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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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

February's Coming Attractions

The first month of the year is almost over, which means the local theatre season is about to kick into gear. Here's a rundown of the shows you can expect in February (let me know if I've forgotten any):

Marshall Artists Series -
The Producers - Feb. 2
An Evening with Martin Short - Feb. 15

ACTC Theatre -
Seussical Jr. - Feb. 8 and 9

ARTS -
All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift - Feb. 14 - 17

First Church Dinner Theater -
Bitsy & Boots - Feb. 14, 16, 22 and 23

West Virginia Symphony Orchestra -
Symphony Idol - Feb. 15 and 16

Marshall University Dept. of Theatre -
The Seagull - Feb. 20 - 23

Charleston Stage Company -
The Pillowman - Feb. 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and March 1

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Stage Soon: The Producers

The Broadway touring show of the Mel Brooks musical The Producers will take the stage at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

As further proof that there's nothing you can't find on YouTube, here's an ad for the touring show. It should demonstrate that the show is a lot of fun - but not necessarily suitable for young children. Should be lots of fun for us old-timers, though!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Big Birthday


I have to hang my head in shame for neglecting to mention the big anniversary on Saturday, as Phantom of the Opera celebrated 20 years on Broadway - and yes, it's the only show to ever hit that mark.

An amazing achievement!

It looks like the show might just earn that "Eternally Yours..." line on the poster!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mr. Mamet, Meet Dr. Phil

Local playwright Jonathan Joy is having an impact on the west coast these days. He was one of 11 winners chosen for American Conservatory Theater's third David Mamet Writing Contest. Readings of the winning pieces were presented January 25 - January 26.

The winning plays combined Mamet characters with more mainstream media like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. Jonathan's entry was Danny and Bernard Backstage at the Dr. Phil Show.

Hopefully we'll get to see that somewhere closer to home. To read more about the competition, go here or over there. And congratulations, Jon!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Governor's School for the Arts

The excellent annual program known as the Governor's School for the Arts is holding auditions. It a program that focuses on West Virginia's top talent in music, art, drama and dance (among others). Here's the story:
Nearly 300 high school sophomores from throughout West Virginia are vying for 90 positions in the 2008 Governor’s School for the Arts.

The first audition session, held in South Charleston, demonstrated to students, teachers and judges how much interest exists in the southern part of the state.

Monday, East Fairmont High School will host auditions for students in the northern region of the state.

The annual three-week residential program opens doors for students in the fields of creative writing, dance, instrumental music, theater, visual arts and vocal music. Digital media also is being offered this year.

“Auditions are a key component of the selection process,” said Sherry Keffer, director for the Governor’s Schools. “With the judges making the final decision, they want students who not only perform well but are serious and knowledgeable about their art.”

Selections will be announced in mid-February.

On Stage - "The Producers"

My pal Dave Lavender has a great story in today's Herald-Dispatch previewing the upcoming Broadway touring show The Producers. It'll be presented at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, as part of the Marshall Artists Series.

In fact, you can read it by clicking these words.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Looking For A New Idol

A Symphony Idol, in fact. That's what they'll be doing next month in Charleston, as the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra (WVSO) stages their own version of the popular TV show. They have some amazing talent lined up, including my pal Ryan Hardiman. Here's the press release with all the info:
WVSO presents SYMPHONY IDOL

CHARLESTON WV - The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's 2007-2008 ZMM Architects & Engineers Pops Series will continue with Symphony Idol on Friday and Saturday, February 15 & 16, 2008, both performances at 8 p.m. at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia.

The concerts will feature nine outstanding finalists, chosen at auditions held April 21, 2007, competing for the chance to be the one-and-only Symphony Idol. The judges from the April auditions (Larry Groce, Randall Reid-Smith and Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs) will offer on-stage commentary, but, just as in the final rounds of American Idol, the decision at the February 15-16 concerts will be up to the audience.

On Friday night, February 15, each of the nine finalists will perform two selections with the WVSO and Maestro Grant Cooper. At the end of the concert, the Friday night audience will vote for their top four choices. The votes will be tabulated overnight.

On Saturday, February 16, each of the nine finalists will once again perform one selection with the orchestra in the first half of the concert. Just before intermission, the names of the top four finalists (as selected by the Friday night audience) will be revealed. It will then be up to the Saturday night audience to make the final selection. They will be asked to vote for one of the announced top four during the intermission of the Saturday concert.

Those votes will be counted in the second half of Saturday's concert, which will feature a performance from each of the remaining four finalists, as well as a song from each of the judges. Then, it will be time to learn the identity of the winner, which will be announced at the very end of Saturday's concert.

The Symphony Idol winner will be offered the opportunity to perform with the WVSO on future occasions, including Symphony Sunday 2008.

Tickets for the Symphony Idol concerts begin at $9 for adults and $5 for students and children and are available through the Clay Center Ticket Office, 304-561-3570 . Tickets may be ordered online at www.wvsymphony.org. The concerts of February 15-16 are sponsored in part by Moreland Law Firm, L.C.

Ticket Prices for WVSO 07-08 Pops Series Concerts
Adult E $ 9
Student E $ 5
Adult D $15
Student D $ 8
Adult C $24
Student C $13
Adult B $39
Adult A $49

SYMPHONY IDOL FINALISTS

Micah Atkinson – Senior at Capital High School, member of show choir “Voices in Perfection”

Elizabeth Cary Lantz Brown
– local physician and veteran of numerous productions with the Charleston Light Opera Guild

Ryan Hardiman – veteran of numerous music theatre productions with Charleston Stage Company and Contemporary Youth Arts Company

Jessica Liston
- 24 year old mother of two and two-time first place winner in Adult Division of Wal-Mart Idol Competition

Liz McCormick - Sophomore at Capital High School, former member of Appalachian Children's Chorus

Sarah Pauley - Sophomore at Capital High School, veteran of many productions with Children's Theater of Charleston

Tanner Sigman - 8th grader at Poca Middle School, member of Appalachian Children's Chorus

Angela Szbak - lyric soprano from New York City, heard about WVSO's Symphony Idol from her brother who lives here

Jonathan Tucker - violinist with Charleston Neophonic Orchestra; junior at WV State University and starting right tackle on State's football team

SYMPHONY IDOL JUDGES

Larry Groce is host of Mountain Stage, heard around the world on Public Radio International, XM Satellite Radio and on Voice of America's Satellite Service. He has recorded 22 albums including 6 platinum albums for Walt Disney Records, and his accomplishments include a Grammy Award nomination and the top ten hit song "Junk Food Junkie.”

Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs is one of Charleston 's most popular vocal artists. She has performed in operas with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and other groups around the Charleston area, as well as at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and with symphony orchestras throughout her native Holland.

Randall Reid-Smith has enjoyed an international career in opera and as a concert soloist, singing across Europe as well as all around the US and in Japan. In 2005 he returned to his native West Virginia at the invitation of Governor Joe Manchin to serve as Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The End of "Purple" and Looking for a New Elle

Lots of Broadway news running around out there, including:

- The Broadway musical The Color Purple will be closing on February 24. The show, based on the popular book and movie, is running at the Broadway Theatre.

