OCP Streaming Productions from Local Talent

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse will offer free online streaming of entertainments by local composers J.Isaiah Smith, starting May 15, and Tim Vallier, starting May 22.

The music events follow popular reception of two videotaped performances from Playhouse archives. The plays by local playwrights bowed online April 17 (Eminent Domain by Laura Leininger Campbell) and April 24 (Recommended Reading for Girls by Ellen Struve).

As with the earlier plays, each music event will have a Friday evening streaming debut. All four events will remain available for streaming for an indefinite period after the initial offerings. They serve to entertain Playhouse patrons at a time when social distancing makes gathering at the theater impossible. Go to omahaplayhouse.com to access links to all four events.

What A Kid Did With A Piano
Streaming Premiere: May 15, 2020 | 7:30 p.m. (available for streaming after)

This 90-minute presentation features the original music of J. Isaiah Smith, with performances by Smith, Mackenzie Zielke, Scott T. Vandentop, Breanna Francesca Carodine, and Jordan Smith. Mark M. Kurtz accompanies on piano and Jordan Smith on drums.

J. Isaiah Smith wrote a musical titled Kings, Queens, and Unruly Peasants, which is featured in the show, along with several stand-alone songs and conceptual shows. He debuted What A Kid Did With A Piano at the Holland Center. In July 2019, Smith remounted a version of the show for one night at the Playhouse.

Smith, a popular performer in Playhouse musicals, appeared as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime, Lord Farquaad in Shrek and Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain.

One Way to Mars
Streaming Premiere: May 22, 2020 | 7:30 p.m. (available for streaming after)

One Way to Mars, a 75-minute musical audio drama by Tim and Mallory Vallier, follows Natalie, a neuroscientist and mother. Natalie isinvited to embark on a pioneering one-way trip to Mars. But to take part, she must leave everything on Earth behind.

The cast includes Leanne Hill Carlson as Natalie; Steve Krambeck as her husband, Clark; and Thomas Gjere as James, Natalie’s former colleague (and former lover), who invites her to Mars. Christi Leupold and Dustin Smith play multiple roles. Daena Schweiger directs.

This is the Valliers’ reimagining of the classic Scottish ballad “The Daemon Lover.” Both works share themes of romance, tragedy and adventure.

Tim Vallier wrote the music and designed sound, with book and lyrics by Mallory Vallier. The script will be onscreen as the original music plays, or you can just close your eyes and enjoy listening.

Tim Vallier has composed instrumental music for several recent Playhouse non-musicals, including Native Gardens, A Raisin in the Sun, and Sweat.

Pop Rockin’ Charity

From Billy McGuigan

Hi everyone. Billy McGuigan here. I hope everyone is at home social distancing and doing their part to keep our community safe.

As many of you know, I’ve played in hundreds of venues across the country and around the globe. From world famous opera houses to international cruise liners and everything in between. But no venue is more important to me than the Omaha Community Playhouse. It’s where I got my start as a performer, but more importantly it has been a staple of the Omaha community for almost 100 years. And right now—they need our help.

Like many organizations, OCP is being hit hard by COVID-19. They’ve had to cancel performances, youth outreach programs and more. The Omaha Community Playhouse is too important to our city. We have to help. So here’s my plan…

My newest show, Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra, is set to open at OCP on August 7th. Tickets just went on sale today. Visit bit.ly/OCPBillyPopRock for tickets or call the OCP Box Office at (402) 553-0800.

Once we reach 3,000 tickets sold, I will donate 100% of ticket sales back to the Omaha Community Playhouse to help them rebound from this crisis.

To help us surpass this number, I’m offering:
– Lower ticket prices (now starting at $38)
– Free upgrade to our VIP package for anyone who buys tickets before May 1. VIP package includes: Invitation to VIP pre-show sound check and a photo op on stage with me and the Pop Rock Orchestra
– Exclusive access to a Yesterday and Today presale for everyone who purchases tickets.

Plus you get to see my new show, which is going to be amazing! I really hope you’ll help me support OCP during this tough time. Tickets just went on sale today, March 31. Let’s rally to help our community, and give ourselves something to look forward to once all this social distancing is over!

