Tri-State Theater

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Last of the Breed" Coming to Huntington

Late August will be a great time for country music fans, as Willie, Merle and Ray pay a visit. You can read all about it in this story by "Dandy" Dave Lavender. (Or should it be "Dapper" Dave? "Daring" Dave? I'll work on it.)

And if you don't know the last names of the trio listed above, shame be thy name! It's Nelson, Haggard and Price.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Performances at the Tony Awards

Since the Tony Awards offer a look at the best shows on Broadway, there's always a lot of interest in the musical numbers that are included. The producers made an announcement about it today.

Hey, did I mention that I'll be live-blogging the Tonys? Just checking.

Here's the info:
Telecast live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 10, the Tony Awards will feature musical numbers from each of the Tony Nominees for Best Musical - Curtains, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins and Spring Awakening as well as performances by the casts of Best Musical Revival nominees - A Chorus Line, Company and 110 in the Shade.

The show will also feature a special performance by Fantasia, who's now appearing on Broadway in The Color Purple.

Presenters at the 2007 Tony Awards will include: Harry Connick, Jr., Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Heche, Marg Helgenberger, Judd Hirsch, Felicity Huffman, Melina Kanakaredes, Eddie Izzard, The Jersey Boys - Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer and John Lloyd Young, Jane Krakowski, Angela Lansbury, Robert Sean Leonard, John Mahoney, Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Bernadette Peters, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Plummer, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Spacey, John Turturro, Usher, Sam Waterston, Vanessa Williams, Rainn Wilson, among others…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Live-blogging the Tony Awards

In a couple of weeks (on June 10, to be precise) the Tony Awards will air live on TV, and just for fun, I hope to live-blog the event.

For those who haven't run into it before, live-blogging is sort of a running commentary on the program as it airs - posting live comments, in other words. "American Idol" fans have enjoyed Angela's live comments at her "Idol Chit-Chat" blog, and it looks like fun, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

And since you can't exactly live-blog a theatre show (the audience gets annoyed by the tapping of the keys, not to mention the glare of the computer screen), this is about the only chance I get - so tune in and join the fun!

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Memoriam - Charles Nelson Reilly

Sad to hear of the passing of actor Charles Nelson Reilly. He was a Tony Award winning actor who was most famous for his TV roles, including lots of appearances on game shows like "The Match Game," which I spent entirely too much of my youth watching.

You can read more about him here.

I never met him, but according to those that did, he was a heck of a nice guy.

Remembering Memorial Day

I apparently had the same childhood as our pal Jim Ross, because his "Hot Topics" blog entry about Memorial Day could have been written by me (well, most of it, but only if I was a better writer).

When I was young, Memorial Day was a big holiday. A huge gathering of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would form a caravan of vehicles, visiting rural graveyards and putting flowers on the graves of relatives who died long ago. My Uncle Claude would place a small American flag on the graves of the veterans.

We'd have a picnic lunch at a roadside site (back when such things existed) and eventually make our way home. It really wasn't a somber event - it was more a celebration of those who had passed on.

I'm afraid I haven't managed to continue the tradition, although, since moving out on my own, I have spent a few Memorial Days visiting the graves of family members. I like to think that you can observe the day by taking a few moments and remembering your loved ones - even the ancestors who you never met. We wouldn't be here without them! Then again, maybe it's time to revive the family tradition. I wonder where Uncle Claude bought those flags?

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

The 2007 - 2008 Schedule for ARTS

The group known as Art Resource for the Tri-State (ARTS) is way ahead of the game - they've already announced their schedule for the upcoming year! The shows will all be presented at the Renaissance Center (the old Huntington High School). Here's what they have planned:

"Hello Dolly!" - The famous musical will star Beth McVey in the title role, and will be presented Oct. 12 - 14 and 19 - 20, 2007.

"The Odd Couple" (Female Version) - Lots of people may not realize that the original show was adapted for female leads. It'll be presented March 6-9, 2008.

"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" - The hilarious musical (it's one of my favorites) will be presented June 13 - 15 and 20 - 21, 2008.

