Tri-State Theater

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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Chuck's "Best of 2010" List

In looking back at 2010 I'm amazed at how many shows I didn't get to see. I only made it to 10 shows this year - about half my normal number.

So I don't feel I have any right to hand out awards for the "Best of the Year" performances or shows. But I will talk about what I did see - in order of appearance.

The first show I saw this year was the delightful Bitsy, Boots and Friends in February. It's the third in the series of plays starring the cantankerous sisters as written by Jonathan Joy. It's become an annual Valentine's production for First United Methodist Church. ("Come for the dinner, stay for the great show.") The shows are hilarious, the actors are wonderful - it's become a tradition in our household, and I'm looking forward to their 2011 offering!

March brought with it two wonderful shows, as First Stage Theatre Company celebrated its 20th Anniversary by bringing back its first show - You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown - and adding the sequel, Snoopy! The Musical, just for good measure. Both shows were terrific, with amazing casts. The young actors in those shows are loaded with talent, and did a wonderful job of bringing those shows to life. I wish I could buy the soundtrack to their version!

In April things were a little different, as (for the first time in 10 years) I was part of a show on stage. I had a small role in 5th Avenue's production of Camelot, and while I admit to being prejudiced, I think it was a terrific show - and most of the credit goes to the lead actors: Mark Baker as King Arthur, Marina Jurica as Queen Guenevere, Todd Preston as Sir Lancelot, and Danny Ray as Pellinor. The show had a great supporting cast, too, and it was a heck of a lot of fun to be part of the show. I highly recommend getting involved in local theatre!

In May I actually saw two shows. First Stage tackled its first original play with Jonathan Joy's The First Day of Summer, a touching story about two young people who meet in the woods and find their lives are changed forever.

The other show I saw in May was the only show I saw in Charleston this year: Courting Disaster, an original musical comedy set in a courtroom. It was a lot of fun and clever as can be, and it was great to see my pal Mel Larch having so much fun playing the conniving Judge.

September brought another terrific show - First Stage's James and the Giant Peach, as directed by Jonathan Joy (he's everywhere)! A fantastic cast, a great story and a fun show - I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

ARTS brought a show to life in August that I hadn't seen before - Will Rogers Follies - and they did an amazing job with it. The cast was terrific - special kudos to Stephen Vance for being able to do all those lines while twirling a rope, to Jane Modlin, who sang so beautifully (without falling down all those stairs), and to Jim Lamp, for stealing every scene he was in. A great show - if I were naming a "Best Show of the Year," this would be in the running.

So would The Good Doctor, presented by Marshall University in November. Apparently when you combine Neil Simon and Anton Chekhov you get an amazingly funny show. It doesn't hurt that the cast was terrific, with Chuck Heardon absolutely killing as a ladies' man.

I enjoyed all the shows on the list, but the last show I saw for the year was probably my favorite (though it was a close call with so many outstanding shows on the list). First Stage's Once Upon a Mattress featured a terrific cast, great costumes and set, wonderful songs, and a very funny show. The young actors were amazing! The directing team (led by Amy Browning) had to overcome some major hurdles to get this show done, and the final product was a real delight!

(And yes, I admit to being prejudiced, since I'm on the First Stage board - all I can say is, feel free to make your own list and I'll print it here!)

There are lots of shows I regret missing - Pirates of Penzance, Jack Cirillo's performance of A Christmas Carol, Barnum, Mary, White Christmas, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Dreamgirls - it was a season filled with great shows! Hopefully next year will be likewise, and time will permit me to see more of them.

As always, send along your list of favorites from the part year - send the to me at TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll post it here.

Oh, one more thing: Happy New Year, everyone!

Zach Davis' "Best of 2010"

Here's my pal Zach Davis with his contribution to our "Best of the Year" feature.

He writes:
Well, first off this year has been a rather interesting one to say the least. Theatre-wise I did catch a few great shows and, well, Aiden decided when I saw too many (LOL) but I have a few highlights from the year I would like to mention.

Last Spring I landed my second lead in a row over at ACTC in Copacabana. It also was the largest singing lead I have ever had and I was truly thankful for the opportunity. I also won an award for that performance but most importantly I learned the news that Allison and I were going to have a baby!

