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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Who Will Be the Symphony Idol?

Congratulations to local performer, terrific singer and heck of a nice guy Ryan Hardiman - he competed in a "Symphony Idol" competition two weekends ago at the Clay Center, and was one of nine finalists chosen to sing with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra next season.

He'll perform at a February Pops concert, and audience members will select one finalist to be the Symphony Idol.

About 50 West Virginia residents (and some out of state singers) auditioned before three judges, including Larry Groce, the host of Mountain Stage, and opera singers Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs and Randall Reid-Smith, who is also commissioner of the state Division of Culture and History.

Local theatre fans remember Ryan from "Hair," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Into the Woods," among many other performances, including quite a few shows in Charleston.

If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Ryan!

On Stage Tonight - "The Guys"

Well, since tonight's performance of "The Guys" stars two friends - Jack Cirillo and Beth McVey - I was going to do a write-up on it, but the Herald-Dispatch's Dave Lavender has already done a great job, and you can read it right here.

Here's the basic info about the show: "The Guys," is playwright Anne Nelson's true story of New York City and its people in the aftermath of 9/11. It's being staged at the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University. Shows are at 8:00 p.m. today through Wednesday, May 2. Tickets are $25 (which isn't bad for the chance to see a performance by Broadway veterans).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Busy Weekend

Well, I had several posts planned for this weekend, but events kept me on the move, so I'll try to catch up over the next couple of days. To recap:

- I saw "The Diary of Anne Frank" on Saturday, and what an amazing and moving production it was. I'll have a full review soon, but I'm so glad I got to see it - not just because it was an outstanding production filled with great performances, but also because it may have been my last chance to catch the wonderful and talented Autumn Seavey on a local stage - she's graduating!

- Don't forget that the Marshall Artists Series production of "The Guys" starts up tomorrow and runs through May 2 at 8:00 p.m. at the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre. It stars two local professional actors - Jack Cirillo and Beth McVey - and promises to be a powerful presentation.

- Marshall's Dept. of Theatre has also announced its lineup for the upcoming season, and it includes "Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

- I wanted to thank my pal Mark Hayes - he let me tag along as we made a trip to Columbus today to catch the touring show of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," a terrific show I reviewed right here.

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Good Friends and Fun Shows

So it's been about a year ago that my good friend Denise Duellman-LaCara wrapped up her final Huntington production. She was the vocal director and assistant director for "Les Miserables: The School Edition," put on by First Stage in March 2006. (The director was some guy with a white beard.)

By the end of the summer, she and her talented family had relocated to Zanesville, Ohio, as husband Len became the editor of the local newspaper. Great for them, though we were all sorry to see them go.

Denise is such a talented director, vocal coach, costume designer - the list goes on and on - and had done lots of great work with young people in our area. I'm glad to see she's not resting on her laurels - she's already directing shows in Ohio! You can read about her latest production - "Aladdin, Jr." - right here. There's also a photo link on the same page.

We miss the LaCaras, of course - and thankfully, they still visit Huntington every now and then (we saw them at one of the "Cats" shows) - but it's good to see that Denise is still guiding young people through the joys of being a part of live theatre.

Friday, April 27, 2007

And Then the Drought

Here we are at the end of April, and the chances to catch a community theatre show are going to be mighty slim very soon.

But you have lots to choose from this weekend (and early next week):

You can catch "The Music Man" at Huntington's City Hall Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

You have one last chance to see "The Diary of Anne Frank" at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Then you can see the Marshall Artists Series production of "The Guys," also at the Performing Arts Center Monday, April 30 through May 2 at 8:00 p.m. This show offers a rare chance to see a couple of local theatre pros at work - but I'll have more about that tomorrow.

Same blog time, same blog channel!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Stage Tonight - "The Diary of Anne Frank"

I haven't had a chance to catch it yet, but my pal Stephen has seen it and says:

I saw (The Diary of) Anne Frank last night in preview. It was remarkable and beautiful. I could go into great detail of how wonderful this show was, but I expect you to do that later this week. So, I will burden myself with the task of being a huge fan who tells everyone he meets to go see the show. The direction, production, and ensemble were terrific. Prepare to be taken to another place.

Actually, Stephen, I'm not going to get to see the show until Friday or Saturday, so feel free to send along more comments. Sounds like a great show - I'm really looking forward to it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

“The Music Man” - The Review

It’s a classic story - shady guy meets sweet girl, guy chases girl until she catches him, and then... but wait, I don’t want to give away the ending. Suffice to say that there’s a good reason why “The Music Man” is considered by many to be one of the all-time great musicals.

