OCP Announces Auditions for ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Omaha, NE–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) is holding in-person auditions for Little Shop of Horrors at the Omaha Community Playhouse on December 3 and 4 and Latino Center for the Midlands on December 5. 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.

Production: Little Shop of Horrors

Credits: Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman; Music by Alan Menken

Director: Stephen Santa

Choreographer: DJ Tyree

Music Director: Jim Boggess

Show Dates: April 14-May 7, 2023 Omaha Community Playhouse, Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Rehearsals: Begin February 26, 2023

Show Synopsis: Seymour, a nerdy store clerk at Mushnik’s flower shop, is thrust into the spotlight when he happens upon a new breed of carnivorous plant. But his newfound fame comes at a cost when Seymour discovers the sassy seedling has an unquenchable thirst for human blood. Ravenously fun, dripping with camp and nostalgia. Disclaimer: Contains mild adult content and language.

Auditions: Saturday, Dec. 3, 1-4 p.m. (Latino Center for the Midlands, 4937 S. 24th St., Omaha, NE 68107)

Sunday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE 68132)

Monday, Dec. 5, 6-9 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse)

Callbacks: Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, 6-10 p.m. (Omaha Community Playhouse)

Notes: Auditions are by appointment only. Please complete the audition form to schedule a time. When arriving to audition at the Playhouse, please enter through the Stage Door entrance on the West side of the building. Those auditioning should be prepared to spend 60-90 minutes at the audition.

Audition preparation: Two 32 bar songs – Pop, R&B, or Contemporary Musicals. Accompanist will be provided.

Roles: Click here for character breakdown.

Compensation: Onstage performers 19 and older for this show will be compensated $700 in total.

Contact: For more information, please visit omahaplayhouse.com.

Tears of Christmas

It’s the story of one man’s salvation through the saving power of Christmas.  It’s A Christmas Carol and it is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

OCP’s classic tradition is back on stage for the 47th time and this marks my third year in a row reviewing it and, I believe, my fifth time reviewing a version of this show.  I’m sometimes asked why I would review a show I’ve reviewed before and the answer is simple.

It’s never quite the same show.

Actors change.  Directors change.  Crew members change.  And with every change comes a new bit of insight.  A different way of doing things that makes the show original unto itself.  Even if everything were identical from the previous year, it would still be different because new and fresh inspirations would be infused into the show.  As it happens this show had a number of changes this year beginning with a blend of the new and classic as Susie Baer-Collins returns to direct the holiday tradition along with OCP Artistic Director, Stephen Santa, and Jim McKain who were making their directing debuts with this show.  The end result was the most moving rendition of A Christmas Carol I have witnessed at OCP.

With the fusion of the three directors, you assuredly see elements and moments from past productions of the show, but you also see new and original ones as well.  You also get a crucial new element that I had never seen in any previous production:  somberness.  This show began with a very sad feeling, almost as if Scrooge’s essence was infused into every jot and tittle of this world.  I admit I was hooked and I shed a few tears along the way.  Baer-Collins, Santa, and McKain guided their performers to solid performances and had me believing in Christmas’ power.

I always enjoy watching the ensemble, especially when they’re really into their performances.  As I gazed about and saw the smiling faces and lights in the eyes of the actors, I was well and truly sucked into their world.  Some stellar performances in the supporting cast came from Cullen Wiley as Topper who is truly amusing when he gives clues as he plays Yes and No at Fred’s party.  Jacob Roman brings a real meekness to Bob Cratchit whose strong heart allows him to work with the miserly and unkind Scrooge.  Christina Rohling is a loving mother and the rock supporting her husband as Mrs. Cratchit.

Don Keelan-White unlocked the full potential of Jacob Marley with his attack on the role this season.  There was something truly haunting (no pun intended) in both the supernatural and the emotional senses of the word with his performance.  He seemed otherworldly and very human at the same time.  His regret at his failure to help his fellow man during his lifetime was palpable and sincere and I loved his scaring the bejeepers out of Scrooge as he smacked his chains against the floor and pointedly warned Scrooge about the length and weight of his own invisible chains.

