OKCImprov is now being hosted by Reduxion’s Broadway Theatre at 1613 N. Broadway in Oklahoma City. This location has the advantage of space with. They will be appearing on Saturday nights at 8:00pm and 10:00pm through August.
Saturday, July 28, at the top of the 8:00pm show the fun begins with Kind of a Big Deal. This is a group of teen improvisers from Spotlight Acting Academy. Teacher, Jodi Nestander has brought out the best in these youngsters as they strive to entertain, and in so doing strive to understand human nature. Appearing on Saturday, two troupe members, Leah Clemenson and Libby Ennenga are catapulted into the limelight with dignity and grace. While it seems they had a little trouble sticking with the suggestions given by the audience, the two girls keep the activity and pace up to high standards.
The second troupe to perform is Jodi Nestander and Raychel Winstead in Two’s Company. These two women have excellent rapport with each other and that rapport extends to the audience. The two ask for a photo from the audience and using that photo and several dates suggested by the audience, they create an entire family experience throughout several generations.
A troupe of 8 actors makes up the Ballpark Theatre Company with a delightful long form improvisation. Given a movie genre to base their improvisation upon, they develop an entire script and act out a typical movie based on the audience suggestion. This troupe is quite exciting and has the honor to represent Oklahoma at the upcoming Austin Festival.
These three troupes are the typically hysterical seen at any of the OKCImprov shows. Every Saturday night there are two shows: 8:00pm and 10:00pm. On July 28th, the 10:00pm show features Twinprov with Buck and Clint Vrazel and The Midolls two favorites for Oklahoma City audiences. Also ZOOM! is performing in this time slot.
Each improvisation is different on any given night. The story line for the show is determined by the audience and is very unpredictable. Therefore, the best review method is to review the actors as seen in their various improvisational troupes.
Jodi Nestander is a wonderful improviser. Her ability to react to new and unusual situations with a delightfully hysterical expression is unparalleled. Nestander performs opposite Raychel Winstead in Two’s Company as well as several other troupes. Further this has carried over to her teaching ability as she directs her students from Spotlight Acting Academy in Kind of a Big Deal. Although there are several performers affiliated with the troupe there number varies from show to show. Libby Ennenga and Leah Clemenson show us a delightful teen version of life, and with a little help from the audience creates a memorable story.
Raychel Winstead performs along with Nestander in Two’s Company, Her performance is consistent and her ability to thing on her feet is showcased beautifully in the rapport she has developed with Nestander. Winstead is also a featured performer in several other improve groups and is always a bright addition.
Kyle Gossett provides the musical direction for the next troupe featured July 28. Ballpark Theatre Company consists of 8 superb cast members enacting our favorite movies. The troupe features Gossett, Kyle Brower, Ben Davis, Heather King, Kellen Hodgeson, Tim Huckaby, Jessi Kyle and Jeannette Schreiber. All of these performers exhibit exceptional timing, a difficult task in improvisation. These talented performers are also featured in many of the other improve troupes that Oklahoma City is becoming noted for developing.
OKCImprov is produced by Buck Vrazel, Clint Vrazel, Sue Ellen Reiman and Jeanette Schreiber. Hosted by Reduxion’s Broadway Theater at 1613 N Broadway in Oklahoma City, OKCImprov will showcase outstanding performances each Saturday night at 8:00 and 10:00pm. For more information contact 405-456-9858 or write at email@example.com. Online information is at www.okcimprov.com.
Shakespeare in the Park presents beautifully at the Water Stage in the Myriad Gardens. Yet in the hottest and driest month of the year moving to a space indoors is a delightful and welcome relief. Oklahoma City University is hosting Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Cymbeline” in the Burg Theatre on the OCU campus. Very nice indeed!
“Cymbeline” is not one of Shakespeare’s better known plays. Set in the Roman Empire under Caesar, Britain is a province that must pay tribute to Rome. The play has a very convoluted plot, telling the story of the Princess Imogen, daughter to the King, Cymbeline, who has fallen in love with the wrong man. She has secretly married the lowly lordling, Posthumous, and her father is incensed. Cymbeline’s Queen is step-mother to Imogen and has plotted a marriage between Imogen and her son Cloten. Posthumous is exiled to Rome where he foolishly wagers on Imogen’s chastity with the irresponsible rake, Iachimo. Imogen must ultimately escape both the bad reputation she is given by Iachimo, and her father’s determination to have her marry Cloten. The program has a very helpful synopsis and one should take a few moments to read this in order to better understand the action.
The cast of “Cymbeline” under the direction of Kathryn McGill creates a credible flow with clarity which enables the audience to follow the twists and turns in the play. The set is very minimalistic and the scenes are created by subtle lighting effects. McGill’s Assistant Director and Dramaturg, Caprice Woosley, and Fight Choreographer, Josh Henry, enable McGill to provide a concise flow to the piece counteracting complications many modern viewers encounter with Shakespeare.
J. Shane McClure, in the title role, gives a forceful and realistic performance. McClure’s presence is arresting and very interesting. Allyson Capetta is a lovely Imogen and although her speech pattern is a little rapid, her character beams through nicely. The wicked step-mother, The Queen, is played by Mandee Chapman-Roach. She has an excellent characterization, and her mannerisms are very natural allowing her character to fool her King, Cymbeline. Yet her deliciously subtle evil is apparent to the audience.
Kyle Whalen is Posthumous and his performance is well done. While there are actually very few moments allowing Imogen and Posthumous to relate to each other, Whalen and Capetta do create the vision of a loving couple. As rival to Posthumous, the crafty Cloten is portrayed by Josh Henry. Henry has just the right amount of cunning and his talent is evident as an actor as well as choreographer.
Rob Gallavan is Iachimo the dastardly villain. Gallavan presents the slick con-artist type of villain with realism and manages his underhanded examination of Imogen as believably as possible. The independent conspiracies of Iachimo and the Queen are handled beautifully by both Chapman-Roach and Gallavan are fun for modern audiences to watch, and it is clear that both actors enjoy their roles.
David Fletcher-Hall provides the original music for the production which is excellent. In the opening overture, the music sets up the play very well, although the drum which appears to be of Native American origin is confusing, the sound is quite nice. Fletcher-Hall also shines as Belarius, exiled from Britain many years ago. Fletcher-Hall has a very controlled and directed delivery creating an understandable presentation. His experience as a Shakespearean actor gives him quite an edge, and his talent as the banished nobleman is unmistakable. His two adopted sons, Guiderius and Arvirgus, are portrayed by Andrew Rathgeber and Nathan Cockroft respectively. While the two actors appear earlier in the play as either lords or servants their characterizations of the two sons are clearly defined as different and distinct.
As Caius Lucius or Philario, actor Michael Gibbons has a commanding personality. Defined in a different fashion in each case, his performance is vital to the production providing stability. He does so with a distinguished grace.
In viewing Shakespeare one often finds the noble characters to be a little dull-witted. Yet the servants seem to be more reasonable and intelligent. The role of Pisanio is such a one. He is faithful to Posthumous and helpful to Imogen. The actor is Mason Pain. He is realistically intelligent although not cunning, and is a nice counterpoint to Iachimo who is realistically cunning although not quite so bright.
Martha Corkum gives a very nice presentation as Doctor Cornelius although her delivery during the last scene when she must explain all the convolutions seems a little rushed. Shakespeare does seem to wrap up a great deal of confusion and contrivance at very last minute and is naturally quite quick. A more deliberate delivery would help the audience absorb the far-fetched happenstance. This would also give McClure a better chance to react with the massive changes in his life giving the end of the play more substance.
Elisa Regulski is refreshing in her performance as a lady of the court. She is unaffected in her performance and seems to observe the action with aplomb. She also appears as a tribune and defines the masculine securely.
There are a few scenes in this production Director McGill should be especially proud to present. The battle scene choreographed by Josh Henry used a very few souls to create the impression of two armies clashing, and the scene works beautifully. Also the devious expressions of the Queen are quite wonderful nearly allowing Chapman-Roach to steal the show.
“Cymbeline” can only be seen through this weekend at the Burg Theatre on the Oklahoma City University campus. Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:00pm. Sunday’s performance will be a great way to escape the afternoon heat. For tickets visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700.
Over the years theatre patrons have always been able to count on the Lyric Theatre for excellence in production, and of course this season’s salute to Chita Rivera has certainly brought a selection of great musicals for the season. “Call Me Madam” is one of Rivera’s first Broadway shows starring Ethel Merman as Mrs. Sally Adams, the Washington socialite appointed Ambassador to Lichtenburg, a fictional European principality. Of course the character of Sally Adams is based on Oklahoma’s own Perle Mesta, Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1949. The dramatization of a portion of Mesta’s life as the ‘Hostess with the Mostest’ is dear to many Oklahoma City residents.
Beth Leavel stars as Sally Adams, and her interpretation is dazzling and forceful. She brings vibrancy to the stage that is quite enthralling. While in Lichtenburg, Mrs. Sally Adams, the merry widow has a fling with Cosmo Constantine, and the dynamic of Leavel is matched by Steve Blanchard as Constantine.
