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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Two Shows Tonight - "Pillowman" and "Footloose"

I stand corrected - there are actually two shows out there this weekend. The first is The Pillowman at the Capitol Center Theater in Charleston, which you can read more about right here.

The other is Footloose, which is being staged this weekend at Fairland High School. The show starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the school in Proctorville, Ohio.

You can read more about it right here in today's Herald-Dispatch.

The photo is by Howie McCormick and shows Caleb Inboden (Rev. Moore) leaping across the stage during one of the final rehearsals.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "The Pillowman"

It's your last weekend to catch The Pillowman, which takes the stage again tonight in Charleston - you can read more about it right here.

It's been getting rave reviews - I'm hoping to catch it soon so I can add my raves to them!

"Les Miz" News

A couple of Les Miserables news items:

- The Hollywood Bowl has announced some of the stars of its Les Miserables in Concert series on August 8, 9 and 10. The principal cast will include Huntington's J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean, a role he performed on Broadway and in London, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Javert, Lea Michele as Eponine, Melora Hardin as Fantine, Aaron Lazar as Enjolras and Rosie O'Donnell as Madame Thenardier. You can read more about the concert right here.

- A new edition of the 10th anniversary concert video of Les Miz is also now available. Taped in 1995 with a dream cast, the performance includes (from the original London company) Colm Wilkinson (Valjean), Michael Ball (Marius) and Alun Armstrong (Thenardier); and (from Broadway) Judy Kuhn (Cosette), Lea Salonga (Eponine) and Michael Maguire (Enjolras); along with Ruthie Henshall (Fantine); and (from Australia) Philip Quast (Javert).

It's a tremendous recording, and well worth watching - I may need to get a new one because I've about worn out the original DVD I bought years ago. It's not quite as good as seeing the actual show, but it's darned close, and you'd have a tough time finding a more talented cast. The two-disc set includes a behind the scenes documentary.

(Of course, my favorite version is still the one First Stage presented a two years ago, but then I'm prejudiced.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Coming Up This Week - "The Pillowman"

After a torrent of shows over the last two weeks, the choices are a bit more slim this weekend. But as Spencer Tracy once said, "What there is, is choice."

Charleston offers us the one and only show this weekend - the excellent drama The Pillowman takes the stage at the Capital Center Theater at 123 Summers Street Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. You can learn more about it right here. Tickets are available at the door, at www.charlestonstagecompany.com or reserve by phone at (304)343-5272.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Children of Eden" Rehearsals

I haven't talked much about the Children of Eden rehearsals that are now underway. The First Stage Theatre Company show will be presented in April, so the cast has only been rehearsing for a couple of weeks - but they already sound great!

A disclaimer - I'm the "interim" producer for the show, along with co-producer Clint McElroy (work duties keep me from doing much more than helping out a bit). I stopped by tonight's rehearsal and watched the cast being put through its paces by director Jack Cirillo, music director Mark Smith and choreographer Mary Smirl.

It's always fun to watch the process unfold, as the young cast learns the dance steps, the stage movements and the terrific songs that are part of the show. I'll do my best to keep you updated as the process rolls along!

They're tackling a challenging show, but there's a lot of amazing talent in the cast - it's going to be awesome!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Restoring the Keith Albee Theater

I neglected to mention the excellent story that was in the Herald-Dispatch over the weekend - it talks about the progress in plans to renovate that building. It's going to be a joy to watch this unfold in the years ahead - I hope everyone in the community will support the effort!

You can read the story right here.

Oscar Winners

I toyed with the idea of live-blogging the Oscar Awards last night, but then I realized that I'd only seen one of the movies nominated for Best Picture (Juno, which I highly recommend), so what do I know? But since I listed the nominees in this post, I should follow up with last night's winners. Here ya go:
Complete list of winners at the 80th annual Academy Awards, presented Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles:

Best Motion Picture: No Country for Old Men

Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Lead Actress:
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Foreign Language Film: The Counterfeiters (Austria)

Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno

Animated Feature Film: Ratatouille

Art Direction:
Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Cinematography: There Will Be Blood

Sound Mixing:
The Bourne Ultimatum

Sound Editing:
The Bourne Ultimatum

Original Score: Atonement, Dario Marianelli

Original Song:
"Falling Slowly" from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Costume: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Documentary Feature: Taxi to the Dark Side

Documentary Short Subject: Freeheld

Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

Makeup: La Vie en Rose

Animated Short Film: Peter & the Wolf

Live Action Short Film: Le Mozart des Pickpockets (`The Mozart of Pickpockets')

Visual Effects: The Golden Compass

Academy Award winners previously announced this year:

Honorary and technical Oscars: Robert Boyle; Eastman Kodak Co.; David A. Grafton

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

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Operator Error - No "Pillowman" tonight!

Whoops! Due to me apparently not being able to read a schedule, a correction is in order - here's my pal Ryan Hardiman with the info:
There was NOT a performance of The Pillowman scheduled for tonight (Sunday, Feb 24). The Pillowman runs Thursday through Saturday... 3 more chances to catch it (next week, Feb. 28, 29 and Mar. 1)

I have the day off for my birthday and an Oscar party tonight!... I need the break... I now have a bump on my head and REAL black eye from this past weekend!!!

Hope to see everyone at the show next weekend!
Thanks for the correction, Ryan, and Happy Birthday!

Sorry for steering you wrong, readers!

On Stage Tonight - "The Pillowman"

Tonight there's only one show running (why don't more groups offer Sunday performances?) - The Pillowman.

The show starts at 8:00 p.m. at The Capitol Center Theatre, 123 Summers Street, Charleston. Tickets are $15.00/adults and $10.00/students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door, at go to www.charlestonstagecompany.com or reserve by phone at (304)343-5272.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Four Shows Tonight - Three Last Chances!

Once again, there are four great shows to choose from tonight - two in Huntington, and one each in Charleston and Ashland! It's also your last chance to see three of them - only The Pillowman continues past this evening! And don't forget that you'll need reservations to see Bitsy & Boots.

Click on the "More Info" after each show for more information (natch), including interviews with directors and actors involved with each show.

Tonight's shows are:

The Seagull - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Marshall University (More Info);

Bitsy & Boots - tonight at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Huntington (More Info);

The Pillowman - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Capitol Theater in Charleston (More Info); and

The DelVal Divas - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland (More Info).

So no fair saying "There's nothing to do tonight!"

