Storming The Barricades Yet Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 15 July 2013 02:53

There is no doubt that wherever it plays, whether the production is amateur or professional, audiences love “Les Miserables.”

Les Miserables  South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre

The almost-opera, called a "sing-through" musical, is a close second to "The Phantom of the Opera" in Broadway longevity. It has been performed all over the world. The London production has been running continuously since 1985, there have been two anniversary concerts (10th and 25th) and, after an initial Broadway run of 16 years (1987 to 2003), with one revival from 2006 to ’08 and another planned for the spring of 2014, it would seem that there is no generation gap in fans of "Les Miz", who just keep coming and coming back.

One of the first non-professional regional productions opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Auditorium. The initial run of 13 scheduled performances has been increased to 15 with several already sold out.

Obviously, sight unseen (and sound unheard), everybody wants to see the massive musical created from Victor Hugo’s equally massive novel(s) by composer Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyricist Herbert Kretzmer and authors Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

Les Miserables South Bend (IN) Civic Theatre

Laughs, Chills In The Barn's 'Deathtrap' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 11 July 2013 03:03

Few contemporary authors have been as successful as novelists, playwrights and screenwriters as the late Ira Levin.

Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MIAlthough his comedy “No Time for Sargeants” was an award-winner on stage and screen (and brought fame to Andy Griffith), his genre of choice was mystery thrillers.

One which combined both thrills and laughs — and was a hit on stage and screen — was “Deathtrap,” which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

The play-within-a-play, which opened on Broadway in 1978, still holds the record for being its longest-running comedy thriller. Check out The Barn production and you’ll understand why.

Actually, its not exactly a play-within-a-play, it’s about a playwright with writer’s block and the writing of a murder play that eventually leaps (literally!) off the printed page and into the lives of the playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Robert Newman), his wife Myra (Samantha Rickard) and a former student Clifford Anderson (Patrick Hunter).

Stirring the murderous mix are Helga ten Dorp (Penelope Alex), a psychic renting the cottage next door, and Porter Milgrim (Steven Burright), Bruhl’s lawyer and friend.

To Levin’s credit, if seeing “Deathtrap” for the first time, you will never spot the endgame. I won’t begin to unravel the twisted plotline because even if I could remember all the detailed ins-and-outs (make that dead/not dead), what makes this thriller worth seeing (or seeing again) are the performances, especially those of Newman and Alex, with Hunter a close third.

Deathtrap  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MI

'Dolly!' Going Strong at Wagon Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 06 July 2013 00:40

Sometimes, it takes a new look at an old standard to make us realize how good the “classics” can be.

Hello, Dolly!  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INProof of this is in the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of the multi-Tony Award-winning musical “Hello, Dolly,” which opened Wednesday evening in the Warsaw playhouse.

A wildly energetic company under the ever-sharp eye of director/choreographer Scott Michaels gives the meddling widow from Yonkers a burst of new life.

Suddenly, in case you haven’t noticed before, Jerry Herman’s score provides a plethora of melodies from which to choose for humming on the way home. Personal favorites: “It Takes A Woman,” “Elegance” and “Dancing,” but probably the most familiar is the title tune, which spent months on the ‘60s pop charts thanks to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.

The character of the indefatigable Dolly Gallagher Levi was created by Carol Channing, who made it her signature role, and has been played by some of the most prestigious divas of the musical comedy world. Not easy footsteps in which to follow.

Kira Lace Hawkins takes up the challenge of becoming Dolly and delivers an engaging and vocally dynamic character who is, as Horace Vandergelder finally admits, a “wonderful woman.” Distributing “business” cards for every eventuality, Hawkins tempers Dolly’s manipulative exterior with a wistful interior that looks for a sign from her dead husband giving permission to her hunt for his successor. And she has a strong and warm soprano that gives depth to “Before the Parade Passes By” and adds a New York snap to “So Long, Dearie.” Her NY accent, which for some can be a problem, is there but not too overdone, and her iron fist/velvet glove achieves the results for which every wife aspires.

