Nick Bottom has hit, well, bottom. Unable to write a hit play and deep in debt, he discovers he and his wife are about to have a baby. Desperate to achieve success he consults a soothsayer to discover the next great thing in theatre and Shakespeare’s greatest play (so he can get one over on his hated rival). However, Bottom is going to discover that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. This is Something Rotten! and it is playing at Topeka Civic Theatre.
This seems to be my season for serendipitous discoveries. For the second time this year, I discovered a theatre doing a show that caught my fancy while en route to another assignment and managed to squeeze in an extra review. And, for the second time, I found myself having a marvelous time.
Shannon J. Reilly really gets this show. He has a good grip on the show’s disparate elements and blends them together well. Reilly knows when to lean into the absurdity and when to treat the show with heart attack seriousness. He stages the show very simply as he focuses on the storytelling and uses a backdrop and a few simple set pieces (designed by Bryce Korf) to help enhance it. Reilly has also had his actors create some truly delightful characters destined to leave their mark on your memories.
Some of the memorable performances in the supporting cast come from Bruce Smith who brings a childlike excitement to Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who is tickled pink to finally be part of theatre (in the form of his financial support). Jayme Green makes for a fine Minstrel as he frames the show’s two acts for the audience. Jaryl Perkins is outstanding as Brother Jeremiah whose overenunciating prudishness seems to barely mask his own sexual appetites.
Bethany Ayers nearly steals the show with her rendition of Portia, the daughter of Brother Jeremiah with a love for poetry. Ayers’ Portia is a combination of Melissa Rauch and Carol Kane and she has comedic timing that can’t be taught. Whether she’s getting soused at a party or waiting the precise number of beats for a humorous farewell, Ayers had the crowd laughing heartily at her wit and antics. She also has a beautiful singing voice with “We See the Light” and “I Love the Way” being particular standouts.
Brett Broadbent makes his Nigel Bottom a bashful milquetoast at the top of the show, but his performance really begins to soar in Act II when the bashfulness gives way to his gentleness. Broadbent just shines in the show’s quieter and sweeter moments and he has a wonderful tenor and falsetto. His solo performance in to “To Thine Own Self Be True” is a bit of musical mastery.
Adam Groves is a cocky prick as William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was a rock star of his era and this show takes that idiom literally as Shakespeare behaves and is adored as a rock star. Groves comes off as a hybrid of David Bowie and Mick Jagger as he gyrates and heats up the audience with his poetry. Groves’ Shakespeare isn’t afraid to take a few shortcuts to success as he enjoys the fruits of fame more than the work of fame. Groves also has a blistering rock tenor which he uses well in “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard”.
Daniel Kooser gives a superlative performance as Nick Bottom. Kooser understands Bottom’s multifaceted nature and is able to project his decency, his frustrations, his fears, and his regrets. His delivery is extremely extemporaneous and he has a gift for nimble wordplay. Kooser also easily transitions from one emotional beat to another. His hallmark moment is “Bottom’s Going to Be on Top” where he not only croons a fine tune, but engages in an epic tap and verbal joust with Shakespeare.
I enjoyed the period correct costumes of Chelle Decker which were replete with jerkins, tights, cod pieces, and billowing dresses. Marilyn Foree and her orchestra hit all the right notes (pun intended) of the score and were epic and intimate as the need arose. Kristin Ross has some fairly effective choreography with the tap battle in “Bottom’s Going to Be on Top” and the sweeping “A Musical” and “We See the Light” being the top moments. Lauren McCauley-Jones has some nice lighting moments with the rock concert feel of “Will Power” being my favorite.
Act I seemed to suffer from a bit of the Thursday doldrums and needed a bit more energy at some points. That being said, they found their full groove in Act II and came out swinging. Some of the dancing also needed to be a bit cleaner.
Something Rotten! is one of the hottest musicals making the rounds on the regional/community theatre circuit. It has great songs and a story that’s meta (the show is aware that it’s a musical), but also funny, sweet, and a little bit dramatic. Add a director and cast that understands this and you have the recipe for an amusing night of theatre like the one waiting for you in Topeka Civic Theatre’s production.
Something Rotten! runs at Topeka Civic Theatre through April 1. Showtimes are Thursdays at 7pm, Fri-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $25 ($46.50 for dinner option on Fri-Sat and $40.50 for Sunday brunch) and can be purchased at www.topekacivictheatre.com. Topeka Civic Theatre is located at 3028 SW 8th Ave in Topeka, KS.
Adapted by Regina Taylor from a book of the same name
A moving and celebratory musical play in which hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity. In the show, a young black woman comes to stay with relatives after her brother is killed. Weaving together faith, fashion and family, CROWNS traces the tradition of hats back to African rituals and forward to current fashion. Filled with gospel music and a little rap, the show pulses with energy and was hailed by the New York Times as “a show that seems to arise out of spontaneous combustion…”
SEPTEMBER 22, 23, 24 ; 28, 29, 30 | OCTOBER 1
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
The original kitsch rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi gothic musical returns! The cult classic deals with mutating identity and time warps, as innocents Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters as they sing and dance their way to Frank-N-Furter’s latest creation.
OCTOBER 26, 27, 28
A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL
Book by Joseph Robinette | Music and lyrics by Benj Pask and Justin Paul
Based on the Warner Brothers movie and the book by Jean Shepherd
The perennial Christmas favorite! Set in the 1940’s, the musical follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest for the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts—an Official Red Ryder BB gun. Watch for the tongue stuck to the flagpole; the snowsuit; the bullies, the leg lamp award; the bunny suit; the Christmas dinner, and other iconic moments.
