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, April 30, 2009

On Stage - "South Pacific"

There's a must-see show taking the stage this weekend!

South Pacific will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild May 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m., and May 10 at 3 p.m. at the Civic Center Little Theater. Tickets are $20.

The Broadway musical is a classic, and well worth the drive to the capitol city! (Uh, unless you already live nearby, of course - then it's an easy drive.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Spelling Bee" Gallery

Hey, you can catch some photos from last night's performance of the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Herald-Dispatch photo gallery.

The show took the stage last night at the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center. The gallery includes this shot of my pal Clint McElroy, who apparently once again demonstrated his amazing skill at spelling - though he ended up with just a juice box for his troubles.

If you missed it this time around, watch for it in the future - it's a very funny show!

By the way, the photos were taken by Taylor Kuykendall, who also writes a music blog for the H-D, which you can read right here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Stage This Week - "Cinderella"

Hey, here's a theatre story in today's Herald-Dispatch about a fun show coming up this week:
Lincoln County High School will present its spring show, Cinderella, on Thursday-Friday, April 30- May 1.

Showtimes are 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, April 30, and 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, May 1.

Admission is $3 for children and $6 for adults. Performances are in the Lincoln County High School Performing Arts Center. Proceeds will benefit the theatre and choral music program.

The cast includes Ariel King, Cinderella; Cody Cremeans, Prince Charming; Troy Adkins, King; Julia Clevenger, Queen; Haleigh Cooper, stepmother; Molly Hoke, stepsister; Sarahy Hoke, stepsister; Marycait Hoke, Fairy Godmother; Clay McCallister, Herald; Kyle Garret, steward; Elizabeth Taylor, court tailor; Susie Slone, chef/mother/woman; Steven Hoffman, townsman, footman, jester; Jen Gagnon, guard; Emery Adkins, minister; Neal Smith, clumsy man/man at ball; Jordan Walls, woman at ball; Zoe Murray, woman at ball; Heather Young, sloppy girl; Bonnie King, girl at ball; Lydia Roberts, horse; Emily Cadd, girl/horse; Luke Roberts, boy/horse; Caleb Cook, man; Farrah Chojnacki, girl/horse; Chris Malone, father/man at ball; and Debra Hager, girl at ball.

Children from Hamlin Community School also have parts in the show.

The show is directed by Paula Nelson and choreographed by Travis Edwards with music by David Cook.

Lights and sound are by Andrew Elkins and Kasandra Spalding; stage manager, Teryn Hall; lighting design, Tyler Nelson; stage hands are Adam McCallister, Cheyanne Tomblin, Jacob Lucas, Cody Lambert, Hannah Matthews and Thomas Roberts.

The school is located at 81 Panther Way, Hamlin, W.Va.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On Stage This Week - "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Saving the best for last, on Tuesday that Marshall Artists Series presents as its final show of the season the hilarious Broadway comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Oh, and it has nothing to do with West Virginia's Putnam County.

My pal Dave Lavender turns in a great story previewing the show, including a terrific story from another pal o' mine, Clint McElroy, who relates his hilarious experience when he saw the show on Broadway.

You can read the story right here. Here's an excerpt:
How does the Marshall Artists Series spell hilarious?

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G B-E-E.

The Marshall Artists Series will be closing out its 72nd season with some song and dance, and some snorts and chuckles.

It's the nerd-and-word filled fun of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, to be performed live at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $55, $50 and $45. Youth tickets are $27.50, $25 and $22.50.

To clear the confusion early on, let it be known that this musical is based in Putnam County, N.Y., and is not employing kid spellers from Cabell County's neighboring county of Putnam County, W.Va.

Run on Broadway from April 2005 to Jan. 20 2008, the musical captures the journey of six young spellers in the throes of puberty and overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves.

Along the way, the oft-quirky and heart-warming show teaches that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.
You can read my review of the show I saw back in 2006 right here.

Oh, and I should mention that, despite appearances, it's not necessarily a show for kids - there are a few bad words in there. But if that doesn't bother you, it's a very funny show!

Highly recommended!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Auditions for "The Wedding Singer"

Auditions are coming up next week for this summer's Huntington Outdoor Theatre show, The Wedding Singer.

The auditions will take place at Held at Trinity Episcopal at 520 11th Street in Huntington. Enter from the 11th Street side.

The auditions will be held at these times:

May 2 - 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

May 3 - 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

May 9 - 10:00 a.m. to noon

For more information call (304) 523-8080 or (304) 412-3393.

There are roles for individuals ages 7 and up.

Good luck!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Epic Proportions" - A Review

Last night I finally got a chance to see the show Epic Proportions at Marshall University, so let me just caution you - tonight's your last chance to catch it, and if you miss it, you're missing out on a lot of laughs.

