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, July 31, 2008

On Stage - "The Little Prince"

Dang it, this show slipped right past me. Here's the story about The Little Prince by Beth Hendricks that ran in today's edition of The Herald-Dispatch. The show opened tonight, but luckily you have several more chances to see it.
The Backstage Players will present the extraterrestrial adventure The Little Prince at 8 p.m. today through Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Boyd County Fairgrounds annex building. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors.

The theater production, with local youth actors ranging in age from 12 to 20, is being directed by 19-year-old Justin Munn, a theater major at Ashland Community and Technical College and an eight-year veteran of Backstage Players productions. This is his directing debut.

"I've been acting with Backstage Players for a while, and directing was a chance for me to try something new," Munn said.

The Little Prince is based on an Antoine de Saint-Exupery book of the same name. Published in 1943, it has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide. Several translations of the French children's book followed.

The tale follows a journey from planet to planet and the main character's encounters with adults along the way. The Little Prince tells of his journey and how it shaped his ideas of grown-ups, friendship and life.

"There are a lot of different themes and morals in the story, but one of the main themes is to not let go of your dreams," Munn said.

For more information, call 606-324-9337 or visit www.backstageplayers.org.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Paramount announces its season

More good news for local theatre fans - the Paramount has announced its new season, and it includes some excellent shows.

As my pal Dave Lavender reports in today's Herald-Dispatch:
From Bob the Builder and Garrison Keillor to music from as far away as West Africa and Dublin, the Paramount Arts Center announces its 2008-2009 series that will keep the Tri-State entertained from October through April.

"Ticket buyers will definitely find this year's season intriguing," said Kathy Setterman, executive director for the arts center in a release. "They will have the opportunity to discover the Celtic Crossroads or explore dance on The Ivory Coast. They can experience New York without ever leaving town through a Tony Award-winning Broadway smash hit like The Pajama Game, The Drowsy Chaperone or Ain’t Misbehavin', which stars American Idol’s Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis. Or they might share ‘This Moment in Time’ with Engelbert Humperdinck and someone special."
You can read the rest of the story right here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Artists Series Lineup Announced for '08 - '09

The Marshall Artists Series has a long tradition of bringing in excellent shows to Huntington, and they've done it again - we have another terrific season on the way!

The lineup was announced today, and here it is:
The Marshall Artists Series will feature some Broadway shows, classic tales, some dancing and more as part of its 2008-2009 season.

All shows will be at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center unless otherwise noted. For more information on the shows, pick up Sunday’s edition of The Herald-Dispatch.

Here is the lineup:

Baxter Series: Nunsense featuring Sally Struthers - Oct. 22; Oliver! - Nov. 12; Golda’s Balcony featuring four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh - March 7; and piano virtuosos The 5 Browns - April 23.

Mount Series: The Wizard of Oz - Dec. 9; Brazilian/jazz music legend Sergio Mendes - Jan. 31; Sweeney Todd - Feb. 5; and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - April 28.

Belanger Series: Comedian Jim Gaffigan - Oct. 1; Kool & the Gang - Nov. 7 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena; The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Theatre for Young Audiences On Tour presents Blues Journey - March 9.

Season tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 1. Subscriptions and renewals may be ordered through Aug. 18. Youth season tickets are available.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 304-696-3326; by fax 304-696-6658; by mail at Marshall Artists Series, One John Marshall Drive, Huntington, WV 25755-2210; or at the Marshall Artists Series office in the Jomie Jazz Center on Fifth Avenue across from Marshall University’s Student Center. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 304-696-3326 or e-mail at artistsseries@marshall.edu.
The are several excellent shows on the list - I'm really looking forward to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Wizard of Oz and Sweeney Todd (just to name three).

Monday, July 28, 2008

One Last Busy Weekend

So last weekend there were seven different shows to choose from, and I managed to see... not a one! (Sorry, readers, I had family stuff on tap.)

Thankfully, next weekend has just as many (or almost as many) shows, so maybe my score will improve. I'd urge everyone out there to take advantage of this wealth of shows, because after next weekend, the pickings will be much more slim.

The Jenny Wiley Theater will be the only game around for most of August, and then we enter the dry spell between the summer season and the beginning of the fall season, which usually doesn't start up until October at the earliest.

Which brings up the most important problem of all - what the heck are we going to talk about in the meantime?

Oh, I have a few ideas. We can talk about the state of community theater. We can talk about the widely varying prices for tickets to community theatre shows. We can talk about the upcoming seasons for local theatre groups and what they're staging. We can talk about which Broadway shows everyone should see.

I'm sure we'll think of something.

And as always, feel free to send along ideas or suggestions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Unusual Team - Drew and the Bard

You don't exactly think of Drew Carey when you're thinking about a Shakespearean actor - but he's pitching in for a special performance in his beloved Cleveland. Here's the story from the Associated Press:
The Price Is Right host Drew Carey is ready to showcase his Shakespearean side in a concert appearance with the Cleveland Orchestra.