DECEMBER 1, 2, 3; 7, 8, 9, 10; 14, 15, 16, 17
DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE
A dramatic comedy by Sarah Ruhl
An incessantly ringing cell phone in a quiet café. A stranger at the next table who has had enough. And a dead man – with a lot of loose ends. `A wildly imaginative new story about how we memorialize the dead – and how that remembering changes us, as we confront assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world
JANUARY 19, 20, 21; 25, 26, 27, 28
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED
A mystery by Agatha Christie | Adapted by Leslie Darbon
An announcement in the local paper states the time and place of an imminent murder. When an unknown visitor to Miss Blacklock’s Victorian home dies under the prescribed circumstances, Miss Marple turns up to solve the case in a classic Christie puzzle of mixed motives, concealed identities, twists and turns.
MARCH 1, 2, 3; 7, 8, 9, 10
I HATE HAMLET
A comedy by Paul Rudnick
A young and successful television actor relocates to New York where he is offered the opportunity to play Hamlet onstage. The problem: He Hates Hamlet. His dilemma deepens with the entrance of John Barrymore’s ghost, who arrives intoxicated and in full costume to the apartment that once was his. The contrast between the two actors leads to a wildly funny duel over women, art, success, duty, television, and the apartment.
APRIL 19, 20, 21; 25, 26, 27, 28
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Book by Joseph Stein | Music by Jerry Bock | Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
A musical theatre tradition! This is a tale of Tevye and his family in a changing Russia. The plight of traditional values in the face of changing social mores and ethnic prejudice cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion to touch audiences on a universal level with laughter, sadness and joy.
Nick Bottom is determined to be the bard of bards, but has to topple William Shakespeare from his perch to reach that goal. Desperate to get out of debt and provide for his wife and soon to be newborn, Bottom consults a soothsayer in order discover the next big thing in theatre and to stick it to his hated rival by stealing Shakespeare’s greatest idea. However, ol’ Will has a thing or two to say about that. This is Something Rotten! and it is currently playing at Springfield Little Theatre.
This article is a personal milestone as it marks my 200th play review. I was truly hoping to find something special for the occasion, but failed to do so with this show.
I didn’t find “something special”. I hit the theatrical lottery.
I knew I was on to something from the first notes of Connor Sanders’ Minstrel and what I got was the pinnacle of theatrical kismet. This show has everything. An original and endearing story. Marvelous melodies. Dazzling costumes. Stunning sets. A director who knew how to put it all together. A cast more than ready to perform and an audience hungry to be entertained.
Jamie Bower’s direction was nothing short of masterful. The pace of the show was blitzing and started on high octane and worked its way up to volcanic fury by the end. He had a nearly symbiotic connection with the beats as he knew when to be fast and funny, when to be slow and sweet, when to be heart attack serious, and when to be farcical and bold. Bower made this anachronistic world quite believable and guided his troupe to virtually flawless performances.
The entire ensemble gets a standing ovation from me for their work. All of them were always in the moment and you could see and feel the joy of performing radiating from them and contributed so much in bringing the audience into this world. Some outstanding work in the supporting cast came from Claire Caubre as Nick Bottom’s wife, Bea. Caubre’s Bea is the rock in her marriage and willing to do whatever it takes to support her man and makes sure he knows she’s his “Right Hand Man”. Dean Price is hilarious as the holier than thou stick in the mud, Brother Jeremiah, determined to quash immorality (i.e. fun) while constantly making unintentional double entendres. Joseph Galetti provides some yuks as Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who sounds like a Jersey version of Jerry Seinfeld. Todd Smith darn near steals the show as the soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, with his over the top summoning of his visions and his ability to wring a boatload of laughter from the delivery of a single word.
Kaleb Patterson is superb in his SLT debut as Nick Bottom. Patterson brings a real sincerity and, dare I say, vulnerability to the frustrated writer. Patterson’s Bottom is a good man, but is slowly losing himself due to his jealousy of Shakespeare and his increasing desperation to be a good provider and make his mark in the theatrical world. Patterson also has a gentle, soothing tenor and merges it with a wide range of interpretative ability whether he is snarking out in “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, being broad and theatrical in “A Musical”, or being honest and forthright in “To Thine Own Self”.
Andrew Wilson matches his “brother” step for step with his take on Nigel Bottom. Wilson is wonderful as the shy, unassuming poet with an incredible gift for language. His initial awkwardness around his love, Portia, is so natural and spot-on and his raw honesty with his brother about writing from the heart and truth always hits the mark. The only tiny, tiny, tiny change I would make is that he got a bit shrieky on a couple of cries when a more plaintive cry would have had the audience sobbing. Wilson has a mighty tenor of his own which is blessed with a gorgeous falsetto and put to excellent use in “I Love the Way” and his own take on “To Thine Own Self”.
Katie Orr is comedic gold as Portia. I believe her to be sincere about attempting to be a good Puritan, but she just can’t deny her poetry loving heart. Orr is just a scream as she has a “When Harry Met Sally” climax moment as she swoons to Nigel’s poetry and is a convincing drunkard after accidentally chugging a stein of alcohol at Shakespeare’s party. Orr also has an angelic soprano, beautifully utilized in “I Love the Way” and “We See the Light”.
Eli DePriest is an arrogant, smug prick as William Shakespeare. The Shakespeare of this story is the equivalent of a modern rock star and he just laps up the adulation. DePriest’s Shakespeare is fully aware of his status as #1 and lords it over all and appears to have a pansexual appetite as he openly flirts with girls and guys and would sleep with himself if he could. DePriest is also gifted with his own strong tenor as he wallows in his own greatness in “Will Power” or grouses about the hard work involved in being the best in “Hard to Be the Bard”.