"The Seagull" - A Review

(Hoo boy - talk about a review I feel completely unqualified to write!)

Last night I joined a huge crowd at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Playhouse for an amazing performance of Anton Chekov's play, The Seagull.

It can best be described as an amazing theatre experience - an intelligent, involving story about the family of a famous actress and how their lives interact - and the loves that are always just out of reach. But don't think it's a depressing show - it's actually quite funny, though entwined with some tragic moments.

The actors are absolutely fantastic - it takes a great touch to manage the balance between portraying real characters, adding comic flourishes and moments of anguish - and the entire cast did a fantastic job. Kudos to: Mary P. Williams (Irina), Adam Terry (Kostya), Mike Murdock (Sorin), Shay Hannon (Nina), Jeremy Plyburn (Shamraev), Caitlin Haught (Polina), Leah Turley (Masha), Cody Southern (Trigorin), Chris Ferris (Medvedenko), Greg Kiser (Smirnov), Adam Paul (Yakov), Robyn Helton (The Cook) and Nick Reynolds (Dorn).

Kudos also to the directing team for a fantastic job, especially my pal Jack Cirillo (who has the best stories about being in Chekov plays). Congratulations also to the tech crew for a fantastic job!

So why do I feel completely unqualified to write a review of this excellent show? Well, my background is strictly that of an amateur - I work with community theatre, which tends to focus on lighter fare. Even though it has some comedic moments, The Seagull is what I would call "serious" theatre - a tremendous undertaking by the cast and crew to stage, tackling big topics in a thoughtful, adult manner. It's wonderful that Marshall tackles these kinds of shows, because no other theatre group in Huntington is doing this kind of work (more's the pity).

So I recommend it without hesitation, but be warned that this is a show that will require your attention. The good news is, in return, it'll make you think. And that's a good thing!

Tonight's your last chance to catch it, so make plans now to see The Seagull!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Ugly Hand of Censorship

OK, this just seems wrong on so many levels. You'd expect a college campus to be a place to explore new ideas, be creative, that sort of thing - not the kind of place you'd expect to find the heavy hand of censorship. But here's a story about a show that was shut down by the school's administration - it comes to us from the InsideHigherEd.com website:
"A student production of Assassins, the award-winning musical, was to have premiered Thursday night at Arkansas Tech University, but the administration banned it - and permitted a final dress rehearsal Wednesday night (so the cast could experience the play on which students have worked long hours) only on the condition that wooden stage guns were cut in half prior to the event and not used. Assassins is a musical in which the characters are the historic figures who have tried to kill a U.S. president."
I have to admit that I've never seen this Sondheim musical (it premiered on Broadway in the 1990s), so I can't comment on its merits or failings (though several friends have seen it and loved it), and I'd be the first to admit that I don't like the idea of any attempt to glorify an assassin (if the show even does that). But I'd really love for someone to explain to me how cutting prop guns in half accomplishes anything.

Oh, and at the same time on campus they ran the film American Gangster, which offers lots of realistic shootings with "real" guns. Double standards, anyone?

Of course, the school's administration can cancel any show they want, I suppose - but you'd think they could make these decisions before the cast and crew spends weeks of their time rehearsing, making costumes, building sets, printing tickets, etc.

OK, I'll stop venting now.

On Stage Tonight: Four Fine Features

You have four great shows to choose from tonight - two in Huntington, and one each in Charleston and Ashland! Click on the "More Info" after each show for more information (duh), including interviews with directors and actors involved with each show. (Here at Tri-State Theatre, we're your full-service blog.)

Tonight's shows are:

The Seagull - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Marshall University (More Info);

Bitsy & Boots - tonight at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Huntington (More Info);

The Pillowman - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Capitol Theater in Charleston (More Info); and

The DelVal Divas - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland (More Info).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "Seagull," "Pillowman" and "DelVal"

Three great shows to choose from tonight, and all evenly divided between Huntington, Charleston and Ashland! They are:

The Seagull - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Marshall University;

The Pillowman - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Capitol Theater in Charleston; and

The DelVal Divas - tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Paul G. Blazer High School.

So get out there and support your local theatre!

(But be careful, the weather's not exactly cooperating.)

Ryan Hardiman and "The Pillowman"

Taking the stage tonight in Charleston is The Pillowman. This photo by K.C. Bragg shows a scene from the play, as Ariel (Joe Wallace) interrogates Katurian (Ryan Hardiman).

Ryan (who's also featured in this story in today's Herald-Dispatch) joins us for an e-interview to tell us more about it:

Q: For those who aren't familiar with the show, tell us about The Pillowman.

Ryan: Martin McDonagh's
Olivier, Drama Desk and Tony Award winning play The Pillowman has been described as watching "The grimmest of Grimm's Fairy Tales as written by Stephen King and directed by Quentin Tarantino." It involves a writer in a totalitarian police state being interrogated about the gruesome content of his short stories and their similarities to a number of child murders that are happening in his town. The writer's mentally challenged brother is also suspected as having something to do with the murders. The 2003 Broadway production starred Billy Crudup and Jeff Goldblum.

Q: What about the show made you want to be part of this production?

Ryan: The Pillowman is so different from what we usually expect from a play, and it reads more like a movie. It delivers endless twists and turns and even though the playwright Martin McDonagh leaves many bread crumbs along the way, the play constantly surprises you. You’ll find that even though the play deals with some horrible things, it is also very funny. You’re horrified one second and laughing the next, so the black comedy offers temporary relief from the tension that is constantly building.

Q: This is a physically challenging role, isn't it?

Ryan: Although I trust my acting partners completely, there was one night in rehearsal that my head was slammed so hard on a table that I thought I would start bleeding from the ears. I get shoved, smacked around, nearly electrocuted, and much worse. This is not for the faint of heart. Although no violence is actually portrayed onstage against children, I get PLENTY dished out to me. Beyond that, I only get to leave the stage for about 30 seconds during the whole show and even then, I'm screaming offstage. So, yeah.

Q: Who are the other actors in the show?

