OCP Announces Auditions for ‘The Juniors’

Omaha, Neb.–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding auditions for the upcoming staged reading of The Juniors on Sunday, July 14 and Monday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. The Juniors is part of OCP’s 2019/20 Alternative Programming series.

Production:          The Juniors

Director:                Steve Krambeck

Auditions:             Sunday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass Street, Omaha, NE 68132

Actors interested in auditioning need only attend one evening of auditions. Those auditioning should enter through the west “Stage Door” entrance and proceed to the check-in table. Actors will be asked to read sections from the script. These sections will be provided at the auditions.

What to Bring:     All contact information, personal schedules and a list of rehearsal conflicts to complete your audition form. To expedite the check-in process, please bring a recent photo if you have one available.  Please note, photos will not be returned.

Show Dates:         Monday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Howard Drew Theatre

Rehearsals:           TBD

Description:  Written by Omaha native Noah Diaz, The Juniors is a comedy about the dark culinary arts: home economics. When a group of high school students are tasked with rearing flour sack children, the assignment descends into primitive chaos and “Lord of the Flies”-style savagery. It’s flour power time for these high schoolers, and if you can’t stand the heat — get out of the kitchen.

Contact:  For more information, contact Tiffany Nigro, tnigro@omahaplayhouse.com or (402) 553-4890.

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American Dreams & Nightmares

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A housewife and mother of her time.  A Latvian immigrant struggling to realize the American Dream.  A ragtime musician about to have his life torn asunder by the blight of racism.  These are three people living life in America at the turn of the 20th century and their stories and the intersecting of their lives forms the plot of Ragtime by Terrence McNally with music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and based off the novel by E.L. Doctorow. It is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This has been one of the more uniquely crafted musicals I’ve seen.  Usually, it seems like the songs are worked around the story of the show.  This production goes the opposite direction.  Due to the sheer size of the score, Ragtime is more like an opera and the story is worked between the songs.  And it works because the story part of the show is actually three meticulously crafted short stories which are skillfully woven together with a blend of fictional and real-life characters.

I can see why the score won a Tony Award as Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens crafted a doozy which has something for everyone.  There’s some foot stomping fun, tender love songs, and haunting numbers that will reach right in and squeeze the emotion out of your heart.  I was particularly impressed by the constant use of a singular ragtime number which either served as a springboard from which other songs would emerge or be changed up emotionally to suit the particular moment of the show.

Kimberly Faith Hickman supplies a devastating bit of direction to the production.  Hitting the beats of this show is quite tricky due to the multiple storylines which constantly trade places, but Ms Hickman manages to do so with an effortless ease.  The staging is precisely on point as it utilizes the entire stage and never is there a point where I wasn’t seeing the face of an actor.  The work of her performers is deadly accurate as they never miss a trick.

The night was loaded with sterling performances such as those provided by Jon Flower as Younger Brother, a carefree young man who transforms into a fighter for equal rights, though he doesn’t go about it in the best way.  Flower is particularly moving with his singing in “He Wanted to Say” as he tries to support Coalhouse Walker.  Joey Hartshorn is gripping as the anarchist Emma Goldman who wants to better the lives of the poor workers and bring down the rich and powerful.  Dara Hogan is going to make you cry with her turn as Sarah, the lover of Coalhouse Walker.  Ms Hogan begins as a broken, mute mother whose life has fallen apart along with her relationship with Walker.  She blooms to life as she and Walker rekindle their love before tragedy blows their lives apart due to racism’s malevolent hand.  Ms Hogan has a wonderful upper alto which shines in “New Music” and “Wheels of a Dream”.

Jodi Vaccaro is stunning as Mother.  Ms Vaccaro’s Mother is the nexus character as her life intersects with those of Coalhouse Walker and Tateh and her experiences with them change and deepen her.  When the show starts, Mother is very much a woman of her era.  She takes care of the home and raises the children and her husband is the boss.  But that begins to change when she takes in the homeless Sarah and her illegitimate child.  This breaking of the social and racial barriers of her time opens her eyes to how things are in their world and begin her journey of personal growth as she stomps those barriers flat.

