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No New Twists In South Bend's 'Joseph' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 30 January 2017 22:29

Way, way back many decades ago, not long after Lloyd Webber began — actually before his big “Superstar” explosion — Sir Andrew (assisted by Tim Rice) created “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

It was short, it was snappy, it was made up of several music styles including pop, rock, jazz, calypso, ballad, Charleston. The music stretched from one end of the narrative to the other leaving very, very little room for dialogue.

Joseph/Dreamcoat South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreBest of all, the original pop cantata, written in 1968 for a British boy’s school, was only 15 minutes long.

By its third choral performance, however, it had expanded to 35 minutes and included several new songs. The universality of its theme and the mixed genre of musical styles formed the basis for a full — albeit short — production which finally landed on Broadway in 1982.

Joseph/Dreamcoat  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSince then, it has become the favorite of civic groups, choruses, schools and community theaters everywhere.

One good thing about “Joseph,” in addition to its brevity, is its extreme flexibility. Based on the Book of Genesis, the story and its characters can be set anywhere in any time or place. It is definitely a “feel good” musical which appeals to an audience of all ages. This was apparent last weekend when
“Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opened the 2017 season for South Bend Civic Theatre.

The major plus for this production is vocal. The 17-member company delivers solo and ensemble numbers with obvious enthusiasm and solid musicality. The use of head microphones by the leading characters is never overpowering and the lyrical narrative is easily understood.

southBend (IN) Civicdreamcoag  Joseph/The recorded orchestral track for the most part provides the right level of accompaniment. It is, however, unfeeling and if a singer starts incorrectly, he has to find his own way back on track. There is no “live” accompanist to help him along.

For those who have seen it before, there are no surprises in this “Joseph.” The opportunity to take it in any different direction is missed.

The Narrator (Natalie MacRae-Waggoner), a veteran of area musical productions, does not disappoint. From the opening “Prologue” to the final “Any Dream Will Do,” she fills in the missing storyline and vocally moves the plot along with a strong, full soprano and an easy presence.

Joseph (Mark Kosten) romps through family intrigue and Egyptian employment problems with a stoic air, an ingratiating grin and a pleasant baritone voice.

Always an audience favorite, Pharoah (Nicholas Hidde-Halsey) delivers a royal Elvis and earns applause for articulating “Song of the King,” his rock ‘n roll entrance, which most Pharoahs render unintelligible. His Elvis was constricted, movement-wise, by the shiny sheet which passes for a royal robe and inhibited his efforts at a real Presley swivel.

En route from Israel to Egypt, Joseph’s 11 brothers work their wicked ways with obvious delight and eventual regret. Led by Reuben (Ryan Clubine), they cover their brotherly sale, lying to dad Jacob (Brad Mazick) cowboy style (“One More Angel in Heaven”), but finally give up the ghost (and their very last sheep) with Simeon (Alexander Bobbs), recalling “Those Caanan Days.”

Joseph/Dreamcoat  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreBoth soloists have strong voices and double as Pharoah’s Butler (Bobbs) and Egyptian billionaire Potiphar (Mazick).

Sarah Holaway, Kat Quirk and Shelly Overgaard form the all-purpose trio that doubles and triples in a variety of roles from Pharoah fans to hairy Ishmalites.

As Mrs. Potiphar, Overgaard has the evening’s best line. Working to seduce Joseph, who has been purchased by her billionaire hubby, she responds to his rejection with the line: “Pity. We could make Egypt great again.”

Costuming here is best described as slipshod, with no attempt at setting period or locale, The giant set is imposing if not impressive.

The lighting design would benefit from the inclusion of spotlights on soloists. Joseph sings most of his solos in half-light. It is better to see faces!

Director Jim Geisel wisely opted to eliminate the chorus of children added late in the game, as well as the Megamix, also a late addition, which requires the cast to review the entire show in quick time.

With one intermission, this “Joseph” is really family-friendly, running just under one and one half hours.

“JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT” plays through Feb. 12 in the SBCT Wilson Theatre, 215. W. Madison St., South Bend. For show times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit sbct.org

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 February 2017 00:00
 
WW 'Carol' Sings In Christmas Season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 18:38

‘Tis the season— and that, of course, means the season for Rudolph and The Grinch and George Bailey and Ralphie and all manner of carols and appropriate songs of love and good will towards men.

