I’ve Gotta Get Back in Thyme. . .Again

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Friday, July 29:  the day the road took me to my most poignant place.

On this sunny day I began a journey nearly 14 years in the making.  For it was on this day that I headed to Bonner Springs, KS to be a guest at Back in Thyme Bed and Breakfast and to review The Elephant Man for The Barn Players of Mission, KS.

If you’re a first time visitor to this website, The Elephant Man is my favorite play and it played a rather profound moment in my life.  For the full details of that story, click here.  I had long made my peace with the events of that day which is why I was so excited to finally have an opportunity to see the show and come fullish circle.  The timing couldn’t be more appropriate as this article will be posted on the 14th anniversary that I heard the results of that audition.

Bonner Springs is a suburb of Kansas City so it provides a unique blend of small town living with the perks of a nearby major metropolitan area for things to do.  Back in Thyme, owned and operated by Judy Vickers, is a beautiful “new-old” Queen Anne house nestled on a secluded acreage near Nettleton Avenue.

Given the size of the house I was surprised that it only boasted 3 bedrooms for rental.  On the other hand, the limited number of rooms does make it ideal for peace and quiet.  As I climbed the porch steps, I met Brantley and Ashley, fellow guests who were in the area to see a Rascal Flatts concert.  As I reached the top step, I was greeted by Judy, a very hospitable host and a fount of knowledge on fun things to do in the area.

Judy led me to the Bay Laurel Room which would serve as my base of operations.  It’s one of the most comfortable rooms in which I’ve stayed with its soft armchairs, burgundy walls, feather pillows, and a queen bed with a firm mattress.  The room also boasts a fireplace and I mildly wished it were colder so I could get a crackling blaze going.

I unwound in my room for a while before sprucing up for the show and enjoying a 6pm appetizer with Judy and a couple of her friends.  I ended up in a great conversation with Fred, a rather intelligent man who is currently writing three books.  I enjoyed a pleasant hour conversing with Fred as we nibbled on cheese, olives, crackers, and baba ganoush.

When Fred noticed traffic starting to back up on the highway, I decided to head over to the Barn Players.  Once more, Mapquest tried to put one over on me by telling me to make a right turn on a street when it should have been a left.  Shades of Richardson, TX flashed through my brain as I got my bearings and got back on the right track.  Luckily, I made it to the theatre with about 7 minutes to spare.

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The Barn Players is a bit of an institution in Mission and has quite an impressive reputation.  Many of its alumni have gone on to professional acting careers, most notably Chris Cooper.  The show was almost everything that I hoped it would be.  A few flaws kept it out of the excellent region, but it was still very good and thoroughly enjoyable.  You can read my review for the show here.

I returned to Back in Thyme where I wrote my review and curled up in my bed for a good night’s rest.

After a comfy night’s sleep, I awoke ravenous.  I headed downstairs and enjoyed chit-chat with Brantley and Ashley as we dined on Judy’s wonderful scrambled eggs cooked in thyme butter, crispy bacon, French toast, and fried apples.

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Having restored the inner man, I went upstairs to do a little work on the computer before deciding to take advantage of the pleasant day and walk along some trails I found behind the house.  Normally I like communing with nature, but I got a faceful of nature in the most literal sense as I stumbled through myriad spider webs as I wandered through the woods.  I escaped from the woods yanking webbing off of my face and hair.

Judy had suggested several areas of interest, some of which I will save for a future visit to the K.C. area, but I did take time to visit Bonner Springs’ famed Moon Marble Company.

As the name implies, the store is famed for its marbles and even gives demonstrations into a making of marbles, but the store is so much more than that.  The store also specializes in board games, puzzles, and classic toys.  I was amazed at all of the hard to find toys and games located in the shop.  Duncan Yo-yos, rare board games, Jacob’s ladders, Fisher-Price toys that I remembered from my childhood.  If you like vintage toys and games, take some time to visit Moon Marble Company if you find yourselves in Bonner Springs.

After I drove around the downtown area, I returned to the inn where I killed a few hours watching a mystery series before cleaning up for church and dinner.

I attended services at Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Shawnee, KS where I enjoyed a wonderful service preached by Fr. Oswaldo.  When services were done, I headed over to Hereford House for dinner.

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Hereford House is a Kansas City institution and this was one of the tastiest meals I have ever eaten.  I indulged in a small salad with creamy Italian dressing before supping on the main course of a 12 oz ribeye blackened with garlic butter and a side of Cheddar Ranch potatoes and a bit of bread.  Most of my dinner came back with me where it currently rests in the inn’s guest fridge for a future meal.

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I spent the remainder of the evening working on this article before turning in for the night.

I awoke to a rather gloomy day and am expecting some rain on the drive home.  I spent a bit of time editing this article and then went downstairs for another rousing breakfast.

At the table, I met Courtney and Ashley from Olathe, KS who had just come in from having coffee on the porch and we chatted while Judy served us a sumptuous meal of sausage, green chile egg casserole with salsa (now one of my favorite dishes), zucchini muffins, and cantaloupe.  The pleasant meal and talk was over much too quickly and I began to pack up for the drive home.