The show takes the stage at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, and it tells the "story behind the story" of the filming of a Biblical epic. It follows the story of two brothers who get swept up in the production.

The audience becomes part of the show in a clever way, as you play the part of the thousands of extras who fill out the classic film (don't worry, there's no heavy lifting required).

The most vital ingredient in any stage comedy is to have actors with great comedic skills, and this show has that in abundance. Playing the lead, Benny, is Chuck Herndon, and I've watched him grow from being a talented child actor in Huntington's community theatre into being an incredibly gifted adult actor. His comic timing is absolutely perfect, and he's terrific in the lead.

That's not to slight the rest of the cast:

- Emily Chapman is stunning and very funny as Louise, the sexy assistant director who aspires to greater things, and has the impossible job of keeping the extras under control.

- Chris Ferris plays Benny's ambitious brother Phil and does a great job at both comedy and the action scenes (you don't see too many sword fights in comedies).

- Jeremy Plyburn absolutely kills as D. W. DeWitt, the mastermind behind the film. His delivery is worthy of any Mel Brooks film.

- the supporting actors also turn in terrific work, including the radiant Alyssa Jimenez as the Queen of the Nile, the talented and funny Dylan Clark as Jack and Brady, Christian Whitt, who gets several great death scenes as Octavian, Nathan Mohebbi, who gets great laughs as the Slave Master and Cochette's Assistant, Scott Burner, one of the comical conspirators, along with Erik Woods and Rocky Scarbro, who take part in a very funny and laughably inept assassination scene, Caitlin Haught is a hoot as Cochette, the fashion designer, and Alisha Woodall has fun as a Dancing Girl.

- I should also mention the "best supporting voiceover" performance by my pal Clint McElroy - if you're doing a comedy, it's always a good idea to get him involved, since he has the sharpest comedic mind around.

As always with Marshall's productions, the set design, costumes and tech work is exceptional - the best in the business. Kudos as always to my pal Jack Cirillo, who directed this madness and turned it into a finely crafted comic masterpiece.

Honest to Pete, you're going to enjoy this show - but if you plan to go, I advise calling ahead to reserve tickets. Friday's show was a near sellout, and this is a show you don't want to miss. Just be ready to laugh. A lot!

Friday, April 24, 2009

On Stage This Weekend - Three Shows

You have three great shows to choose from this weekend!

- The comedy Epic Proportions (pictured here) will be presented at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for Adults, $12 for Seniors, MU Faculty & Staff, $7 for ages 17 and under, and $5 for School groups of 20 or more.

- A Little Night Music will be presented by ACTC (Ashland Community and Technical College) tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

- Norman Rockwell’s American Paradise will be presented by CYAC tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. at WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summers Street in Charleston. Tickets are $9.50 for Adults and $5.50 for Student/Seniors.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Stage Tonight: "Epic Proportions"

The comedy Epic Proportions takes the stage tonight and runs through Saturday at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

In case you haven't heard of it, here's a description of the show:
Epic Proportions by Larry Coen and David Crane

April 22-25, 2009
8:00 p.m. nightly

Set in the 1930s, Epic Proportions tells the story of two brothers, Benny and Phil, who go to the Arizona desert to be extras in the huge Biblical epic Exeunt Omnes.

Things move very quickly in this riotous comedy and before you know it, Phil is directing the movie, and Benny is starring in it. To complicate matters further they both fall in love with Louise, the assistant director in charge of the extras.

Along the way there are gladiator battles, the Ten Plagues and a cast of thousands portrayed by four other actors.
Tickets are:
$14 - Adults
$12 - Seniors, MU Faculty & Staff
$7 - 17 and under
$5 - School groups of 20 or more.

Call 304-696-2787 for more information.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"The 5 Browns" Take the Stage

You can see some great photos from tonight's performance by The 5 Browns right here at the Herald-Dispatch photo gallery.

The photos by Toril Lavender show the piano virtuosos in concert as part of the Marshall Artists Series at The Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

I wish I could have seen it - but from what I hear, it was a great performance!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Stage - "The 5 Browns"

Coming up on Wednesday is an outstanding show by the group known as The 5 Browns (pictured here).

Our man Dave Lavender filed this story for The Herald-Dispatch. Here's an excerpt:
Everybody is going green on Wednesday in honor of Earth Day.

Well, not everybody, the Marshall Artists Series is going Brown, and in a big way.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Artists Series will host The 5 Browns, a full house of Utah-raised piano virtuosos, siblings Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae.

As seen on TV on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The View and The Martha Stewart Show, the rightfully titled "Fab Five" will be live in concert at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in downtown Huntington.

Tickets are $45, $40 & $35 and youth tickets (age 17 and under) are priced $22.50, $20 and $17.50.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.marshallartistsseries.org or www.ticketmaster.com.