Ms Vaccaro brings a genuine warmth and kindness to the role of Mother and I loved her slow and steady realization to the hardness of life outside of her upper-class walls as it made her character arc truly satisfying.  Ms Vaccaro also has a sweet and beautiful singing voice with shining moments in the touching “Our Children” and the revelatory “Back to Before”.

Mike Palmreuter gives an amazingly realistic performance as Tateh.  Palmreuter’s Tateh provides a very frank look at the plight of immigrants who came to America for the promise of the streets paved with gold only to discover a very different reality.  Palmreuter is brilliant as he plays a man struggling to realize the American Dream.  He begins as bright eyed and determined to reap the promises of the New World only to be beaten down by its harsh realities where the only thing that keeps him going is his daughter’s survival.  But it’s all worth it as his struggles do yield the promised fruit due to his perseverance.  Palmreuter has a great lower tenor and he knows how to use it emotionally from the hopeful “Success” to the bittersweet “Nothing Like the City” to the triumphant “Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.”

Over the past few seasons, J. Isaiah Smith has evolved into one of the city’s most dynamic talents.  He can sing, dance, and act and his performance as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. allows him to excel at all three at once as well as turn in a performance that puts him in the running for a second straight Fonda-McGuire Award.

In many ways, Smith’s Walker is already living the American Dream.  He’s a successful musician, a new father, his relationship with his lover is on the mend, and he can even afford a Model T Ford.  But he realizes the American Nightmare when racism not only takes away all that he’s worked for, but also denies him an avenue to justice until he feels compelled to take matters into his own hands.

Smith’s interpretation of Walker is a bit of elegant mastery.  Before his life is blasted, he’s a sweet, sensitive, happy go lucky man determined to fix his broken relationship with his lover and be a father.  After the fall, he becomes a smoldering cauldron of anger whose rampage is still tempered by a bit of honor as he’s limiting it to the bigot and the entity that bigot represents and will gladly stop once he metes out justice.  What I liked best was that he doesn’t completely lose his humanity and still makes the right choice in the end.

Smith has a mighty vocal range that soars between deeply baritone notes to high tenor ones.  Some of his best numbers were the raucous “Getting’ Ready Rag”, “Justice”, and the determined “Make Them Hear You”.

Lindsay Pape’s costumes provided an accurate depiction of life at the turn of the century with the short pants of the boys, the double- breasted suits, hats and bowlers, and the almost Victorian gowns of the wealthy women.  Jim Othuse has designed a series of set bits that could easily be moved in and out from the burgundy sitting room of Mother’s home to Coalhouse Walker’s nightclub to the posters and seaside of Atlantic City.  Michelle Garrity provides some scintillating choreography especially with “Getting’ Ready Rag”.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco have cooked up some crucial sounds from the lolling waves outside Atlantic City to the puttering of Walker’s Model T to the gunshots and explosions of Walker’s rampage.  Jim Boggess and his orchestra never miss a note with their fun and energetic take on this show’s score.

In the end, Ragtime not only provides a great night of entertainment, but it also provides an honest look at the lives of all classes of people at turn of the century America and I think it serves as a potent reminder that we have come a long way as a people, but there’s still a bit of road left to travel.