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So if you find yourself in the Kansas City area, spend an evening at Back in Thyme in Bonner Springs.  You’ll find some good (and healthy) home cooking on a peaceful estate with plenty to do nearby.

‘The Elephant Man’ Opens at Barn Players on July 29

The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance opens on July 29th! Get your tickets today at www.thebarnplayers.org/tickets

Directed by Mark Hamilton

Stage Managed by Diane Bulan
Set Design by Laura Burkhart & Mark Hamilton
Lighting Design by Phil Leonard
Costume Coordination by Ashley Christopher
Choreography & Movement Coaching by Meghann Deveroux
Assistant Stage Management by Amanda Rhodes
Sound Design by Sean Leistico
Production Intern: Alicia Miro

July 29th – August 14th
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sunday at 2:00pm
(Industry Night: Monday, August 8th)

STARRING
Coleman Crenshaw, David Innis & Stefanie Stevens
FEATURING
Eli Biesemeyer, Richard J. Burt, Meghann Deveroux, Dee Dee Diemer, Sean Leistico, Lindsay Lovejoy, Alicia Miro, Jeph Scanlon, Scott Turner & Daniel Yung

SYNOPSIS:
The Elephant Man is based on the life of John Merrick, who lived in London during the latter part of the nineteenth century. A horribly deformed young man, victim of rare skin and bone diseases, he has become the star freak attraction in traveling side shows. Found abandoned and helpless, he is admitted to London’s prestigious Whitechapel Hospital. Under the care of celebrated young physician Frederick Treves, Merrick is introduced to London society and slowly evolves from an object of pity to an urbane and witty favorite of the aristocracy and literati only to be denied his ultimate dream, to become a man like any other.

All performances are at:
The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS.

Ticket pricing:
REGULAR – $18.00
SENIORS – $ 15.00
GROUPS (10 OR MORE) – $12.00
STUDENTS (WITH A VALID STUDENT ID) – $12.00

WE ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS!
VISA, MASTERCARD & DISCOVER!
The box office opens one hour before curtain time.
For reservations, please call or call 1-800-838-3006
or visit our website at www.thebarnplayers.org

Production support provided by…
The Mainstreet Credit Union
Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce
St. Pius School
Media partner support provided by…
94.9 KCMO
710 AM / 103.7 KCMO Talk Radio

The Barn Players embraces diversity in all aspects of our organization. Non-traditional and equal-opportunity casting is encouraged.

Shelterbelt Announces 24th Season

SHELTERBELT THEATRE ANNOUNCES 24th SEASON – BY LOCAL/BUY LOCAL

Shelterbelt Theatre, Omaha’s home for new plays, is thrilled to announce their 24th Season including ALL playwrights living in Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs. “I am really excited about our 2016-2017 season, as it is truly local — a nice mix of familiar faces and new collaborators that will allow us to continue challenging ourselves creatively to bring new works from page to stage,” said Shelterbelt Artistic Director, Elizabeth Thompson.

“Having a season of high-quality, local works deepens the cultural landscape of Nebraska and allows us to provide our local artists with the opportunity to showcase their work where they live. This is something I love about working with Shelterbelt. It’s really fulfilling to be a part of something so rooted in home,” said Shelterbelt Executive Director, Rox-anne Wach.

Shelterbelt Season 24, 2016-2017 will feature:

REVELATION by Samuel Brett Williams

October 6 – 30, 2016

Brandon’s Southern Baptist father always taught him to be prepared for the Rapture. Rebecca is a pre-med student who was raised as an atheist. All of a sudden, people begin disappearing, the Hudson River turns to blood, and the entire state of Ohio comes down with a bad case of the boils. Brandon grabs Rebecca and tries to make it from New York City to Arkadelphia, Arkansas in hopes of finding the New Jerusalem. Revelation explores faith, love, and the American landscape in a pitch black comedy about the End Days.

THE MOTHERHOOD ALMANAC by Noah Diaz

January 27 – February 19, 2017

A series of women, scattered across time and space, search for their own perfect understanding of what it means to mother: one writes a letter to her unborn daughter on yesterday’s Burger King napkins // another delivers a motiva-tional speech about learning how to accept grief and knowing when the mothering stops // another prepares a Power-Point presentation about what it means to love someone other than herself // another raises a glass and toasts to her daughter’s new bride // and so on. The Motherhood Almanac is a fiercely passionate tapestry of stories about the life inside of each us, as told by women and the women who raised them.

CATHERLAND Book and lyrics by Becky Boesen, music by David von Kampen April 21 – May 14, 2017

Susan is an emerging writer, living the life of her dreams, complete with an adoring husband and nearly-completed first novel. When tragedy strikes, and the trajectory of her life changes, she must decide how to move forward. Searching for answers, she flees to Red Cloud, Nebraska, the childhood home of novelist Willa Cather. Guided by her curiosity and the presence of a mysterious guest, Susan discovers that life is more about beginnings than endings. A lesson in embracing the unexpected, Catherland reminds us that “where there is great love, there are always miracles.”