Ryan: The two detectives, Tupolski and Ariel, are played by K.C. Bragg and Joe Wallace, respectively. Huntington audiences will remember K.C., as he is a 1991 Marshall Theatre Department graduate, performed in several shows there, and directed The Hobbit for First Stage Theatre's early incarnation, MAG-CT. Since then, he has gone on to play the tile role in Hamlet and to direct Dracula for Charleston Stage Company. Joe is a staple of theatre scene in Charleston as well, and is a founding member of the improv group The No Pants Players. Dan Heyman, who recently was in a Charleston production of The Exonerated plays Michal, The mentally impaired brother of my character, Katurian. Ronn Smith, Freida Forsley, Michelle Bowers, Christen Meo, and Adam Vickers round out the cast, portraying multiple characters in Katurian's stories. The Pillowman is directed by Tim Mace.

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

Ryan: If I weren’t already in this production, this is a play that I would definitely not miss, and to be honest, I would most likely want to see it more than once. It’s easy to see why The Pillowman won so many awards during it’s West End and Broadway runs. The writing works on so many levels and you’ll find yourself making all of these connections. Everything fits. This is a play you’ll find yourself thinking about and talking about for days, and as odd as this seems given the subject matter, it is very funny. This show is definitely not suitable for children, though. If it were a movie, it would be rated R for language and violence.

Q: Tell us when and where the show is being staged.

Ryan: Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and March 1, 2008. Tickets are $15.00/adults and $10.00/students and seniors. The performances are at The Capitol Center Theatre, 123 Summers Street, Charleston. Tickets are available at the door, at www.charlestonstagecompany.com or reserve by phone at (304)343-5272.

Directions: Traveling East on I-64, take the Lee Street exit at Charleston and
turn right. Continue on Lee Street two blocks past the Charleston Town Center Mall and turn right on Summers Street. You will see the lighted marquee of The Capitol Center Theatre two blocks ahead on the right side of Summers Street.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Stage Tonight - "The Seagull"

One outstanding show to check out this evening:

The Seagull will be presented by the Marshall University Dept. of Theatre tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center in Huntington.

Don't miss it!

Jane Modlin on "The DelVal Divas"

Paul Blazer High School in Ashland, KY, has a long history of terrific shows, and they're adding to the list tomorrow night with their latest production, The DelVal Divas. Here's director Jane Modlin to tell us more about the show:

Q: Tell us about the show.

Jane: The DelVal Divas is a comedy by Barbara Pease Webber. It's set in a cell block at the Delaware Valley Correctional Facility, a so-called 'pink-collar' prison. Four of the characters (Beth Ziegler, MBA, Rosemary Adams, JD, MBA, Stella Wild, MBA, Linda Robertson, MD, PhD.) are inmates serving time for 'genteel' crimes, such as money laundering, stock market finagling, fleecing an HMO, etc. However, since they have seemingly unlimited funds, they've used their money for two causes - getting DelVal back on track financially, and making sure their lives are pleasant and comfortable, including weekly massages, manicures, pedicures, personal trainers, and catered meals. Their cushy world gets a shake-up when an accused murderess is moved into their 'suite'. Plus, it's announced that DelVal will be closing and they will be transferred to the far-less-swank Black Rock Prison. Using their special talents and with the help of the prison guard Lucille (whom they've put through both undergrad and grad school), they attempt to set things right.

Q: Some might say that a story set in a women's prison is too mature
for high school students.

Jane: And I would be the first to agree, if it were a gritty, deep, emotion-ladened drama. But this is a fun comedy that shouldn't offend *anybody*, unless it's the idea of women in prison! I'm probably too careful about what we do. In addition to cutting questionable language, I try to avoid shows that address themes that are 'too adult', if that makes sense. I'm not talking about teenage angst, or drug abuse or alcohol, etc., or even 'Bang, Bang, You're Dead.' I just don't think that Same Time Next Year works when done by a couple of 15-year olds. I love Equus, but I'm not doing it in a public high school. We do run the gamut, from frothy comedies to classics - in the past few years we've done everything from The Mousetrap and Bell, Book, and Candle to Little Shop or Horrors, while spoofing Tennessee Williams in Murder in the Magnolias. I think the bottom line with high school theatre is what will *sell*, which sounds crass, but it's the reality. It's great to be avant garde and challenge the social norms, but at the end of the day, you work for The Parents, who tend to have a different set of values than some of their children! So you do a couple of 'fun' shows, light comedies or dramas that the audience will enjoy, and then you do something that challenges the cast as well. This characters in this show are grownups, so that stretches the cast, and it's a little more complex than 'where am I going to find a prom date?', so it's fun for them as well.

Q: Tell us about the actors who are in the show.

Jane: I have a great cast - I'm really pleased. It's not easy to play 30-40-something convincingly when you're 17-18, but these girls are tremendous. Here's the cast list:
Lucille - Shannon Hall
Beth - Ali Lewis
Rosemary - Jessie Reed
Stella - Martha Stephens
Linda - Amy Larsen
Sharon - Heather McDowell

Shannon Hall and Ali Lewis are seniors - Shannon had the lead in Bell, Book & Candle last spring and has a wonderful stage presence. Ali came to theatre last year and wowed the audience in Have a Nice Day, a musical send-up of all those 'Up With People' tours. Jessie Reed, Amy Larsen, and Martha Stephens are juniors. This is Jessie's first Blazer show, although she's done theatre in the community. Amy transferred in this year from Spring Valley and brings long list of credits with her. Martha took Blazer by storm her freshman year, landing the lead in The Mousetrap before playing Aunt Queenie in Bell, Book & Candle. Sophomore Heather McDowell also has a long list of Ashland-area credits, although this is her first 'official' Blazer show.

Q: Paul Blazer has a great history of staging shows - something not all
high schools manage. What's the secret of your success?

Jane: Wow - the secret? I don't think there is one. Part of it is the amount of shows we do. Due to our small space (we prefer 'intimate') - we only seat 121 - with literally NO backstage area - we can realistically only put 10-12 actors comfortably onstage at a time. So my secret... is to get as many students involved, whether on stage or behind it, as much as possible.
In order to utilize more than 5 - 10 students, we do 3 - 4 mainstage shows a year, plus a children's theatre tour to the area elementary schools, plus the 'just say no to drugs' tour, plus our two major fundraisers, one for a charity and one for a scholarship. For those all-day events, we'll have between 30 and 40 different 'acts', everything from a monologue to interpretive dance to sing-a-long karoake. The mainstage shows are the big draws, though. And I'm very proud that I don't cast the same students over and over and over. For the first two shows this year, not a single student was double-cast. Most of the crew members are different, also. They want to be involved, so I want to give them a chance to shine, whether it's as the lead or the deck crew.