The twentysomethings, home-schooled kids that all began playing piano at about age 3 burst onto the scene when the oldest Brown, Desirae, began to plan for college and her year-younger sister Deondra decided to accelerate her education to be in school at the same time.

They got accepted into New York's prestigious School. A year later, they were joined at the school by Gregory, Melody, and Ryan, making the Browns the first family of five siblings ever accepted simultaneously.

While they were all trained as soloists, about five years ago they started playing together.

Signed to Sony BMG Masterworks, The 5 Browns have become one of the top classical groups, racking up three No. 1 Billboard classical charting CDs, "The Five Browns" in 2005; "No Boundaries" in 2006 and "Browns in Blue" in 2007.

With their fingers blazing on their Steinways, The 5 Browns are winning over a new generation to classical music.
I've heard great things about this group, and this show is highly recommended!

Monday, April 20, 2009

All The News You Can Use

Wow, we're overflowing with stories today! Check it out:

- You can get a peek at Marshall Department of Theatre's production of Epic Proportions (which starts Wednesday) in this gallery of photos shot by Lori Wolfe for the Herald-Dispatch.

Here's a brief description of that comedy:
Think Mel Brooks meets Monty Python for the latest offering from the Marshall University Theater Department. Epic Proportions, a show its director, Jack Cirillo called a "farce in the Brooks-Python tradition" hits the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse in 8 p.m. shows nightly Wednesday through Saturday, April 22-25.
- You can read a story right here about a Marshall graduate who's presenting a final performance before he heads off to Broadway. Here's an excerpt from the story by Bill Rosenberger:
Sean Watkins leaves April 30 to start a three-week Broadway workshop for Bruce Lee: Journey to the West, a show that is scheduled to debut in 2010. Before he leaves, though, Watkins will perform a self-directed, one-man show called Broadway and Beyond at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center, 1040 4th Ave., Huntington. Donations are being accepted for a local charity and for travel and living expenses for Watkins while he is in New York. "I wanted to do something as a final farewell and a thank-you," he said, adding that accompianist Bruce Rous will play for him.
- Tomorrow night you can catch the classic sound of The Temptations in Ashland. You can read more about it in this story by Beth Hendricks:
Celebrating five decades this calendar year, Motown made greats such as The Temptations a household name. On Tuesday, April 21, the group made famous thanks to songs like "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" visits the Paramount Arts Center. Showtime is 7 p.m. "I think there are a lot of different reasons why The Temptations are still around - being part of Motown, being part of so many wonderful hit records," said Otis Williams, the only surviving member of the original group. He is joined onstage by Terry Weeks, G. C. Cameron, Ron Tyson and Joe Herndon.
- On Wednesday, the Marshall Artists Series will present The 5 Browns at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. April 22. The group is classical music's first family of piano virtuosos. Tickets are $35; $40; $45 - for more information, call 304-696-3326.

- Huntington Outdoor Theatre (HOT) has announced that its summer show will be The Wedding Singer, a Broadway musical based on an Adam Sandler movie. Auditions are coming up early next month - I'll have more on this in the near future.

Whew! That should do for now. More community theatre news as it develops!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thoughts on "A Little Night Music"

My pal Zach Davis is starring in the ACTC production of A Little Night Music, and he sent along some comments about the show, which continues next weekend in Ashland, Ky.

He wrote:
Here are just a few reflective thoughts about A Little Night Music in Ashland that I would like to express to your faithful readers.

...Instruments warming up, soft crowd murmurs, and over a dozen actors and actresses anxiously awaiting the call for "places." These are just typical feelings and sounds your have when a musical hits a stage on opening night.

However, Friday night was slightly different. As many have heard, Ashland Community and Technical College has sadly been dark until recently. Last night marked the first adult show back on the stage since this past summer.

Ashland Theatre has been under tough watch by the school administration since the accident (a set piece collapsed during Sweeney Todd rehearsal, injuring several actors).

But as a group the theatre prevailed and once again the curtain raised. It was a proud moment for me last night. I was very overwhelmed and I admit I even had a few tears.

The interesting thing about this, though, is how fitting things came into play. For example, the last show other than the children's fantastic show of Alice in Wonderland was Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondhiem. I also had the honor of being the opening solo of that production. Well, what's more fitting than starting back up with yet another Sondhiem, and once again the first voice you hear opening the show is me.

Another thing that many don't realize was that Sweeney Todd was the last show for Musical Director Daniel Hartley and we welcomed a new musical Director Kirk Saltsman for A Little Night Music.

I have never seen so much heart from a cast go into a show such as this one has. The show is very cute and fun and I encourage all to come see it. Our costumer Paula Krepsik has truly outdone herself. I like to think of ACTC as the little theatre who can.

Chuck says this blog is to discuss theatre and behind-the-scenes things that not everyone knows, and I enjoy that.