Not the least of these is that formidable miser and all around humbug Ebenezer Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INNo matter how many variations you have encountered of the unforgettable characters in Charles Dickens’ ”A Christmas Carol” — film and television (live action and cartoon), play, opera, ballet and book — one that will leave you with a definite handle on the spirit of the story is among the latest.

Based, of course, on Dickens’ novella, with music by Disney’s favorite composer Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, “A Christmas Carol” opened Friday evening at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre, where it will play December weekends through Christmas Eve.

From beginning to end, this all-musical “Carol” is one of joy — visually, dramatically, melodically and in every other way that counts, and some that don’t.

A Christmas Carol  Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INThe basic tale — of bitter, miserly Scrooge, his visits from three spirits and his reincarnation as the epitome of Christmas — is all there, as are all the familiar phrases: “Bah, Humbug!,” “God Bless Us Everyone!” and many more easily recognized. The plus here is that they are well sung by the talented principals and ensemble.

Director Scott Michaels, who not only choreographs this production but sings, dances and plays one of Scrooge’s indebted Londoners, turns the obviously limited WW playing space into the town square, a factory, a graveyard and a variety of other locations, all filled with singing and dancing Brits of all ages, from seniors to tiny talented youngsters.

As the about-to-be-saved Scrooge, Brett J. Frazier turns very believably from the man you love to hiss to the man who knows “how to keep Christmas well.”

Scrooge’s journey begins with a rattle of chains worn with relish by his deceased partner Jacob Marley (Mike Yocum) who rises (literally) to pay him an unwanted visit. Along with a number of ghoulish spectres, they describe his fate “Link By Link.”

Along the path to discovery, he encounters three very different — and very excellent — ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past (an hilariously fey Tyler Pirrung), the Ghost of Christmas Present (a delightfully dapper Chuckie Benson) and the Ghost of Christmas Future (a deceptively agile blind “hag” Jennifer Dow). All contribute to his overnight redemption via a trio of Michaels’ always mind-boggling ensemble dances, executed here with appropriately joyous enthusiasm by a combined chorus of adults, teens and young children. None miss a note or a step!!

Wrapping Victorian London in a cover of bright-colored costumes, designer Stephen R. Hollenbeck does his part in keeping the spirit bright, as does Michaels’ lighting design.

The extra-flexible setting, which quickly accents each location, is by the late Roy Hine and Michael Higgins, with swift-and-silent set-changing muscle power from cast and crew.

The icing on this holiday confection is the outstanding 10-piece orchestra under the direction of keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling, making Menken’s mostly up-tempo score a holiday delight to remember.

This production is the perfect way for a family to begin the season and carry home the familiwords of Tiny Tim (Olliver Pettit), delivered exuberantly to each and every one!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL” will be played weekends through Dec.24 in the theater at 2527 E. Center Street, Warsaw. For performance dates and times, call (574) 267-8041.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 18:50
 
A Look At Something We Will Never Know PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 27 October 2016 17:07

With the rising popularity or reality TV shows, it’s not unreasonable to expect its invasive fingers to stretch across the footlights and onto the “real live” stage.

The  Mpountaintop South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSuch a reach is offered in “The Mountaintop,” which opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Theatre.

For those who have no idea what’s ahead, the setting — The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. — and the date — April 3, 1968 — offer definite clues. Ditto the main (and only) protagonists — 1) a middle-age African American man and 2) a definitely much younger African American motel housekeeper.

The man is Martin Luther King. Uneasily preparing to spend the last evening of his life before journeying on. Quite accurate, although his tomorrow and the one fate has in store for him are quite different.

The Mountaintop  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe maid, who is most particular about the pronunciation of her name, Camae, comes to deliver towels and stays for an evening of shared cigarettes, bad jokes, personal revelations and something quite different (if you have not seen the play, I won’t spoil that reveal; if you have, I don’t have to).

As the thunder rolls (quite loudly) and lightning flashes (quite impressively), King (Ben Little) and Camae (Kelly Morgan) await the lessening of the storm while creating one of their own inside room 308.

