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Let's Hear It From The Girls! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 20 June 2013 18:20

If your instant visualization of a jazz musician is a middle-aged gentleman, possibly with a receding hairline, a slightly wrinkled face and a constantly tapping toe, visualize again!

Bria Skonberg at the 2013 Elkhart (IN) Jazz FestivalNothing could be farther from the reality of two of the most talented jazz musicians being featured in the Elkhart Jazz Festival 2013.

Both are young, very talented, very attractive and very well-versed on the subject of jazz — past and present — and undoubtedly will play an important part in its future.

The only difference is that Bria Skonberg plays trumpet and flugelhorn and Ariel Pocock can be found at the piano.

Both will be familiar to regular visitors at past EJFs.

Bria came to the 2009 EJF as a member of the west coast sextet Mighty Aphrodite, an all-girl group which was a definite plus that year. She not only played but sang. Today she leads the Bria Skonberg Quintet and has changed her “coast of residence” to New York City.

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 June 2013 21:29
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Musical Triple-Header For Mom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 12 May 2017 19:36

Sunday being that special day when all good offspring do something nice for mom, I offer three choices of solid family fare, each on stage nightly, plus a couple of matinees. though Sunday.

The price of tickets is wide-spread but even the most expensive falls way below the current prince in a larger market.

Beginning at the top, look at the national tour of “Motown: The Musical,” which says it all in the title. Playing in the marvelous Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, “Motown” begs to be the “true” story of Berry Gordy, founder and ruler of the record label that took its name, in a condensed version, from the nickname — Motor City — of Gordy’s home town.

Who cares if the theatrical version is slanted obviously to making Gordy the “good guy” (it’s based on his autobiography, he wrote the script and is a producer). The important thing is that, in two and a half hours, it brings back an era and a musical genre that molded at least one generation.

I dare you to sit still when The Temptations, the Supremes, the Commodores, the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Marvellettes, the Contours and the Jackson 5 hit the stage. Ditto for Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. All are incredibly close to the sound of the originals.

Even if you cannot name each of the 59-plus songs, some in part and some complete, recalled in the solid vocals, you won’t be able to sit still — and feel free to sing along!

Most of the 28 cast members play several roles, but Gordy (Chester Gregory), Ross (Allison Semmes), Gaye (Jarran Muse) and Robinson (David Kaverman) never miss a beat or a ceiling-shattering note!

Have to admit my favorite was young Michael Jackson (Raymond Davis Jr./CJ Wright). The boys alternate, so I don’t know which one played the burgeoning superstar the night we went (it should be noted!), but from the talent level of the adult cast, both must be outstanding!

For show times and ticket information call (269) 387-2300 or (800) 228-9858.

To borrow from The Supremes: the next show, like “Motown,” ends on Sunday.

It is “Singin’ in the Rain,” offered at the Lerner Theatre by Premier Arts.

Can’t comment on the show as I haven’t seen this production yet but will say that the film, and just about all the stage productions I have seen (and I can’t count how many) have proven to be extremely entertaining and a great way to spend several hours with a totally family-friendly musical.

The ticket price is right, so it’s not too costly to take a chance. Sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

For show times and reservations, call (574) 293-4469 or visit This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The final part of the musical trilogy is the South Bend Civic Theatre production of “Big River,” based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with music by the late “King of the Road” Roger Miller.

The “Muddy Water” will be flowing through May 21, with Huck, Jim, the Duke, the King and Tom Sawyer dancing and singing in the SBCT Wilson Auditorium.

Another musical aimed at the enjoyment of the whole family. For additional information, check my review, also on this website!

Last Updated on Friday, 12 May 2017 19:41
 
Sondheim + WW = Musical Theatre Magic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 11 August 2017 16:25

Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theater has led the pack this summer with a lineup of widely varied productions, all beautifully done.

Now, in the final show of the scheduled season, it seems it has saved the best for last.

Into the Woods  WagonWheel Theatre Warsaw INIt is no secret that my very favorite musical theater composer is Stephen Sondheim. I would, in fact, go miles to see/hear anything with which he is connected..

I have a Top Five list of favorites, at the very top of which (or, at least , in the number two spot) is ‘Into The Woods,” Sondheim’s version of fractured fairy tales, a collaboration with playwright James Lapine.

