Billy McGuigan Founds McGuigan Arts Academy & Announces Omaha Series

Omaha, NE–Super talent Billy McGuigan, known for bringing Buddy Holly and The Beatles to life on stage, announced the opening of McGuigan Arts Academy, a new twist on performing arts education and venues. The Academy’s mission is devoted to teaching life skills through hands-on studies in music, theatre, film, art and technology. Acknowledging that not every student of the arts wants to be a performer, McGuigan Arts Academy will nurture and showcase Omaha’s talent in every artistic realm. 

“If this year taught us anything, it’s the need to connect and nurture one’s soul,” said founder Billy McGuigan. “Art is essential to that. How we create and present that art can be done in many ways. There is nothing else like this in the Midwest. McGuigan Arts Academy is designed to give anyone – from age 3 to 103 – the opportunity to learn confidence, cooperation and creativity. It’s more than development of talent. It’s development of the human spirit. Believe me, there is nothing more important than being the best person you can be. The arts have taught me that.”

McGuigan Arts Academy classes will be taught by full-time professionals led by Artistic and Education Director Kimberly Faith Hickman. “Kimberly is this mega talent in our midst,” said McGuigan. “A rare Broadway-accredited director, she honed her talent working on numerous Tony Award winning and nominated Broadway shows.”

In addition to the Academy, Rave On Productions will launch The Omaha Series; a season of shows presented in various venues across the Omaha Metro. The 2021 Omaha Series includes Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room, Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story performed one night each at the Davies Amphitheatre, SumTur Amphitheatre and Soaring Wings Vineyard, The Rocky Horror Show and the McGuigan’s holiday tradition, Yesterday and Today, performed at the Slowdown.

Hickman most recently served as Artistic Director for the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). In her nearly five years there, she directed 19 productions and launched initiatives such as the OCP Directing Fellowship, sensory-friendly productions in collaboration with the Autism Action Partnership, and performances translated into Spanish in real-time. Her latest innovations, including Drive-In and virtual productions, assured that the show would go on.

“The pandemic helped me see endless possibilities for programming experiences – especially when I let myself break free from the traditional norms in theatre,” said Hickman. “Creating a production in a parking lot was really inspiring. We took a bold chance and before long, we had a sell out!”

Hickman and McGuigan agree that it was this collaboration during their days together at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the discovery that they both learned to love theatre via the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia, that drew them together as co-visionaries for McGuigan Arts Academy.

“Our biggest revelation,” said McGuigan, “is that performance is a gift from performer to audience. Where that happens should be less tied to one space and more tied to access and an environment that blends with the creative product.”

“In addition to a myriad of classes,” added Hickman, “we will be casting and rehearsing four productions that will be performed at venues across Omaha including The Waiting Room in Benson, Sumtur Amphitheatre, The Slowdown and more.

McGuigan Arts Academy is located in Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific Streets. Thanks in part to generous sponsors, the Academy will offer class scholarships to those from across the greater Omaha metro who may not have the means to pay for them.

For more information, contact Kate Whitecotton at 402-682-2868 and kate@billymcguigan.com.  For class and Academy schedules and to learn more, see McGuiganArtsAcademy.com. For The Omaha Series visit www.billymcguigan.com/theomahaseries.

Masterful ‘McCartney III’ Hits the Right Notes

When COVID put a halt to Paul McCartney’s touring schedule, he retired to his Sussex farm and soon found himself working on a song he had put aside in 1992.  Enjoying the end result, he began working on some more numbers and, before he knew it, he had a new album.  The final product is McCartney III.

McCartney III marks the third part of a trilogy that began 50 years ago with the release of McCartney in 1970 and was followed by McCartney II in 1980.  On these self-titled albums, McCartney is the sole creative force as he wrote and performed all the songs, played all the instruments and produced the albums. 

The albums are also unique in that they’re not commercial work.  These albums are just Sir Paul playing around, experimenting and writing solely for himself.  As such, McCartney III was the first album where my excitement was tempered with a bit of caution.