For proof, you just need to pay a visit to the City Hall auditorium this weekend to see 5th Avenue Theatre’s version. It stars local theatre veteran Bil Neal, who plays the part of Professor Harold Hill, the fast-talking traveling salesman who has hit on the perfect scam, as he sells musical instruments and band uniforms to small-town folks and then moves on before the people realize the kids haven’t learned how to play the instruments. Neal does a terrific job in a very challenging role - his character is in virtually every scene, usually singing, dancing, or fast-talking his way out of trouble - and Neal’s great at all three.

Playing the part of his love interest, Marion the Librarian, is Jennifer Scott, and she is terrific! She makes Marion sympathetic but tough, and what an incredible voice she has! Even more amazing is the fact that she joined the show late in the rehearsal process - but you’d never be able to tell. She’s a great performer - a natural on the stage, and a real talent.

There are far too many people in the cast for me to mention everyone, but I have to include C.E. Wilson, who provides the comedic heart of the show as Mayor Shinn. He steals darn near every scene he’s in and more than once had me howling - he has the art of the double-take down to a science. Also wonderfully funny is his wife Eulalie Shinn, played by community theatre pro Jane Morse. The two of them are hilarious, and worth the price of admission alone.

Special kudos also to: Kenny Harbolt, who plays Hill’s sidekick Marcellus and leads the show-stopping “Shapoopie” song; Kenny Duthie, Mark Near, Dave Richards and Adam Mottesheard, who make up the (Barbershop) Quartet and provide several great numbers and quite a few laughs; Dylan Clark, who plays a funny anvil salesman who has a grudge against Hill; and Lydia Waybright (Amaryllis) and Franklin Norton (Winthrop), two young actors to watch for in the future. Heck, all the actors in the show do a great job!

I also have to give credit to the terrific orchestra put together and led by Ron Short (who we usually see on stage) - the musicians are always the unsung heroes of a show like this, and they deserve a huge pat on the back for their fine work here.

And the other hidden heroes in this show is the Tech Crew. “The Music Man” is a challenging show because of the large number of scene changes - that means a lot of work for the backstage crew, and they did a great job of keeping things moving. Hats off to Stage Manager Brittany Hazeldine for her fine work backstage - especially considering she took this job in addition to starring in “Cats” and “Cinderella.” How does she do it?

There's a good reason why “The Music Man” has become a classic - it’s a funny story about love and business, and what happens when the two mix.

You have three more chances to see this show - don’t miss it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This Week's Activities - Shows, Auditions and Breakfast

Lots of theatre stuff going on in the week ahead, including:

Marshall's Department of Theatre presents "The Diary of Anne Frank," which starts tomorrow and runs through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. As you'd expect from MU, the advance word on this show is that it's terrific!

Starting Friday you can see 5th Avenue Theatre's "Music Man," which runs at the Huntington City Hall Auditorium on April 27 and 28 at 8:00 p.m. and April 29 at 2:30 p.m. (I caught Sunday's performance and hope to have a review posted by tomorrow - but here's the Reader's Digest version: it's lots of fun!)

This weekend Huntington Outdoor Theatre will begin holding auditions for the July production of "Oklahoma" and the Pre-Show. The auditions will be held at the Trinity Episcopal Church - enter from the 11th Street side. Saturday, April 28 will be auditions for the Pre-Show from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Sunday, April 29 will be auditions for adults (ages 15 and up) from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with additional auditions for adults May 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Good luck!

And, if you're looking for a fun activity to enjoy with your kids, try the Annual Character Breakfast at the Huntington Museum of Art. Presented by the Junior League of Huntington, there are two sessions starting promptly at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. - tickets are $15.00, and proceeds will support the proposed new playground to be built in Ritter Park, as well as both organizations. The event includes breakfast while children are greeted by their favorite superheroes and cartoon characters. Children then enjoy jumping castles, arts and crafts, story time, photo opportunities, museum tours and other activities. You can learn more about the event by visiting www.characterbreakfast.org.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The 2007 Outer Critics Circle Awards

The awards season for theatre is upon us (the Tony nominees will be announced in a few weeks).

The 2007 Outer Critics Circle Awards were announced today. Disney's newest Broadway musical, "Mary Poppins," earned 11 nominations, and Tom Stoppard's three-part epic, "The Coast of Utopia," earned nine nominations.

Of interest to local theatre fans is the nomination of Michael Cerveris as Outstanding Actor in a Musical for "LoveMusik."

