Shaking Up Elvis And The Bard of Avon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 18 July 2013 21:37

Take a rollicking farce that is more than 500 years old and inject it with a large amount of music from the late 20th century and what do you have?

All Shook Up  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INIn the case of the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “All Shook Up,” the answer is a highly entertaining evening of familiar melodies and a plot that becomes so hilariously twisted it takes about 2 ½ hours (including intermission) to get everyone straightened out and properly paired up.

What makes this seemingly unlikely combination of Elvis Presley’s best-known songs and the reimagining by playwright Joe DiPietro of one of Shakespeare’s most-produced farces so totally enjoyable is the unbridled enthusiasm of the cast, most of whom are still in their ‘teens.

The opening line of “Twelfth Night” (the work by The Bard of Avon on which the circuitous plot is based) is “If music be the food of love, play on.” In the rousing ECT production it plays on…and on…and on.

If some of the individual voices are a bit less than solo quality, each one makes up for being “pitchy” with frequently endearing energy and enthusiasm. The sharp staging by John J. Shoup, assisted by Leann Reas-Sullan, underscores every comic incidence and makes the most of all the fast-paced happenings.

All Shook Up Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThere is no way to unravel the plot. It is no easier set in “A small you-never-heard-of-it-town somewhere in the Midwest” during the summer of 1955 than it was, set in Illyria on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea in about 1601.

Against Jeffrey Barrack’s stylized drops, the story of “Roustabout” Chad (Tell Williams IV), who literally roars into town on his motorcycle and more than disrupts the status quo, is nothing but fun from beginning to end. As each principle player “falls in love(?)” “One Night With You” is the romantic anthem of choice.

The town is under the thumb of Mayor Matilda (Joy Freude), who has enacted “The Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act” which prohibits “loud music, public necking and tight pants.” In no time, Chad is rousing the residents to rebellion.

In the tradition of true farce, everyone is falling in love but no one is falling for the right person. Among the mis-matched inhabitants are Sylvia, owner of the local café (Wanzetta Arnett); her daughter Lorraine (Dayna Arnette); Jim, a widower and owner/operator of the local garage (Rick All Shook Up  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol INNymeyer); his daughter Natalie, who also serves as chief mechanic (Carly Swendsen); Dennis, town nerd and bad boy wannabee (Matthew Manley); Dean, the mayor’s son avoiding a return to the Stonewall Jackson Military Academy (Andy Braden); Miss Sandra, the town’s new librarian (Ashlea Romano); and Sheriff Earl, silent head of law enforcement (Tony Venable).

These, plus two trios (Brittny Goon, Kristen Abbey and Julie Kavalenko and Jared Yoder, Jacob DeLong and Joshua Garcia) who supply some excellent backup work, do well presenting numbers from The King’s repertoire. An ensemble of 13 and Kids’ Chorus of four deliver a really solid sound thanks to vocal director Sandy Hill.

Suspension of disbelief allows cute and perky Carly to pass as sidekick Ed, even without a dirty face. Watching the repressed inhabitants throw off the inhibiting yoke of Mayor Matilda and learn to “Follow That Dream” results in one laugh after another.

I also guarantee that, whether or not you were ever an Elvis fan, watching the ‘50s-style choreography by Dawn Manger (with John Shoup) set to the excellent eight-piece orchestra directed by percussionist Mark Swendsen will get your toes tapping. It’s definitely unavoidable considering the extensive range of the 24-song score.

It’s a look back and way, way back to a time when “A Little Less Conversation” resulted in steady fires of “Burning Love.”

“ALL SHOOK UP” plays at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in downtown Bristol. For reservations, call 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit

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

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