The Ohio native says he's "very, very excited" to be narrating A Midsummer Night's Dream though he's also a little afraid he might do something by mistake at the performance.

Still, the 50-year-old comic says it's going to be a fun evening and something he'd buy a ticket for.

The Cleveland Orchestra will accompany him with music by Mendelssohn.

It's not Carey's first brush with Shakespeare. He has participated in a couple of charity readings of the Bard's works put together by actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More About "Anything Goes"

If you'd like to learn more about the show Anything Goes, be sure to check out my pal Dave Lavender's article in the Herald-Dispatch, which you can read right here.

You can also see some photos from the production (like this one) right here in the H-D online Photo Gallery.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Show-Filled Weekend Ahead!

It's difficult to figure, but a few times a year we run into a weekend like this one, where we have more shows to choose from than there is time to see them. Seven shows in one weekend - it makes you feel like a kid in a candy store!

Here again is your weekend menu for community theatre shows:

- Anything Goes! (HOT) begins tonight at the Ritter Park Amphitheatre in Huntington, with additional shows on Saturday and Sunday. The show also runs Aug. 1,2,3.

- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (ACTC) begins tonight at the J. C. Sowards Theater in Ashland, and continues July 26,27 and Aug. 1,2,3.

- Grease: The Musical (Charleston Light Opera Guild) is on stage tonight at the Clay Center, with additional shows on July 26,27 and Aug. 1,2,3.

- Honky Tonk Angels (Jenny Wiley Theater) runs tonight; Wizard of Oz on July 26,27,29,30; and A Chorus Line on July 31.

- Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (Highlands Light Opera Guild) runs tonight at the McNabb Middle School Theatre in Mt. Sterling, then moves to the Adkins-Caudill Performance Arts Center in Sandy Hook on July 26 and 27. The final two shows will be July 31 and Aug. 1 at the Duncan Recital Hall within the Baird Music Hall on the Morehead State University campus.

There's a lot to choose from, so get out there and support your community theatre!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Derek on Broadway

If you didn't get a chance to travel to New York and catch his premiere on Broadway, you can catch some photos right here from opening night for West Virginia's own Derek Keeling on Broadway.com.

Derek and Ashley Spencer joined the cast of Grease on July 22 as Danny and Sandy.

If you make the trip, you can catch the show at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Also On Stage This Weekend - "Anything Goes"

The summer season for the Huntington Outdoor Theatre continues Friday night as they change gears, move out the Bard (and the production of Romeo & Juliet) and bring in the Cole Porter-based Anything Goes!

The musical kicks off this Friday at the Ritter Park Amphitheatre, with additional shows on Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27. The show also runs the first weekend in August.

Also On Stage This Weekend - "Grease"

The well-known story about Danny and Sandy takes the stage on Friday as the Charleston Light Opera Guild presents Grease: The Musical at the Clay Center on July 25,26,27 and Aug. 1,2,3.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Also On Stage This Weekend - "Oz," "Angels" and "Chorus"

The Jenny Wiley Theater continues its show-packed season this weekend with:

- Wizard of Oz on July 26,27,29,30;

- Honky Tonk Angels on July 25; and

- A Chorus Line on July 24 and 31.

Also On Stage This Weekend - "Sweeney"

Here's another show to check out this weekend - Ashland Community & Technical College Theatre's production of a musical about a certain barber who was famous for giving close shaves. Here's the poster:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coming Soon - "Pirates of Penzance"

There are quite a few good shows on the way this weekend, so I'll be listing those for you over the next couple of days.

The first one I want to mention is one of my all-time, hands-down, no-doubt-about-it favorite shows that I wish someone in Huntington would produce - Gilbert & Sullivan's classic, The Pirates of Penzance.

Here's the basic information, and you can read more about it in this story from the Herald-Dispatch:
The Highlands Light Opera Guild will present musical comedy reminiscent of the wry and wacky humor made famous by Monty Python. The operetta The Pirates of Penzance will be presented by in six performances throughout the region.

The show will open July 24 and 25 in the McNabb Middle School Theatre in Mt. Sterling, then move to the Adkins-Caudill Performance Arts Center in Sandy Hook on July 26 and 27. The final two shows will be July 31 and Aug. 1 in Morehead, at the Duncan Recital Hall within the Baird Music Hall on the Morehead State University campus.

All shows are at 8 p.m. except the Sunday, July 27 performance in Sandy Hook, which will take place at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Children under 12 will be admitted free of charge.

The HLO Box Office number is (606) 783-9464. Tickets also will be available at the door.

The Pirates of Penzance is a story of an unlikely romance, and pirates who are scared of their own shadows, policemen who are scared of pirates, a high ranking military officer with plenty of knowledge but no common sense, very pretty but slightly ditzy young maidens, and the requisite old hag who nearly ruins everything. The music is lively and accessible to all audiences.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Search for Elle - The Finale

So as expected, the final episode of Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods began with another actor being eliminated, as Rhiannon was cut, leaving (as a certain blogger I could name predicted) Autumn (on the left in the photo from MTV) and Bailey (on the right, natch) as the finalists.

