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'Outside Mullingar' A Winner For SBCT PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 11 June 2017 16:55

Every time we sit down in a theater we hope for the best and expect … well, possibly something a little less.

Rarely do we get the best of everything.

Outside Mullingar  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSuch a rarity is live and on the stage of South Bend Civic Theatre’s Warner Studio Theatre where its production of “Outside Mullingar” opened to a full house Friday evening.

The multi-layered romantic comedy by John Patrick Shanley, author of award-winners “Doubt: A Parable” and “Moonstruck,” is set in the midlands of northern Ireland on adjoining farms just outside the nearest town, Mullingar. The lives of the farm residents, the number of which is dwindling rapidly, are the focus of Shanley’s touching scenario.

The action (which is primarily emotional rather than physical) begins with the Muldoons — Aoife (Mary Ann Moran) and daughter Rosemary (Dana Vagg-Batusic) — and the Reillys — Tony (Gary Oesch) and son Anthony (Ted Maniefr) — coming to the Reilly home from the funeral of Aoife’s husband.

The two seniors discuss the shortened amount of earthly time left to each and the future of their respective farms, specifically as it affects a possible relationship between their children. Rosemary has been in love with Tony since the age of 6. He is not one to let his feelings be known.

Outside Mullinger  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreTony’s decision to sell to an American nephew, surprises Aoife, hurts and angers Anthony, especially on hearing his father’s reason, and brings Rosemary to a fierce defense because, as she declares, he (Anthony) is “a bit of a lump” and “won’t push back for himself.”

To sell or not to sell hinges on a small strip of land which holds the right of way to the Reilly farm. At a time when Tony needed money, he sold it to Chris Muldoon. Now, it seems, the Muldoons are not agreeable to selling it back , a deal-breaker for the nephew.

Some years later, problems of the land and the feelings of the two remaining farm owners struggle to resolve themselves. Their final confrontation provides exactly the right answer.

In the hands of a lesser cast and crew, “Outside Mullingar” might be just another Irish fantasy. Not so here.

Director Kevin Dreyer has gathered a cast from the SBCT veteran A-list, each of whom is in exactly the right role. There is not one false note in any characterization. This extends to all the Irish accents.

Outside Mullingar  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreUnder Dreyer’s sure hand, each develops a solidly real personality, in spite of their secrets which often seem more fantasy than reality.

And their relationships could not be more empathetic.

Even when disagreements are decades long and appear to be far from resolution, the underlying friendships are never lost. Actions and reactions eventually mesh and what seemed absurd becomes the link that puts it all together.

The humor is low key but unmistakable, especially when discussions turn to death and dying, with the seniors particularly stating their opinions in a less-than-portentous manner.

“You’ll be dead within a year,” Tony tells Aoife. “Me? I’ll be dead within two months.”

Anthony and Rosemary share their individual bouts with depression, thoughts of suicide and struggles to stop smoking as well as ideas on the layers of the universe and dealings with the outside world.

“People don’t appeal to me that much,” he admits. “That’s normal,” she agrees. “Who likes people? Nobody.”

Is there any doubt that these two will, sooner rather than later, find each other?

The surrounding darkness of the Warner black box theater provides the perfect backing for set designer David Chudzynski’s earthy, bare bones set pieces which move the action easily from farm to field to farm.

“OUTSIDE MULLINGAR” will be played Wednesday through Sunday in the Warner Studio Theatre at South Bend Civic Theatre, 403 N. Main St. For show times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org. Additional performances already have been added.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 June 2017 17:23
 
High-Stepping 'Newsies" WW Season Opener PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 04 June 2017 19:56

Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre literally burst into its 63rd summer season Wednesday evening with a super-charged production of Disney’s “Newsies.”

Newsies Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INIn addition to being the WW opener, it is the regional premier of this award-winning musical.

Based on an 1899 New York City newsboys strike, the cast of necessity is filled to capacity with talented, energetic, high-stepping (and kicking and leaping and flipping) young dancers — plus quite a few still in middle school and one scene-stealer age 9.

In spite of a Tony Award-winning score by Disney favorite Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a score of powerfully-voiced principals led by Britton Hollingsworth and Elaine Cotter, it is the continuously amazing choreography that is the real star of this production.

“Newsies” is directed and choreographed by WW artistic director/choreographer Scott Michaels, who continues to incite the question “How does he do that?”

Not only “he,” of course, but the gifted young company (and crew) assembled annually which, in spite of changes and season requirements, is always the very best.