This is my third time reviewing a show at SLT and, in my nearly thirty years in the business, I don’t think I’ve found a choreographer to match the skill of Chyrel Love Miller. Miller’s dance numbers are always flashy, big, and full of pizzazz and this show is no exception. Favorite numbers of mine were “Welcome to the Renaissance”, “A Musical”, “We See the Light”, and “Make an Omelette”. John R. “Chuck” Rogers has designed another sensational set with the period correct village buildings, but my favorite piece of scenery was the raised stage with the lanterns for Shakespeare’s “Interpretation in the Park”. Jamie Bower pulled triple duty as he also designed the lights & sounds along with directing and my favorite moments with these were “Will Power” with the lit lanterns, star patterns in the spotlights, and the colorful backdrop which looked like the NBC logo and was also reused in the closing number, “Welcome to America”. Kaley Jackson and Bailey Doran nailed the costumes with the period correct jerkins, cod pieces, tights, Puritan outfits, and petticoats and bustles. But I truly loved the zing of the colorful Puritan garb when they started rocking out in “We See the Light”. Danielle Hardin and her orchestra’s handling of the score was heavenly and pinpoint precise.
Truly, I can’t say enough good things about this show. You just have to go and see it. I promise you a good time and you may just want to go back again and again before the run is through. It is amazing!!
Something Rotten! runs at Springfield Little Theatre through Sept 25. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets range from $23-$37. For tickets, visit http://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Box Office at 417-869-1334. Springfield Little Theatre is located at 311 E Walnut St in Springfield, MO.
Nick Bottom is determined to write a hit play and best his hated rival, William Shakespeare. Saddled with debt and with a child on the way, Bottom consults a soothsayer to dip into the future and decides to create the world’s first musical and steal Shakespeare’s greatest idea to create his magnum opus, Omlette. This is Something Rotten! and it is currently playing at Ralston Community Theatre.
Let me get this out of the way first: not only is this the new best musical I’ve seen mounted on an Omaha stage, it’s now also one of my personal top five shows. If you love musicals, you’re going to love this show. If you HATE musicals, you will still love this show because it points out that genre’s inherent absurdities and plays them up to the fullest especially with the musical in the musical.
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell came up with something truly unique with this show. It’s historical, anachronistic, parodic, and even brings in some literary theory concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Throw in a score by Wayne & Karey Kirkpatrick that not only lifts elements from all types of musicals, but includes a showstopping number that includes a mash-up of some of the biggest musicals ever written and you’ve got the elements for a heckuva good time.
Todd Uhrmacher gets this show and his sparkling direction reflects that. This show goes in a lot of different directions and Uhrmacher knows when to be serious and when to be silly. His staging is top notch. The pace is lightning quick. The characterizations are sublime and the cue pickups were right on the button.
The ensemble did a very good job of breathing life into this world and there were some incredible standouts in the supporting cast. Chloe Rosman brings the comedy stylings of Kate Micucci along with an angelic soprano in her rendition of Portia. Jenna McKain is the rock of her family as Bea Bottom and can really belt out a tune, burning brightly with “Right Hand Man”. But I specifically want to shine a spotlight on Jon Flower who gave his best performance to date with his take on Nostradamus. Flower was not only hysterical, but I think the operatic world lost a potential star with that magnificent tenor and he just soars in “A Musical”.
David Ebke is pitch perfect as William Shakespeare. Ebke brings a Johnny Depp/rock star vibe to the role and is arrogant, oozes sex appeal, and wallows in the excesses of celebrity. Ebke’s Shakespeare admits the work it takes to get famous isn’t as fun as the being famous part and it’s implied he uses a few shortcuts to retain that fame and fortune. Ebke also possesses a dynamic tenor and made the ladies swoon with “Will Power”.
The role of Nigel Bottom seems to be tailor made for Kyle Avery. Avery is utterly natural and perfectly believable as the gentle, soft-spoken poet & writer. His gentle tenor can either tug your heartstrings or fill you with the warm fuzzies and has two hallmark turns with the romantic “I Love the Way” and the moving “To Thine Own Self Be True”. However, he does need to be careful not to go overboard with the pitch on his speaking voice in some of his more lamentable moments.
Steve Krambeck adds some serious layers to the role of Nick Bottom. Bottom is a pretty conflicted guy. He’s a decent sort, but his jealousy of Shakespeare’s success and his desperation to dig himself out of a financial and creative hole compel him to act recklessly and behave childishly. Krambeck admirably balances and reflects Bottom’s many sides and adds his own mighty tenor with turns in “Bottom’s Going to Be on Top” and “God, I Hate Shakespeare”.
Chris Ebke and his orchestra show some impressive versatility with their handling of the highly varied score. Debbie Massy-Schneweis has supplied the best piece of choreography I’ve seen in a local production. This show has big numbers and Massy-Schneweis rises to the occasion with some of my favorite numbers being “A Musical” and “Make an Omlette”. The production was fortunate to have the skills of Joey Lorincz as he designed yet another stellar set with the Renaissance building cutouts and utilizing a screen which projected illustrations of London Bridge, streets, and parks to indicate locale changes. His lights always add something special such as tight spotlights on intimate numbers and his going to town with colors in “A Musical”. Leah Skorupa-Mezger’s costumes suit the Renaissance period with the poofy pants, the colorful jerkins, the period correct dresses, and an elaborate scene with dancing eggs and omlettes.
