MarciaMarciaMarcia
Dickens' Whodunnit Lets Audience Help PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:08

Solving “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is the primary objective of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical which opened Wednesday evening in Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Based on an unfinished novel by the Victorian era’s best known and most prolific writer, Charles Dickens, it offers audiences the opportunity to participate in the final outcome of the mystery: Is Edwin Drood dead or is he not? Is it a murder or is it not? And if it is, who is the murderer?

The Mystery of Edwin Drood Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INUnder the aegis of guest director Tony Humrichouser, the arena stage is the Music Hall Royale, complete with gaslit playing areas and a willing company of talented performers who venture into the audience before the show begins to recreate the comraderie of a 19th century playhouse, complete with instructions on how to react whenever the title is pronounced.

The biggest “gimmick” of this mystery is its dangling denoument.

Dickens, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 58, left no instructions as to which of his colorful characters would be named the killer so, about halfway through the second act, The Chairman (Mike Yocum) stops the action and asks the audience to vote for its preferred villain.

As you might suspect, this can be different with each performance and puts the pressure on the primary characters as to what is to follow when he or she is named, specifically performing an individual ”Murderer’s Confession.”

Not that being named by the crowd means any special perks, but each of the characters obviously has a great deal of fun recruiting his/her fans.

The character of The Chairman is not strictly Dickens but was created by author/composer/lyricist Rupert Holmes as a player and narrator of the frequently convoluted plotline. He also introduces each of the actors to the audience by their real/professional names as well as the names of their characters. It is a daunting assignment which Yocum carries off with appropriate panache.

The Myster of Edwin Drood Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFirst up is John Jasper (Riley McFarland), the local choirmaster and Edwin’s uncle who also lusts after Miss Rosa Bud (Kelly Britt), his music pupil and Edwin’s fiancé. There is no doubt that Jasper is a most wonderfully hissable villain (McFarland obviously loves it and I kept waiting for the twirling mustache). His problem is described hilariously in his solo “A Man Could Go Quite Mad.”.

Edwin, as was the custom in that era, is played by a “Lead Boy,” always a female, here in the person of the very excellent Elaine Cotter. Britt, as the much sought-after Rosa Bud, is beautifully fluttery and delivers a soaring soprano (“Moonfall”). She is the obvious heroine while Princess Puffer (Leanne Antonio) represents the dark side (“The Wages of Sin”) as mistress of the local opium den. Like the others, she is not quite what she seems.

The Mystery of  Edwin Drood  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFilling the suspect list are The Rev. Crisparkle (Andy Robinson), his frustrated assistant Bazzard (Evan Kinnane), the Landless twins Helena (Sarah Ariel Brown) and Neville (Britton Hollingsworth) recently immigrated from “Ceylon,” Durdles the gravedigger (Michael Bradley) and his son Durdles the Second (Blake R. Bojewski).

All have secrets and motives (some stronger than others) for doing the dirty deed but which one is the real killer? It totally depends on what the audience wants, which is half the fun of “Edwin Drood.”

The other half is watching the company unravel the serpentine thread of Dickens-via-Holmes. It is no easy task which may be one of the reasons this show is only infrequently produced.

They meet the challenge well, although frequently understanding the lyrics is a problem

In addition to the period set by designer David Lepor, the richly colorful costumes by Stephen R. Hollenbeck and the corkscrew curls of the wigs by Jennifer Dow — all of which are major assets in visually turning back the clock — the award-winning score is solidly interpreted by guest musical conductor Alyssa Kay Thompson and her nine-member orchestra.

On opening night a misfire from the fog machine enveloped the entire stage in a too-realistic London brown-out during which Princess Puffer continued her solo — completely fogged in (or out) — without missing a beat.

The dark side of “Edwin Drood” was, however, quite literally too dark. The atmospheric lighting design, aimed at recreating London’s murky nighttime, unfortunately left soloists faceless. Undoubtedly, more light has been shed on that problem.

“THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD” plays through July 8 in the theater at 2517 E. Center St. in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheelcenter.org

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:19
 
Music Of Buddy Holly Fills The Barn PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 19:48

Charles Hardin Holley of Lubbock, Texas, dropped the last “e” and became everybody’s “Buddy” during his too-brief life in the emerging world of rock ‘n roll.

His story, as told in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” opened Tuesday evening on the stage of The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI. It was the first of what has now become a familiar theatrical genre known as the “jukebox musical.”

Buddy{ The Buddy Holly Stry  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIIf some of the characters may be composites and the chronology sometimes a bit difficult to follow, there is nothing lacking in the music which, on Tuesday, was obviously more than familiar to the enthusiastic audience.

The show is directed by rock ‘n roll aficionado Brendan Ragotzy

The title role is played by guest artist Andy Christopher who, coincidentally, was working as an EMT in Lubbock, Texas when he auditioned for the part. That was 2010 and he has been Buddy Holly ever since.

Tall and lanky with dark curly hair and the requisite horn-rimmed glasses (needed or not), Christopher obviously is comfortable with his theatrical persona, a character into which he definitely warmed up as the action progressed.