For a local theatre group to know what they're doing a year from now is pretty impressive. It's an ambitious lineup - so buy a ticket and show your support!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Star Wars Hits 30

Not to step on the toes of my pal Maureen, who does a fine job hosting the "Movie Maven" blog, but I can't let the weekend pass without noting the 30th Anniversary of the first showing of the movie "Star Wars" (back before it was known as "Episode IV" or "A New Hope").

The movie was first released May 25, 1977, to only 32 theaters around the country - none of them in West Virginia, unfortunately. But within a few weeks the studio executives realized they had a blockbuster on their hands and the film landed in local theaters.

I remember standing in line on that opening night at the Capital Theater in Charleston, W.Va. - and the line was so long, I actually had to wait for the next showing. It was (and still is) an amazing movie-going experience, and I must have seen the movie a half-dozen times over the weeks ahead, dragging all my friends along for the experience.

Now, "Star Wars" is a world-wide phenomenon, and there's a new animated TV show in the works to carry on the legacy. Don't be surprised if, several years down the road, we see more movies created by a new generation of filmmakers.

It was great fun, years ago, to take my kids to see the re-release of the "Star Wars" movies. Perhaps someday I'll be dragging my grandkids along to see the next generation of "Star Wars" films. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Audition Tips

I received some good questions via email recently about auditions, so I wanted to share the information here for anyone thinking about trying out for a show.

At an audition for a musical, you're required to demonstrate your singing skills.

One question was whether it was required or recommended that you do a song from the show you're auditioning for.

Every group has its own rules and requirements spelled out in the audition notice, but as a general rule you're expected to sing about 30 seconds of any song you like - it can be from the show you're trying out for or from any other show. It's always a good idea to bring along sheet music from the song, if you have it. Auditions almost always have someone available to play the piano, or you can bring recorded music (on a CD or a cassette tape) to sing along with. You can actually sing without any music at all - it's up to you. The directors just want to hear your singing voice. But if you're hoping for a leading role, you'd better be prepared - know your song and do your best.

If you're aiming for a specific part, I think it's a good idea to sing a song by that character - it shows your dedication. However, it's not required, and it's much more important to sing a song that you can do well - even if it's from another show. That's the key - pick a song that shows off your range and practice, practice, practice!

Another question was, if the audition are held on more than one day, do you have to be present for each audition day?

Auditions are like signups - you show up, sign in and you're put on the list. When your turn arrives, you do your audition, and then you're done. Because lots of people (hopefully) want to audition, the theatre group has to allow enough time for each one to audition. Some prefer to arrive early to auditions, some wait for the end - it's up to you. Another reason for different days is in case someone has a conflict on one of the days.

As always, if you have questions, leave a comment here or send me an email at TheMinskers@aol.com. Oh, and good luck!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Trouble in Tony Town

With the Tony Awards just a couple of weeks away, the behind-the-scenes battle continues over what to include in the broadcast on CBS. The show, despite top talent and some great performances, traditionally does poorly in the ratings, so the TV network is pushing for more lighthearted musical numbers that will appeal to the average viewer.

The problem is, there's a long-standing tradition that only numbers from shows that are nominated for Best Musical are included - and most of those shows are on the serious side. They include "Curtains," "Grey Gardens," "Spring Awakening" and the not-so-serious "Mary Poppins." (You can see the complete list of nominations here.)

According to this article from Variety, the producers hoped to include songs from "Legally Blonde" and "LoveMusick" (which stars Micheal Cerveris), but the idea was shot down, and the show will stick to tradition.

It's a shame, because both those shows have a local connection. Cerveris is from Huntington, and the star of "Blonde" - Laura Bell Bundy - hails from Kentucky. That's show biz!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Carmen" Wows 'Em!

According to my sources, last weekend's performance of "Carmen" in Charleston was a huge success - in fact, it was the first show for the West Virginia Symphony to manage a complete sell-out at the Clay Center - all 1,716 seats!

I'm not surprised - it was a terrific performance, featuring some amazing talent, and the Clay Center is the perfect venue for the show. At the end of the performance, the applause was loud, boisterous and well deserved!

