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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
 
Dark Disney Opens The Barn Season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 17:30

When the name of Walt Disney is a part of a musical production’s title, one can understandably assume that this will be a family affair, audience-wise.

That assumption would be questionable when referring to the Disney musical which opened the 71st season of summer stock at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI Tuesday evening.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIIt is “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” based on the 1831 novel by French author Victor Hugo and the 1996 film from American animator Walt Disney.

There have been literally countless films, silent and otherwise, plus TV and radio productions and theatrical creations of the story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and his love for Emeralda, the gypsy dancing girl.

Being in the public domain, the Hugo novel has been twisted and turned without having to stick strictly to its cast and plot. The same is true of the musical, with music by Disney regular Alan Mencken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Peter Farnell.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIDo not look here for the young lovers to go off together into the Parisian sunset or the much-maligned bell ringer to find a happy melody.

This “Hunchback” is the consistently darkest of any Disney-named production. All Disney films have at least one deadly dark moment: The wicked queen in “Snow White,” the death of Bambi’s mother, the cruel stepmother in “Cinderella” and a multitude of villains in “Pinocchio,” to name just a few.

Most villains, however, receive their just rewards while the downtrodden hero/heroine rides off with his/her companion of choice.

Do not look for that to happen here. Just note that there is no joy in Mudville for this much-told tale which is unfortunate as, given every aspect of the production, it is one of the best complete packages on The Barn stage in several seasons.

A very solid cast is headed by one of the company’s favorite recurring guest star, Robert Newman, in the definitely dark role of Dom Claude Frollo, a churchman who cannot resist the charms of Esmeralda (Samantha Rickard) and literally abandons everything sacred in his attempt to possess her, including framing her for a criminal offense.

Esmeralda’s kind gestures have earned her the silent love of Quasimodo (Jonnie Carpathios) and the not-so-silent cavalier affection of Captain Phoebus de Martin (Jamey Grisham), an officer in the cathedral guard.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre August MIAdd to this Frollo’s declared hatred for the gypsies, led by Clopin Trouillefou (Eric Parker). He swears to eliminate them all after the Feast of Fools, the one day they are allowed in the city. (That did kind of sound familiar.)

Adding to the downward path is Frollo’s care for Quasimodo who, in this scenario, is his unwanted nephew. Checking back it became apparent that these characters are mixed and matched and dispatched or not depending upon which scenario you read or see or hear.

Never mind. Enough to say that any humor from the Disney film has been eliminated. The Three Stooges-like gargoyles are now as somber as the saints’ statues, all of which talk with Quasimodo.

The score is sung-through, with only a few dialogue segments, allowing all the principals to display excellent voices. Newman especially is a happy surprise. He has a majority of heavy solo assignments and delivers them with just the right touch of tortured soul-searching to almost make his character sympathetic — almost!

The trio of unhappy lovers also do justice to Menken’s music but at least one up-beat tune would have been appreciated.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIParker, the gargoyles, statues and people of Paris are not only characters but deliver the narrative, sometimes in solo and sometimes in ensemble form. For the most part, with the exception of the jumbled finale when I could not figure out what was going on, the story line is clear if not completely familiar

Director Hans Friedrichs does a fine job of steering the many characters through a frequently tortuous plotline.

Conductor Matt Shabala leads an orchestra that is positive and supportive. Scenic designer Samantha Snow delivers a sturdy set that meets major location and physical requirements.

The major plus here is this: If you want to see “Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame” this may be your only opportunity. Just know it is well-done without a traditional happy ending.

”DISNEY’S HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME” plays through June 25 in the theater on M-96 in Augusta, MI For show times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 18:01
 
Everybody Gets Footloose At Wagon Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 17 June 2017 18:29

The dancing feet of the talented 2017 Wagon Wheel Theatre company are again in the spotlight in its current production of “Footloose,” which opened Wednesday evening in the Warsaw theater center.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INThe driving rhythms of the title tune open and close the high-energy musical, based on the 1984 film which brought everyone more than six degrees closer to star Kevin Bacon.

From first to last, the mix of pop and country styles offers something for everyone, underscoring the tale of rebellious youth and allowing all the happy endings expected for most musicals. If there are few surprises, the fun really is in getting there.

The score by Tom Snow and lyricist Dean Pitchford (plus a number of others) includes a number of tunes that became chart-topping hits, especially the title song by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFamiliar or not, there is no way to sit still — or keep your toes from tapping — as the eventually-rebellious teens of Bomont, Utah persuade their elders that singing and dancing do not equate with sinful.

Leading the charge is the traditional “outsider,” Ren McCormack (Matthew Copley). Recently relocated with his mother Ethel (Jennifer Dow) from a major city to the small town home of her brother, where dancing is against the law, he finds it difficult to stay within that law

Ren becomes friends with Willard Hewitt (Blake Bowejski) who reveals the origin of the no-dancing law.

Of course, Ren is immediately attracted to Ariel Moore (McKenzie Kurtz), daughter of the minister, Shaw Moore (Brett Frazier), who proposed the law after the death of his son. His bitter grief has resulted in shutting out his wife, Vi (Kira Lace Hawkins), and his daughter. She rebels via a relationship with the town bad boy Chuck Cranston (Britton Hollingsworth) and hurls her frustrations to the winds under a nearby railroad trestle.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INLed by Ren, the town’s teens gradually gather the courage to face their parents — and the town council — to demand a prom.

No surprise. Eventually, everybody winds up dancing!

Getting there in the WW production is more than a lot of fun. Solid voices and incredibly flexible bodies throw themselves energetically into director/choreographer Scott Michaels’ dances, leaving the opening night audience literally cheering their efforts.

The plotline is painfully obvious but, in “Footloose,” it really doesn’t matter. The good people (Vi Moore, Ethcl McCormack) are very good and even better when they decide to stand up for their children. One of the loveliest moments in the show dials down the decibel level considerably and allows Hawkins, Dow and Kurtz to reflect on the difficulties of “Learning To Be Silent.”

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INAs Ren, Copley never seems to run out of steam, forging ahead to win not only the girl but her stony father and, with him, the entire town. Frazier delivers a deeply wounded parent who has shut down completely and, finally, struggles to listen (“Heaven Help Me.’”) Hawkins adds warmth as the wife and mother torn between husband and daughter.

As Willard, Bowejski’s aw shucks persona offers his friend some homespun advice in “Mama Says” and slowly and hilariously comes out of his shell.

Rusty (Leanne Antonio) has her eye on Willard and, with her girls (Bailee Enderbrock, Sarah Ariel Brown and Kurtz), leads the show-stopping “Let’s Hear It For the Boys.”

The WW orchestra is a six piece band here, delivering excellent support under the direction of guest conductor/keyboardist Alyssa Kay Thompson.

Mike Higgins’ ingeniously rustic set design translates rapidly from church to home to soda shop and more. Applause (silent) to cast and crew members who deliver the non-stop, quiet and difficult scene changes in the dark. It’s all part of the WW professionalism.

Stephen Hollenbeck’s costume designs are appropriately country, with plenty of required wiggle-room!”

“FOOTLOOSE” plays through June 24 in the Wagon Wheel Theatre in the WW Center for the Arts, 2517 E. Center St in Warsaw. For performance dates and times call (574) 267-8041 or (866) 823-2618 or visit www.wagonwheelcentef.org.

Last Updated on Saturday, 17 June 2017 18:48
 
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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