Some of the dancing needed to be a bit cleaner and relaxed and a few bits of dialogue weren’t picked up by the mikes, but that did little to stop the avalanche of awesomeness that was this show.
If you’re looking for some fun and are a fan of theatre or even an opponent of musicals, then this is the show to see. It’s the best thing going this summer.
Something Rotten! plays at the Ralston Performing Arts Center in Ralston High School under the auspices of Ralston Community Theatre through July 24. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 2pm. Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased at the Box Office, calling 402-898-3545, or visiting www.ralstoncommunitytheatre.org. Parental discretion is advised for this production. Ralston Community Theatre is located at 8969 Park Dr in Ralston, NE.
An aging king decides to retire and divide his land between his three daughters, but first requires his daughters to make a declaration of love to him in order to determine which one loves him best. This requirement triggers a series of events that cause the land to descend into chaos, war, betrayal, madness, and death. This is King Lear and it is currently playing at the BlueBarn.
It’s been said that the tragedies of William Shakespeare laid the blueprint for the modern-day soap opera and that’s very believable as all of the Bard’s tragedies tend to follow certain patterns and contain similar themes prevalent in that genre of entertainment. You have protagonists with fatal flaws, warring families, backstabbing (sometimes in a very literal sense), betrayal, intrigue, alliance, and complex schemes, just to name a few. Great elements for an engaging spectacle, but BlueBarn’s King Lear has an x factor that raises it to another level.
It’s a masterpiece.
Believe me, I don’t bandy that word about very readily. But this show is virtually perfect. Direction that is spot on. Acting that held nary a flaw. Beautiful costumes. Atmospheric lighting. A transcendent set. And a story that will have you heart aching at the folly and depravity of man.
I’d known of Jill Anderson’s sterling reputation as an actress, but she proved that she is equally golden as a director. Anderson truly understands the complexities of Shakespeare’s writing and language and easily guides the audience through its labyrinthian path. She knew when to punch up a moment with just the right amount of big emotion and when the subtlest of subtlety was needed. The pacing was sure. The staging was immaculate. Anderson’s grip on the language was so ironclad that she had an entire cast tossing it off as if it were their natural tongue. Her coaching of the actors was championship quality as they worked like a well-oiled machine with hardly a blip in their work.
I could easily wax poetic on the work of the entire cast, but for brevity’s sake, let me simply say that some of the truly excellent performances you’ll see come from Josh Peyton who shines in my favorite role of The Fool, who just may be the wisest person in the show. Matthew Kisher is stellar as Edgar, a good and innocent man who is compelled to accept the heavy mantle of avenger and hero when he finds himself and his father the target of a conspiracy. Ashley Kobza and Melissa King kill it as Goneril and Regan. Kobza is particularly impressive as the brutish, more military minded Goneril while King’s Regan is a bit more Machiavellian, yet is capable of a frightening level of viciousness as when she claws out the eye of an ally of her father, Lear. Delaney Jackson is haunting as the gentle Cordelia who is disinherited by Lear simply because she is sincere about her love for him.
I’ve seen Thomas Becker essay many a fine role over the years, but his King Lear might just be his crowning achievement (pardon the pun). This is a very difficult role to perform as the actor needs to play a man who is both strong and weak. Lear is very much the warrior king, yet is cursed with the fatal flaws of arrogance, stupidity, and ability to be easily manipulated due to his ego. Becker is incredible as a ruler whose age and ego make him quite irascible, but whose behavior may also indicate the onset of dementia and certainly madness as his eldest daughters break his spirit after they get his land which is all they wanted from him.
Becker makes massive emotional changes on the turn of a dime as he can go from being explosively angry to childishly humorous in the blink of an eye. Some of Becker’s best scenes are his moments of clarity when he realizes what he has done to himself and to the daughter that truly loved him and you see a glimpse of the good man who got lost somewhere along the way.
Shane Staiger is evil personified as Edmund. While one can have sympathy at his inability to inherit his father’s lands due to his illegitimate status, his plan to bypass that is reprehensible. This is truly one of the most selfish people I’ve seen portrayed on stage and Staiger is phenomenal. In the presence of others, he assumes a gentlemanly and honorable persona, but removes that mask in his monologues where his derisive sneers and demonic smirks fully make you buy into his evil. This man truly looks out for number one and he will lie to, kill, and seduce whomever he has to in order to obtain the power he desperately craves.
Ryan Kathman is a truly noble man as Kent. This is a man who truly loves his king and because of that love can’t be anything less than honest with him. Kathman’s Kent boldly and bluntly tells the king when he does wrong even when that directness results in his exile. Yet so great is his love that he continues to serve his king in disguise in order to protect him from himself. Not only does Kathman project that needed sense of decency and loyalty, he also shows some dandy comedic chops with his hilarious abuse of the servant, Oswald.
Steven Williams’ set transports you back to a long-ago time with its wooden outline shaping into elegant castle doors and staircases as frilled sheets decorate the ceiling and descend into tapestries. His lighting is so atmospheric especially during the monologue scenes when the lights go low except for a lone light on the speaker with the color matching the speaker’s personality such as the sadistic red of Edmund’s speeches. His lighting for the storm sequence combined with Bill Kirby’s booming thunder made for one of the best technical scenes I’ve ever seen on stage. And speaking of sounds, Kirby’s are top notch from the relentless drumbeats that drive the story to its finale to the definitive thump of a drawbridge closing, effectively imprisoning Gloucester in his own home. Jill Anderson did double duty as she was also costume designer and they are dynamite with their medieval look from the knights to the Fool’s jester outfit to the elegant dresses of the ladies and the robes of the men.