NEIGHBORS, LOVERS AND ALL THE OTHERS by Marie Amthor Schuett July 14 – August 6, 2017

Loyal Guerre lives a life of blue kimonos, Judy Garland, and Pavarotti. Facing a serious bout of composers block, he finds inspiration in an unlikely source – his handsome, talented neighbor who has no idea that he needs a set of curtains to separate his apartment from the rest of the world. When fate brings them together and their lives intertwine, Loyal realizes that as his fantasy becomes reality, there is much more to his neighbor than the window to his world originally revealed.

Shelterbelt is Omaha’s home for new plays – Omaha’s only theatre dedicated exclusively to producing new and unpub-lished plays. Performances are Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 6pm (final Sunday performances at 2pm.) ($15 | general • $12 | students/seniors/TAG • $20 | musicals). Tickets will be available at http://www.shelterbelt.org (click box office), or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402.341.2757.  Shelterbelt is located at 3225 California St in Omaha, NE.

‘The Feast’ Opening at Shelterbelt on April 15

The Shelterbelt Theatre presents…

The Feast by Celine Song
directed by Noah Diaz

April 15 – May 8, 2016

When all meat mysteriously turns to rot, ours becomes a world populated with reluctant vegetarians. Four hungry dinner guests impatiently await a latecomer to the table. As the hour grows late and stomachs begin to howl, the traces of civilization turn to decay. Sensual as it is grotesque, foul as it is funny, The Feast is a biting satire that serves up a heady repast straight from the kitchens of our darkest desires.

Featuring performances by award-winning actors Leanne Hill Carlson, Noah Diaz, Beau Fisher, and Mary Kelly, as well as live music from cellist Hannah Mayer

Thursday/Friday/Saturday performances: 8pm
Sunday performances: 6pm
Final Sunday, May 8th performance: 2pm

SPECIAL EVENTS
• Thursday, April 14 – Theatre Arts Guild “TAG” Night Out
• Sunday, April 17, 5pm – “Page to Stage” pre-show discussion with director Noah Diaz and Great Plains Theatre Conference associate artistic director Scott Working
• Thursday, April 21 – American Sign Language-interpreted performance

Tickets are $15 for general public and $12 for students/seniors/TAG.
Lobby opens 1 hour before show. House opens 30 minutes before show.

Someone Clipped the Wings of these Angels

It’s a story of the reel world and the real world.  Successful author, Stine, is trying to translate his hit novel into a screenplay while traversing the politics of Hollywood and attempting to save a marriage failing due to his philandering.  His creation and alter-ego, hard-boiled detective Stone, is trying to solve the mystery of a missing heiress while being re-edited into a shadow of his original self.  This is City of Angels by Larry Gelbart with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by David Zippel currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Gelbart’s script is actually a very bold experiment as it tries to tell two stories simultaneously.  I think Gelbart somewhat fails in this aspect as his fictional tale of Stone gets the bulk of the focus which makes the real world story of Stine feel like filler.  However, the mystery is quite interesting and is peppered with just the right amount of comedy when the characters rewind and redo scenes as Stine edits them.

Cy Coleman’s score is a good fit for the film noir story with a nice mix of standards, jazz, and blues.  With that being said, the musical is somewhat weakened by the fact that there is no real standout song.

Director Jeff Horger did a fairly good job with the direction of the piece.  I found the staging to be on target with smooth scene changes.  But I also thought his direction suffered a bit from poor pacing in Act I and a rather mixed bag of performances from his cast.

I give a big thumbs up to the ensemble players for always remaining in the thick of the action.  They always stayed involved with appropriate bits of business that added a nice bit of atmosphere to the show.  Special notice goes out to Patrick Kilcoyne who was quite amusing as the spiritual healer, Dr. Mandril and Aubrey Fleming who was a delightful surprise in the dual roles of the missing heiress, Mallory Kingsley, and as Avril Raines, an actress willing to do whatever it took to boost her role.

Isaac Reilly needed a little bit of time to get going, but once he did, his interpretation of Stone was right on the money.  Once he fixed his projection problem, Reilly’s Stone was the perfect hard-boiled detective with his cynicism, wit, and doggedness.  Reilly’s singing had a rather impressive range as he has a natural baritone speaking voice, but could go tenor with the notes when required.  Reilly especially impressed with “The Tennis Song” and his argument with his alter-ego, Stine, in “You’re Nothing Without Me”.

John E. Jones needs to take the energy he puts into his singing and transfer it to his acting.  I thought his portrayal of Stine was bland and colorless, but he finally showed some life at the very end of the play.  There’s a lot to Stine.  He’s a talented writer, but not built for Hollywood as he deals with the constant butchering of his screenplay by a hack producer/director.  He’s a bit of a repressed milquetoast who caves in easily, can’t seem to help himself from sleeping around, and created Stone as the man he wished he could be.  There’s definitely a lot of material for character work.  Jones’ singing made up for his acting as he’s got a good, strong tenor voice which was highlighted by “You’re Nothing Without Me”.