Not only is it a brilliant blending of familiar childhood favorites, but it is filled with a wildly weird assortment of characters, melodies that will not leave your head and a solid list of words — or phrases — to live by.

It also echoes everyone’s hope of getting through life’s darkest woods to find a happily ever after.

Being so committed to this piece, I approach every production with hope and fear. Hope that it will at least come close to my expectations and fear that it will not.

Into the Woods  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INThe minute we walked into the Wagon Wheel Theatre Wednesday evening, I knew the next few hours would exceed my highest expectations.

And I was right!!

Even before the music begins (and director Thomas N. Sterling and his always-excellent orchestra more than do justice to the intricate score), even before that, there is the jaw-dropping set by Ray Zupp (“Young Frankenstein,” “The Addams Family”) that leaves you standing in the lobby, staring over the seats and anxious to get a closer look.

I would say you have to see it to believe it, but…well, you really do! And that’s just the beginning!

The orchestra goes into the pit, announcements are made and the lights finally fade, to rise again on the woods and the inhabitants of its outlying areas:

Jack (Blake Bojewski), his Mother (Kathy Haskins) and Milky White (Grace Robinson), his cow;

Little Red Riding Hood (Allsun O’Malley) and her Granny (Jennifer Dow);

Into thr Eoofd  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INCinderella (Sarah Ariel Brown), her stepmother (Leanne Antonio), her stepsisters Lucinda (Dow) and Florinda (Bailee Enderbrock), her father (Mike Yocum) and her Prince (Ben Ahlers);

the Baker (Riley McFarland) and his wife (Kelly Britt);

Rapunzel (Kira Ziringer) and her Prince (Michael Bradley);

plus assorted others — the Witch (Kira Lace Hawkins), the Big Bad Wolf (Ahlers), the Narrator/Mysterious Man (Brett Frazier) and the Steward (Michael Pacholski).

And no one who goes into the woods, comes out of the woods unchanged (or alive).

Put them all together and they make a formidable vocal ensemble, and ensemble work a la Sondheim is nothing if not formidable. Not only do they make it sound easy but, in spite of overlapping melodic lines and lyrics, quite easily understood.

Each of the major players has his/her share of solos and each delivers beautifully! Kira Lace Hawkins (who I now believe can do anything!) is completely unfazed by her opening speed-singing rap, her poignant duet with Ziringer and, of course, her show-stopping “The Last midnight.” And she definitely knows how to make an exit!!!

Britt is a pleasure to listen to in solo or duet and creates a no-nonsense wife who seeks motherhood but, yearning for a bit of romance, finds more than she bargained for.

O’Malley is a delightful Red Riding Hood, skipping into and around danger with naïve abandon., never mind that the Big Bad Wolf is on her trail. As the seductive Wolf, Ahlers sheds his fur to become Cinderella’s Prince and, with Bradley, shares my favorite double duet, “Agony,” which hilariously nails the shifting fancies of princes.

Into the Woods  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INBojewski and McFarland have wonderfully rich and strong baritone voices that audibly mark their changes from awkward young men to adult males, determined to come out of the woods on the right paths. It is easy to empathize with their journeys.

Frazier carries the strong narrative and shifts personas slickly to add to the overall mystery and Kathy Hawkins proves that, in or out of the woods, mothers are the same.

Must give applause to Robison. Never seen out of costume, and without singing a note, she gives a great deal of character and personality to long-suffering Milky White.

As always, Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s costumes are the icing on this cake, especially in facilitating the Witch’s transformation. Crowning Hollenbeck’s costumes are Dow’s varied (and secure) wigs, which here help the Witch regain youth and beauty.

“Into The Woods” is directed and choreographed (and the last includes a lot more than dancing here) by WW artistic director Scott Michaels, who continues to set the standards so high they would stop a lesser artist. Michaels just sails right over them!

Behind him — or beside him — are lighting designer Patrick Chan, who seems able to create fantasy with the flick of a switch,; sound designer Chris Pollnow, who supplies the balance between singers and instrumentalists; technical director Jacki Anderson, who makes sure all circuits are clear; production manager Mike Higgins and production stage manager Nick Voight, who is in charge when the lights go up.