- MTV has announced that it plans to air a reality show this spring titled Legally Blonde: The Search for the New Elle Woods. Auditions to find Laura Bell Bundy's replacement in the Broadway show will be held in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando and Nashville. (Hopefully the show will be better than Grease: You're The One That I Want.) You can read more about the story right here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coming Soon - A Joy(ful) Premiere... and Dinner!

Local writer and director Jonathan Joy has a new show on the way - here's the info:
First Church Dinner Theater presents the world premiere of Bitsy & Boots.

First United Methodist Church is excited to present this brand-new comedy by local actor, playwright and drama instructor Jonathan Joy. First Church Dinner Theater will be hosting the world premiere of this show for your Valentine’s entertainment.

Bitsy & Boots presents the unexpected, as Tommy brings his soon-to-be fianceé home to Southern Ohio meet the two odd-ball aunts who raised him.

The Dinner Theater has been a winter highlight in Huntington since 1991. Begun as a part of First Night, the Dinner Theater has been an integral part of First Church’s Mission program, raising more than $35,000 for Mission projects through 15 productions.

Huntington’s First United Methodist is a church in Mission. In 2007, church members gave over $30,000 to support community projects, Mission projects across West Virginia, and national and international relief efforts. Members volunteer throughout the community, and participate in mission work teams in West Virginia, Alaska and Nicaragua. Proceeds from the 2008 dinner theater will help fund the Church youth work team and many other projects.

The Place: First United Methodist Church, 1124 5th Ave., Huntington

The Time: Thursday, February 14; Saturday, February 16; Friday, February 22; Saturday, February 23. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., and the show beings at 8:00 p.m.

Choice of entrees: Prime Rib au Jus or Glazed Cornish hen, with Tossed Salad, Baked Potato, Green peas and Pearl Onions, Dilly Rolls and Assorted Valentine Desserts

Dinner plus Show: Adult - $22.00 Child under 12 - $8.00
Show only (as space permits)- $5.00
Babysitting available on request for all shows (advance notice required)

RESERVATIONS REQUIRED FOR ALL SHOWS

For Reservations, call: (304) 522-0357 or (740) 867-8576

All profits benefit the Mission and Youth of First United Methodist.
I've been to many of these shows at First United Methodist, and they're always lots of fun - and the dinner is amazing, and more than worth the price of admission alone. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Double-casting a Show

My pal Angela wrote in and asked about the practice of "double-casting" a show. It's unusual for community theatre groups in our area, but it has been done locally.

The idea is that you cast (and rehearse) two separate groups of actors for the same show. Sometimes you just double-cast the lead actors, sometimes you double up the entire cast. It's usually done when you have a huge turnout for a show and want to give as many performers as possible the chance to play the lead roles. It's also done when you're doing a show with a small cast. Double-casting allows you to bring twice the number of performers into the mix.

There are other good reasons to double-cast. If something happens to one performer, his or her "double" from the other cast can fill in. Or if one performer isn't working out or has to leave the show, you have a backup ready to go.

But there are good reasons not to double-cast. For one thing, it makes the job of the director much more difficult, and it doubles the amount of time it takes to prepare. You can use the same set, but must come up with twice as many costumes. So the logistics can be a challenge. On show nights, they rotate the casts so each group performs on alternate nights.

I can think of three shows offhand where First Stage Theatre Company double-cast the show: Charlotte's Web (which actually had two directors, each one working with one cast), Schoolhouse Rock Live (which double-cast the five or six lead roles only and also had co-directors) and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (which had two casts - one made up of High School actors and the other with Middle School actors).

Those shows all worked out great, but it was a strain on the Directors, and I suspect that's why it's such a rare thing. I can't think of any other community theatre group that has used double-casting, so if anyone out there knows of more examples, feel free to pass them along.

But it's a rare practice for a good reason. Putting on a show is already a major challenge, and double-casting just makes it that much more difficult.

MSU presents theatrical double-header

Somehow I missed this story from the Herald-Dispatch about a fun project being offered in Kentucky:
Morehead State University theatre students will present two shows slated to be performed in area elementary, middle and high schools and the Lucille Little Theatre.

The students will stage The Last Fraction Hero and Barbie Get Real on Jan. 24-25, at the Little Theatre, located in Breckinridge Hall on the Morehead campus. Both shows will be presented by The Little Company, and will begin at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

The performances are Second Stage Theatre productions. Members of the company will perform various roles.

The company already is booked to perform Hero in various elementary and middle schools throughout the region this spring. School representatives who are interested in the troupe performing "Barbie" should contact Dr. Bob Willenbrink, chair of the Department of Communication and Theatre, at (606) 783-2134.

Admission to each MSU performance is free for this production.

The cast list for The Last Fraction Hero and Barbie Get Real includes: Jessica Bothman, Maysville, Ky.; Jolene Brewer, Falmouth, Ky.; Jordan Blair Marigold Brown, Russell Springs, Ky.; Allie Cain, California, Ky.; Steve Dyer, Flatwoods, Ky.; LeAnn Fryman, Cynthiana, Ky.; Cara Hall, Pikeville, Ky.; Matt Hatfield, Ashland; Terrill Brant Kucera, Austin, Texas; Ashley Suzanne Long, Richmond, Ky.; Tony Marin, Morehead; Molly Maynard, Catlettsburg, Ky.; Kayla Meadows, Lawrenceburg, Ky.; Katie Mooney, Louisville; James Alan Pleiman, Prospect, Ky.; Brittany Pope, Brookville, Ohio; and Blake Webber, Crestwood, Ky.

Additional information on this or other upcoming performances is available by calling the MSU Theatre Box Office at (606) 783-2170.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Oscar Awards

The Oscar nominees have been announced (although we'll have to wait and see if there's an actual awards ceremony, given the writer's strike). Granted, the Oscars don't really fall under the heading of this humble blog, but there's not much going on right now theatre-wise, and I have to talk about something or I'll go crazy... so what the heck, let's look at the nominees:

Best motion picture of the year
Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood

Achievement in directing
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Julian Schnabel
Juno - Jason Reitman
Michael Clayton - Tony Gilroy
No Country for Old Men - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood - Paul Thomas Anderson


Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp, Tommy Lee Jones and Viggo Mortensen

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck, Javier Bardem, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hal Holbrook and Tom Wilkinson

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard, Laura Linney and Ellen Page

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett, Ruby Dee, Saoirse Ronan, Amy Ryan and Tilda Swinton

Best animated feature film of the year
Persepolis, Ratatouille and Surf's Up

Achievement in art direction
American Gangster, Atonement, The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and There Will Be Blood

Achievement in cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood

Achievement in costume design
Across the Universe, Atonement, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, La Vie en Rose and Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best documentary feature
No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, Taxi to the Dark Side and War/Dance

Best documentary short subject
Freeheld, La Corona (The Crown), Salim Baba and Sari’s Mother

Achievement in film editing
The Bourne Ultimatum, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood

Best foreign language film of the year
Beaufort (Israel), The Counterfeiters (Austria), Katyń (Poland), Mongol (Kazakhstan) and 12 (Russia)

Achievement in makeup
La Vie en Rose, Norbit and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Atonement, The Kite Runner, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille and 3:10 to Yuma

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Falling Slowly (Once), Happy Working Song, So Close and That’s How You Know (Enchanted) and Raise It Up (August Rush)

Best animated short film
I Met the Walrus, Madame Tutli-Putli, Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven), My Love (Moya Lyubov) and Peter & the Wolf

Best live action short film
At Night, Il Supplente (The Substitute), Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), Tanghi Argentini and The Tonto Woman

Achievement in sound editing

The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, There Will Be Blood and Transformers

Achievement in sound mixing
The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men”, Ratatouille, 3:10 to Yuma and Transformers

Achievement in visual effects

The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Transformers

Adapted screenplay
Atonement, Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood

Original screenplay
Juno, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille and The Savages

The Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2007 will be presented on Sunday, February 24, 2008, at the Kodak Theatre.


