Theatre Cedar Rapids Announces 2023-2024 Season

TCR is pleased to present our 2023-2024 Season! A simply amazing lineup of Tony Award™-winning and critically-acclaimed shows awaits you. See them all from your favorite seats, at the best price! 7-show subscriptions (full season) and 4-show subscriptions (auditorium only) are on sale now! Read the show descriptions below and book today.

BOOK YOUR 7-SHOW PACKAGE NOW HERE.
BOOK YOUR 4-SHOW PACKAGE NOW HERE.

DRACULA: A FEMINIST REVENGE FANTASY
October 12 – 29, 2023 in the Grandon Studio
By Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker
Kate Hamill boldly reimagines Bram Stoker’s classic tale of vampires and finds new monsters just beneath the skin. The gothic tropes of villains who wear evil on their sleeve and damsels in distress are replaced by all-too-human monsters and fierce women.

THE WIZARD OF OZ
Nov 17 – Dec 17, 2023 in the Auditorium
The Wizard of Oz is the classic movie come to life on stage. Follow The Scarecrow, The Tinman, The Cowardly Lion, Dorothy… and Toto too, as they meet the Wicked Witch, the Wizard and find their true hearts’ desires. All of the beloved Oscar-winning songs from the movie are here including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off To See The Wizard.” Enjoy your favorite movie moments, plus a few surprises along the way. Journey over the rainbow with your entire family and discover the wonderful world of Oz again…or for the very first time!

SOMETHING ROTTEN!
Feb 9 – Mar 3, 2024 in the Auditorium
Welcome to the Renaissance! From the co-director of The Book of Mormon and the producer of Avenue Q comes something original…something hilarious…Something Rotten! Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rock star known as “The Bard.” When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing, and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical!

FAIRVIEW
Mar 28 – April 7, 2024 in the Grandon Studio
By Jackie Sibblies Drury
Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Fairview is a bold and disarmingly funny play that serves as “a glorious reminder of the unmatched power of live theater to rattle, roil, and shake us wide awake.” (The New York Times). When the play opens, we meet the Frasiers, a middle class Black American family trying desperately to make everything perfect for Grandma’s birthday celebration. But not too far into the festivities, we see the Frasiers’ story through a whole new lens, leading to one of the most outrageous and jaw-dropping endings in theatre history.

SCHOOL OF ROCK
May 3 – May 26, 2024 in the Auditorium
Rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme…You better get me to school on time! School of Rock, based on the hit Jack Black movie, follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight–A pupils into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. But can he get them to the Battle of the Bands without their parents and the school’s headmistress finding out?

IN THE NEXT ROOM (Or the Vibrator Play)May 16 – June 2, 2024 in the Grandon Studio
By Sarah Ruhl
In a seemingly perfect, well-to-do Victorian home, gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings has innocently invented an extraordinary new device for treating ‘hysteria’ in women (and occasionally men): the vibrator. His young and energetic wife tries to tend to their newborn daughter—and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. When a new ‘hysterical’ patient and her husband bring their complicated relationship into the doctor’s home, Dr. and Mrs. Givings must examine the nature of their own marriage, and what it truly means to love someone.

TO BE ANNOUNCED
(A HUGE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER SURPRISE!)
June 21 – July 28, 2024 in the Auditorium
Announcement coming this fall! 

Flash! Bam!! Alakazam!!

The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most iconic villains in both literature and film.  But, what if we’ve all been fed a line about her evil?  What if the official history was simply a lie?  Discover the true story of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked which is currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre.

I’m definitely of two minds about this show.  I was entertained.  The show is beautifully sung and strongly acted.  But the story lacks a certain punch.  The idea is definitely intriguing, but Winnie Holzman’s script based off the novel by Gregory Maguire fails to hit a home run and has to settle for a double. The first act tends to drag a bit though the developing friendship between Elphaba (Wicked Witch) and Glinda helps to sell it due to the work of the leading actresses.

The story picks up considerable steam in the second act once Elphaba has been deemed the Wicked Witch and an enemy of Oz.  The script introduces multiple storylines and even wraps them all up, but some storylines aren’t developed enough and are just bluntly ended.  However, there is some considerable skill with the way the story weaves in the characters of The Wizard of Oz where it’s clear that that story isn’t a complete lie, but a version manipulated by the true powers in Oz. 

Joe Mantello gets as much out of the script as is humanly possible.  From a technical standpoint, the show is solid as a rock.  The pace is on point.  Cue pickups tight as a drum.  The actors have been coached into strong performances and each has a well-developed character.  Mantello has a real gift for duet scenes as some of the show’s strongest moments are when just two characters are interacting and they can be full of tension and pain or dripping with tenderness and sweetness.

