The Herald-Dispatch |


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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Previewing "Jack the Ripper"

The new musical Jack the Ripper takes the stage in Charleston on Thursday, and we have some articles coming up you won't want to miss.

Tomorrow and Thursday we'll have interviews with both the writer and the composer of the show, as they talk about the challenges of bringing one of the most infamous characters in history to life.

But to start things off, be sure to read this story in today's Herald-Dispatch, written by my pal Dave Lavender. Here's a sample:
There's a killer loose in Charleston.

But don't call the cops or lock the doors; this killer is confined to the Capitol Center Theatre and, of course -- if you see the show -- the caverns of your mind.

Charleston composer Mark Scarpelli and writer Dan Kehde have teamed up to breathe life, music and murder into the story of Jack the Ripper.

Starring regional theater veteran Ryan Hardiman, Scarpelli and Kehde's new musical, Jack the Ripper premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday at the theater, located at 1234 Summers St. in downtown Charleston.

Tickets are $9.50 and $5.50 for students and seniors.

The show continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, at 2 p.m. Sunday, as well as 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 9-11.

With a full cast of more than 30 people, the show whisks the audience back to the Whitechapel District of London, circa 1888 and into the tangled mind of a madman as the world's first notable serial killer begins his reign of terror.

Starring Hardiman as Jack and fellow Marshall University graduate Kevin Pauley as Inspector Abberline, the new musical takes a different approach than most Jack the Ripper productions, which have been adapted as whodunits because the murders were never officially solved.

Scarpelli and Kehde's Jack the Ripper shows you the man behind the infamous murders from the beginning, and gives the audience a "fly on the wall" insight into his world, as well as the lives of his mother, his victims and those pursuing Jack the Ripper at any cost.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Hammer of Thor

This story should be proof that everybody wants in on the "making comic books into movies" phenomenon: stage and screen star Kenneth Branagh may sign on to direct the movie version of the Marvel Comics hero Thor. Branagh is most famous as a serious Shakespearan actor, though he's also appeared in and directed several feature films.

According to this story at Playbill.com:
Branagh, who is currently starring in the Donmar's West End mounting of Ivanov, is in negotiations to helm the live-action film for Marvel, which has also delivered Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Mark Protosevich is penning the screenplay for the film.

In the Marvel series, Thor is placed into human form by his father in order to learn humility. With no recollection of his former life, Thor becomes a partially disabled medical student Donald Blake, who later discovers his alter ego is the hammer-wielding thunder god. The screen adaptation is aiming for a 2010 release.
If Branagh plans to both act and direct the film, one assumes he doesn't plan to play the title role. We'll see if this comes to pass - but in the comics, Thor always talked in a pseudo-Shakespeare style - and who better to oversee that kind of character?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two Stories You Shouldn't Miss

There are two stories at the Herald-Dispatch's online site you should check out, gentle reader.

In this story, reporter Ben Fields interviews comedian Jim Gaffigan. By the way, my inside sources at the Marshall Artist's Series tell me Gaffigan's show is almost sold out, so if you want to get tickets, better order 'em fast.

Here's an excerpt from the story:
It shouldn't surprise anyone at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center if renowned funnyman Jim Gaffigan comes off like someone they know.

"I grew up outside of Gary, Indiana; I describe it as where the farmland meets the steel mills," Gaffigan said in a telephone interview. "It's like a lot of parts in the Midwest. In high school, one night I'd be sitting on a hay stack and the next night I'd be in some abandoned field of a steel mill.

"It's like in most parts of America, where there was industry and there is no longer; there is cynicism mixed with sarcasm and some optimism. That's how my background influenced my comedy."

Sound familiar?

The other story right here is about a local resident who recalls Paul Newman's visit researching his Cool Hand Luke role.

Here's an excerpt:
Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as Hud, Cool Hand Luke and The Color of Money — spent time in Huntington back in September of 1966 preparing for his role in the film, Cool Hand Luke.

A Cleveland, Ohio, native who went to college just a few hours away at Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio, spent a weekend in Huntington with Huntington businessman Andy Houvouras.

Houvouras drove Newman around to Cabell, Wayne, and Lincoln counties where Newman talked to folks and taped them to try and get down the accent he needed to play a Florida chain gang worker who was supposed to be originally from Appalachia.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obituary: Paul Newman

Very sad to hear of the passing of this icon of stage and screen. He had an amazing body of work, and was by all reports a heck of a nice guy - and certainly his extensive charitable work bears that out.

Here's the full story from the Associated Press (which also supplied the photo):
WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) - Paul Newman never much cared for what he once called the "rubbish" of Hollywood, choosing to live in a quiet community on the opposite corner of the U.S. map, staying with his wife of many years and — long after he became bored with acting — pursuing his dual passions of philanthropy and race cars.

And yet despite enormous success in both endeavors and a vile distaste for celebrity, the Oscar-winning actor never lost the aura of a towering Hollywood movie star, turning in roles later in life that carried all the blue-eyed, heartthrob cool of his anti-hero performances in Hud, Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The 10-time Academy Award nominee died Friday at age 83, surrounded by family and close friends at his Westport farmhouse following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said Saturday.

In May, Newman dropped plans to direct a fall production of Of Mice and Men at Connecticut's Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues. The following month, a friend disclosed that he was being treated for cancer and Martha Stewart, also a friend, posted photos on her Web site of Newman looking gaunt at a charity luncheon.

But true to his fiercely private nature, Newman remained cagey about his condition, reacting to reports that he had lung cancer with a statement saying only that he was "doing nicely."

As an actor, Newman got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become a legend held in awe by his peers. He won one Oscar and took home two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including Exodus, Butch Cassidy, The Verdict, The Sting and Absence of Malice.

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in Butch Cassidy and The Sting.

"There is a point where feelings go beyond words," Redford said Saturday. "I have lost a real friend. My life — and this country — is better for his being in it."

Newman sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in The Long Hot Summer. Newman also directed her in several films, including Rachel, Rachel and The Glass Menagerie.

"Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," his daughters said in a written statement. "Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity."

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. New York Times critic Caryn James wrote after his turn as the town curmudgeon in 1995's Nobody's Fool that "you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way."

But neither his heartthrob looks nor his talent could convince Newman to embrace the Hollywood lifestyle. He was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive.

"Sometimes God makes perfect people," fellow Absence of Malice star Sally Field said, "and Paul Newman was one of them."

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for The Color of Money, a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film The Hustler.

In that film, Newman delivered a magnetic performance as the smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film Road to Perdition. One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories.

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama Empire Falls and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 Hudson Hornet in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, Cars.

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed Rachel, Rachel, a film about a lonely spinster's rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1969 film, Winning. After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

"Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told People magazine in 1979.

Newman later became a car owner and formed a partnership with Carl Haas, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series. Hiring Mario Andretti as its first driver, the team was an instant success, and throughout the last 26 years, the team—now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series—has won 107 races and eight series championships.

"Paul and I have been partners for 26 years and I have come to know his passion, humor and, above all, his generosity," Haas said. "Not just economic generosity, but generosity of spirit. His support of the team's drivers, crew and the racing industry is legendary. His pure joy at winning a pole position or winning a race exemplified the spirit he brought to his life and to all those that knew him."

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator.

Off the screen, Newman was beloved in Westport, the upscale community about an hour north of New York. One of his favorite haunts was Mario's Place, an eatery that Newman frequented with pals actor James Naughton or writer A.E. Hotchner. He preferred medium-rare hamburgers, with an occasional Heineken.

"He's such a great human being," owner Frank DeMace said. "I can't say enough about him."

Former patrolman John Anastasia says Newman regularly played the annual softball game between local celebrities and the town police department. Newman played on the police department's team.

"He was very much into it, very athletic," Anastasia said. "He didn't play the part of a celebrity, he played the part of a ballplayer. He was not just there for his good looks."

