Creatures of the Night

Rocky_5

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Newly engaged Brad and Janet have a vehicle breakdown in the middle of nowhere.  They stop at the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter to seek assistance and find that the good doctor has created a new. . .playmate.  This is The Rocky Horror Show with book, music, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien and is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it is an homage to cheesy sci-fi films of the 1950s, but with a lot of raunchiness thrown in.  There’s risqué behavior, performers in various states of undress, and a bit of fondling.  So for those uncomfortable with that, consider yourselves forewarned.

I was pretty much a newbie to this show.  I kind of, sort of watched most of the film version once upon a time, but wasn’t paying that close of attention to it.  After watching the stage version, I can honestly say this show is one of the best in the history of the Playhouse.  It is a tremendous amount of fun with catchy songs (brilliantly executed by Jennifer Novak Haar and her band), an intentionally hokey story, some spritely and original choreography, and a great opportunity for audience participation as they are encouraged to bring noisemakers, rubber gloves, toast, flashlights, and even dress up in costume.

Kaitlyn McClincy directs her first full production at the Playhouse with this endeavor.  This is not an easy show to direct due to the colossal amounts of energy required and the suggestive behavior actors need to be led through.  As my friend succinctly stated, “If you ain’t committed, you’re screwed”.  I assure you McClincy and her cast are most thoroughly committed and McClincy’s direction is immaculate and dead on target.

The staging is incredible with Matthew Hamel creating an old-fashioned movie theater for this show to take place.  McClincy makes phenomenal use of the small Howard Drew as she utilizes the entire theatre from stage to seating area to balcony for her actors to tell this story.  She hits all of the hot points of the show to milk the funny and even drilled the rare sentimental moments of the show.  McClincy also has boldly and deftly led her cast to sterling performances from top to bottom.

As I previously stated, energy is crucial to this show and the ensemble hits the ground running and never lets up in a supercharged night of singing and dancing.  Some standout performances came from Jason DeLong who gives an innocent performance as Rocky, Frank ‘N’ Furter’s new creation and shows an impressive set of pipes in “The Sword of Damocles”; Erika Hall-Sieff does well as the sultry domestic, Magenta, and also gets to let her own rich alto shine in “Science Fiction”; Olivia Howard has one of the night’s funniest moments as Columbia with a series of gyrations and movements after having her brain zapped by Frank; and Kevin Buswell is eerily mysterious as the enigmatic butler Riff Raff.

Benn Sieff comes out roaring in his Playhouse debut as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter.  Sieff has incredible instincts and nails the oversexed, over the top mad scientist to the floor.  Sieff has wonderful timing, knowing how to precisely punch a funny line and has a flair for physical comedy, best demonstrated by his bedroom romps with Brad and Janet and he does it all while wearing lingerie and fishnets and gliding around the stage in lifts that add a good six inches to his already towering presence.

Sieff also has a smooth baritone with which he nails comedy in the doctor’s introduction number “Sweet Transvestite” or downright sad and melancholy in one of the night’s few serious moments in “I’m Going Home”.

Cale Albracht is delightfully dorky as Brad.  Albracht’s Brad is a real square and he adds a wonderful stilted and stiff delivery to his lines to emulate the poor actors of cheapo sci-fi films.  Albracht is also a nimble dancer and has a great tenor used to superior effect in “Damn it, Janet” and “Once in a While”.

Charlotte Hedican is sweet and a bit repressed as Janet.  Hedican skillfully handles her hokey dialogue with perfectly sincere camp delivery.  She is also on the mark with the flip from the virginal Janet to the shark smelling blood version after being deflowered by Frank and wants more in “Touch A Touch Me”, one of the top numbers of the evening.

Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco supply some fantastic sounds from the zap of laser guns to the sounds of storms and the electronic whine of viewscreens.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were on target with the tuxedoes of the Transylvanians, the lingerie and fishnets of Frank (and eventually other characters), Rocky’s form fitting golden tights, and the goody-goody look of Janet’s pink dress and Brad’s dark suit.  Courtney Cairncross provides a dazzling bit of choreography especially with the energetic “Time Warp” and the ensemble dancing in “Touch A Touch Me”.