Steve Krambeck stole this show from the rest of the cast with a stunning performance as Buddy Fiddler and his fictional counterpart, Irwin S. Irving.  Krambeck’s energy was absolutely incredible and he was overflowing with a disgusting, slimy charm.  As Fiddler, Krambeck constantly alters Stine’s script reducing it from art to garbage.  He callously cheats on his wife, gleefully steals writing credit, and is pretty obsessed with exerting total control over his films.  Krambeck could also give most of this cast lessons in volume and projection as his vocal control was of excellent quality.

Samantha Quintana was superb in the dual roles of Donna & Oolie.  Ms Quintana brought all of the necessary ingredients to Oolie, the secretary to detective Stone.  She was brassy, a wisecracker, intelligent, capable, and loyal.  Ms Quintana also has a wonderful alto voice that shone in “What You Don’t Know About Women” and “You Can Always Count on Me”.

Angela Jenson-Frey did remarkable work in the challenging dual roles of Gabbi Stine and Bobbi Edwards.  Unlike the other characters whose fictional counterparts were fairly similar to their real selves, Ms Jenson-Frey’s two characters were the complete opposite of each other.  As Gabbi, Stine’s wife, Ms Jenson-Frey displayed great love and loyalty to Stine in spite of his infidelities.  As Bobbi Edwards, a lounge singer, Ms Jenson-Frey embodied Stine’s guilt at his cheating as she is the one who repeatedly cheats on Stone and readily takes advantage of his love when he covers up a criminal act of hers.  Ms Jenson-Frey has a beautiful alto capable of all styles of singing from a great blues performance in “With Every Breath I Take” and an amusing ripping apart of Stine’s so-called apology in “It Needs Work”.

Jodi Vaccaro  does a fine job in the dual roles of Alaura Kingsley/Carla Haywood.  As Kingsley, Ms Vaccaro was the mysterious client who hires Stone to find her stepdaughter and one never understands her true motives until the denouement.  But Ms Vaccaro has one of the great moments of the night as Carla, the actress wife of Buddy Fiddler.  After rattling off the denouement speech smooth as silk as Aluara, she gets to do it again as Carla playing Alaura and her overwrought, stilted line delivery had me grinning from ear to ear.

The evening’s production was plagued with a lot of issues.  With few exceptions, the cast was way too quiet, relying on the microphones to do their projecting instead of allowing it to augment their projection. This was especially noticeable in some of the songs where the orchestra was louder than the singers.  The pace was terribly slow and cues were incredibly pausey, though that noticeably improved in Act II.  Articulation needed a lot of work as some of the performers were nearly unintelligible.  The choreography seemed off.  The fights need to be smoother and quicker as they looked rehearsed.  There was also some weak acting in some of the minor roles.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra brought their A game once again.  Jim Othuse’s lighting was of tremendous quality as it weaved from the bright colors of the real world to the monochromatic colors of the reel world.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes were perfect period pieces.

I’ll be very interested in seeing how audiences take to this show as it isn’t your typical musical.  Not only are there no standout songs, but the songs only pop up once in a while making me wonder if this story wouldn’t have worked better as a straight play.  As it was, my thumb is squarely in the middle, but a clean-up of the problems I noted would push it up a bit.

City of Angels plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse until April 3.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students on Wednesday and $40 for adults and $25 for students Thurs-Sun.  Contact the Box Office at 402-553-0800 or visit their website at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  This show has some rough language and adult situations and is not recommended for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

OCP Holding Auditions for Season Finale “The Producers”

THE PRODUCERS
Production Dates: May 27-June 26, 2016
Performs in: Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Director: Jeff Horger
Synopsis: Winner of 12 Tony Awards, The Producers is the hilarious, lively and absurd Mel Brooks comedy that follows Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom on their quest to become filthy rich on Broadway. They have created the perfect formula for wealth on the Great White Way —produce an utter and complete theatrical failure. Packed full of dancing Nazis, storm troopers and showgirls, their musical Springtime for Hitler is a sure bet to bomb. Now they just need to sit back and let the dough roll in…

Audition Dates: Monday, March 14, 2016 at 7:00 PM and Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)

Character Descriptions:

MAX BIALYSTOCK (Late 30s to mid 60s) A Broadway producer who has fallen from grace. He either intimidates others with sarcasm and a fiery temper or placates them with seductive or confusing “mile a minute” wordplay. If that doesn’t work, he has carnal relations with them. Although he is far from athletic looking, he is a pure ball of energy from the moment the curtain goes up until he takes his final bow. He is the kind of person you would hate to meet in real life but love to watch on stage. BARITONE/TENOR.