Hello, Dolly!  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INAs Vandergelder, the object of her intentions, Robert Joseph Miller delivers a beautifully blustering misogynist whose bark is worse than his bite and worth a lot of laughs. His reactions are perfectly timed and never overdone. His eventual (and unavoidable) capitulation is a foregone conclusion but much fun to watch.

“Young love” is handled expertly by a trio of talented pairs.

Rob Montgomery is Cornelius Hackl, Vandergelder’s chief clerk, and Lauren Roesner is Irene Molloy, a widowed milliner. In spite of themselves, they find true love and deliver the show’s lovely ballads., “Ribbons Down My Back” and “It Only Takes a Moment,” with empathetic clarity.

Kevin Clay and Collean Joy Gallagher are Barnaby Tucker and Minnie Fay, Vandergelder’s clerk and Irene’s assistant, who come together in a delightful rush and share the search for love and “Elegance.”

Kevin Nietzel and Heather Dell (a GREAT cryer) are artist Ambrose Kemper and Ermengard, Vandergelder’s niece, who hope to dance their way into matrimony.

Special notice to Sarah Jackson as Ernestina Money (and in the outstanding “gown” of bright yellow and purple by costumer extraordinaire Stephen R. Hollenbeck, you can’t miss her!) for giving new meaning to “chow down.”

Leading players and featured performers all are on their best games here, but the loudest and most sustained applause must go to the gentlemen (and some ladies) of the Harmonia Gardens wait staff. Displaying an incredible amount of stamina — and some equally incredible coordinated dance moves — they combine to make the daunting “Waiter’s Gallop” an unquestionable highlight of this production.

Leaping and twirling and tossing the cuisine with unerring accuracy, they never miss a step (or a glass) and move smoothly from one seemingly impossible pattern to another. You really have to see them to believe it. (Note: Check out the disgruntled droop on the waiter who consistently chalks up a “near-miss”.)

In addition to the “Gallop” and the title tune, “Dolly!” boasts several familiar ensemble song-and-dance numbers. From the opening “Call on Dolly” through the wildly colorful “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” to the happily-ever-after finale, the young people blend their voices beautifully while never skipping a beat.

In the WW tradition of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the beautifully flexible set was designed for an earlier “Dolly” by the late Roy Hine. It works just as well in this decade.

“HELLO, DOLLY!” plays through July 13 in the theater at 2517 E. Centre Street in Warsaw. For show times and reservations, call 267-8041 or (800) 823-2618 or visit

'Peter Pan' Flies At The Barn Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 28 June 2013 01:54

Summer seems to be the time for indulging in fantasies.

One of these, the perennially popular tale of “Peter Pan,” the boy who refused to grow up, is alive and very active on stage at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich., where it opened Tuesday evening under the direction of Hans Friedrichs.

Peter Pan The Barn Theatre Augusta MIWritten in 1901 by Sir James M. Barrie, the book became a play in 1904, a Disney animated musical in 1953 and a TV/theatrical musical in 1954. The Mary Martin/Cyril Ritchard production came into the homes of America via TV. It has been repeated periodically, and the musical has become a favorite of theater companies across the world.

One of the big plusses for any company with an accommodating stage (high enough to fly) and a large enough budget (flying is never cheap), is seeing Peter and the Darling children float around the nursery and then fly away to Neverland.

It’s not easy to sing strapped in a harness many feet above the stage floor. Just ask petite Emily Fleming as Peter who has mastered the art of graceful ascent and equally graceful flight patterns. And she is just as charming on land, never overdoing the requisite strutting that marks the egotistic Pan, but adding just the right amount of lonely lad. (Note: The role of Peter has traditionally been played by a girl.)

As Peter’s major adversary in Neverland, Robert Newman brings the “crookedest crook” Capt. Hook to believably (and hilariously) blustering reality. Brandishing his glittering hook, he roars at everyone who stands in his way — excepting, of course, the ever-ticking crocodile. Newman is best known for his multi-decade turn as Josh Lewis in the former CBS daytime drama “Guiding Light.” Since that “Light” went out, he has been active on the musical comedy stage in leading roles around the country as well as guest starring on top TV dramas.

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