This is an extremely worthy night of entertainment and don’t be concerned that you might not understand the classical language. The program contains a synopsis of the story so you’ll understand what’s going on and then can merely immerse yourself in the language, acting, and tragic story of a land’s downfall due to a foolish king.
King Lear runs at BlueBarn through April 16. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm with a performance on April 3 at 2pm and April 10 at 6pm. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased by calling 402-345-1576 or visiting www.bluebarn.org. BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.
Lovely little nutcracker, isn’t it? Well, this nutcracker has a very interesting story behind it. This nutcracker is both a trophy and a reminder of the time I assisted Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in solving a murder at the Victorian Villa in Union City, MI.
I had alluded to this story when I wrote my remembrance of the inn back in 2014, but enough time has passed that it is now safe to share the tale. Some elements must still remain hidden, so some names may be changed and some details removed and altered, but those that know the truth will understand.
Many believe Holmes and Watson to be fictional characters, but that is a myth perpetuated by Dr. Watson’s literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who published Dr. Watson’s stories under his name. In truth, they are real and much older than one would believe.
In his retirement, Holmes had cultivated a royal jelly elixir and ingestion of it had greatly extended his life span and that of Dr. Watson. Over the years Holmes and Watson had regularly visited the Victorian Villa as its owner, Ron Gibson, is the great-grandson of Senator Neil Gibson referenced in the case known as “The Problem of Thor Bridge”. Aside from their friendship, Holmes also enjoyed visiting Union City as, in his own words, “it is a hellhole of crime of great depth and brilliance”.
When I learned that Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson would be visiting, I immediately booked a weekend stay to meet the famed detective and his trusted associate.
It was September of 2005 and I was making my second foray out to the Villa. I was a bit weary as I had mistakenly forgotten to schedule myself as unavailable for Hamlet rehearsals the night before so I had put in a long night of rehearsing before setting off on my drive at 10pm. By midnight, I was exhausted and collapsed at a Motel 6 in Des Moines, IA before driving another 8 hours to Union City the next morning. The welcome sight of the gorgeous Victorian mansion served as a salve to my spirits and boosted my energy level as I pulled into the tiny parking lot.
Once more, I was greeted by Ron and his two sons, Zach and Josh, before being led to my room for the weekend: the Victorian Country Bedchamber. As I got myself situated, I found a note under my pillow. It was rather snarky and, I noted, written in a feminine hand. I put it away before freshening up and reacquainting myself with the Villa.
Around 6pm, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson arrived at the inn. I introduced myself to Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson who politely shook my hand. Holmes was just as Watson had described him with his aloofness and unmistakable air of authority. Watson was friendly and every bit the gentleman.
I retired to the parlor with Holmes and Watson and the other guests who had come to meet the legendary duo. Among them were Ted and Rhonda Cowell and their Holmesian scion society, The Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay; the Mallon family; George Ault; and Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Harbaugh.
We opened up the night with a round of Sherlockian Trivial Pursuit. We formed into two teams and Mr. Holmes asked diabolically difficult questions relating to the many cases he had investigated. As the two teams battled back and forth, Mr. Holmes would vacillate between contentedly smoking his pipe and brooding about some vexing problem. On several occasions he alluded to a case he was working on before returning to the game.
By the end of the game, the two teams were locked into a tie, though I ended up stealing a symbolic victory for my side when I answered the question “Who killed Victor Savage?” After the hard-fought game, we entered the dining room where Mr. Holmes gave us a demonstration on the art of observation and deduction while we dined on one of Ron’s fine meals which consisted of English Cheshire Cheese Soup and roasted loin of boar among other delicacies. I did note that Ron had brought on some help for the event as a placard on the table said the meal had been partially catered by Maxine Simons.
Upon finishing our meal, we returned to the parlor where Mr. Holmes told us he was investigating a murder that had taken place at the Villa a few days prior. A man had shown up at the Villa around 11am on the fateful day and asked Ron if he could have a room. As Ron had no reservations, he rented a room to the man who gave no name, but simply went upstairs to his bedroom with his dressing bag. A short while later, Ron saw him descend the stairs sans bag and enter the parlor. Ron left him to his own devices as he had to leave the Villa to run some errands. When he returned later, he found the man collapsed on the floor, arm outstretched in front of him, and clearly dead. Ron contacted the police who found no identification on the man nor in his room. The labels on his clothes had been cut off and the only items found on him were a handkerchief, some cigarettes, and a pen. Ron had told Mr. Holmes of the baffling death and he agreed to look into it.
Mr. Holmes wanted us to be his eyes and ears and help him investigate. He asked us to discover the following:
Who was the victim?
How was he killed?
Who killed him?
Find a way to link the killer to the crime and unmask him or her.
Certain rules were set in place for us. As Mr. Holmes had already investigated the private areas of the mansion, we were not to enter them. He also told us not to snoop into Ron’s desk as only he would be allowed to investigate it. Short of that we were free to investigate as we chose. If we managed to discover any evidence, we were only to hold onto it for 10 minutes before returning it exactly where it was found. Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson bade us good evening and left the Villa promising to return after breakfast in the morning.
Exhaustion had found me again so I retired to my bedroom, vowing to rise early and begin looking into the case.
I arose the next morning feeling refreshed. After heading to the dining room and enjoying some of Ron’s special scrambled eggs and sausage patties, I began to look into the case.