DJ Tyree was the Ghost of Christmas Present I had long envisioned.  Tyree just bled majesty and regality and basked in the essence of this spirit.  He had the jovial nature needed for this generous ghost, but also gave Scrooge a pointed verbal jab or two as he threw Scrooge’s cruel words back in his face when discussing the potential fate of Tiny Tim.

For the 17th and final time, Jerry Longe takes the reins of this show as Ebenezer Scrooge.  Indeed, I think the knowledge that this is his last go around added to some of the somber feeling of the show and certainly lent it an additional power.  Longe’s take on Scrooge this time was an angle I’ve never seen played before in any version and I really loved it.  Longe made Scrooge spiritually dead.  By that I mean, he was utterly emotionless.  Life held no joy for him and his accumulation of wealth was just something he did as it certainly brought him no happiness or comfort.  So convincing was Longe in this spiritual death that it made his Scrooge seem very old and frail.  It also had me riding along on Scrooge’s salvation train in a way I had never experienced it before.  Longe was shedding real tears at some points as Scrooge’s dead heart was slowly resurrected and I was searching for my own tissue right along with him.  His redemption had a purity I had never seen before and left me with a sense of divine satisfaction.

Longe seemed to improv asides a bit more this year, but they were fun and one aside had me doubled over with laughter. You’ll know it when you hear it. Truly, it is a fine finale for this treasure of local theatre.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra perfectly played the Christmas carols and hymns and there was an x factor this year that gave it that extra emotional punch.  Michelle Garrity’s choreography was always charming especially in the party scenes.  Linsday Pape’s costumes transport you to the Victorian era of Charles Dickens.  Jim Othuse’s set helps add to that feeling of a bygone era with the old-fashioned buildings and his lights add emotional depths with stars, the pale green of Jacob Marley, and the near total blackness while Scrooge waits for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco’s sounds always enhance things with the ghostly voice modifications for the spirits, the gentle tolling of a clock tower bell, and the tinkling sound hearkening the appearance of Ghost of Christmas Past.  Andrew Morgan’s properties add so much with the sight of feasts, toys, and Christmas items.  Darrin Golden’s technical direction makes the supernatural realistic and Janet Morr’s artistry enhances the sets.

I think you’re truly in for a Christmas treat this year as this incarnation of A Christmas Carol is going to hit you in a way you’ve never been hit before.  You’ll truly marvel at the power of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec 23.  Showtimes are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets start at $40 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

Sister Has a Christmas Mystery to Solve

Mary Zentmyer stars as Sister in Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold

Omaha, NE.–Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold will open Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23. Performances will be held Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

It’s “CSI: Bethlehem” in this holiday mystery extravaganza, from the author of Late Nite Catechism, as Sister takes on the mystery that has intrigued historians throughout the ages—whatever happened to the Magi’s gold? (“We know that Mary used the frankincense and myrrh as a sort of potpourri—they were in a barn after all.”) Retelling the story of the Nativity, as only Sister can, this hilarious holiday production is bound to become a yearly classic. Employing her own scientific tools, assisted by a local choir as well as a gaggle of audience members, Sister creates a living nativity unlike any you’ve ever seen.With gifts galore and bundles of laughs, Sister’s Christmas Catechism is sure to become the newest addition to your holiday traditions.

Tickets start at $35 and are available at the OCP Box Office (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE) or by calling 402-553-0800.