In 1982, Newman and Hotchner started a company to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman's Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company's profits are donated to charities. The company had donated more than $250 million, according to its Web site.

"We will miss our friend Paul Newman, but are lucky ourselves to have known such a remarkable person," Robert Forrester, vice chairman of Newman's Own Foundation, said in a statement.

Hotchner said Newman should have "everybody's admiration."

"For me it's the loss of an adventurous friendship over the past 50 years and it's the loss of a great American citizen," Hotchner said.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor "Nell," Melissa and Clea.

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte. Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son's death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman. Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University's School of Drama, then headed to work in theater and television in New York, where his classmates at the famed Actor's Studio included Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden.

Newman's breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Battler," died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in The Silver Chalice, a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in The Long Hot Summer.

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

"I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore," he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

___

Associated Press writers Hillel Italie in New York and Josh L. Dickey, Greg Risling and Susan Katz in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yours Truly, "Jack the Ripper"

We're just a week away from the opening of the original musical Jack the Ripper in Charleston, and we'll be talking about it much more over the next week as we leave behind an arid September and move into October, which is loaded with good shows!

My pal Ryan Hardiman is one of the stars of "Jack," and he sent this photo of himself in the title role (on the left, natch) and Kevin Pauley as Inspector Abberline. He also sent this update:
"We're getting ready to open Jack the Ripper on Thursday, Oct 2, and I'm busier than I've ever been in my life working on this show. In addition to learning this intimidating original score and accompanying staging, I'm working on six nightmarish paintings for the show that Jack will paint onstage and display on the walls of his studio. It's going to be sick."
This shows sounds great - I can't wait to see it!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Legally Blonde" Ending in October

Sadly, even the MTV reality show, "The Search for Elle," couldn't save Legally Blonde: The Musical from the axe.

According to this story at Playbill.com, the show is ending its run on Broadway next month.
The Broadway production of Legally Blonde, the musical about a valley girl with Harvard ambitions that is based on the film of the same name, will play its final performance at the Palace Theatre Oct. 19.

Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, Legally Blonde officially opened at the Palace April 29, 2007. The production will have played 595 regular performances and 30 previews when it concludes Oct. 19.
The good news is, the show is going on tour around the country - so Elle's story isn't over yet! But if you want to catch it on Broadway, you'd better make plans now!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Chicago"

Taking the stage tonight at 7:30 p.m. at The Clay Center in Charleston is the hit musical Chicago.

It's the touring version of the long-running Broadway musical. Based on the 1926 play by the same name, Chicago has enjoyed a great success (which still continues) on Broadway, and the musical was made into a movie in 2002, winning six Oscars.

Chicago is the story of nightclub dancer Roxie Hart who becomes famous by being infamous. Thanks to her slick lawyer, Roxie becomes the toast of the town.

This show contains mature themes. Tickets for Area A are $58.50; for Area B they're $39.25.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"...And Then There Were None"

I've been meaning to track down some more information about the Agatha Christie mystery being staged next month at Huntington's City Hall Auditorium, and my pal Stephen Vance solved the problem for me. He sent this comment today, in response to the post about the challenges of preparing a show:
We are going through the same things over at And Then There Were None. The cast is being led by Travis McElroy in building our set. Finding all of those set pieces and props are always a chore.
I'll bet it's a challenge! Period pieces are always the most difficult to manage.

Stephen also included the cast list for the show, and an impressive list it is: Michael Beck, Linda Reynolds, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Cindy Stowers, Griffin McElroy, Dwight Slappe, Mark Near, Paul Neace, Jane Modlin and Stephen Vance. Directed by Clint McElroy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Show for September - "Chicago"

The only theater performance being featured in our area shows up this week (we'll have much more to talk about in October, honest).

The Clay Center in Charleston will host a touring production of the hit musical Chicago on Sept. 24, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.

According to the Clay Center's website:
It's Broadway's most popular musical - a tale of sin and celebrity. And now, you can see it live! Based on the 1926 play by the same name, Chicago took to the big screen in 2002, winning six Oscars and leading to the rebirth of the musical.

Chicago is the story of seductive nightclub dancer Roxie Hart who finds that the road to fame can be a trail of blood. Throw in a cunning lawyer and a bit of razzle dazzle and Roxie goes from cold-hearted killer to the toast of the town.

This show contains mature themes. Tickets for Area A are $58.50; for Area B they're $39.25.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Unseen Side of Community Theatre

It certainly takes a lot of work to put on a community theatre show, and most people never think about the behind the scenes effort that makes a show possible. At least, I never thought about it when I first got involved, through my kids, in community theatre.

Yes, the actors spend weeks rehearsing their roles, learning their lines and the songs and the dances involved - but that's just one piece of the puzzle. While they're doing that, others are helping to assemble the costumes the actors will wear. Some are rented, others are bought, and some are made especially for that particular show. Some shows have modest costume requirements, and others require complex, special costumes that reflect a specific era. It's a lot of work.

Then there are the props. Anything that appears on stage, from a coffee cup to pirate's sword, must be tracked down or, if necessary, constructed for the show. Some items are easy to find - others, not so much.

The running joke is, you know you're involved in community theatre when a piece of furniture from your house appears on stage. So far, I've loaned a big red chair to Schoolhouse Rocks Live and my kitchen table to Bye, Bye Birdie. My pal Jack Welch loaned his entire living room suite for A Christmas Story. Just about everyone who's involved in local theatre has a similar story (but it is odd to sit in the theater and see your furniture up there).

In my experience, there's always one prop that is the devil to track down - or almost impossible to build. But it always works out at the end (well, almost always).

The other piece of the puzzle, and the one that's probably the most difficult, is the set, which usually has to be built from scratch. This comes to mind because I spent four hours on Saturday helping with the construction of the huge set for the First Stage production of Peter Pan.

It's amazing how much work has been done in the last few weeks, and the credit goes to Jack Welch, Tim Beverage, Pat Mannis and a handful of other volunteers - but there's still a lot of work left to do. There are three major sets in the show - the children's bedroom, Pan's hideout and the pirate ship - and they all have to be constructed and painted and then, a week before the show, loaded into the theater at Huntington High School.

All these tasks have to be managed to bring a show together. It's a huge job, and one that requires the effort of all the directors, actors, parents and other volunteers to accomplish. The question that hangs over every show is: will they make it?

Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Rent" Will Play in Nitro, W.Va.

As far as I can tell, there's only one area theatre that plans to show the film of the Broadway musical Rent (not to be confused with the film made that was based on the musical).

It's the Great Escape Theater in Nitro, W.Va. According to its website, Rent will be presented Wednesday, Sept. 24 and Thursday Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 27 and Sunday, Sept. 28 at noon. (Well, actually it says 12 p.m., but in the newspaper business, there's no such thing as 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. - it's either midnight or noon, so I'm guessing noon.) All tickets are $20.00 each.

The movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. Here's the story synopsis:
Set in New York City’s gritty East Village, the revolutionary rock opera Rent tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent. "Measuring their lives in love," these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and the AIDS epidemic. Rent is Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical, one of the longest running shows on Broadway.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Coming to a Theater Near You... "Rent"

Before the Broadway show ended, they shot video of the musical Rent - and it's going to be shown at a theater near you (hopefully) next week!

Plans call for the show to be presented Sept. 24, 25, 27 and 28. Remember, the show deals with adult themes and is not recommended for children.

I'll pass along more information as I dig it up!

Avast Ye Swabs!

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day, ya landlubbers!

So raise the sails and swab the deck, just in case company drops by! Hope the Great Pirate brings ye lots of dubloons tonight!

(OK, I'll stop now.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Winnie the Pooh" Pays a Visit

A certain honey-loving bear will be moving into the Big Sandy Superstore Arena tomorrow evening. Here's the story:
Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh, a new live stage show for the whole family produced by Feld Entertainment, performs at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, Sept. 19, 2008 at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale NOW.