Of course, no one really knows what conversations, if any, took place in that ill-fated motel, so playwright Katori Hall had carte blanche in creating her own scenario.

You may agree that her suppositions have validity or you may not. Whichever you choose, it does nothing to lessen the uncomfortable pleasure of “listening at the keyhole.”

It takes nothing away from the acknowledgement that Rev. King was, after all, a man. If there is a doubt, the hole in his sock erases it immediately. Difficult to put on a pedestal a man with a big toe wriggling visibly.

Little returns to the SBCT stage with a bang in this 90-minute, no intermission production. He is by turns charming, afraid, belligerent, compassionate, insightful and, when the lights go out, ready to face what ever comes, even though he is sure of what if not of when. His portrayal would benefit from a little less bombast, especially towards the end. Moderation is equally moving.

The Mountaintop South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreMorgan enters obviously impressed with the occupant. That doesn’t prevent her from sharing cigarettes (both are trying to quit) in a “don’t let the grownups catch us” attitude or sewing on a button or bolstering up King’s sagging confidence or participating in a pillow fight or sharing a touch of “Irish cough syrup.” Her voice is consistently high and her sometimes too-speedy delivery results in a loss of dialogue.

Their common thread is fear. “Fear makes us human” King says, admitting later that fear is his best friend. Whatever happened — or did not — in that Memphis motel room, (maybe he just got a good night’s sleep) Hall’s conjecture is only one imaginative offering.

The truth is that we will never know, but as presented by Little and Morgan, this view from this “Mountaintop” makes for a very interesting evening.

Fred Kiefer’s set — of necessity — couldn’t be drearier with special applause for the very realistic thunder and lightning, all under the direction of Shirley Gordon.

“THE MOUNTAINTOP” plays through Sunday in the SBCT Wilson Theatre. For show times and reservations call (574) 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2016 17:20
 
Classic Berlin Rings In The Holidays PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 10 November 2016 16:35

In 1942, songwriter Irving Berlin was commissioned to pen several season-oriented tunes for a film titled “Holiday Inn.” Among them was the ballad “White Christmas,” a melody originally written in 1935.

White Christmas Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INNeither Berlin, who was Jewish, nor the singer Bing Crosby, who was Catholic, were overly impressed with the tune’s staying power and thought another of that film’s ballads would be the break-out hit.

So much for the insight of insiders.

“White Christmas” went on to become an all-time bestseller with the Crosby version the best-selling single of all time.

In 1954, it was the title of a semi-sequel, also starring Crosby, also set in a struggling Vermont inn, also featuring a score by Irving Berlin. Never one to let sleeping musicals lie, it still took more than 45 years to transfer that movie to the stage.

White Christma Elkhjart Civic Theatre Bristol INSince 2000, however, it is a sure bet that “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” will pop up, live and in color, on a stage near you, just in time to ring in the holiday season.

This year, the stage is in the Bristol Opera House where the Elkhart Civic Theatre production opened a three-weekend run Friday evening. For those of an age, these are the melodies you grew up with. For those younger, these are the melodies you undoubtedly will be hearing for the rest of your lives and even beyond..

Pay no attention to the story. It is simply a bit of whimsy on which to hang the music. It follows two song-and-dance men — Bob Wallace (Dustin Crump) and Phil Davis (Zach Rivers) — as they say farewell to army life and return to the nightclub circuit. Here they meet singing-and-dancing sisters Betty (Kelsey Crump) and Judy (Rachel Hall) Haynes and join the girls for their upcoming gig at an inn in Vermont.

White Christmas Elkhart C ivic Theatre Bristol INOn arrival they find retired Gen. Henry Waverly (Michael Case), their former commander, now owner of the inn and facing bankruptcy for lack of snow which equals lack of customers. Sharing the unwelcome warm weather are Waverly’s granddaughter Susan (Lilly Betts) and his housekeeper/assistant Martha Watson (Stephanie Yoder), both of whom are stage struck.

In the “Let’s put on a show here” (a la1940s Mickey Rooney), the boys call on their nightclub cast, TV connections, army and former army buddies and prepare to save the day, all, of course, to surprise the general.