Of his previous two DIY endeavors, McCartney is an OK album, but definitely feels more like a private work with its little song snippets.  But it did produce the instant classic “Maybe I’m Amazed”.  McCartney II was a grave disappointment relieved by two great instrumental numbers and the brilliant “One of These Days”.

After listening to the album’s opener, “Long Tailed Winter Bird”, I knew I had nothing to fear as McCartney clearly had another quality work on his hands.  The opener begins with McCartney playing a catchy riff on acoustic guitar and the song slowly layers up as more instruments are added until the song becomes a gem of an instrumental.

Each song of the album has that fine layered quality which gives each number a lot of texture and nuance.  Even the album’s weakest tune, “Deep Down”, is still an enjoyable listen due to the depth of McCartney’s melodies on this work.

McCartney III is definitely Macca’s most contemplative effort since 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.  Many of the songs strike an unusually somber and reflective tone for the usually optimistic and cheerful performer.  But these songs also happen to be some of the album’s finest moments. 

“Pretty Boys” sounds like a reflection on the darker side of Beatlemania when mega-fame put the Beatles in a box where people could “look, but you better not touch”.  “Women and Wives” is a haunting lecture on the trials of love and marriage from the viewpoint of an experienced sage.   “Lavatory Lil” is a guilty pleasure song featuring a character who is the second cousin of “Polythene Pam” and “Mean Mr. Mustard”.  “Deep, Deep Feeling” is a heavy song about the deep feeling of love wrapped in one of McCartney’s most ethereal melodies since Electric Arguments.

Of course the album still has songs featuring Sir Paul’s classic energy and pep.  McCartney reminds us that he still lives life to the fullest with “Seize the Day”.  “Find My Way” finds a man still confident of his path while “The Kiss of Venus” is a beautiful love song enhanced by Sir Paul’s raspy falsetto making it sound like a grandfather telling his grandchildren the story of how he met their grandmother.  “Slidin” has McCartney revisiting the White Album days with a hard rocker akin to a slightly mellower “Helter Skelter”.  And the album is nicely framed with its closer “Winter Bird/When Winter Comes” where the album’s opener segues into a simple song about getting the farm ready for winter.

Even at the age of 78, Paul McCartney still has an impressive set of pipes though the passage of time has thinned them a bit.  But it also has the flip side of adding an aura of experience and life lived that add an inexplicable x factor to his songs. 

With McCartney III, Macca has reached the full potential of his DIY work and produced a great record that could be a candidate for Album of the Year.  More importantly, he’s shared the gift of joy with a world ready for a little positivity and ends 2020 on a very high note indeed.

OCP Reimagines 96th Season

OCP ANNOUNCES REVAMPED 2020/21 SEASON LINEUP, SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse has announced a new, revamped 2020/21 season lineup with special precautions in place to protect audiences, volunteers and staff from COVID-19.

A SEASON REIMAGINED

This year, COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, and the performing arts—including live theatre—were hit hard. From London’s West End to Broadway, New York, to right here in Omaha, stages around the world have gone dark.

At OCP, we have worked tirelessly to invent new ways to keep performing art alive during this crisis. From streaming productions online to moving shows outdoors, we have adapted and innovated to keep art in our community.

While we’ve been imagining new ways to stay connected, we’ve also been reimagining what a safe in-theatre experience could look like in the era of COVID. We believe we’ve created a plan that places the health of our community first while creating a safe environment for live theatre to thrive. It begins with our reimagined 2020/21 season lineup.