My immediate reaction to this list is: Boy, there are a lot of nominated movies I didn't see this year. In fact, I haven't seen any of the five films nominated for "Best Picture." And me a fan of movies! I'm so ashamed. Hopefully I'll get caught up when they come out on DVD.

Monday, January 21, 2008

High School Musical - The Music in Me

My pal Angela mentioned this Disney Channel show on her Stay Tuned blog, but I just got the chance to watch the documentary High School Music: The Music in Me, which follows the work of two high school in Texas to work together and stage the community theatre version of the popular TV movie.

It's an excellent show and gives a good look at what it's like to work on a community theatre project - and it's very much a "warts and all" production, showing the fun side and the struggles to bring a production together.

The directors tackled one problem I've never had to face (he said, knocking on wood) - replacing a cast member late in the rehearsal process. When one actor wasn't working out, the directors kicked him off the show and moved another actor into his spot. That sort of thing happens sometimes, and occasionally young actors have to drop out of a show for a variety of reasons - but kicking someone out of the show is (thankfully) rare indeed.

It's interesting that this production brings together two different high schools, since that's the basis of First Stage Theatre in Huntington - bringing together young performers from every school in the Tri-State. It's always great to see kids from Huntington High, Cabell Midland, Spring Valley and all the other schools (not to mention kids of all ages from Elementary, Middle and High Schools) working together and becoming good friends.

The documentary captures the excitement, the struggle and the sheer fun of putting on a show like this. Of course, most shows don't get a visit from two of the stars of the original movie, but hey, it's Disney.

At any rate, I'm sure it'll be aired again (and again and again) on the Disney Channel, so keep an eye out for it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Movin' Out" - The Review

I didn't get to see the show, but my lovely wife Jeanette did, so here's her review of the show Movin' Out:

The Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center hosted a near-capacity crowd on Friday, for the national tour of Movin' Out - "The Billy Joel, Twyla Tharp Sensation" through the Marshall Artists Series. Here is my "four-dimensional" review of the show:

DIMENSION 1 - THE VENUE:
For me, Movin' Out was a great opportunity to spend an evening with my sister Denise (thanks for sharing your Christmas gift)! It also offered a chance to experience professional theatre in Huntington just a few weeks after taking in a big show (Wicked) at the Ford Performing Arts Center Oriental Theater in Chicago. While the Oriental Theater is an architectural gem in its own right, for the money you will not find a lovelier venue than Huntington's Keith-Albee. (You can see pictures on the Keith Albee photo gallery right here.)

The Artists Series has put together a wonderful season of Broadway touring shows for 2008, and despite ongoing renovation (that each ticket sale contributes to), the Keith-Albee has what it takes right now - in ambiance, acoustics and technical capacity - to do justice to a great national touring show. So save your entertainment budget on trips to Cincinnati or Pittsburgh theaters, and be sure to take in at least one Artists Series show this year, and support a cultural renaissance in downtown Huntington! Envision the economic possibilities of a year-round, 52-weekend schedule of quality entertainment at the Keith-Albee. (That concludes my editorial comment - now onto the show). VENUE GRADE: A

DIMENSION 2 - THE STORY:
Movin' Out was conceived by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, inspired by the songs of and in collaboration with Billy Joel. The show consists of 24 Billy Joel songs, strung together to tell the story of five Long Island friends (Brenda, Eddie, Tony, Judy and James) over several decades. There is no dialogue; the only spoken word scenes at all consisted of the cadence of an Army drill sergeant and his recruits/draftees. The story is told through the songs, and through the dance movements of the five principles and a dozen or so ensemble dancers.

The set was minimal and split-level: it consisted of a smooth black dance surface; a black fenced-in scaffold spanning the width of the stage that held two "Piano Men" and 6 other black-clad band members suspended and fully visible above the dancers; and various colored lights, strobes and fog effects. At times the lighting and focus was on the musicians. (Sitting in the loge, it was great to have a view of the keyboards.) The only other set pieces to appear during the show were two bars (the cocktail lounge kind).

Now for the plot - the story takes off with two songs from The Stranger album (one of my college sing-along staples) - "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" and "Movin' Out." Tharp has wrestled a plot out of the relationship between Brenda and Eddie (or as we all really call them, "Brender-n-Eddie"), and Tony (as in "Anthony works in a grocery store"). She takes the characters, bumps the story back from the Summer of '75 to the Summer of '65, and goes from there, through the Vietnam War, the disillusionment of the '70s, the big-livin' '80s... and if this is starting to sound super-awkward to you, then you're right with me on the only real weakness of this show.

The plot of Movin' Out is not much more than the kind of clunky story that dance teachers put into ballet recital programs each spring to tie together the different numbers. (Which brings to mind the 1977 Village Ballet Theatre recital at the Barboursville High School auditorium, which featured all Star Wars songs and had various classes of dancers as stormtroopers, space princesses and whatnot - I simply must dig that program out of my scrapbox one of these days and re-read that plot synopsis for laughs).

Anyway, the Movin' Out plot synopsis is just eleven sentences long. The first five scene titles: "Brenda and Eddie Split," "Tony Moves Out," "James and Judy are Forever," "Brenda is Back," and "Tony and Brenda Get Together." It wasn't until intermission that I knew all that stuff was happening - I was too focused on the flirty pairs dancing and guys doing synchronized pirouettes in Converse hightops. It isn't until the war and its aftermath that the story begins to resonate. While there is eventually an emotional payoff to the sweep of events that left its mark on a whole generation, forcing the story into the lives of these particular five song characters (and what song is Judy from, anyway?) seemed a little unnecessary to me. So, STORY GRADE: C

DIMENSION 3 - THE DANCING
Which brings me to the fact that Movin' Out is nothing more than a rock & roll ballet, and nothing less. The athleticism and power of the dancers was something that audiences might take for granted after a while, but when you think that this is live, nonstop dancing for two hours, it's more than impressive, especially to amateur dance class veterans like my sister and me.