Fortunately, the strong point for the ECT production, under the direction of John Shoup and assistant Geoff Trowbridge, is the vocals. Solo, duo or ensemble, with solid support from conductor Mark Swendsen and seven excellent instrumentalists, they make Berlin’s marvelous melodies a pleasure to hear, for the first or 100th time.

Even if you are familiar with the movie, the theatrical version’s score has added several “new” Berlin numbers and eliminated one or two from the film.

The best addition is “I Love A Piano,” an up-tempo tap number which opens the second act with an energetic performance by Rivers, Hall and the ladies of the chorus. Designed by choreographer Tom Myers, It is a high point of the show which, opening night, was a bit off the mark.

White Christmas Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe uneven pace undoubtedly has come up to tempo but the setting for most of the action is, of necessity, a barn and the resulting brown-on-brown is location-required but too muddy to be musical. The shots of color come late.

All things considered, however, “White Christmas” is definitely here to stay in the holiday pantheon of celebratory productions.

And it won’t be alone too long.

The show from which this musical got its theme — and its theme song — “Holiday Inn,” just opened on Broadway.

Guess nothing says Christmas like Irving Berlin!!

WHITE CHRISTMAS” plays Friday through Sunday and Nov. 18-19 in the Bristol Opera House on S.R. 120 in Bristol. ouse on S.R. 20 in Bristol For r

For show times and reservations, call (574) 848-4116 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2016 21:56
 
Chilling Tales Shared In 'The Weir' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 10 October 2016 18:36

If you’re the type who likes their chill factor raised via slasher films or undead supernatural TV shows, the latest South Bend Civic Theatre production — "The Weir"— won’t seem overly frightening.

The Weir  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreWhat the award-winning work by Irish playwright Connor McPerson will do is provide you with an evening of solid performances and frequently familiar characters whose easy banter reveals a universal connection.

Under the direction of Scott Jackson (one of the Michiana areas’s best!), "The Weir" focuses on the interaction of two regulars, one returnee, a newcomer and the bartender in a pub in northwest Ireland. Named for the low dam that regulates water level controlling the small town’s electricity, The Weir also serves as a safe haven for the men of the village.

The Weir South Bend (JN) Civic TheatreGathered in its familiar confines are the owner, Brendan (Marlon D. Deleon); Jack (Bill Svelmoe), a mechanic and owner of the local garage, and Jim (Ed Walin), another regular who cares for his elderly mother. They are joined by Finbar (Driscoll), a prosperous real estate broker who has just rented a house to Valerie (Dorea Britton), a young woman from Dublin.  

Over a pint (or more), they share the events of their day and, as Jack puts it, “Bullshit about all and nothing.” Tales of local events and residents somehow slip into stories of experiences with the supernatural. Each of the regulars has his own encounter to recall but the one shared by Valerie is the most chilling, being obviously her own real, and painfully recent, experience.

The Weir  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThere is not much physical action in “The Weir,” but the emotional currents run with increasing swiftness and, as the focus shifts from one to another, the truth of Jack’s statement “There is no dark like a winter night in the country” becomes chillingly real as does the fact that the warm lights in the Weir offer each at least a temporary shelter from the wind that blows incessantly, providing an increasingly ominous underscoring of the world outside..

The strength of the production is in the performances. Each of the actors takes hold of his/her character and delivers a realistic and sometimes painful look behind the universal exterior. Relationships are revealed, restated, renewed and begun before the last lights in The Weir are shut off for the night.

There is a relaxed and easy camaraderie between Jack and Brendan that speaks to a real friendship. Jim, the third point in the triangle, seeks equal footing but is somehow frequently the odd man out. Finbar, who never forgets his economic status, is more the outsider than the new girl in town and the hostility between he and Jack is frequently palpable.

All the players are relaxed and easy with their roles, with Svelmoe perhaps the most riveting as he lets go of his initial bravado to tell of a lost love. All are perfect examples of “less is more.”

Sam Jones scenic design sets the locale immediately and the sound design by director Jackson is almost a sixth character.

“THE WEIR” plays Wednesday through Sunday in the intimate Warner Theatre in the theater at 215 W. Madison St. For performance times and reservations call (574) 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 October 2016 03:19
 
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