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
'Addams Family' To Visit Kalamazoo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 21 October 2013 19:24

The Addams Family Miller Auditorium Kalamazoo MI“They’re creepy and they’re kooky,

            Mysterious and spooky,

They’re altogether ooky,

            The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum

            When people come to see-um,

They really are a scre-um

            The Addams Family.

   (neat, sweet, petite)

So get a witch’s shawl on,

            A broomstick you can crawl on

We’re going to make a call on

            The Addams Family!”

The familiar theme for the TV version of Charles Addams’ famous cartoons in The New Yorker magazine is one song you won’t hear in composer Andrew Lippa’s score for the touring production set to play Tuesday and Wednesday evening in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.

All the Addamses — Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, Uncle Fester and even Lurch — will be ready to greet visitors at 7:30 pm. Also invited for dinner are Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas Beinenke and his parents, Mal and Alice.

Word is this will be a ”spooktacular” meal. It seems everyone has something to hide and more than a few skeletons in their closets.

Book for this new Addams Family adventure is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice who also are responsible for “Jersey Boys.”

Tickets range from $35 to $58. For reservations, call (269) 387-2300 or visit

Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 19:46
South Bend Civic's 'The Clean House' Shines PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 13 March 2014 14:35

There are times in theater when it all comes together; when script, cast, director, set, costumes, lights, etc. combine to create what is a perfect — or nearly perfect — production.

The Clean House South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThese times are few and far between —and even fewer and farther in what is somewhat condescendingly referred to as an “amateur production.” There is, however, nothing remotely amateur in any area about the current South Bend Civic Theatre production of Sarah Ruhl’s “The Clean House,” on stage through March 23 in the Warner Studio Theatre.

It is extremely difficult to slip this play, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist, into a single category. It is full of humor and heart-wrenching drama, a love story on many levels and definitely a compendium of complex relationships, with emotions and situations that change in the flick of a dust cloth or a punch line.

The Clean House South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreIf the situations seem at first distorted and characters more at home in a theater of the absurd, wait…but not for long. Within a few pages of dialogue or a few scenes, everything seems to be absolutely as it should be.

It certainly helps that director Jim Geisel has collected the perfect quintet of players, and that he has led them through Ruhl’s whimsical exercise of love, loss and house cleaning with a deft touch.

At the center of the house — set in “a metaphysical Connecticut“— is Matilde, a Brazilian girl imported by married doctors Charles and Lane as a housekeeper. The only problem is, Matilde would rather make up jokes than clean. Lane’s sister Virginia, however, loves to clean. She offers to clean the house, allowing Mathilde time to work on her perfect joke.

Needless to say, Lane is not happy with this arrangement. But it is the least of her worries when Charles announces he has fallen instantly in love with a patient, an older woman with cancer on whom he has performed a mastectomy, and he is leaving.

The Clean House  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe ensemble cast works seamlessly together, allowing the flow of the dialogue and the shifting positions of the characters to happen naturally.  This is no easy job for Matilde. As played by the very talented April Sellers, she is the catalyst and the solution and delivers the jokes — in Portugese (the language of Brazil) — so easily it is difficult to believe that she is not a native.

The sisters, played by Lucinda Moriarty as Lane and Mary Ann Moran as Virginia, are as unlike — and as alike — as many siblings. They are by turn combative and supportive and, like Sellers, give their characters real depth beneath the frequently abrupt dialogue.

Bill Svelmoe, a veteran of many shows this year, delivers a wonderfully empathetic Charles. He tries valiantly to make his wife understand his instant and irrevocable connection with Ana and, in the end, goes on a seemingly ridiculous quest for a cure. Marybeth Saunders makes a lovely Ana, who understands everyone’s emotions — and Mathilde’s language — and has the strength to deal with the inevitable in her own way

The Clean House South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe twists and turns in this house, seemingly outrageous at times and then seem so obviously right that you are drawn into their orbit. The cast gives special thanks to Ana Maria Goulet for her assistance with the language which definitely sounds as if they all knew what they were saying.

The action, which moves in several locations, is played on a basic all-white set with all-white furniture and a sometimes-moonlit balcony upstage center. David Chudzynski’s set design is elegantly graceful and completely functional and whatever it is supposed to be. The shifting actions — and emotions — are underscored and heightened by Lloyd Whitmer’s lighting design. The costuming is appropriate to the characters and situations.

This is a “don’t miss” production and seating is definitely limited. You may not die laughing, as Mathilde is certain her parents did, but you will admit that it could happen — and it’s a lovely way to go.