Tharp's combination of ballet and modern dance was surely revolutionary a few decades ago. Now it's not at all unusual for the dance world to combine ballet with jazz, modern and break dancing (even a well-received moonwalk). All the same, her choreography serves the story well and is often dazzling to watch. Highlights for me were a one-man reenactment of the Vietnam War experience in "We Didn't Start the Fire," an exquisite en pointe solo in the "The Stranger," and the joyful, African-inspired groove to "River of Dreams."

FYI: Twyla Tharp opened another Broadway dance collaboration based on the songs of Bob Dylan in 2006.

At this point you may ask yourself, what about the guys in the audience? I mean, Chuck Minsker didn't buy a ticket and he practically worships Billy Joel! At which point, I can only allude to the three little boys (about 8 to 10 years old, one of them with sharp little elbows) sitting with a family near me. They were a little restless and talky for the first half of Act 1, but once the male dancers went "Off to War," they became more interested. During Act 2, the boys were riveted. (In fact, during the debauched "Eddie Gets High"/"Captain Jack" scene I had to cast a glance at least twice to be entertained by their open-mouthed expressions as the tall, scantily-clad drag queen was shimmying over the bar. Denise and I both resisted the urge to turn around and look at their parents in mock-disapproval.)

All in all, though the beginning of Act I was slightly repetitive, by Act II, the principals (especially "Eddie") were earning mid-song ovations. The company was expressive, tireless and a joy to watch throughout. DANCE GRADE: A

DIMENSION 4 - THE MUSIC

Anytime you know you're going to see a cover band doing songs you love, you're naturally wary. But from the first overture, "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me," all skepticism left me. Having the band lighted and featured at the beginning of the split-level performance, even before the dancers appeared, let me know I was in for something special. Joel's song arrangements, while modified in tempo for a few of the dances, hit home, and the band and acoustics were rock concert-worthy (again, another reason the Keith-Albee is such a jewel, people).

The lead Piano Man, Matthew Friedman I believe, didn't try to imitate Billy Joel, but his vocals had the same quality of being both melodic and muscular. The piano parts were dead-on, and the mix of Piano Men, backing vocals, drums and horns were just about worth the ticket price, even if the dancers had never entered the stage. Long story short, I really, really liked the band. (It dawned on me later that just about every band member was bald... hmmm.)

Being my age, I knew all but one of the songs by heart, and was silently mouthing along to many of my favorites, especially the lesser-known but classic "Summer, Highland Falls," "Angry Young Man" and the haunting "Goodnight Saigon." Billy Joel has that rare knack for writing songs that, whether simple pop songs or sweeping epics, are always deeply emotional and timeless, as this show proves. Experiencing so many of them in succession, orchestrated so well and interpreted in a way that helps us visually relate to our own life stories, is the real heart and gift of Movin' Out. Thank you Twyla Tharp, and Long Live Billy Joel!! MUSIC GRADE: A+

You can read more about the show in this story in today's Herald-Dispatch and see photos from the show at this photo gallery.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Movin' Out," a Benefit Concert and "Rhythm in Red"

Wow, there are lots of entertainment opportunities out there tonight! (Why must it always be feast or famine?) So let's run down the selections on the menu, courtesy of today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch:

- There are still tickets available for the touring Broadway performance of Movin' Out at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center tonight at 8:00pm. The show includes some amazing dancing based around the music of Billy Joel - what's not to like? And tickets are still available - read more about it right here. (By the way, as a special treat I'm bringing in a special guest reviewer to recap the show for us - more on that tomorrow.)

- In Charleston, Broadway star (and Huntington native) Mark McVey (pictured here) and acclaimed fiddler Eileen Ivers are just two of the celebrated artists who will take the stage at 8:00pm as part of a special concert by the West Virginia Symphony and the West Virginia Symphony Chorus. Also performing in the show is Ryan Hardiman, who will join singers Jonathan Cavendish and Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs in singing songs from the musical Lincoln. The benefit concert will also include bluegrass masters Johnny Staats and Robert Shafer, as well as Larry Groce, Bob Thompson and Ron Sowell all from Mountain Stage. Tickets start at $9, $15 for orchestra seats. Call 304-561-3570 or order online at www.wvsymphony.org.

- And you can catch the annual dinner and show for the Cabell Midland High School Show Choir "Rhythm in Red" tonight at 6:00pm at the school. For more information about the Winter Wonderland Dinner, call Lisa Fryer at 304-638-5736. You can also see photos of last night's performance at the Herald-Dispatch Photo Gallery right here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Rent" Ends Its Broadway Run

If you want to catch Rent on Broadway, you only have four more months to make it happen - the show will be closing June 1.

Could anyone have predicted the impact of the show or that it would have a 12-year run? I doubt even the most fervent fan expected that kind of success, but the show has become a huge hit, both at its Broadway home and in touring shows all over the country.

You can read more about the end of the show's run right here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Important Info for Local Theatre Groups

My editing overlord Andrea (I'm kidding, she's actually very nice) has asked me to pass along this reminder to local theatre groups:
We're always interested in getting (multiple) photos of local productions in rehearsal for the Herald-Dispatch online photo galleries. Feel free to email those photos to acopley@herald-dispatch.com.
It's yet another good way to get some publicity for your show, and the photo gallery gets a lot of traffic, so it's a practice I highly recommend!

It's a basic rule of theatre: tell as many people as possible about your show!

"Movin' Out" to the Keith-Albee

Coming up this Friday is the touring Broadway show Movin' Out. It'll be staged at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, and combines the music of Billy Joel with some amazing dancing. Here's what the Marshall Artist Series website says about it:
5-time Grammy winner Billy Joel and legendary director/choreographer Twyla Tharp have joined forces to create the spectacular new musical Time Magazine declares "The #1 show of the year!" The New York Times calls Movin' Out "a shimmering portrait of an American generation. These tornado driven dancers and rock musicians propel the audience into delirious ovations."

Movin' Out brings 24 Billy Joel classics to electrifying new life as it tells the story of five life-long friends over two turbulent decades. It all adds up to one unforgettable Broadway musical.
But hey, see for yourself. Here's a medley of songs as performed by the cast of the show on the Tony Awards.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"The Pillowman" Cast List

Here's another email from my pal Ryan Hardiman, who's even busier than I thought! He writes:
I auditioned for Charleston Stage Company's production of The Pillowman last week and was cast as Katurian. We had our first read-through last night... I can't wait.

Here's some information about the show, including the complete cast list:

Charleston Stage Company Presents
The Pillowman

By Martin McDonagh

February 21,22,23,28,29 and March 1, 2008 at 8:00pm

WVSU Capitol Center Theatre
123 Summers Street
Charleston

Detective Tupolski: K.C. Bragg
Katurian: Ryan Hardiman
Detective Ariel: Joe Wallace
Michael: Dan Heyman
Mother: Frieda Forsley
Father: Ronn Smith

Directed by Tim Mace

Note: This play contains graphic language and themes as well as scenes of a violent and disturbing nature. It is not suitable for children

The Pillowman is an exhilarating and vicious comedy-drama about a fiction writer in a totalitarian state who is interrogated when a number of bizarre incidents occurring in his town resemble the gruesome content of his short stories. When the writer's mentally impaired brother is also brought in for questioning by two the police procedural takes unforeseen twists and turns.