The complete list of nominees follows:

Outstanding New Broadway Play
The Coast of Utopia
Coram Boy
Radio Golf

Outstanding New Broadway Musical
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening

Outstanding Off-Broadway Play
Exits and Entrances
Indian Blood
The Pain and the Itch
The Scene

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
In the Heights
Evil Dead: The Musical
Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky
Gutenberg! The Musical!

Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
In the Heights
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening

Outstanding Revival of a Play
Inherit the Wind
Journey's End
Talk Radio
The Voysey Inheritance

Outstanding Revival of Musical
The Apple Tree
A Chorus Line
110 in the Shade

Outstanding Director of a Play (Lucille Lortel Award)
Michael Grandage, Frost/Nixon
David Grindley, Journey's End
Melly Still, Coram Boy
Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia

Oustanding Director of a Musical
John Doyle, Company
Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, Mary Poppins
Thomas Kail, In the Heights
Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening

Outstanding Choreography
Rob Ashford, Curtains
Andy Blankenbuehler, In the Heights
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear, Mary Poppins
Carol Leavey Joyce and Graciela Daniele, The Pirate Queen

Outstanding Actor in a Play

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brían F. O'Byrne, The Coast of Utopia
Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind
Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio

Outstanding Actress in a Play
Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia
Carla Gugino, Suddenly Last Summer
Alison Pill, Blackbird

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik
Raúl Esparza, Company
Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins
David Hyde Pierce, Curtains

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Ashley Brown, Mary Poppins
Kristin Chenoweth, The Apple Tree
Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade
Donna Murphy, LoveMusik

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia
Boyd Gaines, Journey's End
David Greenspan, Some Men
Stephen Kunken, Frost/Nixon

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Robin Bartlett, Prelude to a Kiss
Jill Clayburgh, The Clean House
Martha Plimpton, The Coast of Utopia
Lily Rabe, Heartbreak House

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Jason Danieley, Curtains
Daniel Jenkins, Mary Poppins
David Pittu, LoveMusik
Bobby Steggert, 110 in the Shade

Oustanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Charlotte d'Amboise, A Chorus Line
Rebecca Luker, Mary Poppins
Orfeh, Legally Blonde
Karen Ziemba, Curtains

Outstanding Solo Performance
Daniel Beaty, Emergence-SEE
Ed Harris, Wrecks
Jay Johnson, The Two and Only
Nilaja Sun, No Child…

Outstanding Set Design
Bob Crowley and Scott Pask, The Coast of Utopia
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy
Derek McLane, The Voysey Inheritance

Outstanding Costume Design
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Judith Dolan, LoveMusik
Martin Pakledinaz, The Pirate Queen
Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia

Outstanding Lighting Design
Neil Austin, Frost/Nixon
Paule Constable, Coram Boy
Howard Harrison, Mary Poppins
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner & Natasha Katz, The Coast of Utopia

John Gassner Award
Daisy Foote, Bhutan
Bob Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating
Bruce Norris, The Pain and the Itch
Nilaja Sun, No Child…

The Outer Critics Circle is an organization of writers covering New York theater for out-of-town newspapers, national publications and other media beyond Broadway.

The winners will be announced on May 14, and the awards ceremony will be held on May 24.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Stage Today - "Nunsense" and "Music Man"

A quick reminder that you can catch the last performance of "Nunsense" this afternoon at the Renaissance Center. If you've already seen it, you can also see "The Music Man" this afternoon at Huntington's City Hall - but it'll also be playing next weekend, if today doesn't work for you.

Like I always say - get out there and support your community theatre!

“Nunsense” - The Review

“Nunsense” is a show that’s ingenious in its simplicity - it tells the story of five nuns who are trying to raise money by putting on a show. It requires little in the way of sets or props, and the costuming is pretty basic - five habits is all it takes.

But don’t let that “simplicity” fool you - what it lacks in glitz it more than makes up with laughs and some great songs. I always suspect that, since I’m a Protestant (Methodist by way of the Presbyterian church), I may be missing a few of the jokes - but the ones I do get are hilarious.

The cast may be small, but (as Spencer Tracy once said), they’re choice. Mother Superior is played by Mary Olson, and her second-in-command, Sister Hubert, is played by Linda Reynolds - and around here, they’re both theatre royalty. They’re wonderful singers, terrific actors, and they’re two of the funniest ladies to take the local stage. I'd walk over hot coals to watch them in a show.