A correction to my review, by the way. I wrote:
"I'm not sure the leads even needed microphones, as their powerful, pure voices rang out through the theater."
Turns out the joke was on me - they weren't wearing mics at all, which makes the power of their voices and the theater's wonderful acoustics that much more impressive - especially considering they were singing over the orchestra! Now that's talent!

It's wonderful to hear the show was such a success - hopefully that means we'll be seeing more operatic productions in the future.

But they'll have a tough time topping this one!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Oklahoma" Cast List

The Huntington Outdoor Theatre has posted its tentative cast list for this summer's production of "Oklahoma," and you'll find some of the area's top talent on display in there. You can see the complete list right here. (I should stress that this is a tentative list and may change a bit between now and the first show.)

They've also posted the cast list for the Pre-Show, which you can see right here.

Get Recognition for Your High School Musical

Here's a note directed at area high schools - this website has information about competition to recognize high school theatre productions. There have been some great shows staged locally, and I'd recommend the teachers or parents involved checking into this.

A tip o' the hat to my pal Len, who pointed this out to me. And hey, it is connected to "High School Musical" - have I mentioned that First Stage will be presenting it in the fall? (He asked, innocently.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Can You Tell Me How To Get To...?

Yep, "Sesame Street Live" is making a return visit to Huntington next weekend. You can read all about it in this article by Beth Hendricks.

My kids long ago outgrew these shows, sadly enough - but they're great fun for young people, who never seem to mind the fact that the characters on stage (with the exception of Big Bird and Snuffy) are much bigger than they are on TV - but then, kids have a great ability to suspend disbelief, something grownups struggle with.

The kids will love the adventures of "Super Grover," and the grownups will love seeing the look of joy on the faces of the children. It's a "win-win" situation!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What's Derek Up To?

If you've wondered about Derek Keeling, the Scott Depot native who was part of the "Grease: You're The One That I Want" TV reality show, a recent interview shows that he's keeping busy in the Big Apple.

The story also has some interesting insights on his experience during the show. You can read about it right here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Carmen" - The Review

Here's a review that doesn't do you much good (hey, it's the speciality of the house). That's because the opera "Carmen," which runs one show Saturday night at Charleston's Clay Center, is virtually sold out (the last I heard, there were 17 seats left).

Still, my pal Mark Hayes managed to score a press pass for me, and I caught last night's dress rehearsal. (You can read more about the show in this previous post.)

Now, for those who don't know it, "Carmen" is an honest-to-goodness opera. I worried that, being a heathen who hadn't seen a "real" opera performance in decades, I'd sit there thinking about which Bugs Bunny cartoon each song originally appeared in. Happily, that wasn't the case - the show is so amazing, so riveting, that you spend most of it in awe of the talent on display.

When you think of community theatre, you picture modest sets and amateur performers - but there was none of that in evidence. The performers were amazing. I'm not sure the leads even needed microphones, as their powerful, pure voices rang out through the theater. Playing the title role is nationally-known soprano Christina Nassif, and she has an incredible voice.

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra provided the music, and they were incredible! A top-notch, thoroughly professional production - their performance alone was worth the cost of admission.

Add to it amazing sets and costumes, and you have a performance that managed something I would have thought impossible - it made me enjoy opera!

Now, for you non-opera fans, yes, the show is long - it runs about three hours, with two intermissions thrown in - and yes, they're not singing in English, but the production has thoughtfully provided translations, courtesy of a projection at the top of the stage. Still, I guarantee you'll have a great time.

So if you get the opportunity, go and get some culture! You don't often get a chance like this, and trust me - it doesn't hurt a bit. "Carmen" gets my highest recommendation!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Artistic Review on Sunday

More than just a dance recital, the Elite Performance Academy will put on an Artistic Review this weekend in Huntington, and it includes some talented folks. My pal Michelle Shaver Heiner sent along this information:

Elite Performance Academy presents their Artistic Review 2007, Sunday, May 20, 2007, with shows at 2:00pm and 6:00pm at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

This family oriented show will be presented in two acts: "Performers In Motion" and "Disney Magic."

The Review will showcase the current Elite students. Guest Artists, both local and travelling from Pittsburgh, Penn., and Washington, DC, will perform in the Review as well.

