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
Barn Musical Works Hard For Little PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 18:08

One day in 1934, an east wind stirred by the pen of P.L. Travers blew a magical nanny to London’s 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

That nanny was Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins  Th Barn Theatre Augusta MIOver the next 54 years, seven more books recounting her adventures were published, establishing the no-nonsense lady firmly in the childhood (and adult) libraries of millions of readers world-wide.

In addition, she served as the central character for a 1964 Walt Disney film and a theatrical musical which played in London’s West End for three years before crossing the pond to begin a seven year run on Broadway.

Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” opened Tuesday night at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI. Unfortunately it takes a lot more than “A Spoonful of Sugar” to make this production go — anywhere.

In the leading role, a red-coated Hannah Eakin works valiantly to project Mary’s “spit-spot” persona. Her “magic” is limited due to the physical restrictions of the stage, but she does create a warm character. Musically she has no problem with Mary’s vocal assignments and is heard well in spite of the orchestra.

Mary Poppins  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIThe seven-piece ensemble led by pianist Matt Shabala stumbled loudly through the Sherman brothers’ tuneful score, frequently laying out as if to locate their places in the music. During the big ensemble numbers, the dancers earned props just to stay with the choreography, getting little or no support from the orchestra. It also did a great job of playing OVER dialogue.

Barn choreographer Jamey Grisham plays Bert, Mary’s longtime friend and companion on her “outings.” His sidewalk artist/chimney sweep was not strong but managed to keep smiling, even upside down in the “Pippin-esque” gymnastics-in-the-air for “Step In Time.”

The ensemble interpretation of “Supercalifragilistic...etc” was certainly enthusiastic but most resembled an homage to the Village People.

As Mr. Banks, Richard Marlatt turned the family patriarch into a nasty, pompous and very unlikable man, with no time for his children and no thought for his wife.

As Mrs. Banks, Barn veteran Brooke Evans did her best as a rather too pliant woman who, given Mr. Banks’ tendency to blame her loudly for everything, would have been justified in crowning him with his favorite vase.

The Banks’ children are in almost every scene. As Jane and Michael, Riley Em VanDerVelde and Daniel Sturdy, respectively, were present and knew their lines and blocking but frequently were too rushed or too soft to be understood.

Mary Poppins  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MIVeteran performers Penelope Alex and Kevin Robert White were notable for turning very small roles (no small actors!) into definite characters as the Banks’s disgruntled kitchen help.

Ditto one of the show’s villains, Miss Andrews, Mr. Banks’ “Holy Terror” of a nanny, supposedly the reason for his unfeeling adulthood. The energy went up 100 percent when Jackie Gubow hurled herself into “Brimstone and Treacle,” her remedy for everything.

The set design by Shy Iverson was based stylistically on Mary Shepard’s original illustrations for Travers’ books. The painted hanging panels were artistically correct but required much pushing and pulling to get them on and off as did the angled beams for the nursery and the many other set pieces.

The costumes were an eclectic mix. Mrs. Banks was consigned to plain blouse and brown skirts while the children were more unkempt than any well-bred young Brit of the period. Mary’s white “Jolly Holiday” dress sported a large hole in skirt and most of the hems were, at best, uneven while the Bird Woman’s costume evoked the Wicked Witch of the West.

Special effects played a very large part in the show’s professional success. Here, they are limited to a coat tree which Mary pulls from her red carpet bag and a couple of across-stage “flights.”

The production is under the direction of Dee Sandt and, to be fair, the opening night audience enjoyed it.

“MARY POPPINS” plays through June 28 in the theatre on M96 between Galesburg and Augusta. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121 or visit

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 June 2015 17:54
WW Gives New Life To Classic Musical PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 20 June 2015 15:20

Sometimes putting a classic musical on a season can be an invitation to disaster, especially if, because of the physical demands of its book, score and choreography, that musical is almost, in at least one of these areas, a sure bet to fail — or at least to stumble badly.

Don’t tell that to director/choreographer Scott Michaels and the cast of the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts production of “West Side Story,” which opened Wednesday night in the Warsaw arena theater.

West Side Story Wagon Wheel Center Warsaw INI really don’t have to say more than get your tickets while there are still some available. You’ll have to wait a very long time to see as thrilling a production of this modern day “Romeo and Juliet” which, sadly, is as relevant today at it was almost 60 years ago.

Based on a concept by Jerome Robbins, a multi-award-winning director/choreographer in both musical theater and ballet, “West Side Story” offers a score by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents., all award winners in their own genres.

But having a theatrical pedigree doesn’t mean a company can just “mail it in.” In fact, the bar is set even higher and the demands are constant.

It took 10 years for Robbins to bring “WSS” to the stage and 10 years for him to assemble what turned out to be the perfect team.

In Warsaw, director Michaels already has the best choreographer in the Midwest and, in Thomas N. Stirling, a musical director who leads his 13-piece orchestra surely through the emotional nuances of Bernstein’s score.

The rest of the WW production team delivers its usual excellence in Stephen B. Hollenbeck’s character detailing (and very danceable) costumes, Sara Gosses’ mood enhancing lighting and Michael Higgins’ spare but exact set design. Sound man Chris Pollnow keeps the right balance between singer/actors and instrumentalists and production stage manage Caitlin Denney Turner and her crew make the many scene changes swiftly and silently.

All provide the perfect setting for the incredibly talented WW cast. For the original Broadway production, Robbins requested — and got — eight weeks for dance rehearsals rather than the usual four. Michaels & Co. did it in two and very obviously without missing a beat!

West Side Stopry Waon Wheel Center Warsaw INFrom the minute the Jets, led by Sean Watkinson as Riff, and the Sharks, led by Danny Burgos as Bernardo, hit the stage, the air crackles with barely contained hostility. They dance their emotions — and then they sing and dance again, holding nothing back.

Into this maelstrom, articulated by the breathtaking “Dance at the Gym,” come Tony (Jordan Andre), former leader of the Jets, and Maria (Allsun O’Malley), sister of Bernardo. It is love at first sight and their instant connection is delivered lyrically by two of the finest voices at WW this season. They more than do justice to the familiar solos and duets., especially the “Balcony Scene” (“Tonight”) and “One Hand, One Heart.”

On the fiery side is Anita (Monica Brown), Bernardo’s girl, who makes no secret of her feelings, leading the Shark girls in the wonderfully biting “America.” (NOTE: Former Wagon Wheeler Karen Olivo won a Tony Award for her Anita in the 2009 revival.)

The Jets hit the nail on the head with their view of police in “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

The powerful “Tonight” quintet, the angry “Rumble,” the haunting “Somewhere” ballet and the tragically spare finale (oh come on, you must know how this ends!!) are only a few of the familiar highlights which can be a joy to see and hear — or not.

In this production, there is no need to worry. ”Somewhere,” Robbins & Co. are smiling!

“WEST SIDE STORY” plays through June 27 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or visit

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 June 2015 18:34
'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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