Every girl remembers her first teenage crush on a rock star. Lyric Theatre brings the classic musical, Bye Bye Birdie to the Civic Center Music Hall this weekend.
With Book by Michael Stewart, Music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, Bye Bye Birdie is inspired by Elvis Presley’s receipt of his draft notice. In Birdie, Elvis-esque rock star Conrad Birdie (Eric Ulloa) is drafted into the Army and travels to small town, Sweet Apple, Ohio to give fan club member, Kim MacAfee (Meredith Tyler) “One Last Kiss” goodbye as a final promotional stunt.
Large musicals have several elements that must all come together to form a great show. Bye Bye Birdie’s colorful costumes, lights and flexible set took the audience back to the 1950’s for an enjoyable evening.
Directed and choreographed by Lyn Cramer, this production has some brilliant moments, specifically in the dance numbers. Because of it’s large (and highly energetic) ensemble cast, several musical numbers could have proved challenging. Cramer’s choreography specifically shone during a classic tap dance in “Put on a Happy Face” and in “Shriner’s Ballet.”
The cast as a whole is wonderful, but the ensemble specifically does a great job keeping up the pace to help the show move smoothly from scene to scene. Tyler portrays a sweet and endearing Kim McAfee and perfectly captures the typical 1950’s teenage girl. Sweethearts Albert Peterson (David Elder) and Rosie Alvarez (Kat Nejat) share witty banter throughout the show. The chemistry between the talented Nejat and Elder is perfect. It is difficult to pinpoint individual actors for their performances because there are so many fantastic characters in Lyric’s Birdie.
Bye Bye Birdie plays through Saturday, June 30th at the Civic Center Music Hall. For tickets, call the Lyric Theatre box office at 524-9312 or visit the Lyric website at lyrictheatreokc.com.
– Victoria Stahl
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” is this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park offering. The Myriad Gardens is a delightful setting for the show. “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is an uncommon comedy and one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays. Proteus, a typically self-absorbed young man is sent to Milan following in the footsteps of his friend Valentine. Proteus is loath to leave his lady love, Julia yet leave he must. Once in Milan he discovers that his friend Valentine has fallen in love with the beautiful Sylvia so he promptly falls for Sylvia himself and completely forgets his precious Julia.
The four main characters are typically vacant, and well done by Kyle Whalen as Proteus, Suzanne Stanley as Julia, and Brad Brockman as Valentine with Victoria Hines as Sylvia. These fine young actors do a great deal of justice to the comedy; however the plum roles are those wonderful Shakespearean characters.
Shane McClure plays Antonio, father to Proteus, and later Eglamour a widowed nobleman of Milan. His interpretation has just the right touch and he is a joy to watch particularly as Eglamour where his humor and expressiveness make the performance a delight. Launce is the rather unusual servant to Proteus and Jon Hacque gives the audience a rousing good time with the role. He is assisted by Molly who portrays the faithful dog Crab. Molly is a participant in the Oklahoma Humane Society foster program and her foster parent is Jon Hacque. Hacque is fortunate to foster such a talented four-legged actor. Hal Kohlman brings the Duke of Milan into a very realistic and enjoyable focus and David Fletcher-Hall is wonderful as Speed, servant to Valentine. Anna Holloway is a wonderful outlaw and a great maid to Julia. She also distinguishes these characters subtly and comfortably from her cameo role as the innkeeper in Milan. Mason Pain is Thurio, rival to Valentine who is deceptively devious. Josh Henry is Panthino, who advises Antonio and he seems to have a perfect hidden agenda.
Director Kathryn McGill stages the production delightfully. The set is wonderfully simple. The costumes by Robert Pittenridge suggest the roaring twenties as the time period. The women’s costuming in particular seems to be modern retro, universalizing the time frame. However the four main characters are extremely naïve and the costumes reflect a more sophisticated era.
In this production the play opens with Julia singing a song which seems a little off-putting although it is lovely. This introduction, intended to set up the play is, instead, upsetting the flow. However once into the body of the script everything picks up beautifully.