LEO BLOOM (Mid 20s to early 40s) A mousy, nervous, and generally pathetic accountant who wants to be a Broadway producer. Introducing him to anyone and anything new or unusual sends him into a full-blown panic attack. He’s the underdog of the show we all root for. If you look beyond his wretched demeanor and lack of presence, he’s actually kind of a good-looking. TENOR.

ULLA (Mid 20s to late 30s) A Swedish actor hoping to make her big break. She is strikingly tall, conventionally beautiful, and unapologetically sexual. She speaks with a distinct Swedish accent, which occasionally affects her ability to communicate with others, but she is not stupid. She knows exactly what she wants and she is going to get it. She is frank in her discussion of sexuality, but she is not perverse. She’s European. MEZZO-SOPRANO.

FRANZ LIEBKIND (60s +) An active member of the Nazi party in Germany during World War II. While that is a pretty terrible character trait, it is doubtful that he was allowed to participate in anything important, or that he had the intellectual prowess to fully understand anything beyond the basic jingoism of the movement. He has an absurd romantic view of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler, which forms the basis for his stage play Springtime for Hitler. It’s hard to take him seriously, a fact which is completely lost on him. Others regard him as unstable and dangerous, but it has a lot more to do with his being a loon than with his being a Nazi. BARITONE/BASS.

ROGER DE BRIS (late 20s to mid 50s) The worst working director in New York. Everything about him is over the top – think young Liza Minelli trapped in current Patton Oswalt’s body. He is openly gay and proud of it. As a narcissist, he’s proud of everything he does. The comedy of playing Roger doesn’t come from his sexuality, but rather from his ludicrousness. Although his career path has led him down the road of directing, he subconsciously longs for the spotlight and drama of being the leading lady. He has absolutely no idea how ridiculous he is. BARITONE/TENOR.

CARMEN GHIA (late 20s to mid 40s) Roger’s significant other. In addition to being Roger’s partner, he is also his personal assistant. He is prissy, squeaky, effervescent, and just as bizarre as Roger. The two of them have a tumultuous relationship made up of equal parts Bugs & Daffy, George & Martha, and Laverne & Shirley. TENOR.

NAZI SOLOIST (Early 20s to early 40s) A good looking Nazi soldier who sings the main theme song from Springtime for Hitler. He looks like a formal army officer, but he has charisma and strong stage presence.

ENSEMBLE  The casting team is currently looking at an ensemble of 8 to 10 women and 4 to 6 men. All members of the ensemble will play multiple roles, including but not limited to: accountants, ushers, Nazis, old ladies, prisoners, police officers, and Broadway actors/dancers. Several members of the ensemble will perform in drag. There are roles available for actors of any gender and race. Strong singing and dancing skills required. All ensemble members must be 18 years old before June 1st, 2016.

NOTES ABOUT THE SHOW
The Producers is a silly show. It is funny, but more so…it is absurd. There are traditional jokes written with a set-up and punchline. There are witty characters who play with language. There are clever lyrics that make you both chuckle and think. There is outrageous physical slapstick. There are unlikely circumstances that make characters squirm uncomfortably, to the point that we can’t help but laugh at them.
This is not a show about Nazis. It is a show about taste, and how there is no accounting for it. It is both an homage to and parody of Broadway musicals. It is a show about greed and what it makes us do, and how the pursuit of fortune and fame leads us blindly into ridiculous circumstances that could have been easily prevented.
This show contains mild language, cartoonish violence, and scatological humor. It pokes fun at musicals, New York, celebrities, the legal system, foreigners, homophobia, antisemitism, the elderly, sex, and the Nazi party.
This show requires triple threats who understand and can execute a specific style of comedy. The characters in this show exist in a reality similar to our own, and most of them don’t realize just how funny their situation is. The show doesn’t work if the actors lay the comedy on thick, trying to squeeze laughs out of the audience. They need to live truthfully and simply inhabit this bizarre world created by Mel Brooks.

What to Bring:
• Please come prepared with 16 bars of music prepared to sing. An accompanist will be provided.

• There will be a dance audition, please come dressed ready to move. No boots, sandals, flip-flops, slick shoes, etc.

• You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and personal schedules handy in order to complete the form.

• A recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

Auditions for Mary Poppins at Chanticleer

Auditions for Mary Poppins

Chanticleer Theatre
830 Franklin Ave
Council Bluffs, IA 51503

When: March 13 & 14 (callbacks March 15th)
Time: 7:00 pm
Production Dates: Weekends May 13-22
Rehearsals beginning on Monday, March 21st

Stage Director: Meganne Storm
Music Director: Peggy Holloway
Choreographer: Kerri Jo Richardson

Audition guidelines:
1. Bring your calendar with all possible rehearsal conflicts.
2. Please prepare one verse or chorus of a song (around 32 bars) in the style of the show. Bring music for the provided accompanist – no a cappella, please.
3. All should be prepared to learn a short dance combination – dress comfortably and bring appropriate shoes.
4. You may be asked to do cold readings from the script.