A local choir will be featured during each performance of Sister’s Christmas Catechism.
•Freedom Choir, Sacred Heart Church – November 25-27
•Omaha North High School Choir – December 2-4
•Omaha Burke High School Choir – December 8-11
•Zion Baptist Church Choir – December 16
•Doan College Choir – December 17-23
•OCP Staff Choir – December 1 & 15

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

Final Redemption: Jerry Longe’s Final Run in “A Christmas Carol” Begins on Nov 18

Jerry Longe (L) and Don Keelan-White (R) star in “A Christmas Carol” at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, NE.–Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will open Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Nov. 18 through Dec. 23. Performances will be held Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and two performances Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

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 to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Filled with stunning Victorian costumes, festive music and crisp, wintry sets, A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder of the power of redemption and the generosity that lies at the heart of the Christmas holiday.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $40 for adults and $26 for students, with ticket prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

JERRY LONGE’S FINAL YEAR

2022 will mark Jerry Longe’s final year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He has played the iconic role for 17 seasons. The only other person to play Ebenezer Scrooge on OCP’s Hawks Mainstage is the late Dick Boyd who played the role for 30 years.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

It’s Going to Be a Blue Christmas Carol: Jerry Longe Stepping Away From Ebenezer Scrooge After 2022 Run

Omaha, NE.– This year will be Jerry Longe’s final year as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s mainstage production of A Christmas Carol. Longe has played the role of Scrooge for 17 years. He first moved to Omaha in 1980 and toured with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s production of A Christmas Carol playing Marley, Ghost of Christmas Present and Jake.

For Longe, his role in A Christmas Carol has been life changing. He says, “I’ve made lifelong friends through this production, and that has been a tremendous gift to me every single Christmas.”

Over the 47 years that OCP has produced A Christmas Carol, only two people have played the role of Scrooge – Jerry Longe for 17 years and the late Dick Boyd for 30 years. When Boyd stepped away, former artistic director Carl Beck asked Longe to play Scrooge.

“I said sure I’d love to do it, and it’s turned out to be the best Christmas present anybody ever gave me,” says Longe.

Longe started the role in 2006 and said one of the best aspects of playing Scrooge is the ability to hone and refine the character year after year. While it’s a difficult decision to step away, he feels that the role demands more energy than he is able to give it anymore. Longe is also expecting his first granddaughter in the spring of 2023, with whom he’s excited to spend the holidays.

A Christmas Carol isn’t about me. It’s about the show and what it means to the community…I felt it was time to go out on a high note,” says Longe.

Over the years, the holiday show has become so popular, it’s an annual tradition for many area families. OCP representatives say how Longe’s involvement has impacted the organization and community.

“Jerry has brought and continues to bring an enormous amount of invention, humor, pathos, and love to the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. His humility and professionalism set a high bar for all of us on both sides of the stage. An extremely talented actor and a wonderful friend, Jerry leaves an indelible mark on our treasured production,” -Susie Baer Collins, former OCP Associate Artistic Director and Director of A Christmas Carol.

“Jerry has poured his heart into this role over the past 17 years, and he will be so greatly missed. He graced the show with immense humor and unmatched energy. He will probably never know how many lives he has impacted with this story of hope and redemption,” -Katie Broman, OCP Executive Director.

“Watching Jerry perform Scrooge is truly a masterclass in artistic excellence and love for theatre and storytelling. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with Jerry during his final year and he will forever leave a brilliant stamp on our production,” -Stephen Santa, OCP Artistic Director and Director of A Christmas Carol.

Longe will be honored on the final performance of A Christmas Carol on Friday, Dec. 23. The directors of A Christmas Carol will cast a new Scrooge in 2023.

Great Plains Theatre Commons Presenting Staged Readings of “Money Changers” and “Buried Phoenix”

Omaha, NE. —Great Plains Theatre Commons (GPTC) will present two staged readings from its Commoners playwright cohort.  MONEY CHANGERS by Kim Louise will be October 16 at 4pm at Union for Contemporary Art and BURIED PHOENIX by Laura Leininger-Campbell will be October 24 at 7:30pm at Omaha Community Playhouse. Tickets are available for free here for Money Changers and Buried Phoenix.