The final audition took place in the actual home of Legally Blonde on Broadway, and the finalists had to perform three numbers with the cast - "Ohmigod You Guys," "Positive" and "So Much Better."

We got to see quite a bit of each number, and it looked like a wash for the most part, with both performers turning in excellent auditions. My impression - confirmed by the judges - was that Autumn was the better singer, and Bailey the better dancer. I'd also give Autumn a slight edge on acting, but all that was pretty subjective, since we were only seeing part of each performance.

Joining the three judges this time around was the guy who (one assumes) had the biggest vote - Jerry Mitchell, the show's director. It was entertaining to see his reaction during the cutaway shots, as he mouthed the words to the songs along with the actors.

Finally the judges rendered their decision, and gave the role to... Bailey! I admit to being surprised - throughout the competition, Autumn has been the most seasoned performer, the best singer - but the judges went with the 20-year-old Bailey.

It's difficult to say why - perhaps because Mitchell is a choreographer, Bailey's skills as a dancer carried more weight. Perhaps they wanted another southern girl to play the part originated by Kentucky native Laura Bell Bundy. Perhaps they thought she'd appeal to the MTV audiences. Who knows?

Autumn, for what it's worth (which is to say, not much), you had my vote. Perhaps this show will follow the Grease formula and bring her into the role a few months down the road. One can only hope.

But that brings this show to an end. Now can I please get some guy-friendly theatre to write about? Between Mamma Mia! and Legally Blonde, I'm kinda overwhelmed with girl-friendly shows here. Don't they need stars for Jersey Boys? I'm just asking is all.

Finale for "The Search for Elle"

A reminder that the finale of MTV's Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods is on this evening at 10 p.m. (and gee, how I'll miss typing that ridiculously long title).

Apparently one of the three remaining actors - Bailey, Autumn or Rhiannon - (as seen in this cheerful photo courtesy MTV) will be eliminated early in the show, and the remaining two will have a final audition with the cast of the show on the Broadway stage (though presumably not during an actual performance).

As always, we'll have a recap here afterwards. Nothing's too good for you, gentle reader!

A Clip from "Mamma Mia!"

Just to give you an idea of the kind of fun you can expect in the movie Mamma Mia!, here's a clip from the "Dancing Queen" number. The clip isn't of the highest quality, but what do you want for nothing? Rubber biscuit? (Sorry, old Blues Brothers gag.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Mamma Mia! The Movie" - The Review

There are lots of reasons to dislike Mamma Mia! The Movie.

The film, which is based on the popular and long-running Broadway musical, which is in turn based on the pop music of Abba, is basically a thin story that centers around a young woman who’s about to get married. She decides to invite the three men who might be her father to her wedding on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Many hijinks ensue.

What’s not to like? Well, the story is silly - it centers around a problem that could be resolved in the beginning, if the daughter had just been honest with her mom. The story has to stretch more than once to accommodate an Abba song that doesn’t really fit. While the setting is beautiful (much of the film was shot on location), the direction doesn’t really make the most of the dance numbers, and too much of the film is shot in close-up, which is fine for TV, but a bit much in the theater. Also, the story actually centers more around the middle-aged cast than around the young bride.

But despite all that, I have to admit that I had a great time watching this movie! The sheer energy and exuberance of the show and (especially) the music carry you along, and the performances are sweet, touching and very funny. It’s great to see a show that actually does focus on a mature cast, and gives them a lot to do.

In fact, it’s amazing how many real-looking people there are in the cast. Like any good musical, at any time anyone can burst into song, and that makes for some very funny scenes indeed, with “Dancing Queen” being the best example.

It’s also one of those films that makes you think, “Is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do?” She’s not only one of our greatest actors, she’s also a heck of a fine singer.

I suppose if you don’t care for Abba’s music, then you might want to avoid this movie. But judging by the crowd in the show I attended, there’s a reason why Mamma Mia! has been a hit for so long - it’s just a heck of a lot of fun! I defy you to walk out of the theater without a smile on your face.

(Oh, and don’t be too quick to leave at the end - there’s a priceless bit during the first part of the credits you’ll want to see.)

Highly recommended!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Mamma Mia!"

I saw the new movie today which is based on the Broadway show Mamma Mia! The theater was packed, although I'm pretty sure The Dark Knight sold a few more tickets.

I saw the show with my lovely wife and her Mom and sister, and yes, there were quite a few guys in the audience, so I wasn't the only one. We all... but wait, I'm working on a review, so I'll save my (our?) comments until that's done - but be patient, I probably won't get it posted until tomorrow.

I know, the suspense is killing you! Bear with me, gentle readers!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hurry! Time is Running Out to Catch "Dr. Horrible!"

You don't have to drop a house on me!