“Newsies” is probably one of the most demanding Disney shows, dance-wise. The young “salesmen” (who include several “saleswomen”) never stop.

Newsies  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INIt is the tale of orphan Jack Kelly (Hollingsworth), leader of the group of youngsters who sell the New York World, and the protest he instigated when World publisher Joseph Pulitzer (a wonderful curmudgeonly Mike Yocum) raises the price to his street salesmen from 50 cents to 60 cents per hundred.

Kelly, a young artist with dreams of going to “Santa Fe,” and Crutchie (Blake Bojewski), who looks on his crippled leg as a way to sell more papers, are best friends, both determined to stay out of The Refuge detention center.

They are joined by Davey (Evan Kinnane) and his young brother Les (Oliver Pettit) who are not orphaned nor homeless but have become newsies since a work accident found their father jobless.

Newsies  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INChampioning their cause is Katherine Plumber (Cotter), a struggling female reporter on the New York Sun, who brings their story to her front page. A romance begins between Jack and Katherine but, as in all musicals, the course of young love never runs smoothly.

Before the newsies find a larger-than–life champion (Chris Mahan) for their cause and Jack realizes that New York has more to offer than Santa Fe, a whole lot of singing and dancing takes place on set designer Mike Higgins sturdy urban skeleton.

The production is, as always, solidly supported by conductor/keyboardist Thomas M. Stirling and his nine outstanding instrumentalists.

Newsies  Wagon Wheeel Theatre  Warsaw INThe costume scheme here is primarily drab (street urchins tend to favor brown and gray and industry leaders, black) but designer Stephen R. Hollenbeck gets his glitz on with the girls backing vaudeville singer Medda Larkin (Leanne Antonio) and the less-somber outfits for Katherine.

In addition, all must be super danceable and able to withstand the stress and strain put on them by the athletic requirements of Michaels’ non-stop choreography.

“Newsies,” based on the 1992 Disney musical movie, ran for two years on Broadway. Doubtless it will pop up on stages all over the country after this but the choreography, which will vary from production to production, will never be better — or more joyfully presented — than that which is center stage at the Wagon Wheel Theatre.

“DISNEY’S NEWSIES” will be presented through June 10 at the Wagon Wheel Theatre, 2517 E. Centre St., Warsaw, IN. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or (866) 823-2618 or visit www.wagonwheelcenter.org

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 June 2017 19:03
 
Riding the 'Big River' With Huck And Jim PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 08 May 2017 15:49

Among the enduring chronicles of American life are the works of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, and the characters he created, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Big River  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe adventures of Tom and Huck have come off the written page in several forms since they appeared in the last part of the 19th century. Among the most recent is “Big River,” the 1985 Broadway musical based on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The South Bend Civic Theatre production of “Big River,” directed by Leigh Taylor, opened Friday evening in the Wilson Auditorium.

The multi-Tony Award-winning show blends William Hauptman’s theatrical adaptation of Twain’s book with a just-right score by the late Roger (“King of the Road”) Miller guaranteed to set a large number of toes tapping!

Big Rivef  South Bend (IBN) Civic TheatreThe sprawling libretto follows Huck (Braden Allison) as he escapes from all efforts to teach him to read and write and from his abusively drunken Pap (Cecil Eastman) and finds himself on a raft in the Mississippi River with Jim (Del’Shawn Taylor), a runaway slave heading to freedom in the North.

The duo bonds during their journey (“Muddy Water,” “River in the Rain”) even though Huck still believes helping the runaway is the wrong thing to do, since he is the property of Huck’s guardian Miss Watson (Kat Quirk). It takes a few eye-opening experiences before the boy realizes that they both are human beings (“Worlds Apart”).

Along the way, the raft is commandeered by two con men — the King (David Case) and the Duke (Nick Hidde-Halsey) — making a hasty getaway from an angry mob. They convince Huck of their “royal” ancestry and include him in their schemes (“The Royal Nonesuch”), first chaining Jim on the raft with plans to sell him.

Hearing of a fortune left to a local family’s distant (and unknown) relative, Duke and King set out to claim the inheritance from the grieving clan.

The story twists and turns with enough kinks to please even master plotter Tom Sawyer (Graham Sparks) who kicks up his heels in my favorite musical non sequitur “Hand For The Hog.” By the time the “Sun Goes Down in The South,” the criminals get their comeuppance, the righteous get their rewards and Huck gets the chance at another adventure.