Playing the Bronx-born Sister Robert Anne is Leann Haines, and what a terrific talent she is - she shows off her wonderful voice in a couple of songs, and she gets plenty of chances to cut up, too.

The comedic heart of the show is Sister Amnesia, and it’s a part Terese Kirby was born to play. As the bumbling and forgetful Amnesia, she keeps the show rolling with jokes, songs and her sweet personality.

The youngest member of the Abbey is Sister Leo, played by the radiant Angela Hunt. As the nun who aspires to be a Ballerina, she has to learn to balance her ambitions with her vows. Luckily, the show gives her lots of chances to sing and dance, and she's terrific at both!

Kudos also to the unsung nun, Sister Helga, who doesn’t really get much stage time - but someone has to deal with the props!

Director and Musical Director Eddie Harbert did a great job bringing the show together - and he even plays accompaniment during the performance! I half expected to find him in the lobby selling concessions at intermission. Hats off as well to Choreographer and Assistant Director Connie Anthony for her usual outstanding work. Like the actors, the directing team may be few in number - but they're choice!

It’s sometimes irreverent, but never offensive. If you didn’t think nuns could be funny, this show will set you straight.

You have one more chance to catch this funny show - it runs Sunday at 3:00 pm. If you’re looking for a great show filled with good laughs, this is the one for you!

Friday, April 20, 2007

On Stage Tonight

As posted here, there are two great shows taking the stage tonight - "Nunsense" and "The Music Man."

Check 'em out and support your local theatre groups! (If you don't, who will?)


No one cares except me, but this is entry #200 on this blog, which averages out to a little more than a post a day - a bargain at twice the price!

It's always fun to talk about local theatre, and I appreciate the Herald-Dispatch giving us this forum. Remember to send any info about upcoming shows or auditions to me at TheMinskers@aol.com, and I'll post it here.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Music Man" and "Nunsense"

The weekend is right around the corner, and if you're looking to get out and about, you can choose from two different community theatre shows, both taking the stage tomorrow night.

You can catch 5th Avenue Theatre's "Music Man," which runs at the Huntington City Hall Auditorium on April 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 8:00 pm, and April 22 and 29 at 2:30 pm. You can check out some photos from last night's dress rehearsal at the Herald-Dispatch Photo Galleries.

The other show this weekend - and only this weekend - is "Nunsense," a comedy presented by the Renaissance Players at the Renaissance Center. It runs Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm.

Oh, and in your spare time you can visit the Appalachian Film Festival. Lots to do in town, if you know where to look!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Coming up - "Nunsense"

Under the heading of "You Learn Something New Every Day," I submit this wonderful story by Devilish Dave Lavender in today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch. It's all about the upcoming production of "Nunsense" being presented this weekend at the Renaissance Center (say it with me, folks - it's the old Huntington High School). In the story I learned the surprising news that this may be the last show for the Renaissance Players! But take heart - there are more shows planned for the Renaissance Theater (which is managed by ARTS). (And, incidentally, call me Doubting Thomas, but I suspect we'll see more shows from the Renaissance Players in the future. You can't keep a good theatre group down!)

By the way, if you're planning to take part in the dinner offered with Saturday's performance of "Nunsense," you have to get those reservations in today. Call (304) 733-2787 for more info.

Oh, and if you've never seen "Nunsense," you should know that it's a scream - a really funny show, with an awesome cast - highly recommended!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Joseph" - The Review

Another post from my pal Mark Hayes, who offers his review of the touring show that visited Charleston:

My lovely wife and I attended "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" last night at the Clay Center in Charleston. We also took two of our favorite performers, Sarah and Maggie. Somehow, the girls got to sit in the first balcony, while Loretta and I were relegated to the second one - but there really aren't any bad seats in the Clay Center, so we all had good views.

I thought the performance was interesting - it wasn't a "wow" performance,
but it was very entertaining and well worth seeing. The company was the same
one that performed recently in Ashland at the Paramount, so I had seen some
of the pictures that are on the Herald-Dispatch's website. The costumes were
terrific, and the final scene Joseph's coat (of many colors fame) was awesome.
It almost looked like a colorful disco ball and sparkled throughout the

The Director took the show in a different direction than the
others I've seen - in this production the sets and costumes, other than
the ones that look like they were from the real Joseph's time, were more
modern looking. The Broadway show had a distinct '70s look
to a lot of the costumes, particularly the terrific dance number during "Go
Go Joseph." In this current production, the dancers during that number were
dressed as modern cheerleaders, complete with pom-poms. It wasn't better or
worse, just different and not what I expected. Perhaps that's what the
Director was seeking.

