A Legend Opens New OCP Season

Omaha, NE– The Omaha Community Playhouse opens its 22/23 Season on Friday, August 19 with The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez. The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre through September 18 with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

SHOW SYNOPSIS: A Southern straight boy and out-of-work Elvis impersonator discovers a hidden talent—and a way to pay his mounting bills—after a drag queen convinces him to fill in on stage for one of her shows. Now if he could only find a way to tell his pregnant wife about his new hobby. A laugh-out-loud comedy filled with music, heart and plenty of sass. Disclaimer: Contains adult language.

Directed by: Brady Patsy


Ryan Figgins as Casey
Ryan Eberhart as Miss Tracy Mills
Brock McCullough as Anorexia Nervosa
Olivia Howard as Jo
Dennis Collins as Eddie
Giovanni Rivera as Jason

Tis the Season for Auditions

Omaha, NE–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding in-person, youth and adult auditions for A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St. Omaha, NE 68132 and Pear Tree Performing Arts at 4801 NW Radial Hwy Omaha, NE 68104. To schedule an audition, please visit the website here.

Through upholding high ethical standards, demonstrating respect for all and consciously working to provide diverse representation, OCP is committed to creating an inclusive and safe environment in which all community members feel a sense of belonging, and does not discriminate in casting practices on the basis of an individual’s ethnicity, age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, country of origin or other factors. Omaha Community Playhouse is committed to diverse and inclusive casting.

Youth Auditions: Saturday, August 13, 11:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m. (taking place at the Omaha Community

Adult Auditions: Those who wish to audition may choose one of the following two audition dates:
Sunday, August 14, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (taking place at the Omaha Community Playhouse)
Monday, August 15, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (taking place at Pear Tree Performing Arts)

Youth Callbacks: Wednesday, August 17, 4:00 p.m.

Adult Callbacks: Thursday, August 18, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Both callbacks will take place at Omaha Community Playhouse.

Please Bring: Please bring and prepare to sing 16-bars of a song from a musical. Dress comfortably for the dance portion of the audition.

Roles: Click here for character breakdown.

Dynamite Divas

From L to R: Dara Hogan, Dani Cleveland, Shirley Terrell-Jordan, Alisa Moore, Caitlin Mabon

If you like watching paint dry, grass grow, or wallpaper peel. . .well, to be honest, I worry about you and you’re reading the wrong review.  Now if you like sass, jazz, razzmatazz, soul, and rock n roll, buckle up your seat belts and get ready for four dynamite divas to add a little rocket fuel to your night.  They’re loud.  They’re proud.  They’re bold and they’re gold.  And all they want is a little Respect down at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Respect is a 90 minute concert that pays tribute to the trailblazing women of music.  You’ll sway, bop, and dance to hits from legendary performers such as Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes, and many more.  While you’re “Dancing In the Street”, you’ll also learn some trivia and facts along the way.

How good is this show?

Why don’t you tell me?  How would you rate a show that gets people clapping, has them bouncing in their seats, earns spontaneous standing ovations, and has them roaring?

My sentiments exactly.

The four singers just dominate the stage and had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands.  All of them have big, beautiful, powerful voices that excelled in harmony and in solo work.  Their colorful, sequined dresses designed by Lindsay Pape sparkled just as much as their voices.  They clearly had a blast performing these numbers and that enthusiasm infected the audience with a frightening rapidity.

Dara Hogan’s star really shone tonight with her complete and utter ownership of her numbers.  Confidence just poured from her as she out-Tinaed Tina Turner with a thunderous take on “Proud Mary”; hit a bullseye with a solo moment in “Don’t Make Me Over”; and brought it all home with a classic performance of “I Am Woman” that would make Helen Reddy weep.

Dani Cleveland has a nice throaty voice that just wraps you in warmth and has a flair for comedy as shown by her witticisms.  And such skill!  Cleveland showed mastery of multiple genres from the country stylings of Connie Francis’ “Who’s Sorry Now” to the soft pop of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and matched the mighty Diana Ross in “Stop!  In the Name of Love”.

Shirley Terrell-Jordan’s energy could power a bullet train and seemed imbued with the spirit of Dionne Warwick when she belted out “Don’t Make Me Over” and I thrilled to her take with Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”.

