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

 

 

OCP Announces Auditions for ‘Sweat’ and Musical Auditions for 95th Season

Auditions for Sweat by Lynn Nottage
Thursday, May 2nd at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 4th at 1:00 p.m

Those auditioning should enter through the west “Stage Door” entrance and proceed to the check-in table downstairs.

Show Dates: August 16 – September 15, 2019 in the Howard Drew Theatre

Director: Susie Baer Collins

Rehearsals: Begin approximately mid June 2019

Description: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, SWEAT is a head-first dive into working class America. A three-time Tony Award® nominee, SWEAT follows a group of steelworkers whose steady march toward the American dream is uprooted by economic change. As their sense of security slowly unravels, jobs and relationships are left in the wake. Punctuated with lively humor, SWEAT goes to the heart of what it means to be human—both good and bad—when fear and uncertainty take hold. Disclaimer: Contains adult language and violence.

Roles:

Evan, African-American, forties

Jason, white American of German descent, twenty-one / twenty-nine
Chris, African-American, twenty-one / twenty-nine
Stan, white American of German descent, fifties
Oscar, Colombian-American, twenty-two / thirty
Tracey, white American of German descent, forty-five / fifty-three
Cynthia, African-American, forty-five / fifty-three
Jessie, Italian-American, forties
Brucie, African-American, forties

Notes:

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script provided at auditions

What to Bring:

All contact information, personal schedules and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an 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.
2019/2020 Season Musical Auditions
Adult (16 or older) auditions:
Saturday, June 15th at 11 a.m.
Sunday, June 16th at 6 p.m.
Youth (under 16) auditions:
Saturday, June 22nd at 11 a.m.
Actors interested in Annie, The Rocky Horror Show, A Christmas Carol, Once, Bright Star and The Color Purple should plan to attend. Actors should enter through the main lobby on the south or east side of the facility.

Once will include actors playing instruments. If you are interested in this specific musical and have an instrument, please bring the instrument with you and be prepared to play 16 bars of music of your choice. You may also accompany your own singing audition if you prefer.

Actors please be prepared with the following:

  • Sheet music with 16 bars ready to sing (an accompanist will be provided)
  • ONCE the musical will include actors playing instruments. If you are interested in this specific musical and have an instrument, please bring the instrument with you and be prepared to play 16 bars of music of your choice. You may also accompany your own singing audition if you prefer.
  • There will be a dance audition, so actors should be dressed to move (no boots, sandals, flip-flops, etc.)
  • You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and schedules available to complete the form.
  • A recent photo to attach to your audition form. Please note, the photos do not need to be professional and will not be returned.
*Audition dates are subject to change
Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)