Guest Artist vocalists include favorites Chris Sizemore and Ryan Hardiman. Sizemore recently toured with Roald Dahl's "Willy Wonka" (National Tour) Kennedy Center production and Hardiman dazzled tri-state audiences in his roles as the Beast in the Huntington Outdoor Theatre production of "Disney's Beauty And The Beast" and Berger in Marshall University Theatre's production of "HAIR." Guest Artist dance performers include Danielle Scanlon, Travis Layman and Laura Ptakowski all from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Penn., and former students of Elite Owner/Instructor, Marlo Shaver Wentz. Desiree Hall is a current triple threat student of Marlo Shaver Wentz and is from Washington, DC. Desiree has performed with Debbie Allen at the Kennedy Center and with the Kirov Ballet Company and currently travels from the DC area to Huntington on a regular basis to train with Marlo Shaver Wentz.

Ticket cost is $12.00 and are now on sale at the Marshall University box office. You can order tickets weekdays from 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday beginning at 12:30 p.m.

For more information call Michelle Shaver Heiner at 69-STAGE (697-8243).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tango the Night Away

Hope you got to see the "Forever Tango" show last night - unfortunately, I missed it. As I've said before, you can't see everything.

You can see a photo gallery of some lucky residents getting lessons from
Jorge Torres, the "Forever Tango" dance captain, right here. (That's him in the photo.)

He demonstrated dance steps during the Tango Master Class offered in conjunction with the Marshall Artists Series performance - but not during the production, I assume.

The photo at right is by the Herald-Dispatch's Lori Wolfe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On Stage Tonight - Forever Tango

The Marshall Artist Series wraps up its season tonight with Forever Tango.

Luis Bravo, the famous Argentinean director and creator of Forever Tango, brings the Marshall Artists Series’ 70th season to an end at 8:00 p.m. at the Keith-Albee.

The show features a cast of 26 performers including 14 exceptional dancers who tango the night away on a stage pulsating with drama, history and live music.

Tickets are $48.50, $43.50, and $35. They can be purchased at the Box Office or through Ticketmaster.

For more information, call (304) 696-6656.

Tony Award Nominees for 2007

It's the day true theatre fans have been looking forward to - the Tony Award nominees were announced today! Those awards honor the best shows and performances on Broadway in the past year. The winners will be announced at the televised awards ceremony June 10, and with any luck at all, just for fun, I'll be live-blogging the show.

Leading this year's pack was Spring Awakening, which received 11 Tony nominations. The Coast of Utopia and Grey Gardens earned 10 nominations each. Curtains picked up eight nominations, and Mary Poppins and Legally Blonde got seven each. LoveMusik star Michael Cerveris (a former Huntingon resident) was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

Here is a complete list of this year's nominees:

Best Play
The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan
The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane
Radio Golf by August Wilson

Best Musical
Grey Gardens
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening

Best Revival of a Play
Inherit the Wind
Journey's End
Talk Radio

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

Best Special Theatrical Event

Jay Johnson: The Two and Only
Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Boyd Gaines, Journey's End
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brian F. O'Byrne, The Coast of Utopia
Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind
Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Angela Lansbury, Deuce
Swoosie Kurtz, Heartbreak House
Vanessa Redgrave, The Year of Magical Thinking
Julie White, Talk Little Dog Laughed

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik
Raul Esparza, Company
Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening
Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins
David Hyde Pierce, Curtains

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Laura Bell Bundy, Legally Blonde
Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade
Donna Murphy, LoveMusik
Debra Monk, Curtains

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Anthony Chisholm, Radio Golf
Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia
Ethan Hawke, The Coast of Utopia
John Earl Jelks, Radio Golf
Stark Sands, Journey's End

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia
Xanthe Elbrick, Coram Boy
Dana Ivey, Butley
Jan Maxwell, Coram Boy
Martha Plimpton, The Coast of Utopia

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
Christian Borle, Legally Blonde
John Cullum, 110 in the Shade
John Gallagher, Jr., Spring Awakening
David Pittu, LoveMusik