At the urging of: son Evan, who writes two blogs - one for the Herald-Dispatch on video games (Blog: The Video Game) and one on music (Evan Listens Z-A); my pal Angela, who writes two blogs for the H-D - one about television shows (Stay Tuned) and one on American Idol (Idol Chit-Chat); and my pal Len, who used to work at the H-D (see how it's all connected?) - they've all been urging me to go watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (which you can find at www.drhorrible.com).

So I did - and guess what? It's a hoot! It's an Internet-only mini-film created by Joss Whedon. There are three segments in all, and each one runs about 12 minutes (or so). It follows the story of Dr. Horrible (played perfectly by Neil Patrick Harris, of How I Met Your Mother), who's trying to join a league of super-villains, but is thwarted by two obstacles.

The first is a really annoying superhero, Captain Hammer, played with zest by the terrific Nathan Fillion (could we please have more Firefly?) The second obstacle: Dr. Horrible finds himself falling in love with a woman he meets at the laundromat (played sweetly by Felicia Day).

Like any good musical, it's not unusual for the characters to suddenly burst into song - and the songs are fun, sweet and/or very well done. It's all done in a low budget but very creative way.

Now here's the tricky part - you can watch the first two episodes free, and the third and final episode will be available tomorrow - but only until midnight Saturday night. Then, to see the Doc's adventures, you'll have to buy the DVD.

So don't waste time hanging around here - go check it out! You'll be glad you did! But after you're finished, drop back by - we miss you when you're gone!

Oh, and I just realized my pal Angela also blogged about the show - you can read her entry right here. We try not to blog about the same things, but the funny bit is - this falls outside both our blogs! It's not TV and it's not musical theatre - but it's a weird combination of the two, so what the heck!

More Photos from the Tony Awards

A few days ago in this post I told you about my pal Nigel who went on a vacation trip to New York City with his lovely wife Judith last month.

They found themselves outside Radio City Music Hall where the stars of Broadway were gathering for the Tony Awards. Nigel took several photos, and he shared them with us - and now I have a few more he sent along to show you.

The first one shows the crowd of photographers and other press-type individuals who were there to cover the event. Pretty impressive for a show that just gets so-so ratings!

Of course, the Tonys are all about the stars, and here's one now. John Lithgow first became famous in movies like The World According to Garp, and has done TV shows like Third Rock from the Sun, but these days he seems to be spending most of his time on the Broadway stage. He's a terrific performer and a very funny guy.

Our final shot from Nigel shows a surprised-looking Lily Tomlin. She's another tremendous comedian and actor who we don't see often enough, if you ask me. Isn't it about time for an Edith Ann revival?

Nigel, thanks again for sharing your photos, you star-gazer, you!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Stage This Weekend

There are several shows for you to choose from this weekend, including:

- Huntington Outdoor Theatre's Romeo & Juliet takes the stage at the Ritter Park Amphitheater on July 18, 19 and 20.

- Jenny Wiley Theater has several shows running this weekend and next week, including: The Wizard of Oz on July 19 and 23; Honky Tonk Angels on July 18 and 25; Little Red: Life in the Hood on July 20 and 22; and A Chorus Line on July 18 and 24.

- The Portsmouth Little Theatre will present the classic story of Alice in Wonderland July 18, 19 and 20. The show has a cast of 36 kids and features lots of song and dance.

Check 'em out!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Stage's Upcoming Season

I keep meaning to post about the upcoming season for First Stage Theatre Company, but I've been holding off because the group plans to produce three shows - but hasn't made the final decision about what that third show will be.

When the decision is made (soon), I'll post the official notice. But what the heck - here are the other two shows that have already been selected:

- Peter Pan will take flight (literally) in late October / early November. The classic musical will be staged at the new Huntington High School, and will be directed by Mary Smirl and produced by Elaine Young. Watch for announcements - the auditions are coming up in late August. This show was a huge success for First Stage when the group first put it on about 10 years ago, and it offers lots of parts to a wide variety of ages - they'll need Lost Boys and Indians and Pirates and a bunch of other characters, too. It'll be a blast!

The second show is:

- A Year With Frog and Toad, the Broadway hit based on the famous children's books by Arnold Lobel. It was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award as Best Musical. Funny and uplifting, the family musical follows two great friends, the cheerful Frog and the grumpy Toad through four fun-filled seasons. Oh, and it's going to be directed by... what was his name again? Oh, yeah - me! I love this show and am looking forward to tackling it. Auditions will probably be early in January, and the show will probably take the stage in March, but the details are still being worked out. The cast won't be nearly as big as Peter Pan's, but there will be several parts for all ages.

What will the third show be? Inquiring minds want to know! But you'll still have to be patient a little longer. Sorry!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Derek Keeling on Starring in "Grease"

You can catch a short interview with West Virginia's own Derek Keeling, who will soon be starring on Broadway in Grease with Ashley Spencer.