The Narrator was terrific, although the show was a bit lacking technically
because it seemed her microphone was not turned on several times until after
she had started a line of a song. The Pharaoh almost stole the show,
especially when he 'broke the fourth wall' to talk to the audience - yet
another turn I was not expecting. The remaining cast was better than
adequate, but not spectacular.

All in all, a pretty darn good show.

Next Season at the Clay Center

My pal Mark Hayes sent along the following, which is good news for theatre fans in the area:

The Clay Center has announced its 2007-2008 Broadway Series. The upcoming season is excellent, and contains several good shows for anyone who loves musical theatre. Season tickets are on sale now through the Clay Center at www.theclaycenter.org.

Here's the schedule:

Sept. 26: “Annie”

Nov. 6: “Gypsy”

Nov. 27: “Hairspray”

Dec. 16: “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy”

Jan. 22-23: “Stomp”

March 30: “Fresh Aire: The Music of Mannheim Steamroller”

April 24: “Jesus Christ Superstar”


Words fail in the face of a tragedy like the one that happened Monday at Virginia Tech. Keep the victims, their families and friends in your prayers.

Monday, April 16, 2007

So You Want to Put on a Show... (Part 5) - Casting

After the auditions are over, the real battle begins, as the directing team tries to figure out which actor belongs to which role. The team can be made up of any number of people - as few as one, if you have a really small show, and as many as the show can stand - I think the most on a community theatre show I’ve worked on was six people (though others have had more than that).

Casting is, in my opinion, the most important part of putting on a show. If you get the right people in the right parts, you’re well on your way to putting on a successful show. If you get the wrong person in the wrong part, you’re going to struggle.

What makes it especially tricky is that each part is different. Some have specific requirements in terms of voice, age or appearance - and some are open to interpretation. For example, in casting the leads for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” you’re dealing with two parts - Joseph and the Narrator.

Unless you’re taking the show in an unusual direction, Joseph needs to be a youngish male who has a strong tenor voice. He should have a sympathetic, innocent look about him - the audience needs to be rooting for him from the moment they see him.

The Narrator is another story - the part can be played by a male or a female, the body type isn’t specific - the only requirement is that the actor has a strong voice and a sense of fun about them.

So there you go - two parts, two completely different requirements. And there are dozens of other parts in that show, each calling for different talents.

The directing team has to sift through the crowd of actors who auditioned and match them up with the parts available - and different directors may have different ideas about which actor is right for which part. That’s where negotiation and discussion comes in, as the team weighs the pros and cons of each decision. Sometimes it’s an amiable discussion, and sometimes it gets heated.

The best advice I can give to anyone in that decision-making position is: trust your gut instinct. Your first impression is often the right one. And if it’s any consolation, it’s all guesswork anyway - all you can do in some cases is cross your fingers and home for the best.

It’s also a stressful process for the actors, who must wait for the cast list to be posted. A good friend who spent time as a professional actor once told me that his feelings would get hurt when he wasn’t chosen for a part he knew he was right for - and then one day he realized that there was nothing personal in the decision of the directors - they were just going with the actor that they saw fitting the part.

That’s a tough lesson to learn, because no one likes rejection - but virtually no actor always gets the part they want. Some actors will refuse a part if it’s not the one they want, and that’s certainly their right - but most actors realize that being part of a show is the goal, and every show is a learning experience. It’s also important to remember that you may not like the part you got, but there are dozens of other actors out there who would gladly take your place.

So once the debate ends and the final list is posted, it’s time to move to the next level - rehearsals.

George Carlin and Breaking a String

Blogger and my computer have been feuding, so my nearly two-month long string of posting an entry every day has been broken - let's see if I can break my record in the months ahead.

There are lots of shows coming up this week, including "Nunsense" and "The Music Man" - I'll have more about those in the days ahead.

But in catching up, I wanted to share my thoughts about George Carlin's appearance at the Paramount on Friday.

My lovely wife Jeanette and I had a great time at the concert - even at 69, Carlin has lost none of his edge. I consider him the greatest comedian of his generation.

He talked briefly about how he creates shows - he's on a two year cycle, where he works on a new show, takes it across the country, refining it - and then does another HBO special. Then he starts all over again. Since this show is in the early stages, he actually had a stack of notes with him, that he referred to now and then - a bit unusual for a comic, but we were seeing a master craftsman at work, constantly honing his work.