Ragtime plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 30.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $32 and can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Some parental discretion is advised due to racial epithets and a little strong language.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

(Photo supplied by Robertson Photgraphy)

OCP Ends Season with a Little “Ragtime”

Omaha, NE–Tony Award winning musical, Ragtime, will open Friday, May 31 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from May 31-June 30.  Performances will be held Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

A tragic, yet hopeful, tale, four time Tony Award winning musical, Ragtime, explores the pursuit of the American Dream and the meaning of family.  Set in the melting pot of New York City at the turn of the century, the lives of a wealthy white couple, a determined Jewish immigrant, and an African American ragtime musician intertwine, creating a rich tapestry of American life.  With soaring ballads and a stunning score, these characters are connected by their compassion, belief, and resolution that they, too, will find their place in the world.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $32 with ticket prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office located at 6915 Cass St, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Production:  Ragtime (Written by Terrence McNally and based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow

Music and Lyrics By:  Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens

Directed By:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Paul Tranisi as Father

Jodi Vaccaro as Mother

J. Isaiah Smith as Coalhouse Walker

Dara Hogan as Sarah

Mike Palmreuter as Tateh

Pieper Roeder as Little Girl

Dominic Torres as Little Boy

Jon Flower as Younger Brother

Nelson Lampe as Grandfather

Megan Kelly as Evelyn Nesbit

Jordan Smith as Booker T Washington

Zhomontee Watson as Sarah’s Friend

Mark Haufle as J.P. Morgan

Brandon Fisher as Henry Ford

Kevin Olsen as Harry Thaw

Jay Srygley as Stanford White

Bob Gilmore as Admiral Peary

Brendan Brown as Hensen

Bowen Peterson as Harry Houdini

Joey Hartshorn as Emma Goldman

Justin Dehmer as Willie Conklin

Amanda Srygley as Brigit

Julia Ervin as Kathleen

Taylor Plank as Chorine

Lauren Taylor Anderson, Janet Goodman, and Elizabeth Planck as Sob Sisters

Ensemble features Sheldon Ledbetter, Ejanae Hume, Erin Florea, Olivia Howard, Olivia Bryant, Serena Johnson, Cody Girouex, Lynn Ramert, Alex Nilius, Danny Denenberg

 

Floating Follies

You’ve never met a crew like this one.  In the late middle 1800s, ten men begin an exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Come join in their adventures and shenanigans in Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This script is certainly. . .different.  It actually centers around an interesting concept by taking the real life explorations of ten white men and shaking it up with the conceit of all of the characters being played by a diverse group of women.  Unfortunately, the script doesn’t quite measure up to the concept as the story lacks a needed centrality and the characters are not given any arcs.  There are a few howlingly funny moments, but, on the whole, the script felt more like a rough draft than a fully polished work.  Luckily, the efforts and skill of a mighty cast combined with some skillful direction help to make the most out of this show.

Amy Lane’s direction expertly navigates the peculiarities of this story.  The play flies back and forth between period language and considerably more modern vernacular and behaviors which gives the play a real/unreal feeling and playing the truth of that dichotomy is an exceptional challenge.  Ms Lane manages to play that duality by knowing when to go over the top and when to be a bit grounded.  She also has a firm understanding of the interrelationships of these characters and that understanding leads her cast to form the powerful bonds needed to make this show fly.

Some rather entertaining performances are given by Breanna Carodine as a plucky, exuberant Union Army lieutenant who’s happy to serve and by Yone Edegbele and Esther Aruguete who have a shining moment as a pair of snarky Utes who provide food and transportation to the explorers after some of their harrowing adventures.

Teri Fender leads the crew as Major John Wesley Powell.  Ms Fender’s Powell is unflappable in the face of certain danger, pontificates like Captain Kirk, and has a sanity be damned personality.  Indeed, his willingness to jump into the arms of certain death with a smile and a maniacal gleam in his eyes makes one wonder if his sanity is just as absent as his right arm.

Daena Schweiger owns this show with her rendition of Old Shady, the brother of Major Powell, and she does it with nary a word of dialogue.  She was the most convincing man of the lot, utilizing a stooped posture which gave her movements more of a masculine feel and a sandpapery, guttural voice on her rare occasions of speaking helped to complete the illusion.  Ms Schweiger gets the show’s best moment when she launches into an impromptu song about Old Shady’s fish dinner which had audience members practically falling out of their chairs.