“These playwrights are treasures in our community. Their work is full of vibrancy and story,” said Community Connector Ellen Struve. “We are so fortunate to have artists of their caliber making new works for the stage, creating character and engaging audiences in Omaha. It is always exciting to be part of the very first audience a play has and see it come to life.”

Money Changers is a big-cast comedy set in 1976 in an Omaha gambling club.

Synopsis: Shine up your platform shoes, put on your hip-hugger bell-bottom jeans, pick out your Afro and come on down to Octavia’s Social Club where games and gambling are uptight and outta sight. Octavia, known as “Ms. Tay,” is the most-respected numbers banker in 1976 Omaha. She wants nothing more than to put away enough money to pay cash for every year of her daughter’s ivy-league college tuition. But her daughter wants nothing to do with college and everything to do with the numbers-running business. When Octavia forbids her daughter from following in her footsteps, her daughter rebels and runs away to a neighborhood criminal who has promised her the world—but soon finds out that hell hath no fury like a mother/numbers banker and her ass-kicking crew.

“Octavia” – Denise Chapman

“Big Lu” – TammyRa’

“Spooky” – Doriette Jordan

“Loddy” – Dara Hogan

“Aunt Sister” – Camille Metoyer Moten

“Daughter” – Ashari Johnson

Xenia” – Rusheaa Malimbe

“Hobby” – Anthony Holmes

“King Tomorrow” – D Kevin Williams

“Mail Man/Sunny Buns – Eric Jordan

“Princess Becky” – Laura Campbell

White Cop” – Michael Taylor Stewart

Buried Phoenix is a beautiful ensemble piece about a Midwest girl finding herself in a community of milliners in New York City.

Synopsis: In 1994, the lives of three generations of artists intersect within New York’s enchanting and chaotic Millinery District when Lark, an aspiring actress, takes a job with eccentric hat designer Beatrice Price. Lark’s odyssey within the dark canyons of gritty Manhattan will introduce her to a group of fierce and dynamic women that will challenge her estimations of herself, and inspire her the rest of her life.  

What makes a successful artist?  Is it genius, or is it encouragement? How will traumatic misfortunes, the disparaging voices in our past, manifest within what we create?  A 2022 runner-up for the Henley Rose Playwriting Competition, Buried Phoenix illuminates a poignant and nostalgic journey through the eyes of five defiant, spellbinding women; all struggling to make their own voices heard. 

Lark: AJ Adhiambo
Beatrice:  Kathy Tyree
Anne: Mary Kelly
Mary: Kim Jubenville
Mei: Cecilia Poon
Voices: Eric Salonis
St. Direction: Eric Grant-Leanna

All Great Plains Theatre Commons events are free and open to the public. Visit www.gptcplays.com to learn more or email commons@gptcplays.com.

Bitter Sweets

Kathleen Combs (L) and Roz Parr (R) star in “The Cake” at Omaha Community Playhouse

A baker getting ready to appear on a competition reality show offers to bake the wedding cake for the daughter of her best friend.  Then she finds out that the daughter is marrying a woman.  Her subsequent reluctance to make the cake and the fallout from that reluctance forms the story of The Cake which is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Inspired by a real-life news story, Bekah Brunstetter’s script has its ups and downs.  I thought the story took a little too long to get where it was going especially with a lengthy opening sequence that could have been much more economical.  But past that point, the story begins to cook as Brunstetter has a real gift for creating authentic people and shines in intimate scenes that ask the hard questions.  Ultimately the story is about acceptance as that is what each character seeks, but it also pursues themes of bigotry, judging others (which flows both ways), family, and seeing things from another’s POV.