There seemed to be some microphone difficulties at a few points and some of the actors needed to project a bit more strongly.  That being said, I also want to salute the cast for great poise under pressure by not allowing themselves to get thrown off course when a group of theatregoers began to get a bit disruptive halfway through the second act.

It’s cheesy.  It’s hokey.  It’s just plain silly.  But, heavens, this show is fantastic fun and definitely a treat for the Halloween season over at the Playhouse.  Grab your tickets while you can because I foresee many a sellout for this one.

The Rocky Horror Show plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Nov 10.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Special midnight showings will take place on Oct 19, Oct 26, and Nov 2 with no Sunday show on the following day.  Ticket prices start at $42 for adults and $25 for students at can be obtained at the OCP box office, by phone at 402-553-0800, or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to mature content, this show is not suitable for children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

OCP Set to Do the Time Warp with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Rocky_5

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Omaha, NE–Cult classic The Rocky Horror Show will make its long-awaited return to the Omaha Community Playhouse when it opens on Friday, Oct 4, 2019.  The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from Oct 4-Nov 10.  Special midnight showings will be held on Oct 19, 26, and Nov 2.  No performances will be held on Oct 20, 27, and Nov 3.

After a flat tire renders them helpless in a storm, Brad and his fiancee, Janet, take refuge in the mansion of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a dangerously eccentric cross-dressing scientist with an insatiable libido.  As the night unfolds, a host of wild characters plunge in and out of rock songs and elaborate dances, stripping the couple of their innocence and leading them to question their traditional stance on sexuality.  This gender-bending musical extravaganza is the most fun you can have in fishnets!  Audience participation and costumes are encouraged.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $42 for adults and $25 for students with prices varying by performance.  Tickets can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed by:  Kaitlyn McClincy

Cast

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter

Bob Gilmore as Eddie

Cale Albracht as Brad

Charlotte Hedican as Janet

Erika Hall-Sieff as Magenta

Jason Delong as Rocky

Jerry Van Horn as Dr. Scott

Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff

Olivia Howard as Columbia

Rob Baker as Narrator

The Transylvanians will be played by Colin Burk, Connor Meuret, Ejanae Hume, Erin Florea, Evelyn Hill, Jesse White, Jessie Kellerman, Julianna Cooper, Lacey Kiefer, Liliana McMahon, Nathaniel Belshan, Nina Washington, Nora Shelton, Raymond Butler, Riley Perez, and Tonya Stoakes

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

The Sun Will Come Out. . .Sept 13. . . at OCP

Annie_6

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Annie and Toby as Sandy

Omaha, NE–Heartwarming musical Annie will open Friday, Sept 13 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Sept 13 through Oct 13.  Performances will be held Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Annie is the beloved tale of a young girl who never gives up hope of one day reuniting with her parents.  After enlisting the help of Depression-era billionaire Oliver Warbucks, Annie finds herself in a tangled web of con artists, kidnappers, and–worst of all–Miss Hananigan!  With a little help from her orphan friends and her dog, Sandy, Annie ultimately finds a place where she belongs in this heartwarming classic.  Featuring timeless songs like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”, Annie has been delighting audiences of all ages for decades.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $32 for adults and $20 for students with 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 http://www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed by:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Annie

Jay Srygley as Daddy Warbucks

Angela Jenson Frey as Grace Ferrell

Allison Wissman as Miss Hannigan

Christopher Violett as Rooster

Cathy Hirsch as Lily

Brinlee Roeder as Molly

Olivia Bryant as Pepper

Cleo Washington as Tessie

Pieper Roeder as Kate

Amina Teri as July

Madalynn Johnson as Duffy

And an ensemble featuring Marcus Benzel, Mark Haufle, Peter Barrett, Jared Dominguez, Sadie Langemo, Mary Trecek, Isabelle Rangel, Serena Johnson, Brittney Thompson, Carrie Trecek, Aidan Schmidtke, Andrew Schnitker, Sheldon Ledbetter, Judson Cloudt, Otto Fox, Meghan Essner, Anina Frey, Annabella Mosher, Lily Sanow, Sophia Srygley, Madison White, Andrew Karolski, Camden Park, Will Seim.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

 

Forget About Tomorrow, “Annie” Shines Today

At the height of the Great Depression, Little Orphan Annie is giving hope to the populace one song and optimistic outlook at a time as she searches for her own parents.  When she meets crusty billionaire Oliver Warbucks, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. . .for both of them.  This is Annie:  The Musical by Thomas Meehan with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin.  It is currently playing at the Rochester Civic Theatre.

