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Tri-State Theater
Let's discuss upcoming shows, secrets behind the scenes, things you never knew about the theater and why live theater is so darn entertaining.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Down in Jungleland

There's a great write-up in today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch about "Jungle" Jack Hanna and the show he'll be presenting tomorrow at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

It's just the latest show in this season's Marshall Artists Series - next up is Peter Pan!

Of course, I've seen Jack a few dozen times on the late night talk shows, and he always puts on a fun show - it should be a good one!

Auditions for "Christmas Carol" in Ashland

As part of our continuing service to theatre fans out there (especially the ones who like to appear in the plays), I wanted to mention that Ashland Community and Technical College is holding auditions for A Christmas Carol tomorrow and Tuesday. You can read all about it right here.

Lots of Shows to See

Sorry for the light and variable posting lately - afraid I've been swamped with assorted work, family and play-related activities.

Unfortunately, that means I've fallen down on the job of pointing out the shows that are on stage this weekend. But the weekend's not over yet! On Sunday you can still catch:

- Jesus Christ Superstar in Ashland at 2:30 p.m. at the J.B. Sowards Theatre at Ashland Community and Technical College.

- Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at 2:00 p.m. (and all next weekend) at the Clay Center in Charleston.

Then Monday you can catch "Jungle" Jack Hanna at 7:00 p.m. at the Keith Albee Theater as part of the Marshall Artists Series... and Tuesday the Celtic Woman show will visit the Big Sandy Superstore Arena at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"HSM" in today's H-D

There's a nice feature in today's Herald-Dispatch talking about the upcoming production of High School Musical - you can read about it right here and see the photo gallery here. This photo shows Sharpay (Jordan Sager) taking part in a drama class exercise.

But (as much as I hate to point it out), a boo-boo slipped into today's article - they printed the cast list, but it's the original list that was announced right after auditions. There have been several changes since then - here's the latest list:

Troy Bolton: Elliott Imlay
Gabriella Montez: Angela Pino
Sharpay Evans: Jordan Sager
Ryan Evans: Josh Meredith

The Jocks
Chad Danforth: Drew Sowards
Zeke Baylor: Eric Newfeld
Jason: Garrett Gaunch
Other Jocks: Avery Kitchen, Ryan Riegel, T.J. Thompson, Caleb Donahoe

The Thespians
Kelsi Neilson:
Alissa Fetherolf
James: Morgan Jacobson
Susan: Sydney Pay
Cathy: Sarah Wolfe
Alan: Clark Lewis
Cyndra: Mary Kate Young
Other Thespians: Courtney Cremeans, Emily Davis, Amy Klim

The Brainiacs
Taylor McKessie:
Hannah Boyles
Martha Cox: Maggie Saunders
Jack Scott: Jacob Smith
Kratnoff: Todd Childers
Other Braniacs: Sophia Berhie, Rachel Enders, Ashley Johnson, Alisa McGrony, Christa Navy, Ashlee Simpkins

The Skater Dudes
Caleb Donahoe
Mongo: Troy Nicely
Other Skater Dudes: Sarah Clark, Marissa Clayton, Chloe Donahoe, Brooke Estep, Chloe Herrold, Ashlee Matthews

Cheerleaders: Allison Bartram, Hailey Bellamy, Grayson Collins, Allison Harker, Angel Harrison, Morgan Raines, Meg Riley

The Teachers
Ms. Darbus:
Deborah Wolfe
Coach Bolton: Bill Bartlett

So now you're up to date!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Pushing Daisies"

I try to stay away from talking too much about TV (since that topic belongs to my pal Angela Henderson and her Stay Tuned blog (which, needless to say, you should be visiting every day - I do!).

However, there's a Broadway connection to one new show this season. The beautiful and talented Kristin Chenoweth (that's her in the photo, courtesy ABC) plays a key role in the show Pushing Daisies, a quirky show I enjoy - although Angela's not as crazy about it (you can read her comments about the show right here).

