Theatre
Timeless Tale Gets Musical Makeover PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 21:15

Honk Jr.  ECTeam  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INWho has not, at one time or another, felt like an ugly duckling?

These feelings were described two centuries ago by Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen, in his stories or “fantastic tales.” Frequently thought of as fairy tales for children, they actually apply to all ages.

Among the most popular is “The Ugly Duckling.”

About 10 years ago, composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe took Andersen’s fable and set it to music. The result was “Honk!” and, for younger performers, “Honk Jr!” which follows Ugly, the “odd egg out” of his mother Ida’s brood, on a delightful and sometime hazardous journey to find himself and iauroduces many varied characters who help — and sometimes hinder —him along the way.

“Honk Jr!” will be presented by the ECTeam of performers ages 8 to 18 at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol Opera House.

Leading roles will be played by Gavin Rusel as Ugly, Sara Nolan as mom Ida, Joel Lininger as dad Drake and Bethany Wirick as the devious Cat.

Honk Jr. ECTeam of Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INHaving seen the ECTeam’s productions before, I can only urge families to get their tickets NOW! Under the direction of Brock Butler, assisted by Karen Johnston, with Kim Dooley as vocal director and Kristen Riggs, choreographer, I guarantee “Honk Jr!” will be a really fun evening for the whole family.

NOTE: The relatives whom cast members “reckon up by dozens” waste no time in making reservations for the limited run ECTeam productions, so make yours now.

“HONK JR!” will play at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol Opera House, 120 E. Jackson in Bristol. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.org at any time!

 
'Les Miserables' Best Seen On Stage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 31 January 2013 18:56

Tuesday night we drove to the Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo to check out the 25th Anniversary Tour of one of the last centuries most enduring theatrical phenomenon.

“Les Miserables” was written by French author Victor Hugo in 1862. It was in five volumes. Since 1934 it has been the subject, in various adaptations, of nine feature films, including the cinematic version of the Broadway musical which opened to mixed reviews on Christmas Day.

Les Miserables  Miller Auditorium Kalamazoo MIWith music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, the Cameron Macintosh production (clocking in at close to three hours) seems, like its fellow blockbuster “The Phantom of the Opera,” destined to be the show that will never close.

And after another look, at least my fifth at various productions from professional to high school, I have to say rightly so.

This “anniversary” presentation, however, obviously needed something different to warrant mounting another full-scale production. The “difference” was the elimination of the original’s most unique scenic innovations — the turntable.

Filling almost the entire center stage, it facilitated the flow of one scene into another, much as the powerful score shifted focus on locales and characters with changing musical themes.

The anniversary show has opted for projections of paintings by Hugo which fill the center of the stage, flanked by two-story towers which served as entrances to various locations and a number of large set pieces (i.e the iron gate to Jean Valjean’s final home and the barricade) which roll on and off as needed.

They work, of course, but have made this production like any big Broadway show and I, for one, really missed the impressive and effective flow supplied by the turntable. (Have to say that seeing bodies stacked in a cart is much less effective dramatically than watching the barricade slowly turn to reveal the fallen students still clinging to its crude construction, even in death). Sorry, but it’s all about theatrical impact.

That said, seeing “Les Miserables” on it’s original home — THE STAGE — and hearing the stirring score sung by obviously excellent and well-trained voices with lush and moving instrumental support from a FULL ORCHESTRA (something almost unheard of in this day of two keyboards and a drum), it was easy to understand why this show SHOULD be seen in this setting, with or without turntable.

The names of the outstanding cast, which is very large, are not well known here but one look at the impressive program bios, which list only a small portion of each individual’s work-to-date, and there is no doubt that the company IS this show.

Must cite Peter Lockyer (Jean Valjean), whose transformation from bitter thief to loving father is the lynchpin on which the story turns, and Andrew Varela (Javert), the single-minded policeman whose dogged pursuit of Valjean proves his own undoing. Each man has, in the course of the evening, a number of dramatic and difficult solos, plus equally demanding dramatic sequences. They could not have been better suited and deserved the spontaneous cheers which followed eac.