This thriller was one of London's hottest tickets when it premiered in 2003 and carried the same dynamic to Broadway in a production starring Jeff Goldblum, Billy Crudup and Zeljko Ivanek. The play received the 2004 Olivier Award and an Evening Standard Award nomination for Best New Play and went on to capture two Tony Awards (plus four more nominations), two Drama Desk Awards, an Outer Critic's Circle Award and a Drama Critics Circle Award.

Tickets will also be available at the door, or for ticket reservations call 304-343-5272 or visit www.charlestonstagecompany.com for tickets and more info.

Adults: 15.00 (ages 16-64)
Students: 10.00 (elementary through college students)
Seniors 10.00 (ages 65 and older)

Cash, checks and all major credit cards accepted.
Note that the cast also includes my old pal K.C. Bragg! I'm really looking forward to this one!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Our Man Beau



It has nothing to do with theatre, but my long-time pal Beau Smith is featured in a nice article by Paul Sebert in today's Herald-Dispatch (Paul also took this photo of Beau). It's to promote Beau's new book, No Guts No Glory: How to Market Yourself in Comics.

Beau's carved out an amazing career for himself in the world of comics, working as both a writer and a marketing specialist. The book offers some great advice for anyone looking to go into business - especially a creative venture like comic books. You can read the article right here.

"Little Mermaid" video links

If you'd like to see some clips from The Little Mermaid, someone (our old pal "Anonymous") sent along a comment with several links to see the the videos online:

To see a "Behind the Scenes" feature, click here.

To see the song "Under the Sea," click here.

To see the song "Part of Your World," click here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Local Theatre News - "Movin' Out" and "Twisted Sisters"

Lots of local theatre news in today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch (which is always a good thing). You can read about the local connection to the upcoming show Movin' Out, which is based on the music of one of my all-time favorites, Billy Joel. You can read that story right here.

I'll have more about that show in the week ahead, plus a special surprise is in the works - more on that later.

There's also an article in today's paper about last night's performance of Twisted Sisters, which was a production by the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra about the three mad ladies of opera - Lucia, Salome and Marguerite. It was staged at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, and you can read about it right here. You can also see several images from that show in the photo gallery right here.

"The Little Mermaid" on Broadway - a Review

In this entry you got to meet the star of The Little Mermaid, the newest Disney show on Broadway. The show officially opened last week - so how was it? Here's a review from our friends at the Associated Press:
The Little Mermaid Swims to Broadway
By Michael Kuchwara
AP Drama Critic


NEW YORK (AP) - You try singing and dancing while wearing a tail. More than a little difficult. Yet The Little Mermaid — tail intact—amiably swims along on good cheer and charm.

The long-awaited stage version of the 1989 Disney animated film, which opened Thursday at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, may have a few uneasy moments shoehorning the story in between all that lavish, and some might say unnecessary, underwater spectacle.

Yet forget the overused and now cliche "theme-park" adjective. This musical, buoyed by one of the best Disney film scores and a delightful new leading lady, succeeds as enjoyable family entertainment. And, yes, the sets are big, but then, so is the ocean.

Julie Taymor's take on The Lion King — creating an astonishing theatrical landscape — set the bar pretty high for stage adaptations of Disney movies.

If director Francesca Zambello doesn't quite accomplish that same kind of amazing transformation here, she and her design team have found a viable way to make this remounting of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale seaworthy. And Disney has spent the money to back her up.

Zambello's division between water and land is accomplished through set designer George Tsypin's use of a translucent plastic. It suggests an exotic, ocean-deep world where actors portraying the finny folk glide around on shoes that have wheels on the back of them.

Chief among these creatures is a winsome mermaid named Ariel, who longs for a handsome, yet landlocked, prince. Can she find true love if she renounces life under the sea? Ariel, played by Sierra Boggess, is the latest in a series of spunky musical-comedy heroines—think about the young women in Wicked or Legally Blonde — who seek to overcome obstacles. In the end, she does, of course, find true love.

Boggess not only possesses a lovely voice, she can handle comedy, too. Humor slips sporadically into Doug Wright's efficient book which fills in some of the gaps in the film's story line. Most of the jokes are provided by Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula the sea witch, played as sort of a campy, water-logged Norma Desmond, with a bit of Mae West thrown in for good measure.

Scott is a marvelous comedian, yet she seems a bit lost in the garish makeup and an excess of costume, especially some unwieldily tentacles, designed by Tatiana Noginova. Still, she gets to sing the catchiest of the new musical numbers, "I Want the Good Times Back," aided by a pair of conniving eels who are played by Derrick Baskin and Tyler Maynard.

The flavorsome Broadway score includes the movie's songs, courtesy of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, most notably such hits as "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl" and "Part of Your World." They have been augmented with new work by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater, a worthy successor to Ashman who died in 1991.

The rest of the cast is a strong assortment of Broadway regulars including Norm Lewis as Ariel's father, King Triton; Eddie Korbich as a tap-dancing seagull, and Tituss Burgess as that Caribbean-drenched crab Sebastian. And Sean Palmer manages to turn Prince Eric, Ariel's love interest, into something more than cardboard, no small achievement.

Choreographer Stephen Mear works overtime, providing a cascade of dances. Consider the calypso-tinged "Under the Sea," in which designer Tsypin has placed on stage two large rotating columns that look as if they are some kind of weird, space-age coral.

These columns provide the backdrop for Mear's most ambitious swirl of choreography, one in which those denizens of the deep get to demonstrate the kinetic quality of their life under water. It's an extravagant riot of color and movement that works particularly well in a theater.

Closely aligning a stage production to its popular cinematic source material is risky business. Look what happened to Broadway's Young Frankenstein and the comparisons made to the original—and more effective—Mel Brooks movie. That hasn't happened here. The Little Mermaid has found its own unique on-stage sea legs.


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Finally Seeing "Wicked"

On a recent trip to Chicago my family and I finally got a chance to see the show that everyone raves about - Wicked. It's a hugely successful show, and after years on Broadway it's still the top-grossing show every week.

In Chicago, it's part of Broadway in Chicago, and it's been running for a couple of years there, with each show a virtual sellout.

The show tells the story of the movie The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of "The Wicked Witch of the West," who gets a name in this show - Elphaba. Because of her distinctive green skin, when she goes to school she's an outcast, though she eventually finds a friend in the ditzy Glinda (the Good), but she also finds a cause - and makes enemies.

The story cleverly weaves around the original film and offers some interesting new angles on the famous story.

It's easy to see why the show is so popular. The performers are amazingly talented, and the songs are terrific. The set is a star all by itself, and features the most impressive stage and lighting effects I've ever seen - the show is worth seeing just for the staging.

In fact, the only problem with the show (and here I steel myself for the storm of outrage)... is the fact that I didn't like the story very much. I should explain that I'm a fan of the books by L. Frank Baum. He wrote a dozen Oz books in addition to the original "Wizard," and the story of Wicked breaks away from those stories in several places. Of course, that's because it's actually based on the film, not the Oz books.