I can’t wait to see you all there! -Billy McGuigan

P.S. Looking for more ways to help OCP during COVID-19? Visit bit.ly/HelpOCP

Full Circle: A Tribute to Doug Marr

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Last night, Omaha lost a talented playwright, a genuine wit, and an all around great human being.

I lost a good friend.

When I think of Doug I think of a genuinely good man with a phenomenal sense of humor and a truly giving and supportive heart.  Doug was responsible for giving my theatre career one of its biggest boosts and for keeping it alive when it was on life support.

I first met Doug back in 2003 when I auditioned for the Circle Theatre’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I had high hopes that I would be able to net the role of Billy Bibbit, but received a surprise when I got a letter notifying me that the whole production was being postponed due to the theatre being unable to fill the key role of Chief Bromden, but Doug hoped to mount the show later that summer.

As summer closed in I asked him if Cuckoo was going to be mounted and he wrote back and said Circle would be doing Our Town and immediately offered me the role of Doc Gibbs.

I was stunned by his generosity as I was relatively an untested talent as I only had 4 small roles under my belt and this would be the first time I had something with a bit of meat.  Though he didn’t direct the production, he was present every day at his trusted post at the light and sound board.  He often regaled the cast with his off the cuff jokes and we would spend quite a bit of time talking about our mutual love for classic rock, Sherlock Holmes, and he would share with me ideas he had for future plays and stories.

I experienced a bit more of his generosity when he handed me a small check at the end of the run.  Doug always believed in paying a tiny stipend to the performers and I’m proud to have had my first paying gig under his watchful eye.

It would be nearly a decade before I crossed paths with Doug again.  At that point, I had been going through a dry spell and then he announced auditions for An Inspector Calls.  After my audition, Doug offered me the choice of either of the two young men.  Now one was a decent, level headed sort close to my real personality and the other was a drunken lout.  I opted for the lout.  Doug agreed to that as he thought that was the better of the two reads.

Doug often said that he wasn’t a director, but I think he underestimated his talents in that realm..  For starters, he was a gifted writer with an instinct for beats so he knew what points in a story needed to be hit to get maximum effect.  More importantly, he had an incredible eye for talent.  Doug intuitively understood a performer’s strengths and weaknesses and not only knew where to slot them, but also trusted their instincts so he’d only have to give slight notes to smooth out the rough edges.

I was always grateful that he let me test my range with Eric Birling and it still ranks as one of my favorite roles.

Shortly after that show, my dry spell became an arid desert.  I had grown so disheartened with the constant rejections that I made the decision to step away from theatre for a while.

Trust Doug to get me back into the swing of things.

Six months into my hiatus, Doug sent word through a mutual friend of ours asking if I would consider doing the Circle’s annual Christmas show.  I was a little hesitant because my confidence had been so battered, but he was a really hard guy to say no to so I agreed.

With his trust and support, I began to remember the things I loved so much about theatre and managed to breathe life into his creation of Gunar, the hippie elf which would become another of my favorite roles.  His kindness gave me the shot in the arm I needed and I would bag my biggest role later that season thanks to him restoring my heart.

Many in our community have shared their stories about Doug.  He was a treasure and he will be missed.  I’ll always remember him for his warmth, his good humor, his gift for wordplay, and his goodness.  Most of all, I’ll remember him for being my friend.

Rest in peace, my friend.

 

Omaha Playhouse Announces 96th Season

Omaha, NE.–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) has announced the titles to be produced during their 96th season, which will run from August 2020 through June 2021. Subscriptions for OCP’s 2020/21 season are now available for purchase through the OCP Box Office at 6915 Cass Street, Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

OMAHA COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE 2020/21 SEASON PRODUCTIONS

*Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra

Aug. 7–16, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Featuring Billy McGuigan | Music Director Steve Gomez | ©2007 by Rave On Productions

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra is a high-energy concert experience packed with rock ‘n’ roll mega hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Led by international touring artist Billy McGuigan and backed by the 14-piece Pop Rock Orchestra, these all-star musicians serve up fresh, original arrangements covering everything from the Beach Boys to Billy Joel, and everything in between.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Clybourne Park

Aug. 21–Sept. 20, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

By Bruce Norris

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning comedy Clybourne Park serves as prequel and sequel to A Raisin in the Sun. A 1950s couple faces sharp backlash from neighbors for selling their home in the all-white Clybourne Park to a black family. Fifty years later, a white couple attempts to purchase the same home in the now predominantly black neighborhood, igniting fears of gentrification.

