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
No Turning Away From 'StopKiss' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 18:26

Some new plays take a while to get here from major cities, “here” being a viable production in middle America.

Such plays are the aim of South Bend Civic Theatre’s Firehouse Series (named for its venue) which may suffer from lack of production facilities (long scene changes, sound problems) but most always are well-acted and, judging from the small-but-enthusiastic audience’ reception, are welcome.

StopKiss South Bend (JN) Civic TheatreSuch a production is “StopKiss,” the current offering on the Firehouse “stage.” A work by American playwright Diana Son, it was premiered in New York’s Public Theatre in 1998 where the initial run was extended three times.

It is not necessarily an easy play to watch but, thanks to the honesty of the performers, it is not something from which you can turn away. And, considering the times in which we live, it is most certainly — and unhappily — current.

Callie (Sara Bomgaars) is an 11-year resident of New York’s Greenwich Village. As a traffic reporter for a local radio station, her main claim to fame is that she does her job from a helicopter. She lives, on-again, off-again, with George (Geoff Trowbridge), a bartender who obviously regards her small apartment as his home-away-from home.

StopKiss  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreInto her life comes Sara (Angie Berkshire), a recent resident of the big city who has come from St. Louis on a teaching fellowship at an elementary school in the Bronx. They meet when Callie agrees to take care of Sara’s cat while she goes out of town.

The women have an instant connection which, as Callie helps Sara fit in to the city lifestyle, becomes something more than just friendship, even though it is never named.

Coming home early one morning, the two stop in a park and impulsively share their first kiss, a moment interrupted by an attack (never seen) which puts Sara into a coma and signals the arrival of Peter (David Weist), her ex boyfriend, who is determined to take her back to St. Louis and oversee her recovery.

The time-line of StopKiss moves between the past — Callie and Sara’s meeting and the evolution of their relationship — and the present, which includes Callie’s harsh interrogation by a police Detective Cole (Michael Clarkson), whose sympathies seem onStopKiss  South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre the side of the attacker; the report by Mrs. Winsley (Darlene Hampton), a witness who saw the attack but never acted, and Callie’s determination to prove herself able to care for her still-recovering friend.

The time shifts are well-delineated and there is no problem determining just when events are taking place. The multi-locations are sparsely defined and, hopefully, will be reached more quickly and quietly as the run continues.

The emotional connections between Bomgaars and Berkshire are honest and believable, especially in creating their journey towards the difficult but eventually unavoidable acknowledgement of their feelings.

Trowbridge is the kind of friend you don’t need, while Hampton avoids caricature as the nosy do-gooder who evades involvement but relishes all the details.

Clarkson delivers a sadly realistic portrait of a detective who would rather be persecuting the victim. Weist is stuffily righteous as the beau Sara left behind.

Under the direction of Lucinda Moriarity, assisted by Mark Moriarity, the 90-minute, no-intermission drama challenges us to look at the way we perceive people — individually and collectively — and decide what really is important.

STOPKISS” plays through Saturday in the Firehouse Theatre, 701 Portage Ave. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit Seating is limited.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 March 2016 19:15
Looking Back At Our Beginnings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 17:21

1776  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThere could not be a more appropriate time for a theater company to produce the 1969 Tony Award-winning Best Musical “!776.”

Whether by design or happy coincidence, this is the time South Bend Civic Theatre has chosen to present the Sherman Edwards/Peter Stone depiction of the struggles of the Second Continental Congress as members debated the question of liberty.

Comparison with today’s contentious congress shows we have made less than acceptable progress.

Under the direction of Chuck Gessert, “1776” is the perfect vehicle to inspire at least a minimal inspection of how we got to where we are today — and why we are increasingly unable to solve our problems like “gentlemen.”

“1776”opened Friday evening in the Wilson Theatre where an impressive accumulation of veteran and novice talent portrayed at least a portion of the historically memorable delegates.