It also helps that I'm a full-time theatre person. I don't 'moonlight' teaching English or history or math - I teach 5 levels of theatre. And Blazer is very lucky to have administrators who recognize the importance of the arts - not just theatre, but also music, orchestra, band, choir, dance, and art. Our orchestra is outstanding, our band wins competitions throughout the area, and our choirs are amazing. There's a tradition of excellence. We have high standards!

Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?

Jane: This is a fun comedy. No high drama, no intense fight scenes, no screaming, no door slamming (hard to effectively slam a cell door, believe it or not), in fact, nothing that's not family-friendly. Our audience ranges from elementary age to grandparents, so we try to find shows that appeal across the board. The dialogue is clever and the characters are actually believable, which can be rare - especially given the setting! - and the audience will have a good time, if for no other reason than to play 'name that prison tune' with the pre-show music!

Q: Tell us when and where The DelVal Divas will be presented.

Shows are Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 20-23, 2008. at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $5.00/adults and $3.00/students and seniors. The shows are at The Millennium Center at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland, KY. Call (606) 327-6040 ext. 3207 for more information.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Stage This Week - "The Seagull"

On stage this week, the Marshall University Department of Theatre is presenting the Chekov play The Seagull. Here's the director of that play, Jack Cirillo, to tell us more about the show.

(By the way, you can also read more about the show in this story in today's Herald-Dispatch. And the photo on the left by Mark Webb shows Leah Turley, Mike Murdock and Nick Reynolds in a scene from The Seagull.)

Q: For those who aren't familiar with the show, tell us about The

Jack: The play centers around a famous and fading Russian actress and her love-sick and artistically impassioned son. Typical of all Chekhov plays, there is a wide array of characters that people the events of the play. Chekhov led a sort of a double life - he was a physician by trade and a writer by choice. He was fond of saying that "If medicine is my wife, writing is my mistress." Chekhov wrote hundreds of short stories, mostly comedic in nature and many short plays, but he is more widely known for his four full length plays: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. What is most notable about his work is the emphasis on character and "sub-text" and the De-emphasis of plot. Which isn't to say that the plot doesn't exist - it does, it's just that the characters seem somewhat stunted in their life pursuits. Plays of the 19th century tended to wrap up their characters in tight plot lines with everything being resolved by the end of the play. Chekhov wanted to show that life wasn't like that - real life is random and untidy. People speak in non-sequiturs and don't always follow a cohesive thought pattern. All of this has become a hallmark of Chekhovian style.

Q: Why did Marshall decide to tackle this show?

Jack: We try to expose our students and audiences to as many theatrical styles and genres as possible. Chekhov's work was revolutionary to the theatre - in many ways both he and the director of his plays, Konstantine Stanislavsky, created much of our modern acting techniques and approaches. "The Method" owes much of its development to the plays of Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theatre that developed the plays.

Q: You've done some Chekov shows before as an actor - why are you drawn to his work?

Jack: Like Shakespeare and Moliere, Chekhov provides a very specific challenge. In this case, the challenge has to do with finding a balance of emotional truth and theatricality. Often in Chekhov's plays what the characters are NOT saying is more important that what is actually stated. The notion of SUBTEXT - what is happening behind the line of text, must be clearly defined and rehearsed otherwise the plays seem superficial and meaningless.

Q: Tell us about the actors in this show.

Jack: Chekhov employs a large number of
characters in his plays and this is no exception. In this piece, The famous actress, Irina, is played by Mary Williams. Her dark and moody son, Konstantine, is played by Adam Terry. Shay Hannon plays the focal point of a love triangle between Konstantine and a famous writer named Trigorin, played by Cody Southern. Perennial favorite Nick Reynolds plays Doctor Dorn, a family doctor with his secret love, Paulina played by Caitlin Haught. The unlikely couple of Masha and Medvenko are played by Leah Turley and Chris Ferris. Jeremy Plyburn plays the estate's steward, Shamraev, and Mike Murdock plays the estate's owner and Irina's brother Sorin. Adam Paul, Robyn Helton and Greg Kiser play the estate's servants.

Q: Why would you recommend The Seagull to our readers?

Jack: The Seagull offers theatre goers a rare opportunity to see one of the great and pivotal plays of the theatre. The play is not done all that often - in fact MU Theatre hasn't presented a Chekhov play in over 20 years. This particular adaptation of the play (remember, Chekhov wrote in Russian) was written by another great playwright of the theatre - Tom Stoppard - who wrote the plays Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, current Broadway hit, Rock and Roll, and the screen play for Shakespeare in Love.

Q: Tell us when and where the show will be presented.

Jack: The show will open on Wednesday, Feb. 20 and play through Saturday, Feb. 23. All shows start at 8:00 p.m. The show runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The performances will be at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center at Marshall University's campus. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and MU faculty and staff, $7 for children 17 and under, and are free for full-time Marshall students with an ID. For more information, call the box office at (304) 696-ARTS.

Monday, February 18, 2008

On Stage This Week

Yet another week filled with lots of great shows to see! I'll have more on these as the week rolls on, but here's what to expect:

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

Blazer Theatre Arts Society
The DelVal Divas - Feb. 21 - 24

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

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

So get out there and support your local theatre!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

And the "Symphony Idol" is...

... Ryan Hardiman! That's right, my pal Ryan competed with (or against) some of the area's best voices in Charleston on Friday and Saturday night, as they sang along with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Last night they had the final round, and he was voted the first-ever Symphony Idol!

And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy! But he can't rest on his laurels - he'll be appearing soon in The Pillowman and he's also been cast in the upcoming production of The Crucible!

Congratulations, Ryan!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Stage Tonight - Bitsy, Love and Idols

Yet another busy night in local theatre - you can choose from these three:

- Bitsy & Boots is a new comedy by local playwright Jonathan Joy. The First Church Dinner Theater will host the show tonight (and Feb. 22 and 23). Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8:00 p.m. Reservations are required, so call: (304) 522-0357 or (740) 867-8576.

- ARTS will present All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift, a musical review of love songs at the Renaissance Theatre tonight at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 and you can also order dinner before the evening shows for an additional $15.00. You can make reservations for dinner by calling 304-733-ARTS (2787).

- Nine vocal finalists from around the region will do battle as part of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's contest, Symphony Idol. The shows runs at 8:00 p.m. tonight at the Clay Center in Charleston. Taking part in the competition is Milton native (and my pal) Ryan Hardiman.