They were part of the competition on the reality show Grease: You're the One That I Want. Their first performance as Danny and Sandy is July 22 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

You can see the video on Broadway.com right here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Search for Elle - Part 7

We're one show away from the finale to Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search for Elle, and the pressure is on as the four finalists fight for the lead role.

It's amazing to realize that none of the candidates have ever performed on Broadway - and the producers are getting ready to give one of them the lead role in a difficult (and very entertaining) show.

Still, all four candidates have lots of potential. This episode started with the usual snipping between the girls about how bad they want to win and how another actor isn't as strong at singing or dancing or acting. Blah, blah, blah - more performances, less griping, please.

The first challenge they faced was a training exercise that forced them to combine the three vital skills for an actor in a musical - singing while dancing and acting. It's interesting that each actor has a weakness - Rhiannon struggles with singing, Autumn with dancing, and Bailey and Lauren with acting. The judges commented at one point (and this is something every director has probably said at one time or another) that they wished they could combine each actor's strong point into a Frankenstein-ish performer. But that trick never works.

After being treated to a fancy dinner, the actors faced their next challenge - two days of rehearsal for the performance of the song, "What You Want," which (naturally) combined the three disciplines, and threw in a quick costume change, too. The audition also included several performers from the Broadway show (and you can't help but wonder how they feel about these newcomers getting a shot at the lead role).

Each performance had positives and negatives - and Bailey managed to overcome being handed the wrong hat, which kept sliding down over her eyes (as seen in the above photo, courtesy MTV). Either Lauren has a huge noggin or Bailey has a golf ball head - I'm not sure which.

All four actors had to face the judges, and in the end, Lauren was sent home - mostly because of her youth and inexperience. At the very end, the judges dropped another shocker for the actors - the director only wants to see two candidates in the final audition, so another actor will be cut - but apparently not until the beginning of the next episode.

So one more show will give us the winner. I still think it's going to come down to Bailey and Autumn, but we'll see - Rhiannon has great stage presence, but I just don't think she has the pipes for the job.

We'll find out next week!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Romeo & Juliet" - A Review

Creating a show for the theatre is all about taking chances, and Huntington Outdoor Theatre took a big one this year in creating their own version of William Shakespeare’s most well-known play, Romeo & Juliet.

Since HOT only produces musicals, they had the idea of combining modern music with the classic text. Needless to say, that’s not the kind of thing Shakespeare purists are going to be happy about - but for the general audience, you end up with a show that combines the fun of musical theatre with an enduring tragic tale. Kudos to HOT for having the courage to stick their necks out!

And a special “hats off” to my pal Mark Smith, the show's musical director, who tackled the job of not only teaching the music to the cast, but figuring out what songs to use and how to incorporate them into the show. It was a herculean job, and HOT was lucky to have Mark there ready, willing and able to tackle the job! The cast sounds fantastic on those numbers, and Mark deserves a lot of credit for that. Also, he's assembled an outstanding band to provide the music for the show.

Of course, if you’re going to tackle one of the classic shows in the history of theatre, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a really talented cast on hand - and that’s exactly what HOT did.

In the title role of Juliet is Brittany Hazeldine, an incredibly talented actress and a powerful singer - she’s wonderful in the role. (I’ve bragged about her many times for past performances, and I’ve directed her in shows before, so I admit to being prejudiced - but she really lights up the stage.)

Playing Romeo is a relative newcomer to the stage, Philip Cron, and he also does an excellent job as both an actor and a singer. Together, he and Brittany have great chemistry as the classic star-crossed lovers.

As Benvolio, Josh Meredith turns in an excellent performance, and he gets to show off his extraordinary singing and dancing skills - a terrific job!

Chuck Herndon nearly steals the show as Mercutio, the brash and very funny friend of Romeo’s. He’s also involved in an excellent swordfighting sequence with Tybalt, played with villainous flair by Wesley Boggs. Their scenes together throw off real sparks (and probably leave more than a few bruises).

Angela Hunt also gets to steal the spotlight for a few scenes as Juliet’s Nurse - she’s very funny, and pitch perfect in every way.

Stephen Vance and Joanna Bokovitz do excellent work as Juliet’s parents, the Lord and Lady Capulet, as they make the transition from loving parents to brutally harsh tyrants in the course of the play.

Shayne Gue turns in another fine performance as Juliet’s suitor, Paris, and he gets to sing “She’s Got a Way,” one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

Kristopher Corbett has a fun turn as the (somewhat) eccentric Friar Lawrence, whose well-meant schemes bring the plot to its tragic peak.

Nathan Cron has a brief turn as the Apothecary, and gets to have a lot of fun singing “Love Potion #9.”

Ryan Jackson holds the story together as the law-enforcing Prince, who struggles to keep the peace between the warring Montague and Capulet families.

I also have to give a shout-out to Chris Crawford for his very funny turn as Balthasar - it’s not a big part, but he gets the laughs in the song, “Love Stinks.”