Join the stage show adventure Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh, and journey through the Hundred Acre Wood where you'll come upon the most playful group of pals. Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and Roo are planning a surprise birthday party for Pooh and you're invited!

Pooh warms up the audience with his get-in-shape exercises before embarking on his quest to find a "smackeral" of "hunny." Bounce along with Tigger as he searches for the perfect gift and help Rabbit whip up a larger-than-life birthday cake for this splendiferous celebration. With fun sing-a-long music, and an invitation to the best birthday party in the woods, Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh is an interactive extravaganza that will have kids out of their seats and dancing in the aisles!

Tickets for Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh are available at the Arena Box Office and all Ticketmaster Outlets. To order tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at 304-523-5757 or visit www.Ticketmaster.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Xanadu Did Kubla Khan / A Stately Pleasure-dome Decree

The Broadway musical Xanadu will be ending its run soon, according to this story on Playbill.com:
Xanadu, the Tony-nominated musical based on the infamous flop film of the same name, will play its final performance at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre Oct. 12.

When it closes the musical will have played a total of 49 previews and 528 regular performances.
I have to admit that the movie is a guilty pleasure, if just for Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John, and friends who saw the musical on stage were surprised to find they enjoyed it. The story is silly and lightweight, but it's also sweet and the show includes some fun songs.

The good news is, the show is getting ready to go on the road - so hopefully it'll pay a visit to a nearby theatre someday soon and we can judge for ourselves.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the title of this post, it's the first two lines from the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1798 and first published in 1816. The first five lines are the most famous:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
You can read the whole thing right here. How about that - some classic literature with your theatre news. Not every blog offers that kind of service!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Beach Boys at the Paramount

A terrific act will be taking the stage next month in Ashland, as The Beach Boys pay a visit - and tickets are now on sale!

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
The Beach Boys will perform Saturday, Oct. 25, at the historic Paramount Arts Center.

The show will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets range from $25 to $75. Tickets for the show will go on sale at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the Paramount Arts Center box office at 1300 Winchester Ave., by calling 606-324-3175 or through any Ticketmaster outlet.

Original Beach Boys members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston now travel and tour as the Beach Boys along with fellow performers John Cowsill, Tim Bonhomme, Randell Kirsch, Scott Totten and Christian Love.

Among the groups most popular tunes were "Surfin'," "Surfer Girl," "Surfin' Safari," "Surfin' U.S.A.," "409," "Little Deuce Coupe," "Fun Fun Fun," "I Get Around," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," "California Girls" and "Kokomo."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is This Man Sexy?

The correct answer is, "Well, uh, nothing personal.. but no."

Luckily for Jim Gaffigan, he's a heck of a funny guy - so he has that to fall back on. I've seen him on assorted shows - most notably the Conan O'Brien show - and he's, as we say around here, a hoot.

Here's the official line from a Marshall Artists Series release:
Comedic genius Jim Gaffigan makes his was to Huntington with his critically acclaimed ‘Sexy Tour.’
He'll appear at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. For tickets, call (304) 696-6656 or you can purchase them online right here. Ticket prices are $47.50 or $35.00.

For more information, go here.

Sponsored by: CSX, Guaranty Bank, Engines Inc. of OH & WV, WTCR, WKEE, The Herald-Dispatch, Marshall University College of Fine Arts, Marshall University, WSAZ, and Marshall Artists Series.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One Big Theatre Family

One of the fun things about being involved in community theatre is the sense of family it carries.

For example, last Friday night my pals Len and Denise LaCara were visiting Huntington and sent out the word that they'd be dropping by the Marshall Hall of Fame restaurant that evening. What resulted was a wonderful evening with a crowd of friends.

But the gathering had to wait until after that evening's rehearsals were finished - so directors, producers and actors from First Stage's Peter Pan dropped by as soon as rehearsals ended, and were joined by the director, choreographer, actors and parents involved with Marshall University's George M!

We kept adding tables and the corresponding volume kept growing - especially the laughter. It was a fun time for all!

The next morning, Denise and Len demonstrated their devotion by dropping by the First Stage storage building and helping with set construction for "Pan." When you see the show, notice the doghouse - Len and I assembled that rascal, although I should admit that it was originally built by Jerry Morse for the show You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and someone else - or a group of someones - will have painted it by the time Peter Pan takes the stage.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Daniel Radcliffe prepares for the Broadway stage

He's famous for playing the part of Harry Potter in the movies, but Daniel Ratcliffe is also making a name for himself on the stage as well. Courtesy of the Herald-Dispatch and the Associated Press, here's the story:
By Michael Kuchwara
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Daniel Radcliffe is talking about Alan Strang, the troubled young man he plays in Equus, the Peter Shaffer drama now being revived on Broadway.

"The brilliant thing about Alan is that you wouldn't notice him walking down the street," says Radcliffe. "He's kind of inconspicuous. He's like Alec Guinness in all those films where he just sort of becomes invisible as soon as he walks into a crowd."

Invisible is not a word you would use to describe Radcliffe, who, at age 19, is probably one of the most recognized young actors in the world thanks to a certain boy wizard created by J.K. Rowling.

Even dressed down in jeans, black leather jacket, gray T-shirt and the slightest scruff of a beard (which doesn't nothing to make him look much older than his nearly two decades), Radcliffe draws stares as he strides confidently through an office-building lobby.

Upstairs in a television studio, he expounds on the character of Strang, the pivotal role in Shaffer's play, which tells the tale of why this youth blinds a stable full of horses. Words pour out, youthful in their enthusiasm and surprisingly adult in their perception.

"Alan is not academically bright but he has amazing intellect," Radcliffe continues, adding that though the boy "might be considered slightly simple and gentle ... he has an incredible imagination."

Equus was a big hit on Broadway in 1974 with Peter Firth in Radcliffe's role and Anthony Hopkins portraying the psychiatrist who tries to unlock his secret. Hopkins' part is now being played by Richard Griffiths, who co-starred with Radcliffe in the 2007 London production of Equus and who portrays nasty Uncle Vernon in all those spectacularly successful "Harry Potter" movies.

Griffiths and Radcliffe are charter members of a mutual admiration society.

Says the older actor, a Tony winner for The History Boys, of Radcliffe: "I'm really pleased with him. He's right at this awful stage of moving from being a child actor to no longer a child."

And Radcliffe returns the compliment: "To work with Richard on stage and in a much more intimate way than Vernon in the 'Potter' films is amazing. His intellect is huge. But... he is not snobbish with the knowledge he has. He shares it and he wants to talk about it. I find him a real joy to be around. For me, it seemed I would have to be really moronic not to take the part."

But there's another reason why he has now tried theater.

"The stage is much more a test of nerve (than film) and seeing what you are made of," Radcliffe explains. "It would be very easy to do simple stuff. It doesn't really interest me that much. Even if I screw up, it's good to know what my limits are. It's good to get a sense of what I can and cannot do.

"Every actor has limits. It's sort of testing out where they are. Luckily, I haven't found them yet. I suppose the thing I've learned is that I think I am more capable than I thought I was," he says with a laugh.

In London, Radcliffe won praise from the critics and audiences for his performance, which includes a brief nude scene, a moment that undoubtedly sold a few tickets to curious "Harry Potter" fans.

"That's the thing about doing it the first time around," he says. "Everyone was wondering if I could... pull it off. I didn't know whether I could do it (but) I really wanted to... and I am going to get better this time around as well."

For Radcliffe, training started with his voice. For the past three years, he has worked with Barbara Houseman, a respected vocal coach in England.

"There are a lot of actors who think you can just go on stage and do it — you can't," he says. "You need to project. You can give the most amazing performance on stage but if the audience can't hear you, then it's useless."