But the other problem is that, in order to make Elphaba a heroic figure, all the other characters must become less likable - so the Wizard, for example, instead of being a lovable humbug, is a bit more malevolent.

Still, I can understand why Wicked is so popular - it's an amazing theatre experience, and even with the plot points I struggled with, it's still a terrific show and one I'd recommend to everyone.

I guess for me it just comes down to this - the bad guys in a story are as much fun (if not more) than the good guys - and there's no better villain than Margaret Hamilton in the original Wizard of Oz. ("I'll get you, my pretty - and your little dog, too!") I liked Elphaba better when she was truly Wicked.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gala Benefit Concert for the WV Symphony Orchestra

I love getting letters! My pal Ryan Hardiman, who is a busy and talented guy, sends along some information about an upcoming performance he's part of - don't miss this one! He writes:
I'm singing with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra as part of their Gala Benefit Concert at the Clay Center next Friday, Jan 18, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.

Even cooler though, is that Mark McVey is headlining! Wanted to pass that on to you and your readers!

Here's the press release for the gala benefit concert:

A Vision for New Times
West Virginia Symphony
Gala Benefit Concert

Special non-subscription event

PERFORMERS TO INCLUDE:

* Broadway Star J. Mark McVey
* Acclaimed Fiddler and Musical Star of Riverdance Eileen Ivers
* Bluegrass masters Johnny Staats & Robert Shafer
* From Mountain Stage: Larry Groce, Bob Thompson, and Ron Sowell
* Featured in music from “ Lincoln ” by Mark Scarpelli & Dan Kehde: Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs, Ryan Hardiman, and Jonathan Cavendish
* West Virginia Symphony Orchestra; Grant Cooper, conductor
* West Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus; Joseph Janisch, director

One Night Only – Friday, January 18, 2008 , 8 p.m.
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia

Tickets for the January 18 Gala Benefit concert begin at $9 for adults, $5 for students, and are available through the Clay Center Ticket Office, 304-561-3570, or online at www.wvsymphony.org.
Thanks, Ryan! Needless to say, music fans, this is a show you do not want to miss - highly recommended!

Meeting "The Little Mermaid"


A recent story from the Associated Press introduces us to the star of the newest Disney show on Broadway, The Little Mermaid. That one has to be a major challenge to recreate, and should be a lot of fun (count me as one of those who loved the animated film).

Here's the story:
Broadway Debut for 'Little Mermaid' Star

By Mark Kennedy
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Long before Sierra Boggess became a mermaid, she was a rather less adorable sea creature.

It was back when she was just a teen, performing dozens of short educational skits a day during a summer job in Denver. Where exactly was that gig? An aquarium.

"I was dressed as a shark," Boggess says, laughing at the memory. "Sometimes I was hammerhead. Sometimes I was a regular shark. I just wanted to sing and dance."

Boggess, 25, is getting plenty of opportunity to do that now as she completes her graduation from shark to the title role of Broadway's The Little Mermaid.

"This is what I've dreamed of my whole life," she says. "Not my wedding—I was never that girl. It was, 'What will my opening night on Broadway be like?'"

The role of Ariel is one of the best-loved in the Disney canon, a mermaid who falls deeply in love with a human prince and must choose between surf or turf.

Boggess, a huge fan of the 1989 film, says she shares many of her character's traits: independence, fun-loving and stubborn. It also doesn't hurt that she looks the part—a 5-foot-5 athletic beauty with wide-set eyes, a ready smile and a siren's voice.

"There is a lot of anxiety that comes with it, a lot of pressure, but you have to deal with it," she says. "Not only am I dealing with a cartoon, but I'm dealing with a mermaid—two things that aren't real."

Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Group, isn't worried. "I think she's off to become a real star," he says.

During an interview in her dressing room before a recent preview, Boggess wore jeans and huge, fuzzy slippers as she sat cross-legged on a sofa. Though she's barely moved in, she has lovingly arrayed dozens of photos of her all-time inspiration: Barbra Streisand.

Boggess won the role following a five-hour audition in New York during a break from playing Christine in a souped-up version of The Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas.

At the audition, she sang the hit "Part of Your World" and one of the new songs, "Beyond My Wildest Dreams." She danced, she performed with potential princes and sidekicks, and sang some more.

As the hours dragged on, Boggess began to notice a lot less wannabe Ariels hanging around. "I was like, 'That'll do,'" she recalls with a smile. "As soon as I was done, I met my sister and had a margarita."

The call from producers that led to her Broadway debut came three days later—while she was at the dentist's office. When she got to her house, it was Streisand she chose to celebrate with.

"When I got home, then I played this song from Yentl called 'This is One of Those Moments,'" she says, and softly sings part of the song's lyrics: "There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life/This is one of those moments."

"I just sat there and said 'Oh my God!' I play that song wherever something amazing happens. It calms me and it helps me live in the moment," she says.

"That's my major challenge with this: Everything is so amazing and there are so many fantastic things happening to me and things that I've just dreamed about my whole life. And I have to live in each moment because I don't want to forget it."

With the job in hand, Boggess wanted to get into character immediately. Director Francesca Zambello suggested she go to an aquarium, not an easy task in Las Vegas. But Boggess found one—in the middle of a casino, naturally.

She started going to the Mermaid Lounge at the Silverton hotel-casino, where customers sip cocktails beside a 117,000-gallon tank containing thousands of fish and tons of coral.

Boggess would show up when an on-staff marine biologist dove into the tank to feed the fish. "I watched her for a long time and took notes on what she was doing because I had to see a human underwater," she says. "She probably thought I was a like creepiest thing."

Another thing she did was learn how to glide. Actors in the show use shoes with embedded heels to simulate being under water, and Boggess used her skating background to practice in her garage.

The first time she put them on, though, she fell. "I always have to learn the hard way," she admits. "It's second nature now and it's weird not having them on actually."

Boggess is the middle child of three musical sisters—the youngest, 23-year-old Allegra is a pianist who won a Young Musicians Foundation competition in Denver, and the oldest, 27-year-old Summer, is a professional cellist and Sierra's roommate in New York.

Sierra recalls all three sisters belting out The Little Mermaid songs—and acting them out—during family vacations in their VW van. The fact that the stage show had its out-of-town tryout in her hometown of Denver was icing on the cake.

One funny twist in her road to fame involved Jodi Benson, the voice of the original Ariel in the Little Mermaid film. Boggess was a huge fan and remembers begging her mom to take her to a Benson concert long before she landed her latest role.

She and Benson also attended the same school—Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Boggess, who graduated in 2004 with a degree in musical theater, got an e-mail from Benson the day before she started rehearsals in New York.

"It was so sweet. She was talking about how blessed she is to have Ariel in her life and she's so happy for me," says Boggess.

Boggess is a little stunned by the speed of her rise—stunned, but grateful. Before Las Vegas, she was on the national tour of Les Miserables and was part of last year's Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series performing songs by lyricist David Zippel.

Even the fallow periods in her career have been brief. When her show Princesses closed before its expected Broadway run, Boggess became a hostess at an Italian restaurant.

It lasted only a few weeks: "I got sent home a couple of times because my clothes weren't sophisticated enough," she says. And soon, she landed her Les Miserables role.