OCP’s New 2020/21 Season Lineup

Billy McGuigan‘s Pop Rock Orchestra*

Aug. 5 – 23

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals

Aug. 28 – Sept. 20

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Grounded

Sept. 25 – Oct. 18

Howard Drew Theatre

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience*

Oct. 2 – Nov. 1

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

I Am My Own Wife

Oct. 30 – Nov. 15

Howard Drew Theatre

A Christmas Carol*

Nov. 13 – Dec. 23

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Title To Be Announced

Nov. 27 – Dec. 23

Howard Drew Theatre

The Last 5 Years

Jan. 15 – Feb. 7

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

The Candy Project Presents: Guttenberg! The Musical!*

Feb. 12 –March 14

Howard Drew Theatre

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Feb. 26 – March 21

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

In The Heights

April 16 – May 9

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Clybourne Park

May 7 – 30

Howard Drew Theatre

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

May 28 – June 27

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

*Special engagement; Not a regular season production

We reimagined our season lineup.

  • We added concert-style drive-in shows to take advantage of our outdoor space as long as possible.
  • We removed shows with large cast sizes from our fall and winter time slots. In their place, we have added four wonderful productions with two performers or fewer. The new shows are compelling, entertaining and—most importantly—safe. The small cast sizes will allow our actors to safely rehearse and perform, create plenty of room for our backstage crew to social distance and help protect our patrons by reducing the overall number of people present in the theatre.
  • Fan favorite Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience will move to the larger Hawks Mainstage theatre and open in October. The larger stage will allow the band to socially distance and the larger theatre will safely accommodate the show’s many fans.
  • The holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol will live on for 2020 in a unique and imaginative small cast format.
  • Finally, we shuffled four titles from our original lineup to the end of the season. While these shows do feature more cast members, we are hopeful that these productions will be safe to carry out by next Spring. These four shows were selected based on existing ticket sales (via subscriptions), director availability, and royalties logistics.

We reimagined our performance spaces.

  • Patrons attending a show in either theatre will be socially distanced from other guests with all groups at least 6 feet apart.
  • In the Howard Drew theatre, a plexiglass barrier will be installed around the perimeter of the stage to provide separation between guests and performers.
  • Productions will not incorporate any physical audience participation.

We reimagined our safety precautions.

  • All audience, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Masks will be available free of charge and must be worn properly in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Audience members will be required to self-screen for a fever and symptoms of illness prior to arriving at OCP. Those with fever or other symptoms may exchange their ticket at no cost.
  • New arrival and dismissal procedures will help encourage social distancing, including staggered vehicle loading/unloading, assigned will call pick up times and row-by-row dismissal after a show.
  • Lobbies, reception areas and lines will be arranged and marked to encourage social distancing.
  • Plexiglass barriers will be installed in the box office windows with cash-free payments encouraged, touchless credit card transactions offered and touch-free ticket pickup available.
  • Common areas and performance halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis with both cleanser and electrostatic technology.
  • All restrooms will be outfitted with touchless fixtures and will be sanitized daily and throughout performances.
  • We will no longer hold post-show meet and greets with the actors in the lobby.
  • Concessions and drinks will not be available and public water fountains will be closed.
  • For a full list of safety precautions, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse website at omahaplayhouse.com

OCP will continue to evaluate our processes and procedures to ensure we are constantly creating the safest environment possible for our patrons, artists, volunteers and staff. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website.

The Omaha Community Playhouse has served our community for nearly 100 years. We are confident that with a little (re)imagination, the art will always live on. We hope you enjoy our reimagined 2020/21 season, and we can’t wait to have you back at OCP!

Information for Subscribers:

  • Subscribers may select any regular season production from the new lineup above to replace any canceled productions from their original subscription package.
  • To select a new show for your package, call the OCP Box Office during the Subscriber Presale to reserve tickets to the new show of your choice.
  • New Subscriber Presale dates for all shows will be announced on a rolling basis throughout the season via email and the OCP website.
  • For additional information, please contact the OCP Box Office by phone at (402) 553-0800. For Box Office hours please visit the OCP website at omahaplayhouse.com

Drive In to ‘Rave On’

Omaha, NE– Ready for a fresh take on an audience favorite?  Billy McGuigan’s Rave On! The Music of Buddy Holly returns to the Omaha Community Playhouse as an exciting new drive-in concert experience.  Rave On! will open Thursday, June 11, in the Playhouse parking lot, which will take on the atmosphere of a ’50s rock’n’roll drive-in.  The event will be unlike anything audiences have experienced at the Playhouse before:  a high-energy, nonstop outdoor concert that features McGuigan and his band performing Buddy Holly’s most popular songs.  The playlist also includes the hits of fellow rockers like Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis and more.  The show runs without intermission.