Disclaimer: Contains adult language and themes of racial tension.

Kinky Boots

Sept. 25–Oct. 25, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Book by Harvey Fierstein | Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper

Original Broadway Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots

Written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth

Flashy, inspiring and downright fun, Kinky Boots is the Tony Award®-winning musical warming hearts around the world. After returning to his hometown to manage his late father’s failing shoe factory, Charlie meets Lola, an outspoken and unapologetic drag queen in need of a sturdy pair of exotic boots. Together, the unlikely pair cobble a heartwarming tale of acceptance and friendship.

Orchestra Sponsor: Woodmen Life

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

Water by the Spoonful

Oct. 16–Nov. 8, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

By Quiara Alegría Hudes

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Water by the Spoonful follows Elliott, an Iraq war vet struggling to care for his dying aunt, and Odessa, a recovering drug addict fighting to stay sober with the support of her online companions. When their two worlds unexpectedly collide, everyone’s progress comes crashing down in this thought-provoking and beautifully human tale.

Disclaimer: Contains adult themes and language.

Presenting Sponsor: Conagra Brands Foundation

*A Christmas Carol

Nov. 20–Dec. 23, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Written by Charles Dickens | Adapted by Charles Jones

Musical Orchestration by John J. Bennett

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 that love and generosity are the heart of the Christmas holiday.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Presenting Sponsor: First National Bank

Artistic Team Sponsor: Omaha Steaks

Orchestra Sponsor: KPMG

Bakery Shoppe/Special Effects Sponsor: Rotella’s Bakery

*Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience

Nov. 27–Dec. 31, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

Featuring Billy McGuigan | Music Director Matthew McGuigan | ©2007 by Rave On Productions

Cap off 2020 with a shot of Beatlemania! Yesterday and Today is the smash hit, all-request Beatles show controlled by the audience. Share your favorite stories and relive your fondest memories with the songs that defined a generation. With no two shows the same, fans will be dancing in the aisles and singing along to all their favorite hits.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

The Miracle Worker

Jan. 15–Feb. 7, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

By William Gibson

The Miracle Worker is the incredible true story of Helen Keller, deaf and blind since age one, and the extraordinary woman who changed her life. Unable to communicate with their daughter, the Keller family enlists the help of Annie Sullivan, a woman determined to rescue Helen from the dark, tortured silence imprisoning her mind. A story that has inspired audiences for generations.

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

The Scottsboro Boys

Feb. 12–March 14, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

Music and Lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb

Book by David Thompson

Original Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman

The Scottsboro Boys follows the wrongful conviction of nine black teenagers in Scottsboro, Alabama in the 1930s—an infamous case that helped ignite the modern civil rights movement. From the composers of Chicago and Cabaret, this 12-time Tony® Award nominee alternates toe-tapping musical numbers with heart-wrenching ballads to tell a harrowing tale of bravery and strength in the face of great adversity.

Disclaimer: Contains themes and language related to racial tension.

In the Heights

Feb. 26–March 21, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights. From the revolutionary musical mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, this Tony® Award-winning musical recounts three days in the vibrant Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, NYC, where the Spanish-speaking residents chase American dreams. This bubbly fusion of rap, salsa, Latin pop and soul music boasts an infectious enthusiasm from beginning to end.

Presenting Sponsor: Heider Family Foundation

Producing Partner: Physicians Mutual

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

*THE CANDY PROJECT PRESENTS:

Gutenberg!  The Musical!

March 18–21, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

By Anthony King and Scott Brown

Starring Steve Krambeck and Dan Chevalier

Join The Candy Project, friends of OCP, for a special presentation of Gutenberg! The Musical! A pair of aspiring playwrights audition their newest work—a big, splashy musical about the inventor of the printing press—for an audience of potential investors. This two-man musical spoof offers an unending supply of enthusiasm and laughs.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

April 16–May 9, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig

A thrilling whodunit set aboard the world’s most famous luxury locomotive, Murder on the Orient Express will keep you guessing until the very end. When the Orient Express becomes stranded by a snow storm, a passenger is found stabbed to death in his private room. With the murderer still on board, a detective must solve the crime before the train reaches its destination.