Of course, this isn't a show for the little ones (and thankfully I didn't see any in the audience) - he's often vulgar, profane and otherwise offensive - but always in service of his comedy or making a pointed commentary. I don't always agree with him (heck, I don't always agree with anyone), but I appreciate his passion and his candor.

Apparently his last tour leaned a little too much on the depressing side - he said he did a 30-minute routine on suicide! So this one he lightened up much more, although there's plenty of the angry ranting you'd expect.

I've always wanted to see him live in concert, and it was great to finally get the chance to catch his act - he's the best there is at what he does!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lots of Links

Lots of theatre news to go around today on the Herald-Dispatch website.

For example, you can get a preview of tonight's performance by George Carlin (that's him dressed in black) right here.

Go here and you can learn more about the Paul Blazer High School play taking the stage this weekend - it's called "Have a Nice Day!"

And you can check out Joyce Spencer's Community News column to learn more about making dinner reservations for next week's production of "Nunsense."

So who says there's nothing to do on this cold, rainy weekend?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dinner and No Gossip

So I went to Chili Willi's the other night to have a dinner meeting with the directing team for "High School Musical," and we had a great time talking over plans and such - we're all ready to start rehearsals right now (but we'll have to wait until after auditions). What a fun show this is going to be!

Before I took my seat I ran into my pal Mark Near, who was grabbing a quick dinner before going to "Music Man" rehearsals. Mark has been in lots of shows over the years, and he's a terrific performer (in addition to being quite handsome).

(OK, Mark, you owe me five bucks.)

Seriously, I tried to get some information from him about "Music Man," but he kept quiet. He said, "If I tell you anything, you'll just put it in that blog!"

Where does he get these crazy ideas?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mannheim Steamroller

As always, the Herald Dispatch does a nice job of featuring photos from a stage performance - go here to check out photos by Mark Webb from last night's Mannheim Steamroller concert at the Keith Albee Theater.

They also took time at the show to recognize a recent donation to the Keith - you can read more about it right here.

By the way, there is one more show taking the stage this week - comedian and author George Carlin, quite possibly the most influential comic of his generation, will be performing Friday at the Paramount Arts Center. Not really a stage show (although he will be standing on a stage), but a rare opportunity to see one of the best in the business practicing his craft.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Joseph Last Night, Mannheim Tonight

If (like me) you didn't get to catch "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in Ashland last night, the Herald-Dispatch has some great photos from the show posted on their Photo Galleries page. Those photos, like the one posted here, were taken by Lori Wolfe.

And don't forget, Mannheim Steamroller takes the stage tonight at the Keith Albee Theater!

Monday, April 09, 2007

I Blame Jet Lag

When I wrote in the last post that Mannheim Steamroller was the only show going on this week, I was somehow overlooking the performance - going on right now as I type these words - of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" on the stage of the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland. (Like the title says, I blame jet lag.)

Shame on me, because it's a terrific show - heck, I liked it so much that I directed it when First Stage Theatre Company presented it in Spring 2004. By an amazing coincidence, I'm wearing the T-shirt from that show right now (which is what reminded me of the show in Ashland).

Since tonight's show is a touring version of the Broadway show, I'm sure it's going to be great - if you see it, send along a comment and let us know how it went.

On Stage This Week - Breathe that "Fresh Aire"

There's only one show playing locally this week, as Mannehim Steamroller takes to the stage at the Keith Albee Theater Tuesday night. In case you're not familiar with the group, here's some information from their website (which you can check out here):

<< Fresh Aire: the Music of Mannheim Steamroller is the highly anticipated concert tour created, arranged and produced by Chip Davis. Fresh Aire is the Grammy award-winning series of albums from Mannheim Steamroller composer Chip Davis. In Fresh Aire, Davis created groundbreaking music that is an innovative blend of classical themes with pop elements that he calls, “18th Century Rock-n-Roll.”

The first album Fresh Aire was released in 1974, and the series’ final component was released recently to great acclaim. Each of the eight Fresh Aire albums explore topics; the first four Fresh Aire albums were inspired by the magnificence and distinctiveness of the four seasons, while Fresh Aire 5 through Fresh Aire 8 deal with man’s curiosities about the world in which we live. This performance will feature the famous Mannheim Steamroller videos, multi-media images, synchronized lighting, special effects and, of course, the world-renowned music of Mannheim Steamroller.