Rave On! replaces Tara Vaughan’s She Rocks, which had been scheduled to run June 11-28 in the Playhouse’s Howard Drew Theatre.  She Rocks has been canceled. Rave On! will play on all the same dates.

Billy McGuigan has received national attention and critical acclaim for his dynamic take on Buddy Holly hits.  The family friendly show’s roots trace back to when McGuigan was cast in the title role of the Omaha Community Playhouse musical Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story.  The smash hit led to McGuigan’s creation of his own show featuring Buddy Holly’s music.  Rave On! has broken box office records in theatres across North America. McGuigan is also known for the popular touring shows Yesterday and Today and Rock Twist, which have been performed at the Playhouse for many years.

To ensure audience safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be a cashless event requiring a reservation.  Cars will be parked in a checkerboard pattern for social distancing.  Audience members can choose to bring portable chairs and sit outdoors on the driver’s side of the vehicle they came in, but they may mingle only with those who came in their vehicle.  No concessions will be sold.  No smoking or alcoholic beverages will be permitted.  Bathrooms in the Playhouse main lobby will be available, with COVID sanitation and social-distancing observed.  Early arrival is recommended to allow extra time for parking.  Parking spaces will be assigned as cars arrive.  Please, no lining up to park until 90 minutes before showtime.

Tickets, starting at $35 per person, are on sale now and may be purchased by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

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

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

Yesterday and Today. . .Forever

DSC01914

It’s that time of year when Omaha’s greatest musical act teams up with history’s greatest band.  Yes, indeed, it’s Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience and it has returned for its twelfth season at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

It’s amazing the massive effects one small change can have on something.  After twelve years, Billy McGuigan had felt the band had become a little too complacent with the show and were only playing their favorite requests and veering away from the original spirit of the production.  Lead guitarist Jay Hanson then hit upon an idea that would completely reinvent the show.

Why didn’t they just pick the songs live on stage and then play them?

As hard as it is to believe, that idea has evolved Omaha’s premier holiday tradition into something even greater.

The McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) and their band were energized in a way I’d never seen before due to the element of danger in walking this musical tightrope. Would they be up to the challenge of playing any Beatles song suggested?

The answer was a most emphatic YES!!!

I had wondered how well this new format would work as there are three kinds of Beatles fans.  You’ll have your casual fan who would know their biggest hits like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude”; your more knowledgeable fan who will know their more successful works like “Eight Days a Week” and “We Can Work it Out”; and finally the hardcore megafans who have the library imprinted on their minds and want to hear “Dear Prudence” and “I’m Only Sleeping”.

Would there be enough variety to satisfy these three groups?

Again, a most emphatic YES as the night was filled with a plethora of famed hits and a few obscure delights that were picked right on stage or flashed directly onto monitors behind the band.

DSC01920

Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan once again ruled the night with a supercharged performance.  Billy seemed imbued with an almost unearthly energy and that’s saying something for this indefatigable engine of talent.  Billy and his devastating tenor ripped through rockers such as “Roll Over Beethoven” and “The Night Before”, sweetly sang “Let it Be”, and was melancholically vibrant with “Things We Said Today”.

DSC01931

Ryan McGuigan

Ryan McGuigan got to be the most versatile performer of the night as he and his other worldly raw tenor voice went through a mini-history of the Beatles library as he belted out classics like “Ticket to Ride”, nailed the 50+ year masterpiece that is “A Day in the Life”, and visited the Beatles’ flower power phase with “All You Need is Love”.

DSC01916

Matthew McGuigan

Matthew McGuigan supported the numbers with his pluperfect bass playing and had his own impressive run when he came out roaring on “Revolution”, dominated the stage with “Hey Bulldog”, and revved up the crowd with a particularly peppy “Paperback Writer”.