It is to his credit that he avoided any semblance of caricature, a trap into which some of his fellow “rockers” unfortunately stumbled.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story  The Barn Theatre  Augusta. MIThe focus here, as it should be, is on Holly. His focus, after opening for Elvis Presley three times, shifted from gospel and country to rock. Determined to do “My music, my way,” he moved from Nashville to a producer in Clovis, N.M. and, seemingly without missing a beat, turned out “That’ll Be The Day.”

The rest, as they say too often, is history.

This show, written by Alan James, of necessity gives short shrift to all the details in Holly’s life, concentrating instead on the music and the one love of his life, Maria Elena Santiago (a very compassionate Andrea Arvanigian), whom he met and married in less than a day.

Even though everyone on stage and off obviously knows the tragic ending to the story, the only sense of foreboding is felt by his wife who reportedly dreams about a ball of fire in the sky.

That ball became a reality in February 1959, just two years after Holly’s break into rock ‘n roll stardom, when a private plane crashed killing the pilot, Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. Here the mention of it is bookended by “Rave On!” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Oh Boy,” which allow no time for tears. (all I could think of was Don McLean and “American Pie”)

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIObviously the most important ingredients in any jukebox musical are the singers and THE BAND. Here the four piece band, under the direction of Barn music director Matt Shabala , fits the bill without dropping a note (although at times it as so loud they could have dropped several and I couldn’t have told the difference.).

Christopher provides his own guitar riffs and also sings well and offers several rock steps without breaking a leg!

A vocal standout is Emily Agy as “Marlena,” a mix of the many singer/mc’s at the Apollo Theatre. She rocks the hall with “Shout!” proving that tall talent can live in short bodies.

The joke about Buddy’s meal-obsessed mom wears thin after a while and other relationships — Buddy’s early manager Norman Petty and wife Vi (Eric Parker and Penelioe Alex) and Lubbock dj Hipsockets Duncan (Hans Friedrichs) — come and go fairly quickly, but the music goes on and on and on and, after all, that’s what the people came to hear/see.

Scenic designer Samantha Snow deserves applause for the music-themed set with features sound booths stage left and right and a revolving sheet music panel which allows quick changes of locale (except for the crew member pulling the rope to make it change0.

The downside to this production is the in-and-out sound which is blasting during musical numbers and, at too many times, disappears during dialogue, leaving us to ponder what is being said.

Never mind.

Buddy Holly is center stage surrounded by the Crickets (Quinn Moran and Alex Crossland) and friends and Clear Lake is eclipsed by a wonderful wave of music.

BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY plays through July 9 in The Barn Theatre on M96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations call (269) 731-4121.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 19:59
 
Everybody Gets Footloose At Wagon Wheel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 17 June 2017 18:29

The dancing feet of the talented 2017 Wagon Wheel Theatre company are again in the spotlight in its current production of “Footloose,” which opened Wednesday evening in the Warsaw theater center.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INThe driving rhythms of the title tune open and close the high-energy musical, based on the 1984 film which brought everyone more than six degrees closer to star Kevin Bacon.

From first to last, the mix of pop and country styles offers something for everyone, underscoring the tale of rebellious youth and allowing all the happy endings expected for most musicals. If there are few surprises, the fun really is in getting there.

The score by Tom Snow and lyricist Dean Pitchford (plus a number of others) includes a number of tunes that became chart-topping hits, especially the title song by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INFamiliar or not, there is no way to sit still — or keep your toes from tapping — as the eventually-rebellious teens of Bomont, Utah persuade their elders that singing and dancing do not equate with sinful.

Leading the charge is the traditional “outsider,” Ren McCormack (Matthew Copley). Recently relocated with his mother Ethel (Jennifer Dow) from a major city to the small town home of her brother, where dancing is against the law, he finds it difficult to stay within that law

Ren becomes friends with Willard Hewitt (Blake Bowejski) who reveals the origin of the no-dancing law.

Of course, Ren is immediately attracted to Ariel Moore (McKenzie Kurtz), daughter of the minister, Shaw Moore (Brett Frazier), who proposed the law after the death of his son. His bitter grief has resulted in shutting out his wife, Vi (Kira Lace Hawkins), and his daughter. She rebels via a relationship with the town bad boy Chuck Cranston (Britton Hollingsworth) and hurls her frustrations to the winds under a nearby railroad trestle.

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INLed by Ren, the town’s teens gradually gather the courage to face their parents — and the town council — to demand a prom.

No surprise. Eventually, everybody winds up dancing!

Getting there in the WW production is more than a lot of fun. Solid voices and incredibly flexible bodies throw themselves energetically into director/choreographer Scott Michaels’ dances, leaving the opening night audience literally cheering their efforts.

The plotline is painfully obvious but, in “Footloose,” it really doesn’t matter. The good people (Vi Moore, Ethcl McCormack) are very good and even better when they decide to stand up for their children. One of the loveliest moments in the show dials down the decibel level considerably and allows Hawkins, Dow and Kurtz to reflect on the difficulties of “Learning To Be Silent.”

