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
Strong Performances, Unsettling Play PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 18:43

How do you describe a play about sexual role playing and domination as “A sexy comedy”?

Venus in Fur South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreObviously, director and cast must make sure that every humorous moment is played out — obviously. Which is just what the cast of two — Anthony Panzica and Libby Unruh — and directors Rick Ellis (primary) and Steve Gergacz (assistant) have done with “Venus in Fur,” the current production of South Bend Civic Theatre.

It is based on the 1870 novel of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. No surprise that the term “masochism” came from the author’s name. No surprise that masochism is a major plot line in “Venus.” So, if being hurt and humiliated by a sex partner is appealing, no surprise that this is the play for you.

Material aside, the performances by Panzica and Unruh are solid, with both handling the double sides of each role distinctly and believably, however uncomfortable that might be.

It is not everyone’s material.

The tendency to shift in your seat is a reaction to watching a growing relationship that is increasingly intimate and certainly not what is generally considered “normal,” but given the success of the “Fifty Shades” books and movie, that “normal” might be changing.

As the auditioning actress and the demanding director gradually reverse roles, the accompanying dialogue and actions are, for wont of a better comparison, like watching a small train wreck or the approach of a deadly viper.

Venus in Fur  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreIt’s definitely difficult to look away.

Never mind trying to figure out just who this actress really is — her name, Vanda , is too close to that of the play’s leading character, Wanda — and she comes prepared with an entire script memorized and appropriate costumes for both characters, which she pulls from her large bag a la Mary Poppins.

As thunder and lightning rage outside the audition room, the man and woman circle, advance and retreat, with control of the situation moving from one to the other and, inevitably, to Vanda.

Who likes what and where will the power eventually reside? The answers to those questions become increasingly apparent with only the origin of the mysterious Vanda left to the individual imagination.

In addition to her multi-level performance, Unruh deserves applause for the ease with which she handles her costumes (from all-enclosing to hardly there) and the killer heels on which she stakes her claim to the role and the director.

Panzica has an even more difficult task. To make the eventual submission of the initially commanding director believable and even understandable. It is a task he handles well.

There is no intermission in the play and actually I could not think of a spot where a division would be doable without instantly destroying the intense atmosphere the actors create.

Jill Flora Hillman’s scenic design sets the right atmosphere, augmented by the lighting and sound designs.

“Venus in Fur” is not, in the long run, an easy play to watch. Like other modern scripts, however, it allows a look at a side of human nature that may be more familiar than most would like to admit.

“VENUS IN FUR” plays today through Sunday and April 24-26 in the SBCT Warner Theatre, 4303 N. Main St., South Bend. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 19:04
Williams' Classic Still A Long Haul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 16:23

There is no doubt that Thomas Lanier Williams III (aka Tennessee) is one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century, a designation he shares with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof South Bend (IN) CivicThe question then is why are his plays (and theirs) regularly ignored by America’s community theaters?

There are answers, several of which are apparent in the South Bend Civic Theatre production of Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” which opened Friday evening in the Wilson Theatre.

The most obvious answer is the length of his plays, two hours and 45 minutes (including two intermissions). This, plus the playwright’s love of single character dialogues, which become monologues and can drone on and on, defeating their purpose of creating back story/character depth.

The other answers include unpleasant characters who take delight in ravaging each other to the point of extinction. Nonetheless, watching the adversarial attacks and retreats, victories and defeats, is like watching a train wreck. It’s difficult to look away.

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe Pollitt family would seem to have several reasons to celebrate. It is the 65th birthday of the pater familias, Big Daddy Pollitt (Max Sala), just returned from a medical clinic which gave him a clean bill of health. He and Big Mama (Lucinda Gary Moriarty) are the only ones who don’t know he really is dying of cancer.

Son Gooper (Steven Matthew Cole) and Gooper’s ever-pregnant wife Mae (Alice Nagy) have brought their four little “no-neck monsters” to celebrate and secure their position in Big Daddy’s will. It is obvious, however, that he prefers son Brick (Bill Svelmoe), a former college football star and TV sports reporter favoring an injured ankle and sinking quickly and deliberately into alcoholism.

Determined to prevent her in-laws from taking the inheritance is Brick’s wife, Margaret (Patty Bird), aka Maggie the Cat. Her uphill battle is exacerbated by the fact that her husband will have nothing to do with her, the reason for which gradually is revealed.

In all fairness to Ms. Bird, Maggie’s first entrance opens the play and, for what seems like more than a half hour, she talks —to herself, to Brick and, via shouts, to other family members — without much interruption. It is a daunting assignment. No lines were dropped on opening night but, for the most part, it was difficult to hear or understand, allowing attention to wander early on.

The same assignment falls to Big Daddy who goes from haranguing Brick about his lack of interest in Maggie and his possible inheritance to thundering epithets when a drunken Brick lets slip the real diagnosis. Sala has more success with his diatribes, shifting the emotion without losing the words and relishing his ownership of “28 acres of the richest land this side of the Valley Nile.”

Car On a Hot Tin Roof  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreExcept for his provoked outburst to Big Daddy, Svelmoe primarily lay on the lounge with his drink (or hopped on his crutch for a refill) and took little notice of the anger swirling around him, brooding over the death (and sexuality) of his long-time buddy Skipper.

The “no-neck monsters” are appropriately bratty, Cole and Nagy whine, cajole and berate depending on the object of their conversation. Moriarty clings and cries and refuses to let go of her husband or son.

Costuming is nondescript, with Maggie’s dress evoking ladies-of-the-evening couture while the rest of the family seemed to feel the party was “come as you are.”

All this is played out, according to the concept of director Chuck Gessert, on a circular round stage, raked to an extreme degree that must guarantee all the players really toned calf muscles and does not help with the theater’s on-going acoustical problem. The furniture, while securely fastened, always seemed about to tip over. According to a program note, this is to “reflect the inner struggles of the characters.”

It more seemed to reflect the line delivered by Dr. Baugh (Richard Pfeil) when about to tell Big Mama the fatal news, “This is gonna be painful.”

“CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF” plays through May 24 in the Wilson Theatre, 215 W.Madison, South Bend. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 May 2015 16:57
'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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