'The Full Monty' Is All In At Wagonn Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 01 September 2016 15:50

The 1997 British film "The Full Monty" was set in Sheffield, England. The 2000 musical of the same name is set in Buffalo, N.Y. Nothing is lost in translation, especially as presented this week as the Wagon Wheel Theatre’s Encore Show.

Problems and friendships, it seems, are universal.

The Full Monty Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INUnder the direction of Scott Michaels, who also is on stage in a few “cameo” roles (check out his “audition”), the story of six unemployed and increasingly desperate men is the same in any language — but it’s a lot more fun when set to music.

Led by Matthew Janisse as Jerry Lukowski, the other members the eventual sextet (no pun intended!) are Scott Fuss as Jerry’s best buddy Dave Bukatinsky, Danny Burgos as Harold Nichols, Jason Brown as Malcolm Macgregor, Keaton Eckhoff as Ethan Girard and Chuckie Benson as Noah (Horse) T. Simmons.

Each has his own reason for finally agreeing to participate in the one-night-only Chippendales-style show. Basically, of course, the obvious incentive is money. Having seen the enthusiastic reaction of the female population to a show by the strictly male touring group, Jerry decides that putting on a show of their own is the quick way to make a good amount of cash.

Adding “the full monty” — taking it ALL off — is something not offered by the Chippendales and is a spur of the moment inclusion to help flagging ticket sales.

The Full Monty  WagonWheel Theatre Warsaw INWhen it comes right down to the wire, will they or won’t they is the question of the evening. Getting there in the WW production includes everyone — especially the audience — in having two hours of fun.

While the focus is on the men, behind each one of them is the woman who, knowingly or unknowingly, provides the reason to move.

Standing (or not) by their men are Jennifer Dow as Pam Lukowski, Jamie Finkenthal as Georgie Bukatinsky, Sarah Jackson as Vicki Nichols, and Catherine DeLuce as Malcolm’s invalid mother. Ethan and Horse get their support from Jeanette Burmeister (Kathy Hawkins), an old vaudevillian who is the rehearsal pianist and chief critic.

Jerry’s primary reason is young son Nathan (Parker Irwin), who will be lost to his dad if mounting childcare payments are not paid.

There are at least two full showstoppers, not counting the “Let It Go” finale and “Michael Jordan’s Ball” which transitions basketball to choreography.

The Full Money WWagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INOne sure stopper is from Benson who throws down his cane, forgets his arthritis and delivers a rousing “Big Black Man” audition; the other is from Hawkins who leaves her keyboard to quiet the whiners by delivering “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number.” A close third is Jackson’s ballroom salute to wifehood describing ”Life With Harold.”

Solo or ensemble, male or female, the voices in this cast are solid and the dancing is the same, both areas in which we have come to expect the best at WW.

Only slightly off notes: The woodsman beard (?) on Janisse and the lack of a really big belly on the excellent Fuss, whose character hangup is being too obese to de-clothe.

In the pit (literally), the nine member orchestra under the direction of keyboardist/conductor Thomas N. Stirling is once again a major plus in this production, making every measure of David Yazbek’s score a pleasure.

Production manager Mike Higgins, who has two small roles, also designed the set, literally a metal maze of steps and lofts. If you’re sometimes blocked, view-wise, wait a few lines and Michaels’ staging will bring everything into focus again.

As always, costumes, wigs, lighting and sound fill script and atmospheric requirements beautifully.

“THE FULL MONTY” plays through Sunday in the theater at 2515 E. Center St. in Warsaw. For reservations, cll (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagon

Last Updated on Friday, 14 October 2016 03:11
NDSF 'Tempest' Feast For Eyes, Spirit PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 22 August 2016 02:58

In the world of theater, undoubtedly the best known name is that of Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare.

You either love him (and his works) or …

The Tempest NDSF South Bend (IN) IAfraid I have been on the “or …” side for a goodly number of years.

