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Classic Berlin Rings In The Holidays PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 10 November 2016 16:35

In 1942, songwriter Irving Berlin was commissioned to pen several season-oriented tunes for a film titled “Holiday Inn.” Among them was the ballad “White Christmas,” a melody originally written in 1935.

White Christmas Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INNeither Berlin, who was Jewish, nor the singer Bing Crosby, who was Catholic, were overly impressed with the tune’s staying power and thought another of that film’s ballads would be the break-out hit.

So much for the insight of insiders.

“White Christmas” went on to become an all-time bestseller with the Crosby version the best-selling single of all time.

In 1954, it was the title of a semi-sequel, also starring Crosby, also set in a struggling Vermont inn, also featuring a score by Irving Berlin. Never one to let sleeping musicals lie, it still took more than 45 years to transfer that movie to the stage.

White Christma Elkhjart Civic Theatre Bristol INSince 2000, however, it is a sure bet that “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” will pop up, live and in color, on a stage near you, just in time to ring in the holiday season.

This year, the stage is in the Bristol Opera House where the Elkhart Civic Theatre production opened a three-weekend run Friday evening. For those of an age, these are the melodies you grew up with. For those younger, these are the melodies you undoubtedly will be hearing for the rest of your lives and even beyond..

Pay no attention to the story. It is simply a bit of whimsy on which to hang the music. It follows two song-and-dance men — Bob Wallace (Dustin Crump) and Phil Davis (Zach Rivers) — as they say farewell to army life and return to the nightclub circuit. Here they meet singing-and-dancing sisters Betty (Kelsey Crump) and Judy (Rachel Hall) Haynes and join the girls for their upcoming gig at an inn in Vermont.

White Christmas Elkhart C ivic Theatre Bristol INOn arrival they find retired Gen. Henry Waverly (Michael Case), their former commander, now owner of the inn and facing bankruptcy for lack of snow which equals lack of customers. Sharing the unwelcome warm weather are Waverly’s granddaughter Susan (Lilly Betts) and his housekeeper/assistant Martha Watson (Stephanie Yoder), both of whom are stage struck.

In the “Let’s put on a show here” (a la1940s Mickey Rooney), the boys call on their nightclub cast, TV connections, army and former army buddies and prepare to save the day, all, of course, to surprise the general.

Fortunately, the strong point for the ECT production, under the direction of John Shoup and assistant Geoff Trowbridge, is the vocals. Solo, duo or ensemble, with solid support from conductor Mark Swendsen and seven excellent instrumentalists, they make Berlin’s marvelous melodies a pleasure to hear, for the first or 100th time.

Even if you are familiar with the movie, the theatrical version’s score has added several “new” Berlin numbers and eliminated one or two from the film.

The best addition is “I Love A Piano,” an up-tempo tap number which opens the second act with an energetic performance by Rivers, Hall and the ladies of the chorus. Designed by choreographer Tom Myers, It is a high point of the show which, opening night, was a bit off the mark.

White Christmas Elkhart Civic Theatre Bristol INThe uneven pace undoubtedly has come up to tempo but the setting for most of the action is, of necessity, a barn and the resulting brown-on-brown is location-required but too muddy to be musical. The shots of color come late.

All things considered, however, “White Christmas” is definitely here to stay in the holiday pantheon of celebratory productions.

And it won’t be alone too long.

The show from which this musical got its theme — and its theme song — “Holiday Inn,” just opened on Broadway.

Guess nothing says Christmas like Irving Berlin!!

WHITE CHRISTMAS” plays Friday through Sunday and Nov. 18-19 in the Bristol Opera House on S.R. 120 in Bristol. ouse on S.R. 20 in Bristol For r

For show times and reservations, call (574) 848-4116 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2016 21:56
 
Season Starts With Music And Dance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:14

In anticipation of the upcoming season — and filling the gap between Halloween and Thanksgiving — Elkhart Civic Theatre presents a holiday classic,White Christmas  Elkhart Civic Theatre  Bristol IN “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” Friday through Nov. 19 at the Bristol Opera House. The feel-good script is filled with Berlin classics featuring the title tune as well as “Count Your Blessings,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” “I Love A Piano” and “How Deep Is The Ocean.” It tells the story of two singing sisters, the duo of entertaining ex-soldiers who love them and the G.I.’s former commanding officer who needs all their help to save his New England lodge. Let the theatrical version of the ever-popular 1954 film classic light up your holidays. For show dates and times, call (574) 848-4116 between 1 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays or visit www.elkhartcivictheatre.org.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 19:36
 
A Look At Something We Will Never Know PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 27 October 2016 17:07

With the rising popularity or reality TV shows, it’s not unreasonable to expect its invasive fingers to stretch across the footlights and onto the “real live” stage.

The  Mpountaintop South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSuch a reach is offered in “The Mountaintop,” which opened Friday evening in South Bend Civic Theatre’s Wilson Theatre.

For those who have no idea what’s ahead, the setting — The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. — and the date — April 3, 1968 — offer definite clues. Ditto the main (and only) protagonists — 1) a middle-age African American man and 2) a definitely much younger African American motel housekeeper.