The Broadway link was pointed out to me by my pal Ryan Hardiman, who recently wrote:
Just wanted to let you know, in case you haven't caught Pushing Daisies yet... it's a great new show on ABC (WCHS) Wednesday nights at 8:00 p.m... The regular cast includes Broadway veterans Kristen Chenoweth (Wicked) and Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)... and (last week's) episode had Raul Esparza! (Company, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Rocky Horror Show, etc.) I'll bet we'll spot more Broadway stars as the show unfolds!
It's an unusual show, told in a Tim Burton style, but's it's quirky and funny with a strong streak of black comedy, and I enjoy it. It was also nice to see Kristin performing a song during the second episode, and I don't know of any funnier physical actors on TV today - she's a riot! Recommended!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tickets Now On Sale for "High School Musical"

It's another big day for the upcoming production of High School Musical as the tickets officially went on sale today for the First Stage production. Here's the press release:
Tickets are now on sale for the First Stage Theatre Company’s presentation of Disney’s High School Musical: On Stage in the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center on Nov. 15 – 18, 2007.

Tickets are available through the Marshall Artists Series at (304) 696-6656, they can be purchased at the Box Office at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the Marshall University campus (it’s open from noon to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday), or they can be purchased through

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students age 12 and under and senior citizens. Seating is reserved. A 10 percent discount is available for groups of 10 or more. Showtimes will be Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2:30 p.m.

Disney’s High School Musical: On Stage is based on the popular Disney film, which led to the top-selling music soundtrack, the top-selling DVD and the hit sequel on the Disney channel: High School Musical 2.

The directing team includes director Chuck Minsker, music director Mark Smith, assistant director / choreographer Amy Browning and producer Jeanette Rowsey.

The First Stage Theatre Company is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an educational, developmental experience for young people through the performing arts. Based in Huntington, the organization draws on young performers from the tri-state area - West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

For more information, visit or call (304) 416-5437.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Legally Blonde: The Musical"

I finally got a chance to watch the MTV taping of the Broadway show Legally Blonde, and imagine my surprise - I really liked it!

Let's face it, this isn't a show that's aimed at my demographic - it's basically the stage version of a "chick flick" (if you'll pardon the term). However, it's also loaded with tons of energy, several terrific songs, some amazing feats of staging and a really talented cast.

I agree with my pal Len's take on it - I could have done without the inane hosts, who were badly reading their lines off cue cards, but the performance certainly made me want to see the show live - I would expect their ticket sales to soar.

I think what impressed me the most was how well the show translated to television. Most stage performances come off flat on the small screen, but they did a terrific job of capturing the energy of Legally Blonde. Recommended!

"Hello Dolly!" - A Review

My lovely wife and I were lucky enough to be part of the large crowd that filled the auditorium at the Renaissance Theater this evening to see the final performance of the ARTS production Hello Dolly!

It was an excellent show, with a top-notch cast and numerous terrific performances! The first kudo has to go to the star of the show, Beth McVey. She was perfectly matched to the title role, with a wonderful singing voice, excellent comic timing and a true command of the stage. It was her show and she made it a great one.

Of course, she had lots of help, including veteran actor Bil Neal, who played the grouchy Horace Vandergelder with great delight. Also turning in great comic performances were the team of Stephen Vance (Cornelius) and Ryan Jackson (Barnaby) - they made a hilarious team and often had the crowd howling with delight. Shane Gue lit up the stage as Ambrose, and got several chances to show off his outstanding dancing skills.

But I don't want to leave out the leading ladies. Lara Donahoe was brilliant as Irene Malloy, as her powerful singing voice lifted the show to new heights. Brittany Hazeldine as Minnie and Sarah Hayes as Ermengarde were both wonderful as always - and both earned some great laughs in their roles. (Between you and me, I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them on Broadway someday.) And my pal Linda Reynolds was her usual incredible self - she's always fresh, funny and entertaining as all get out!

Everyone involved in the production deserves a bow, including the supporting cast, the tech crew and the directing team - they put together an outstanding show. The Music Direction by Bruce Rous was excellent, Kerri Easter's choreography was spot-on and great fun, and I am in awe of the direction by Danny Ray - he got the most laughs, the maximum emotional impact, and a terrific performace out of each actor. This show demonstrates why he's one of the best directors around.

What else can I say, except - bravo!

Friday, October 19, 2007

On Stage Tonight - "Hello Dolly!"

You have two more chances to catch a great community theatre show, beginning tonight:

The ARTS production of Hello, Dolly! takes the stage at 8:00 p.m. at the Huntington High Renaissance Center at 900 Eighth Street in Huntington.

The production stars Broadway veteran Beth McVey and 40 local performers. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under.

Shows will also be presented on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 8:00 p.m. For more information, Call (304) 733-ARTS (2787).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Starting With A "Superstar"

The Ashland Community and Technical College Theatre is opening its 2007-08 season Friday night with Jesus Christ Superstar. Performances will be at 8:00 p.m. on Oct. 19 - 20, 26 - 27 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 21 and 28.