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Charlotte d'Amboise, A Chorus Line
Rebecca Luker, Mary Poppins
Orfeh, Legally Blonde
Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens
Karen Ziemba, Curtains

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Grandage, Frost/Nixon
David Grindley, Journey's End
Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia
Melly Still, Coram Boy

Best Direction of a Musical
John Doyle, Company
Scott Ellis, Curtains
Michael Greif, Grey Gardens
Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Curtains
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear, Mary Poppins
Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening
Jerry Mitchell, Legally Blonde

Best Book of a Musical
Rupert Holmes and Peter Stone, Curtains
Doug Wright, Grey Gardens
Heather Hach, Legally Blonde
Steven Sater, Spring Awakening

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Music: John Kander; Lyrics: Fred Ebb, John Kander & Ruper Holmes, Curtains
Music: Scott Frankel; Lyrics: Michael Korie, Grey Gardens
Music & Lyrics: Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Legally Blonde
Music: Duncan Sheik; Lyrics: Steven Sater, Spring Awakening

Best Orchestrations
Bruce Coughlin, Grey Gardens
Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening
Jonathan Tunick, LoveMusik
Jonathan Tunick, 110 in the Shade

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bob Crowley and Scott Pask, The Coast of Utopia
Jonathan Fensom, Journey's End
David Gallo, Radio Golf
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Christine Jones, Spring Awakening
Anna Louizos, High Fidelity
Allen Moyer, Grey Gardens

Best Costume Design of a Play
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy
Jane Greenwood, Heartbreak House
Santo Loquasto, Inherit the Wind
Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Legally Blonde
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Susan Hilferty, Spring Awakening
William Ivey Long, Grey Gardens

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, Coram Boy
Brian MacDevitt, Inherit the Wind
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner and Natasha Katz, The Coast of Utopia
Jason Taylor, Journey's End

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Spring Awakening
Christopher Akerlind, 110 in the Shade
Howard Harrison, Mary Poppins
Peter Kaczorowski, Grey Gardens

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, GA

Monday, May 14, 2007

Last Tango and Assorted Links

A reminder that tomorrow night's performance of "Forever Tango" at the Keith-Albee Theatre wraps up this season's Marshall Artists Series shows (the photo at left is from the production). You can read more about it here.

They should be announcing the upcoming season for the Marshall Artists Series in a few months - I can't wait to see what they have lined up!

In other news, you can read about the local celebration of the 40th anniversary of a local Jazz Festival coming up on May 18-19.

Also, art lovers will want to check out the visit by a Nebraska printmaker to the Museum of Art on Thursday - you can read more about it here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Lots of love goes out to all the Moms out there - without them, where would we all be?

So a Happy Mother's Day to:

My Mom, Lucille, who is, without a doubt, the most wonderful, thoughtful, caring, patient and loving Mom that any kid could ever ask for!

My Mother-in-Law, Linda, who has always been wonderful, loving and supportive ever since I slipped into her family via marriage. (She was nice before that, too.)

And my wife, Jeanette, who has been a terrific Mom to our two sons and a wonderful wife, all at the same time!

I love you all!

A Scholarship for Theatre Majors

Here's a note aimed at graduating seniors - it's time to get those applications ready for the Jim Stone Scholarship.

Here's the press release that went out this week:
The First Stage Theatre Company is now accepting applications for its annual Jim Stone Scholarship.

First Stage sponsors the scholarship to honor the memory of Jim Stone, a longtime supporter of and mentor to local children in the performing arts. Three $250 scholarships are available to entering freshmen or current full-time students who are studying dramatic or performing arts at a college, university or certified school of the performing arts.

The deadline for entries is Monday, August 6, 2007.

Applicants must have been involved with at least one First Stage Theatre Company (or Musical Arts Guild - Children's Theatre) show, either on-stage (as a performer) or off-stage (as a member of the tech crew). Applicants must send a transcript of their last year’s schooling, a list of the shows they’ve been in and a short essay (no more than 300 words) on why the applicant is planning to study dramatic or performing arts.