So get out there and soak up some culture!

Martin Short at the Keith Albee

My lovely wife and I had a late Valentine's date last night - we saw Martin Short's hilarious performance at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center. You can see some photos from the event right here on the Herald-Dispatch Photo Gallery.

The show was a lot of fun. Martin was a bundle of energy, racing around the stage, recreating characters from TV and the movies, all while delivering a constant salvo of jokes and songs. And it was certainly great to see Ed Grimley again I must say. The show played to a packed house, and they enjoyed yet another terrific show courtesy of the Marshall Artists Series. Like I keep saying, Best Season Ever!

After the show we had an excellent dinner at Arthur's (which is just around the corner from the theatre), and from our window seat we saw Martin Short walk by not once, not twice, but three times (going back and forth from the theater to the hotel, I suppose). The last time around he stopped, looked in the window and waved to us as my wife held up a program. What a nice guy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Scary Event

As you can read in this story by Jean Tarbett in today's Herald-Dispatch, Cabell Midland graduate and local theatre veteran Michael Moore, a student at Northern Illinois University, was not hurt in the violence yesterday at that school. It was a close call - he was in the building next to the one where the shooting took place - but I know all his friends and family are relieved to know that he's OK.

On Stage Tonight - Mr. Short, Mr. Flatley, Idols and Love

Tonight the local stages are crowded with stuff to see - including:

- The hilarious and talented Martin Short will perform live at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 8:00 p.m. as part of the Marshall Artists Series.

- Michael Flatley: The Lord of the Dance hits the stage at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena tonight.

- ARTS presents All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift, a musical review of love songs at the Renaissance Theatre at 8:00 p.m.

- And nine vocal finalists from around the region will do battle as part of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's contest, Symphony Idol. The shows run 8:00 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Clay Center in Charleston. Taking part in the competition is Milton native (and my pal) Ryan Hardiman.

So much to see - and all at the same time!

"Bitsy & Boots" and "The Lord of the Dance"

A couple of good links in today's Herald-Dispatch to stories about upcoming shows.

You can learn more about Jonathan Joy and his show Bitsy & Boots right here... and you can read more about the hugely popular Lord of the Dance show right here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beth McVey talks about "All The Colors of Love"

Today we have my pal Beth McVey talking to us about the latest offering from ARTS - a special Valentine's show.

Q: Tell us about the show that you're presenting this weekend.

Beth: All the Colors of Love, A Valentine Gift, is a collection of love songs from Broadway shows. It follows a storyline from dating, through falling in love, to getting married, falling out of love, divorce, falling in love and getting married a second time, love that lasts forever. You know, all the colors of love!

Q: Who are the singers and actors in the cast?

Beth: The cast is a wonderful group of adult performers, some are Huntington favorites like Linda Reynolds, Mary Olsen, Paul Neace, Leann Haines and Mary Beth Withers. Then we have Mark Baker and Chris Bowling from Kentucky, and some new faces like Michele Conley, Dave Richards and Chris Chiles. Their ensemble sound is gorgeous and I'm sure our audience will enjoy their solo, duet and trio work as well.

Q: In addition to the show, you're offering a dinner before the evening performances.

Beth: As far as the dinner goes, think Under the Tuscan Sun. Romantic Italian. Antipasto, salad and roll, your choice of meat or vegetable lasagna and tiramisu for dessert. The dinner costs $15.00 and starts at 6:30. If you have the dinner with us you will get reserved seating for the show. If you are joining us for the show alone, the seating is general admission. You may bring wine to enjoy with your meal, we can't sell wine because we don't have a license, but we will provide an opener and glasses. It's a great deal for $15.00!

Q: You helped create this show, but it wasn't the one you had originally planned to present. What happened?

Beth: We had first thought to present Jerry's Girls, a musical review of Jerry Herman songs. Upon further examination of that project we felt it was not the best choice for our audiences. So Eddie Harbert, Coni Anthony and I came up with the concept for this show and selected the additional cast members and the songs to make our own musical review. Famous love songs for Valentines Day! There will be old favorites you will recognize and some new ones you will love.

Q: Why did you decide to direct this show?

Beth: I chose to direct this show because I have done a lot of Cabaret work and really enjoy this art form, so I knew this would be a fun show to direct. It has been great to get to work with a wonderful company. We are so fortunate to have Bruce Rous accompanying us. He really makes that piano sing and ties the show together beautifully with his incredible talent. In short, your readers are in for a wonderful evening of entertainment and dinner, for the very reasonable price of $30.00 for both or $15.00 for the show only.

Q: Tell us when and where the show is presented and how the readers can get tickets.

Beth: Show only tickets may be purchased at the door the night of the show. For dinner reservations you may call ARTS at 304-733-2787. Office hours are from 11:00 to 3:00 daily or leave a message and we will return your call. The dinner and show will both take place at the Rennaisance Center (the old Huntington High school) at 900 8th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. Hope to see you there!

On Stage Tonight - Two Dinners at Two Theatres

Happy Valentine's Day!

Our busy weekend of shows kicks off tonight with two different theatre groups offering two distinct shows and two delicious dinners. They are:

- Bitsy & Boots, a new comedy by local actor and playwright Jonathan Joy. The First Church Dinner Theater will host the show at the First United Methodist Church at 1124 Fifth Avenue in Huntington. The show starts tonight (with additional shows February 16, 22 and 23). Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8:00 p.m. The cost for dinner plus the show for adults is $22.00, and for children under the age of 12 it's $8.00. Tickets for the show only (as space permits) is $5.00. Reservations are required, so call: (304) 522-0357 or (740) 867-8576.

- All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift is a musical review of love songs being presented by ARTS at the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School) starting tonight at 8:00 p.m. (with additional shows Feb. 15 and 16 at 8:00 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 3:00 p.m.). Tickets are $15.00 and you can also order dinner before the evening shows for an additional $15.00. You can make reservations for dinner by calling 304-733-ARTS (2787). You can also read a story about this show right here in today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch.

So if you're looking for a good way to spend Valentine's Day, your prayers have been answered!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jerry Morse Talks About "Bitsy & Boots"

It's always a challenge to present a community theatre show for the first time, but that's just what the First Church Dinner Theatre is doing this week. Local theatre veteran, actor and director (and my pal) Jerry Morse is the show's director, so we got him to sit down at our imaginary microphone and tell us more about the show Bitsy & Boots.