The veteran character actors have such plum roles they nearly steal the show from the principals! Because Whalen, Stanley, Brockman and Hines have a strong enough presence to keep that from occurring the play instead works wonderfully.
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park presents “Two Gentlemen of Verona” through June 30, 2012. Curtain is 8:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For further information visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700. Don’t forget that Shakespeare is fun, and these actors follow Director McGill in having fun making us laugh.
Everyone wishes they could be younger, even if they revoke that wish only seconds later. In Next Stage’s original rock musical, Danny These Days, the characters turn that wish into reality.
Next Stage’s second show (and second world premiere) is written by Oklahoman Rebecca McCauley and inspired by local musician, Jacob Becannen’s newly released rock album, …and Boy Are My Arms Tired. The songs are interesting and beautiful
The set appears to be a lived-in basement strewn with empty pizza and beer boxes. The lighting is fairly simple, but shines each time the music starts. The most brilliant part of the show, however, is the complexities of the characters and how much of their baggage has been written into such a short show.
Danny, played by Becannen, is an adult living his high school lifestyle in his mother’s basement. With little to no ambition, Danny is happy working as a pizza delivery boy with a manager who isn’t even old enough to drink. Twenty year old Jeremy (Kaleb M. Bruza) idolizes Danny, who he says is one of his “best employees,” and longs to be considered his friend.
However, Danny is not the only character who seems to be stuck in his childish ways. In fact, the basement set seems to be a kind of twilight zone inspired room which, once entered, it’s inhabitants become a much younger version of themselves. Even the seemingly independent and successful Lizzie, portrayed by Cory King acts like a teenager. Abby Tresner successfully captures the tragic character of Betsy, Danny’s sister, who has also recently moved back into her mother’s house.
There are a few rough transitions from scene to music in this show, but for a freshly written rock musical, such hiccups can be expected and it is definitely on the right track. Next Stage has given life to something that could be truly remarkable. With a mix of comedy and drama, anyone can enjoy this show.
Much like real life, it seems all the characters in this original rock musical must make their own choice to grow up. The question is whether or not any of them will make that choice before the end of the show.
Next Stage, along with a few other theatre groups in the metro, is doing something great by bringing original and locally written material to the OKC stage. It is definitely worth some support by local theatre patrons.
Shows are Fridays and Saturdays through June 23rd at 8pm at The Boom! For tickets visit www.whatisthenextstage.com or call 405-367-3774
The Pollard Theatre closes their 25th Anniversary Legacy Season with “La Cage aux Folles” a delightfully musical based on the play of the same name by Jan Poiret. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman from Harvey Fierstein’s book, Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson couldn’t have picked a better show from past successes to end this great season.
Jean-Michel is in love. He returns home announcing to his parents that he is to be married and the sweet young thing, Anne Dindon, is coming to dinner along with her very conservative parents. Her mother is the vocal spokeswoman for the Morality League. This is complicated as Jean-Michel’s father is a homosexual and his step-mother is a drag queen at their successful night club next door. The solution is for step-mother Albin to become Uncle Al, but like all solutions there are some hilarious last minute changes.
The production stars James A. Hughes as Jean-Michel’s father, Georges and Michael James as step-mother Albin. These two actors work beautifully together in smooth performance. Michael James displays moments of endearing and vulnerable womanhood that brings a tear to the eyes. That is what makes this show so funny! The two of them together make a very believable long term couple, just as protective of their nestling taking flight as any other parents the world over.
Joshua Thomas McGowen is Jean-Michel and his performance as the beloved son of these radically unusual parents is natural and right. Emily Brown is Anne and her performance opposite McGowen is charming. Her parents are extremely conservative, but in their way just as outrageous as Georges and Albin. Taking the roles of M. Dindon and Mme. Dindon are Michael Edsel and Brenda Williams. The two of them are wonderful together, and Edsel magnificently supports Williams’s very edgy interpretation. These roles are distinct from short appearances earlier as M. and Mme. Renaud. Both actors are worthy of stars Hughes and James.