I want people to know that sometimes we have to fight to get what we have and it's well worth it.
Thanks for the thoughts, Zach - I look forward to future essays from you!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Challenges of Putting on a Show

This email arrived from my pal Paul Neace, who heads up the 5th Avenue Theatre Company. He points out one of the biggest problems in trying to stage a community theatre show.

He writes:
Here’s the problem we’re having at 5th Avenue right now – a lack of directors.

In my opinion and my opinion alone, there are only a handful of qualified directors for lavish musicals in this immediate area. Of those people, many of them also direct for other groups (such as yourself) and those groups take priority, which is fine.

I’ve been trying to plan a benefit show that will help the Police Dept., Fire Dept., and us at the Huntington Foundation for well over a year now and can find no one that will direct that for us. (And, believe me, I’ve asked 5-10 different people.)

In addition we’re trying to plan the rest of our year and are faced with very limited funds – the benefit would go a long way in helping us finalize those plans. But, we need that ever-evasive director to actually orchestrate this benefit show before we can continue a discussion about the rest of our season.

And then we’re faced with finding a director or two for the aforementioned musicals or even a non-musical (of which the pool of directors is a bit larger).

If you know of someone that hasn’t already turned me down, please let me know… I don’t know how the Charleston groups manage, but that’s the problem(s) that we face.
It's always a challenge to find directors and producers for shows, because it's a heck of a lot of work (though obviously it's also very rewarding creatively and a lot of fun).

If anyone would like to contact Paul to talk about directing a show (or shows) for 5th Avenue, feel free to send me an email at TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll pass it along.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chris Sizemore On Stage in DC

There's a great story in today's Herald-Dispatch about Chris Sizemore, a terrific actor, singer and a heck of a nice guy.

Written by Beth Hendricks, the story offers a great overview of his career since moving to Washington, DC:
Barboursville native Chris Sizemore found his acting career in the place most people find their political career.

With an obligatory pass through the theater capital of the world - New York City - Sizemore found success on stage in our nation's capital and said, "This year has definitely been my year." Sizemore garnered a Helen Hayes Award nomination for his role in Les Miserables at Signature Theatre.

The award went to fellow Les Miserables actor Christopher Bloch.

"Just to be recognized in the same group with those other nominees is, wow. It's a great feeling," said Sizemore of the awards he likened to Washington, D.C.'s version of the Tony Awards. "I don't do this for recognition, though. I just love it. I love what I do."

Sizemore was raised in Barboursville by parents Roger and Rickie Sizemore. He graduated from Cabell Midland High School in 1997 and earned a degree in marketing from Marshall University in 2001. The now 30-year-old did no on-campus acting during his college days, but was heavily involved in Huntington Outdoor Theatre.

"I've been in theater since I was 8 years old, and after I graduated from Marshall, I decided if I was ever going to try to break into theater in New York, that then was as good a time as any. My parents have always been behind me, supporting every move," he said.

Getting roles in New York proved to be quite a challenge for the "small fish in the big pond," Sizemore explained.

"You're always at the bottom of the totem pole when you're in these big cities. With this business, you have to be persistent, but you endure a ton of rejection. You have to be able to pick up and go on. Those are the people who succeed," he said.

Sizemore made the move to Washington, D.C. six years ago and said the move is when acting really became a career for him.

"I got here and started to be able to make a name for myself. There are so many of us trying to do the same thing, and I can say I'm blessed to be one of the few who can say they're making a living doing theater," he said. "I'm now getting to the point where I'm getting calls from theaters asking me in, although I did have my first audition in about a year this past week."

Sizemore said one of his coolest acting moments came even before his stint in Washington, D.C., when he performed with a national tour of Willy Wonka. He was with the tour when it passed through Huntington and made a stop at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.

"That was very cool. That was probably one of the best experiences I've had so far in theater," he said.

Sizemore's Les Miserables cast members and crew joined together to garner the most-ever Helen Hayes nominations for a single show. These days, Sizemore is performing in The Civil War at Ford's Theatre in D.C. It is scheduled to run through the end of May. Being on stage in eight shows a week does not lend itself to many trips home to the Mountain State, though, a fact Sizemore is pained about.

"That part kills me. I've very family-oriented, and I love getting to go back home, but the theater doesn't shut down. It's hard to get back," said Sizemore, who has been working to plan out the remainder of his calendar year with shows and a few much-needed rest breaks.

"I'm going to stay in D.C. and work as much as I can. I'm having fun, doing well, making a living. I'm going to ride this wave as long as I can," he said.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Stage This Weekend - Three Shows

You have three shows to choose from this weekend, including a concert and two musicals.