Not that I don’t appreciate his incredible output and the depth of his characters, but I have always had a problem with the language. Not in the sense that I have a problem with Quentin Tarantino’s language — too much of a bad thing is a bad thing — but somehow I always have difficulty getting into the rhythm.

With the current Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival production of “The Tempest” however, (with apologies to “Hairspray”) “You just can’t stop the beat.”

From the moment the Ship-Master (Paul Hanft) lashed himself to the wheel in anticipation of the coming storm as thunder boomed, lightening flashed and towering waves threatened to overtake even the audience, I was hooked.

So what if some of the terminology went by me. There was never any doubt as to who was who, what was going on and why.

The Tempest  NDSF  South Bend INAs always, this production — as have all of the preceeding 17 mainstage shows since the Festival’s beginning in 2000 — is solidly cast.

Leading the beautifully articulate ensemble is Chicago actor/director Nick Sandys as Prospero,

rightful Duke of Milan. Cheated of his duchy by his jealous brother Antonio (Brian Sprague), with the help of Alonso, King of Naples (Jon Herrera), Prospero and his daughter Miranda (Rebecca Leiner) were cast a drift and survived with the help of Gonzalo (Alan Sader), a friendly noble, to live on an uncharted island for 12 years. Possessed of magical powers, Prospero uses his for good and waits patiently for the chance to exact his revenge.

Opportunity arrives as the story opens and, for the next two hours-plus, the stage of the Parricia Decio Theater in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center becomes the setting for love, laughter, treachery plotted and foiled, and magic, lots and lots of magic!

The Tempest  NDSF  South Bend INMiranda meets (and, of course, falls in love with) Ferdinand (Xavier Bleuel), son of King Alonso. Unfortunately, Ferdinand’s uncle, Sebastian (Guillermo Alonso) aided Antonio in his murderous attempt. But Shakespeare never lets things like this stand in the way of true love.

A generous dose of comedy is supplied by Trinculo (Jacob D’Eustachio) and Stephanie (Patricia Egglesto), servants of the king, and Caliban (Alex Podulke), deformed son of a witch. Caliban serves Prospero. The trio helps themselves to the contents of several casks of wine “liberated” by the storm and drunkenly devise their own plot.

Aiding Prospero is Ariel (Sarah Scanlon), a magical spirit rescued by Prospero and bound to serve him until he decides to release her.

The Tempest  NDSF  South Bend INAs the plots, subplots and counter plots uncoil on the magical island, it is clear that director West Hyler not only has a clear line on each of the characters but uses his association with Cirque du Soliel to underscore the enchantments, which are enabled by the use of what seems like a dozen electric floor fans.

Trust me. After the first storm rises, you don’t even notice them. In act two they provide the winds which billow gorgeous clouds of silk at the magician’s command and swirl leaves in a beautifully contained upward spiral, all the imaginative work of air designer Daniel Wurtzel, possibly best known for his paper tornado at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics closing ceremony.

Equally impressive are the effortless attitudes of Scanlon, who maintains Ariel’s mid-air perch (on a trapeze!) throughout, making each sinuous movement seem as effortless as you know it cannot be.

In act one, one of Ariel’s Quality (unnamed singers, dancers and musicians) descends via two long red fabric panels and creates a cocoon in which he/she “sleeps” for a good portion of the action.

Add to that D’Eustachio’s constant and near-perfect demonstration of the art of juggling, all the while maintaining his wily character, and you have a “Tempest” that literally has something for everyone, as evidenced by the reactions of the audience of all ages!

The overall excellence of the production is solidified by the supportive original score by Scotty Arnold, by Kevin Dryer’s mood-enhancing lighting and Marcua Stephens’ impressive scenic design.

This NDSF season is billed as “Shakespeare’s Last Words,” but after this you can be sure there will be many more to come.

“THE TEMPEST” plays through Sunday in the DeBartolo PAC on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. For performance times and reservations, call 631-2800 or visit Children under 18 admitted free.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 August 2016 03:15
Classic Film Musical On The Barn Stage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 18 August 2016 17:40

It’s difficult to recreate a classic, but that’s what theater companies all over the world have been doing — or trying to do — since the M-G-M musical “Singin’ in the Rain” hit the silver screen in 1952.