Timothy Stewart plays Jacob, the butler. However, he acts like the maid. When Stewart minces the audience roars. Gwendolyn Evans as Jacqueline is excellent and her vocalizations are outstanding. The eight primary cast members do an exceptional job of bringing very ridiculous aspects of life home in a very universal and hilarious way. They are backed by a superb cast of supporting actors, Jake DeTommaso as Francis, Kristen Philips as Paulette, Haley Schafer as Babette and James Ong as the Fisherman are all wonderful in their roles. Donna Ford, (also known as Doug) is hysterical as Chantal and Hannah.
Additionally excellent song and dance numbers are exhibited by Christina Castleberry, Ashley Cain, Trinity Goodwin, Matthew Glen Wampler, Matthew Morales and Joshua Hurt. Choreographer Jennifer Rosson and Musical Director Todd Malicoate create wonderful ensemble scenes. These professional musical theatre performers bring the show that glitz and glory the production deserves. Older patrons can best appreciate these great performances acoustically by reserving seats in the rear of the auditorium. Stevenson’s brilliant direction makes “La Cage aux Folles” a genuine hit!
“La Cage aux Folles” can be seen at the Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie, Oklahoma. Tickets may be reserved on line at wwwthepollard.org or by calling the box office Tuesday through Saturday from 10a.m. to 5p.m. at 405-282-2800. Showing through June 30th, 2012 seats are still available however one should reserve soon to guarantee a seat.
The Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s Church in Oklahoma City has a comprehensive arts education program. Classes are available for all ages with private lessons in voice, acting, piano and guitar as well. The summer children’s productions provide younger students with excellent experience to follow up on the instruction they are receiving. These children’s productions utilize students with limited experience alongside more advanced students to create a production where all the children can shine.
Director and Choreographer Shawna Linck has the daunting task of correlating 8 separate casts for the current production of “Cinderella” based on the Anderson, Brightman Disney screenplay. As a result there are 4 ‘Bobbidi’ casts appearing June 7-10 and 4 ‘Bibbidi’ casts appearing June 14-17. Performances are Thursday through Sunday with two performances to give each cast exposure. All of the lead actors play ensemble cast members on their ‘off’ nights so not only does everyone get some lead experience, they also get general experience.
This also gives the audience an opportunity to see the other Cinderella’s in action without attending all specific shows. The cast being reviewed here is ‘Bobbidi cast D’ from Saturday nights 8pm performance. As the number of total cast members is at least 150, it is impossible to recognize each and every Cinderella and wicked stepmother performing, but clearly each and every cast member, regardless of age and experience, gives an even performance with poise and clarity.
In a show for children with the majority of children performers one often makes allowances; yet no allowances are taken by the charming cast. Quoting a fellow audience member “….It’s a good show for kids. If you have some, you might think about taking them. Plus, there are children dressed as mice and they are cute as buttons. Cuter even.” Clearly the mice in the production are adorable and, looking at the program one notes the performances of those mice assuming lead roles in other production as exceedingly polished.
Saturday night’s production features Daraja Stewart as Cinderella. Her interpretation of the Disney version gives substance to the character adding dimension to the role. Stewart has a sweet voice and lovely presence. Phoebe Hunter is the beautiful Fairy Godmother and the combined sweetness of the two is delightfully offset by the wicked stepmother and sisters. Kayla Jennings develops a saccharine cruel streak for the stepmother and the sisters are played by Jordan Absher as Anastasia and Margaret Patterson as Drizilla. Patterson’s flamboyance creates a lot of fun along with Absher’s irritating whine.
Prince Charming is deliciously portrayed by Dakota Muckelrath and exceptional performances captivate when the emotionally retarded King (Joe Grotta) and his trusty retainer Ben White take the stage.
Educational Arts programs for children help so much to teach other academic subjects, fostering a well-rounded background. Many of these kids could go on to be professional artists and of those who don’t enter the creative fields, they always find that their creative intelligence lends a great deal to any endeavor. These programs also foster self-esteem. While the program at St. Luke’s seems complicated to arrange with the varied cast permutations, Linck does an excellent job of bringing out the very best in all the students.