- Starry, Starry Night will be presented by ARTS April 17 and 18 at Renaissance Center (the old Huntington High School). Dinner and Show is $30 each, Show Tickets only are $15. Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m.. the show begins at 8:00. Reservations are required for dinner and show combo. Call 304-733-ARTS for reservations. The concert features a variety of music from well known Broadway shows and features Ryan Hardiman, Marina Jurica, Melanie Shafer, Dave Benton and other special guests.

- A Little Night Music
will be presented by ACTC (Ashland Community and Technical College) April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26.

- Norman Rockwell’s American Paradise will be presented by CYAC April 16-18 and 23-25 at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee April 19 at 2 p.m. at WVSU Capitol Center Theater at 123 Summers Street in Charleston. Tickets are $9.50 for Adults and $5.50 for Student/Seniors.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coming up - "The First Day of Summer"

My pal Jonathan Joy sends along this note - be sure to order your tickets for this performance soon!

He writes:
I have a piece in this upcoming Charleston Stage Company production. A monologue from my 2005 play The First Day of Summer will be featured. Rehearsals began last week and tickets are now on sale.

WV: Words and Music

An original play with music - May 21-23, 28-30, 2009 at the Walker Theatre, Clay Center for Arts and Sciences, 8 p.m.

Monologues written by West Virginia writers intermingled with music of the Mountain State - some originally written for the production and others that are West Virginia standards. Some of the monologues will be dramatic; some funny. Some of the stories will challenge perceptions and stereotypes; others will be commentaries on life in the mountain state: past, present and future.

To order tickets for West Virginia: Words and Music, call the Clay Center Box Office at 304-561-3570 or buy tickets online at https://tickets.theclaycenter.org/public/show.asp

Those interested should get tickets soon. The opening night performance is already sold out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Norman Rockwell’s American Paradise" - On Stage This Weekend

My pal Melanie sends along news about a show that runs this weekend. I saw this one a few years ago and loved it!

"Wouldn't it be wonderful to have enough?"

The only musical fully sanctioned by the Norman Rockwell Foundation, brings to life 27 works by the famed artist and cover
illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post.

Spanning five decades of America with poignant moments of pure Americana, Rockwell portrayed the nation with hope, joy and self-effacing dignity. With music deftly created in the styles of the past, Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde honor the American icon with humor, pathos, and a deep respect for the pure genius of the artist.

Featuring a cast of more than 30 talented singers and actors, Norman Rockwell’s American Paradise showcases such famous paintings as The Plumbers, The Tatooist, Right To Know, Girl In the Mirror,
The Prom Dress and many, many more.

April 16-18, 23-25 at 8 p.m.
Sunday matinee April 19 at 2 p.m.
WVSU Capitol Center Theater
123 Summers Street, Charleston
Tickets $9.50 Adults, $5.50 Student/Seniors
The show cleverly brings to life a number of Rockwell's famous paintings. The songs are a lot of fun, the staging is clever, and if you're a fan of the painter, you'll want to see this show.

And if you're not a fan of Rockwell - what the heck is your problem?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Controversy Over Local Theatre

Hey, there's an interesting story in today's Herald-Dispatch that brings up some interesting points:
The Tri-State will experience a couple of starry nights this week.

A Starry, Starry Night cabaret fundraiser will take place Friday and Saturday, April 17-18, at the Renaissance Center, 900 8th St., Huntington. Proceeds from the event will benefit the local organization Arts Resources for the Tri-State.

Dinner will begin each night at 6:30 p.m. with the show following at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for dinner and show and $15 for the show only.

For reservations, call 304-733-2787.

The cabaret show was in part organized by WSAZ meteorologist Marina Jurica, who is a veteran performer and a proponent of performing arts in the community.

“We just wanted to raise money for ARTS,” Jurica said. “I think any musical theatre is important. The problem with H.O.T. (Huntington Outdoor Theatre) is that it’s only in the summer. And the problem with 5th Avenue Theatre Company is that they only do one or two shows a year. ARTS is trying to do four or five musical productions a year. Huntington doesn’t seem to have a lot of arts like Lexington, even Ashland or Charleston. I’m playing the lead in South Pacific for the Charleston Light Opera Guild now, and it’s incredible how much money and interest they have. It’s just a good thing for the community to build up the arts.”

Jurica said the funds from this particular show will go towards helping ARTS fund a fall musical.

This cabaret show will feature a dozen performers, including Jurica, Melanie Shafer, Dave Benton and Ryan Hardiman along with some of Jurica’s friends from Lexington, Ky., and the University of Kentucky Opera.

“Melanie is a church singer who wanted to help,” Jurica said. “Dave worked with H.O.T. some, but has taken a couple of years off. I just asked him for this favor. It was the same with Ryan and my friends from Lexington. They were all willing to help.”

The show will include a wide range of songs from Broadway musicals. It will feature solos, duets and group numbers with choreography.