Applications should be sent to First Stage Scholarships, c/o Jim Lamp, P.O. Box 2488, Huntington, WV 25725.
Good luck!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Feel The Spirit

The Musical Arts Guild may not do stage shows these days, but they do present some outstanding concerts. You can catch two over the upcoming weekend, as the group presents "Feel the Spirit," a concert of spiritual music.

The performances are Saturday, May 12 at 8:00 p.m. at the Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church at 10th Street and Fifth Avenue in Huntington; and Sunday, May 13 at 3:00 p.m. at the Second Presbyterian Church at 1015 Jefferson Avenue.

Highly recommended!

Some Links for You

Two links noted here for your reading enjoyment:

- The Marshall Artists Series has one last show for the 2006-2007 season, and it hits the Keith-Albee stage in just a few days. You can learn more about the show "Forever Tango" in this story from today's Herald-Dispatch.

- First Stage Theatre offers a scholarship each year to high school seniors going into a performing arts program in college. For more information about the Jim Stone scholarship, go here (it's named after the local actor who was also a heck of a great guy).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

First Stage Announces Lineup for Next Season

Some of this is old news to readers of this blog, but the bit about "Children of Eden" is new. Here's a press release that went out today:

The First Stage Theatre Company has announced its lineup of performances for the Fall 2007 / Spring 2008 season, which marks the 18th season for the children’s theater. Two shows will be staged: “Disney’s High School Musical” in Fall 2007 and “Children of Eden” in Spring 2008.

“Disney’s High School Musical” will take the stage in November 2007. The musical is based on the popular Disney film. The directing team includes director Chuck Minsker, music director Mark Smith, assistant director / choreographer Amy Browning and producer Jeanette Rowsey.

“Children of Eden” will be presented in April 2008. The musical is based on The Bible’s book of Genesis and features music by Stephen Schwartz, who created “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell.” The directing team includes director Jack Cirillo, music director Mark Smith, choreographer Mary Smirl and producer Clint McElroy.

Auditions for “Disney’s High School Musical” will be held July 21 and 22 at Pea Ridge United Methodist Church at 5747 East Pea Ridge Road in Huntington, W.Va.

“Children of Eden” auditions will be held in early 2008.

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

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"High School Musical" Auditions

Yep, here's the big announcement - auditions for the First Stage production of "Disney's High School Musical" will be held Saturday, July 21 from 10:00am to 3:00pm and Sunday, July 22 from 2:00pm to 5:00pm at the Pea Ridge United Methodist Church.

Two months ahead of time is a bit early for the announcement, but I've been inundated with people asking about the auditions - so this should give everyone plenty of time to make plans. Rehearsals will start when school starts in the fall, and the show is scheduled to take the stage in November 2007!

Oh, and I should say that the show is contingent on the final approval of our contract, which seems to be going along swimmingly. We'll have some more announcements about this soon - including one that's going to get a lot of attention. But we'll save that one for now.

If you're wondering what's required in an audition, go here for more information. And as always, if you have any questions, email me at TheMinskers@aol.com.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Big News - Tomorrow!

OK, there's a big announcement just around the corner about First Stage's production of "High School Musical!" (Loyal readers may remember that I'm directing the show this fall - assuming we get the final details worked out.)

Sometime in the next 24 hours I'll have at least one (and maybe more) big announcement(s) about that show - stay tuned!

Marshall's Next Season

Marshall University's Department of Theatre has announced its upcoming schedule for the 2007 - 2008 season, and it looks like a good one. Here are the four shows they're presenting:

"Little Shop of Horrors" - Oct. 3 - 6, 2007
It's great to see MU tackling musicals, and this one is a lot of fun - I can't wait!

"The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" - Nov. 14 - 17, 2007

This one I've never heard of, so let's ask the Internet to tell us more:
<< An ingenious and wildly comic romp which enjoyed a long and critically hailed run both on and Off-Broadway. Poking antic fun at the more ridiculous aspects of "show biz" and the corny thrillers of Hollywood's heyday, the play is a non-stop barrage of laughter as those assembled (or at least those who aren't killed off) untangle the mystery of the "Stage Door Slasher."

"...Bishop gives us a nakedly silly and relentlessly convoluted murder-mystery plot, with twist piled on twist till you have to give way and start laughing at the silliness...it's hugely enjoyable." --Village Voice.