Character Descriptions:
Mary Poppins – Michael and Jane Banks’s new nanny, who is practically perfect in every way. A mezzo-soprano with strong top notes and a traditional soprano sound; precision and diction are required.
Bert – The narrator of the story, and an “everyman” jack-of-all-trades. Requires a strong song-and-dance man with a baritone range.
George Banks – The father to Jane and Michael Banks, is a banker to the very fiber of his being who demands “precision and order” in his household. Baritone.
Winifred Banks – George’s wife and Jane and Michael’s mother. Mezzo-soprano
Jane Banks – The high-spirited daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Banks. Mezzo-soprano or strong child soprano
Michael Banks – The cute and cheeky son of Mr. and Mrs. Banks. Child soprano.
Ensemble– Multi-talented team players of all ages. A wide variety of roles will come from the ensemble and there are many opportunities for solos and small speaking parts. Ensemble members must have strong voices and good musicianship and move well. We are also seeking a small corps of featured dancers comfortable with all musical theatre styles, including tap. Smaller roles include: Katie Nanna, Policeman, Miss Lark, Admiral Boom, *Mrs. Brill, *Robertson Ay, Park Keeper, **Neleus, Queen Victoria, **Bank Chairman, **Miss Smythe, **Von Hussler, **John Northbrook, *Bird Woman, **Mrs. Corry, *Miss Andrew, Annie, Fannie, **Valentine, **Teddy Bear, **Mr. Punch, **Doll, Chimney Sweeps, Toys, Parkgoers. (*denotes significant singing role; **some solo lines or featured dancer)

Please email mrhstorm@gmail.com or peggy.holloway5@gmail.com with questions

Lethargic Farce Needs a Jolt

Renowned author and philanderer, Archer Connaught, is feared dead in a plane crash.  However he not only returns not dead, but with a new young love that he wishes to marry.  When Archer asks his wife, Josie, for a divorce, she reveals that they were never really married to begin with.  Instead of making things easier, things actually become more difficult since the world believes Connaught to be married.  The unwinding of this knotty problem is the story of James Elward’s Best of Friends, currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

Elward’s script actually begins with quite a bit of promise.  The plot is ideal for a good farce and the play does have some zippy wordplay and pointed zingers.  Unfortunately, the script runs out of gas by the end of the play with an unsatisfactory ending and non-endings to the story arcs of several characters.

The secret to a good farce is energy and I fear I may have caught this cast on an off night as the energy was sorely lacking in tonight’s production.  The pace had the consistency of glue and the cast really needed to tighten up their cues.  Volume was also an issue as a number of the performers did not project enough.

Emma Rasmussen makes her directing debut at the BLT with this production.  A rather new face on the directing scene, Ms Rasmussen demonstrates great potential with this show as there are several moments that truly sing.  However, some potentially humorous bits got overlooked and some beats needed to be dug into more deeply.  I also thought there were a couple of bland performances that needed some work as well as some distracting pieces of business that needed to be eliminated as it drew focus away from speaking actors.

Brian Witcher was quite an impressive find as he makes his BLT debut in the role of Archer Connaught.  He expertly walked that fine line of keeping Connaught unlikable, but still charming.  Connaught was an unhappy teacher who managed to hit it big with a novel.  Once he got money, he abandoned his family and nursed an addiction to women.  An addiction he seemed to be quite proud of.  Witcher is a highly animated performer with a knack of finding just the right turn of phrase and appropriate gestures at all of the right times.  As oily as this character was, Witcher managed to make me feel a little pity for him as he tried to fix his numerous broken relationships.

Janet Macklin does a solid job in the role of Josie Connaught, Archer’s maybe wife.  Ms Macklin has a grand gift for underplaying which worked very well for the most part.  Ms Macklin’s Josie comes off extremely loyal, at first, sticking by a husband who is at home very rarely and tolerating his infidelities.  That all changes once she reveals the lack of marriage.  That revelation also changes the tone of her underplaying as now everything she says is tinged with uncertainty leaving one wondering where the truth starts and ends.

Despite the overall good work, Ms Macklin does need to keep her projection up as it waxed and waned.  I also thought her confrontations with Archer’s lover needed to have a bit more edge to them.

Catherine Deluca’s turn as Kate Connaught seemed a bit listless and wooden.  She internalized a lot of the anger towards her father, Archer, due to his shabby treatment of the family.  That was not necessarily a bad choice, but I didn’t hear any variance in her delivery.  Ms Deluca also needed to react more when others were talking and speak up when she spoke.

Likewise, I considered Marcus Benzel’s portrayal of Archer’s son, Merrill, to be a bit one note in nature.  Benzel’s Merrill was a whiny, entitled lout, but he needed to nuance his delivery.  I do applaud him for bringing great energy to the role.  He actually seems a bit over the top which is not a bad thing for a farce.  But since he was the only performer doing so, he either needs to tone his performance down somewhat or the rest of the cast needs to raise their energy level to match his.