THE CLEAN HOUSE plays at 7:30 (yes, 7:30) p.m. today through Saturday and March 19-22 and 2 p.m. March 16 in the Warner Studio Theatre at 403 N. Main St., South Bend. For reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.or

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:26
Familiar Road Not Easily Traveled In 'The Wiz' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 19:26

In 1975, Broadway welcomed a new version of one of the most popular movie musicals of all time, “The Wizard of Oz.”

The Wiz  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreTitled “The Wiz” it offered music and lyric by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown. Like the 1939 movie, it was taken from L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Unlike the M-G-M film, however, it featured an all African-American cast and a score that definitely reflected its designation as a “super soul musical.”

After a shaky start, the 1975 production garnered eight Tony Award nominations and won seven, all in major categories, and played for more than 1,500 performances.

In 1984, a revival played for only 13.

On Friday evening South Bend Civic Theatre opened its production of “The Wiz.” Unfortunately, it is more ’84 than ’75.

In spite of a cast that boasted some excellent vocal talent, the voices were overpowered almost consistently by the high decibel level set for the recorded score, an electronic hazard with which the hard-working company should not have to deal.

The Wiz  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatrePacing, until the arrival of the Wicked Witch, aka Evillene, at the beginning of Act 2, was slow. Even the arrival of Dorothy’s friends-in-need — Scarecrow (Brandon Harper), Tinman (Pierre Cooks) and Lion (Jason Johnson) — did little to energize the proceedings.

All three work hard but are undone by the unforgiving acoustics of the cavernous Wilson Mainstage Theatre. Their solo efforts are appreciated but mostly unintelligible. Ditto the ensemble work, the exception being “Ease On Down the Road.” “The Wiz” answer to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” is an up-tempo traveling song with a contagious beat which the quartet delivers with increasing gusto, and which features Cooks’ tap break.

The Wiz  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreFortunately, their costumes — and the sometimes-wild outfits sported by the various witches and Ozians — add spice (and lots of glitter)  to the proceedings.

A highlight of Act 1 is the Tornado, danced with whirling abandon by Jordian Cooper. Toto, brown and white and stuffed solidly, is tossed away early on and never seen again.

SBCT veteran Laurisa LeSure works hard as Addaperle, Good Witch of the South, who has trouble landing her spells, and the aforementioned Evillene (Jasmine Dennie) is a real show-stopper demanding of her quavering underlings “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.”

As Dorothy, Makeda Grier has a strong, clear voice and handled her extensive vocal assignments with power. She would be able to do much more if she were not fighting the instrumentation level.

Quinton McMutuary begins as Uncle Henry and then plays the Wizard. He has a strong voice but there is very little magic in his stoic portrayal. Banitha Vinscon as Glinda arrives on a familiar balcony (see “The Clean House”) amidst a shower of stars (some of David Chudzynski’s lighting effects are fairly spectacular) and her “Believe in Yourself” solidly reinforces the show’s unchanging message.

The Wiz South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreDorothy’s final “Home” is the best known “single,” and Grier sends it out with strength and clarity. No small feat after a trip to the Emerald City. Finally, clicking together her silver slippers (no Red Shoes here), she returns to Kansas.

The way to Oz is strewn with the bodies of crew members moving a double stair open and shut, up and down, and all around the stage. There is no doubt it is a necessary set piece but it rumbles disconcertingly and breaks whatever mood the actors have been able to establish. The same goes for the giant hanging flat which squeeks and sways annoyingly.

Guest director Chris Carter has, according to his program bio, a wealth of experience as an actor/director/choreographer in plays and musicals. Sadly, it is not evidenced in this production.

“THE WIZ’ plays through April 13 in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium in the theater at 403 N. Main St. South Bend. For performance times and reservations call 234-1112 or online at

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 20:39
'Hair' Plays Tonight At Miller Auditorium PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 15:30

The Age of Aquarius, it seems, is always with us.

hair  tour Miller Auditorium  Kalamazo MichiganOriginally on Broadway in 1968, the James Rado/Gerome Ragni/Galt MacDermott musical appropriately titled "Hair," returned to the Great White Way in 1977 and 2009, winning numerous awards with each incarnation. The most recent is now on tour, bringing its look at the movement of the '60s and '70s that changed America forever to theaters across the country. From its score, many songs have joined the list of hits on the Great American Songbook. Among these "Let The Sun Shine In," "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine" and the title tune.

Claude and his peace-loving friends will be on stage in (and out) of appropriate hippie attire at 7:30 p.m. today in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University. For tickets, call (800) 228-99858 or (269) 387-2300 or visit

For those who were "there" — and those who were not— its one way to review past mistakes and keep them from repeating themselves.  

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 03:38
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