially noticeable with the shadowy lights of Golden when the play veers into experimental performance art and Gibilisco’s mystical sound of the seagull.

The movement direction of Wai Yim adds a beautiful bit of art to the production while Lindsey Pape’s costumes suit the cotemporary feel of the show as the performers really seem as if they’re wearing their own clothes.

A couple of the actors needed to pump up the volume a bit, but all voices carried well and Jim Othuse’s simple set of a curtain and small stage lent itself well to the inherent creativity of the show.

In closing, all I can say is now you’ve heard about the bird and I’m telling you, man, that this bird is the word!

Stupid F@#!ing Bird plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Nov 12 at the Omaha Playhouse. Performances are Thurs-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 www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

A Bird is Coming to the Playhouse

Omaha, Neb.— Stupid F@#%ing Bird at the Omaha Community Playhouse will run October 13 – November 12, 2017 in OCP’s Howard Drew Theatre.
This “sort-of adaptation” of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov tells a story in which an aspiring young director battles against the art created by his mother’s generation. A young actress competes with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist and everyone discovers just how complicated life, art and success can be. This irreverent, modern and very funny remix of a classic play will incite you to consider how art, love and revolution fuel your own pursuit of happiness.
Conrad, a young, would-be playwright, loves the young, aspiring actress, Nina; but
Nina’s infatuated with the successful playwright, Doyle Trigorn; Trigorin thinks Nina is
fascinating, but he’s already dating Emma, the famous actress who just happens to be
Conrad’s mom. Mash, Emma’s cook, is “in mourning for her life” because she’s head
over heels in love with Conrad, who barely notices that she exists, but Conrad’s best
friend Dev is ridiculously in love with Mash, and she couldn’t care less! Of course, there’s
also Dr. Sorn, Emma’s brother and Conrad’s uncle. He’s a generally agreeable fellow
who just wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why they can’t seem to do
so. Contains adult language and sexuality.
The plot and characters of Stupid F@#%ing Bird closely align with Anton Chekhov’s The
Seagull, which follows four main characters’ artistic and romantic conflicts. This script even  contains some lines directly from The Seagull, but set in a modern time period with modern day problems, but with all the flair and drama of a Chekhov original.
Production: Stupid F@#%ing Bird
Show dates: October 13 – November 12, 2017; Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and
Sundays, 2 p.m
Director:  Suzanne Withem
Cast
Beau Fisher as Conrad
Raydell Cordell III as Dev
Aanya Sagheer as Mash
Alissa Hanish as Nina
Sonia Keffer as Emma Arkadina
Kevin Anderson as Doyle Trigorin
Michael Markey as Dr. Eugene Sorn

 Tickets

At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at
OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $24 for
adults and $18 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 $20 for adults and $14 for
students
Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre
6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132

Take A Chance on It . . .

Sophie is getting married and she’s inviting her dad.  The trouble is that she doesn’t know who he is.  Using her mother’s diary, she has discovered three possible candidates, but will she be able to discover which one, if any, is her pop before her big day?  This is the story of Mamma Mia! written by Catherine Johnson with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson.  It is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Mamma Mia! is one of those shows that’s short on story, but long on fun.  It’s a crowd pleasing, raucous romp where the tale is meant to take a back seat to the music.  But I promise you that you’ll be singing along and bopping to the ABBA tunes interpreted by Jim Boggess and his superior orchestra long before the night is through.  The show is strengthened remarkably by the direction of Jeff Horger who kept the energy and joy flowing through his cast and maximized a few serious moments along the way.  It also doesn’t hurt that Horger’s cast includes a slew of some of the finest talent in local musical theatre.

Frankly, I thought the work of the ensemble was worth the price of admission on its own.  If you took away the rest of the cast and just had to watch the shenanigans, antics, and singing of the chorus, it would still be a great time.  They are that good.  It’s some of the best harmonizing I’ve heard in a show and be on the lookout for Marcus Benzel as Dionysus.  Without uttering a single word, he tells a fantastic story through facial expressions and body language.

There are so many strong performances in the supporting cast that it’s hard to know where to begin.  For starters, there’s the work of Brendan Brown and Justin Eller who show some impressive comedic chops with their roles of Eddie and Pepper, the “help” at the Villa Donna.  Angela Jenson-Frey and Emily Peklo sparkle as Tanya and Rosie, the best friends of Sophie’s mother, Donna, and her former singing partners.  Ms Jenson-Frey is tremendous as the shallow and snobby, but good-hearted, Tanya and Ms Peklo is a hoot as the tomboyish Rosie.  Both ladies also have fabulous altos which they put to good use in “Dancing Queen” as well as in solo moments, specifically “Does Your Mother Know?” for Ms Jenson-Frey and “Take A Chance on Me” for Ms Peklo.

Jacob Roman and Mike Palmreuter entertain as 2 potential candidates for Sophie’s father.  Palmreuter plays Bill, a travel writer with a major phobia for commitment while Roman plays Harry, a successful British banker whose headbanging leaves something to be desired.  Roman has a particularly lovely tenor which soars in “One Last Summer”.

Victoria Luther gives a winning performance with her take on Sophie.  Ms Luther brings a real sweetness and honesty to the role.  There’s really nothing terribly sneaky about her plan to invite her possible fathers to her wedding.  Once she meets them, she’s actually mostly up front about why she invited them.  Ms Luther can also belt a tune as her soprano kept batting musical pitches in numbers such as “Honey, Honey”, “The Name of the Game”, and “Slipping Through My Fingers”.