The show’s opening number will be “Masquerade” from Phantom of the Opera.

“It’s basically all Broadway songs that will span a lot,” Jurica said. “We’ll go from the classic Phantom of the Opera to the more popular and contemporary like Rent. We’re going to span the spectrum of Broadway.”

For more information about ARTS, visit the Web site at www.733arts.org.
This article makes some interesting points about community theatre in Huntington. It's true, for example, that community theatre in Charleston is more active than what you'll find in Huntington (although it tends to fluctuate here - some years have seen as many as seven community theatre groups putting on shows, while other years there have been as few as three).

Of course, I'd also argue that Charleston has been at it longer, and has better funding. Where Huntington's groups tend to make their own way, Charleston's theatre groups banded together years ago and made their way through the funding maze to acquire the kind of grants and facilities to make regular theatre possible.

It's a puzzle Huntington's theatre groups have, with some exceptions, not been able to solve. Most groups live on "the gate" (ticket sales), and that's not always a reliable way to build a successful organization.

When you get down to it, the two cities are very different. Charleston has several active (and excellent) community theatre groups, but it lacks the kind of professional-level productions Marshall University presents, and it doesn't have a summer outdoor theatre group.

What Marina Jurica is pointing out (quite correctly) is the shortage of productions for and by adults, since most of Huntington's shows are focused on young performers - Marshall's student actors, First Stage's young performers, and even HOT has relied on (mostly) young casts for the past few years.

It would be great to see a group presenting "grown-up" shows to challenge our many talented adult performers in the community - but someone has to make it happen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shows in Your Future

My pal Stephen Vance sends along this message about shows coming up - so mark those calendars!

He writes:
MAG (Musical Arts Guild) is having a show, don't know any of the details except it is free on April 25 and 26.

ACTC (Ashland Community and Technical College) is doing A Little Night Music April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 with our own Bil Neal.

ARTS is doing a cabaret called Starry Starry Night April 17 & 18.

Marshall Dept. of Theatre is doing Epic Proportions April 22-25.

CLOG (Charleston Light Opera Guild) is doing South Pacific May 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 at the Civic Center Little Theatre.

Marshall Artist Series is having The 5 Browns on April 23 and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on April 28.

Portsmouth West is doing 42nd Street on May 1, 2, 3. Ravan Idzakovich is playing Peggy.
Lots of great shows coming up - thanks for the reminder, Stephen!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two Shows This Summer at Greenbo Lake

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch about two shows hitting the stage this summer:
Greenbo Lake State Resort Park will present two classics - a comedy and a musical - at its amphitheater in June.

Both productions will be produced by the Red Lion Theatre Company, a community theater group.

The Odd Couple will be presented June 4-7. The show will begin at 8:30 p.m. each evening.

The play that spawned two successful movies and an ever-popular television comedy begins with a group of guys assembled for cards in the apartment of divorced, Oscar Madison. Late to arrive is Felix Unger, who has just been separated from his wife. Felix seems a bit unstable, Oscar decides to be generous and as the action unfolds, the clean-freak and the slob ultimately decide to room together with hilarious results.

Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. General admission is $10, senior citizens/students $8, lodge guests/campers $7.50.

The musical The Wiz will be presented June 25-28. The show will also begin at 8:30 p.m. each evening.

The Wiz is a boisterous, exuberant musical, re-imagining of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Dorothy's adventures in the Land of Oz are set to a dazzling, lively mixture of rock, gospel and soul music that is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart.

General admission is $12, senior citizens/students $10, lodge guests/campers $9.

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park is on KY 1, 18 miles north of I-64 from Grayson exit or 8 miles south of U.S. 23.

For more information, call the park at 1-800-325-0083.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On Stage This Weekend - "Beauty" and "Tom"

There are two community theatre shows this weekend you should check out - one in Ashland and one in Charleston:

- Disney's Beauty and the Beast will be presented by the Backstage Players tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the historic Paramount Arts Center. Tickets for the show are $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the Paramount Arts Center in advance or at the door.

- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be presented by the Kanawha Players tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Civic Center Little Theater. The story is based on the classic book by Mark Twain. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

On Stage This Weekend - "Beauty and the Beast"

The Disney version of the classic story takes the stage in Ashland this weekend. Here's the story from today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch:
You might say it's a tale as old as time.

It's Disney's Beauty and the Beast presented by Backstage Players. The musical will take place at 7 p.m. April 9-11, at the historic Paramount Arts Center.

The family-friendly musical stars Tri-State youths ranging in age from 11 to 20.

Tickets for the show are $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the Paramount Arts Center in advance or at the door.

Step into the enchanted world of Broadway's modern classic, Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Based on the Academy Award winning animated feature, the stage version includes all of the popular songs from the film, written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, plus new songs written especially for the Broadway version by Menken and Tim Rice.