Houseman is in New York for the show's preview performances as Radcliffe prepares for opening night at the Broadhurst Theatre on Sept. 25.

"I am a lot more confident about (my voice) being heard now. In London, that was more of a worry. Now there's room for me to do... to play around with the words and put more color into them, sort of a musicality, to try and give every word its individual identity, I suppose.

"Maybe I am more relaxed this time. I think it's just the fact that I have grown up in the year and a half since we (last) did it," he says. "The other night I got a line wrong, which, for me, was like a dagger because I don't like doing it."

Equus is an emotional, disturbing play, a mystery of sorts that steadily builds to a surprising climax. How does Radcliffe unwind from all that intensity?

"I go home and watch The History Channel, which is what I have been doing the last few nights," Radcliffe says with a laugh. That's after he has waded through crowds waiting at the Broadhurst stage door for an autograph or a cell-phone photo op. It's a group Radcliffe is very much aware of.

"Credit your audiences with massive (amounts) of respect because some of these guys see 50 shows a year," he says. Radcliffe admonishes his fellow newcomers to Broadway this season to salute these ticket holders. His advice?

"When you are at the curtain call, smile," he says. "I really object to it when I am sitting there in the theater, watching actors who are in a great play — and they come out and don't smile at the curtain call. I think: 'You are lucky enough to be in a really brilliant play, now show some appreciation for the fact that you are there. Enjoy it.' We're doing Equus and we smile. If you can smile at the end of Equus, anyone should be able to."

Despite his new stage persona, Radcliffe will never be very far away from where he first earned his celebrity — those "Potter" films based on Rowling's seven books.

The movie version of number six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is already in the can and comes out in July 2009. Filming of the last "Potter" book — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - begins after Radcliffe finishes his Equus run in February.

"I am sure I will be knackered but I adore filming on 'Potter,'" he says. "I can't wait to get back there."

"Deathly Hallows" will be released as two movies — one in November 2010 and the last in summer 2011. Production is expected to take about 14 months. After that, maybe more stage work.

"In 10 years time, I've no clue where I'll be," Radcliffe says. "Hopefully, still acting. If I'm still acting and still enjoying it, I will be happy. I feel pretty certain that will be the case."

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

Marshall Artist Series Tickets On Sale Now

As per this press release, tickets are now on sale for the Marshall Artists Series season:
The Marshall Artists Series is thrilled to announce the start of its 2008-2009 season of events!

In its 72nd year, Marshall Artists Series has outdone itself with the most hilarious, heart wrenching, beautiful, and all around entertaining events in its history! Since 1936, the Artists Series has been a gateway to the world of cultural entertainment in the Tri-State and at Marshall University, and this year is no different. “We are thrilled to continue our tradition of bringing great arts and entertainment to Marshall University, Huntington and the surrounding communities,” says Penny Watkins, Executive Director for the Marshall Artists Series. “The Marshall Artists Series’ 72nd season guarantees to both stretch one’s intellectual soul and flip to the other extreme with pure entertainment!”

The fall season kicks off with one of the most recognized faces in contemporary comedy. CSX Transportation, Guaranty Bank, and Engines Inc. of OH & WV welcome Jim Gaffigan to the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 1. Making Huntington a stop on “The Sexy Tour,” Gaffigan will have audiences rolling in the aisles with his witty observations, one-of-a-kind characters, and his regular guy with an edge persona. "He's a real find,” says the Wall Street Journal. A frequent guest on popular talk shows such as CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman and NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Gaffigan’s comedy will appeal to a variety of audiences; without stretching the use of “four-letter words,” he makes everyday subjects wildly funny. Don’t miss your chance to see a comic genius in person! Jim Gaffigan, “The Sexy Tour” is also sponsored by WKEE, WTCR, Herald Dispatch, and WSAZ. Tickets are $47.50 & $35.

Two-time Emmy award-winning actress Sally Struthers joins the cast of the hit musical comedy Nunsense for its national 25th anniversary tour! Presented by St. Mary’s Medical Center, Nunsense hits the stage at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22. This zany musical comedy features the antics of the Little Sisters of Hoboken as they discover that their beloved cook, Sister Julia, has accidentally poisoned 52 of their fellow sisters! In order to do their sisterly duty and arrange proper burials for so many of their order, the imaginative survivors put on a variety show to raise money for the burials. Meet the wacky former circus performer, Reverend Mother Regina, Sister Mary Hubert, a streetwise nun named Sister Robert Anne, the ballerina novice Sister Mary Leo, and the spacey Sister Mary Amnesia, who lost her memory after a freak crucifix accident. These unique “children of God” will enchant the audience with their star turns, tap and ballet performances, an interactive quiz for the audience, and endless comic surprises. This musical phenomenon will leave the audience begging for more! Nunsense is sponsored by WKEE, B-97, WTCR, and the Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

Get ready for a unique film experience as Marshall Artists Series presents an evening of silent film at 7 p.m. October 30 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. The Keith-Albee’s mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ will come to life at the hands of Scott Foppiano, 2007 A.T.O.S. Theatre Organist of the Year as he accompanies the classic silent film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This well-known film classic, starring the man of mystery himself, Lon Chaney, tells the story of the timeless novel by Victor Hugo. The tortured and misunderstood hunchback, Quasimodo dwells within the sanctuary of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Ridiculed and shunned by the world outside, he devotes his life to passionately ringing the cathedral’s famous bells as an expression of his feelings. Experience this rarely seen silent film on the big screen with the power of the organ’s orchestral accompaniment to set the mood for Halloween. The presentation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is sponsored by WVHU, B-97, and the Herald Dispatch. Tickets are $10.

Celebrate good times… come on and dance, dance, dance! Sit back and relax or put your dancing shoes on and get ready to boogie the night away as Beford Ford & Airgas welcome Kool & The Gang to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Friday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m for a dance party extravaganza with multiple stages and performers! A musical staple of the 1970s and 1980s, Kool & the Gang will bring their hits Celebration, Cherish, Ladies Night, Get Down On It and many more, along with other special guests to local audiences. In a concert experience like no other, the performance will feature multiple stages with music and dancing from Myrtle Beach’s premier Shag band, Jim Quick and Coastline Premium Soul, while DC’s hip-hop dancers, Cultureshock will get the dance party started and teach you some new dance moves! This one-of-a-kind dance party will give you the chance to get your groove on! Kool & the Gang - Dance Party Extravaganza is also sponsored by BB&T, Center for African-American Students’ Programs at Marshall University, Dr. Jeff & Mrs. Brooke Leaberry, Dr. Phil Zambos, Gino’s, Hooter’s, MU Medical Center, Wachovia Securities, WV Lottery, WKEE, B-97, and Herald Dispatch. Tickets are $57.50

Charles Dickens’ larger than life characters take the stage as Chesapeake Energy presents the beloved Broadway musical Oliver! at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Based on the immortal novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, this family musical follows the story of the orphaned Oliver Twist as he joins his fate and fortune with the Artful Dodger, the head of the local children’s criminal underground, Fagin, the brutal and frightening Bill Sykes, and the kind but misguided Nancy. This Tony-Award winning score includes recognizable songs such as Food, Glorious Food, I’d Do Anything, Where is Love, and As Long as He Needs Me. Audiences will be enchanted by this heartwarming family musical. Oliver! is also sponsored by WKEE, WBVB, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

Follow the yellow brick road all the way to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 9 as Chase Bank and Cabell Huntington Hospital present the spectacular Broadway musical, The Wizard of Oz. Get ready for tornados, flying monkeys, witches both good and evil, Dorothy, Toto, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, Scarecrow and all their unforgettable friends as Oz comes to life! A celebration of the iconic 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, this lavish production is packed with memorable musical numbers, breathtaking special effects, and dazzling choreography that will blow you away! Travel with Dorothy “over the rainbow” to the stunning and unimaginable world of OZ and come face to face with all its incredible inhabitants. Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the greatest family musicals of all time! The Wizard of Oz is also sponsored by Touma Foundation, WKEE, WTCR, WSAZ, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

Chapman Printing, Marshall University Department of Music, American Babbitt Bearing, The Law Offices of Doug Reynolds, First Sentry Bank, and Prichard Electric Company Inc. are delighted to welcome Brazilian jazz music legend Sergio Mendes to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009. The Grammy-award winning band leader and composer will help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Marshall University’s Winter Jazz Festival, dedicated this season to J.D. Folsom, founder of the Marshall Jazz Ensemble and its annual winter festival. Known for his ear for infectious rhythms and irresistible melodies, Mendes provides his audiences with a kaleidoscope view of jazz, pop, and Brazilian favorites. Sit back and enjoy selections from his new album, “Encanto” as well as others from his Brazilian songbook. Sergio Mendes is also sponsored by WKEE, WSAZ, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $60 & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $30 & $22.50.