Big River  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe two and a half-hours plus running time is filled with enough of Miller’s lovely melodies, high-steppin’ bluegrass airs and sharp-tongued country tunes to make the time pass fairly swiftly.

The dialogue, however, especially when laden with on-again, off-again varying southern accents, is frequently difficult to follow. The “royal” comic relief unfortunately relies on the “louder is funnier” school of humor which too often is just louder.

Big River  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAs Huck, Allison carries most of the action and, as narrator, all of the storyline. It is a demanding task, especially for a high school freshman, and he acquits himself admirably. (Note to costumes: Spending all that time on a raft and in the woods, he might at least get a little dirt on his white shirt.)

Taylor has a powerful baritone which he uses to full advantage not only in the duets with Allison but also in his solo “Free At Last.”

Lyrics in the novelty numbers (Miller’s forte) are too often muddled, especially in ”Guv’ment,” Pap’s tirade which sadly seems even more relevant today.

As the nearly-swindled heiress Mary Jane Wilkes, Josie Burck joins Huck and Jim in a sensitive rendition of the show’s loveliest ballad, “Leavin’s Not the Only Way to Go.”

The appropriately-staffed band — violin, guitar, bass, percussion — led by keyboardist/music director Roy Bronkema provides just the right sound for Miller’s country score.

David Cbudzynski’s flexible set allows the focus to move from interiors to exteriors, with emphasis on THE raft.

The absence of the “n” word is obvious only because its inclusion in the book caused such a library brouhaha several years ago. It has been replaced here with other “appropriate” epithets.

“BIG RIVER” plays through May 21 in the theater at 403 N. Main St., South Bend. For performance times and reservations call (594) 234-1112 or visit sbct.org.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 May 2017 16:07
 
'Moon Over Buffalo' Shines Laugh Light PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 22 May 2017 15:44

Two of the funniest theatrical giant egos ever face off — and on — in Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo,” which opened Friday evening in the Bristol Opera House.

The Elkhart Civic Theatre production advances swiftly under the direction of Demaree Dufour-Noneman and assistant director Mike Nichols without missing a step (or a door slam) or dropping a laugh-line!

This is a farce with a capital F!

Moon Over Buffalo  Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INNo surprise as Ludwig plays (the current total is18 plus three musicals) are frequently on the schedules of American and international theaters, amateur to professional and everything in between .

Let me preface this by saying that farce is my very least, favorite style of comedy. There are only a few exceptions and, excluding “Noises Off,” all are the work of Ken Ludwig. Even these teeter on the humor fence if not presented by a talented cast working at top speed on a definitely sturdy set.

No worries here. Settle back and enjoy this evening (two hours including intermission) of frequently non-stop laughter.

Those familiar with Ludwig’s works will easily spot a similarity in plotlines and character types: A frequently warring older couple; young lovers separated (temporarily) by differing goals; possible replacement suitors for each age group, and an outside observer commenting acidly on the situations.

Moon  Over Buffalo Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INPut them all together and, with slight changes in locale and lifestyles, they could be in any Ludwig comedy. Happily, in this incarnation all are in 1953 Buffalo, N.Y. where actors George and Charlotte Hay (Timothy and Stephanie Yoder) and their touring company are currently in repertory playing “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Private Lives.”

Charlotte dreams of being a movie star while George is happy on stage. Nevertheless he is excited when a phone call from director Frank Capra re-ignites hopes of them starring in his latest film, “The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel,” whose original leading man has left via a broken leg.

Charlotte, who has just learned of George’s affair with now-pregnant company member Eileen (Stephanie Isley), is ready to depart with their lawyer Richard Maynard (Keith Sarber), who has loved her for years. She refuses to believe the Capra story and exits, leaving a despondent George to dive into the nearest bottle.

When Charlotte discovers the truth, it is up to her and daughter Rosalind (Amberly Nichols); Rosalind’s current fiancé TV weatherman Howard (Brent Graber), and her former fiancé, stage manager Paul (Brock Butler), to find the missing leading man before Capra arrives for the matinee. The search is not simplified by Charlotte’s very deaf mother, Ethel (Stacey Nickel), company wardrobe lady and definitely not a fan of George’s.

Moon Over Buffalo  Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INOnce the elusively intoxicated actor is found, the question of which show is to be done opens another mixed theatrical bag.

To say that breakneck speed is required of this comedy is putting it mildly. Not only must the cast members establish mostly outrageous characters but maintain them and deliver dialogue audibly while heading up and/or down stairs and in/or out of doors. There are numerous doors, all of which are opened and slammed shut on cue, mostly in mid-flight. All are evidence of the solid building by the set construction crew.