Allexys Johnson’s rendition of William Dunn serves as a fine counterbalance to the possibly crazed leader.  Ms Johnson’s Dunn is the most level-headed member of the group who coolly analyzes situations and takes more calculated risks in an attempt to get this team through this expedition alive.  Her yang melds well with Ms Fender’s yin to really make the debates and arguments of their characters spark and pop.

Jim Othuse’s set services the show well with a literally mapped floor and the high, towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  John Gibilisco’s sounds ably support the production with the blast of shotguns, the creepy rattling of a rattlesnake, and the thunderous run of the water of a raging river.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes are period appropriate with the Civil War military garb of the soldiers, the coonskin caps and buckskins of the frontiersmen and hunters, the pith helmet and proper exploratory garments of Goodman, the expedition’s British member, and the southwestern, cowboyesque clothes of the remaining team members.

The first act was hampered a bit by lack of volume and some mushy diction, but the cast mostly rectified this in Act II.

While the story may be a bit lacking, this talented troupe of performers does provide a fine night of characterizations and their zany antics will give audience members quite a bit of amusement.

Men on Boats plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 26.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets start at $30 for adults and $18 for students with prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to strong language, the show is recommended for mature audiences.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Staged Reading of ‘DragOn’ is Next for OCP’s Alternative Programming Season

Omaha, NE–Omaha Community Playhouse is hosting a staged reading of Jessica Austgen’s DragOn on Monday, April 29, 2019 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.  Alternative Programming events are free and open to the public, however free-will donations of any amount are crucial to adventurous programming.  OCP is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Synopsis

In this unique comedy, a fledgling drag queen must go through the tests and trials of legendary cosplay divas to find her swagger.  An ode to both geek and drag cultures, this refreshingly original piece gives the audience a front row seat to what happens when you combine equal parts fantasy adventure, comic book convention, and drag show.

Directed By:  Joey Galda

Cast

Katie Miller as The Doctor

Sue Mouttet as Cat Lady/Space Princess

Michael Taylor-Stewart as The Gatekeeper

Matthew Tolliver as Weather Mutant

Juan Valdovinos as Bobbi

Christopher Violett as Mother of Drag

Travis Wilcox as Amazon Warrior

Amanda Vyhnlanek as Stage Directions reader

‘Men on Boats’ Closing Out Howard Drew Season at OCP

Omaha, NE–Men on Boats will open Friday, May 3 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show runs in the Howard Drew Theatre from May 3-26, 2019.  Performances will be Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Synopsis

Adventure, bravery, and humorous absurdity–led by an all-female cast–Men on Boats is the “true-ish” story of ten explorers on four boats charting the course of the Colorado River in 1869.  Guided by a one-armed captain, the outlandish, but loyal, crew encounters various disasters, conflicts, and harrowing adventures along the way.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $30 for adults and $18 for students with prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass St, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed By:  Amy Lane

Cast

Teri Fender as John Wesley Powell

Carrie Beth Stickrod as William Dunn

Beth Thompson as John Colton Sumner

Daena Schweiger as Old Shady

Breanna Carodine as Bradley

Esther Aruguete as O.G. Howland/Tsauwiat

Yone Edegbele as Seneca Howland/The Bishop

Katt Walsh as Frank Goodman/Mr. Asa

Robyn Helwig as Hall

Sarah Klocke as Hawkins

Free-Spirited Farce Flips, Flops & Flies

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Steve Krambeck as Francis Henshall