Be prepared for the excitement of Sweeney Todd as the Broadway musical thriller Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plies his trade on the stage of the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. “Musically thrilling, dramatically inventive and visually striking,” raves the Toronto Star. Get ready to squirm, laugh, scream, and cry as this truly unique Tony-Award winning musical by Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim surprises Huntington audiences. The musical that inspired the blockbuster directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd tells the macabre story of the unfortunate Benjamin Barker as he transforms into the diabolical, murderous barber, Sweeney Todd. After being punished for a crime he didn’t commit and losing his wife and child to the insidious clutches of the corrupt Judge Turpin, Todd swears vengeance and employs the wicked Mrs. Lovett in his scheme to slice through London’s “upper crust.” Highlighted by lush melodies, audacious humor and hair-raising excitement, Sweeney Todd is sure to drive audiences wild. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is sponsored by Brickstreet Insurance, Kendall York Dentistry, WKEE, WTCR, and WSAZ. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

Farrell, Farrell & Farrell presents four-time Tony-Award nominee Tovah Feldshuh in her award-winning performance in William Gibson’s play, Golda’s Balcony at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, 2009. The one-woman tour-de-force is a portrait of the indomitable Golda Meir, the Russian immigrant who became an American schoolteacher and a leader of international politics as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel in 1969. The longest running one-woman show in Broadway history, Golda’s Balcony will capture the hearts of the audience as Golda climbs from the riots of Russia to the halls of the legislature of Israel to shape the dramatic story of Israel in the 20th century. Don’t miss this phenomenal performance by a world-class actress in one of the most successful one-woman shows in history. Golda’s Balcony is also sponsored by Huntington Federal, WKEE, WTCR, and WSAZ. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

The John F. Kennedy Center, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, West Virginia Department of Education, and Heiner’s Bakery present the stunning Blues Journey, a family-oriented musical and poetic voyage through the history of the blues. The Kennedy Center’s Blues Journey will appear at 8 p.m., Monday, March 9, 2009 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. The origins and history of the blues come to life as bluesman Willie Brown spins stories, both fictional and true, of his travels and pivotal encounters throughout his path as a young guitarist in Mississippi to his later success as a famous strummer in Chicago. Hear intimate stories about the first blues artist, “The Great One,” chuckle over amusing anecdotes, tap your toes to the music, and be overwhelmed by the beautiful illustrations by Christopher Myers and the heartfelt poems by Walter Dean Myers from their astonishing book, Blues Journey. This family friendly performance offers a truly unique and in-depth look at the world of the blues. Blues Journey is also sponsored by Cabell County Commission, Delegate Kevin Craig, Dr. Stephen Nicholas, Insurance Systems, WV Department of Education & the Arts, Kay Goodwin - Cabinet Secretary, Marsha Slater Insurance, Offutt & Nord, People’s Bank, Rahall Transportation Institute, Trainer, Wright, & Paterno, WKEE, WVHU, WSAZ, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $25; Youth tickets (17 & under) are $15.

Huntington prepares to welcome the reigning #1 artists on Billboard’s classical charts for 21 weeks, a group of 5 twenty-something siblings who make up classical music’s first family of piano virtuosos. The 5 Browns will take Huntington by storm at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. The five brothers and sisters began their astonishing careers when they came to notice at the famous New York Julliard School of Music by breathing new life into old classics, and have since performed sold-out concerts all over the world and have topped the charts with a succession of gorgeous albums. “One family, five pianos and 50 fingers add to the biggest classical music sensation in years,” extols The New York Post. The 5 Browns will bring their immense talent and their 5 Steinway pianos to the Keith-Albee stage for a performance not to be missed! The 5 Browns is sponsored by First Priority Federal Credit Union, WKEE, WVHU, WSAZ, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $45, $40, & $35. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $22.50, $20, & $17.50.

Get ready, set… Spell! Broadway’s Tony-Award winning new musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is taking the stage at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 28, 2009. This exciting new musical breaks the mold as it follows the story of six young spelling stars in the throes of puberty, dealing with grownups lost in their own childhoods, as they partake in the all important county spelling bee. Along the way, the contestants learn that winning isn’t everything, and that losing doesn’t always make you a loser. Spelling Bee has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “perfect in every possible way- that rarity of rarities, a super-smart musical that is also a crowd pleaser.” Packed with tuneful musical numbers, offbeat humor, and interactive elements, this truly creative and entertaining musical is guaranteed to bring back all your happy and sometimes silly memories of childhood spelling bees. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is sponsored by Air Systems Inc., Boggs Roofing, Huntington Testing & Technology, Neighborgall Construction, Verizon, WKEE, B-97, WVHU, WSAZ, and Herald Dispatch. Adult tickets are $55, $50, & $45. Youth tickets (17 & under) are $27.50, $25, & $22.50.

With all the excitement of the season, be sure you don’t miss the Fall and Spring International Film Festivals! Marshall Artists Series makes it their goal to provide Marshall students, faculty, and the Huntington area with the chance to see films from all over the world on the big screen at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Film show times vary. Season passes are available for all 12 films in advance for $70. Individual tickets are not sold in advance; rather, they are available at the performances 15 minutes prior to each film and are $7 per film.

The Fall International Film Festival will be held October 10 – 16, 2008 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center and features the following films:

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden (USA) – Famous documentarian and West Virginia native Morgan Spurlock is at it again! When he and his wife discover they are about to have a child, he realizes he wants his baby to grow up in a safer world. So Spurlock goes on an epic adventure to find out for himself where the most dangerous man on Earth, Osama Bin Laden, has been hiding. Presented in English.

4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania) – The film portrays the gritty and powerful account of Otilia, a young college student trying to help her pregnant roommate secure an illegal, late-term abortion during the final days of communism in Russia. Both women soon get lost in the haunting task and experience unexpected revelations. Presented in Romanian and English with subtitles.

Sangre De Mi Sangre (Mexico) – A young Mexican immigrant, Pedro, journeys to New York in search of the father he’s never met, but gets entangled with the conniving thief Juan who steals his identity and his dream. Only the assistance of a mysteriously complex prostitute enables him to continue his desperate search. Presented in Spanish and English with subtitles.

The Band’s Visit (Israel) – The film follows the story of an Egyptian police orchestra that gets lost on its way to a performance in Israel and wind up far from home in an isolated Israeli village. The film touches lightly on the complex political issues of the band’s visit and shows through heartfelt comedy how people of all cultures share the trials of friendship and romance. Presented in Arabic, English, and Hebrew with subtitles.

The Counterfeiters (Austria) – Winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, the movie tells the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, the bohemian and Russian Jew who was captured by Nazis and forced to cooperate in an organized counterfeiting operation to finance the war effort. Presented in German, Russian, English, and Hebrew with subtitles.