Q: Tell us about the show and why First United Methodist decided to tackle it.

Jerry: First Church Dinner Theater (FCDT) at First United Methodist Church (FUMC) basically "commissioned" the show from Jonathan Joy. Having seen his work, we were well aware of his skills in the humor department. Our "genre" has typically been comedies or musicals, which we feel best suit a family theater environment. So... it was a natural to ask Jonathan if he's be willing to write something for us. He was kind enough to oblige, and Bitsy & Boots is the result. It's a delightful farce, fast-paced, and full of laughs. Tommy is bringing his girlfriend Kat home to meet the two maiden aunts who raised him, who are "eccentric" to say the least.

Q: Tell us about the actors who are in the show.

Jerry: The actors include Ashleigh Bills (FUMC member, a graduate of the Marshall Theater Program, and player with the Dinner Theater for several seasons), Bert Fulks (FUMC member, a graduate of the Marshall History department, and newcomer to FCDT), Mike Waggoner (FUMC member, and newcomer to FCDT), Loretta Hetzer (not an FUMC member, but a veteran and skilled local actress who has been with our Dinner Theater for several seasons), and Jane Morse (FUMC member, co-Founder of the Dinner Theater, and veteran local actress with the Dinner Theater and other local theater groups).

Q: People who attend will get more than just a show - tell us about the dinner.

Jerry: Since its beginning in 1991, our Dinner Theater has prided itself on the quality of the meal as well as the production. The entree is a choice of custom-cooked prime rib au jus, or glazed Cornish hen, accompanied by a salad, baked potato, green peas with onions, home made Dilly rolls, and assorted homemade desserts. All that, and the production, for a price of $22 for adults, $8 for children under 12.

Q: The voice of experience talking here - the meal is awesome! The idea behind the show is to raise money for the church - how will the money be used?

Jerry: All profit from the Dinner Theater goes to the worldwide Mission work of the United Methodist Church. By way of example, last year's proceeds were divided between Ebenezer Outreach Center in Huntington (financial help for a new playground), Heifer Project International (purchase of a major portion of a complete "ark" of animals), Christmas gifts for seven Salvation Army and Ebenezer Outreach needy children, and FUMC's own Youth Group.

Q: Why did you decide to direct this show?

Jerry: I offered that post to the author, Jonathan Joy. He allowed as how he was a bit too busy for that, so I've been entrusted with this "baby" of his.

Q: Why would you recommend this show?

Jerry: I would only recommend this show to your readers if they want to fill up on excellent food, then work off many of the calories with lots of laughter. Jonathan has crafted a farce that's a masterpiece of the unexpected, and the cast has done it full justice! Anyone who hasn't yet seen Jonathan's work should start here and now. Anyone who has seen his work, knows that another opportunity should not be wasted!

Q: When are the shows and how can we get reservations?

Jerry: The shows are Thursday, Feb. 14; Saturday, Feb. 16; Friday, Feb. 22; Saturday, Feb. 23. The dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., the show starts at 8:00 p.m. Advance reservations are required - call 304-522-0357 or 304-867-8576.

It's not often you get to see a great show, enjoy a terrific meal and help a good cause all at the same time. Highly recommended, theatre fans!

All The News That's Not Fit To Print

One of the fun things about community theatre is that it's a great source for gossip - none of which I can repeat here, because half the time it ends up not being true, and the other half it's just an exaggeration.

Usually it's just funny. For example, when I was directing a show several years back, the rumor going around was that the cast had been selected already - the rumor even named the people who were getting the key roles. Which was quite a surprise to me, because I never pre-cast a show, and we hadn't even had the auditions yet. After the auditions, the cast was announced, and not a single rumored prediction was right - the cast was completely different. I always wonder how the person who starts a rumor like that explains the error to their friends.

But most of the gossip is pretty harmless - for example, word has it that a certain community theatre group is dropping plans for a big show they had planned to present this year. That sort of thing happens all the time, because a group can announce plans to present a show, but the rights can be withheld for a variety of reasons - usually to avoid conflicting with a traveling show or to avoid two groups in the same area doing the same show.

The rumors say the group plans to replace that show with a classic bit of theatre, but adding an interesting twist. As always, more on that incredibly vague rumor as announcements are firmed up.

Unless it all ends up being wrong, in which case I'll pretend I never wrote any of this.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Four Big Shows This Weekend - Wait, Make That Five!

The theatre drought officially ends this weekend with the arrival of five great shows begging for your time and attention. The good news is, you can't go wrong with any of 'em!

Here's the rundown (and we'll go into more detail throughout the week):

- Up first is Bitsy & Boots, a new comedy by local actor and playwright Jonathan Joy. The First Church Dinner Theater will host the show starting Thursday, February 14; with additional shows February 16, 22 and 23. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8:00 p.m. Reservations are required, so call: (304) 522-0357 or (740) 867-8576.

- ARTS will present All the Colors of Love: A Valentine Gift, a musical review of love songs at the Renaissance Theatre Feb. 14 - 16 at 8:00 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 and you can also order dinner before the evening shows for an additional $15.00. You can make reservations for dinner by calling 304-733-ARTS (2787).

- Nine vocal finalists from around the region will do battle as part of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's contest, Symphony Idol. The shows run 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16, at the Clay Center in Charleston. Taking part in the competition is Milton native (and my pal) Ryan Hardiman (that's his photo on the left). There was an excellent article in today's Herald-Dispatch about him, which you can read right here.

- The hilarious and talented performer Martin Short will perform live at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center at 8:00 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15. It's all part of the Marshall Artists Series (like I keep saying, best season ever!), and you can read more about him right here. (That's him on the right.)

- And finally, fans of fancy footwork won't want to miss Michael Flatley: The Lord of the Dance, which hits the stage at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on Feb. 15. (I almost missed this one - have I just missed the ads or what?)

Feast or famine! Why must it ever be thus?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Night of Symphony and Shakespeare

A great time was had by all last night at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center as the Huntington Symphony teamed up with Marshall University's Department of Theatre for a night of music and Shakespeare. You can read more about it in this story, or enjoy these comments sent in by my pal Ryan Hardiman:
Tonight was indeed a great evening of Shakespeare and Symphony! The musical selections (inspired by the Bard's greatest hits) were peppered with monologues and scenes performed by current and former MU Theatre students Mike Murdock, Chris Ferris, Mike Naglee, Kristen McCabe, Leah Turley and Mary Williams, fully decked out in Elizabethan couture by Joan St. Germain and directed by Jack Cirillo.