Along with their respective crews, they create magic every two weeks of the summer in Warsaw.

Do not miss this one!!

INTO THE WOODS plays through Aug. 19 in the theater at 2517 E. Center St. in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 August 2017 16:44
 
Tuskegee Airmen Face Frustrating Battles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 13 August 2017 20:39

An important part of United States history, frequently neglected in recounting “the big picture,” is the part played by the Tuskegee Airmen in the ultimately successful conclusion of World War II.

A small segment of this part is the subject of “Black Eagles,” a play by Leslie Lee directed by Deb Swerman, which opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Barbara K. Warner Studio Theatre.

Black Eagles  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreUsing the flashback format as the framework for the story (based on fact) of dedicated airmen who studied and trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee University Air Field, the action begins in Washington, D.C. at a 1989 reunion of pilots from the 99th Fighter Squadron.

After a little backslapping and a few ”can you top this” reminiscences by older veterans Clark (Rev. Terrell A/ Jackson), Nolan (Charles Payne) and Leon (David Smith), it shifts to 1944 Italy where their counterparts, the same-but-young — and understandably frustrated — pilots are stationed and chomping at the bit to see some real killing action.

Their assignments as pursuit pilots, escorting white bomber crews to their targets with orders to stay with them no matter what, leave the young airmen ready to undertake any challenge in order to see a bit of actual action.

Exacerbating this is the fact that the Army Air Corps, as indeed all the military forces, was segregated. What was true at home was true in the service and, in spite of several declarations made by the pilots, nothing would change in their immediate future.

As they wait for news of their next assignment, the six pilots — Clarke (SSG. SSteven Wilbur), Roscoe (Ben Little), Nolan (Eric Ways), Buddy (Anderson Chimutu), Leon (Kenneth Taylor) and Othel (DeLorean Gammage) — share hopes, dreams and realities. Since this is a diverse group, the friction level also rises, even about such obviously unrealistic topics as which one is Lena Horne’s boyfriend.

Black Eagles  South Bend (IN) Civic TheaatreWhen the opportunity to become fighter pilots and each gets a “kill,” their enthusiasm is understandable. The brief look at the relationship between Buddy and Pia (Mahaffa Tompson), an Italian girl, seems extraneous.

The script does not offer many looks at why each man became a pilot or where he hopes to go when the war is over or what his family is like. What little backstory there is is supplied by the actors themselves, some SBCT veterans and some newcomers.

All acquit themselves well with special applause to Little who not only plays Roscoe but Julius, the pilot’s ventriloquism dummy and the focus of much of the play’s humor.

The awkward atmosphere that arises when two white pilots, Dave (Cam Matteson) and Roy (Miller), drop in to meet the men they have heard so much about, eventually vanishes incrementally with each gulp as they share a bottle of cognac.

It is a difficult scene to make real, especially in the close quarters of the black box theater, and it is to the credit of the company that it feels very natural.

The entrance of General Lucas (Curt Goodrich) with a paper listing the rules of segregation definitely is a major disruption. In spite of his command, the black pilots refuse to sign. The white pilots silently slip away.

Black Eagles  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreNothing had changed and would not begin to for several years until President Truman signed an executive order aimed at ending military segregation.

But, as the Tuskegee airmen must have known, that was only the beginning. It may have become better in the military but the struggle for equality was barely begun in 1944 and continues today.

The necessity of learning and relearning this lesson is underscored by the trials of these Black Eagles.

BLACK EAGLES plays through Aug. 20 in the studio theater at 215W. Madison St. , South Bend. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112.

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 August 2017 21:00
 
Season Starts With Music And Dance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:14

In anticipation of the upcoming season — and filling the gap between Halloween and Thanksgiving — Elkhart Civic Theatre presents a holiday classic,White Christmas  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol IN “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” Friday through Nov. 19 at the Bristol Opera House. The feel-good script is filled with Berlin classics featuring the title tune as well as “Count Your Blessings,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano” and “How Deep Is The Ocean.” It tells the story of two singing sisters, the duo of entertaining ex-soldiers who love them and the G.I.’s former commanding officer who needs all their help to save his New England lodge. Let the theatrical version of the ever-popular 1954 film classic light up your holidays. For show dates and times, call (574) 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.org.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:36
 
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