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Williams Classic On South Bend Stage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 04 April 2017 17:22

Even from someone with little or no knowledge of theater, the name of Tennessee Williams will evoke a response.

A Streetcar Named Desire South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe soft-spoken Southerner who, with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, forms the triumvirate of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, created characters that continue to challenge a wide range of actors from amateurs to veterans..

Accepting that challenge with a 70th anniversary production of Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize drama, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” South Bend Civic Theatre opened the second show of its 2017-18 season Friday evening in its mainstage Wilson Theatre.

A Streetcar Named Desire South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreUnder the direction of Aaron Nichols, the 11-member cast was undaunted by the task of recreating several of the American theater’s best known dramatis personae. To those who believe the comedians’ mantra that “tragedy is easy,” just try a touch of Tennessee.

Especially when the many of the characters have become more than closely identified with their creators. This identification is never more closely linked than with “Streetcar’s” male protagonist, Stanley Kowalski, and his originator on stage and screen, Marlon Brando.

The task of not only becoming Stanley but erasing, as much as possible, the image of Brando, is undoubtedly one of the most daunting in theater.

It is one that Scott Jackson takes on with admirable abandon even though his earthy physicality is rather restrained and, considering the humidity of the New Orleans setting, lacking in sweat. His obvious frustration with the unannounced — and seemingly unending — visit from his pretentiously genteel sister-in-law Blanche DuBois (Anastasia Spalding) begins with his realization that the family plantation has been “let go” rather than sold and, finally stretched to the breaking point, culminates in an explosive confrontation as he drunkenly hurls the secrets of Blanche’s past in the face of her ever-weakening grasp on reality.

Spalding’s Blanche struggles with harsh realism of life in the French Quarter and the comforting illusions of her youth. Appalled by her younger sister Stella’s acceptance of the raw facts of her life with a husband Blanche describes as “bestial,” she weaves rose-colored fantasies of what life could be, increasingly haunted by the suicide of her young husband.

Stella (Alexandra Rowell) is caught between the animalistic pull of her husband’s carnality and the emotional lure of her sister’s romantic dreams. Trying desperately to find a common ground, she finally must make a definitive choice. (Note: Not the same in the stage and film versions.) Unfortunately, Rowell spoke so softly on opening night that the majority of her dialogue was unheard.

A Streetcar Named Desire  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAs Mitch, one of Stanley’s poker-playing buddies, Don Elliott goes from willingly playing gallant knight to Blanche’s lady to cruelly exposing her fantasies in the raw light of a single bulb. Their scenes together are sensitively played and initially end with hope, however ill-fated.

The width of the Wilson stage is well used in Jill Hillman’s multi-level set design, with an iron spiral stairway at the left leading from the ground level Kowalski apartment to that of their friends Eunice (Dawn Marie Hagerty) and Steve (Curt Goodrich) Hubbell and, on the opposite side, the 4 Deuces Bar, complete with instrumental quartet. Most of the action takes place in the two-room apartment center stage which manages to feel cramped in spite of the surrounding space.

The use of music — original combined with popular hit songs of the period — is a plus to this production, with arranger Roy Bronkema as pianist and Jibrail Jones, Luke Vasilarakos and Anival Fausto completing the group. Fausto doubled as a poker player.

The costumes could be a good deal more worn in keeping with the just-above poverty level of the setting.

As in all plays, suspension of disbelief in varying degrees is important.

“A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE” plays through April 9 in the Wilson Theatre at South Bend Civic Theatre, 403 N. Main St. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit sbct.org.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 April 2017 18:11
 
Life On The Wild (And Funny) Side PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 27 February 2017 16:24

OK.

So it’s not London (“My Fair Lady”) or Scotland (“Brigadoon”) or Siam (“The King and I”), but the familiar location of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which opened Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House, proves that you don’t have to leave the good old USofA to have a fun time.

Great American Grailer Park Musical Elkhart (IN) Civic TheatreThe Elkhart Civic Theater production of this look at life in north Florida’s Armadillo Acres Trailer Park is strictly for laughs. The book by Betsy Kelso and the music and lyrics by David Nehls constantly invite the audience to do just that.

And laugh they do.

The same goes for the cast!

As neighbors Betty (Adrienne Nesbitt), a not-so-grieving widow; Pickles (Michelle Miller), an expectant mother; and Lin (Kristen Abbey), waiting hopefully near her hubby who has been on death row for eight years, announce immediately, they are happy sunning themselves on “This Side of the Tracks.”

Great American Trailer Park Musical Elkhart (IN) Civic TheatreAn object of their concern, however, is neighbor Jeannie (Christina Herrick), hoping to celebrate her upcoming anniversary with hubby Norbert (Zach Rivers) by stepping outside her trailer (“One Step Closer”), something that has not happened since her baby was kidnapped decades ago.

His wife’s agoraphobia frustrates Norbert who decides to celebrate on his own at the local strip club, The Litter Box. Unfortunately, he forms an immediate attachment to its new attraction, Pippi (Christa Jones), who — even more unfortunately — also is the newest resident of Armadillo Acres, hiding out from Duke (Mike Honderich), her biker boyfriend (“Road Kill”).

Great American Trailer Park Musical Elkhart (IN) Civic TheatreComplications grow as Jeannie, armed (literally) with water wings, finally ventures outside, Pickles delivers her baby and a storm-induced short circuit sends Lin’s reunion hopes up in smoke.

No surprise, however, that all is well before the final Florida sunset.

The score of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is not filled with memorable melodies but most are listenable, up-tempo, to the point and delivered with contagious enthusiasm. Especially those from The Girls, who have most of the musical assignments. They blend well in their many trios and, as do all the soloists, have solid voices, making the unfamiliar score very easy listening..

Since characters and plotlines frequently are revealed in lyrics, however, group and solo numbers could benefit from more distinct diction and a little less volume from the excellent small orchestra led by director/keyboardist Liesl Bell.

Great American Trqiler Park Musical Elkhart (IN) Civic TheatreThe setting, designed by Mike Greene, Kevin Egelsky and John Shoup, features at least partial exteriors of three trailers (aka mobile homes), all of which are theatrically accurate. One opens to reveal the interior living room and another, to become The Litter Box stage.

Randy Zonker’s spot-on lighting design segued from sunny and hot to moonlit and steamy to stormy and flashing as required by the action. Have seen many lightening storms on stage at the BOH, but none with the impact of this Florida blast, aided by Gary Cobbum’s sound design.

The costumes, coordinated and created as required by Linda Weisinger, are as trashy as needed by the determindly trashy ladies.

The date is 2003, but dance movements by choreographer Val Ong are mostly reminiscent of the days of disco!

The just-for-fun action is directed by Penny Shoup, assisted by Annette Kaczanowski, and everything invites the audience to party with the residents of Armadillo Acres.

But I didn’t see a pink flamingo anywhere!

NOTE: Some of the language is R-rated but all in the spirit of fun. However, best leave the youngsters home.

“THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL” plays through March 11 in the Bristol Opera House. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 February 2017 16:43
 
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
 
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