For more information on the arts program or any of these performances visit www.poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023. St. Luke’s Church sponsors the activities of the Poteet Theatre and the Educational Arts Program and is conveniently located at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. “Cinderella” has two performances each day, Thursday through Saturday at 6 and 8pm and Sunday at 2 and 4pm.
Only a few more days until the Reduxion Theatre Comany’s Jane Austen Festival begins! The event runs for three evenings, beginning Thursday, June 14. The festival offers something for everyone interested in Austen’s works or the culture of the time period. Thursday kicks off with workshops on costumes, dance, and music with Scissortail Traditional Dance Society and Ladies at Play. Friday features a reading of Erin Woods’ first original adaptation, Pride and Prejudice. The festival culminates on Saturday, June 16, with more music by Ladies at Play and guest lecturer (and best-selling author!) Linda Berdoll. You can reserve tickets for individual nights or the entire festival at the Broadway Theater (1613 N. Broadway Ave.) by calling 405.651.3191 or online here. See you there!
The Oklahoma City theatre community is constantly changing. It shrinks, then grows and sometimes changes shape completely. OKC theatre patrons can add a new company to their lists. Next Stage opens their second production this weekend, and it does not seem they are looking to slow down.
When founding members Rebecca McCauley, Todd Clark and Rodney Brazil first began talking about what would eventually become Next Stage, they knew exactly what their hopes for the company were.
“We had a lot of conversations early on about not duplicating something that someone else was doing here,” said Brazil. “What’s the point of doing something that’s exactly like something another theatre company is already doing? That’s why we started talking about trying to find new scripts.”
The trio said they agreed they wanted to set their company apart from others in the Oklahoma City Metro by only accepting new, original plays. To be more specific, they wanted scripts by Oklahoma writers, according to Clark. In the beginning, looking for only new scripts proved to be a small challenge for the young company, but they hope to create an environment to foster a growth in creative writing.
“We’ve slowly gotten a few submissions, not many at this point, but we hope for the future to have a lot more,” Clark said. “I’d like to inspire people who didn’t think they could write before to write.”
One way the group has overcome a limited selection is by writing their first two productions on their own or as a collaboration combining the talents of others in Oklahoma City.
Next Stage’s first original script made it’s world premiere in February of this year. Fresh Meet was a collaboration of several Oklahoma writers including Next Stage’s own Rodney Brazil and Rebecca McCauley. They were joined by Lisa Lasky, Robert Matson, Holly McNatt and Pete Young, a group with a history in the Oklahoma City theatre community.
Hopefully, they will not have a shortage of submissions for long. The company also decided to expand their reach beyond theatre. Since they do not have a space of their own, they all agree that they have a kind of freedom to take on a variety of projects. McCauley said Next Stage is not placing a limit on what they can and can not do.
“It doesn’t even have to be a play,” said McCauley. “We are experimenting with music [in the next production]. Maybe we know a great choreographer, can we do a dance piece? Let’s see what happens. Between the three of us, we know a lot of engaging and talented people. Maybe we can find a way to work with them.”
Brazil added that they are more of a production company. He said they are open to doing anything that needs creative development to become a production including video production or a Web series, as long as it’s new and an original work.
Everyone in the group seems to agree that without the limitations of many other theatre companies (overhead, space limitations, etc.) they have the ability to accept any project they want. Without a set season, they also have the time to workshop and develop a script as much as it needs.
“If we get a show that needs to be set in the back of a pickup truck, we’ll do it,” Clark said with a laugh. “We kept it very open. If there needed to be a show on a patio, we could do it…or improv in a parking lot. It’s about the show.”
Another unique aspect of Next Stage is they (along with a steadily growing number in arts communities around the world) use Kickstarter as a funding platform for their projects. On Kickstarter, individuals can donate small or large amounts of money to projects they deem worthy of their hard-earned cash. If the project doesn’t reach a preset goal by a certain date, then no money is donated. Next Stage’s last production successfully reached their goal. For the record, as of the publishing of this article, their current project is still $140 short of the Kickstarter goal with 15 days left. For information on how you can donate, visit the website at the bottom of this article.