Mannheim Steamroller is a group of the most talented and versatile musicians touring the world. The band is an ever-changing consortium of musicians, technicians and engineers using state-of-the-art equipment to create Mannheim Steamroller’s signature sound. The musical performers will be 15 in number including 10 local, professional musicians as orchestral accompaniment. Final casting for the core Mannheim Steamroller band has not yet been announced.

Fresh Aire has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of fans around the world. Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than five million Fresh Aire records. Davis won a Grammy for Fresh Aire 7, and the entire series raised the bar for audio and video production standards.

In addition to Fresh Aire, Mannheim Steamroller has gained international acclaim with its seasonal music: from Valentine’s Day to Christmas and the Fourth of July to Halloween, people around the world celebrate holidays with music from Mannheim Steamroller. >>
It promises to be a great show - but you'd better order your tickets soon. The Artist's Series had to move the shows from the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center to the Keith because the demand for tickets was so strong. Recommended!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone!

I'm still recovering from a cross-country trip (I had training all last week in Portland), so posting will be light today.

However, I wanted to point out the story in today's Herald-Dispatch about the upcoming Mannheim Steamroller concert right here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

So You Want to Put on a Show... (Part 4)

I started a series of entries over a month ago to give you a look behind the scenes at what goes into putting on a community theatre production, and then got bogged down with covering actual productions. Sorry about the extended pause.

In the first three parts we talked about the things you need before you start - namely: money; you need to decide which show you’re going to tackle (duh); and you need to assemble a team of directors. Next, it’s time for what may be the most stressful part of the process, next to the actual performance - auditions.

With few exceptions, the cast for a show is chosen through auditions. It’s stressful for the performers trying out for the show, but also for the directing team, who must decide which of the actors auditioning are right for each part, and which ones will receive the disappointing news that they didn’t get a part in the show. And that's the part that most directors hate - they want to include everyone who auditions, but each play can only use a certain number of performers - so some actors are left out. It's painful but virtually unavoidable.

The process is pretty much the same for any show. The auditions are announced for a certain date and time, and actors arrive and sign up. They're brought back to the audition room either one at a time or in groups.

If it’s a musical, the actor auditioning is expected to arrive ready to sing about 30 seconds of the song of their choice. A piano player is usually provided to accompany the singer (if needed). The directors use that short segment to get a sense of the actor’s vocal range and skills.

If the show includes spoken dialogue (and most shows do), a short selection from the script will be provided for the actor to read. The directors want to see if the actor can put some feeling into the part - in other words, can they “become” the character?

If the show includes choreography (a safe bet if there’s music involved), then the actors usually have to learn a short dance step when they arrive at the audition, or they may be tested to see if they can follow some basic moves.

An audition can take just a few minutes, but in that short time the directors have to evaluate the performers. It’s a common practice to do “callbacks” for the main roles. An actor chosen for a callback will be given a selection of music that’s key to the character he or she is being considered for. They’re given some time to learn the song and then return for a second audition.

As far as I’m concerned, the casting can be the most difficult and the most important part of any show. I’ll explain why... in the next part of this series (which I promise will arrive in a much shorter span of time).

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Keith-Albee Gets a Boost

A money boost, that is. Count me among those who have a lot of affection for the Keith (especially since I spent two years there working as a Doorman when I was in college), so I'm glad to see the community continuing to support the theatre with donations.

You can read about the latest gift right here in today's Herald-Dispatch.

Slim and "Nunsense"

Whoops! I missed a show coming up this month. Stephen Vance sent a comment, but I wanted to post it here in case you're one of those people who doésn't read comments (hey, it's a free country). Stephen wrote:

ARTS is also doing "Nunsense" April 20-22.
Directed by Eddie Harbert, Choreographed by Connie Anthony.
Featuring Mary Olson, Linda Reynolds, Therese Kirby, Leann Haines, and Angela Hunt.
That show will be presented at the Renaissance Center theater (which, as everyone should know by now, is at the old Huntington High School). With a terrific cast and an equally-awesome directing team, this one will be a blast! Mark me down for a ticket (and I may see it more than once - the show is just that funny!) Don't miss it!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Clint Gets Clipped

Work's been crazy so I almost missed this story - it seems my pal (and "Cats" director) Clint McElroy went bald the other day - and all for a good cause!

He agreed to get clipped in return for donations to charity. You can read all about it right here.

Of course, Mother Nature gave me the same haircut years ago, but there was no apparent benefit to that (other than making my barber's job a lot easier). I'm proud of ya, Clint!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Preview of April’s shows

April has some great shows to offer, so let’s get right to the list:

April 10 - The Marshall Artist’s Series presents Mannheim Steamroller at the Keith Albee Theater. They’re a great band and, although I’ve never seen them live, friends tell me they put on a fantastic show.