Producing Partner: UNMC

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

Outside Mullingar

May 7–30, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

By John Patrick Shanley

This charming romantic comedy follows Anthony and Rosemary, two introverts who grew up on neighboring farms in rural Ireland. Rosemary secretly fell in love with Anthony at age six, but after a bought with heartbreak, Anthony swore off women forever. The now middle-aged pair must overcome their own aloofness—as well as a family property dispute—to find their way to one another.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

May 28–June 27, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Adapted for the Stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald

Based on the Book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Oompa-Loompa-Doom-Pa-Dee-Doo! We’ve got a family favorite for you! Grab your golden ticket as Willy Wonka takes your family on a whimsical tour of the chocolate factory—with Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and all of your favorite characters. Featuring songs from the hit film, Willy Wonka will open up a world of pure imagination.

Presenting Sponsor: Mutual of Omaha

Orchestra Sponsor: Kiewit

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

‘Marjorie Prime’ Opening Soon at BlueBarn Theatre

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Ruth Rath and Ben Beck star in BlueBarn Theatre’s production of ‘Marjorie Prime’

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents:

 Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Marjorie Prime

By Jordan Harrison

March 19th – April 12th, 2020

Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm*

Sundays at 2pm 

Memories are not the key to the past, but the future.

About the play:

Marjorie’s daughter and son-in-law have purchased Walter Prime (a holographic projection of her husband as he looked in his 30s) to keep her company.  In the near future, ‘Primes’ are available from the good people at Senior Serenity, the latest devices for helping people with their fading memories and loss of companionship. As the Prime is fed memories and conversation, the shape of their lives are revealed, more and more years are covered and recovered, and the nature of memories, the legacy of the past, and the promise of the future are all called into question.

About the production:

Marjorie Prime features performances by Ruth Rath, Julie Huff, Ablan Roblin, and Ben Beck. Directed by Susan Baer Collins. Assistant Direction by Bob Fishbach.  Set Design by Brendan Greene-Walsh.  Costume Design by Denise Ervin.  Sound Design by Bill Kirby. Lighting Design by Steven Williams.  Properties by Amy Reiner.  Stage Management by Christopher Hernandez.

Tickets:

General Admission ($35) and Senior ($30) tickets are available at bluebarn.org. Educator, Military, and BLUCrew tickets are available through the box office (402) 345-1576.

*ASL interpreted performance Friday, March 27th at 7:30pm

Photo provided by BlueBarn Theatre

Something More Than Love

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Girl (Melissa King) encourages Guy (Jay Hanson) to sing in “Once” at Omaha Community Playhouse.

Girl finds Guy singing on the street and is impressed with his talent.  An instant friendship blossoms between them and Girl decides to help Guy record a demo and go to New York to fulfill his potential and possibly to avoid the love that is beginning to bloom between them.  This is Once with book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.  It is based off the film of the same name and is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This is definitely an original musical.  It’s a shockingly simple tale that does have a bit of a twist on the usual love story.  There’s no sense of history to the two unnamed characters.  It’s as if the play knows it’s a play and the existence of these 2 people is limited solely to the duration of the show.  The music is the real centerpiece of the show as the songs often tell the story and reveal the emotions of the characters in lieu of dialogue which is surprisingly scant.  The music also has a power of its own as it brings the characters in this show closer together and breaks down barriers between them.  I thought not naming the two leads was a clever touch as it can either transmit a universal message or simply allow the audience to place himself or herself in the roles.

Kimberly Faith Hickman’s directing is quite lovely.  There’s a purity to the staging as it takes place in a bare bones stage designed by Jim Othuse.  It’s literally bare, dilapidated walls with a window looking out at a building.  Hickman makes good use of the performance space, well placing the actors so all can be seen even when the focus is on particular characters.  I also liked how she used placement to further the story.  For example, at one point when a wedge is driven between the two leads, they are literally separated as they take positions on opposite sides of the stage with the rest of the cast standing between them.  I also thought she charmed some sweet performances out of her leads and strong supporting performances from the ensemble.