"It feels fast. All of a sudden, I'm like 'Here I am!' It's really amazing. It feels very right. It feels very much like this is how I should be making my Broadway debut."

On the Net:

http://www.sierraboggess.com

http://disney.go.com/theatre


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Odd Couple Cast List

They're keeping busy at ARTS - my pal Stephen Vance just emailed the cast list for the group's March show:
Here is the cast list for Odd Couple Female Version which is on stage March 7,8,9 at the Renaissance Center.

Olive Madison - Linda Reynolds
Florence Unger - Amy Knell
Mickey - Tara Hardwick
Sylvie - Therese Kirby
Renee - Amy Browning
Vera - Jordan Bean
Manolo Costazuela - Dylan Clark
Jesus Costazuela - Stephen Vance

Director - Bruce Rous
Producer - Bil Neal

As always volunteers are needed for building, tech crews, and set decoration. Anyone interested should contact the ARTS office at 304-733-ARTS.
It's an outstanding cast and a great show - one of Neil Simon's best, altered by the author to flip the genders of the cast members. Should be fun!

Coming Up - "All the Colors of Love"

This email arrives from my pal Beth McVey, talking about a change in schedule for ARTS, and their next production:
Instead of doing Jerry's Girls we are doing All the Colors of Love, a Valentine Gift.

It is a musical review of love songs, covering courtship, marriage, love gone wrong, love confused, love conquers all, the whole gambit. We are performing it at Tamarac on Feb. 8 and 9 and at ARTS on Feb. 14 - 17, 8:00 p.m. evening shows and a Sunday matinee at 3:00 p.m.

I am directing, Eddie Harbert is Musical Director and Coni Anthony is the Choreographer. Tickets are $15.00 and you can also have dinner before the evening shows for $15.00. The menu is salad, lasagna (meat and vegetable), rolls, and dessert. You will need to make reservations for dinner by calling 733-ARTS (2787).

We have a wonderful cast of characters, many that Huntington audiences will recognize, including: Michele Conley, Mark Baker, Leann Haines, Chris Bowling, Mary Olson, Chris Chiles, Linda Reynolds, Paul Neace, Mary Beth Withers and Dave Richards

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Call For Assistance with "Phantom of the Opera"

This extraordinary email arrived recently - it's a call for help from the fine folks at Capital High School. Apparently the theatre department has been honored with an offer to be one of the first in the country to stage a "School Edition" version of The Phantom of the Opera. It's similar to they way they've made Les Miserables: the School Edition available to schools and children's theatres around the country.

It's a huge undertaking in every way - needing a huge set, intricate costumes, props, etc. - so they've put out this message:
Capital High School's Performing Arts Department was asked to stage The Phantom of the Opera and, of course, we accepted! HOWEVER, our technical department is currently a bit small and we need both building assistance and running assistance and would appreciate any you would be willing to give. We have nothing to offer for your time and effort but the appreciation of our departments, a place in the program, and my personal enduring gratitude! If you know ANYONE trustworthy who you think might be interested PLEASE forward this along with my email contact information!

ALL DATES ARE IN APRIL AND MAY OF 2008

AFTER SCHOOL BUILD CALLS:

April 5 - 6 from 10am - 3pm

Apirl 13 from 10am - 3pm

April 19 - 20 from 10am - 3pm


SHOW CALLS (could change times by a 1/2 hour either way)

Need spot operators, stage crew, rigging, etc.

COULD REALLY USE A GREAT SOUND PERSON!

April 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 from 3:00 - 7:00 = TECH

April 28, 29 from 3:00 - 7:00 = TECH

April 30: Day Show for Middle Schools during school time (aprox. 7:30am call)

May 1: Day Show for Middle Schools during school time (aprox. 7:30am call)

May 1: Evening Show at 7:00 pm with 5pm call

May 2: Day Show for Middle Schools during school time (aprox. 7:30am call)

May 2: Evening Show at 7:00 pm with 5pm call

May 3: Evening Show at 7:00 pm with 5pm call

May 4: Matinee Show at 2:30 pm with minimum 12:30pm call
So if you'd like to be part of this historic effort, give them a call and sign up - it'll be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Night at the Opera


Technology is opening the door to all kinds of possibilities - including the chance to see a major opera performance or even Hannah Montana - all without leaving your home town!

It's possible thanks to a series of shows being made available to local theaters. You can read all about it in this fine story by my pal Dave Lavender.

The photo above is courtesy of Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Above is a scene from Verdi’s Macbeth. The Metropolitan Opera will be performing Macbeth at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Cinemark’s Cinema 10 movie theater at 400 Winchester Ave., Ashland. Tickets are $22; $20 for seniors; and $15 for children.

EDIT: And if all that doesn't convince you to check it out, here's a look at a promo for the series:

Jennifer Says "Bye-Bye" to Broadway

Charleston's own Jennifer Garner ended her stint on Broadway last Sunday as Cyrano de Bergerac wrapped up its successful run.

You can see some photos of Jennifer greeting fans at the theatre one last time right here.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"Footloose" Auditions Next Week

If you're a dancing kinda guy or gal, here's the story about auditions coming up next week for the ACTC production of Footloose, the musical based on the popular Kevin Bacon film.

Here's the story from today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch:
ACTC to host Footloose auditions

ASHLAND -- Ashland Community and Technical College Theater will hold auditions for the musical Footloose at 7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, Jan. 14-15, in the J.B. Sowards Theater at the College Drive Campus. Auditions are open to adults, high school students and college students.

The musical will be performed March 7-9 and 14-16, and rehearsals will begin later this month.

Edward Figgins, ACTC associate professor and director of theater, will direct. DeNeil Hartley will be the musical director.

For more information, call the theater office at (606) 326-2073.

Hey, ACTC!

My proofreading skills are apparently on the blink, because I have two shows taking place on the same weekend at ACTC, as printed in the last post (which means it's the next one down the page in the upside-down world of blogs).

I suspect The Crucible is actually happening in April or May, but I'm just guessing. Can someone clear up this mystery?

EDIT: This just in - "ACTC Theatre" writes that The Crucible will be staged April 24, 25, 26 at 8:00PM and April 27 at 2:30PM. Thanks!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

ACTC's Spring Season

This comment arrived recently from someone identified as "ACTC THEATRE" - which, of course, stands for Ashland Community and Technical College Theatre, which is based in Ashland, Ky.

It lists that group's Spring season - and it looks like a good one!

ACTC Theatre

SEUSSICAL Jr.
February 8 and 9 at 8:00PM
(School Matinees) February 7 and 8 at 8:00PM

FOOTLOOSE
March 7, 8, & 14, 15 at 8:00PM
March 9 and 16 at 2:30PM

THE CRUCIBLE
March 7, 8, & 14, 15 at 8:00PM
March 9 and 16 at 2:30PM

Production TBA
ASHLAND SUMMER MUSICAL THEATRE
July 25-26, August 1-3

CORRECTION: As noted in the next entry, The Crucible will actually be staged April 24, 25, 26 at 8:00PM and April 27 at 2:30PM.

500!