Now who can forget the great Liza Minelli performance! We had such a blast at her concert.

I along with Allison also had the chance to see the tour of Best Imitation in the Charleston Festiv-all line-up. Although it was short and ended, well, suddenly, it was a nice piece. The local author did a very good job and several great performers were in it.

I had the honor to be the technical director for I Love you, You"re Perfect, Now Change! I was the lucky one who got to actually put a functioning set in the ballroom of the ARTS building. So I was the guinea pig as one may say who paved the way and made it easier for those after me. I basically showed them what didn't work (LOL). However I loved every minute of it and loved touring to the Alban Theatre in St. Albans.

This year I made my directorial debut with Steel Magnolias! I feel that I along with my team at 5th Avenue Theatre Company had a great success on our hands and man, did that cast rock! The cast was so supportive in my family's time of need when our son Aiden came six weeks early into this world and later got sick and was transferred to Cincinnati, making me miss the final weekend and close of my first show. Aiden had surgery the morning of the final performance. I can't stress enough how much that cast and crew meant to us. That show also introduced some new talent, brought back some former Marshall actors and showed some more talent of veterans. May I also add that I brought some new faces to work behind the scenes from Ashland who built my set and I was super thankful and blessed to have them.

Allison and I were planning on attending Baby at ARTS but after we saw half the show during tech week so I could learn the plot our Son felt he needed to be born the next day! Kind of ironic really.

While in Cincinnati we did have a few chances in the evening to get out and clear our heads a little. We won tickests to see Disney on Ice Princesses! We even had box suite seats. The show was a great spectacle and very entertaining for all the families in attendance. The special effects were awesome. Also we got to see Evil Dead the Musical at the Falcon Theatre in Newport. It was so amazing and funny. We really needed to laugh that hard after what all we went through. The actors were outstanding and the producer sat right behind us. We were told that every show sold out at least a day before each performance and therefore they extended the run for an extra week. The show also featured a splash zone for those who wished to be sprayed with the fake blood. Allison wouldn't let me (LOL). It was a great way to spend Halloween night.

Finally I must add that being able to perform in White Christmas was an honor considering we spent 90 percent of the rehearsal period in Cincinnati. The show was so good and everyone was again so supportive and it was awesome to Have Allison carry our son Aiden in a few scenes! That marked his stage debut at only three months old. This year has just been a roller coaster for me and my family. Hopefully next year we will be able to get out to see more shows and from what I know, there sounds like some great plays coming up!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bil Neal's "Best of 2010"

My pal Bil Neal is the latest to send in his comments about the "Best Community Theatre for 2010."

He writes:
In looking through my Franklin this past year, I noticed that there was a lot of theatre in our area that my schedule didn't allow me to see. Since that's the case, I find myself unable to post a "Best of " list this year - I feel like I missed too much.

Among the shows I somehow didn't get to see, I can say that lots of folks were talking about the following, and I feel bad that I didn't get to...

First Day of Summer (by Jonathon Joy), Annie (at HOT), Pippen: His life and times (gonna try to get out to that theatre in 2011), Barnum (CLOG - heard a lot of great stuff about that one and missed Kris Corbet), Steel Magnolias (Fifth Avenue), 25th Annual Spelling Bee (Pullman Hotel), Dreamgirls (CLOG - saw some of the costumes, missed the play).

Also missed a lot of the Benefits this year, but heard a lot about the one for Hospice (No Place Like Home) and the ones that Marina Jurica organized. Hope the MU Theatre Guild will do another, there's just so many causes I'd like to support.

There were several things I was able to get in town at the last minute to see at least one act. In this way I was able to enjoy Peanuts (First Stage - That role was written for Levi Kelly), Baby (ARTS - really good work, especially George Snider III and Jane Modlin), Once Upon a Mattress (First Stage - Costumes, Cast, Set - lovely), Little Shop of Horrors (Andrew Surber had me laughing out loud), and White Christmas (Fifth Avenue - good to see tap onstage, and who doesn't love Josh Janotta's voice?).