I won't launch into a full review here, but it was an inspiring evening, complete with a beautiful vocal performance by Laura Evans. When we spoke during intermission, she said that she had the flu, but onstage there was no evidence of that. She sang like a nightingale.

I love it when actors are able to interpret Shakespeare and deliver the language in a way that sounds completely natural, accessible and "non-actorish." MU Department of Theatre did not disappoint, and also delivered more than a few funny moments. Bravo!

The orchestra was in top form and capped off the performance with a stirring medley from West Side Story, the Bernstein and Sondheim adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

I had to fight the urge to launch into "America" on the way out. An urge I was able to suppress until we got into the car.
Ha! Thanks for the recap, Ryan! I should also mention that in today's paper, there was a typo identifying my pal Mike Naglee as "Maglee." Sorry about that, Mike!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Of "Juniors" and Concerts and Such

A few weekend theatre notes for you, gentle reader:

- The Huntington Symphony and Marshall University's Theatre Department are teaming up for a special Valentine's show tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. The performance is called "Will and Romance," and the theme is the marriage of music and Shakespearean drama. Sounds like a great show - you can read more about it right here.

- The last performance of Seussical Jr. in Ashland runs tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Ashland Community and Technical College. It's a terrific show for all ages - don't miss it! (By the way, an interesting discussion was sparked in this post about "School Edition" and "Junior" versions of popular shows.)

- And Sunday at 3:00 p.m. the Paramount Arts Center will host "Ring Of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash." Ticket prices range from $10 to $45. The touring production is an homage to the "Man in Black" and features nearly 40 songs from the legendary musician. You can read more about it, as always, right here.

So get out there and have fun this weekend!

Friday, February 08, 2008

That Other Show That's Available Soon

Oh, I said I'd tell you about the other show that's available soon - one that, unlike Sweeney Todd: School Edition and Rent: School Edition, I have to admit that I might (emphasis on the MIGHT) be interested in directing.

Music Theatre International just announced last week that a certain show is going to be available for the first time this fall. You may have heard of it: High School Musical 2.

I'm on the fence with this one. Readers who've been following along for a while will remember that I directed the First Stage Theatre Company production of High School Musical in November, and it was a terrific experience. It's tempting to try to catch lightning in a bottle again, but that's something the board of First Stage will have to decide. The show was a big undertaking, and this one would be likewise.

And there's some debate over whether or not the second edition was really as good as the first - it's always tough to be the sequel of a huge hit, after all. But HSM2 does have some good musical numbers. So we'll see what happens.

On Stage Tonight - "Seussical Jr."

Tonight and tomorrow the Ashland Community and Technical College is presenting the musical Seussical Jr..

It's a fun show based, of course, on Dr. Seuss' books, and includes characters such as The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Whos and many more (even the Grinch makes a cameo appearance). It's a great show for youngsters, but anyone who enjoys the books written by the good Doctor (and that certainly includes me) will enjoy this show - it's bristling with energy, humor and lots of great songs.

The shows start at 8:00 p.m. tonight and Saturday (Feb. 8 and 9) in the J.B. Sowards Theatre.

You can read more about it right here in the Herald-Dispatch.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There's a School Edition of What?

A recent trend among theatre companies is the creation of "School Editions" of popular Broadway shows. Those are versions of the show that are only available to groups that work with school-age kids - the shows aren't available to regular community theatre groups.

One of the first shows adapted that way was Les Miserables (at least that I'm aware of - correct me if I'm wrong). The creators of the show adapted it for younger performers and trimmed it down a bit - from almost three hours to just over two. The end product is still a great show, although the content may be a bit mature in places for young kids.

That show has apparently been enough of a success that additional shows are now available or will soon be available. And there are some surprising titles on the list, including Sweeney Todd: The School Edition and, just announced: Rent: The School Edition. Another one we can expect in the near future (I suspect) is a version of Phantom of the Opera (which Capitol High School is working on now as part of a test run).

I'm not sure how I feel about this trend - on the one hand, it's great that young performers get to stretch their skills and tackle some of Broadway's most challenging shows - but it's hard to see how Rent and Sweeney, which are very much written for adult audiences, can be adapted to become acceptable for young audiences.

I'll admit that I'm more of a prude about such things, and certainly what plays well on the east or west coast doesn't exactly go over as easily in the heartland - but is this a good idea? I'm not sure.

There is another show just announced that I find very tempting - but I'll save that one for the next entry.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"The Pillowman" Poster

My pal Ryan Hardiman just sent this stunning poster for the show The Pillowman, which takes the stage later this month in Charleston. Check it out:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

It's Pronounced "Eye-gore"

One of the fun things about doing a blog for the Herald-Dispatch is that I'm allowed to reprint Associated Press articles that can be a bit tricky to track down - like this one about one of the stars of Young Frankenstein. The things I do for you, gentle readers!
Broadway's Igor Enjoys an 'Utter Bounty'

By Mark Kennedy
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - When Christopher Fitzgerald learned he'd be in one of Broadway's biggest shows, he was already deep in another role. He was trying to act from inside an enormous, marshmallowy Cabbage Patch costume, filming one of those offbeat Geiko auto insurance commercials. He was portraying a grown-up version of the children's doll, one whose sad life takes an upward turn after he saves a bunch of money on car insurance. But none of Fitzgerald was visible in the costume and he had no dialogue.

During a break in filming, his career also took an upward turn.

"I'm sitting there, in my Cabbage Patch suit, my head next to me. I'm in a bathroom and my phone rings. I answer it. It's my agent. 'You've got an offer,' he says. 'For what?' I ask. 'Igor in Young Frankenstein.'

Fitzgerald didn't have to think too hard about it. "I put that head on and I was like, 'Let's finish! I'm gonna give you some good Cabbage Patch!'" he says, cracking up.

Fitzgerald would soon be stepping into the formidable shoes of bug-eyed comedian Marty Feldman, who originated the Igor role in the 1974 film opposite Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein.

A look at the Geiko commercial Fitzgerald left behind reveals why producer-creator Mel Brooks and his team were smitten: A broad sense of humor, a vaudevillian's timing and an embrace of the absurd.