The McGuigans were once more aided by their incredibly talented band who each got their moments in the spotlight.  Jay Hanson had the audience riveted with his phenomenal guitar work and was in fine voice on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the obscure gem, “For You Blue”.  Rich Miller was the rock with his flawless rhythm on the drums and on a simple box during a segment where the band performed Beatles songs acoustically.  He also shone in a solo as his strong baritone entertained the crowd with “Yellow Submarine”.  Tara Vaughan masterfully played the keyboards as only she can and dazzled with a musical solo mimicking the piccolo trumpet part in “Penny Lane” and she belted out “Oh Darling!” with an alto that would have had Paul McCartney’s jaw dropping.

I’d also like to salute the guitar genius of Max Meyer as he warmed up the crowd with soft instrumental versions of the Beatles’ songs.  Eleven year old Ciaran McGuigan also showed he will be more than capable of leading the next generation of this show as he showed some potent skill with his own guitar playing on instrumental versions of “Blackbird” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” as well as supporting his dad, Billy, with pitch perfect playing on “Yesterday”.

DSC01942

The present and future of Yesterday and Today

It was obvious that the crowd hungered for more as they lingered about after an encore hoping that the band would return to grace us with another tune or twenty, but they and you can certainly get another dose of the one of a kind talent of this group as the show will run through New Year’s Eve.  But I’d get tickets mighty quick if I were you as the sellouts have already started.

It’s hard to believe that Yesterday and Today has been going strong for twelve years and continues to strengthen with each passing year.  With the talent of the McGuigans and their all-star band and the blossoming skill of the next generation, we may very well see Yesterday and Today. ..forever.

Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Dec 31.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets begin at $40 and can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the box office.  On New Year’s Eve, a double performance will be held with shows at 7pm and 10pm.  Tickets for these shows will be $60 for the 7pm show and $80 for the 10pm show.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

DSC01936

Yesterday and Today. . .Forever

It’s Almost Time for Omaha’s Premier Holiday Tradition: Yesterday and Today

“If you’re not having fun, it’s your own fault.”–Billy McGuigan

The holidays will soon be upon us which means it’s nearly time for one of Omaha’s great traditions as Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience is poised to begin its twelfth year at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Spearheaded by the McGuigans (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) and their all-star band, Yesterday and Today is a joyful, sometimes raucous, romp down memory lane as these multi-talented musicians pay tribute to the Beatles with a series of high energy concerts guaranteed to have you clapping, snapping, sighing, screaming, and singing along before the night is through.

What is this show?

Anything you want it to be.

This is like no concert you’ve ever attended because the set list will be chosen by you from start to finish.  No two shows will ever be the same.

Feel like some classic Beatlemania?  They can do that.  Do you want to hear “Yesterday”?  They can do that, too.  Care to challenge them with an obscure number like “Only a Northern Song”?  Consider that challenge accepted.  They know them all.

Yesterday and Today runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse from Nov 22-Dec 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets cost $40 and can be obtained at http://www.omahaplayhouse.com or visiting the Box Office located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE or calling 402-553-0800.  On December 31, 2019, join the band as they ring in the New Year with performances at 7pm and 10pm.  Cake and punch are served before each of these two performances with a champagne toast at midnight.  Tickets for the 7pm show are $60 and $80 for the 10pm show.

See it once.  See it twice.  Heck, see the whole run.  You’re in for a “Magical Mystery Tour” because “It’s All Too Much” when the McGuigans and their band hit the stage and blow the roof off.

 

A Melange of McGuigan

BillyandtheDownliners-025-Edit

He’s been thrilling crowds since 2002.  Now the master maestro of Omaha, Billy McGuigan, is set to make his 500th performance at the Omaha Community Playhouse and it will happen during his latest run of Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

Billy McGuigan was ready to rock tonight and, believe me, that’s really saying something.  Attacking the music with a thunderous energy that never let up and actually increased to something cataclysmic, McGuigan and his Pop Rock Orchestra delivered a fiercely awesome 2+ hour concert that had the audience in the palm of their hands from the first note to the last clap.