The man is Martin Luther King. Uneasily preparing to spend the last evening of his life before journeying on. Quite accurate, although his tomorrow and the one fate has in store for him are quite different.

The Mountaintop  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThe maid, who is most particular about the pronunciation of her name, Camae, comes to deliver towels and stays for an evening of shared cigarettes, bad jokes, personal revelations and something quite different (if you have not seen the play, I won’t spoil that reveal; if you have, I don’t have to).

As the thunder rolls (quite loudly) and lightning flashes (quite impressively), King (Ben Little) and Camae (Kelly Morgan) await the lessening of the storm while creating one of their own inside room 308.

Of course, no one really knows what conversations, if any, took place in that ill-fated motel, so playwright Katori Hall had carte blanche in creating her own scenario.

You may agree that her suppositions have validity or you may not. Whichever you choose, it does nothing to lessen the uncomfortable pleasure of “listening at the keyhole.”

It takes nothing away from the acknowledgement that Rev. King was, after all, a man. If there is a doubt, the hole in his sock erases it immediately. Difficult to put on a pedestal a man with a big toe wriggling visibly.

Little returns to the SBCT stage with a bang in this 90-minute, no intermission production. He is by turns charming, afraid, belligerent, compassionate, insightful and, when the lights go out, ready to face what ever comes, even though he is sure of what if not of when. His portrayal would benefit from a little less bombast, especially towards the end. Moderation is equally moving.

The Mountaintop South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreMorgan enters obviously impressed with the occupant. That doesn’t prevent her from sharing cigarettes (both are trying to quit) in a “don’t let the grownups catch us” attitude or sewing on a button or bolstering up King’s sagging confidence or participating in a pillow fight or sharing a touch of “Irish cough syrup.” Her voice is consistently high and her sometimes too-speedy delivery results in a loss of dialogue.

Their common thread is fear. “Fear makes us human” King says, admitting later that fear is his best friend. Whatever happened — or did not — in that Memphis motel room, (maybe he just got a good night’s sleep) Hall’s conjecture is only one imaginative offering.

The truth is that we will never know, but as presented by Little and Morgan, this view from this “Mountaintop” makes for a very interesting evening.

Fred Kiefer’s set — of necessity — couldn’t be drearier with special applause for the very realistic thunder and lightning, all under the direction of Shirley Gordon.

“THE MOUNTAINTOP” plays through Sunday in the SBCT Wilson Theatre. For show times and reservations call (574) 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2016 17:20
 
Chilling Tales Shared In 'The Weir' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 10 October 2016 18:36

If you’re the type who likes their chill factor raised via slasher films or undead supernatural TV shows, the latest South Bend Civic Theatre production — "The Weir"— won’t seem overly frightening.

The Weir  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreWhat the award-winning work by Irish playwright Connor McPerson will do is provide you with an evening of solid performances and frequently familiar characters whose easy banter reveals a universal connection.

Under the direction of Scott Jackson (one of the Michiana areas’s best!), "The Weir" focuses on the interaction of two regulars, one returnee, a newcomer and the bartender in a pub in northwest Ireland. Named for the low dam that regulates water level controlling the small town’s electricity, The Weir also serves as a safe haven for the men of the village.

The Weir South Bend (JN) Civic TheatreGathered in its familiar confines are the owner, Brendan (Marlon D. Deleon); Jack (Bill Svelmoe), a mechanic and owner of the local garage, and Jim (Ed Walin), another regular who cares for his elderly mother. They are joined by Finbar (Driscoll), a prosperous real estate broker who has just rented a house to Valerie (Dorea Britton), a young woman from Dublin.  

Over a pint (or more), they share the events of their day and, as Jack puts it, “Bullshit about all and nothing.” Tales of local events and residents somehow slip into stories of experiences with the supernatural. Each of the regulars has his own encounter to recall but the one shared by Valerie is the most chilling, being obviously her own real, and painfully recent, experience.

The Weir  South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreThere is not much physical action in “The Weir,” but the emotional currents run with increasing swiftness and, as the focus shifts from one to another, the truth of Jack’s statement “There is no dark like a winter night in the country” becomes chillingly real as does the fact that the warm lights in the Weir offer each at least a temporary shelter from the wind that blows incessantly, providing an increasingly ominous underscoring of the world outside..

The strength of the production is in the performances. Each of the actors takes hold of his/her character and delivers a realistic and sometimes painful look behind the universal exterior. Relationships are revealed, restated, renewed and begun before the last lights in The Weir are shut off for the night.

There is a relaxed and easy camaraderie between Jack and Brendan that speaks to a real friendship. Jim, the third point in the triangle, seeks equal footing but is somehow frequently the odd man out. Finbar, who never forgets his economic status, is more the outsider than the new girl in town and the hostility between he and Jack is frequently palpable.

All the players are relaxed and easy with their roles, with Svelmoe perhaps the most riveting as he lets go of his initial bravado to tell of a lost love. All are perfect examples of “less is more.”

Sam Jones scenic design sets the locale immediately and the sound design by director Jackson is almost a sixth character.

“THE WEIR” plays Wednesday through Sunday in the intimate Warner Theatre in the theater at 215 W. Madison St. For performance times and reservations call (574) 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 October 2016 03:19
 
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