Kudos to the rest of the cast for their excellent supporting efforts, including Mark Radford, Thomas Rice, Hilary Roush, Keith VanDyke, Lexi Smith, Cody Verbage, Logan Moye, Chad Arthur, Casey Homonai, Alaina Krantz, Kelsey McCallister, Grace McMicken, Angela Pino, Rachel Tadlock, Sheri Tadlock and Mary Frances Wilkes.

Congratulations also for outstanding work by the directing team, including Director Helen Freeman, Choreographer Patti Freeman, Fight Choreographer Jack Cirillo, and Scenic Designer Steven Freeman (who also came up with the creative concept).

Most of the people who sit in the audience and watch a show have no idea how much time and effort goes into a production like this. It’s a tremendous commitment, and my hats are off to the actors, the directors, the tech crew and all those who put so much time and effort into the production! Take a bow, y'all!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Twilight" Casting Call

Hey, here's an unusual casting call - Empire Books is looking for some actors to play the part of some literary characters. From the Herald-Dispatch online, we find:
Empire Books and News at Pullman Square will have a Midnight Masquerade Ball in celebration of the release of Stephenie Meyer's much-anticipated fourth installment in her Twilight series - "Breaking Dawn."

In honor of the event, Empire is seeking people interested in playing characters from the series. There will be no monetary compensation, but you will receive a party package to commemorate the event. The characters needed are: Edward Cullen, Jacob Black, Alice Cullen, Carlisle Cullen, Esme Cullen, Jasper Hale, Rosalie Hale and Emmett Cullen.

People interested in participating and acting as one of these characters should report to Empire Books and News at 6 p.m. on either July 14 or July 16. Please show up in full character.

For questions or more information e-mail bdreleaseparty@gmail.com

Friday, July 11, 2008

More about "Romeo & Juliet"

My pal Dave Lavender provides an excellent story about the Huntington Outdoor Theatre production of Romeo & Juliet in this week's Herald-Dispatch. You can read it right here.

Of course, the show starts tonight at Huntington's Ritter Park Amphitheater. Don't miss it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Checking In On Theatre Camp

My pal Jonathan Joy sent along this information, and with his permission I'm passing it along to you, gentle reader. He wrote:
My wife Rissie and I are wrapping up a week long theatre camp at the Huntington Museum of Art on Friday.

It's hard to believe this is our seventh straight summer doing this. At this point, I've been teaching longer than many of the students have been alive. Our end-of-week showcase will feature 28 kids (ages 5-8) performing a variety of scenes/skits that they have worked on throughout the week. The performance will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday afternoon and will feature plays such as The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Where the Wild Things Are and much more. It is free and open to the public and should make for an entertaining hour of uninhibited and fun youth theatre. We're looking to have our biggest audience ever in the Grace Rardin Doherty Auditorium. Wish us luck!

Also, I'll be returning to Saturday KidsArt at the Museum this weekend. For anyone out there with youngsters, this is a great (and free!) program for students ages 4-10. It runs from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon every Saturday and features lots of activities in art, music, drama, dance and more. I've been working with the SKA crew on and off for nearly seven years and we always have a lot of fun. Spread the word!
Consider it spread! So there you go - two free, fun programs at the museum for kids, and a great learning opportunity, too! Thanks, Jon!

On Stage This Weekend - "Romeo," "Chorus Line" and "Little Red"

You have three great shows to choose from this weekend, including:

- Huntington Outdoor Theatre's Romeo & Juliet takes the stage July 11,12 and 13 at the Ritter Park Amphitheater.

- Jenny Wiley Theater presents two shows this weekend: A Chorus Line on July 11 and 12 and Little Red: Life in the Hood on July 13.

Check 'em out!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Search For Elle - Part 6

Ah, the trials of an actress trying to break into Broadway. On this week's episode of Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search for Elle, the five remaining actors (out of the original 10) once again faced three challenges.

For the first challenge, they went to a salon for a makeover, and that meant the two actors who were not already blonde had a change of color. Autumn lost her beautiful red hair, and Natalie went from brunette to blonde. I had to laugh when Bailey cried because they trimmed a tiny amount of her hair - not to be cruel, but as you can tell from my photo on the right there, don't be complaining about your bad haircut to me. ;-)

Anyway, from there the actors met and chatted with Laura Bell Bundy, who will soon be giving up the lead role in the musical. Then they had a photo shoot, with the one chosen as the best getting a date with Andy Karl, one of the actors from the musical.

The final challenge - and the most important one - was singing the "Legally Blonde" ballad, one of the most emotional songs from the show. It was a great chance for each actor to show her vocal and emotional range, and since we're down to five contestants, we got to see a healthy section of of each audition.

The judges seem to like Autumn a lot, and this audition shows why - her emotions poured out, and her voice was powerful. In fact, she was the only one who had an outstanding audition - the others seemed to struggle, and Rhiannon hit a bad note (though she quickly recovered).