Sarah Ebke is a force as Donna, Sophie’s mother.  Ms Ebke’s Donna is an independent woman used to standing on her own two feet as she raised a daughter plus single-handedly ran a hotel.  But she’s also a very dedicated mother and a very sensitive soul.  Ms Ebke’s magnificent alto got many of the night’s best numbers including “Mamma Mia”, “The Winner Takes it All”, and “One of Us”.

Adam Hogston has, arguably, the most well developed character in the form of Sam.  Hogston’s Sam is clearly still in love with Donna and Hogston displays a mighty emotional range and haunting emotional vulnerability as he wrestles with the multifaceted feelings wrought by his love from his nervousness about seeing Donna again to talking about the dissolution of his marriage with Sophie.  Hogston’s tenor will really touch hearts especially with his melancholic rendition of “S.O.S.”.

Jim Othuse opts for a simpler set with a hotel that evokes images of a Spanish villa and a dock with a view of the sea.  His lighting was also right on the mark with their changes with the emotional beats of the play.  Darin Kuehler’s properties added just the right touch, especially the pictures and items in Donna’s room.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes are varied and strong from the beachwear, to the ABBAesque costumes seen at the curtain call and Sophie’s bachelorette party, to the hideous leisure suits worn by the potential papas at the start of Act II.  Melanie Walter’s choreography is a wonder.  Her dancers are satin smooth and I was especially impressed with the comedic swimwear number that kicked off Act II plus the curtain call number.

Mamma Mia! delivers exactly what it promises and that’s a rip roaring good time.  The songs are memorable and the dancing is entrancing.  A nearly full house seemed to agree with my assessment and another Playhouse hit seems to be on the horizon.  Oh, and I can already see the T.A.G. nomination for Best Ensemble for that curtain call.

Mamma Mia! plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Oct 15.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students.  Wednesday night shows are $32 for adults and $20 for students.  For tickets call 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

‘Eminent Domain’ Conquers the Playhouse

An estranged family reunites to wage battle against an oil company seeking to use eminent domain to claim part of the family’s land.  But the fallout from the court battle and the actions of one of the company’s employees may tear the family asunder once more.  This is the story of Eminent Domain by Laura Leininger-Campbell which is making its world premiere at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Ms Leininger-Campbell has written an exceptionally thought-provoking and powerful story.  What I found most impressive about the tale was its deceptive simplicity.  Through ordinary conversation, Ms Leininger-Campbell taps into the heart of what it means to be family.  The love.  The banter.  The fights.  The heartache.  The camaraderie.   The unity.  It’s undoubtedly one of the most real and believable plays I have ever seen with a tight, well-balanced script that gives all of its characters a chance to shine.

This strong script is further aided by a cast consisting of the cream of Omaha theatre under the watchful eye of Amy Lane who leads her cast to a series of sterling and stellar performances.

Memorable performances are supplied by Chris Shonka and Christina Rohling.  Shonka plays Trent Nichols, an attorney for the oil company who seems like a decent man who, through business or circumstance, brings the MacLeod family buckets of grief when he files the claim of eminent domain and cuckolds the son of the MacLeod patriarch.  Ms Rohling plays Theresa MacLeod, the unhappy wife of the cuckold who feels like, and is treated as, an outsider by the MacLeods and longs for a better life away from the farm.

My personal favorite performance was Eric Salonis’ interpretation of the autistic Evan MacLeod.  As Evan, Salonis nails the nuances of autism with his completely blank features, failure to make eye contact, laserlike focus on tasks, twitching, monotone speech patterns, and repetitive motions.  Though he often seems in his own world, Salonis’ Evan is more aware of things than one may think as he often tries to help his family through difficult moments by offering them his grandfather’s watch to wind.

Bill Hutson is quite the character as Rob MacLeod.  As the patriarch of the MacLeod clan, he is irascible, foul mouthed, set in his ways, and slightly prejudiced.  Hutson effortlessly swings from one extreme to the other as Rob engages in loud arguments with his family and then, just as easily, sits down for an enjoyable meal with them.  Rob is the type of old-fashioned man who thinks he always has to be strong and in control to lead his family which makes his emotional collapse in Act II all the more heart-wrenching.  But his collapse is what finally allows him to show his real heart and strength.

Erika Hall Sieff is definitely her father’s child as Adair MacLeod.  She is just as stubborn and pig-headed as he is and their similarities led to their long estrangement prior to the events of the play.  Ms Hall Sieff is marvelous as the lawyer who returns home to help save the family farm from the greedy oil company and well embodies Adair’s potent sense of justice.

Jeremy Estill gets the play’s most tragic character in Bart MacLeod.  Estill’s Bart is a borderline, if not full-blown, alcoholic whose drinking hides his frustration at giving up a potential and promising career as a poet to return to the family to help his father, Rob.  Estill’s Bart has an incredible command of the English language which he uses to provide some of the show’s lighter moments and softening some of the darker ones.  Despite his issues, Estill will make you feel Bart’s pain when he learns of his wife’s adultery and finally explains the motivations for his life’s choices.

Technically, this show was a masterpiece.  I was floored by Michael Campbell’s scores and arrangements, especially the driving drumbeat in Act II which supports the play’s darkest moments.  John Gibilisco’s sounds were top notch especially the sound effects of the thunderstorms that served as ominous omens.  Jim Othuse’s farmhouse was a thing of beauty and his lights were wonderful in showing the passage from day to night.  Megan Kuehler’s rural costumes really gave the actors the look and feel of a Nebraska farming family.

Ultimately, this play is a great slice of life story.  While it may sound cliché, you will laugh, cry, and think.  Eminent Domain is a real winner and I am so pleased that the Playhouse took a chance on mounting such an extraordinary story.  Don’t do a disservice to yourself by missing this show.

Eminent Domain runs at the Omaha Playhouse through Sept 17. Performances are Thurs-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 www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.