Caitlin Mabon really had a wide emotional spectrum with her numbers.  Particular standouts were an intense, even a little angry, take on Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” which was one of my favorite melodies of the night and a sweet take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Jim Othuse’s lights lent that big time concert feel to enhance the work of the larger than life quartet while Ananias Montague and his band (Myles Jasnowski, Darren Pettit, Jonathan Sanders, Raquel Taylor, and Jacob Sorensen) perfectly played the numbers of these legendary artists.

A few wonky microphone moments couldn’t stop the onslaught of this tuneful train and if you leave this show without having a good time. . .well, I fear you fit my opening sentence.

For the rest of you, you still have a chance to catch Respect, but move fast!  As of this writing, tickets are only available for June 23 and 25.  Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by calling 402-553-0800, visiting the box office, or heading to www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Get a Little ‘Respect’ at OCP

Omaha, N.– Celebrate the divas who dominated the music scene for decades with this high-energy concert experience: Respect! The production features the music of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Lesley Gore, Chaka Khan, Carole King, and more — served up by a team of powerhouse vocalists and backed by a full rock band.

Respect opens on Friday, June 10, 2022, and will run in the Howard Drew Theatre through June 26, with
performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale, starting at $35, with prices varying by
performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Directed by: Kathy Tyree

Featuring: Dara Hogan, Dani Cleveland, Shirley Terrell-Jordan, Caitlin Mabon, Alisa Moore

To Thine Own Self Be True

Roderick Cotton (L) and Billy Ferguson (R) star in ‘Kinky Boots’

After the sudden death of his father, Charlie Price reluctantly returns home to take over control of the family shoe factory only to learn that it’s on the verge of collapse.  A chance meeting with a drag queen named Lola inspires Charlie to create women’s style shoes and boots for men in an attempt to save the family business.  Will Kinky Boots be enough to save Price & Son?  Find out at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

The dominating theme of this story is acceptance.  Acceptance of others and acceptance of one’s self.  And it’s this theme that gives the show some needed heft because the actual story is a little thin on plot.  Harvey Fierstein’s script, based off the film script of Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, actually sets the table nicely.  But it fails to adequately wrap up the story of the factory as well as a subplot regarding Lola and her father. 

What it lacks in story is more than made up for in characterizations and a jamming score from Cyndi Lauper.  When you combine that with the little intangibles of a live performance, you get a fun-filled rocker of a night.

Stephen Santa has a grand directorial debut with this show.  Santa seized on the show’s key theme and made certain the scenes (and there’s a lot of them) that support that theme got the needed emotional muscle to sell them.  He cuts a great pace and led his actors to nuanced performances, even down to little character quirks.  His staging was impeccable and makes good use of space, especially the factory scenes where things are always hustling and bustling.

The ensemble always remained present in the scenes which adds that crucial element of reality to the show, but this particular production also has a plethora of character roles.  Some of the shining stars of the night are Jon Hickerson as the factory bully, Don, who thinks he knows what it means to be a real man, but gets his own little arc where he truly learns the meaning of the word.  Hannah Rembert is stuck up as Charlie’s snooty fiancée, Nicola.  Megan Kelly nails it as Lauren and really shines with her number, “The History of Wrong Guys”, where she had the audience roaring with her hot and bothered dance moves.

Billy Ferguson is a very worthy Charlie Price.  Charlie is a very aimless character at the show’s start.  Ferguson presents that well by not being very animated because Charlie simply isn’t that passionate about anything.  But as he finds his passion, Ferguson starts conjuring some real fire from his belly as Charlie becomes nearly obsessed with creating “kinky boots” and saving the factory.  Ferguson also has a wonderful tenor and knows how to emote through a song.  He hits some real home runs with the dramatic tunes, especially “I’m Not My Father’s Son” and “Soul of a Man”.

If you didn’t know Roderick Cotton before this show, you certainly won’t forget him afterwards.  Cotton owns the role of Lola/Simon.  In some ways, it’s almost like watching Jekyll and Hyde as Lola is Simon’s escape.  Lola is larger than life and happy and free.  But Simon is the pain and prison from which Lola wants to escape.  Cotton does marvelous work balancing the two sides of this coin.  As Lola, he is always theatrical, on, and feminine, even speaking in a higher pitch.  When he’s Simon, he’s more serious, professional, and masculine, lowering the timbre of his voice.  Watching Lola/Simon make peace with each other is one of the show’s most satisfying arcs.