The Flight of the Red Balloon (France) – In this tribute to Lamorisse’s 1956 classic short The Red Balloon, Juliette Binoche stars as a single Parisian mother who employs a Taiwanese film student as her son’s babysitter. As the babysitter and child explore the streets and cafes of the city, they create and share an imaginary world where they are followed everywhere affectionately by a mysterious red balloon. Presented in French with English subtitles.

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The Spring International Film Festival will be held February 20 – February 26, 2009 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center and will feature the following films:

Brick Lane (UK) – The film follows the story of a young Bangladeshi woman as she makes her new home in London and is trapped by an arranged marriage. Caught in a loveless marriage, she struggles to keep her head up until the day she meets the hotheaded young Karim. Presented in English.

Edge of Heaven (Turkey/Germany) – In a Turkish enclave in Bremen, a widower brings home a local prostitute to tend to his domestic needs. Their families and lives become intertwined in this complex, multi-layered film addressing German-Turkish relations and generational divides. Presented in English, Turkish, and German with subtitles.

Caramel (Lebanon/France) – This colorful and sensual film tells the story of five women who meet regularly in a Beirut beauty salon where different generations come to talk of men, sex, and motherhood in between haircuts and sugar waxing with caramel. Presented in Arabic and French with subtitles.

Elsa and Fred (Argentina) – When elderly Fred loses his wife, he moves to a smaller apartment to live quietly. But when his vivacious neighbor Elsa gets involved, he soon discovers how much life he has left to live. Presented in Spanish, Italian, and English with English subtitles.

The Grocer’s Son (France) – This drama centers on Antoine, a city-dweller forced to return to the country when his father falls ill. He takes over his father’s job as a grocery cart driver, and soon develops a relationship with the town and the enchanting Claire, only to find that there is more to life than what he left behind. Presented in French with subtitles.

Trouble the Water (USA) – The film documents the harrowing struggle of Katrina survivors in New Orleans. Told from an insider’s perspective, the film follows the difficulties faced by a couple as they try to rebuild their lives after disaster. Presented in English.

The Marshall Artists Series 2008-2009 season is packed with a variety of extraordinary performances. Individual tickets go on sale to the public starting Monday, Sept. 8, 2008 at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased through the Marshall Artists Series box office, located in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, or by calling (304) 696-6656 or (304) 523-5757. Patrons can also visit www.marshallartistsseries.org for ticket information. The box office is open Monday - Friday from noon - 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com. Patrons can pick up tickets at any Ticketmaster outlet, as well as FYE stores in the Huntington Mall and Ashland Town Center, and at Macy’s in the Charleston Town Center.

For additional information please call the Marshall Artists Series at (304) 696-3326 or send us an email at artistsseries@marshall.edu.

Friday, September 12, 2008

After 27 Years, It's a Wrap for "Forbidden Broadway"

You read that right - Forbidden Broadway has been running off-Broadway for a long, long time. The comedy spoof is finally taking a break, according to this story at Broadway.com:
Forbidden Broadway, the 27-year-old off-Broadway phenomenon which parodies popular musical theater fare, will close on January 15, 2009. The newest incarnation of the piece, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab, is set to open on September 17 at the 47th Street Theatre.
I must admit I've never seen it, but a couple of my pals saw it recently and loved it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9 / 11

It's a day to remember the grim events that happened seven years ago.

Send a prayer out to those who lost loved ones on that day, and to those who've worked so hard to keep our country safe since then.

Many families have paid the ultimate price for that safety, and we owe them our gratitude, and so much more.

(This photo shows the World Trade Center construction site during the 7th annual 9/11 commemoration ceremony in New York City. Photo Courtesy AFP/Pool)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Ripping Good Yarn

As I've been promising, in October the community theatre scene will catch fire, as lots of shows - now in rehearsal - will take the stage.

One of the most anticipated is the new musical Jack the Ripper, based on the famous - and unsolved - mass murders in Victorian-era London.

My pal Ryan Hardiman is in the show, and sent along this fantastic poster, and he writes:
"(I've) been very busy lately trying to absorb the difficult but incredibly beautiful score for Scarpelli and Kehde's new musical: Jack the Ripper."


UPDATE: Whoops, we had an error in the original dates listed in this post - hereby corrected and expanded with the cast information - and I'll post the corrected poster as soon as the Blogger program stops being glitchy.

UPDATE 2: Ah, there it is!

CYAC presents
Jack The Ripper

The premiere of a new musical by Scarpelli and Kehde

Thurs. - Sat. Oct. 2,3,4 at 8 p.m.,
Sunday, Oct 5 at 2 p.m.
Thurs.- Sat. Oct 9,10,11 at 8 p.m.

Capitol Center Theatre
123 Summers St. Charleston

Tickets Available at Door
$9.50 Adults, $5.50 Students and Seniors
Call (304) 342-6522 for Information

Music by Mark Scarpelli
Libretto by Dan Kehde

Jack: Ryan Hardiman
Jacks Mother: Tanya Dillon Page
John Seymour [newspaperman]: Donnie Smith
Harry the piano player: Greg Garner
Inspector Ried: Nick Tidquist
Inspector Abberline: Kevin Pauley
Mathilda: Liz McCormick
George Lusk: Nick Curnutte

Whores/Londoners
Mary Kelly: Melanie Larch
Martha Tabram: Marranda Major
Annie Chapman: Sam Oxley
Polly Nichols: Jennifer Davis
Elizabeth Stride: Maria Fioravante
Kate Eddowes: Penny Fioravante
Coroner Llewellyn: Josh Williams
Constable 1: Shawn Price
Alice... Alicia Lewis
Angel...Marranda Major
Whore Chorus: Shawn Price, Kirill Gura, Kaleb Harris, Alicia Lewis, Marranda
Major, Samantha Oxley, Maria Fioravante, Penny Fioravante

Vigilante/Drunk: Shawn Price
Doctor: Shawn Price
Phillip, suspect 3...Shawn Price
Man 1, 4: Josh Williams
Aaron Kosminski...Kirill Gura
Man 2, 5: Kirill Gura
Nurse: Penny Fioravante
Man 3, 6: Kaleb Harris
Whores/ Vigilantes: Shawn Price, Kirill Gura, Kaleb Harris, Alicia Lewis, Marranda Major, Samantha Oxley, Maria Fioravante, Penny Fioravante
Suspect 2...Kaleb Harris

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Young Actors Enjoying Success

This comment arrived today from an Anonymous writer, and it's such good news I wanted to post it out here for all to see. He or she wrote:
Thought you might like to know that some First Stage (Theatre Company) Alums as well as current members have been cast in Marshall's (Dept. of Theatre) production of George M!

(The cast includes) Scott Burner, Chuck Herndon, Nathan Mohebe, Sarah Hayes, Amy Klim, and Maggie Saunders.
That's excellent news - congratulations to them and the rest of the cast! I think it's great when the alumni of the children's theatre (like Scott, Chuck and Nathan) go on to success in their college careers - and it's great to see talented high school performers like Sarah, Amy and Maggie getting the chance to show off their talent on a big stage like Marshall's!

(I should tell you that all of those performers have been part of shows I directed, so I admit to being prejudiced and thinking they're all wonderful and talented. Fairness in advertising and all that.)

George M! is directed by Gene Anthony, who's a terrific director and a heck of a lot of fun to work with - they're going to have a blast!

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Rent" Brings Down The Curtain On Broadway

Last night was the historic final performance of Rent. Here's the story from the Associated Press, which also supplied this photo of Will Chase, Michael McElroy, Eden Espinosa and Rodney Hicks during a filming of the performance in New York. (AP Photo/Sony Pictures' Releasing, Casey Stouffer)
By Michael Kuchwara
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - They cheered, they cried and gave the show a standing ovation even before the first note was sung.