All shows will be at the J.B. Sowards Theatre at the College Drive Campus. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students, seniors or groups of 10 or more.

For a complete list of this season’s shows or to purchase tickets, call 606-326-2014.

More Photos from High School Musical

As promised, here are some more photos from a recent rehearsal for High School Musical. The first photo shows Troy (Elliott Imlay) and Gabriella (Angela Pino) meeting for the first time at a ski resort as they find themselves reluctantly singing a karaoke song.

The second photo shows Troy and Gabriella meeting in the hallway outside their homeroom class, but the reunion is interrupted by the ever-present Sharpay (Jordan Sager), who has her own sights set on Troy.

Finally, the last photo offers a look at the basketball team as they get instructions from Coach Bolton (Bill Bartlett, right). He urges the team to get their heads in the game. (That would be a catchy title for a song, right?)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Peek at Practice for "HSM"

Sorry to have fallen silent again - my work took me out of town for a couple of days (business before pleasure, gentle readers).

Here's your reward for being so patient with me: you can get a peek inside a recent rehearsal of High School Musical at the Herald-Dispatch photo galleries, which you'll find right here. I'll even post a few more photos here at the blog tomorrow. How's that?

As actor Telly Sevalas used to say, "Who loves you, baby?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coming Up Next Weekend

- The ARTS production of Hello Dolly! starring Broadway veteran Beth McVey has two more shows scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20 at 8:00 p.m. You can get a preview of the show by checking out the Herald-Dispatch Photo Galleries.

- Also, you can travel back to another (somewhat more recent) time period on Saturday as the Musical Arts Guild presents a dinner theater show called Doo Wop Saturday Night. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. at the Don Morris Room at the Marshall Memorial Student Center. You can read more about it here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Catching Up

Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend - things have been crazy, what with pancake breakfast fundraisers, a High School Musical cast appearance at Macy's as part of a charity event, taking part in work parties building the set for a certain show I could name, and attending my mother-in-law's birthday bash - needless to say, I'm draggin'!

However, I have a few reminders for you theatre fans out there:

- You can still catch the third of five performances of Hello Dolly! at the Renaissance Theatre in Huntington today at 2:30 p.m. I won't be able to see it until next weekend (see above), but those who saw it have been raving about it! Can't go wrong with a classic show, an incredibly talented cast and a Broadway star! If you can't see it today, you can still catch it next Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

- Also, my pal Len LaCara sent in this comment about yesterday's presentation of Legally Blonde (the Broadway show):
I assume you'll have something to say about it, but we thought Legally Blonde was fabulous. (Except for those behind-the-scenes girls, who were -- Ohmigod! -- like, totally annoying.) I'm guessing the show will sell a bunch of tickets thanks to this broadcast.

There's a rebroadcast at 7:00 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 14) on MTV. There's a trailer you can embed, too.
Great idea, Len - here's the trailer (and if it doesn't work for some reason, you can go here to see it, too):

Friday, October 12, 2007

On Stage Tonight: "Hello Dolly!"

If you're looking for a great community theatre show, here's one for you:

The ARTS production of Hello, Dolly! takes the stage tonight for its first performance at 8:00 p.m. at the Huntington High Renaissance Center at 900 Eighth Street in Huntington.

The production stars Broadway veteran Beth McVey and 40 local performers. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under.

Shows will also be presented on Oct. 13, 19 and 20 at 8:00 p.m., and a matinee will be offered Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m. For more information, Call (304) 733-ARTS (2787).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fundraising Via Pancake

As I've said before, one of the dirty secrets of community theatre is that it takes a lot of money to put on a show. To help pay the bills for the show coming up in November, the cast of High School Musical are hosting a pancake breakfast next Saturday morning at the downtown Applebees. I was going to link to the press release on the Herald-Dispatch site, but what the heck, it's short and I'll save you a mouse click by printing the whole thing:
HUNTINGTON -- First Stage Theatre Company's cast of "Disney's High School Musical: On Stage" will serve up a pancake breakfast at Applebees in downtown Huntington, from 8-10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 13.

Breakfast tickets are $5.00, with all proceeds going to offset the cost of staging the popular Disney musical at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center in November.

Breakfast tickets can be purchased at the door, or may be reserved by calling (304) 416-KIDS (416-5437).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In The News

Lots of theatre news in today's Herald-Dispatch (which is always a good thing)!