1776  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe characters are important figures in the history of the United States and, although their relationships many not be exactly as portrayed in Stone’s award-winning script (dramatic license, you know), the result of their interactions — arguments, agreements and compromises — is exactly as it should be.

According to Edwards: “These men were the cream of their colonies. ... They disagreed and fought with each other. But they understood commitment, and though they fought, they fought affirmatively."[

Key words being “commitment” and “affirmatively.”

Led by an excellent Ted Manier as Congressional “gadfly” ,John Adams of Massachusetts, the seemingly disparate group “Piddle, Twiddle” and avoids making a decision on the question of “independency” as the fly-filled summer drags on in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

Standing with Adams are wiley Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania (Frank Quirk), inventor and statesman with an eye for the ladies; Roger Sherman of Connecticut (Michael Ball) and Robert Livingston of New York (Zach Gassman). All decline the invitation to write a declaration (“But, Mr. Adams”) while focusing on Thomas Jefferson of Virginia (Tucker Curtis), who eventually puts down his violin and puts quill pen to paper..

1776  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreIn the “loyal opposition” are equally strong delegates. Leading the group of “Cool, Cool Considerate Men” are John Dickenson of Pennsylvania (Steve Chung) and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina (Mark Toma), both determined to stay loyal to the crown.

As the debates co tinue, it is clear that those for the proposition will have to clear a number of hurdles, not the least is that a unanimous vote will be needed for it to pass.

From the first sight of Adams pacing in frustration outside the chamber (“Sit Down, John”) to the final compromise that would shape history, “1776” offers a dramatic — and humorous — insight into the deals that made this country.

The participants in the South Bend production deliver their historical characters with enthusiasm and, possibly, with some insight into the real individuals.

Viewing the strengths and weaknesses of all, makes for a theatrical history lesson that is enjoyable at best. Richard Henry Lee (Art Kopec) is hilarious-lee challenged lyrical-Lee while Franklin never misses the opportunity to drop another Almanac-worthy saying.

Chung is most impressive as the unswerving Dickinson and leads his constituents in a well-executed gavotte. Torma pulls out all the vocal stops sardonically challenging Adams with the show-stopping “Molasses to Rum.”

1776  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe very painful realities of the conflict are obvious in the frequent messages from General Washington, delivered by a Courier (Kevin Boucher) who describes the close-to-home war in “Mama Look Sharp.”

“1776” obviously is by, for and about the male delegates but, as everyone knows, behind each is a formidable female. Only two are included in this telling, Abigail Adams (Heidi Ferris) and Martha Jefferson (Elizabeth Buckman). Ferris delivers a sturdy and sensible pre-Revolution wife, supporting her husband with good advice and much needed supplies. (When not on stage, Ferris heads for the balcony and discharges her offstage duties as music director.)

The lighter side is depicted by Manier, Quirk and Curtis as they debate the choice of an avian symbol for the new country in “The Egg.”

Assembling a cast of 26 (24 men) is a daunting task for any theater, let alone one that requires a number of them just to enter, sit on stage and exit on cue. The entire ensemble deserves applause!

Special notice to Craig McNab as terminally ill Caesar Rodney, Rob Newland as feisty Scot Col. Thomas McKean, Daniel Grey as congressional secretary Charles Thompson whose primary task is reading The General’s dispatches, and Gary Oesch as Stephen Hopkins who tempers politics with rum.

For the most part, the vocals are excellent, ensemble and individual, and I wished Edwards had included more of them in Stone’s libretto which definitely is dialogue-heavy.

The scenic design by Ann Davis works well and the costumes and lighting maintain the mood. The wigs, however, are rather mix-n-match and a number are less than attractive.

The fact that everyone knows where this portion of the story ends does nothing to detract from the chills that accompany the eventual signing as the liberty bell rings out.

Politicians today could stand to review this episode in our history and remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

‘1776” plays through May 1 in the Wilson Theatre at South Bend Civic Theatre. Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with intermission). For performance times and reservations, call 234-1112.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 17:55
'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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