'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.

Classic Thriller On Stage In South Bend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 23:19

The list of plays written by Frederick Knott is short and sweet. Well, maybe not sweet — all are murder mysteries — but definitely short. The grand total is three. Two have become classics, both on stage and in their cinematic variations.

Wait Until Dark  South Bend Civic Theatre  INOne — “Wait Until Dark” — opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Mainstage Aditorium under the direction of Richard Baxer. It strikes a note of fear common to a great many people: fear of the dark. In this case, that fear is exacerbated by the fact that heroine Susy Hendrix (Eva Cavadini) is recently blind, making her easy prey for the trio of criminals who invade her Greenwich Village apartment in search of a doll stuffed with heroin.

She is unaware of the doll’s contents, as is her husband Sam (Jared Roy Windhauser), a freelance photographer, who brought it from Canada as a favor to a woman who asked that he take it to her hospitalized child.

The drama begins with two ex-cons Mike Talman (Tucker Curtis) and Sgt. Carlino (Chad Hoefle) literally bumping into each other in the empty Hendrix’ apartment, both summoned by a letter from Harry Roat, Jr. (Matthew Bell), a stranger to both men who definitely knows a lot about each of them. Roat reveals a plan to retrieve the doll which requires the participation of both men.

The revelation of his detailed plan takes up most of the first scene (each act has three) and hinges on Susy’s blindness which enables the thieves to portray themselves as other than what/who they are. Sam, lured out of town on a bogus assignment, leaves his handicapped wife to take care of herself.

Hyde Quartet Haunts Familiar Jekyll PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 29 October 2012 16:01

With Halloween right around the corner, its seems natural that the play of choice for Elkhart Civic Theatre should be a newer take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” which opened Friday evening in the Bristol Opera House.

Penned by Jeffrey Hatcher, the play’s title is “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” There is no need to define it as a “strange case.” That, within the first few minutes, is obvious.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  Elkhart Civic Theatre INThe illness of Dr. Henry Jekyll is, in this context, self-inflicted. Today we would describe him as suffering from a split personality or DID (dissociative identity disorder), a diagnosis increasingly common in this century (and a popular character twist in current daytime dramas).

In the turn of the century England, however, it was seen as dabbling in the dark arts. That much of the original narrative is still in tact.

What has been changed in the Hatcher formulation is definitely off the path of the 132 film versions, not to mention those on stage or TV. There still is only one Henry Jekyll (Brent Graber) but there are four incarnations of Edward Hyde (Colin Rusel, Carl Wiesinger, Tony Venable and Melissa “Missy” Domiano), each of whom also plays one or more additional roles.

The action begins a year after Jekyll has found his personality-splitting formula and is beginning to realize that it may be getting out of hand. Unlike the traditional narratives, he is not in love with a “good girl,” but instead is consumed with exploring the dichotomy of human nature. When asked if he believes in the soul, he is elusive, answering “Man gives names to things we cannot understand.”

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