Kim Clark-Kaczmarek’s direction adds some serious muscle to the production as her guidance of the intimate scenes truly sing and help to overpower the script’s early shortcomings.  Clark-Kaczmarek imbues a tremendous sense of presence on her performers.  By that I mean, the actors are always aware of themselves on stage and constantly move or animate which prevents the talky script from becoming static.  Her staging is phenomenal as scenes in the bakery use the full space and scenes in the bedroom feel close and snug.  Clark-Kaczmarek has also coached her performers to rock solid performances that will hold your attention and get you thinking.

Although a disembodied voice, Brady Patsy generates some guffaws as the host of the baking competition used in interstitials to reflect Della’s inner feelings and turmoil especially when he starts politely insulting her and cheerfully using vulgarities.  Doug Rothgeb brings a nice everyman quality to Della’s husband, Tim, who is facing his own perceived failings as a man which has tanked his love life with Della.

I was extraordinarily glad to see Roz Parr finally get a role with some serious meat with which to exercise her prodigious talent.  Parr brings an amazing conflicted innocence to the role of Jen.  Jen is always of two minds as she tries to balance her orientation with her upbringing and you can see the strain wrought by this internal tug of war written all over her thanks to Parr’s crystal-clear facial expressions and body language.  Parr gives Jen a powerful selflessness that manages to override her inner struggles until she realizes that a little selfishness is sometimes needed which allows her to voice her truth and wishes.

Delaney Jackson brings some serious depth to the role of Macy.  Macy is one wounded woman.  Clearly, she’s fought emotional battles all of her life due to her race and orientation and this has eroded her sense of trust and nurtured an instinctive tendency to strike first and strike hard.  Jackson’s Macy has no qualms in cutting to the heart of a matter and calling things exactly as she sees them.  But I also found it interesting that she, herself, is guilty of the same judging attitude that she perceives in others.

And in the center of all the chaos is Della, beautifully essayed by Kathleen Combs.  Combs plays Della as the sweet Southern woman who is thrown into a tornado of confusion about baking the cake for Macy and Jen’s wedding.  Interestingly, she never actually says no.  Della’s whole arc is based on her wanting to do the right thing, but not knowing what is the right thing.  Combs wonderfully plays up Della’s confusion and angst as her love for Jen battles her personal belief system, but this forces her to confront her darker aspects and come out with a heightened sense of tolerance.

I can’t explain it, but Sophie Knauss’ set is one of my favorites.  It just had an x factor that gave the bakery a warm, homey feel while the retractable walls with the slide in beds helped transform the spacious bakery into the intimate bedrooms.  The set is further bolstered by Andrew Morgan’s properties as his cakes and signs make the bakery feel so real.  Erica Maholmes’ lights add even more with the warm, welcoming pink of the bakery to the colorful bouncing lights for the game show interstitials.  Jocelyn Reed’s costumes suit the characters perfectly with the overalls and work shirt of Tim to the formal, business-like clothes of the serious as a heart attack Macy to the suitable to her generation dress of Della and the almost childlike, carefree clothing of the innocent Jen.  John Giblisco’s sounds add that extra dash of seasoning especially the fun game show sounds in the interstitials and it’s all wrapped in a subtle, original score written by Stacey Barelos.

The Cake does provide some serious food for thought and asks a lot of hard questions with no easy answers, but its ending provides just the right cherry of hope to show that change and acceptance is possible even if people may not always see eye to eye.

The Cake runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Nov 6.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not suitable for children. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Robertson Photography

OCP Serving Up a Dessert of a Play

Omaha, NE.– The Cake opens at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday, October 7. A celebrated North Carolina baker is thrilled to finally design a wedding cake for her goddaughter. But when she learns the marriage is between two women, she begins to feel conflicted. A surprising and sweet take on a modern-day controversy, seeped in humor and warmth. Disclaimer: Contains adult language and brief nudity.

The show will run on the Howard Drew Stage from October 7 – November 6, with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, starting at $36, with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

Directed by: Kim Clark-Kaczmarek

Cast
Kathleen Combs as Della
Doug Rothgeb as Tim
Roz Parr as Jen
Delaney Jackson as Macy