"He is extremely gifted. He has what you can't teach," says Susan Stroman, the Tony-winning director and choreographer behind both The Producers and Brooks' latest show. "He has a gift for comedy, for the stage."

Fitzgerald-who joined castmates Megan Mullally, Sutton Foster, Shuler Hensley and Andrea Martin - plays Dr. Frankenstein's endearing servant, a song-and-dance man who juggles human brains poorly and whose hump is hard to pin down.

"This calls upon every aspect of what I've been doing since I was a little tyke," Fitzgerald says. "It both flips me out and it seems to make some sort of weird cosmic sense."

It's Fitzgerald's third stint on Broadway. The 35-year-old actor from Maine originated the role of Boq in Wicked and was in Amour. Besides off-Broadway credits, he's also worked with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Huntington Theatre in Boston and spent 10 seasons with the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. He was on the TV show Twins and his film credits include Personal Velocity, Boiler Room, Dedication and Revolutionary Road.

Fitzgerald clearly loves his new role. His dressing room displays several Igor action figures, a framed Playbill from the show and a photo of him arm-in-arm with Brooks. To warn castmates that he's napping, he tapes a white paper plate to the door with the handwritten message "Igor is Sleeping."

Fitzgerald says Young Frankenstein was one of his favorite films growing up and he tried to filch as much as he could from Feldman that would translate to the stage.

"The main thing I tried to steal was that mischievous spirit," says Fitzgerald, who originally auditioned for the Dr. Frankenstein part while Roger Bart was cast as Igor.

That audition was part of a hectic day. Fitzgerald's wife, actress Jessica Stone, was pregnant with their first baby. She also was in a hospital, hooked up to an IV after suffering a painful kidney stone. To make matters worse, a blizzard descended on the city.

"So I'm in the hospital-I'm soothing her and rubbing her head-and also trying to sing softly these songs that I have to perform in front of Mel Brooks," he says.

Things worked out.

"My wife passed the stone, the snow melted and I got a phone call saying that they were interested but that I wasn't necessarily right for Dr. Frankenstein."

Producers invited him back, this time to audition for Igor after it was decided that Bart should switch roles.

There suddenly was a new complication-a happy one: His wife's due date turned out to be the first day of rehearsal. Fitzgerald laughs at the memory.

"It's like utter bounty: Great part in this great new show with such great people. A baby on the way. All wonderful things, but wouldn't it be cool if you could stagger it?" he says. "Luckily, Charlie was late so I didn't have to miss the table read."

Right after Charlie made his grand entrance at the end of June in New York, the young family had to leave-going to Seattle for seven weeks while Young Frankenstein tuned up before hitting Broadway.

In retrospect, Fitzgerald says switching roles with Bart made sense: "The great thing about it is Roger and I work so well together that it did work out. Ultimately, for us to find each other and be able to work off each other has been really fantastic."

A musical of its own could be written about the romance between Fitzgerald and his wife. They met in early 1999 when both were singing tunes from the Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms.

"We started certainly flirting and things were kind of brewing, but it all kind of culminated with us holding hands, singing 'My Funny Valentine,' on Valentine's Day with this gorgeous orchestra behind us. It was just too much."

Their first date was closing night.

Fitzgerald says it's challenging to have two actors in the same household, but they also share a special connection that many couples can only dream about.

"You know the sacrifices that you need to make, you can understand something like the opening night of Young Frankenstein - there's so much packed into that. There's so much emotional insanity. You're panicked, you're excited. And there's this person who completely gets it, who's been there."

Fitzgerald says his life is now full to capacity. At night he performs in front of 2,000 people and then goes home to an audience of one: his son. Fitzgerald says he loves their quiet, pre-dawn time together, listening as his son babbles consonants.

What's next for Fitzgerald? Another Mel Brooks project perhaps?

He wishes.

Spaceballs: The Musical, he says. "I want to play Yogurt."


On the Net: http://www.youngfrankensteinthemusical.com

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

Monday, February 04, 2008

Coming Soon - "Seussical Jr."

The next show coming up locally (mark those calendars, theatre fans!) is the musical Seussical Jr., which is being presented by the Ashland Community and Technical College Children's Theatre.

It's a fun show based, of course, on several of the good Doctor's books. The shows run 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8 and 9, in the J.B. Sowards Theatre.

You can read more about it right here in the Herald-Dispatch.

The Producers

Sorry for the lack of posting - I'm still in mourning after watching the Patriots edged out in the Super Bowl.

As I mentioned, my wife and I saw The Producers Saturday night, and we enjoyed it tremendously. I don't know if you need an actual review for this show - it's funny, it's crass, it's Mel Brooks all the way, it won a boatload of Tony Awards, and if you don't mind some off-color humor, you'll enjoy it tremendously.

The story, starring Austin Owen and Jason Simon, focuses on a Broadway producer who's had a string of flops, and his accountant, who figures out a way to make a fortune by producing a show that loses money. So the two team up to put on the worst show ever - but things don't exactly go according to plan.

The show is very funny, and the performers are outstanding. What more do you need from me? Well, you can see photos in the Herald-Dispatch photo gallery right here... and you can read the story recapping the show right here.

All I can say is, this continues to be the best season ever for the Marshall Artists Series - and if you ever get a chance to catch The Producers, go for it!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Seeing "The Producers"

My lovely wife Jeanette and I went to see The Producers tonight at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center, and (along with the crowded house) we had a great time!

It was a fantastic show and we got to see lots of our theatre friends in attendance (Hi Stephen and Jack and Ryan and Ken and Bill!).

I'm a bit too tired to manage a full review tonight, but I'll try to have one cooked up by tomorrow - but suffice to say that this is a very funny show and well worth tracking down!

More tomorrow!

Friday, February 01, 2008

How Big a Star is Dora?

Apparently Dora the Explorer is so big that her cousin merits his own touring stage show! (Of course, he may be a huge star on his own - I haven't watched Nick, Jr. since my boys were tiny - and that's been a while. So what do I know?)

Diego is swinging into town Tuesday, Feb. 5, in two shows at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland. Show times are 4 and 7 p.m. Tickets range in price from $10 to $30.

Go, Diego, Go, Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue brings to life beloved Nick Jr. characters Diego, Alicia and Dora in a 90-minute interactive stage show.

The audience uses jaguar masks to help the trio on their action-packed mission to get Baby Jaguar's "growl" back from the Bobos.

You can read the Herald-Dispatch's story about the show right here.