Another milestone only I care about - but this is post #500 in ye olde Tri-State Theatre blog!

And they said it wouldn't last!! Thanks for reading, y'all!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Show Choir Spells Fundraiser

Quick, stop what you're doing and head down to the Renaissance Center in Huntington! The ARTS All Star Show Choir is holding a fundraiser this afternoon - here are the details from the story in the Herald-Dispatch:

The ARTS All Star Show Choir is trying to raise the needed coin to take its show on the road to Showstoppers, a national competition held March 13-16 in Orlando, Fla.

You can help this all-star choir as they put on a Basket Bingo and Competition Show Debut Performance that starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 in the library at the Renaissance Arts Center (the old Huntington High School).

Bingo and raffles start at 1 p.m. and the performance follows at 3:30 p.m.
Tickets to the Basket Bingo, Raffles, and Performance are $20.

Performance-only tickets are $8 and can be purchased by e-mailing the group at wvshowchoir@hotmail.com.

Go online at www.wvshowchoir.com.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Tommy Tune to Direct World-Premiere Musical

Here's some national news (courtesy of our pals at the Associated Press) about Broadway legend Tommy Tune, who's tackling a new show in Chicago:

<< By MICHAEL KUCHWARA
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tommy Tune will return to musical theater, directing "Turn of the Century," a world premiere that will be part of an ambitious 2008-2009 season at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

"The show is an original - not based on a movie, a novel, or a made-for-television anything," the nine-time Tony winner said Thursday in explaining what attracted him to the project. "It's unique."

"Turn of the Century" came to the Goodman through Rick Elice, who co-wrote the show with Marshall Brickman. The Tony-winning writers of "Jersey Boys" have concocted what Robert Falls, artistic director of the Goodman, calls "a wonderful comic romp."

"The basic premise involves a young songwriter-piano player and his girl singer who find themselves through mysterious, supernatural, `Twilight Zone'-ish activities thrown back to the turn of the century, the 20th century," Falls said in a telephone interview from Chicago.

"They are playing a gig on the eve of the 21st century and at the strike of midnight, they find themselves thrown back to the dawning of the 20th century," Falls said.

The score will be composed of great American standards written by giants such as Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and more, according to Tune.

"The fun part is that the couple, Billy and Dixie, realize the songs they are performing haven't been written yet - so they decide to write them," said Tune, who has directed Broadway musicals such as "Nine," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "My One and Only," "Grand Hotel" and "The Will Rogers Follies."

"The two become the toast of the town," Tune continued. "But for every action, there is a reaction, so they face the results of this fame, fortune and karma and find their relationship is unraveling."

"The hard part is choosing the songs," he said. "That's our work between now and the time we open." Falls said the musical will go into rehearsal in late summer and open in either September or October.

The Goodman's 2008-2009 season also will feature Brian Dennehy in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's rarely seen "Desire Under the Elms"; the world premiere of Lynn Nottage's "Ruined," set in a civil-war-plagued Congo; and "Yohen" by Philip Kan Gotanda, a look at the long relationship between a Japanese-born woman and a black American who first met in post-World War II Japan. The last will be a co-production with Chicago's Silk Road Theatre Project and will be performed at Silk Road's small Loop theater located near the Goodman.

Dennehy and Falls have collaborated on four other O'Neill revivals including "The Iceman Cometh," "A Touch of the Poet," "Hughie" and a Tony-winning production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night."

"O'Neill is the Everest of American playwrights," Falls said. "You can't climb that mountain without spilling a lot of blood and sweat and tears. For this play, you need three extraordinary actors." The two other lead roles are still to be cast.

"Desire Under the Elms" will be part of a major Chicago celebration of the playwright, which Falls is calling "O'Neill in the 21st Century."

"I have invited a number of theater artists, both directors and companies from around the world, to present works by O'Neill in a festival setting," he said. "There probably will be four or five productions playing in January, February, early March 2009.

"The celebration is still coming together but we are looking at theater companies from South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Russia. I don't know where it's going to land but there is some major work being done around the world on the plays of O'Neill, and we hope to get them here."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy. >>

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Getting Involved in Local Theatre

Letters, oh we get letters (well, occasionally). Here's one from someone who goes by the name "Oscar the Grouch" (although something tells me it isn't from the "real" Oscar). The question is a good one, and of interest to anyone who'd like to be involved with local theatre, but doesn't necessarily want to be an actor.

He or she wrote:
I love the theatre, and I really want to get involved. But I don't have the talent. How can I get involved backstage?
My answer:
That's easy - just watch for auditions for a show, and go there and tell them you don't want to audition, but you'd like to help as a member of the tech crew. You should aim for a show in your age group - in other words, if you're a kid go to a First Stage audition, if you're an adult go to a HOT, 5th Avenue Theatre or ARTS audition.

Do not go to a Marshall Theatre audition (unless you're a Marshall student) - they have a professional tech crew on hand and other than that, they only use Marshall students backstage. Shows brought in by the Marshall Artists Series are like any other concert traveling through town - they use professional Union workers to handle tech requirements.

But community theatre groups are always looking for volunteers! They'll try to match you up to an area you have skills in, like sound or lighting, or they may put you to work painting or moving set pieces around, or helping with props - there are lots of jobs to tackle for people with any range of job skills.

Good luck!
As always, if you have a question or comment, feel free to send it to TheMinskers@aol.com. We'll do our best to track down an answer!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Dave's Back, and so is "Young Frankenstein"

Tonight the late night talk shows return after an extended absence brought on by the writer's strike. Theatre fans should note that on Thursday night the cast of the Broadway show Young Frankenstein will perform on The Late Show with David Letterman. In case you don't get to catch it, here's the cast performing the last song in Act One, "The Transylvania Mania."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 - The New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

2008 holds a lot of promise, but be warned - the whole picture isn't clear yet. Many theatre groups work off the school calendar, with seasons running from September to May. Most are still thinking about what shows they plan to tackle in the fall, and some haven't announced upcoming schedules at all. But for Huntington, here are some shows to look forward to in 2008:

Marshall Artists Series
Movin' Out - Jan. 18
The Producers - Feb. 2
An Evening with Martin Short - Feb. 15
Teddy Roosevelt & the Treasure of Ursa Major - March 4
Romeo & Juliet - March 11
Little Women - April 23
Hairspray - April 30

Marshall University Dept. of Theatre
The Seagull - Feb. 20-23
The Merry Wives of Windsor - April 23-26

First Stage Theatre Company
Children of Eden - April 11-13 and 18-20

ARTS
All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift - Feb. 14-17
The Odd Couple (Female Version) - March 7-9
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum - June 13-15 and 20-21
Clue the Musical - October
1940s Radio Hour - December

Huntington Outdoor Theatre
Annie and Anything Goes - the month of July

And that's all I know about right now. There are lots more shows on the way, and lots of rumors running around about possible changes in shows announced and... well, let's just say there are some interesting possibilities being discussed.

I encourage all the theatre groups out there to let me know their schedules for the coming year - feel free to email those to me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

As always, thanks to all of our gentle readers for being part of the Tri-State Theatre blog - hope you have a great year!