Then there is the comedic nightmare of timing. i.e. getting the set up line out and waiting until the laughter peaks before delivering the punch line. It’s an art and one which is, for the most part, handled tightly throughout. Difficult to judge until an audience is present but sharply done, even on opening night.

All are well-cast but special applause must go to Tim Yoder who is hilariously drunk and increasingly funny throughout the second act without losing a line or an expression. Also to Graber, who gives new definition to “nerd” and manages to raise the laugh quotient considerably right up to the unbelievable-but-hilarious final “blow.”

Cannot think of a better way to shake off the increasing blues of the day than by taking a good look at this “Moon Over Buffalo.”

‘MOON OVER BUFFALO’ plays Friday through Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in Bristol. For show times and reservations, call (574) 848-4116 or visit elkhartcivictheatre.org

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 May 2017 03:13
 
A Trip To The Past To Catch A Killer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 23 April 2017 21:03

Mention the name “Agatha Christie” and what springs to mind are a number of intricately woven alibis surrounding a seemingly unconnected number of suspects all gathered around a hopefully minimal number of bodies — dead, of course.

Go Back For Murder  Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe corpse count is low (one) in “Go Back for Murder,” the Christie challenger which opened Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House. The question, however, remains the same: who dunnit?

Gathered on stage in the Elkhart Civic Theatre production are the usual suspects but, in this challenge, they are asked to turn back the clock to name the killer. The murder was committed 16 years ago and someone was convicted and subsequently died in prison.

Debating that verdict is Carla LeMarchant Crale (Kinsey Muhlenkamp), daughter of the victim (her philandering artist father Amyas Crale) and the murderer (her long-suffering mother Caroline Crale), who declared her innocence in a letter to her daughter. The maguffin, as Alfred Hitchcock would say, is the striking resemblance Carla bears to Caroline and, of course, as one of the characters remarks, “Nothing is what I seems.”

Go Back For Murder Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INCarla was five years old at the time of the murder and recalls little of the actual crime. Sure the killer was someone else, she asks Justin Fogg (Brett Noneman), son of her mother’s defense attorney, to reassemble all the suspects at the scene of the crime in hopes of finding the real criminal.

Behind her request is the idea (eventually correct) that her fiancé Jeff Rogers (Hayden Ludlow) will leave her if he feels she may have inherited a murderous tendency.

So the “suspects” gather — businessman Phillip Blake (Scott Fowler); his brother chemist Meredith Blake (Chuck Bower); model Elsa Greer/later Lady Elsa Melksham (Rachel McKenzie); governess Miss Williams (Amy Pawlosky), and Carla’s younger half-sister Angela Warren (Bonnie McGowan) .

Each shares his/her recollection of the event, then time turns back to include Amyas (Ludlow) and Caroline (Muhlencamp), and the day of the murder is replayed.

Go Back For Murder Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INAs witb all Agatha Christie works, the plot is tightly interwoven and it frequently is difficult to keep track of just who is who and why they are suspect.

Possibly director Jerry O’Boyle kept this in mind during the practically motionless first act in which the backgrounds and motivations of all concerned are laid out in physically static blocks of daunting dialogue. This is primarily assigned to Muhlencamp who delivers it with dispassionate clarity.

Nobody moves but, as in all Christie plots, it is important to pay close attention.

This especially in order to keep track of what really happened as the protagonists become increasingly active and later conversations are sometimes difficult to understand.

Go Back For Murder Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe set design by John Shoup is deceptively simple, the reason becomes obvious as the conversations with each “suspect” are held in various locations (Act I) and throughout the multi-area country home and garden (Act II). Changes are made quickly and quietly without disturbing the flow of the narrative.

The lighting design by Brian McGowan heightens the melodramatic atmosphere but sometimes could be a bit brighter to allow faces to be more easily seen.

Must note that, as with many other theater groups today, the use of wigs seems to have become a requirement rather than a choice. No problem with that except when, as in the case here, it obscures the face (and, consequently, the voice) of the main protagonist.

Under many of the scenes is a primarily piano score. It ends orchestrally with the theme from “Laura” and is, I assume, a directorial choice. It’s relevance is, however, still a mystery.

GO BACK FOR MURDER plays Friday through Sunday in the Bristol Opera House, 210 E. Vistula St., Bristol. For show times and reservations, call 848-4116 or visit elkhartcivictheatre.org

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 18:37
 
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