And leave us not forget Cotton’s own formidable tenor which he uses to suit the emotional moment of any scene.  Cotton’s Lola comes out roaring with “The Land of Lola” and sizzles with a lusty energy in “Sex is In the Heel”.  But he can be equally serious such as splendid turns in “I’m Not My Father’s Son” and “Hold Me In Your Heart”.

Lindsay Pape’s costumes are almost their own characters in this show especially with the over the top performing clothes of Lola and her Angels (and, of course, Lola’s hip high, bright red kinky boots).  The factory employees are always dressed in white coats or aprons.  Charlie’s buttoned up dress shirt and tie reflect his wound up personality.  Jim Boggess and his orchestra do some superlative work with this score.  It’s not only played well, but you can hear the fun they’re having with it.  Michelle Garrity and Sheldon Ledbetter provide some very clever and fun choreography with highlights being “Everybody Say Yeah” and “The Most Beautiful Thing”.  Jim Othuse has designed a good warehouse for Price & Son with its brick exterior and fully functioning factory interior with other pieces of furniture and signs sliding in and out with ease for scene changes and these get a further boost from Andrew Morgan’s properties.  Aja Jackson’s lights enhance the moments and pack some emotional punches with “Charlie’s Sad Soliloquy” and “Hold Me In Your Heart”.

The preview night performance did need a little bit of time to get going.  There was some trouble with microphone volume at the beginning and the energy and animation was a little low to start, but once they got going and the volume issues were fixed, it was a really fun performance.  I also want to give the cast bonus points for not being distracted by some audience members whose etiquette left something to be desired at various points.

This show is going to be a real crowd pleaser especially when the intangible x factors are in place and running full steam.  It’s fun.  It’s got heart.  And it teaches an important message about acceptance and being true to one’s own self.

Kinky Boots runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 26. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased by calling 402-553-0800, visiting www.omahaplayhouse.com, or at the box office.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Robertson Photography

‘Kinky Boots’ to Bring Down Curtain on OCP’s Main Stage Season

Roderick Cotton and Billy Ferguson star in ‘Kinky Boots’

Omaha, NE– The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) production of Kinky Boots will open Friday, May 27, 2022. The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre through June 26 with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now starting at $25 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Flashy, inspiring and downright fun, Kinky Boots is the heartwarming Broadway musical — and winner of six Tony Awards® — thrilling audiences around the world. Following the death of his father, Charlie Price reluctantly agrees to return to his hometown to take over the family’s failing shoe factory. Inspiration strikes when he meets Lola, an outspoken and unapologetic drag queen in need of a sturdy pair of exotic boots. The unlikely pair cobble a heartwarming tale of acceptance and friendship told through dazzling choreography and the intoxicating music of Cyndi Lauper.

Directed by: Stephen Santa


Billy Ferguson as Charlie Price
Roderick Cotton as Lola/Simon
Megan Kelly as Lauren
Hannah Rembert as Nicola
Jonathan Hickerson as Don
Lauren Johnson as Pat
Sarah Ebke as Trish
Seth Maisel as George
Jack Portis as Young Charlie
Courtney Jackson as Young Lola/Simon

Featuring: Matt Bailey, Brendan Brown, Brock McCullough, Kevin Olsen, Mary Kay Desjardins, Brandon Fisher, Jeff Garst, Noah Jeffrey, Will Kottcamp, Megan Morrissey, Carrie Beth Stickrod, Cullen Wiley

The Family Caste

The cast of “Stick Fly” Back L to R: Olivia Howard, Brandon Williams, Nina Washington, DJ Tyree Front L to R: D. Kevin Williams, Kara Davidson

The LeVay family takes a weekend getaway at their vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard.  While there, long buried animosities and secrets come to light.  This is Stick Fly and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

I kept my opening paragraph intentionally brief as I want you to come watch this show and experience the dysfunction of the LeVay family.  Not only was this the best show I’ve seen all season, but it’s the best show I’ve seen in years and it easily marched its way into my personal top five.  Mark my words, this show is going to be showered with praise and accolades so let’s start it off with mine.

Lydia Diamond’s script is utterly flawless.  The story has a beautiful arc with sharp, incisive dialogue, gives each performer a moment in the spotlight, is tinged with a bit of mystery as the connections and relationships between the characters slowly take shape, and it unabashedly tackles some tough topics such as racial and class equity and the meaning of family.  It also has the greatest closing line I’ve ever heard in a play.