Broadway said goodbye Sunday to Rent, 12 years and 5,124 performances after it first became a rock musical with a message for theatergoers of all ages.

"Like we did when we opened, we dedicate this performance to Jonathan Larson," said actor Adam Kantor, referring to the man who wrote the show's book, music and lyrics.

Then Rent was off and running toward its final curtain that had the last cast as well as members of its original company together on stage at the end of the evening to sing an electric version of "Seasons of Love," one of the show's best-known songs.

"There's mixed emotions, but it's time," said Allan S. Gordon, one of its producers, talking about the closing.

The show, book was born off-Broadway in triumph and tragedy. Larson died of an aortic aneurism after its final dress rehearsal in January 1996. He was 35.

"It was the most shocking thing," Gordon recalled. "I still can't believe Jonathan is dead. All you need is one (big hit), and he had that. I don't miss what he didn't write. I feel bad that he isn't here to enjoy what he did."

Larson's tale of free-spirited artists and street people in a gritty drug- and AIDS-plagued East Village of the early 1990s touched several generations.

Rave reviews propelled Rent to Broadway where the musical opened the following April at the Nederlander Theatre, a house often shunned by producers because it was on the wrong side of 42nd Street.

The show, inspired by Puccini's La Boheme, found a ready-made audience in young people. Its fanatical supporters were nicknamed "Rentheads," and many of them saw the show after the musical instituted a same-day, front-row ticket price of $20. The plan proved so popular that it was changed to a lottery format to accommodate the demand.

Yet the show's fans were more than just young theatergoers.

"It's 80 percent the traditional audience," Gordon explained. "Rent was not defined by age. It attracted a wide spectrum of people. People of all ages love it. That's why it survived."

Survived and thrived-winning Tonys, Obies and the Pulitzer Prize for drama as well as grossing more than $280 million during its Broadway run. Millions more were made from national tours and foreign productions that performed on six continents. A film version, using much of the original cast, was released in 2005.

All Broadway shows have a finite life, a beginning and, no matter how successful, an end. Even Cats closed, and, one day, so will The Phantom of the Opera. But what made Rent stand out and be embraced by so many people?

"In my mind, it's simply the message," said Gwen Stewart, a member of the original cast and the performer who came back for the final performances.

"Rent speaks to people's hearts," Stewart said. "There is a universal truth that I think everyone can identity with: Living today to the fullest because you don't know if tomorrow will be promised to you. Live. Love. Laugh. We have all gone through loss. Not necessarily AIDS-related, but everyone loses someone at some point."

Rodney Hicks, another original cast member, agrees.

"Rent is about love and learning how to love-under whatever circumstance," he said. "And learning how to accept that love. And loving unconditionally. The commonality in the show is the universal language of love that everyone can relate to. That's why the show has translated so well into other languages, into other countries."

Hicks, who first met Larson in 1995 when he was 21, had a small role in the original production and says he grew up with the show. Now he is back in the musical, in a bigger part, portraying Benjamin J. Coffin the landlord, the role originated by Taye Diggs.

"I had always wanted to play Benny," he recalled. "At the time, I looked like I was 14, 15 years old. When you are 21, you don't realize how young you actually look-or are. ... Now, at 34, I'm actually old enough to play the character."

Hicks said Sunday's closing gives the Broadway production "a feeling of completeness."

But it's not the end of Rent, according to Gordon.

Another tour starts in January for some 30 weeks with several members of the original cast. Plus a new cinecast of Rent, filmed in High-Definition video by Sony Pictures during the musical's last performances, will be shown in movie theaters in the United States and Canada for four days (Sept. 24-25 and Sept. 27-28). Check http://www.thehotticket.net/rent for locations.

"Rent is recorded for history, so it's not like it's disappearing off the map," Gordon said. "Hmmm, maybe I should bring back a revival next year."


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

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Record Run for "Mamma Mia!"

We're talking about the Broadway version of Mamma Mia here. This week the stage version moved up a notch on the list of shows with the longest Broadway run.

It moved past the 2,845th performance, which moves it into 16th place, passing Hello, Dolly! As Mark Evanier writes in this entry on his "News From ME" blog, there's a reason why a show like Mamma Mia! has lasted so long:
One could argue, of course, that Mamma Mia enjoys a big advantage over Hello, Dolly! in that Mamma Mia is pretty much a starless show. People went to see Hello, Dolly! because Carol was in it...or Pearl or Ethel or some other huge force of theatrical nature. The long run on a star-driven show is often dependent on how long the star will stick around and drive. If Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were still doing The Producers, it might still be running.

But the achievement of Mamma Mia is still quite impressive. A few months ago, it passed My Fair Lady... and at the rate it's going, it will almost certainly outlast Tobacco Road (3182 performances), Life With Father (3224), the original Fiddler on the Roof (3242), the original Grease (3388) and the original 42nd Street (3486). If and when it eclipses the last of these, it will be the 11th longest-running Broadway show of all time. After that, it just might stick around long enough to beat Miss Saigon (4097) and crack the Top Ten. That would take three more years but since it's still selling out after seven years, that seems quite possible.
And just in case you're wondering what shows are in the top 25, here's the list as it stood about on July 20, 2008 (which is the newest information I've been able to track down - you can add about 40 shows to the ones marked with an asterisk (*) - they're still running). All totals are for the original Broadway run (except where noted).

1. * The Phantom of the Opera 8519
2. Cats 7485
3. Les Misérables 6680
4. A Chorus Line 6137
5. Oh! Calcutta! (Revival) 5959
6. Beauty and the Beast 5461
7. Rent 5083 (closes Sept. 7)
8. Chicago (Revival) 4836
9. * The Lion King 4468
10. Miss Saigon 4097
11. 42nd Street 3486
12. Grease 3388
13. Fiddler on the Roof 3242
14. Life With Father 3224
15. Tobacco Road 3182
16. Hello, Dolly! 2844
17. * Mamma Mia! 2806
18. My Fair Lady 2717
19. The Producers 2502
20. * Hairspray 2441
21. Cabaret (Revival) 2378
22. Annie 2377
23. Man of La Mancha 2328
24. Abie's Irish Rose 2327
25. Oklahoma! 2212

You can see a more complete list right here at Playbill.com.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

On With the Show at the Paramount

The Paramount Arts Center entertained a special visitor last night to celebrate a return to presenting films at that classic venue. As you can read in this story, film star and Kentucky native Ashley Judd paid a visit (that's her in the photo, natch). Here's an excerpt:
One of the Hollywood's biggest stars is turning her attention from the silver screen to the Paramount Arts Center's screen.

"Like me, so many people in the Tri-State first entered this great building to see a movie," said Tyson Compton, marketing director of the PAC and chairman of the event. "And people are always asking when we will show movies again. Well, that day has arrived! And, we think it's a pretty big deal, especially with Ashley Judd as our hostess for the evening. How incredible is that? It isn't every day that you have the opportunity to attend a cocktail party on the Paramount stage with one of Hollywood's leading ladies."
The Paramount rolled out the red carpet (literally) for "Opening Night with Ashley Judd" and a screening of romantic comedy It Happened One Night, starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable -- a nod to the era when the Paramount first opened.

800!

This marks the 800th post for your humble Tri-State Theatre blog, a milestone which - let's be honest - only I care about - but it's mentioned here to mollify my inner nerd.

I like to take these occasions to say "Thanks" to all of you out there for reading along, for making comments, for sending along information, and in general putting up with my ramblings here!

As always, we welcome your suggestions, which you can post here by clicking the link at the bottom of the post - or feel free to send an email to TheMinskers@aol.com.

Now - on with the show!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Schedule of Shows Opening on Broadway

For those of you planning a trip to New York this fall, here's a list of plays and musicals opening during the first half of the 2008-09 Broadway season. (This list is courtesy the Associated Press.)