For example:

There's a nice feature about Hello, Dolly star Beth McVey right here.

There's a story about Saturday's appearance by singer Al Jarreau right here. I didn't get to see the concert, but I heard it was incredible. Sorry to have missed it! Oh, and you can see some photos at the H-D photo galleries page.

Monday, October 08, 2007

On Stage This Week - "Hello Dolly!"

The next show to hit the local stage is a famous one - Hello Dolly!

Presented by ARTS at the Renaissance Theater (the old Huntington High School), Dolly starts on Friday, Oct. 12 at 8:00 p.m. They'll present five shows over the next two weekends. Playing the title role is Broadway performer Beth McVey.

You can read more about the show right here. For more information, call (304) 733-ARTS.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Little Shop of Horrors - A Review

The fall season of Huntington’s community theatre got its official kickoff this week as Marshall University’s Department of Theatre presented Little Shop of Horrors - and if you didn’t catch it, you missed a great show.

“Little Shop” is the musical horror story of a mild-manner florist named Seymour who gains fame when he discovers an unusual plant - one with a thirst for blood. But as the plant named “Audrey II” grows, so does Seymour’s good fortune - so he finds himself doing terrible things to keep his lucky streak going.

If it sounds grim - well, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s lighthearted, very funny and it features some wonderful songs. Oh, there are a few horrific images, but mostly it's played for fun.

Marshall’s production was also blessed with a great cast, including Nick Reynolds as Seymour. He’s an excellent singer with perfect comedic timing - an outstanding performer. Playing his love interest, the beautiful (if somewhat ditzy) Audrey, is Jennifer Edens. She also has a terrific voice and turned in a great, funny performance.

Jeremy Plyburn played the part of Mushnick, the crabby owner of the Flower Shop. He’s a top-notch character actor, and the scene where he offers to adopt Seymour (to keep him from leaving the business) was hilarious - probably the best number in the show. Sean Watkins also provided a great comedic turn as the sadistic dentist named Orin - he was delightfully over the top and perfect for the part.

Wearing several hats in the show (and playing several characters) was Chris Ferris, who got maximum laughs out of several small roles.

Holding the narrative together were the three Urchins, played by Sara Booth, Kristen McCabe and Shay Hannon. They kept the story moving and popped up in the most entertaining places. They also provided several outstanding songs and some terrific dancing, too.

They didn’t get much stage time, but kudos to Darin Ellis, who provided the voice of the giant plant, and to Donta Wade, who brought “Audrey II” to life.

As always with Marshall’s productions, the set and technical work was pitch perfect. Much of the credit belongs to the top-of-the-line directing team: music director Mark Smith, choreographer Donald Laney and, of course, to director Jack Cirillo. They’re all among Huntington’s best (if not the best) at their respective crafts, and they assembled an outstanding show here.

Little Shop of Horrors is a very funny show with lots of great songs, big laughs and a giant murderous plant. What more could you want? It's yet another in a long, entertaining line of great shows from MU.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Three More Chances for "Little Shop"

You have three more chances to catch Little Shop of Horrors at Marshall University - it runs tonight and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

You can see some photos from the show at the Herald-Dispatch's Photo Galleries.

And how are the reviews so far? I've heard nothing but raves. Here's what my pal Mark Hayes said:
"It was GREAT. It's the fourth production of the show I've seen, including the original run at the Orpheum in NYC, and I am telling you, Nick Reynolds was as good as anyone I've ever seen in the Seymour role. His comedic timing is superb. Jeremy Plyburn was hysterical as Mushnik. The dance scene between Mushnik and Seymour had the audience howling with laughter. It's one of the best Marshall has put on in years."
Better order those tickets before they sell out!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Game Over

It has nothing to do with theatre, but in the "personal milestone" category, today marks my final videogame review column for the Herald-Dispatch. I started writing them back in 1991, and for most of the time I worked side-by-side with my sons Justin and Evan. It was a lot of fun, and I hate to see it end, but the time seems right. On the bright side, it means I'll have more time to blather away on this site! (At least I think that's a good thing - your mileage may vary.)

You can read my farewell comments right here.

On Stage Tonight - "LIttle Shop of Horrors"

And as long as I'm posting like crazy, don't forget tonight's performance of the musical Little Shop of Horrors at Marshall University.

I haven't seen it yet (and probably won't until the weekend), but I've heard nothing but raves. Don't miss it!