Tonight, Next Stage opens their second world premiere. Danny These Days is an original rock musical with music and lyrics by local musician Jacob Becannen and book by Rebecca McCauley. The script was written around an existing, unreleased album of Becannen’s called East Drive. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays from June 8th-23rd at The Boom. For tickets to the show and more information about Next Stage, visit whatisthenextstage.com or call 405-367-3774.
Also, keep an eye out for this writer’s review of Danny These Days next Thursday.
Diane Glancy is an award winning author of novels, poetry and plays. Her play “Salvage” is the featured offering at the Oklahoma City Theatre Company Native American Play Festival. Glancy draws on her Cherokee heritage to illuminate the conditions within the Native American Culture. In “Salvage” her characters have mainstream problems which are relevant to anyone, however some of the attitudes reflected indicate the typically Native American attitude that is not necessarily universal, although certainly understandable.
Director Sarah d’Angelo is also Native American and she has assembled a cast of Native Americans for this presentation. Although they represent varied levels of theatrical experience each actors displays an excellent affinity for theatre with remarkable stage presence in all cases.
“Salvage” tells the story of a couple living next to a salvage yard which is owned by the husband and his father. Father Wolfert and son Wolf are involved in a tragic accident with the Stover family and unfortunately Mrs. Stover ultimately dies, and one of their children is badly injured. Due to apparent ‘bad blood’ pre-existing between the families, and the extent of Harry Stover’s grief, he concludes that the accident was deliberate. Wolf and Wolfert along with Wolf’s wife, Memela, must struggle with their own grief, as well as the enmity of Mr. Stover as he attempts to revenge himself against the family for the death of his wife. While the courts recognize that the incident is accidental, Stover blames Wolf for Mrs. Stover’s death. He terrorizes the family.
Wolfert is beautifully portrayed by Michael Edmonds. Although “Salvage” is his first Oklahoma City production, Edmonds has performed in numerous movies and television shows and is a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild. A teacher and coach, Edmonds has also traveled the Pow Wow circuit as a professional fancy dancer, traditional musician and speaker. His son, Wolf is handled by Jeremy Tanequodle, a student in public relations at the University of Central Oklahoma. Tiffany Tuggle as Memela, Wolf’s wife, is familiar to audiences in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area for her many roles and earned a B.A. in Theatre from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
These three are the only players presented on stage in the production. However there are a few important characters in “Salvage” never seen. Mr. Stover, the driver of the other vehicle in the accident is significantly present as well as Phoebe, the deceased wife of Wolfert. Incidentally mentioned, are Wolf and Memela’s two teen boys. While they do not have a significant presence they do establish important motivation for Wolf and Memela as parents.
“Salvage” is written with numerous very small scenes which can be a very effective approach. However the style has a few pitfalls. Only very careful direction avoids the resulting fragmentation that can occur. In “Salvage” d’Angelo has not quite compensated for this and the result is a very choppy presentation. The scene changes flow nicely so a few rehearsals and performances may allow the actors to create an even performance. Wolf and Memela have two teen boys who are never seen. As Tanequodle and Tuggle are both young actors playing self-absorbed immature characters their age does not seem credible. Their characters would be much more believable if d’Angelo simply had them refer to toddlers rather than teens. In this instance, author Glancy would probably not mind the slight tinkering with the script.
“Salvage” is being presented through June 10, 2012 at the City Space Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information contact the box office at 405-297-2264 or visit www.okctc.org. The production is the centerpiece for the Native American New Play Festival and also features staged readings of “Chalk in the Rain” by Bret Jones, “Broken Heart Land” by Vicki Lynn Mooney and “Waaxe’s Law” by Mary Kathryn Nagle. Staged readings will be held the afternoons of June 9 and June 10 and a complete festival schedule can be found at the www.okctc.org.