Audiences will be transported to a lovely French provincial town where the beautiful Belle lives with her father -- a dotty inventor. When her father doesn't return from a trip to the local fair, Belle rushes off to find him. To her dismay, she discovers he is being held captive in an old castle by a horrible beast. She trades her freedom for his and the tale as old as time begins.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Michael Cerveris on "Fringe"

Huntington's own Michael Cerveris is famous for his work on Broadway, but you can see him regularly on the Fox science fiction / detective drama Fringe - but you usually have to look very carefully to spot him.

He plays a character called "The Observer," and whenever something unusual appears (which happens at least once per show), he's always nearby to witness it. Sometimes you have to look closely to spot him - for instance, in a recent episode a man ran down the street and raced past The Observer.

It's become an interesting game with the show, to spot him in the scene - and I'm told there are websites out there tracking his character's appearances, though I must admit I haven't visited one yet.

He was easy to spot in last night's episode, though - at the end of the show (don't worry, I won't give away what happens) he has a nice moment on camera - and you don't have to worry about freezing the image to catch him! And the episode offers some possible insight into his character. Maybe.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Elmo's Here!

When my sons were young I had a good excuse to go to the Sesame Street stage shows - but these days, I just get to read about them.

Here's a story about the show visiting Huntington tonight and tomorrow, as written by my pal Beth Hendricks:
Everybody's favorite "street" is just a little closer to home this week.

Sesame Street Live hits the Big Sandy Superstore Arena to present the stage production, When Elmo Grows Up, today, April 7, and Wednesday, April 8. Showtime is 7 p.m. each evening, with a matinee performance at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"This is a pretty interactive show, with the kids in the audience singing and dancing a lot. It's like their version of a rock concert. They see these characters and their jaws drop," said Chris Urban, who portrays "Count." "In fact, we just had a kid who was so excited he managed to get past the ushers and security and snuck on-stage during the performance. It was hilarious and adorable."

This stage production introduces Abby Cadabby as the newest Muppet on Sesame Street, joining Elmo, Zoe and all the other favorites as they talk about what they want to be when they grow up and prepare for a Sesame Street pageant.

"We've got all the characters everybody loves and all the songs that the kids love and the parents will remember," Urban said. Songs include "Home on the Range," "Down on the Corner," and classics such as "I Love Trash" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

The lesson on the "street" is all about patience, acceptance and teamwork.

"The show teaches kids that there's no rush or assertiveness to trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up," said Urban, a former employee at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania before joining up with 'Sesame Street Live' three years ago. "You're only a kid, and it's OK to be just a kid. Don't worry about being so grown up."

Ticket prices to get to Sesame Street range from $12 to $22 and can be obtained through Ticketmaster or at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Box Office.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Any Dream Will Do

So I was surfing around the TV on Sunday and I fell across a show on BBCAmerica I'd heard nothing about.

It's called Any Dream Will Do, and it's another version of last year's reality show Grease: You're the One That I Want. (To be fair, the BBC started the whole thing by doing a reality show to cast the lead in The Sound of Music - so it's not that they're copying us. Quite the other way around.)

On this show, the contestants are competing to see who is going to win the lead role in the upcoming production in London of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor™ Dreamcoat.

Since I'm involved in community theatre, you'd think this kind of show would be my cup o' tea - but I really had to fight to make myself watch it. I think I struggle with it because it turns the whole concept of theatre on its ear - instead of focusing on the creative process, it turns auditioning into a cutthroat competition, with each performer trying to out-cheese the other.

It's a shame, because I love the musical "Joseph" - I directed it years ago for First Stage Theatre and had a great time. But this show leaves me cold.

As a guy I know used to say, if you like this sort of thing, here it is.

Here's the description from the website:
BBC America shines the spotlight on the world of musical theater in Any Dream Will Do where judges and viewers search for a new West End star that has the charisma and star quality to take on the lead role in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor™ Dreamcoat.

Hosted by presenter Graham Norton, Any Dream Will Do features world-renowned musical composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber as the head judge. Also lending their expertise at the judges' table are Torchwood star John Barrowman, Broadway and West End leading lady Denise Van Outen (Chicago), acclaimed theatre producer Bill Kenwright, and opinionated voice coach Zoe Tyler.

Thousands of hopefuls auditioned across the UK with only 100 boys making it to the London callbacks. The Joseph wannabes have to prove their worth in front of the judges who test the boys on both their musical theater and pop ability before deciding the lucky 50 who will move onto Joseph School.