The final decision came down to the three pictured above (as always, the photo is courtesy MTV) - Bailey, Rhiannon and Natalie.

It seems unfair that Natalie got cut right after becoming blonde, but I suspect her height was the real problem - she was the shortest of the group by several inches. That leaves us with four candidates. If I was a betting man, I'd say it'll come down to Bailey and Autumn - but given my track record for predicting these things, I'm probably way off. We'll see!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Stars at the Tonys

While I was sitting in front of the TV live-blogging the Tony Awards last month, I had no idea that my pal Nigel Kitching and his lovely wife were vacationing in New York - and happened to be outside the Radio City Music Hall as the stars were arriving! Nigel's an excellent artist, and (as we see here), he's also a darn good photographer!

He kindly agreed to let me share a few photos with you, including this one of "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, who's carving out an impressive stage career, too. He was a presenter at the Tonys, of course.

And here's one more photo - as British actor Patrick Stewart makes his way into the theater. He was nominated for his star turn in Macbeth (the show many actors refuse to name aloud, because it's considered bad luck). Unfortunately, the role didn't bring him a Tony. What does a starship Captain have to do to win an award in this town?

Thanks for sharing, Nigel! Now I can go back to being incredibly jealous of your trip to the Big Apple!

Monday, July 07, 2008

On Stage This Weekend - Romeo and Juliet

Thanks to my pal Stephen Vance for sending along some photos from the rehearsals for Huntington Outdoor Theatre's first summer show, Romeo and Juliet.

HOT deserves a lot of credit for tackling this show. Shakespeare is challenging all on its own, but HOT is offering its own take on the Bard by adding modern music to the mix. It's a daring move, but theatre is all about taking risks, after all.

There have been some interesting takes on Shakespeare by changing the time and setting, and I can't wait to see what they've cooked up.

The first show kicks off this Friday at the Ritter Park Amphitheatre, with more shows on July 12,13,18,19,20. Then HOT will offer another musical, Anything Goes!, on July 25,26,27 and August 1,2,3.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jersey Boys - A Review

On a recent trip to Chicago my lovely wife and I paid a visit to the beautiful Bank of America Theatre and enjoyed one of the best stage shows I've ever seen - Jersey Boys!

All I knew about the show going in was that it was based on the true-life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and that it was a huge hit on Broadway. After seeing the show, it's easy to see why it's so popular.

Basically, the show manages the difficult task of blending the best elements of a musical and a concert. Through some incredible and inventive stage work, the show takes you along for the ride, as the members of the band join up and travel from the back alleys of New Jersey to prison to dreary clubs and finally to the world's biggest stage.

Along the way there are lots of laughs, a lot of colorful language (this isn't a show for little ones), and lots of great music.

The cast was absolutely perfect, incredibly talented and hard-working - the "Four Seasons" sing a ton of songs, and the supporting actors appear in many different roles throughout the show.

I really can't say enough good things about this show - it's one I could watch over and over and never get tired of it. It's loaded with lots of energy, drama, humor and a terrific story. Highly recommended!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

New Works and Marshall's Upcoming Season

I've been on the run lately and only got to see the first night of the Robert Hinchman New Works Festival at Marshall University, but what a great time it was!

The audience got to hear readings of four plays - three comedies and a drama. All were excellent, entertaining and/or thought-provoking. The plays included:

- the somewhat modified Lunch at the Fork 'n Finger by Jonathan Joy, which tells the story of a young man who tries to come to terms with his mom's new boyfriend, a man who is his polar opposite. It's a funny, touching, slice-of-life story - the sort of thing Jon does extremely well.

- Things Get Done by Paul Deines was the serious entry for the night, and a very thoughtful and intelligent production it was, focusing on a revolution in New York. We were still discussing it long after we'd left the theater.

- Knight-Owl by Clint McElroy offered the very funny story of a scoundrel who tries to get rich by posing as a super-hero, only to find the world of fighting bad guys isn't all it's cracked up to be. It was easy to imagine this as a network sitcom - it was funnier than anything I've seen on TV in years.

- Sandwiched around the other shows was the comedy Stealing Romance by T. Michael Murdock, also very funny and sprinkled with Mike's trademark salty dialogue, which I love to tease him about, which is why I mention it here. It tells the story of an unlikely romance between a would-be crook and a video store employee, and features a hilariously vile character portrayed by Jonathan Joy (in other words, the last guy you'd expect to be, well, vile).

In addition to these terrific readings, the back of the program featured a treat - namely, the schedule for the Marshall University Theatre Department's upcoming season, which will include:

- George M!, which features the music of George M. Cohan;

- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams;

- Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas; and

- Epic Proportions by Larry Coen and David Crane.

Sounds like another great season from MU!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Post the flag, freedom lovers - it's time to celebrate the 232nd birthday of the good ol' U.S.A.!

Gentle readers, I think we're blessed to live in this country! Sure, it has problems - that's a part of life - but pause for a minute today to think about our forefathers and foremothers who made their home here (whether tens, hundreds or thousands of years ago), and made this country what it is today.