If you have never seen Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist before (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) what you get is a show that offers classic rock songs done with a big band flair.  Even if you have seen this show, you really need to see this incarnation as Billy and company have completely revamped the show with a new set, lights, set up, and an almost completely new set list.  Truthfully, I rank this as one of McGuigan’s best performances to date and I have seen plenty of them over the years.

Few connect with an audience the way McGuigan can with his charming wit and storytelling abilities and when you add in his phenomenal musical abilities, you’re really in for something special.

Versatile seems almost too small a word for a guy who makes everything he plays sound like his own creation.  McGuigan hit the ground running with ELO’s “Evil Woman” and ran through rockers such as The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” with his pulse pounding tenor and killed it in a guitar duel with Omaha’s personal Pete Townshend, Max Meyer, in the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”.

McGuigan also slowed it down a notch with the Beatles’ beautiful “Yesterday” backed by the string trio of Melissa Holtmeier, Axelle Verboon, and Mindy Zimmerman.  And tears were a flowing when he teamed up with Tara Vaughan to perform an epic take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Speaking of Tara Vaughan, the mistress of the keyboards also got a fair chance to shine throughout the night with her one of a kind tickling of the ivories and that dreamy alto serenading the crowd with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, the Supremes’ “Stop!  In the Name of Love”, and Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”.

Featured performances were supplied by Natalie Thomas who practically had the audience purring with a throaty, sultry interpretation of Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” that was further bolstered with the almighty tenor of Ryan McGuigan; Steve Gomez made his singing debut with The Champs’ “Tequila” which featured his singular bass playing and a stellar solo from Stan Harper on saxophone; Matthew McGuigan took a moment in the sun with The Temptations’ “My Girl”; Omaha’s legendary jazz musician, Doyle Tipler, soloed on his trademark trumpet as only he could; Patrick Peters and Willie Karpf solidly rounded out the horns while the Doctor, Tomm Roland, kept the beat going on his drums.

The volume of the microphones could have used some slight boosting on a couple of occasions, but the only real disappointment of the night was that it had to end at all.

If you haven’t had a chance to see a show with Billy McGuigan and his band, this is the one to see.  You’ll feel like a million bucks before the night is through and if you strike fast you may be able to snatch up a ticket to see that magical 500th performance on August 17.  But any night of this run is going to be smoking good.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist runs through August 18 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $42 and can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, by calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the Box Office.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse.

Revamped Rock Twist Set to Sizzle at OCP

BillyandtheDownliners-025-Edit

Omaha, NE.—Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist will open Friday, Aug. 2 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Aug. 2 through 18. Performances will be held Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

A high-energy concoction of rock ‘n’ roll mega hits with a big band twist, Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist is a live concert experience covering everything from The Beach Boys to Billy Joel. This summer’s show features an all-new set list and introduces the Pop Rock Orchestra—a 15-piece lineup of all-star musicians.

MCGUIGAN’S 500TH PERFORMANCE

Billy McGuigan will celebrate his 500th Omaha Community Playhouse performance on Saturday, August 17 during Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

McGuigan, now an internationally-recognized touring musician, first appeared on the OCP stage in Sweet Charity in 1994. But it was his portrayal of Buddy Holly that truly jumpstarted his career. After starring in Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story in 2002, McGuigan decided to produce his own original Buddy Holly tribute show, and Rave On! was born. The show was wildly successful, appearing in ten different seasons at OCP over the next two decades.

Lightning struck again for McGuigan with the creation of yet another OCP fan favorite—Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience. This iconic all-request Beatles tribute show has run for 12 consecutive seasons at OCP and is set to return for 2019.

Tickets to Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist—including McGuigan’s 500th show on August 17th—are available online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or through the OCP Box Office at (402) 553-0800 or 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132.  Tickets begin at $42 ($32 for season subscribers) and vary by performance and seating zone.