The cast for this show is unique as they are also the orchestra.  This leads to an interesting casting challenge as one needs to find performers who can act, sing and play musical instruments.  That challenge is met fairly well in this production.  Under Jim Boggess’ direction, the orchestra provides a very moving score which is absolutely critical for this show as nearly every song carries a somber, emotional tone that needs to grab the viewer by the throat.  Boggess also has a very fine cameo performance as Eamo who runs the local recording studio.  Other strong supporting performances come from Joey Hartshorn, who has the most drawn out wishing of good luck imaginable in “Baruska’s Story”, and Thomas Gjere as an overly serious bank manager who secretly wishes to be a singer and gets his chance in the terrifically awful “Abandoned in Bandon”.

Melissa King is truly a triple threat in this show.  Her piano playing is heavenly.  Her alto is superb.  Her acting is spot on.  Heck, she even throws in a little impressive hoofing in “Ej Pada Pada”.  King’s performance as the serious Czech (because Czechs are always serious) Girl is simply a triumph and will assuredly make her a contender for some awards.  She’s got a vital spark of humor and playfulness about her as well as a very nurturing nature as she encourages Guy’s music.  This is a character who understands the meaning of sacrifice as she’s willing to give up a blossoming love with Guy to repair her own fractured family unit.  King will also melt the coldest of hearts with her singing, especially with her rendering of “Falling Slowly” and “The Hill”.

Jay Hanson acquits himself rather admirably in the role of Guy.  For a performer with no prior stage credits, Hanson has some excellent instincts.  He reacts very well and knows how to be in the moment.  Musically, he’s unbeatable.  Hanson is a top flight guitar player and singer who effortlessly picks apart the emotional beats of a song.  Whether he’s singing about a failed relationship in “Leave”, providing a bit of humor in “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” or just dazzling you with “Gold” and “Sleeping”, Hanson provides an Epicurean delight for the ears.

Hanson did need to tighten his cues up and rushed his dialogue on some occasions.  You also felt his grip on the role tightening over the course of the play and he was finding some real gems in the words by the end.

Jim Othuse’s lights were simple, but effective as he used a spotlight to highlight the featured characters of a scene.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes suited the characters from the inexpensive clothing of most of the poorer characters to the snazzy suit of the well to do bank manager.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco provide some nice ambient sounds.  My personal favorite was a moment when Guy and Girl are at the docks and you hear the rolling waves and the call of seagulls.

Ultimately this is a story about pure love.  The love that is principle over passion.  The love that is unbreakable and forever.  The love that can say, “I let you go.”

Once plays at Omaha Community Playhouse through March 22.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $24 and can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to the use of strong language, parental discretion is advised.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Robertson Photography

‘Once’ Set to Open at Omaha Community Playhouse

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Melissa King and Jay Hanson star as Girl and Guy in “Once”

Omaha, Neb.–Once will open Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Feb. 28 through March 22. Performances will be held Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $24 for adults and $18 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.

SHOW SYNOPSIS

Winner of eight Tony Awards® and based on the Oscar®-winning film, Once is the achingly beautiful tale of unexpected love between Guy, an Irish musician, and Girl, a Czech immigrant. The uplifting score—featuring the Academy Award®-winning single, “Falling Slowly,”—is performed entirely on stage, with the actors doubling as orchestra musicians. Equal parts touching and inspiring, Once reminds us of music’s unique ability to forge deep, unspoken connections in our lives.

Directed by:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Nathaniel Belshan as Emcee

Jonathan Berger as Andrej

Jim Boggess as Eamon

Thomas Gjere as Bank Manager

Jay Hanson as Guy

Joey Hartshorn as Baruska

Ejanae Hume as Reza

Sean Johnson as Billy

Don Keelan-White as D.A.

Melissa King as Girl

Hannah McQuay-Ramsgard as Ex-Girlfriend

Jesse White as Svec

Anina Frey, Holly Hirsch and Brinlee Roeder as Ivonka

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography