Theatre
'The Odd Couple' Going Strong At 50 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 17:22

Opposites may attract, but not for long as the increasingly combative protagonists of Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple” quickly discover.

The Odd Couple Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe Elkhart Civic Theatre production which opened Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House under the direction of Karen Johnston marks the 50th anniversary of Simon’s first Tony Award-winning play.

The love/hate relationship of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison obviously is one that never grows old. It began on Broadway in 1965, moved to film in 1968, segued easily to TV from 1970 to ’75 and will return to the small screen in the upcoming season.

The set design by John Shoup goes from trashed to immaculate with the flick of a duster. Along with the costumes coordinated by Shoup and Dawn Blessing, it easily evokes an earlier era when an eight-room apartment on Riverside Drive could serve as a bachelor pad.

The Odd Couple Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INOscar is played here by Carl Wiesinger, complete with bristling mustache, Hawaiian shirt, baseball cap, ever-present cigar and belligerent attitude. A sports writer with a careless lifestyle, the character is said to be the prototype for Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. Both live contentedly in less than sanitary environments.

Into this unkempt atmosphere comes his best friend Felix, a buttoned-up, buttoned-down hypochondriac news writer played with persnickety persistence by Dave Kempher. Oscar is divorced and Felix, recently separated from his home and family. Convinced that his large apartment holds plenty of room for them both, Oscar invites a distraught Felix to room with him — temporarily.

In a very short while, fastidious Felix has moved in and cleaned up everything in sight, putting a definite damper on Oscar’s lifestyle and on the weekly poker game.

As the players — Murray the cop (Patrick Farran), allergic accountant Roy (Zach Rivers), henpecked Vinnie (Roy Carlson) and sarcastic Speed (Bob Franklin) — grow disenchantd with Felix’ persistent housekeeping (napkins, coasters, ashtrays, air spray), they quit the game, leaving Oscar to deal with his now-unwelcome houseguest.

The Odd Couple Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe final straw comes in the person of the Pigeon sisters. Upstairs neighbors Cecily, a divorcee (assistant director Carrie Lee), and Gwendolyn, a widow (Elise Davis), are invited to dinner by Oscar over Felix’ objections. They are immediately sympathetic to the weeping Felix, ruining Oscar’s less-than-platonic plans for the evening.

The third of playwright Simon’s comedies, “The Odd Couple” depends on broad characterizations and snappy one-liners for its fast-paced humor. Timing is definitely the prerequisite here.

There is an old saying, attributable over the years to several famous performers, that “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” On opening night, the truth of this was often apparent.

In spite of the frequently stop/start rhythm, however, audience members who braved the decidedly inclement weather obviously enjoyed the angst-ridden repartee. Whether it was familiar to them or not, there was no lack of laughter as the slob and the neat-freak escalate their verbal battles.

When the linguini settles, things gradually return to near normal but with some new perspectives. As an exiting Felix declares, “Marriage may come and go but the game must go on.”

After a half century of laughs so, it seems, must “The Odd Couple.”

“THE ODD COUPLE” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bristol Opera House on S.R. 120 in Bristol. For reservations, call 848-4116 or visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.org.

 
WW Musical 'Story' A Holiday Must-See PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 08 December 2014 21:03

For more than 15 years, a large part of the television viewing public has tuned in to one or more showings in the 24-hour TNT Christmas Eve/Day marathon of “A Christmas Story.”

A Christmas Story, The Musical  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INIt is my favorite, never-miss holiday show.

Being a believer in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory, I was in no hurry to see “A Christmas Story, The Musical,” a production which premiered in 2009 and toured several major cities before landing on Broadway in 2012.

The musical itself was an outgrowth of the 2000 play based on the 1983 movie. How good, I wondered, could yet a third incarnation be and how have they transferred a film filled with so many memorable moments to the admittedly limited theatrical stage?

A Christmas Carol, The Musical  Wagon Wheel Theatre warsaw INIf this is taking a long time to get to the point, it is to underscore my initial reluctance to check out “A Christmas Story, The Musical” which opened Friday evening at the Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Five minutes into the opening number, I was sold. At the end of the less-than-two-hour production, I was wishing it would begin again.

Under the direction of artistic director/choreographer Scott Michaels, the outstanding cast delivers an evening that brings smiles, laughs and well-deserved cheers throughout. And everything I love about the film is there — and frequently better!

As always, the adult performers are excellent, with WW favorites Matthew Janisse as The Old Man and Kira Lace Hawkins as the understanding Mother. Janisse’s exultation at winning “A Major Award” is frantically hilarious while Hawkins’ description of “What A Mother Does” strikes a solid chord of recognition.

As Jean Shepherd, Hoosier author of the tale and show narrator, Kenneth D’Elia is properly in-and-outside the action as required, and Ellen Jenders as Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, gives a whole new meaning to “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.”

A Christmas Story, The Musical  Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INIn this production, however, it is the younger generation that is absolutely amazing!

In the hands of talented Parker Irwin (6th grade), Ralphie Parker is loveably determined. Bespectacled eyes fixed firmly on the prize (“Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun”), Ralphie dreams of heroic scenarios (“Ralphie To The Rescue”) and methods of achieving his goal (“Up On Santa’s Lap”).

Irwin is not only a strong singer but delivers a solid character, never missing a lyric or a line, honestly portraying all Ralphie’s ups and downs in pursuit of his dream gift.

Beside him is Alek Fehlmann (5th grade) as brother Randy, struggling with mealtime and his restricting winter garb. Their friends Flick (Callen Hoskins, 5th grade) and Schwartz (Caleb Mouat, 6th grade) are as true blue — and as self-protective — as kids that age can be. Nicholas Lowman and Jackson Moeller (both 6th grade) as school bully Scot Farkus and his toady, Grover Dill, respectively, recall everyone’s elementary school nightmares.

In addition to these young performers, this “Story” boasts seven more singers/dancers ranging from 3rd to 6th graders. From the busy opening to the grand finale, they are a major part of the production numbers, and “A Christmas Story” has many! Throughout they sing, dance and inhabit many characters with a confidence many adult actors would envy. All, according to Michaels, are participants in the theater’s Wagon Wheel Jr. program, and it shows!

The extremely mobile set designed by Michael Higgins requires large set pieces to come and go frequently and as swiftly and silently as possible. A Christmas Story, The Musical Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INTo the credit of the movers and shakers, it is never a distraction.

As always, the excellent orchestra led by musical director Thomas Stirling does well with a score that is unfamiliar but thoroughly enjoyable. Stephen B. Hollenbeck’s costumes, circa the 1940s, recreate the colors and shapes of the gentler time recalled by this holiday memory.

If you are looking for one holiday show for this year, I definitely put this production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical” at the top of the list. A word to the wise: Several of the public performances already are sold out.

“A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL” plays weekends through Dec. 21 in the Wagon Wheel Theatre, 2515 E. Center Street, Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.org

 
Berlin Melodies Shine In Holiday Musical PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 02 December 2014 22:59

In 1940, composer Irving Berlin put words to a melody that had been in his head since 1935. It became part of  the all-Berlin score of a Paramount musical titled “Holiday Inn.” Sung by one of the film’s stars Bing Crosby, it was not the White Christmas South Bend (IN) Civic Theatretune all thought would be the breakout hit.

How wrong they were.

Not only was the film a huge success, “White Christmas” (and Crosby’s recording) became the best-selling single of all time, and lead to yet another film and then to a theatrical musical of the same name.

The last, which opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Theatre, promises to join “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street” and a myriad of other seasonal productions as a Christmas regular.

White Christmas  Sotyh Benf (IN)  Civic TheatreLike most other film-to-stage musicals, a number of “not in the movie” songs (happily all by Berlin) have been added  and minor characters have been expanded, not always for the best.

The film’s already thin plotline has been stretched to the max to make room for non-Christmasy numbers like “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano” and “How Deep Is The Ocean.”

Under the direction of Jewel Abram-Copenhaver, a major plus in the SBCT production is principals who display voices that make ballad-listening very pleasant.

Chief among these is Sean Leyes, who seems to be every area community theater’s choice for leading baritone. White Christmas South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAs Bob Wallace, the vocal half of the team of Wallace and Davis (the other half is William Heckaman as funny man Phil Davis), he handles the slow songs easily. His eventual love interest is Betty Haynes, played by Natalie MacRae, who displays a warm, clear voice on her share of the show’s loveliest ballads.

Heckaman takes care of the requisite dancing along with Allison Jean Jones as Betty’s sister/show biz partner, Judy Haynes. The duo acquits themselves admirably in “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing” and “I Love A Piano.”  A vocal quintet backs them in the former and the dance ensemble adds to the fun in the latter, a pull-out-all-the-stops production number led by a talented tap dancing Jones.

SBCT veteran Gary Oesch delivers an appreciably low-keyed characterization as the “Old Man,” retired General Henry Waverly, the reason for the holiday hoopla. His speech recognizing veterans and active military in the audience is heartfelt and moving.

Supporting the general are his former sergeant Martha Watson (Anna Thompson) and his granddaughter Susan (Lucy Barron), both of whom take their turns in the spotlight via “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”

One jarring note is blasted too frequently by the troupe stage manager who mistakes bellowing for the way to get things done.

White Christmas  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAfter a bit of “after you, no after you” with the chorus in the opening number, the on-stage orchestra did well with the familiar score.

The mostly-singing, some-dancing chorus is exactly as good as non-dancing singers are expected to be both with the frequent changes of costumes and characters and Callie Lorenz’ choreography.

The use of projections designed by SBCT artistic director Mark Abram-Copenhaver establish the full-stage scenes effectively, especially on the “Snow” train to Vermont — although how Bob fails to realize he’s not en route to Florida is another mystery in a script that contains quite a few.

Costumer Donald Eugene Willman has assembled a number of colorfully appropriate outfits for both principals and chorus and those familiar with the movie won’t be disappointed by the final definitely-Christmas tableau which, of course, contains a title-tune sing-along.

“WHITE CHRISTMAS” plays through Dec.21 in the Wilson Theatre, 403 N. Main St., South Bend. For performance times and reservations, call (574)234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org.

 
Baseball Drama A Solid Hit For SBCT PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 10 November 2014 23:42

In 1889, British author/playwright Oscar Wilde wrote "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life".The truth of this is underscored by the current South Bend Civic Theatre production, “Take Me Out."

Take Me Out  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe Tony Award-winning play by Richard Greenberg which also was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, examines the effects on a major league baseball team when its star player reveals he is gay.

It was written in 2002.  

Since then, celebrity “outings” have become a regular occurrence, primarily in the field of entertainment and in individual sports. It was not until this year, however, that a professional athlete in a team sport, Dallas Cowboy’s Michael Sam, joined their ranks.

Take Me Out South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAs charted by Greenberg, the announcement by Empires’ star center fielder Darren Lemming (Quinton McMutuary) hits his fellow players on the Empires baseball team in a variety of ways. Although they claim not to be upset, their easy camaraderie in the locker room, and especially in the showers, becomes stilted, self-conscious and resentful, even though Lemming makes it clear his feelings towards his teammates have not changed.

‘The whole mess” began, as recalled by shortstop Kippy Sunderstrom (Steven Matthew Cole), who serves as narrator, at Lemming’s press conference after the mid-season break. The bewilderment and frustration of team members at the new twist in relations with their star is characterized by teammate Toddy Koovitz (Mike Honderich) emerging from the shower and angry at feeling embarrassed with only a towel between himself and Lemming.  

A losing streak brings relief pitcher Shane Mungitt (Richard Isacson) up from the minors. A taciturn loner, Mungitt’s prejudices are revealed in a disastrous, epithet-filled TV interview, resulting in his suspension. Lemming thinks of retiring immediately but is convinced to stay by his accountant Mason Marzac (Brad Mazick), a newly enthusiastic baseball fan who also is gay.

Take Me Out South Bend (IN) Civic TheatrePlaying an integral part in Lemming’s decision to come out is his best friend Davey Battle (Justin F. Williams), star player for another team, who is  religious as well as a husband and father. Their friendship and rivalry touches many levels and, in the end, many lives.

“Take Me Out” is directed by Aaron Nichols, who proves again that he is one of the best in the area, delivering a clean, clear production that is smooth and sharp and hits all the right notes.

Designed by Jacee Rohick, the setting(s) moves swiftly and easily from locker room to playing field to interiors. Not only are these well defined, they are shifted quickly and quietly without detracting from the progressive action, illuminated sharply on and off the field by lighting designer Lloyd Whitmeyer

Take Me Out  Souith Bend (IN) Civic TheatreEach of the characters is definitely an individual, with some of the most humorous moments delivered by non-English-speaking players — David Seymour and Andy Barzelli as Martinez and Rodriguez, respectively, and Marion Deleon as ace pitcher Takeshi Kawabata — as well as by catcher Jason Chenier (Daniel Clymer), whose struggle to assure Lemming that he has no problem with gays is more than a little uncomfortably familiar.

In the clean-up position is SBCT veteran Mark Moriarty, batting well as the team manager, a bartender and a guard.

Topping the lineup of solid performances are those delivered by Cole, Isacson, Honderich and Mazick.

In case it’s not obvious, since much of the action takes place in the shower and locker room, there are many bare butts in view and the actors deserve much credit for being at ease in the altogether. If that, or if the frequent use of the f*** word is upsetting, this is not the show for you.

For everyone else, however, this excellent production by Nichols & Co. is a bases-loaded four-bagger.

“TAKE ME OUT” plays through Nov. 23 in the South Bend Civic Theatre Warner Theatre, 215 W. Madison St. For performance times and reservations, calls 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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