April 20-22 and 27-29 - "The Music Man," as presented by 5th Avenue Theater, takes the stage at the Huntington City Hall auditorium. They have a terrific cast lined up for this one!

April 21 - Marshall University’s Music Department will present a Choral and Orchestra performance - and if you’ve seen one before, you know these are always excellent.

April 25-28 - Marshall University’s Department of Theatre will present “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It’s a powerful show with an amazing cast - and Marshall’s productions are always top notch, so be sure to order your tickets early.

April 30 and May 1-2 - The Marshall Artist’s Series will present “The Guys.”

And after that show the local theatre scene will get very quiet, with just one more Marshall Artist’s Series show before the summer hits - “Forever Tango.” So you’d better catch those shows while you can!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Local Boy Makes Good

A friend (who wants to remain anonymous, shy devil that he is) sent me a link to this story about Huntington native Michael Cervaris, who really deserves some major recognition from Huntington, since he grew up here and has become one of Broadway's biggest stars. You can read about his latest works (and his incredibly busy schedule) in the New York Times - here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/2l8ser.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

“Cinderella” - The Review

I finally made it to Huntington High School’s presentation of “Cinderella” today, and I have to say - if you missed this show, you missed a great one! Not only was it the best high school play I can remember seeing (and I’ve seen quite a few), it was among the better community theatre shows I’ve seen.

Of course, it helps to have a great cast - and “Cinderella” had an excellent one. Brittany Hazeldine is an incredibly talented singer and actor, with a wonderful voice and amazing stage presence. She was perfect for the title role, although how in the world she was able to prepare for this show and star in “Cats” at the same time is an incredible feat all by itself.

Playing the part of the Prince was Finley Hammond, and he was born to be on stage. A terrific singer and actor, he made the Prince instantly likable and made the perfect leading man. On a personal note, I’ve been lucky enough to have Finley star in two of the shows I’ve directed, and I can tell you that he’s a great guy onstage and off, and provides the kind of leadership you need from your veteran actors. I’ve never seen him be anything less than excellent and thoroughly professional - and he was all that and more in this show.

Playing “oldsters” like the King and Queen can be a challenge for a young actor, but give a lot of credit to Dylan Clark and Caitlin Irr - they did a great job playing the loving parents of the Prince. Dylan gets my favorite line in the show - “The wine of my country... is beer!” It always makes me laugh.

The villains of the show are the nasty stepmother, played with great energy by Sable Blevins, and the stepsisters - Joy, played by Jynnea Shropshire, and Portia, played by Laura Benson. They’re all three terrific - mean and funny (sometimes at the same time), over the top (in a good way) and in general a scream to watch. Excellent work by all three in difficult parts.

Owen Reynolds is another senior who has really grown up on stage and has become an excellent performer. He provides a lot of the comic relief in this show as the Herald, and steals a few scenes along the way. Owen also managed to do this show while doing a star turn in “Cats” - where do they find the time?

Another standout performance belongs to Josefine Landgrave as the Fairy Godmother - she’s sweet and funny and an excellent singer - her “Impossible” duet with Brittany was great!

I don’t want to slight the rest of the cast, who also did a terrific job, including: Ryan Jackson as the Chef; Elliott Imlay as the Steward, Darrell Johnson, Clark Lewis and Tyler Rice as the Footmen; Max Wilson as a Guard; and Robert Kirby as the Minister. As Townspeople and Guests, we have Megan Akers, April Bennett, Rebecca Chappell, Ginny Davis, Stephanie Fischer, Jessica Nelson, Jessica Parsley, Sarah Price, Katie Rife, Hilary Roush, Tessa Wooten, Sydney Fletcher, Zoe Kauffer, Andy Ryder, Jacob Ryder and Madison Sergent.

I also have to give lots of credit to the set designers for an outstanding job creating so many different settings - the backdrops and set pieces were excellent! Heck, they even created Cinderella’s carriage, which came equipped with running lights! The costumes were also outstanding - many of them were provided by a local historic recreation group - the SCA.

So kudos to the cast and crew, and a special tip o’ the hat to the directing team, especially Director Helen Freeman, Choral Director David Chenoweth, Music Director Melissa Ash, Choreographer Melissa McGuffin and Set Designer Gary Dick - outstanding work by one and all!

As always, it takes a team effort to put on a show like this - and the team behind “Cinderella” did a fantastic job.