Words almost fail me in describing DeMone Seraphin’s direction.  It is incredible.  I was blown away by the staging which made excellent use of the LeVay home with the actors settling in and really giving it that homey, lived in quality.  His knowledge of the beats was intimate and he knew how to utilize a pregnant pause for all its worth, ratchet up tension, and perfectly paces the show.  Not only did he lead his troupe to prize-winning performances, but I was enthralled by how he used his actors when they weren’t the focus of a particular scene.  I often found myself watching them just to see how they would react and behave towards the main action or created their own stories if in a separate room away from the action.  This show has a lot of dialogue which runs the risk of being static, but Seraphin avoids that pitfall by keeping his actors moving and energized. My only minor quibble is a bit more projection is needed by some of the actors.

Kara Davidson has a stellar OCP debut as Kimber.  She’s a good person whose desire for social justice and to be in a mixed race relationship may have initially been motivated by her wish to stick it to her uptight, snooty family but has evolved into real compassion and love.  D. Kevin Williams is authoritative and flawed as Joseph LeVay, the family patriarch.  He can be gregarious and charming, but also seems to be trapped by and participates in a caste system that doesn’t fully recognize him despite his wealth and success and compels him to favor one son over another as well as being able to strike a vocal tone to remind the family housekeeper that she’s at the bottom of his little hierarchy.

Not only was it a treat to watch Olivia Howard’s performance as Taylor, but, for my money, it was the strongest performance I’ve seen from an actor this season.  She is so, so natural and believable and she adds tiny little details to her acting that give it that extra dash of pepper such as when she actually clicks her heels when she discovers an unusual breed of fly.  Her work is truly multilayered with the way she engages with the other characters.  She loves Kent.  Spars with Flip.  Argues and debates with Kimber about racial equality.  Tries to connect with Cheryl because she views the two of them as being on the same social level and tries to make Joseph into the father she never had.  Howard truly knows the ebbs and flows of Taylor’s arc and never misses a trick with her storytelling.

DJ Tyree is phenomenal as Kent (Spoon).  He is a genuinely good man who has clearly been searching for something for a while and finally seems to have found some peace and happiness with his relationship with Taylor and burgeoning success as a writer.  Tyree’s Kent is the only member of his family that treats the housekeeper, Cheryl, as a person instead of a servant.  He has a good relationship with his brother despite their disparate personalities and his father’s obvious favoring of Flip.  Tyree really shines in his dealings with his father, Joseph, as it’s clear he does love him, but hates the fact that he’s treated like a screw-up due to his choosing a life that made him happy instead of rich and powerful.

I was stunned by Nina Washington’s work as Cheryl.  She’s able to say an awful lot with simple body language and expressions.  It’s clear she’s not happy serving the LeVays as she was used to being treated like a member of the family by them growing up (her mother was the family maid), but does so out of a powerful sense of duty to her ailing mother.  She’s smart.  She’s sassy.  And she gets a shining moment with an emotional breakdown so tense and explosive that you’ll feel like you were punched in the gut with a gauntlet.

Brandon Williams is definitely his father’s son as Flip.  He bleeds the sense of entitlement and arrogance bestowed by his family’s wealth and his own personal success as a plastic surgeon.  Williams’ Flip is also fully aware of his standing in the social caste system as he easily treats Cheryl as merely a servant.  He is a truly selfish man who lives to satisfy his appetites as he has no desire to live a stable, normal married life with Kimber and spends money as fast as he earns it.

Jim Othuse’s set really evokes the wealth of the LeVays with its elegant woodwork, fine furniture, and sense of largesse.  Andrew Morgan’s properties help to add to that sense of money with a well-stocked mini-bar and a large bookcase filled with classics and best-sellers from top to bottom.  John Gibilisco’s sounds add a bit of oomph with ambient noises like the coffee maker brewing up some morning joe and Justin Payne provides some toe tapping music. Quinton Lovelace’s costumes really highlight the socioeconomic differences between the two castes with the name brand and designer clothes of the LeVays/Kimber and the more relaxed clothes of the working-class Cheryl and lower middle class Taylor.

“I just want to be seen!” shouts a character at one point and that sums up my feelings about this show.  It not only wants to be seen, but needs to be seen.  Masterpiece seems too small a word.  This is a truly epic piece of theatre and words cannot describe how badly you will cheat yourself if you don’t take an opportunity to watch it.