The script and score of this show almost feel like a draft as opposed to a final product.  The script is definitely cute and has several amusing, breaking the fourth wall moments.  Likewise, most of the songs are catchy and memorable, if reprised a bit much.  With that being said, the script also lacks a little in character development and fails to further several ideas it introduces.  For example, it’s clear that Annie has a transformative effect on the lives of the people she meets, but we only get to see the aftermath of her charm on people and never the transformative process itself.

Fortunately, the cast and crew are able to perform a bit of Annie magic on the script’s shortcomings.

Under the steady direction of Lee Gundersheimer, this show assuredly becomes more than the sum of its parts.  Gundersheimer guided his troupe to solid, effective performances.  He also has a sure sense of staging with good utilization of the theatre space.  One of the strongest staging moments was the orphans entering Warbucks’ house for Christmas.  Every possible entrance point was used including the auditorium and orchestra pit.

I salute the chorus of this production as they helped to animate the group scenes with the little bits of business crucial to creating this world.  Some standout performances came from Alyssa Keller who shines in a solo (and demonstrates unbelievable breath control) in “N.Y.C.”; Chad Campbell and Gabrielle Hensrud as the slimy, swindling couple, Rooster and Lilly St Regis; Rocco Ruggeri is spot on as the puppeteer for Sandy the dog; and I was especially impressed with Jessica Carey’s performance as Molly.  Though she be tiny, she is fierce as she has an exceptional sense of comedic timing and a larger than life presence.

Shea Morrey makes for an utterly natural Annie.  She’s adventurous.  She’s friendly.  She’s gutsy.  She’s feisty.  She’s determined.  She’s sweet.  I couldn’t help but smile at her nearly limitless optimism and she has a deadly accurate singing voice which soared in “Tomorrow” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here”.  She just needs to be certain to keep up the breath support in some of her higher registers.

Mark Morrey is pretty darn good as Oliver Warbucks.  I liked his firm, but fair take on the character.  Arguably, Warbucks is the most developed character in the show as he begins as being focused solely on his business, but peels off the layers to show a terribly lonely man who has a lot more in common with Annie than one would think.  Morrey is permitted to give Warbucks some surprisingly deep moments with “Something Was Missing”.  I also liked how he adapted his singing to the character voice he used for Warbucks, managing to be on key, yet sound as if he were off key at the same time.

Emily Watkins very nearly steals the show as Miss Hannigan.  Ms Watkins clearly had a ball with the role as the drunken, cruel head of the orphanage who forces her wards to clean the orphanage every single day, works them in a sweatshop, and shamelessly throws herself at any man with a pulse who walks through the door.  Ms Watkins skillfully takes this role right to the very brim to the cup, but never goes over the top.

Ellen Huston has supplied a pretty nifty piece of choreography, especially in two show stopping numbers with the children, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Fully Dressed”.  Sarah Wood Lieske and her orchestra provided a spritely night of music.  Kevin Dobbe and Doug Sween make for a good tandem with the set.  Dobbe’s projections of NYC, alleys, and bridges melded well with Sween’s bunk beds, lavish Warbucks mansion, and conference table of FDR’s Cabinet room.  Marco Magno’s costumes were of excellent quality with the rags of the homeless, the cheap clothes of the orphans, and the elegance of the Warbucks household.  Paul Sund’s lights were exceptional and well suited to each scene and emotional beat of the play.

The show definitely needed much tighter cue pickups last night, but the warm and winning cast has provided a real crowd pleaser for the holiday season.

Annie:  The Musical plays at the Rochester Civic Theatre through December 16.  The show is sold out for the remainder of the run.  Rochester Civic Theatre is located at 3773, 20 Civic Center Dr in Rochester, MN.