Fantine (Geneviieve Leclerc) and Eponine (Briana Carlson-Goodman) scored solidly as ladies who loved and lost, as did the dastardly Theniardiers (Shawna M. Hamric and Timothy Gulan), who, like the cockroach, survive everything, and students led by Enjolras (Jason Forbach) and Marius (Devin Ilaw). There are too many others in the large ensemble to list. Enough to say that each does his/her own part in bringing “Les Miserables” to life yet again.

Go see the movie if you want. The stage is where this musical really lives, and for a lot longer than “One Day More”!

“LES MISERABLES” plays in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, through Sunday. Curtain times vary. Ticket prices range from 38 to $78 but are available for 50 percent off seats remaining for Friday matinee. Call (269)387-2300 or (800) 228-9858.

 
This Farce Definitely Necessary PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 17:12

I am known, sometimes unfortunately, for making definite declarations of my likes and dislikes. Theatrically speaking, one of the latter is farce.

Unnecessary Force  South Bend IN Civic TheatreThis is to admit that there are exceptions to every rule. One hilarious exception opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Auditorium.

Titled “Unnecessary Farce,” it was written by Chicago actor Paul Slade Smith. Given my feelings about the genre, some really killer headlines were rolling around in my head in advance of the performance.

After about five minutes they vanished, much like the heroine’s costume.

Perhaps the fact that I had never seen it before played a part in my inability to stop laughing, especially as the bumbling antics escalated. I am inclined, however, to credit the spot-on timing elicited by director Richard Baxter from his septet of obviously dedicated actors.

Whoever said “Dying is easy, comedy is hard” knew what they were talking about, especially as it relates to the comic part. Will not even begin to try and outline the plot, because plot is the least of the worries in putting together a successful farce. Suffice it to say that the fit of actors and roles could not have been better here.

The frame on which the frequently mindless activity is hung concerns a sting operation set up in adjoining motel rooms. The aim is to catch a mayor in the act of receiving payoffs for city contracts. The “trappers” are a veteran-but-bumbling cop (Tucker Curtis), his bumblingly over-eager rookie sidekick (Eva Cavadini) and the whistle-blowing accountant (Trisha Himmelein). Their target is the obviously innocent mayor (Jason Gresl).

On the other side of the sting is a mysterious killer for the Scottish Clan (“that’s clan with a C”) known as the Highland Hitman (Matthew Bell) and an even more mysterious mob boss known only as Big Mac. Somewhere in between is FBI Agent Frank (Bill Svelmoe), and the mayor’s wife (Mary Toll), tottering in and out in search of her husband.

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Few Tunes, Lotsa Bodies in '40s-Style Mystery PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 01:35

Remember the days when murder mysteries were all about secret passages, multiple suspects, bumbling detectives and unknown killers who could be any of the guests isolated in an old mansion during a wild storm?

Musical comedy Murders of 1940 Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThose were the good old days and that’s what its all about in “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” which opened Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House.

The Elkhart Civic Theatre production has no shortage of oddball characters and each is equally suspect as the bodies start to pile up. There may be little music but there are murders aplenty and a lot of people who are not what they propose to be.

John Bishop’s whodunit is most obviously based on murder mystery movies circa 1940s (Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello more than Nick and Nora). It definitely takes almost the entire 2 ¼ hours to figure out exactly who did what to whom and why.

Under the direction of Dave Dufour, ECT’s man for all melodramas, the action begins silently — with a murder that remains conveniently undiscovered for quite a while — and gains volume as each suspect is introduced.

The premise, outlined early on while the corpse is still in the closet, is a backers’ audition for a proposed musical, “White House Merry-Go-Round.” Location is the Chappaqua, N.Y. mansion of wealthy Elsa Von Grossenknueten (Annette Kaczanowski), a potential investor and enthusiastic amateur sleuth, and her maid, Helsa Wensel (Elise Davis), a former cabaret performer.

The cast arrives as Elsa and police detective Patrick Kelly (Dan Cotton) go over their plan to apprehend the Stage Door Slasher whose last homicidal rampage resulted in the deaths of three cast members in ”Manhattan Holiday,” the only musical by ultra flamboyant composer Roger Hopewell (Geoff Trowbridge, who wrote the music for the script-supplied words) and non-stop tippler and lyricist Bernice Roth (Geneele Crump) to fail.

Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 Elkhart Civic Theatre

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