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

Having 'Tea' With A Film Legend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 14 January 2013 16:50

Performing a monologue is perhaps the most difficult assignment given an actor. When that monologue is play-length, it can be even more daunting.

If the vocal and physical characteristics required for this transformation are left up to the imagination and interpretation of the performer, it may be slightly less difficult. Tea at Five  South Bend Civic Theatre South Bend IN However when the character is an international celebrity and favorite of impressionists world-wide, the challenge escalates.

Such is the challenge is met and delivered handily in the Warner Studio Theatre of South Bend Civic Theatre where veteran actress Mary Ann Moran is inviting her audiences to “Tea at Five” with legendary star Katherine Hepburn.

Under the direction of Kevin Dreyer, in a setting designed by Jacee Rohlck and properly decorated by Teri Szynski, Moran shares thoughts and memories in the convincing guise of the multi-Academy Award winning Hepburn for an hour and 45 minutes — plus intermission.

The break comes, not only to afford Moran a slight respite, but to shift the time line from Hepburn at 38 to Hepburn at 76, still at home in Fenwick, Conn.

'Oliver!' Holiday Success for Wagon Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 17:10

In 1838, British novelist Charles Dickens penned his second novel, “Oliver Twist.,” the grim tale of an orphaned lad surrounded by a harsh world and its even harsher inhabitants.

Oliver!  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INPut some music to the definitely-not-for--Disney plot, soften one or two of the hardcore characters, add a bundle of dirty faced-but-lovable young criminals-in-training and you have ”Oliver!” Lionel Bart’s award-winning musical which opened Friday evening at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Right off the bat you wouldn’t say “Oliver!” was a holiday story. Certainly nothing like Dickens’ No. 1 Christmas tale , “A Christmas Carol,” but there certainly are enough Scrooge-like characters to make it qualify for pre-redemption honors.

What attracts audiences to this musical version is not only the definitely hummable score but the final win for the good guys. In spite of early years that would have crushed a less vulnerable hero, the tiny teen sails through seemingly unscathed. In the person of Parker Irwin, WW’s Oliver, it seemed only right.

Director/choreographer Scott Michaels again has assembled a practically perfect cast. In addition to Irwin, who sings beautifully, delivers lyrics and dialogue with intelligent clarity and rightfully draws a tear with the poignant “Where Is Love?,” the leading players are, without exception, at the top of their game. And the game here, to quote another famed Brit, is definitely afoot.

Oliver!  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw IN

"She Loves Me' Tells Familiar Tale PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 04:18

In theater, as in many other categories, the test of time eliminates lesser vehicles and rewards others not only by the survival of the original but also by its success in other concepts.

Such a vehicle opened Friday evening on the South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage. The 1963 Broadway hit “She Loves Me” traces its plot back about a century to “Parfumerie,’ a play by Hungarian writer Miklos Laslo.

She Loves Me  South Bend Civic Theatre South Bend INFrom there it skipped to Hollywood and the 1940 comedy, “The Little Shop Around the Corner,” with characters, setting (Budapest, Hungary) and plotline in tact. The 1949 cinema incarnation was not so true to its roots, with “In the Good Old Summertime” featuring the addition of lots of music plus singing, dancing and a good old American setting. (Note: Both are shown frequently on Turner Classic Movies.)

The final film, very loosely based on the original, was “You’ve Got Mail,” again without music. Its modern time frame found email replacing the handwritten notes that originally connect the unknowing lovers.

All that brings us to this most-produced version, which retains the original locale and setting and music. Although the story’s timeline covers a year, the final segments focus on the holiday season, making it an appropriate offering in the pre-Christmas slot. This is not surprising as it takes place almost entirely in a small haberdashery which, eventually, is gearing up for Christmas sales.

The lovely score — music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick — contains beautiful ballads, lighthearted comedy songs and clever chorus numbers. All, with the possible exception of the title tune, are probably familiar only to the most avid musical comedy buffs.

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