Some strong supporting performances come from John Bolton who plays the Wizard.  He’s more (or should I say less) than a weak man.  He’s a power addict responsible for most of Oz’s problems.  Jake Pedersen excels as Boq, a Munchkin doomed to a dire fate due to his fawning over Glinda and his angering of a powerful foe.  Lisa Howard is downright sinister as Madame Morrible, the power behind the throne.  Kimberly Immanuel has a wonderful arc as Nessarose, the crippled sister of Elphaba who seems sweet, but hides a vindictive nature that makes her worthy of her never revealed title of Wicked Witch of the East.  Michael Genet is sympathetic as Dr. Dillamond, the last animal allowed to teach at the university and a tragic victim of the elite’s desperation to hold on to power.

There’s a lot under the surface of Jordan LItz’s Fiyero.  Fiyero puts on a good front of being a lazy gadfly, but it hides a tortured unhappiness.  Litz is wonderful as he comes off as a not overly intelligent jock until an act of kindness towards a lion cub starts to peel back his layers to reveal the honorable and heroic man lurking beneath the façade.  Litz has a beautiful tenor and knows how to act through the numbers and can be delightfully humorous when he sings about “Dancing Through Life” or heartfelt and loving as he pledges love to Elphaba in “As Long As You’re Mine”.

Jennafer Newberry shines brightly as Glinda.  Newberry does a remarkable job showing us the true Glinda.  She isn’t good.  She’s a rich, stuck-up, vapid airhead used to getting her own way with a bent for malapropisms.  But it’s a joy to see how her friendship with Elphaba helps her to truly become a better person and to inspire her to overthrow the true wickedness in Oz.  Newberry also has a stunning soprano which she can use to comedic effect evidenced by “Popular” where she tries to help Elphaba fit in or use to tug your heartstrings in “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good”.

Lissa deGuzman is stunning as Elphaba.  She is brilliant at portraying the outcast who hides her pain under the mantle of responsibility as she cares for her sister.  It’s a treat to watch her slowly work her way out of her awkwardness until she claims her role as the Wicked Witch of the West (though not in the way you may think).  deGuzman has a stunning lower soprano and she nails the show’s hallmark song “Defying Gravity” to the floor.

Evan Roider and his orchestra never miss a note in their performance.  Susan Hilferty’s costumes recall the film version of the story with its fantastical clothes and characters.  Chic Silber’s special effects add that crucial bit of magic to the show.  Tony Meola’s sounds help bolster the show with sounds of magic and raging storms.  Eugene Lee’s sets are very impressive with the ever present clock and gears and the homunculus used by the Wizard to seem all powerful.  Kenneth Posner has a good use of lights especially when acts of magic are enacted.  James Lynn Abbott’s choreography is solid, but lacks any huge moments.

In spite of the story not quite being all it could be, Wicked is definitely a pleasant evening of theatre with strong musical performances and splendid acting.  It is also certain to enthrall the kids and the kids at heart.

Wicked runs at the Orpheum Theatre through May 15.  Performances are Tues-Sat at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 1pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets range from $43.50 to $188.50 and can be obtained at www.ticketomaha.com.  The Orpheum Theatre is located at 409 S 16th St in Omaha, NE.

The Wamego Files: A Case Study of Victory Inn, Oz, a Headless Horseman, and Zombies

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Victory Inn

Well, October is here which brings visions of colorful leaves, Halloween, haunted houses, and a return to the road.

This leg of the road would bring me to Wamego, KS as I had negotiated a media ticket with the famed Columbian Theatre to review their production of Sleepy Hollow.  My home away from home would be the Victory Inn Bed and Breakfast owned and operated by Francis and Margaret Feyh.

I was particularly looking forward to traveling this time as I would actually be going in a new direction.  Nothing but highways going west and south.  New scenery, at last.  It was a pleasant afternoon for a drive and I enjoyed passing through the small towns of our great country.  About 1pm, my thoughts turned to lunch just as I began to pass through the town of Tecumseh in Nebraska.

Lo and behold I saw a place called Frazier’s Café off to my left and decided it would be a make for a good break.  I glanced through the menu looking for something different when my eyes fell upon a meal listed as the H Bomb which described itself as a spicy chicken fried steak sandwich.  I decided to order one though I thought the price was a little high at $9.95.  That is I thought it was a little high until I actually got the sandwich.

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Frazier’s Cafe

This sucker was about the size of an H Bomb as well.  It was so big that I needed a knife and fork to eat it.  It was tasty and big enough for 2 meals which is exactly what I made out of it.

Full from lunch, I continued my drive which included traveling through Burchard, NE, the birthplace of silent film star, Harold Lloyd.  About 3:30pm I entered Wamego and parked in its downtown area.  I wandered up and down the street admiring the buildings.  I stepped into the library and thumbed through a few books before I finally headed over to Victory Inn.

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the inn.  It had a well manicured backyard with a little waterfall and gazebo.  I rang the doorbell of the back door and waited a few minutes.  Upon hearing nothing, I began to search out the front door when I heard the turn of doorknob.  I did an about face and retraced my steps as Margaret welcomed me into her home.