Melissa Jarecke brought a welcome jolt of juice with her rendition of the sardonic literary agent, Hazel Dunn.  She had some of the strongest scenes in the show and her dialogues with Archer and Josie sparked with vitality.  Alexander Hamilton is splendid in the small role of the hapless attorney, Felix Heckaday, who gets caught up in the lunacy of the Connaught family.  Tom Steffes brings terrific comedy relief as the drunken juggler/Justice of the Peace, Mr. Bledsoe.

This show did have quite a few strong technical aspects.  Joey Lorincz continues to impress as one of the best set designers in the city with a gorgeous study complete with rich green hues, a crackling fireplace, and well appointed library.  I loved Pam Matney’s sound design as it consisted of some of my favorite classic rock numbers.  The actors were also well costumed by Leah Skorupa-Mezger.

At the end of the night, I felt there was a truly great ensemble performance trying to break out of this show.  With a much needed dose of energy and some fine tuning of performances, I believe this cast can overcome the slight weaknesses of the script and have a great laugher on their hands.

Best of Friends continues at Bellevue Little Theatre through Feb 28.  Performances are at 7:30pm Fri-Sat and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students with proper ID.  Reservations can be made by calling 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10am-4:30pm Mon-Sat.  This show does deal with some adult subject matter and is not recommended for children.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 E Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

Triumphant “Frost/Nixon” Goes the Distance

Edwin Starr’s War is the perfect segue into Frost/Nixon which opens at the Blue Barn Theatre on Feb 4 for a war is what you will get.  Disgraced former President, Richard Nixon, verbally spars with talk show host, David Frost, in a series of in depth interviews in which only one man can emerge victorious.  For Nixon, it is a chance to resurrect his blasted political career.  For Frost, it is a chance to revive his dwindling TV career.

This play is good.

I mean it’s REALLY good.

Not only do I consider Frost/Nixon to be one of the best shows of the season, I also consider it to be one of the best (possibly the best) shows mounted on the Blue Barn’s stage.  Peter Morgan’s script crackles with taut, intense dialogue mixed with interesting characters that actors can really sink their teeth into and a story that will keep viewers enthralled from the first syllable to the final verbal riposte.

Randall Stevens’ direction and staging are dead on accurate as his actors weave the story of the setup, preparation, and execution of, arguably, the greatest political interview of all time.  His actors know their beats, fully realize their characters, and have the best diction I have ever heard out of a cast.

While a great deal of the play does focus around Frost and Nixon, the show’s supporting cast deserves recognition for their rock solid performances.

Matthias Jeske is especially impressive as John Birt, the producer of the interviews.  With ramrod posture and a spot-on accent, Jeske is indeed very, very British, but his delivery adds a warmth and friendship to the character as he tries to ready Frost for the upcoming conflict.  Dave Wingert does well with his interpretation of Bob Zelnick, the editor of the interviews.  Wingert bestows a genuine likability on Zelnick and expertly communicates Zelnick’s ability to navigate the morass of politics’ underbelly.  Brent Spencer has a nice turn as slimy agent, Swifty Lazar, who is devoted to getting as much money for Nixon, and himself, as possible.

Ben Beck is marvelous as James Reston.  Reston has no love for Nixon and is bound and determined to see him pay for his crimes and abuses of power.  This is a role that could easily gravitate to the obvious choice of anger, but, in Beck’s capable hands, it becomes a clinic in nuanced acting.  Beck plays the role of Reston with a quiet intensity.  His hatred for Nixon actually seeps from his pores, but he is never angry.  He simply wants justice.  This need for justice falls just shy of getting Nixon at any cost, but Beck ably shows the intellectual side of Reston as he constantly searches for the smoking gun needed to pry an admission of guilt from Nixon’s clamped jaws.

On the other side is James Brennan, Nixon’s chief of staff, and played with confident assuredness by Mike Markey.  Brennan and Reston make for interesting mirror images as Reston’s hunger for Nixon’s punishment is matched by Brennan’s staunch loyalty to and protectiveness of the former President.  Markey plays Brennan with a military preciseness.  I truly enjoyed his eagerness as he fully believes the Frost interviews will get Nixon back in the political game.  His loyalty is also unimpeachable as he tries to protect Nixon by attempting to get Frost to log all of Nixon’s failings under Watergate and buying his boss valuable time during the climactic final interview with Frost.

Ultimately, this play does need to be supported by the two lead actors and Stevens found two mighty thespians to carry the burden of this production in the forms of Aaron Zavitz and Paul Boesing.  One could not envision better casting as the chemistry between Zavitz and Boesing seems so right.  At times friends of a sort and at others, bitter rivals, Zavitz and Boesing decisively explore the many levels of their own characters and their unique relationship and present it to the audience in a storytelling masterpiece.

Boesing not only has a firm grip on Nixon’s mannerisms, but he also bears an uncanny resemblance to the controversial politician.  Boesing’s Nixon is the politician’s politician.  He oozes a charm that almost borders on insincerity and is prepared for almost any contingency.  He easily bats off inconvenient questions by tooting his own horn and is quite adept at turning dangerous situations to his own advantage.