Note: This is not a musical, but a comedic murder mystery. >>
Sounds good!

"The Seagull" - Feb. 20 - 23, 2008
Ah, Chekov - some serious dramatic territory here. Once again, let's get some info from our friend the Internet:
<< "The Seagull" questions the sensibilities and examines the trivialities of art, family relations and even life itself - with surprising results. Contrary to popular belief, "The Seagull" is full of action. Not a moment passes without conflict in this masterpiece.>>
"The Merry Wives of Windsor" - April 23 - 26, 2008
By our pal William Shakespeare, of course.

An excellent lineup, and one that will entertain and enlighten theatre-goers. Order those season tickets now!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"The Diary of Anne Frank" - The Review

I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of “The Diary of Anne Frank” last Saturday, so this review is way overdue (and not much use to those who were trying to decide whether or not to see it) - but even though I’m late (what can I say, it’s been a crazy week), I have to take a moment and congratulate Marshall’s Department of Theatre on one of the most outstanding dramatic productions I’ve ever seen.

The play is based on the writing of the title character, a young woman whose family (and four friends) managed to hide from the Nazi invaders in Amsterdam for two years - from 1942 to 1944.

The play did an amazing job of capturing the claustrophobic difficulties of so many people living in such a small space. As always in Marshall Theatre productions, the set and costumes were amazing. The directing team did a fantastic job of bringing all the elements together - of course, Gene Anthony is one of our finest directors, and he flexes his creative muscles to great effect here.

But the actors have to bring these characters to life, and they did a terrific job. Playing the title character was Autumn Seavey in her last performance as a student at MU. I’m completely prejudiced where Autumn’s concerned - she started out acting with First Stage Theatre, and I’ve enjoyed her performances in shows like “Schoolhouse Rock Live” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” and numerous shows for Marshall, including “Hair.” I was lucky enough to be her director in “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” and as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to singing or acting, she ranks among the best performers from this area. As Anne Frank, she managed to play a young woman and be utterly convincing in the role. Anne is an intelligent, willful teen, but she’s also a playful child, and Autumn brought all those qualities (and more) to life. I hate to see Autumn leave, but at least she went out on a high note.

I don’t want to slight any of the other performers in the show - they were all excellent! I was very impressed to see how well these students portrayed older adults - it’s not an easy thing for any young actor, and the performances here were absolutely convincing. Leah Turley, Courtney Susman, Jeremy Plyburn, Caitlin Haught, Adam Paul and the always-excellent Nick Reynolds played characters much older, much more tormented by the life they are forcved to lead, and all delivered great performances.

Also portraying young people in the show were Sean Watkins as the son of the Van Daan family, an awkward child who learns to cope, thanks to Anne Frank; and Shay Hannon as Anne’s older sister Margot, who bears every burden with quiet strength.

Special kudos to Adam Stephens, who was amazing as Mr. Frank. Through his experiences we feel the anguish of the ordeal the family went through. Much of the show hinged on his performance, and he was perfect - I truly believed he was that character.

We’re used to seeing great performances at Marshall, but few can match the emotional depths of this story. Outstanding work by all involved, and another jewel in the crown of Marshall’s Department of Theatre!

Friday, May 04, 2007

What's Opera, Doc?

My pal Mark Hayes sends along this plug for the upcoming production of "Carmen" in Charleston (though he has an ulterior motive, which you'll discover in the last sentence). He writes:

Glad to see you mentioned the upcoming performance of "Carmen", brought to you one night only (May 19 at 8:00 pm) by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

The classic opera will be performed at the Clay Center for the Performing Arts in Charleston, and tickets are available at www.theclaycenter.org, www.wvsymphony.org, or by calling (304) 561-3570.

This production includes dozens of the finest singers in the Charleston area, and stars nationally-known soprano Christina Nassif (website: www.cristinanassif.com) in the title role. Nassif has performed to stellar reviews with the Virginia Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh, among others, and has appeared several times in concert on the Carnegie Hall stage.

Her website's biography lists these accolades: The Washington Post's Mark Estren noted, "Nassif's voice has range and power, and the positions from which she can project it are amazing - stretching, sitting, even lying down." The Washington Times' T.L. Ponick remarked, "Add this impressive performance to her heartbreaking portrayal of Violetta in last season's Virginia Opera production of La Traviata, and one begins to wonder why the Met has not been knocking at her door."

Only one performance! For anyone that loves opera, or simply loves impressive performances and symphonic music, this should be a 'must see.' Besides, anyone who has listened to classical music (or watched cartoons) in their lives will recognize many of the songs featured in "Carmen." Here's a sample:

Maria Callas signs "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" ("Habanera"): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BysvxpzzxtM

Franco Pomponi signs "Votre toast" ("Toreador Song"): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DATrSyQADG8

Agnes Baltsa and Jose Carreras sing "C'est toi! C'est moi!" ("Duet and Finale"): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pZMQUf4TEY

And for the cartoon lovers, here's Tom & Jerry in "Carmen Get It!": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSmAJk1UrO4

And, yes, I'm in it - however, I have a non-singing role (unidentified soldier) so unless I accidentally trip Carmen I don't think I'll affect the show one way or the other!

Auditions and an Interview with Michael Cerveris

I have a couple of notes for you, dear reader:

Huntington Outdoor Theatre will be holding its last round of auditions for its July production of "Oklahoma" Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The auditions are for adults (ages 15 and up) and will be held at the Trinity Episcopal Church - enter from the 11th Street side. Good luck!

Also, there's a great interview online at Broadway.com with Huntington's own Michael Cerveris - it talks about his latest production, "LoveMusik," and also looks back at some of his career highlights.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Long Dry Spell

That's what local theatre fans are in for, as the only local show until July is the Marshall Artists Series production of "Forever Tango" in 12 days. Oh, you could travel to Charleston to see "Ragtime" this weekend or "Crowns" the next weekend or "Carmen" May 19 - but in Huntington, you'll have to get your entertainment checking back here and seeing just how I manage to find things to talk about.

Which is probably a good time to tease the fact that we have some interesting announcements coming up soon. In the meantime, hang in there!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Good Question

Commenting on a post from a month or so back, Gina writes to ask:

"Any news on dates for auditions for High School Musical? Please let me know. Thanks."
Great question! We have a few final details to work out, but we should be making that announcement very soon - within the week, with any luck at all.

Keep watching this space, Gina - and thanks for asking!

Last Chance To See "The Guys"

Like the headline says, tonight's the last performance of "The Guys." Unfortunately, family commitments have kept me from seeing it, so perhaps one of you can send along some comments - I've heard great things about the show.

Here's the basic info: "The Guys" is playwright Anne Nelson's true story of New York City and its people in the aftermath of 9/11. It stars Broadway veterans Jack Cirillo and Beth McVey. It's being staged at the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University. The show begins at 8:00 p.m., and tickets are $25.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On Stage Tonight - "The Guys"

The Marshall Artist Series production of "The Guys" continues tonight at 8:00 p.m. - you can read more about it and the reaction of local firefighters who saw last night's performance in this excellent story by Antwon Pinkston.

The page also has a link to the photo galley, with photos (like the one at right) by Lori Wolfe.

Fair warning - tonight and tomorrow are your last chances to catch this show!

The "Symphony Idol" Lineup

My pal Mark Hayes sent along a complete list of the "Symphony Idol" competitors. They are (in alphabetical order):

Micah Atkinson, 17, junior at Capital High School and member of the show choir.

Ryan Hardiman, veteran of numerous music theater productions in Huntington and Charleston.

Cary Lantz, physician and veteran of productions in Charleston.

Jessica Liston, 24, two-time winner in the adult division of "Wal-Mart Idol" competition.

Liz McCormick, 15, freshman at Capital High School.

Sarah Pauley, 15, freshman at Capital High School and veteran of the Children's Theater of Charleston.

Tanner Sigman, 7th grade student at Poca Middle School and member of Appalachian Children's Chorus.

Angela Szbak, lyric soprano from New York.

Jonathan Tucker, violinist with Charleston Neophonic Orchestra and junior at West Virginia State University.

Should be lots of fun!