Of the plays and musicals I got to enjoy from curtain to curtain, most noteworthy were I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (ARTS - Dave Benton was a blast!), the Concert Version of A Chorus Line (MU - did anyone else cry over Nathan Mohebbi?), Harvey (ARTS - Dylan Clark's dialect, and Kenny Harbolt's physical comedy was wonderful), Always, Patsy Cline (Logan State Park - always wanted to see this show, the ladies who pulled it off were brilliant), It's a Wonderful Life (Portsmouth Little Theatre - Mark Near had me from the beginning), and (naturally) Will Rogers Follies (ARTS, but I've said enough about that).

Looking forward to so many things in 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jon Joy's "Best of 2010" List!

My pal Jonathan Joy is next to weigh in on our end-of-the-year tradition, as he sends along his "Best of 2010" list.

He writes:
I'm not going to break down the "best of" the way I did last year, because I did not see as many shows as usual. In 2009, I was able to take in 13 different plays, compared to only a handful in 2010. Having a newborn son meant we were much more likely to stay home or enjoy outdoor activites such as the pool or a variety of fairs and festivals. Fortunately, I was able to be involved in a bunch of shows and I have highlighted my best theatre experiences/memories/thoughts/people of the year here.

10) Dr. David Wohl: After a quarter century of guiding theatre artists at West Virginia State, Charleston Stage Company and Festiv-all, Dr. Wohl retired his WVSU position and moved south. Like many in the area, he helped open many doors of opportunity for me. The theatre community will miss him.

9) Amy Browning: She's a terrific director and I could not have asked for a better assistant director for my First Stage show The First Day of Summer. My son was born midway through the rehearsal process and I had to miss a few rehearsals. Amy steered the ship in my absence and helped me to craft a terrific show. Kudos to Jeanette Bills for an awesome producing job, as well.

8) Clown Jubilee: Levi Tobin Joy made his unofficial stage debut at this event at Charleston's Labelle Theatre in May. Clown Jubilee was organized by Tom King and featured an interactive approach to performing and all things clowning related. We had a great time.

7) David Johnston: The NYC based playwright visited MU's fourth annual New Works Festival in June. His play Coney was terrific and this festival may just be my favorite theatre event in Huntington.

6) The River Play:
My MCTC Intro to Theatre students and I took a stab at the annual Festiv-all playwriting contest this year. The result was a funny 10-minute play about young love, pirates and redemption. We didn't win, but I was proud of their creative and entertaining ideas.

5) Theatre Camp! For the ninth straight summer, I conducted theatre camps at the Huntington Museum of Art. They have a great summer program that includes exposure to all of the arts. I had a blast with the theatre kids as they wrote their own scripts and performed them for friends, family. Jessica Fox also invited me back for a third straight year of camp at the Jeslyn.

4) Dubai: My plays were performed in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa and (of course) West Virginia this year. I was most excited, however, when a theatre from Dubai contacted me requesting rights for my 2002 political comedy American Standard. The result was my first ever overseas production.

3) WV Writers: T.W. McNemar invited me to take part in the WV Writers annual conference in Ripley. I taught three playwriting workshops in less than 24 hours and met some great fellow WV writers. There is a lot of talent in this state.

2) James (and Levi) and the Giant Peach: I had a terrific cast, crew and production team for this awesome First Stage production. I don't think I've ever had so much fun leading a young group through the rehearsal process. The result was a fun and imaginative play. It was also Levi's first full production. He was in attendance twice and he was a very good audience member - he didn't make a sound at either performance.

1) Bitsy and Boots and Friends: The good folks with the First United Methodist Church (Jane and Jerry Morse) were kind enough to stage my third helping of Bitsy and Boots fun for their annual dinner theatre. The crowds were terrific and seemed to enjoy it. I'm writing a fourth Bitsy and Boots play, though it may be a while before it hits the stage.

Of course, there are others. ACTC's festive opening night atmosphere for A Christmas Carol, Marshall University Theatre's extended use of the black box for student productions and this theatre blog should all make the list. I'm sure I'll remember others after I finish writing this. I'm just glad I live in an area with such an active and supportive theatre base. Keep up the awesome work, everybody!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stephen's "Best of 2010" List

First up with his "Best of 2010" list is my pal Stephen Vance.

He writes:
I'm not going to do a full out best of list but here are some of the shows and performances I really enjoyed simply as an audience member (that doesn't get to happen much these days).

I had a blast at I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. It was a ton of fun and a great show for the ballroom space at ARTS.