We can be grateful to live in a land that cherishes liberty and freedom, and be thankful to all those who work hard every day to make it all possible.

So get out there today - have a cookout, go on a picnic, see a concert, visit loved ones... and have a Happy July 4th, everyone!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free Concert on the Fourth of July!

What better way to celebrate the birthday of the USA than a free concert and some fireworks?

You can enjoy both as the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the City of Charleston present a 4th of July Concert Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Haddad Riverfront Park "On the Levee" in downtown Charleston.

The concert features my pal (and Symphony Idol) Ryan Hardiman singing "I Need To Know" and "This Is The Moment" (from the musical Jekyll & Hyde), "Remember When It Rained" (Josh Groban) and "Music of The Night" (from Phantom of the Opera).

The program will also include music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Frank Wildhorn, Josh Groban, John Philip Sousa and John Williams. There will be a Salute to Veterans and a performance of Tchaikovsky's immortal "1812" overture.

For more information, visit the orchestra's website at wvsymphony.org.

Don't miss it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Shows On Stage in July

There are lots of great shows on the way for July, including:

- The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra will present a Free Concert on Friday, July 4 at 8:30 p.m. at Haddad Riverfront Park on the levee in downtown Charleston, featuring four songs from Symphony Idol Ryan Hardiman! The show will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the river!

- Huntington Outdoor Theatre rolls out its summer shows beginning with Romeo & Juliet on July 11,12,13,18,19,20, which is followed by performances of Anything Goes! on July 25,26,27 and August 1,2,3.

- Jenny Wiley Theater kicks its season into high gear with a ton of shows: Wizard of Oz on July 5,16,19,23,26,27,29,30; Honky Tonk Angels on July 3,6,10,18,25; Little Red: Life in the Hood on July 8,13,20,22; and A Chorus Line on July 11,12,15,17,18,24,31.

- The Charleston Light Opera Guild will present Grease: The Musical at the Clay Center on July 25,26,27 and Aug. 1,2,3.

Let me know if there are any I've missed!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Search for Elle - Part 5

The reality show with the longest title yet continued this week as they narrow down the contestants in Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods.

In this week's episode the six actors left (of the 10 original contestants) faced three challenges - two genuine auditions and one silly soap opera moment.

The first challenge was a dance audition. They were taught a brief sequence from the musical (quaintly referred to as the "Shake Your Junk" number), then given high-heeled pink boots and made to perform the dance on a cobblestone street in New York (see the photo above, which is courtesy MTV). The idea was to simulate the treacherous dance surface in an actual show, where you have to work around cables, tracks in the floor and other obstacles. That was an interesting take on a dancing audition, and it's a part of performing in a show that most people aren't aware of.

The second challenge was the silly one. Back at their apartment, the actors were given a questionnaire to fill out - but the questions were all hurtful, like "Who's the worst singer," "Who's the worst dancer" - that kind of thing. Many tears followed, and finally they decided to turn the questions around to make them more positive and less hurtful, such as "Who's the most improved dancer / singer / etc." Since the questionnaire is never mentioned again, we don't find out if they were all penalized for breaking the rules. Again, this is the silly stuff that seems so unnecessary in a competition like this - it's just an attempt to create phony drama.

The final challenge was back to the real world, as the actors were taught a dance routinue for the next day - but they were only given 40 minutes of instruction, so they had to work together to fine-tune their performance. The good thing about the fact that there are only six competitors left is that we actually got to see each actor perform, so we (the viewers) can start deciding which one we believe has what it takes to be the next Elle.

There was plenty of real drama in the audition, as Autumn had to run from the room after her routine so she could throw up, and others had to face some harsh criticism from the judges. If nothing else, this show emphasizes the importance of being able to "do it all" at auditions - sing, dance and act - because the star has to do all three, usually all at the same time.

At the end, Emma was eliminated - and she's been sick for the last two episodes, so perhaps that had something to do with it. (Once again, the lesson is: don't smoke, kids!)

But aside from some of the silly stuff, this show is still holding my interest - and that's a lot more than I could say about Grease: You're the One That I Want.

Jim Stone Scholarship for Graduating Seniors

Here's an announcement to bring to the attention of graduating seniors: applications are now being accepted for First Stage Theatre Company's Jim Stone Scholarship.

Jim was an excellent actor, a great guy and a strong supporter of the arts, and in his honor a scholarship is handed out each year to a deserving graduate who plans to study the arts in college. The scholarship provides $250 a year for four years (so it's actually a $1000 award).

If you know any seniors who qualify, let them know about it. Here's the information:
First Stage accepting applications for scholarship

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 the arts and mentor to local children in the performing arts. A $250 scholarship is available for 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 scholarship may be renewed each year for a total of four years. Three previous winners are eligible to renew their scholarships this year.

The deadline for entries is Monday, August 11, 2008.

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.