From re-reading Ron’s statement, I realized that the victim had not carried his dressing bag back down with him so I immediately went to the second floor and began searching for it, but was unable to find it. I searched the mansion from top to bottom and then made my way over to the Carriage House. Up in the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber, I discovered George Ault and Glenn Harbaugh discussing something and they froze when they saw me. I asked if I could enter and Glenn said I could. I quietly closed the door and noted they had the dressing bag.
“So you found it,” I said.
Realizing I had already deduced the clue, George and Glenn opened the bag and we all looked into it. Among the toiletries, we found a letter addressed to James Fitzsimmons requesting a meeting in the parlor of the Villa to discuss the matter of a deadly toxin that had been developed by the writer of the letter. Apparently Fitzsimmons had been the letter writer’s boss and had aspirations of selling the toxin to the highest bidder who would likely weaponize it. The toxin caused almost instantaneous paralysis before shutting down the body’s vital organs. Death would occur in a matter of minutes. The writer wanted Fitzsimmons to destroy the toxin and begged for a meeting to convince him of this. It was simply signed Max, though I recognized the handwriting as being the same as that on the note in my bedroom.
After examining the evidence, I asked the two men if they had found notes as well. They admitted they had and let me read them. Red herrings and smart alecky comments. After reading this, we looked at each other and I suggested pooling our resources to which George and Glenn readily agreed.
“All right, we’re now a team,” I said.
Upon forming our alliance we headed down to the parlor to meet Mr. Holmes who asked if anybody had anything to share. I casually blurted the bag clue to which Mr. Holmes looked at me and said, “You’re a rather blithe young man, aren’t you?”
After unintentionally giving out the clue, the race was on. Though we were investigating a crime, it was treated more like a competition and ended up as a three way battle between The Stormy Petrels, the Mallons, and my little triumvirate. The Petrels played for keeps and were not above providing a few red herrings. The Mallons were smart and crafty, though I engaged in a little quid pro quo with Mrs. Mallon which I’ll get to in a bit.
Mr. Holmes was always available for private consultation where we could bring our discoveries and theories and he would make comments and subtle suggestions to help light our path. When we first informed Holmes about the letter we found, Glenn kept referring to the writer as a he, to which Mr. Holmes asked, “Why do you keep saying ‘he?’”.
“What do you mean?” asked Glenn.
“He means how do we know it’s a man,” I replied.
“Precisely,” said Holmes as he clasped my shoulder.
A vital clue, indeed. While not a guarantee, we did have to open our minds to the possibility that Max, if that was the real name, was a woman.
We continued to investigate. I realized that no matches or lighter were found on the corpse, though cigarettes had been discovered. No smoker would ever lack those items and there was no reason for the killer to take them. Remembering the outstretched arm, I assumed the position of the corpse and found a book of matches under the coal scuttle.
Taking them, I opened up the packet and found a scrawled message which said “Beware TR-70”. The name of the toxin had been found!!
Outside the parlor, I found a business card book on a stand and began thumbing through it and saw Mrs. Mallon watching me. When I leafed to the third page, she suddenly coughed. I looked up and saw her smiling at me, I took a hard look and found the business card for Maxine Simons—Caterer. However, “caterer” had been written in pen over a blacked out word. Reversing the card and holding it up to the light, I saw “chemist” written under it. I had the name of the killer!! I then shared with Mrs. Mallon the name of the poison out of gratitude.
My team had another consultation with Holmes where Glenn spun an amusing, but outlandish, theory that Ron Gibson was the killer or, at least involved with her. Mr. Holmes and I shared some glances and after Glenn finished his theory, Holmes simply stated, “I sense you have some misgivings about his theory.”
“One or two,” I replied.
I then finally had a chance to fill in Glenn and George on my discoveries and had a private conversation with Mr. Holmes and Mrs. Mallon while I made my deductions. When I finished, Mr. Holmes looked to Mrs. Mallon and said, “You know, I have great faith in this young man. He’s quiet, thoughtful, and observant and everything he says is based soundly on logic.”
Then we took a break and had a reading of one of Watson’s stories followed by a pop quiz. I ended up winning the quiz contest and surprised Mr. Holmes with one of my answers.
“This number is the square root of the number alluded to by Watson,” said Holmes.
“Sixteen,” I readily answered.
“Sixteen is correct!!” said Holmes with some wonderment. “Tell me, young man, how did you come up with that answer?”
“Watson mentioned the wait was like the night the two of you faced the Andaman Islander which was a reference to the case known as The Sign of Four,” I said.
Holmes smiled and nodded approvingly.
After the quiz we had afternoon tea where Ron had prepared a whole turkey and we helped ourselves to little sandwiches with a bit of homemade mustard and fixings.
The case was solved, but there was still one last item: how to unmask Maxine. There was no real proof tying her to the death and all my deductions wouldn’t hold water in court. I had a final consultation with Holmes where I told him everything I had learned, but felt I was just one step away from the total truth.
“Think of the problem of the three Moriartys. All of them were named James and were identical. How would one tell them apart?” said Mr. Holmes.
I began to see the light when he gave me one final nudge.
“You have two pieces of vital evidence. What you need is a third.”
The truth hit me like a thunderbolt. The letter on my pillow plus the letter in the bag were my pieces of evidence. What I needed was a way to get a third example of Maxine’s handwriting to connect her with the other two. Handwriting was how you’d distinguish the Moriarty boys from each other.
I expressed this problem to Glenn and George and we threw around ideas until I said, “Maybe we could get a card of some sort.”
“My son is serving over in Iraq. We could get him a Wish You Were Here card,” said George.
“Yes, and we’ll have everybody in the inn sign it!!” I exclaimed.