Singin' in the Rain The Barn Theatre Augusta MIThe latest recreation opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI.

Actually, the theatrical version didn’t happen overnight. It was 31 years after the film that the songs of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, combined with the book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, made its debut in London, followed by a Broadway production in 1985.

Like that famous battery-operated bunny, it just keeps on, refusing to be stayed by one of the most difficult first act finales in live theater history (especially for small venues) — a stage full of rain.

Obviously, no matter what the level of imitation, audiences keep on lovin’ it, and The Barn production — headed by Jamey Grisham as Don Lockwood, Hannah Eakin as Kathy Selden, Sam Balzac as Cosmo Brown and Melissa Cotton Hunter as Lina Lamont — is no exception. And it works hard to keep that love alive.

Singin in the Rain The Barn Theatre nAugusta MIHunter doubles as choreographer with director Hans Friedrichs also scenic designer and on stage as Don’s diction coach. In fact, the entire company is “on,” most playing several characters.

Friedrichs’ set is definitely era-setting, with Erte`-style calla lily sconce cutouts and pedestal palms saying “1920s” without a word. Carly Heathcote’s costumes reinforce the aura with ample helpings of sequins and flapper fringe.

For many, the most unforgettable character is the dumb blonde silent screen star who destroys her image whenever she opens her mouth. Hunter’s Lina captures the “nice house, nobody home” persona of the glamour girl who only believes what she reads in fan magazines. Her solo “What’s Wrong With Me?” (added for the stage version), says it all. She does a good job of delivering Lina’s “nails on a blackboard” voice but her sometimes too-rapid-fire delivery makes it difficult to get much of her dialogue.

Gresham and Balzac have the unenviable assignment of making the audience forget their film counterparts. The former is The Barn choreographer and sometime leading man. He most resembles the perennial juvenile with a wide grin and wavy hair. To his credit, he is unfazed by the literally gallons of water through which he must dance. Even when his upturned umbrella dumps water on him, he keeps on smiling … and dancing … and singing.. Unfortunately, his light baritone voice is plagued by an ever-widening vibrato.

Balzac’s long arms and legs are most reminiscent of the late Ray Bolger and he handles the famous “Make ‘Em Laugh” sequence awkwardly but with definite promise. He and Gresham make a good team in “Fit As A Fiddle” and “Moses.”

They add Eakin for another show-stopper, “Good Morning.” She sings and dances well and delivers two lovely ballads, “Would You” and “You Are My Lucky Star.”

Singin in the Rain  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MIIn addition to Lina’s “lament,” the theatrical score has one non-film song, “You Stepped Out of A Dream,” sung by Lockwood and the ensemble for absolutely no reason at all — but, hey, this is a musical comedy, right? Disbelief suspended!

Barn veteran Eric Parker is properly bombastic as studio owner B.F. Simpson and John Jay Espino is frustrated director Roscoe Dexter, a cross between Cecil B. DeMille (costume) and Eric von Stroheim (accent) … only in Hollywood!

Of course, all’s well that ends well with everyone getting what’s(or who) is coming to him/her and the audience getting another dose of rain as the entire company reprises the title tune all the while — what else — singing and dancing and smiling!

It’s that kind of a show!

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN plays through Aug. 28 in the theater on M96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For show times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.

(NOTE: Next up is the season-ending, one-week-only comedy “Red, White and Tuna” with returning Barn favorites Scott Burkell and Joe Aiello.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 17:55
Cast, Script Shine In Dark Comedy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:29

When a bio of playwright Martin McDonough lists his influences as Quentin Tarantino, Samuel Beckett and David Mamet, you should have some idea of what you’re in for in the current South Bend Civic Theatre production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

Cripple of Inishmaan South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAnd you don’t have to be Irish to laugh out loud at some of the dark humor with which the award-winning play is laced.