Stick Fly runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through June 5.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $36 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to strong language and mature themes, this show is not suitable for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

OCP Anounces Auditions for Season 98 Openers

School of Rock

Director: Stephen Santa
Choreographer: Melanie Walters
Music Director: Jim Boggess

Youth Auditions
*10-14 or look within that age range*
June 4th 1:00pm – 4:00pm
June 5th 6:00 – 9:00pm

Adult Auditions 
June 12th 6:00pm – 9:00pm
June 13th 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Adult Callbacks
June 21st 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Audition Preparation

Youth Instrumentalists
Please prepare a 45-second-1 minute rock and roll solo. Be prepared to learn a few notes from the show! A drum kit, keyboard, and amp will be provided. Please bring your own guitar or bass with cables.

Youth Singers
Please prepare 32 bars of a contemporary musical theater song or rock/pop song.
Cold Readings from the script will be provided.

Adult Auditions
Please prepare 32 bars of a contemporary musical theater song or rock/pop song.
Cold Readings from the script will be provided.

Click Here for Character Breakdown

Please complete the audition form and e-mail Dana Smithberg at dsmithberg@omahaplayhouse.com to schedule your audition time.


The Legend of Georgia McBride

Director: Brady Patsy

June 5th 2:00pm – 5:00pm
June 6th 6:00pm – 9:00pm

June 8th 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Character Breakdown:

CASEY: Man, 20’s, white. 

A charismatic and good-looking small-town high school football star turned Elvis impersonator, with the biggest of hearts. He loves his wife ferociously; dreams big, if not always practically; but his charm and optimism are infectious. Married to Jo. He becomes Georgia McBride, his new drag queen persona with Elvis/country/rock and roll roots; a force of nature; sexy, flirtatious, athletic, joyous, and fierce. NOTE: The role requires dancing in heels, lip-syncing, and singing. Playing guitar is a plus.

JO: Woman, African American. She is Casey’s wife.

A hardheaded realist who is prone to being fatalistic, insecure about her appearance, but still a striking young woman. Determined, quick-witted, tough without being bitchy. Loves Casey wholeheartedly; she’s his grounding force. Supportive of Casey’s dreams, but aware of their financial hardships, and her newly discovered pregnancy.

MISS TRACY MILLS: Man or non-binary, 40s-59s, any ethnicity.

A well-seasoned and very gifted Drag Queen, Professional, Confident, and very funny, with a heart of gold. Tracy’s bitchiness is of the harmless variety. Intelligent, kind, protective, resourceful, and nurturing. A natural mentor and drag mother to Casey. She combats strife with a razor wit and a steely determination. Equal parts inspiration and desperation. When she’s not embracing her drag persona, she is Bobby, Eddie’s cousin. NOTE: The role requires dancing in heels and lip-syncing.

REXY/JASON: Man or non-binary, 20s-30s, any ethnicity.

Rexy: Fiery, Combative, Emotional, she’s a sharp-tongued drag queen with a dark past and destructive behavior; a trashy girl who fancies herself the most sophisticated lady in the room. A fellow drag performer of Miss Tracy Mills.

Jason: Casey and Jo’s sweet-natured best friend and neighbor. Casey’s high school buddy and now Landlord. A young father, henpecked at home, surprises you with warmth and insight. NOTE: The role requires dancing in heels and lip-syncing.

EDDIE: Man, 50s-60s, any ethnicity.

The no-frills owner of Cleo’s Bar on the beach in Panama City, Florida, and Bobby’s (aka/Miss Tracy) older cousin. Easily flustered, rough around the edges, a walking ulcer, but a huge heart. His curmudgeon exterior shields his open-hearted generosity and empathy. He starts off as the world’s worst emcee but transforms into an amateur showman who secretly loves the spotlight.

Please complete the audition form and e-mail Dana Smithberg at dsmithberg@omahaplayhouse.com to schedule your audition time.


Auditions will be held at Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

“Stick Fly” Up Next at OCP

From L to R: Olivia Howard, Brandon Williams, D Kevin Williams (front), Nina Washington, DJ Tyree, Kara Davidson (front) star in “Stick Fly” at OCP

Omaha, NE– The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) production of Stick Fly will open on Friday, May 6, 2022. The show, directed by DeMone Seraphin, will run in the Howard Drew Theatre through June 5 with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now starting at $36 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.


The LeVays, a wealthy Black family, set out for a relaxing weekend at their second home in Martha’s Vineyard. When brothers Kent and Flip both bring their new girlfriends to meet the family, the newcomers butt heads over everything from class to race to cultural expectations. Sibling rivalries and parental expectations bring their roller coaster weekend to a boiling point in this bitingly funny comedy-drama.