On Stage Soon: Al Jarreau

There's an interview with the amazingly-talented singer Al Jarreau (that's him on the left) in today's Herald-Dispatch. You can also read it right here.

I recommend seeing the show this Saturday at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center if you get the chance - he's terrific!

Where's Derek?

As this story tells us, Derek Keeling, Winfield, W.Va., native and star of the former NBC show Grease: You're The One That I Want, will next perform as Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities at Sarasota, Florida's acclaimed Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Saturday, Oct. 13 will mark the world premiere of the sweeping musical epic. The show's run, which will be through Nov. 18, also will serve as a Broadway tryout.

You Say It's Your Birthday?

One year ago today we embarked on this humble effort known as the Tri-State Theatre blog, where we talk about community theatre and shows past, present and future.

I've really enjoyed it, and I hope you feel the same way, gentle readers. We must be doing something right - the community theatre has never been stronger and more vital than it is right now (in my humble opinion). Thanks for being here!

Now, let's get started on Year Two...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On Stage Tonight: "Little Shop of Horrors"

It's like the plant says: FEED ME!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Cast of "Little Shop"

Here's the cast list for Little Shop of Horrors (and a terrific lineup it is). The show opens tomorrow night at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center!

Seymour - Nick Reynolds
Audrey - Jen Edens
Mushnik - Jeremy Plyburn
Orin - Sean Watkins
Wino, Customer, Bernstein, Mrs. Luce, Snip - Chris Ferris
Urchins - Sarah Booth, Kristen McCabe, Shay Hannon
Voice of Audrey II - Darin Ellis
Audrey II - Donta Wade

Monday, October 01, 2007

Q & A - "Little Shop of Horrors"

Want to know more about Marshall's upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors? Me too! I fired a few questions off to director Jack Cirillo. Here's what he had to say:

Q: Why did MU decide to tackle Little Shop of Horrors?

A: Little Shop is considered by most (foolishly) to be a manageable musical. Only eight in the cast including someone to work the "puppet." It is a single interior set and an orchestra of four (six if you want to go for a bigger sound). On paper, it's a breeze. In reality, it's a challenging piece of theatre. The puppet(s) pose a very challenging element of production that chews up (pun intended) a ton of rehearsal and production time. No need to go into the details, but suffice to say, that even renting a plant can be problematic. I felt and still feel that this is an excellent "small" musical. The score is terrific. I've enjoyed it for over 20 years and every song is a classic. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken created an amazing work out of, well... garbage. Have you seen the original Corman film? Dreadful but in the hands of these two guys the story is sweet, hysterical, silly and quite wonderful. I try to make sure in choosing any show that I direct that the casting "potential" is there. I am thrilled with our cast on this one. Certainly there will be some familiar
faces (Nick Reynolds, Jeremy Plyburn and Shay Hannon) but some new faces as well (Jennifer Edens, Kristen McCabe and Sara Booth). The show has also provided another opportunity to work with choreographer Donald Laney and Music Director Mark Smith who are absolute magic. I love working with both of them.

Q: The centerpiece of the show is a giant singing plant. What kinds of challenges does that present?

A: The big puppet is hot and heavy. A real workout for the operator. In the case of this particular puppet the challenge is making it "life-like." No real facial expressions, so you've got to work it with voice. Also, because we're not Henson on Spielberg, animatronics is out. Mike Murphy and his team - Jamez Morris-Smith, Deb Carder-Deem, Kevin Bannon and the Theatre 150 crew have created (once again, and always) a wonderful environment for the play. Lang Reynolds and his crew have lit the show magically and Joan St. Germain and the student elves in the costume shop have put the cast in some very retro-kitschy clothing that will make you long for 1958!

Q: Is this show OK for kids or is it just for adults?

A: The show is PG-13. There's a fair amount of adult language and the fact that one of the main characters is a self-proclaimed sadist, it could be a bit much for the younger kids. As far as the "Horrors" part, let's just say it's like a carnival haunted house ride.

Q: What's been the most challenging thing for you as director?

A: I'd have to say the plant and its limitations. Let's face it, Jurassic Park ruined this kind of stuff for everyone. We all expect the real dinosaur, and when we see a theatrical representation it can be a letdown. We've tried to come up with a plant that serves the production but at the same time accepts technical and fiscal constraints. Certainly every company that has produced this show has had to wrestle with this.

Q: When are show dates and times?

A: We open Wednesday, Oct. 3 and play through Saturday, Oct. 6 - all shows at 8:00 p.m. - and then a matinee on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 p.m.