Director Jim Geisel has assembled some of the best from SBCT’s roster of veteran actors — David Chudzynski and his wife, Deborah Girasek-Chudzynski, Chelle Walters, Marybeth Saunders and Bill Svelmoe — as well as a few relative newcomers — David Weist, Jonathan Gigler, Conner Correira and Miranda Manier.

Together on Jacee Rohick’s easily-revolving set pieces, they tell the story of Cripple Billy Claven (Correira), an orphan who lives with his adoptive aunts Eileen Osborne (Girasek-Chudzinski) and her sister Kate (Walters) and suffers the constant casual slurs and taunts of his family, friends and neighbors.

Especially stinging (and frequently physical) are those from Helen McCormick (Manier), a tough-talking girl on whom Cripple Billy has a crush. Helen and her slow-witted brother Bartley (Gigler), whose primary interest is the candy sold in the Osborne sisters all-purpose store, seem to have no purpose but tormenting Cripple Billy and each other.

When Johnnypateenmike (Chudzinski), the self-proclaimed town crier, arrives with three pieces of news (which he shares for a food fee) the word is out that an American film company is headed for the island of Inishmore to make a movie and may use locals. Cripple Billy decides immediately to audition and gets a ride from Babbybobby (Weist), a widowed boatman.

Cripple of Inishmaan  Souith Bend (IN) Civic ThetreMeanwhile, Johnnypateenmike is at home with his bedridden mother Mammy (Saunders), age 90. She has been drinking herself to death for 65 years, much to the delight of her son, who keeps her supplied with Irish whiskey, in spite of the dire warnings from Dr. McSharry (Svelmoe),

After a few days, it becomes apparent that Cripple Billy is missing and the residents of Inishmaan are disturbed — or not. When he does return, reactions are mixed as are the long-buried details surrounding the death of his parents which, it seems, everyone is finally determined to share.

The cast, each with his/her own degree of Irish accent, does a remarkable job of creating characters that are, with a few exceptions, much more than caricatures.

Girasek-Chudzynski and Walters are totally believable as aging siblings, each aware of the others idiosyncrasies — Eileen hides candy, Kate talks to stones — but ready to defend each other and Cripple Billy.

Chudzynski is the big blowhard you can’t hate but can’t stand and, of course, have to laugh at. His defense of his right to announce any news first is hilarious and frightening and he strikes just the right bullying notes. Saunders is actually delightful as the senior citizen who lets nothing stand between her and a medicinal nip.

Cfripple of Inishmaan South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSvelmoe’s doctor is the one voice of reason in a rising chorus of … well, not exactly insanity but more and more disfunctional. Weist is the man with the boat. Caught between a flood and a rip tide, he struggles to stay afloat.

As Cripple Billy’s peers, Gigler is an Irish marshmallow dough boy, too soft and spongy to make a difference, while Manier is an Irish crag, all offense and deliberately jagged edges and way too sharp to elicit any sympathy. A softening would have helped.

The action, as one might suppose, swirls around Cripple Billy. Correira does an admirable job of keeping his “cripple” always in tact, not an easy thing to maintain for two hours. His determination to get out of Inishmaan is understandable as, eventually, is the reverse. His character is sympathetic without being pitiable and, finally, almost heroic.

The characters interact as easily as the set slides into different locations and the accents are not an impediment. The sound, however, is a different story.

This production was scheduled for the Warner Theatre (aka the Black Box) a downstairs space in which many of SBCT’s very best productions have been presented.

The venue was changed to the cavernous Wilson Theatre in which, whenever an actor turns away from your direct line of hearing, the dialogue, no matter how well delivered, vanishes or becomes mumbles.

This is a problem which has plagued SBCT since the first play in the Wilson and which no one seems able to solve.

It is unfortunate that when solid productions like “The Cripple of Inishmaan” are in the lineup, everyone will have to sit in the center of the auditorium to be able to hear the whole show.

“THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN” plays Wednesday through Sunday in the Wilson Theatre, 215 W. Madison St. For show times and reservations, call 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m. weekdays or visit

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 17:05
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