The three of us dashed to Mr. Holmes where I laid out the scheme.
“An excellent plan,” said Holmes.
I shook hands with Holmes and Watson and dashed to the bar area where I found Ron.
“Is there a drug store nearby?” I asked.
“Yes, just a few blocks up on Main Street,” said Ron.
“Thank you,” I said.
Then I speed walked through the front door and vaulted over the steps to the sidewalk. I then sprinted and I do mean SPRINTED to the drug store where I bought the card and repeated the process back to the Villa where I hurdled the steps once more. George later said it was the funniest thing he ever saw.
As I walked back in, I heard Mrs. Mallon’s daughter ask if there were a drug store nearby. I then politely coughed and gently waved the card. Knowing that the game was up, the Mallons signed the card and Mrs. Mallon’s daughter assisted me with finishing the job by asking Ron if there were any other people in the kitchen as Maxine was also helping to cater tonight’s dinner. Ron stepped into the kitchen and asked Maxine to step out. I told her about the card while George showed a picture of his son and Maxine signed the card.
I then led my team back to the parlor where the other guests had gathered.
“Do you have something to show me, young man?” asked Mr. Holmes.
I presented the card to him and he looked at it.
“Were there any witnesses?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Myself, (Mrs. Mallon’s daughter), George, Ron, Zach, and Josh all witnessed this.”
“Very good,” said Mr. Holmes. “This case has been solved.”
Then we proceeded to have a debate about what to do with the killer. Her motivations were understandable. Fitzsimmons would have unleashed a plague of death on the world. He had committed no crime, but would have had the blood of countless people on his hands had he sold the toxin. Maxine shouldn’t have killed him, but her act had thwarted a much greater evil so I pleaded for leniency. Holmes said he would consider the situation.
Glenn gave me a hug and then bought George and myself a drink at the bar. Mr. Holmes approached me privately and asked me to present the denouement after dinner.
A splendid dinner was served and after we were all satiated, Mr. Holmes signaled for silence, indicated my two partners and then clasped my shoulder acknowledging our victory. He then presented me with the nutcracker as a trophy for the case. Then he brought Ron, his two sons, and Maxine into the dining room where I presented my findings.
I walked the group through the maze of the case, casually keeping an eye on Maxine who whitened with every revelation. When I explained about the card we had purchased and how the killer had sealed her fate by signing it, I calmly looked at Maxine and said, “Isn’t that right, Maxine?”
At that point, Maxine begged for mercy and Holmes gently led her out of the dining room while discussion resumed. Shortly afterwards, he returned and he and Watson made their final farewells and exited.
And that was how I helped Mr. Holmes solve The Adventure of the Nameless Corpse. I would later learn that Holmes did show mercy to Maxine, letting her leave the country. George did send the card to his son with an incredible story. I had made new friends and had a reminder of the case forever gracing my mantle. And the next morning, I enjoyed some of Ron’s incredible cream cheese stuffed French Toast.
Little did I know that I would return to the Villa a few years later with my trusted friend, Mat O’Donnell, to engage in a peculiar investigation centering around a crying woman.
King Lear by William Shakespeare March 24th-April 16th, 2022
Thursdays -Saturday@ 7:30pm; Sun April 3rd@ 2:00pm; Sun April 10th@ 2pm Virtual Presentation available beginning April 15th@ 7:30 ASL Interpreted Performance-Friday, April 8th@ 7:30
About King Lear
BLUEBARN takes on Shakespeare’s most intimate embrace of heights and depths of human experience with King Lear. When an aging monarch decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, chaos reigns, madness is ascendant and love’s labours come to nothing.
“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools”
About the Production
BLUEBARN’s production of King Lear features performances by Thomas Becker, Thomas Gjere, Delaney Jackson, Ryan Kathman, Melissa King, Matthew Kischer, Ashley Kobza, Mike Leaman, Josh Peyton, Paul Shaw, Brent Spencer, Shane Staiger, Michael Trunta, and Fred Vogel.
Directed by Jill Anderson. Dramaturgy by D. Scott Glasser. Set and lighting design by Steven Williams. Costume design by Jill Anderson and Katherine Neary. Fight Choreography by Terry Doughman. Special Effects/Fight Assist by Wes Clowers. Music by Vince Krysl. Sound design by Bill Kirby. Properties by Amy Reiner. Scenic Arts by Craig Lee.
Seating & Tickets
Attendance is free to TruBLU members and $35 for General Admission tickets. Educator/Healthcare Workers/Military Personnel tickets are available for $30. To reserve and/or purchase your tickets, visit our website, www.bluebarn.org/tickets, or call the box office at (402) 345-1576, M-F between 10am-4pm. Covid vaccination required to attend any show at the BLUEBARN Theatre. You will be asked to show your vaccination card at the box office when you check-in. Masks will be required for King Lear.
King Lear is generously sponsored by:
Immanuel Communities James and Susan Tracy Charitable Foundation Dr. Bill Hutson Nebraska Arts Council Nebraska Cultural Endowment
BLUEBARN Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.
BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to announce Season 33: EMBRACE.
After so much separation and isolation, we are thrilled to welcome you back to a full season of transformative live theatre. Season 33 embraces the very best of original, contemporary, and classic work, exactly what you’ve come to expect from Omaha’s Premier Professional Theatre. Our new season also fully embraces our commitment to creating a thriving, equitable arts scene in Omaha. Join us in embracing compassion and justice, join us in embracing extraordinary art and the artists who create it, join us in embracing a stronger sense of community.