Directed By: DeMone Seraphin


DJ Tyree as Kent (Spoon)
Olivia Howard as Taylor
Nina Washington as Cheryl
Brandon Williams as Flip
D Kevin Williams as Joe Levay (Dad)
Kara Davidson as Kimber

Photo by Colin Conces Photography

The Burden of Memory

Cork Ramer and Stella Clark-Kaczmarek star in “The Giver”

Jonas lives in a perfect world.  There’s no war.  No hunger.  No crime.  Also, no love.  No acknowledgement of the past.  No color.  It’s sterile.  At a ceremony celebrating his twelfth year of life, Jonas is selected to become the new Receiver of Memories and a whole new understanding of reality is opened up to him through the acts of The Giver which is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This show is a pretty bold step by the Playhouse as The Giver is based off of a Newberry award winning children’s story.  As such, I wondered if this production was going to be able to capture the interests of adults.  Let me tell you, after viewing this play, I just may read the novel.

This has been the most thought-provoking work I’ve seen all season.  The source material, written by Lois Lowry, tackles a challenging theme of what it is that makes us human and the roles that free will, choice, memories, and individuality play in our humanity and uniqueness.  Eric Coble’s translation is tight with concise storytelling merged with crackling dialogue that had me hooked from the start.  The ending is a bit vague, but that vagueness actually makes perfect sense in this particular universe.

Lisa Kerekes’ direction is absolutely splendid.  The cast is made up mostly of children and Kerekes had them (and the adults) working like a well-oiled machine.  The kids really had their acting fundamentals down with projection, cheating out, and not upstaging themselves.  Her pacing was pitch perfect.  Cue pickups were tight as a vise.  Kerekes guided her actors to rock solid performances and managed to eliminate the static from the talky script with precisely plotted movement that beautifully animated the scenes.

Prepare to be amazed by some powerful performances from Giovanni Rivera and Katy Kepler as Father and Mother, friendly, but monotone caretakers of their family unit.  Ree Davis-Stone manages to imbue a subtle, mightier than thou attitude in her Chief Elder.  Liam Richardson provides a splash of humor as Asher, a boy fretting about his imminent career assignment and a constant mispronouncer of words.  Madeline Scarsi is charming as Lily, as close as one can get to being a rebel in this world.

As good as the supporting cast is, the night belongs to Stella Clark-Kaczmarek and Cork Ramer.

I searched for the right word to describe how Clark-Kaczmarek’s performance hit me and gobsmacked is definitely the word.  Clark-Kaczmarek is stunning as Jonas as she displays an acting confidence well beyond her years.  She gives Jonas that needed sense of curiosity and potent sense of justice to realize that there is something beyond the flat earth he knows and that he has the courage needed to forge a new path for this society.  She is so gentle and caring and the glee and agony she feels as Jonas experiences the memories of the past are infectious and believable.

Cork Ramer brings a phenomenal weariness to The Giver.  This is a man who is not broken, but is definitely bowed under the awesome weight of having the memories of the past as well as coping with the regret of his personal failure in attempting to train a successor to his role ten years prior.  Ramer’s Giver is almost Christlike as he bears humanity’s essence on his shoulders and he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to help humanity regain itself.

Matt Hamel has designed a simple set suited to the sterility of this world with a stone pillar, dining room table and chairs, podium, and a cell phone like monitor in the family living room that suggests this world’s equivalent of Big Brother is watching its citizenry.  Jim Othuse’s use of light is very effective, especially the sporadic use of color in this staid world.  I loved Andrew Morgan’s properties with his bright red apple at the top of that list.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes fit the sameness of the world with the virtually identical gray tunics worn by everyone.  John Gibilisco provides a cornucopia of sounds to help move the story along from the roar of an airplane to the crying of a baby to the sound of memories being transmitted.  Timothy Vallier has composed a moving score and I tip my hat to Darrin Golden for the effect of snowfall and Amelie Raoul’s use of projected scenes to represent memories of the past.

As I said earlier, this is one thought-provoking story.  Yet in a dystopia that has stripped humanity from the people, its greatest gift is still present:  hope.  Bring the family and enjoy a tale suited for one and all.

The Giver runs at the Omaha Playhouse through May 8. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased by calling 402-553-0800, visiting www.omahaplayhouse.com, or at the box office.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography