Every now and then a role comes along that is so dynamite it can’t be overlooked. Award winning author Joe DiPietro is known as a great playwright—I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods are examples of his work. Along comes The Last Romance with two roles that would have my name right up in lights! The names filling those roles in this production are Jane Hall and Kitty Fisher for the role of Carol Reynolds and Laurel Van Horn Jaworsky and Vicki Wilcox for the role of Rose Tagliatelle.
Director Doobie Potter then cast the role of Ralph Bellini with Paul Smith. Yes, his name was on that role as well. As a matter of fact this may be absolutely his best performance in any show he has ever done because it suits his speech patterns, and he displays an intricate knowledge of the character that makes him shine. Potter perfectly cast Coco Chanel Carr as the little dog. She designed an open set that works wonderfully for all the locations. But ultimately Potter had to make the hard decision: Hall or Fisher and Jaworsky or Wilcox. She made the best decision imaginable. The result of her decision is romantic and hysterically funny.
The leading ladies are double cast and perform alternately. The performance this article refers to has Hall as Carol and Wilcox as Rose in the roles. (Look out for an update in a few days; next Saturday night, this reviewer will see the alternate cast in performance.)
Smith is inspired as the Italian sweetie-heart who hasn’t lost his appeal as a student of humanity–or his sex appeal. Hall as Carol is a gorgeous older woman who believes she is past any thoughts of romance. Smith’s character Ralph can see beyond her shell to the beauty lurking behind a rare smile. Rose, Ralph’s sister and ‘keeper’ has also lost touch with humanity in general, but if she watches her brother, she may find it again. Wilcox beautifully shows the audience that transformation.
Under Potter’s expertise these three actors create a show that is well worth seeing for the older set. It is also very much a family show. Younger people can relate to The Last Romance much as they relate to their first romance or fantasize about the romance yet to come.
We are never too old to love–never to old to bind our passion–and never too old to step out to Carpenter Square Theatre where The Last Romance plays through December 23, 2012. What great gift a couple of tickets would be for parents or grandparents who only like to pretend to you they are over the hill. They are not!
The excellent cast and crew–as well as Jon and Jaefinn (proud poppas of Coco Chanel Carr, aka Peaches)–welcome patrons to Carpenter Square Theatre. Located at 800 West Main in downtown Oklahoma City, Carpenter Square is easily accessible from the Interstate or from Classen Boulevard. Parking is available nearby; the theatre stocks a nice bar and encourages patrons to come a little early for the art show. Mort Hamilton is the artist for The Last Romance, and her exhibit is entitled “The Sound of Water.” Interested patrons should look closely at some of these paintings because they are not only lovely, they are mysterious. Remember “The Iceman Cometh” and enjoy Hamilton’s work.
Reservations can be made at 405-232-6500. Enjoy a great script choice from Artistic Director Rhonda Clark, and a great show from Director Doobie Potter!
Look for an update with the alternate cast next week here at Oklahoma Arts: Scene & Hurd.
What do you get when you mix murder, spies, and a bit of Monty Python together? The next production in the Pollard Theater’s 26th season “Choices”. The 39 Steps has all the above and more, as a cast of 4 actors play nearly 100 roles.
Hours of rehearsal and technical preparation have gone into telling this story of an ordinary man, Richard Hannay played by Pollard favorite, Timothy Stewart, having an extraordinary adventure. In this madcap tale, Hannay is surrounded by murderers, spies, love interests, and much more. Gwendolyn Evans, Jared Blount, and Josh McGowen complete the cast and will keep audiences amused and guessing as to what will happen next.
W. Jerome Stevenson, the Artistic Director for the Pollard, wanted to bring this story to the Pollard primarily for simple reasons: it is a fun mystery, a great fit for our theater and perfect for the month of October. However, his reasoning goes far beyond the fun aspect as he strives to have theater patrons grow and change through the theatrical experience. He likens The 39 Steps to Acting 101. “The show calls for minimal settings so the actors will be working to bring the audience into the play using characterizations and imagination. The actors bring weight, reality, and life to the story they are telling.” explains Stevenson.
An original company member, known for playing many memorable roles. James Ong directs this fast paced comedy. Jim wanted to direct this particular show because he views it as the funniest straight (non-musical) show the Pollard has done in some time. He sees it as a fun production with appealing but not typical humor. He is certain audiences will love it. For those of you wondering, we will see Jim again at Christmas time when he will be performing again in the beloved role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Pollard’s annual production of A Territorial Christmas Carol.
You don’t want to miss this presentation of the Tony award winning comedy smash that will take you from London through the moors and back roads of Scotland before returning again to London as we attempt to solve the mystery of The 39 Steps.
The 39 Steps runs from October 5 – October 27 at the Pollard Theater, 120 W. Harrison, Guthrie. For ticket information or to book your seats, contact the box office at (405) 282-2800. Or go online at thepollard.org (FYI there are online only specials available for Thursday and Sunday shows).
The Plaza District seems to be a few degrees chillier than the rest of the city these days. This is likely due to the fact that Halloween is arriving at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’ s Plaza Theatre a little early this year with the premiere of “The Mystery of Irma Vep” on Wednesday, October 10. The show runs for three weeks, closing on Saturday, October 27. If the start of “Lyric’s A Christmas Carol” means the holiday season is in full swing, then this show is surely the way to kick-off the year’s spookiest celebration.
For those who have not recently brushed up on their theater history, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” was written by Charles Ludlam and is one of the most-produced plays in history. The script, a spoof on Victorian melodramas and horror films, requires masterful comedic timing and the humor is likened to that of the “Carol Burnett Show.” Much like the theater favorite “Greater Tuna,” all eight parts in the show are portrayed by just two actors. Think lighting fast costume changes, a slew of funny accents and (you guessed it) men portraying Victorian era women. Spooky hilarity ensues, to say the least.
Lyric’s Artistic Director Michael Baron is directing the play as an answer to decades of fascination with Charles Ludlam and his work. The theatre has brought in two of its audiences’ favorite actors—Monte Riegel Wheeler and Jeffrey Meek. Wheeler was most recently seen playing the Ed Sullivan-loving Mr. MacAfee in last summer’s BYE BYE BIRDIE. The ridiculous faces he is able to make alone are enough for me to go see “Irma Vep.” Wheeler’s on-stage counterpart, Jeffrey Meek, not only acts as the resident costume designer at Lyric year-round, but you may have also seen his work at The Boom as Norma Jean Goldstein.
I spoke with Meek and Wheeler earlier this week. “Irma Vep is going to be one crazy ride,” said Meek. “The perfect Halloween treat—it starts off spooky and quickly takes the audiences on a fast-paced, out of control night of old school fun.”
“The show is filled with thrills, chills, horror, high drama and outrageous comedy,” said Wheeler. “Audiences can expect colorful characters, excitement, intrigue, a lot of laughs and some fun surprises!”
Start your Halloween off right with “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” October 10-27, at Lyric’s Plaza Theatre. Click here for tickets or call the box office at (405) 524-9312.
“God of Carnage” an award winning comedy by Yasmina Reza (translated by Christopher Hampton) opens the 29th Season for Carpenter Square Theatre this Friday, September 7, 2012. Running through September 23, this show is about two couples who come together to discuss the playground altercation of their two 11-year old sons. As the play unfolds both couples and the boys learn a lot about life and human nature. Because of language this award winning comedy would be rated PG-13.
In 2009 “God of Carnage” received the Tony Award and the Olivier Award as well as the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards for Best Play. Yasmina Reza is a French playwright, novelist, screenwriter and actress best known for her plays “Art” and “Life X Three.”
Rhonda Clark, Artistic Director for Carpenter Square Theatre directs Mike Waugh, Lilli Bassett, Chad Baker and Mona Campbell as the two sets of parents involved. Caleb Schnackenberg is technical director and Jay C. Shardt is lighting designer as Angela Curtis is production stage manager.
For reservations for “God of Carnage”, season tickets, or information visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500. Carpenter Square Theatre is enjoying much success at their new location at 800 West Main in Oklahoma City where there is easy access and parking. The Lobby features various artists for each show, and drinks are available at the Carpenter Square Bar for patrons.
Anyone who doesn’t remember the 50’s is missing a fantastic time of innocence and discovery, charm and simple rebellion. Any child of the 60’s still sings the fifties music in the shower. Profound apologies forever for that rendition of “Chances Are” to Johnny Mathis.
The clothes were awful; yet dressing retro now is more fun with a poodle skirt and a pony tail. Michael James as costumer will see to that for “Forever Plaid” opening the Pollard Theatre 26th Season.
“Forever Plaid’ revisits those days with the music of a young fictional boy band that is reminiscent of every one we remember. Spanky, Jinx, Smudge and Frankie showcase the music of Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, The Four Lads and The Ames Brothers with lots of great tunes such as “Catch a Falling Star”
and “Sixteen Tons” to name just a few.
Jake DeTommaso, Clayton Blair, Jared Blount and Doug Rankin are the featured players in “Forever Plaid” and Todd Malicoate as Musical Director and Accompanist ensures that these four young men will recreate that 50’s loving feeling.
According to Director and Choreographer, Timothy Stewart, ‘This show is such a great blend of charm and silliness, nostalgia and family; it’s exactly the kind of show I love to do and, in addition to being really fun and funny, it evokes such warm feelings. It’s the perfect escape.’ And with Stewart at the helm after his great success in “Beehive” and also “Legally Blonde”, not to mention “Smokey Joe’s Café”, Stewart will have another hit.
Tickets for “Forever Plaid” are only $25.00. Senior, military and student discounts as well as rush tickets are available. Performances are August 245h – September 15, 2012, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm., Thursdays (September 6th and 13th) at 8 pm., and Sundays (September 2nd and 9th) at 2 pm. Tickets are available online at www.thepollard.org. by phone at 405-282-2800 or at the Pollard Theatre box office at 120 W Harrison Ave. Guthrie, Oklahoma 73044. It’s time for a little fun!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Online information is at www.okcimprov.com.
“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.
Due to an error on the part of critic: Elizabeth Hurd, the actor portraying Thor was incorrectly identified in this review. Please note that the actor mentioned should be Fulmer and not Tabor. My profound apologies to both of them.
Pollard Theatre Company continues the 24th Seasons of Laughter with Larry Shue’s “he Nerd.” This is one of two modern farcical comedies written by Mr. Shue whose untimely death in 1985 prevented further development as a playwright.
The cast stars Robert Matson as Rick Steadman, whose character is not only rather nerdy, but extremely annoying. Steadman is on vacation from his job as an inspector in a chalk factory when he descends upon Willum Cubbert (Craig Pruitt) and becomes the nightmare uninvited guest crashing a birthday dinner party (Act 1) and then moving in with the host indefinitely (Act 2). His job is appropriate as he is as annoying as scratchy chalk screaming on a blackboard. Rick Steadman gets away with this behaviour because he saved the unconscious Willum Cubbert in Viet Nam. So although they are meeting for the first time the debt should be paid.
The role of Steadman is clearly tailor made for Robert Matson. Rick must be so unbelievably annoying to his reluctant host and friends that getting rid of him is essential to sanity. Yet Matson must walk the line between achieving this standard without irritating the audience to the extent that the play is difficult to watch. Matson achieves this, but just barely. This production is well received by an audience who loves sophomoric humor. Otherwise the interpretation may seem contrived.
The performances of Pruitt, Crystal Ecker as girlfriend Tansy, James A. Hughes as Warnock Waldgrave, and Dana Poulson as Celia Waldgrave are outstanding. Those who are not fans of this type of one-dimensional farce can still appreciate fully the humor and talent these three characters portray. However, the performance of Timothy Stewart as friend and critic Axel Hammond is beyond outstanding. Stewart’s superb timing and delivery allow him to bring universality to the humor transcending limitations presented by the premise in the script. Some natural prejudice may occur from critics who empathize with the character, yet on reviewing the written script, it does seem as if the best lines are written for Hammond. Stewart is definitely up to the task!
The role of Thor Waldgrave, the mischievous son of Cubbert’s boss and his wife is played alternately by Ryne Tabor and Alex Fulmer. Opening night performance (Cast A: Tabor) indicates that some work needs to be done with Tabor. His performance is weak, yet he appears to have the same abilities that child actors at the Pollard usually display.
Director Doobie Potter handles the staging very well, and overall the show is well presented. The set design by James A. Hughes is visually challenging as it seems that the furniture is a little low for the sightlines. Potter compensates well, however a raised stage or even simply a slightly taller coffee table and higher seating on the couch would be a bit more comfortable for the audience seated in the middle rows and back.
Now that opening night jitters are behind, Potter would do well to spend just a little more time with the child actors, and Matson should revisit the final scene. Greater contrast in the last few minutes of this production could do much to validate the previous 2 hours. “The Nerd” serves simply to entertain and this production is a great choice for lovers of farce for the sake of farce.
“The Nerd” is presented through March 5, 2011 at the Pollard Theatre Company in historic downtown Guthrie. Reservations and information are available at www.thepollard.org or at the box office, 405.282.2800.
Improvisation is both a skill and a gift. Like all the arts, the mastered skills reveal the gift and both are essential to achieve greatness.
Jeff Burleson, Tim Huckeby, Jodi Nestander, Rory Littleton, Noah Quisenberry, Buck Vrazel and Clint Vrazel are fine actors with exceptional talent. Coming together in “OKC Improv All-Stars” this group thinks on their feet. They have mastered the skill revealing their gift.
“Two’s Company” showcases Nestander along with Raychel Winstead. Shining talent, active and reactive, “Two’s Company” displays wonderful technique and dedication.
Ann-Lisette Caveny, Tiffany Elam, Shane McClure, Zak Miller, Sue Ellen Reiman, Aaron Ross and Brenda Williams join Littleton and Burleson for “Everybody and Their Dog”. The overwhelming talent of this group reveals superb timing, finely honed skills and sheer guts. Something not everybody or their dog could do—or can they?
Would these skills be valuable without the talent? Oh yes, just as valuable, perhaps just not quite so funny. OKC Improv maintains a very high standard with all troupes. Talent, skill & guts working together to provide hysterically funny one-liners, comebacks and exit lines. When the laughter subsides, the wit remains forever.
Those of us, most of us, surviving by our wits alone, may realize these skills can be married to gifts other than acting. Come see for yourself – laughter may not only be the best medicine but the best teacher as well.