Adams assistant is Kenneth Gibson whose love for the Princess Maria of Lichtenburg reflects the idealism of youth. Jeremy Benton as Gibson is excellent paired with Molly Rushing, the sweet Princess. Benton also matches Leavel’s power when they perform together.
In Washington the ‘salon’ of Sally Adams is patronized by Senators and Congressman such as Senator Brockbank played by Tom Huston Orr, Congressman Bill Wilkins played by Adam Heller and Senator Gallagher played by Brian Stockman. These three provide a little comic relief and are referred as the Three Stooges by Adams. Their comedy is not quite so slapstick, but they have the typical politico personality and confidence that still prevails in Washington politics.
In Lichtenberg, the role of Sebastian Sebastian is fleshed out nicely by Mateja Govich. Govich is a later addition to the cast; however he has taken full advantage of his more limited rehearsal time to create a role with inflexibility and force. Grand Duchess Sophie is played by Marilyn Govich and Grand Duke Otto is Robert Matson. Matson also plays the role of Kenneth Gibson’s father, Henry and he while defines each character with distinction, his scenes with Govich as the Grand Duke and Duchess of Lichtenburg are delightful.
Eric McNaughton as Pemberton Maxwell and Charlie Monnot as Hugo Tantinnin are both excellent in their diversity and the entire Ensemble Cast of “Call Me Madam” is beautifully coordinated in dance song and individuality.
In addition to the great cast, Director Michael Baron counts on the magical orchestra with Musical Direction David Andrews Rogers and Choreography by Amy Reynolds Reed. Orchestration and Vocals are perfectly balanced in this production. “Call Me Madam” is great example music and lyrics from Irving Berlin, and justice is certainly done. The set and lighting for the show is beautiful and the costumes are gorgeous.
“Call Me Madam” can be seen through this weekend with shows starting at 7:30 at the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information call 405-524-9312 or visit lyrictheatreokc.com.
Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s Church certainly has a strong base of support from the native talent in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Drawing from their educational program, and combining that with talent drawn from university and high school programs they are developing a strong foundation for professional level theatre. There are three professional theatres in the Oklahoma City area including Lyric Theatre, City Rep Theatre and the Pollard Theatre. Poteet is a young community theatre, however many of the actors showcased here will go on to perform on a professional level in Oklahoma, New York and possibly Hollywood for film careers. Although the overall performances do not always meet the highest standards of a professional troupe, they come mighty close.
“Hairspray” the current production is directed by Cyndi Steele-Harrod with the assistance of Music Director Kevin Smith and Choreographer Sherri Smith. This musical is from the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Music is by Marc Shaiman and Lyrics and Music by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
“Hairspray” is set in 1962 at the height of the popular beehive hairdo. No girl was complete without a can of hairspray covering a stiff pompadour. Tracy Turnblad has the do, but is losing the battle of mean girls and baby fat. The country is just beginning to awaken to the inequities of our culture regarding race and Tracy is familiar with discrimination. Her dream is to dance on Baltimore’s local Television teenage dance program hosted by Corny Collins. She also is befriended by the Negro participants in the program and wishes to integrate the show as a result.
Tracy Turnblad is played by Phoebe Butts, a talented OCU student. The role of her mother Edna Turnblad is traditionally played by a large man and Cliffy Synar practically steals the show creating this role. Andrew Himes is the Slick Corny Collins and David Borum is the handsome love interest of every girl including Tracy. Taylor Handy is the classic mean girl, Amber Von Tussle and Danielle Stephens as mom Velma Von Tussle nearly steals the show as well as she belts out her vitriolic tunes. Donna Knight is delightful as Penny with a great scene with all the mother and daughters including Jenny Markmiller as Prudy. Knight also has some great scenes with Eugene Smith as Seaweed, and their interpretation of a 60’s interracial love is sensitive as they shock authority figures. However, when it comes to belting out a tune Kimberly Jackson as Seaweed’s mom Motormouth is the outstanding. Her heart, soul and humor are evident throughout the show and her performance shines.
“Hairspray” is showing at the Poteet Theatre in the lower level of St. Luke’s Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. Ticket information is available at poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00pm through August 5th with Sunday 3:00pm matinees.
The small screen does not quite showcase the talent of Milena Govich as does this summer’s Lyric Theatre production of “Sweet Charity” directed by Ashley Wells. Wells, Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director does a super job of spearheading Choreographer Randy Slovacek and Musical Director David Andrews Rogers as they create a seamless production in a very slightly seamy story with an exceptional and seasoned cast.
This summer’s Lyric Season fills the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall and is a tribute to Chita Rivera with some of her most delightful roles. Miss Rivera will also be performing in the same location August 7 through August 11, 2012 in “My Broadway” with a selection from her most celebrated roles in song backed by a full orchestra. In the meantime, enjoy Kathryn Mowat Murphy as Nickie, the role Rivera established in the movie “Sweet Charity” with Shirley MacLaine.
The book, “Sweet Charity” by Neil Simon is based on the original screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. While comparing movies with the play can be dangerous, but it is only fair to say that while Murphy’s Nickie is certainly different from Rivera’s the Lyric performance is certainly equal. And the same can be said for Govich and MacLaine; different, yet equal in power and talent.
“Sweet Charity” tells the poignant yet hopeful story of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess with the aspirations of simple housewife and the dream of a loving husband. She makes poor choices but cannot help giving her heart away. She gives her heart to Charlie, Vittorio Vidal and Oscar Lindquist, and each character is a slight improvement over the previous. And all these true examples of masculine insecurities are created by Jamison Stern. Each man is different in movement, appearance and voice, yet Stern is consistent in a performance that is a delightful complement to Govich.
In addition Murphy as fellow dance hall hostess Nickie, Vanita Harbour portrays Helene. These two ‘dancers’ are Charity’s best friends and fellow fantasizers. Harbour’s portrayal is just as professional and polished as her fellow Actor’s Equity Association members. Another AEA member, Billy Porter is hysterical as Daddy Brubeck, a jazz musician turned preacher.
Stephen Hilton is Herman, the proprietor of Fandango where the dancer’s work. His performance is strong. Ursula March, the starlet girlfriend of Vittorio Vidal is played by Jennifer Teel. Her performance is humorous and real. Her delightful scenes with Stern’s Vidal and witnessed by Charity are timed perfectly for chuckles and titters.
Hannah Meredith Killebrew as Carmen, Audra Bryant as Elaine, Lauren Johnson as Suzanne, Natasha Scearse as Frenchy and Alie Walsh as Rosie round out the cast of dancers. A cast of great legs, high kicks and high jinx, these gals make the most of Slovacek’s choreographic talent. The Ensemble cast is a delightful mix of talent and adrenaline.
The 7:30pm show time for Lyric’s Summer Season is through Thursday while Friday and Saturday the curtain rises and 8:00pm and 2:00pm Saturday matinee. Finding a parking lot amid the construction downtown is easy with numerous lots available for the Civic Center Music Hall at 201 North Walker Avenue. For information on Lyric shows at the Civic Center or the Plaza call 405-524-9312. The Civic Center is pleasantly air conditioned so “Sweet Charity” is an entertaining and cool summer activity this weekend.
Shakespeare in the Park is a wonderful way to enjoy a summer evening. Frequently a bit of a breeze drifts through the audience although the current production of “The Tempest” is certainly not in the least windy. Directed by Michael Jones, this production gives us all the essential elements of a Shakespearean production with some outstanding casting choices to carry the show.
“The Tempest” opens with a ship about to founder on a deserted island. Passengers include Alonso, the King of Naples and Antonio, the Duke of Milan. They are stranded with Sebastian, the King’s brother and Gonzalo the King’s counselor. Immediately they fear the Kings’ son Ferdinand has been drowned. However, the island is inhabited by the rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero and his daughter Miranda who has never seen any man before outside of her father and their monstrous servant Caliban. Ferdinand has washed ashore near their cave, and Miranda becomes transported by his appearance.
The costume design by Robert Pittenridge is excellent and the show is technically extremely well done in all aspects. The flavor of the island is achieved with coverage of stage areas using tarps that allow audience imagination to create the setting of a desolate island.
Jones cast Hal Kohlman as Prospero, a perfect choice. Kohlman’s performance is exactly what is expected of an experienced Shakespearean actor bringing a great deal of authenticity to Oklahoma audiences. Hunter Paul as Ferdinand the young male lead is perfect. Paul looks the part of an exceedingly handsome young man yet he certainly does not get by on looks alone. His performance achieves excellence. The show does start a bit awkwardly as the pacing seems out of kilter, yet with the entrance of Caliban the pacing improves and most of the actors hit their stride. The part of Caliban is superbly played by Ben Hall. Hall’s makeup is sinister yet forgiving and his professional performance matches.
Don Taylor as Trinculo, a jester and Jon Haque as Stephano, a drunken butler display superb timing in their roles. Their characterizations are very funny and when they join forces with Caliban we see a delightful level of supreme Shakespearean humor.
David Mays is Ariel and his characterization is unusual. Although deliberate, his pacing is unexpected and earthier than Ariel is usually perceived. His makeup is symbolic however the blue tones are a little dark. The appearance becomes earthy, matching his interpretation and is therefore appropriate in this case. He finally achieves a moment of splendid airiness with his wings and the Oklahoma breeze is serendipitously perfect.
Andrew Rathgeber is Sebastian and Rob Gallavan is the usurper Duke. These two brothers of the King and Duke complement the performance of Brent Weber as Alonso and Kohlman nicely. Weber’s royal noblesse oblige and Kohlman’s search for justice through his use of magic are a nice counterpoint to the nefarious pair.
Rebecca Ashton is a beautiful Miranda, and although her voice is a bit high to carry her role perfectly, her movements and characterization are delightful. Paul and Ashton make a lovely couple in their roles as they gaze into each other’s eyes in the delightful courtly love Shakespeare presents so beautifully.
David Pasto is Gonzalo and his performance is unfortunately hesitant. When the cast pulls together in synchronous timing and harmony, his characterization is left a step behind. Emilio Velasco is Adrian/Francisco, a lord in the court of Naples. Tanner Herrmann and Parker Wilmoth double as ship’s bosun or spirits with definitive performances.
Kathryn McGill, Executive and Artistic Director and Director Jones invite everyone to attend the Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” through July 21, 2012 with 8:00pm performances. The Water Stage at the Myriad Botanical Gardens is a cool way to be outdoors. For ticket information call 405-235-3700 or visit WWW.OKLAHOMASHAKESPEARE.COM.
Deborah Zoe Laufer. author of Carpenter Square’s presentation “End Days” is likely pleased with the interesting production from Carpenter Square Theatre. While the title indicates a very serious topic, “End Days” is, in fact, a light-hearted comedy and Director Joe DiBello makes the most of the humor with his considered casting.
The play concerns a typically dysfunctional modern American family, still reeling from 9/11/2001. The father is depressed, the daughter is rebellious Goth, and mom, saved and convinced the world cannot survive. This enthusiastic mother is quite certain that the rapture is imminent and is seeking to ensure that her family joins her when Jesus returns to bring those who repentant home. A neighbor is a teenage boy who has a crush on daughter Rachel and he becomes a virtual resident of the home. Hallucinatory characters are Jesus and Stephen Hawking who visit family members.
Mom is Sylvia Stein, portrayed by TooToo Cirlot. Cirlot intuits a very reasonable, logical zealot as she fights to save her family. She makes her imaginary Jesus seem believable and realistic. Terry Veal portrays Jesus and although this character is somewhat ridiculous, Sylvia Stein’s imagination becomes plausible. Tad Thurston is Arthur Stein the depressed husband and father who can’t seem to wake up and get dressed before his nap. JJ Arends is Rachel, the rebellious teenage girl who retreats behind her Gothic façade but is looking for a chance to shed her cynicism long enough to enjoy life. Neighbor Nelson Steinberg is charmingly portrayed by Kyle Lacy as his obvious façade cannot hide his joy in living. Lacy creates a character, wise beyond his years and simple enough to peer over the walls the Stein family erects.
Victims of the modern world, these five people are living the tragedies that mark this era. But like all truly tragic characters there is hope. It is often the case that the hope can best be expressed through laughter, the magic that gets us through the day. And the play has that magic. Director DiBello has taken this cast through that magic mist, and the audience has an opportunity to laugh with these characters as well as at them.
There is a slight dis-connect between the imaginary Jesus Veal creates for Sylvia and the personality that Cirlot creates for Sylvia. Nevertheless, the chemistry between the two characters is delightful. Veal is also imagined as Stephen Hawking by Rachel, and while this Stephen Hawking is unusual, he is quite right for a teenager to imagine and as a result the interplay between Veal and Arends is delightful. The relationship between Arthur and Nelson evokes the same connection as Arthur uses Nelson to cope with his situation. Thurston and Lacy cherish the same acceptance. Lacy’s portrayal of Nelson is fascinating. Nelson is a simple young man with a complicated façade that creates a barrier of humiliation for him. He dares not let it go until he recognizes that he can be acceptable and loved for himself. This is a fine line for a young actor to walk and Lacy has incredible balance making him ideal for this role.
Laufer’s choice to bring this story to an audience through comedy is excellent and the cast of “End Days” express the humor with subtlety and intensity. DiBello gives us a great comedy, and a perfect show for families!
“End Days” can be seen at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 West Main, in downtown Oklahoma City through July 21, 2012. Teens should grab their parents and call 405-232-6500 or visit the Email box office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Carpenter Square, parents might want to check www.carpentersquare.com. “End Days” is not for the younger set as some inappropriate language is used, but what parent of teens hasn’t heard that before?