Only 12 boys will 'graduate' from Joseph School, and it's then up to the viewers to decide who will become the West End's newest Joseph.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Elmo Rolls Into Town This Week

Everyone's favorite resident of Sesame Street, Elmo, will be paying a visit this week, as my pal Dave Lavender wrote this week:
'When Elmo Grows Up'

Sesame Street Live
, which has been putting on furry, friend-filled musicals since Cookie Monster was in diapers, is at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena for VEE Entertainment's latest show, When Elmo Grows Up, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 and at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 8.

Abby Cadabby, the newest Muppet on Sesame Street, joins Elmo, Zoe, Rosita and all of her furry and feathered friends in asking, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' Get ready to sing cowboy songs, ride the rails and more when Sesame Street Live When Elmo Grows Up takes the stage.

Tickets are $12 and $15. A limited number of $18 premium seats and $22 Gold Circle seats are also available. A facility fee of $1 will be added to all ticket prices. Additional fees and discounts may apply. For more information, call 304-696-4400.

To charge tickets by phone, please call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000. Tickets also may be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com. For information online, please visit www.sesamestreetlive.com.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

On Stage Tonight - "Tom Sawyer"

There's only one show on stage tonight, but it's a good one. But you'll have to drive to Charleston to see it.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be presented by the Kanawha Players tonight at 8 p.m. at the Civic Center Little Theater. The show will also be offered next Friday and Saturday night.

The story, of course, is based on the classic book by Mark Twain.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children.

Highly recommended!

Friday, April 03, 2009

In Memory

Sometimes words fail me. I've been trying to come up with the right words to explain how I feel about the passing of three bright lights in our community.

Thursday morning I heard sirens as I got ready for work - lots of sirens. Not until later did I find out about the terrible car accident that claimed the lives of Carole and Meaghan Crawford and Kelsey Kuhn.

It's a terrible loss for their families, and for their extended families, including the students and faculty at St. Joe, co-workers at Marshall's Newman Center, and all of us in the theatre community who had worked with them over the years.

Carole was always a fun person to be around - quick to volunteer, always laughing, always positive and upbeat, ready to tackle any job. She had been so active is so many shows, creating costumes for "Seussical" and "Les Miz" and many, many more.

The stage, and our lives, will be a little darker without her.

My thoughts and prayers are with her son Chris and husband Jeff.

Coming Soon: "Starry Starry Night"

My pal Amy Knell sends along this information about a great event coming up soon, loaded with terrific singers:

A Musical Cabaret to Benefit ARTS

April 17 and 18 at Renaissance Center (old HHS building)

Dinner and Show Tickets are $30

Show Tickets only $15

6:30 dinner, 8:00 show

Reservations are required for dinner and show combo. Call 304-733-ARTS for reservations.

Cabaret features a variety of music from well known Broadway shows and features Ryan Hardiman, Marina Jurica, Melanie Shafer, Dave Benton and other special guests.

All proceeds benefit ARTS.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Thespian Festival

Hey, there's a thespian festival going on in town, and it starts today! My pal Stephen Vance sends along this info:
The WV Thespian Festival is the annual theatre event for high schools around the state.

It runs April 2 - 4. This year's festival is being held at Marshall University. There will be workshops for the students as well as competitions for plays, scenes, monologues, and technical projects.

Here are some of the workshops the students will be allowed to participate in: Resumes, Dialects, Sensory Recall, Elizabethan Movement, Victorian Movement, Improv, Masks, Injuries and Effects, Lighting, Scene Painting, and more. These workshops will be taught by Jack Cirillo, Gene Anthony, Mike Murphy, Joan St. Germain and Deborah Carder-Deem.

The schools competing in the one act play competition are: Musselman High, Huntington High, Musselman Middle, Magnolia High, Princeton High, Parkersburg High, Parkersburg South, Capital High, Oak Glen High, Fairmont Senior, Webster County, Martinsburg High and Wyoming East.

Throughout the festival there will be tons of other events. It's a wonderful festival that is a great experience for all involved.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shows On Stage in April

There are several great shows coming up this month you'll want to watch for - including:

- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be presented by the Kanawha Players April 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. at the Civic Center Little Theater. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children.

- To Kill a Mockingbird
will be presented at the Clay Center April 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35, $25 and $15.

- Beauty and the Beast will be presented by the Backstage Players at the Paramount Arts Center April 9, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m.

- Epic Proportions will be presented by the Marshall University Department of Theatre at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center April 22 - 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $7 for students. Group rates are also available.

- The 5 Browns will be presented by the Marshall Artists Series at the Keith Albee Theater April 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $46, $41 and $36 for adults, Youth tickets are half-price.

- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will also be presented by the Marshall Artists Series at the Keith Albee Theater April 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $56, $51 and $46 for adults, Youth tickets are half-price.

- Ain't Misbehavin' will be presented at the Paramount Arts Center April 28 at 7 p.m.

So start marking those calendars! As always, if I've overlooked a show, let me know and I'll add it to the list!