Charming con artist and ne’er-do-well, Francis Henshall, takes a job as a minder (bodyguard) for a gangster just so he can eat regularly.  When he sees an opportunity to further line his pockets, he takes a job with a second criminal and now needs to keep both from finding out he works for the other.  This is One Man, Two Guvnors” by Richard Bean with songs by Grant Olding and based off Carlos Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters.  It is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Trust me, this story is far more complicated than this simple synopsis as farce always is and this play contains all of the elements for a truly great farce.  You’ve got the mistaken identities, gender swapping, pratfalls, slamming doors, constant plot twists, and then everything is tidily resolved at the end of the show.  Bean does good work updating Goldoni’s story for a more modern era as it is set in the late 1960s.  But he also manages to retain the flavor of the original with characters making constant asides to reveal their true thoughts and motivations.  He still manages to make it his own with some out of the box fourth wall breaks and the need for his performers to indulge in a bit of improvisation.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek, one of Omaha’s finest comedic talents, helms this production and he is clearly in his element guiding this clownish tale.  He’s definitely got a good eye for a gag and comes up with some real doozies when it comes to pratfalls and some that are tastefully crass such as when Francis tries to woo a woman with a rose.  His cast has some strong comedic chops and knows how to deliver a punchline and he uses some truly unique staging such as the use of a skiffle band (Colin Duckworth, Paige Cotignola, Susan Hendrick, and Adam Sherrerd) to warm up the audience and cover scene changes with some fun and rollicking tunes.

Some of Omaha’s best and brightest grace this production, but there are some truly standout performances from Bill Hutson as a feeble and deaf waiter; Marcus Benzel whose expressions and animated movements really bolster his scenes; and John Shaw as Alan Dangle, a wannabe actor who always speaks in an overexaggerated, theatrical style.

Steve Krambeck gives an energetic performance as Francis Henshall.  Krambeck certainly has his work cut out for him as he has to add a sense of likability to an unlikable person and he does so admirably.  Krambeck oozes the charm crucial for a con artist and handles the physicality of farce quite well as his character takes quite a beating throughout the night.  But he also shows himself as having a good grip on improvisation as he often repartees with the audience and once even had me believing he had broken character during one of these interactions as his delivery of the joke was so subtle and smooth.

It is certainly an exhausting performance as Krambeck runs, flops, dances, charms, xylophones, and sings his way into your heart.

Cathy Hirsch is sterling in her performance as Rachel Crabbe.  Most impressive is that Ms Hirsch spends most of the show disguised as her character’s twin brother, Roscoe, a thug whose death prior to the show is the catalyst for everything that goes down.  Ms Hirsch’s portrayal of Rachel as Roscoe is quite convincing as her bearing, speech patterns, and walking make her a very believable man.  This also allows for a great change in dynamic when she drops the façade to be the truly feminine Rachel.

Chris Shonka is a gentlemanly brute as Stanley Stubbers.  Beneath his elegant manners beats the heart of a fiend as he’s a killer on the run who doles out violence when angered, has a penchant for sadism, and seems to have a rather deviant appetite for virgins.  Shonka does so well with the excellent manners that one tends to forget just how rotten he truly is until your brain has a chance to process some of the heinous things he’s saying.

Matthew Hamel definitely has a set for the times as the colors of his buildings really reflect the psychedelic 60s.  His buildings and scenes have the flavor of a seaside town and I rather liked his elegant dining room with its grand wooden walls towards the end of Act I.  John Giblilisco’s sounds added to the ambiance of the show with the lolling of waves, the popping of champagne corks, and the splash of bodies hitting the water.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes epitomize the swinging 60s with their bright, loud colors, especially the tweeds of Francis.  Adam Sherrerd does excellent work with the musical direction of the night’s numbers as well as being in fine fettle on lead vocals.

The show could definitely benefit from a few tweaks.  The energy of a farce needs to be akin to a runaway train once it gets going and the pace of the first act dragged.  The accents were uneven among the cast and some of the pratfalls and violence were a bit overly controlled.  On the other hand, comedy, especially farce, really needs the juice of a live audience to energize the performers and the loud laughs I heard tonight gives me confidence that this show is going to get its necessary fuel.

One Man, Two Guvnors plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 5.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $24, with ticket prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to some of the risqué humor, this show isn’t recommended for young children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.