A Tale of Two Cities, musical, Sept. 18

Equus, revival-play, Sept. 25

The Seagull, revival-play, Oct. 1

To Be or Not to Be, play, Oct. 2

13, musical, Oct. 5

A Man for All Seasons, revival-play, Oct. 7

All My Sons, revival-play, Oct. 16

Speed-The-Plow, revival-play, Oct. 23

Billy Elliot, musical, Nov. 13

American Buffalo, revival-play, Nov. 17

Dividing the Estate, play, Nov. 20

White Christmas, musical, Nov. 23

Pal Joey, revival-musical, Dec. 11

Shrek, musical, Dec. 14


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

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Scarcity of Plays on Broadway?

Since this blog is affiliated with the Herald-Dispatch, I can share Associated Press stories with you, like this one about the scarcity of new (non-musical) plays on Broadway this fall:
By Michael Kuchwara, AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -
Where have all the new plays gone?

On Broadway this fall, it will be lonely pair - To Be or Not to Be and Dividing the Estate - that will qualify as new works in a season studded with starry revivals such as Equus and All My Sons.

Quite a change from last year, where the fall had plays by Tracy Letts, Tom Stoppard, Conor McPherson, Aaron Sorkin and even Mark Twain (well, adapted by David Ives) on tap. And David Mamet showed up with a new one, too - in January.

"Broadway has been fairly unfriendly to the new play for a while," said Daniel Sullivan, acting artistic director last season for Manhattan Theatre Club, which will produce one of those two new works. "When you are talking between $2 million and $3 million, just to put on a five- or six-character play on Broadway, you can't blame producers for being shy."

No wonder both To Be or Not to Be and Dividing the Estate are being produced by nonprofit, noncommercial theaters.

To Be or Not to Be is a familiar title-at least to movie buffs. It's a stage adaptation by Nick Whitby of the 1942 film comedy starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard about the tribulations of a theater troupe in Warsaw trying to open a play as the Nazis invade Poland. It was remade in the 1980s, with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in leading roles.

The comedy, directed by Casey Nicholaw of The Drowsy Chaperone fame, opens Oct. 2 at the newly rechristened Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (formerly the Biltmore). Heading the large cast of a dozen actors are David Rasche and Jan Maxwell.

To Be or Not to Be came to Manhattan Theatre Club through a commercial producer, Bob Boyett, who had the rights but felt because of the show's multiple sets and extensive costumes, it was too big for him to take on commercially.

"He came to us and asked if we would put it on, and he would help out," Sullivan said. "It would be very difficult for us to afford to do it on our own. It this case, it's a fortuitous linkage of the commercial and the not-for-profit."

Dividing the Estate by Horton Foote arrives on Broadway after a successful off-Broadway run last season. The play, a revised version of a work the 92-year-old Foote wrote nearly two decades ago, concerns a Texas family's squabble over an inheritance.

The comedy will open Nov. 20 at the Booth Theatre with its off-Broadway cast including Elizabeth Ashley, Arthur French, Hallie Foote, Penny Fuller and Gerald McRaney.

Elsewhere on Broadway, it's big names in old plays.

The parade starts with Equus, a revival of Peter Shaffer's psychological drama featuring Daniel Radcliffe, in-between starring in all those "Harry Potter" movies.

The 19-year-old Radcliffe portrays a troubled young man who blinds a stable full of horses, and a psychiatrist, played by Richard Griffiths, who attempts to find out why. The answer will be revealed Sept. 25 when Equus opens at the Broadhurst Theatre. A lot more will be revealed, too, because Radcliffe also strips to the skin.

Nobody takes their clothes off in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (as far we know), the master's wryly melancholic tale of unhappy aristocrats in late 19th century Russia. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a self-absorbed actress in a production cheered by the London critics in 2007. Peter Sarsgaard also is in the American cast. The angst and unfulfillment commence Oct. 1 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

There's nothing wrong with a little heroics and they don't get much braver than Sir Thomas More, who had the moral fortitude to stand up to Henry VIII and his desire for a divorce. The play is Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, and More will be portrayed by an actor of uncommon ability, Frank Langella. Look for the Roundabout Theatre Company production Oct. 7 at its American Airlines Theatre.

Arthur Miller always was intrigued, too, by the battle between right and wrong. And the highly moral concerns of his late 1940s drama All My Sons will get another airing starting Oct. 16 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

The cast includes John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and, attracting the most attention, Katie Holmes, possibly because some hope to see her husband, Tom Cruise, waiting for her at the stage door after evening performances.

The play (for those who are more concerned about plot) tells the story of businessman Joe Keller (Lithgow), whose factory supplied defective cylinder parts to the military, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots during World War II. Wiest will play Keller's wife and Wilson, his idealistic son.

Theatergoers will also be treated to a battle between two Mamet revivals-each showcasing offbeat casts.

In one corner, we have Speed-The-Plow, Mamet's cynical look at Hollywood glamour, sex and power, featuring Jeremy Piven, Raul Esparza and, in the role originated by Madonna in the play's first Broadway production, Elisabeth Moss. Look for it Oct. 23 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

In the other corner, John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment star in the playwright's Chicago robbery caper, American Buffalo. The opening is Nov. 17 at the Belasco.

For those still hankering for new work, look off-Broadway where a couple of intriguing possibilities arrive before Thanksgiving.

Will drama off the playing field be potent enough in Back Back Back, Itamar Moses' baseball tale set against the steroid controversy? To find out, play ball Nov. 5 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II.

Games of another kind will be present in Farragut North, Beau Willimon's cautionary tale of Washington power politics. John Gallagher, a Tony winner for Spring Awakening, stars. The dirty doings are exposed Nov. 12 at the Atlantic Theater Company.

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shows in September

One of the things I try to do here at Ye Olde Tri-State Theatre Blog is write a post at the beginning of each month listing the shows coming up in that month. I haven't done that yet for September, mostly because I was pretty sure there weren't any shows on tap for local stages - but I was wrong.

My search of local theatre websites has turned up one show this month - and it's a good one! The Clay Center in Charleston will host a touring production of the hit musical Chicago on Sept. 24, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.

According to the Clay Center's website:
It's Broadway's most popular musical - a tale of sin and celebrity. And now, you can see it live! Based on the 1926 play by the same name, Chicago took to the big screen in 2002, winning six Oscars and leading to the rebirth of the musical.

Chicago is the story of seductive nightclub dancer Roxie Hart who finds that the road to fame can be a trail of blood. Throw in a cunning lawyer and a bit of razzle dazzle and Roxie goes from cold-hearted killer to the toast of the town.

This show contains mature themes.
Tickets for Area A are $58.50; for Area B they're $39.25. See, September isn't a desert for shows after all. Just the first 23 days of it!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Whew!

The Old Scout here is a bit tuckered out tonight, folks!

The evening started as I opened up our church for Peter Pan rehearsals, and then Pat and I drove to the First Stage Theatre Company storage facility, where we worked with Jack and Tim to straighten up the facility and dismantle some set pieces from High School Musical. (I hope they didn't notice me wiping away the occasional tear.)

We had to make room so we can start construction on the set for Pan, so we spent most of our time organizing and stacking large wooden flats, storing away the huge rotating panels from HSM, and dismantling the large rolling lockers.

Then I had to hustle back to the church to lock things up after the rehearsal wrapped up!

But don't think I'm complaining - seeing all those kids having fun as they start working on the show makes all the dust and splinters worthwhile!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

What better way to celebrate the workers of America than by giving them the day off? Sounds like a great idea, right?

Of course, not everyone gets a break - someone has to keep things running, after all. But it's still a holiday celebrating the regular Joes and Janes who keep the country moving forward!

If you have to work, you have my sympathy (been there, done that, got the T-shirt), but if you have the day off, I hope it's a fun one!