But Boesing also makes you feel real sympathy for Nixon in the rare moments when Nixon takes his mask off.  For all of his political savvy, Nixon never felt likable despite choosing a profession where that quality is essential.  His body language is also spectacular, especially when the life slowly bleeds from his body when Frost finally gets his fingers around Nixon’s proverbial throat.

Aaron Zavitz mesmerizes with his interpretation of David Frost.  Zavitz’s Frost is a gadfly.  He is simply a talk show host with an ability to hold real, albeit simple, conversations.  He is not a hard-hitting investigative journalist.  He picks Nixon as an interview subject solely to save his dying career.  Zavitz’s Frost claims he can wring a confession from Nixon, but has no plan in how to do so.

Zavitz’s finest moments come during the interview sessions with Nixon.  Markey’s Brennan compares the interviews to a boxing match in which the challenger finds himself sorely outclassed at the beginning and I found that apropos as Zavitz convincingly portrays a man who is out of his depth.  His body language well conveyed his uncertainty and doubt with slumped shoulders and laid back posture as Nixon controls the tempo of the interviews.

That all changes with a nighttime phone conversation that galvanizes Frost.  Zavitz demonstrates this newfound strength by standing straighter, expanding his chest, and adopting a firmer sitting posture during the last interview.  That final interview is truly an actor’s, not to mention audience member’s, delight as Zavitz’s Frost takes the fight to Nixon with haymaker questions to K.O. Nixon once and for all.

Martin Marchitto’s TV studio set is a perfect match for the setting of this show and the actors are well costumed by Lindsey Pape.  Bill Grennan’s projections also enhance the story as the images are projected onto a gigantic television on Marchitto’s set.

I was fortunate to be permitted to see a technical rehearsal of this show and I tell you now, I’ve seen full productions that haven’t had as much polish.  The few missteps in tonight’s performance were simply the ones one would expect to see as the show goes through its final tweaks.  As hard as it may be to believe, this show is actually going to become more amazing than it already is as Stevens and his crew continue to tidy and tighten things.  The Feb 6 show is already sold out, so buy a ticket before the rest of them vanish.

When pushed to the edge one either finds the strength to win or gets shoved off the cliff.  When two people pushed to the same edge duel, only one can survive.  Frost/Nixon presents that struggle in the most definitive and triumphant fashion imaginable.

Frost/Nixon plays at the Blue Barn Theatre from Feb 4-28.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm.  There is no show on Feb 7. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors (65+), T.A.G. members, and groups of 10 or more.  For reservations call 402-345-1576 from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri or visit their website at www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

OCP Auditions for “Calendar Girls”

CALENDAR GIRLS
Production Dates: April 15-May 8, 2016
Performs in: Hawks Mainstage Theatre (Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)
Director: Susie Baer Collins
Synopsis: Sisterhood and side-splitting laughs are at the heart of this bare-all play. After Anne’s loving husband dies of leukemia, she vows to keep his memory alive through a hospital memorial. She and her friends “of a certain age” drop their trousers and discover their courage as they pose for a nude, but tasteful, calendar to raise funds for the memorial. As the women experience newfound stardom from their increasingly popular calendar, their bonds of friendship are tested. Based on a true story turned film, this humorous and heartwarming story will provide a night of entertainment, belly laughs and tears.

Audition Dates: Monday, February 15 at 7:00 PM and Tuesday, February 16 at 7:00 PM

Character Descriptions:  TBA

CHRIS Female, 50s

ANNIE Female, 50s

CORA Female, early 40s

JESSIE Female, late 60s/70s

CELIA Female, 35-50

RUTH Female, 40s

MARIE Female, 50s

JOHN Male, 50s. Annie’s husband.

ROD Male, 50s. Chris’s husband.

LAWRENCE Male, late 20s.
*Note: this actor will double as Liam

LADY CRAVENSHIRE Female, 60s
*Note: this actor will double as Brenda Hulse

ELAINE Female 20s

Information about the Nudity in the Production
• There will be the suggestion of nudity in the production; however, private parts will ALWAYS be covered.

• OCP will create a “safe zone: within the wings of the stage during the final scene in Act I (nude photo session for the W.I. calendar).

• People backstage during the final scene in Act I to include: female stage manager, actresses in scene, female dressers.

• The male actor playing the photographer in the scene will only see what the audience sees.

• Idea of what actresses will wear in the “nude photoshoot” scene:
o Adhesive bra cups without straps (these provide some support and cover the nipple)
o An undergarment on lower half of body that will be determined by what should and shouldn’t be seen in each character’s photo pose, as well as the comfort zone of the actress.

• The Omaha Community Playhouse will always make it a top priority for each actor to feel completely comfortable and safe throughout the rehearsal and performances of this production.

What to Bring:
• You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and personal schedules handy in order to complete the form.

• A recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

• Those auditioning for a play will be asked to read sections from the script.