Returning TRUBLU members can renew their membership today. Check your email for details, or call the box office at (402) 345-1576.
Morgan and Angus are farmers living their quiet lives until Miles enters the scene. Miles is an actor wanting to study them in order to write a play about farming. One night Miles overhears Morgan telling Angus the story of the Drawer Boy which she includes in the play. When Angus, who can only remember the here and now due to a head injury, sees the play, he begins to remember his past. . .and the painful truths hiding there. This is The Drawer Boy and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
This is what theatre is all about. A brilliant story shaped by a genius storyteller and told by 3 masters of their crafts.
Michael Healey’s script contains the finest usage of voice I have ever heard in a tale. The play has to be seen to understand what I mean, but most plays use the characters to tell the story. Healey uses the characters to create the story. It’s almost like there was no plot, but the three actors were simply conjuring the entire play out of thin air and it had me enraptured and on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. The storytelling is meticulous and well-constructed as it builds up steadily and sturdily to a climactic peak and then slowly and surely descends to an epic resolution.
Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek’s direction is the sharpest I’ve seen this season. His creation of this world is akin to a Bob Ross painting. It seems so simple and rudimentary at first, but he constantly adds subtle colors and details until a beautiful masterpiece leaps from the canvas. The staging is absolutely impeccable with the story taking place in a dilapidated farmhouse (another Jim Othuse winner) and he managed to make it feel small and enclosed while still keeping his performers socially distanced. His control of the pacing was sure and confident and he guided his 3 actors to sterling, immaculate performances.
Olivia Howard has a naturalness and believability to her acting that is astonishing to behold. Her Miles is a free-spirited, experimental actor with a genuinely good heart and her performance had me hooked from the word go. Howard’s storytelling just rings with pure honesty. Some of my favorite moments were her trying to get into the mind of a cow as she struck bovine poses and mooed as well as her telling the story of Hamlet in the first person to an enthralled Angus. I also admired her drive and determination to helping Angus achieve peace by helping him to remember his forgotten past.
Erik Quam brings a delightful childlike innocence to Angus. His body language always suggests that he is trying to remember something with the way he stares at a patch on the wall where something once hung or the way he parses out the sky to count stars which clearly brings him joy. Quam convincingly portrays Angus’ affliction as he visibly winces and groans with the onset of debilitating headaches and is constantly surprised by seeing Miles anew after she briefly leaves his sightline. His joy and agony as he slowly remembers his hidden past is equal parts wonderful, tragic and right on the money.
When I think of a farmer, Mark Thornburg’s portrayal of Morgan is the image that pops into my head. Thornburg has a terrific laconic drawl to his delivery and a methodic lope to his movements. His deep bass voice is perfect for narration especially with his telling of the stories of the Drawer Boy. And his voice captures amazing nuance. Morgan has tight control over his emotions and its just little tonal changes Thornburg makes to show when Morgan is happy or when he’s starting to lose his cool. And Thornburg will make your heart shatter when you learn of the sacrifices Morgan has made to aid his friend.
Aside from his stellar farmhouse, Jim Othuse’s lights flesh out the play with sweet transitions from day to night and back again. He also uses the lights to match the show’s emotions. Yellow and bright for fun and happy moments. Blue for sad and somber moments. Black for moments of bitterness. John Gibilisco’s sounds help create the countryside with the tweeting of birds and the roar of a tractor. J. Isaiah Smith has composed a score that sent me to another world and his use of piano and keyboard sent chills through me. Lindsay Pape’s costumes breathed life into the characters with the simple and poor clothing of the farmers to the 70s threads worn by Miles. The properties of Darin Kuehler and Greg Combs gave the farmhouse a long, lived-in quality with its supplies and knick-knacks.
If you appreciate the art of storytelling then this is the play for you. It’s guaranteed to take you on an emotional roller coaster and make you appreciate the treasure of true friendship.
The Drawer Boy runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 2. Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets begin at $36 and can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by calling 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com. The show is also available for streaming at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/ocp. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.
The Omaha Community Playhouse is holding auditions for the upcoming staged reading of Book of Will on Sunday, Jan 20 and Monday, Jan 21 at 7pm at OCP. The staged reading is part of OCP’s Alternative Programming Series.
Production: Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson
Show Date: February 25, 2019
Theatre: Omaha Community Playhouse (Howard Drew Theatre)
Rehearsals: To be determined once show is cast.
Description: Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, but without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays forever! After the death of their friend and mentor, the two actors are determined to compile the First Folio and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg, and band together to get it done.
Director: Marie Amthor Schuett
Auditions: 7pm on Jan 20 and 21 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)
Those auditioning should enter through the west “Stage Door” entrance and proceed to the check-in table.
Roles: Ed Knight, Isaac Jaggard, Elizabeth Condell, Emilia Bassano, Lanier, Fruit Seller, Marcellus, Alice, Susannah, Shakespeare, Ralph Crane, Barman, Compositor, Francisco, Henry Condell, Richard Burbage, William Jaggard, John Heminges, Rebecca Heminges, Anne Hathaway, Ben Jonson, Barman 2, Dering, Bernardo, Marcu, Boy Hamlet, Crier, Horatio
Notes: Actors only need to attend of of the audition dates to be considered for a role. Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script provided at auditions. If special accommodations are needed, please contact OCP prior to auditions.
Please Bring: All contact information, personal schedules, and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form. To expedite the check-in process, please bring physical copy of a headshot or recent photo of yourself. Please note, photos will not be returned.
Contact: For more information, contact Breanna Carodine, firstname.lastname@example.org, at 402-553-4890, ext. 164.