Footloose  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INAs Ren, Copley never seems to run out of steam, forging ahead to win not only the girl but her stony father and, with him, the entire town. Frazier delivers a deeply wounded parent who has shut down completely and, finally, struggles to listen (“Heaven Help Me.’”) Hawkins adds warmth as the wife and mother torn between husband and daughter.

As Willard, Bowejski’s aw shucks persona offers his friend some homespun advice in “Mama Says” and slowly and hilariously comes out of his shell.

Rusty (Leanne Antonio) has her eye on Willard and, with her girls (Bailee Enderbrock, Sarah Ariel Brown and Kurtz), leads the show-stopping “Let’s Hear It For the Boys.”

The WW orchestra is a six piece band here, delivering excellent support under the direction of guest conductor/keyboardist Alyssa Kay Thompson.

Mike Higgins’ ingeniously rustic set design translates rapidly from church to home to soda shop and more. Applause (silent) to cast and crew members who deliver the non-stop, quiet and difficult scene changes in the dark. It’s all part of the WW professionalism.

Stephen Hollenbeck’s costume designs are appropriately country, with plenty of required wiggle-room!”

“FOOTLOOSE” plays through June 24 in the Wagon Wheel Theatre in the WW Center for the Arts, 2517 E. Center St in Warsaw. For performance dates and times call (574) 267-8041 or (866) 823-2618 or visit www.wagonwheelcentef.org.

Last Updated on Saturday, 17 June 2017 18:48
 
Dark Disney Opens The Barn Season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 17:30

When the name of Walt Disney is a part of a musical production’s title, one can understandably assume that this will be a family affair, audience-wise.

That assumption would be questionable when referring to the Disney musical which opened the 71st season of summer stock at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI Tuesday evening.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIIt is “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” based on the 1831 novel by French author Victor Hugo and the 1996 film from American animator Walt Disney.

There have been literally countless films, silent and otherwise, plus TV and radio productions and theatrical creations of the story of Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and his love for Emeralda, the gypsy dancing girl.

Being in the public domain, the Hugo novel has been twisted and turned without having to stick strictly to its cast and plot. The same is true of the musical, with music by Disney regular Alan Mencken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Peter Farnell.

Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre Augusta MIDo not look here for the young lovers to go off together into the Parisian sunset or the much-maligned bell ringer to find a happy melody.

This “Hunchback” is the consistently darkest of any Disney-named production. All Disney films have at least one deadly dark moment: The wicked queen in “Snow White,” the death of Bambi’s mother, the cruel stepmother in “Cinderella” and a multitude of villains in “Pinocchio,” to name just a few.

Most villains, however, receive their just rewards while the downtrodden hero/heroine rides off with his/her companion of choice.

Do not look for that to happen here. Just note that there is no joy in Mudville for this much-told tale which is unfortunate as, given every aspect of the production, it is one of the best complete packages on The Barn stage in several seasons.

A very solid cast is headed by one of the company’s favorite recurring guest star, Robert Newman, in the definitely dark role of Dom Claude Frollo, a churchman who cannot resist the charms of Esmeralda (Samantha Rickard) and literally abandons everything sacred in his attempt to possess her, including framing her for a criminal offense.

Esmeralda’s kind gestures have earned her the silent love of Quasimodo (Jonnie Carpathios) and the not-so-silent cavalier affection of Captain Phoebus de Martin (Jamey Grisham), an officer in the cathedral guard.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Barn Theatre August MIAdd to this Frollo’s declared hatred for the gypsies, led by Clopin Trouillefou (Eric Parker). He swears to eliminate them all after the Feast of Fools, the one day they are allowed in the city. (That did kind of sound familiar.)

Adding to the downward path is Frollo’s care for Quasimodo who, in this scenario, is his unwanted nephew. Checking back it became apparent that these characters are mixed and matched and dispatched or not depending upon which scenario you read or see or hear.

Never mind. Enough to say that any humor from the Disney film has been eliminated. The Three Stooges-like gargoyles are now as somber as the saints’ statues, all of which talk with Quasimodo.

The score is sung-through, with only a few dialogue segments, allowing all the principals to display excellent voices. Newman especially is a happy surprise. He has a majority of heavy solo assignments and delivers them with just the right touch of tortured soul-searching to almost make his character sympathetic — almost!

The trio of unhappy lovers also do justice to Menken’s music but at least one up-beat tune would have been appreciated.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIParker, the gargoyles, statues and people of Paris are not only characters but deliver the narrative, sometimes in solo and sometimes in ensemble form. For the most part, with the exception of the jumbled finale when I could not figure out what was going on, the story line is clear if not completely familiar

Director Hans Friedrichs does a fine job of steering the many characters through a frequently tortuous plotline.

Conductor Matt Shabala leads an orchestra that is positive and supportive. Scenic designer Samantha Snow delivers a sturdy set that meets major location and physical requirements.

The major plus here is this: If you want to see “Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame” this may be your only opportunity. Just know it is well-done without a traditional happy ending.

”DISNEY’S HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME” plays through June 25 in the theater on M-96 in Augusta, MI For show times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 18:01
 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 2 of 52

Archives

Register or Login
Register by clicking
Create an Account below.



In order to Ask Marcia yourself you will need to register.
I only takes a moment.