She quickly led me to the Victory Inn Suite before leaving me to my own devices.  I got myself settled and goggled at the palace sized bathroom which housed a Jacuzzi bathtub before exploring the house.  I admired the antiques and glassware and bumped into Margaret’s husband, Francis who quietly welcomed me to the inn.

After wandering about the home, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a good long soak before slipping into my suit and heading over to the Columbian Theatre.

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Columbian Theatre

The theatre is quite an impressive edifice.  It was built in the late 1800s as a music hall and that same hall still serves as the theatre’s performance space.

The show itself was rather disappointing. After a rough show, I walked back to the inn where I wrote a very difficult review and then retired for the night.

In the morning I was ready for breakfast and Margaret had a nice repast waiting.  There was nothing fancy about the meal.  It was just good old-fashioned home cooking with eggs, bacon, cinnamon coffee cake, some amazing hash browns, and juice.

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Old fashioned country breakfast

I needed some exercise so I spent the next two hours wandering around Wamego where I visited the park, saw the town’s famed windmill, and then I stopped at the famed Oz Museum.

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The windmill of Wamego

The Wizard of Oz is very big in this town.  Not only do they have a museum dedicated to all things Oz but several businesses are named after items in the story such as Oz Winery and Toto’s Tacoz.

The Oz Museum has brought in visitors from all over the globe and it was actually an interesting little visit.  The history of L Frank Baum (author of the series), the birth of the stories, the creation of the famed movie, and other Ozian things came to life before my eyes.  The most surprising piece of trivia I learned was that the books were so popular that other writers were brought on to create more stories after Baum’s passing.  Baum had written 15 stories, but the series ended after the 40th novel written in the late 1960s.  For those who have the time or desire, the film is also shown all day.

When I stepped outside it looked like it was about ready to rain so I decided to while away the afternoon in my room where I watched the Iowa Hawkeyes pummel the Purdue Boilermakers.

After thoroughly enjoying Iowa’s shellacking of Purdue, I took another Jacuzzi bath and then headed over to St Bernard’s Catholic Church for worship.  The church is a pretty impressive edifice and looked fairly new to my eyes.  My eyes did not deceive as the building was erected in 2010.

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St Bernard Catholic Church

It was a pretty good service and Father had a very thought-provoking sermon about how 80% of Catholics no longer attend services which got me to thinking as to how much the attendance rate had fallen amongst all denominations.  His most telling statement was, “I don’t think it’s because we (he was an elderly man) were old-fashioned.  I think we’ve just lost faith.”  Very profound food for thought.

After services, I had hoped to eat at the Friendly Cooker, a diner on the main street of Wamego.  However, the only nights they serve supper are Thursdays and Fridays.  Instead, I decided to try the cuisine at Toto’s Tacoz.

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Toto’s Tacoz

Twas not a bad choice at all.  I had the namesake food which ended up being shredded beef, cheese, onions, lettuce, cilantro, sour cream, and tomatoes on a tortilla.  It was seasoned quite nicely and a little of it goes quite far.

Then I headed over to Junction City, a military town (Fort Riley is nearby) to experience Zombie Toxin.  As a teenager in Omaha, I rather enjoyed the haunted house attractions available in the city and we have some pretty good ones.  While my interest in them has waned as I’ve gotten older, this one made me curious as it touted itself as the #1 haunted attraction in Kansas.

After visiting it, I can say that those claims are perfectly valid.  I would also like to give a special shout-out to Rob for providing me with a speed pass media ticket so I could enjoy Zombie Toxin.

First off, this attraction pays meticulous attention to the details.  It begins with the story of Dr. Von Monschture which I absolutely love because it gives a sense of reality to the attraction.  Once inside, you appreciate the care that went into this place.  Each room has a specific atmosphere and a lot of creativity went into creating the numerous experiments in Von Monschture’s quest to revivify corpses.  There’s nothing cheap about the horrors here.  It has the quality of a big budget horror flick.

Aside from the horrifying beasts, you’ll have to deal with crackling electricity, falling barrels, giant wolf’s heads and a maze in darkness in your attempts to escape from the mad scientist.  Oh, and be wary.  The weird creations and characters of the house pop out anywhere and anytime.  I’m still trying to figure out who or what grabbed my jacket at about the halfway point.

If you live in the vicinity of Junction City and are looking for something to do this Halloween season, visit Zombie Toxin.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

After visiting the haunted house, it was time to head back to the inn for the night.

For some reason my sleep was a little fitful.  I popped out of my sleep due to goofy dreams on a couple of occasions, but still felt well rested when I woke up for good around 7am.

Another old fashioned breakfast was on the table consisting of pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, cinnamon pecan rolls, juice, and water.  Once more I ate my fill, then came back to finish writing.

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Another leg of the road has been completed and Wamego is a quaint little town with friendly folk and a bit to do.  Take in a show at the Columbian.  Travel to the merry old land of Oz.  And for those who need more, the town of Manhattan is less than 30 minutes away.  But make sure you get a room at Victory Inn, you’ll get comfort, hospitality, and a good meal.

Until the next time.