I loved Pirates of Penzance by the Charleston Light Opera Guild. I love Gilbert and Sullivan, and that genre seems to fit what they do up there so well.

My favorite of the Artist Series of last year was Lucille Ball: "Thank You For Asking" and the Mark McVey and Marvin Hamlisch show.

I won't pick a favorite performer of the year per se, but in my opinion there has been no one that has shown more variety or growth as a performer than my friend Dylan Clark. I only got to see him in three shows, but he was brilliant in each. Born Yesterday, Harvey and The Good Doctor. He definitely deserves mentioned for his work.

There was tons of other great theatre in the area but at the chance of forgetting to mention anyone or anything, I will stop here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Of 2010 in Local Theatre

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

The end of the year is rushing up fast, so it's time (as my pal Bil reminded me) to put together a "Best of the Year" list - and as always, you're invited to send along your list of favorites, too!

The idea isn't to slight anyone, but just to mention some of the best performances in community theatre from the past year - best shows, best actors, actresses - that sort of thing.

Feel free to email those to me at TheMinskers@aol.com and I'll include them here. I'm still working on my list, and I'll post it before the 31st, but feel free to send yours along - it's fun to look back at the year in review.

If you need reminders about the shows from 2010, the first day of each month I tried to list the shows taking the stage (and I mostly succeeded) - feel free to look those over to jog your memory (the archives are over there in the right-hand column).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Here's an all-time favorite bit of animation for the season (and a great performance, too)! Have a great holiday, and we'll see you back here on Monday:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

Here's a great song from one of my favorite Christmas TV Specials - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Let's turn it over to snowman Burl Ives:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Must Be Santa Claus"

Here's one of my favorite holiday videos - Bob Dylan (honest) singing a great version of "Must Be Santa Claus."

The video makes little sense, but that's part of the fun:

Christmas Light Display - "Amazing Grace"

Here's an terrific light display at The Amazing Grace Christmas House which was designed and programmed by Richard Holdman in Pleasant Grove, Utah. (I should admit that I love these displays, but they always make me feel like the laziest guy in the world - we just put our tree up yesterday!)

The display has 50,000 lights and is computer controlled. The song is Amazing Grace by Yule. I'm not sure how I feel about this version of that wonderful song, but it makes for a great display. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas with the Muppets

For the first of our holiday videos, here's an odd one: it features Andrea Bocelli singing a classic holiday song with the Muppets.

There's an announcer who pops in at the beginning to intro the segment for an audience overseas, but it's a fun video:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The December Chill Sets In...

We're at the point in our community theatre season where all the groups turn out the lights and enjoy their holiday break - but they'll be back at it in January, producing shows or rehearsing for the next performance.

Of course, that doesn't mean we'll be shutting down here completely - I'll be posting some Christmas videos in the days ahead to keep you entertained, and I'll probably slide some news in there from time to time - and then we'll get back in gear as the New Year gets going.

In case I don't see you before then, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a great New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Youth Orchestra Concert Rescheduled for Sunday

The event was snowed out last week, but they'll take another run at it on Sunday.

The Tri-State Youth Orchestra will present their annual Christmas Concert on Sunday Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom of ARTS Renaissance Center on 8th Street and 10th Avenue in Huntington.

The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5, children under 12 free.

Come hear the orchestral sounds of the season performed by the best music students in the Tri-state area.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Top 10 Shows Presented by Schools

The Playbill website has an interesting feature about the top 10 most-produced musicals and plays in high schools in North America.

The annual list was put together by Dramatics Magazine. Here are the top five musicals:
1. Disney's Beauty and the Beast
2. Seussical the Musical
3. Grease
4. Into the Woods
5. Footloose
The top (non-musical) play was Almost, Maine, followed by A Midsummer Night's Dream

Good to know we're up with the times locally - every one of those shows has been produced locally at some time in the past six or seven years.

You can read the complete list at this link.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bad Weather for Theatre

Well, it's bad weather for just about anything, but this is the kind of weather any theatre company fears: snow, and lots of it.

The only show that was on tap today was in Ashland - The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was being presented at the Paramount Arts Center.

Don't worry if you couldn't make it, I'm told that there will be another show Friday evening (when the roads will hopefully be a bit easier to navigate), so be sure to check that one out - it's a fun holiday play.

Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Stage in the Week Ahead

We're running down to the last few shows of the holiday season - here are your last two chances to catch live community theatre this year.

One show is in Ashland and the other's in Charleston:

- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - the Paramount Theatre presents the play Dec. 16.

- The Homecoming - The Kanawha Players presents the heartwarming classic Dec. 17, 18 and 19 at the Kanawha Players Theater.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tri-State Youth Orchestra in Concert on Thursday

Here's another great way to get into the holiday spirit:

The Tri-State Youth Orchestra will perform their best concert of the year, the annual Christmas Concert on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010, at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom of ARTS Renaissance Center at 8th Street and 10th Avenue in Huntington.

The doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5, children under 12 are free.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Rugrats" Cast List

The cast for this Spring's live Rugrats show has been posted - and an amazingly talented bunch it is!

Here's the list:

Tommy Pickles: Salem Carlton
Chuckie: Maggie Donahoe
Angelica: Elizabeth Schmitz
Susie Carmichael: Bailey Saunders
Philip Deville: Griffin Conaty
Lillian Deville: Rileigh Smirl
Stu Pickles: Chad Arthur
Didi Pickles: Emily Underwood
Grandpa Lou: Drew Edwards
Spike: Nathaniel Porter
Steve: Jesse Donahoe
Larry: Thomas Armstrong
Astoria: Allie Bartram
Ms. FlashlighT: Kate Colclough
Torch Singer: Meg Barber
Opera Diva: Sarah Bryan

Flashlight Dancers/Gospel Singers

Lindsay McKelvey
Olivia Goodenough
Kathryn Booth
Kennedy Magner
Madalein Jackson
Rebecca Craig
Leslie Collins
Becca Stevenson
Lilly Hines
Kathryn Jennings
Jalen Nicely
Savannah Sakhai
Sam Young

Grace Adkins
Elisabeth Dick
Avery Jackson
Elisabeth Ross
Emily Belcher
Carlee Magner
Jensen Bird
Cali Ellis
Truett Bird
Nicholas Goodenough
Danny Fulks
Teddy Haddox
Nathaniel Fornash
Zoie Fornash
Ian Tsai
Jenna Dorsey
Luke Lovejoy
Ben McKelvey
Ian Carlton


Jimmy Neutron - Samuel Collins
Cindy - Leslie Collins
Libby - Becca Craig
Sheen - Stone Van Camp
Carl - Nick Wood

Spongebob Group

Spongebob - Nathaniel Porter
Patrick Starfish - Claire Aulick
Sandy Cheeks - Olivia Hughes
Sqidward - Nathaniel Fornash
Mr. Crabs - Sarah Phillips
Plankton - Ben McKelvey

Jellyfish Dancers

Grace Adkins
Elisabeth Dick
Avery Jackson
Elisabeth Ross
Emily Belcher
Carlee Magner
Zoie Fornash

Fairly Odd Parents Group

Timmy Turner - Drew Goodall
Cosmo - Ian Carlton
Wanda - Jensen Bird
Vicki - Ginny Blake
A.J. - Teddy Haddox
Chester - Danny Fulks
Mrs. Turner - Rebecca Southall
Tootie - Shannyn Kyle
Trixie - Catey Giompala

Dora the Explorer Group

Dora - Maleea Roy
Diego - Ian Tsai
Boots - Nicholas Goodenough
Swiper - Hunter Morrison
Map - Raven McClintock
Backpack - Tarraneh Karimpor

Dora Dancers

Kathryn Booth
Lyndsay McKelvey
Olivia Goodenough
Sam Young
Savannah Sakhai
Kennedy Magner
Kathryn Jennings
Lilly Hines

Blues Clues Group

Blue - Becca Stevenson
Magenta - Madalein Jackson
Periwinkle - Kathryn Booth
Paprika - Jalen Nicely
Notebook - Katie Fulks
Tick Tock - Megan Underwood
Salt & Pepper - Jenna Dorsey & Luke Lovejoy
Shovel & Pail - Cali Ellis & Truett Bird

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Rugrats" Auditions

I had fun this morning helping out with auditions for the next First Stage Theatre show - Rugrats: A Live Adventure!

Judging by the small army of young actors who came in to audition, they're going to have a tough time sorting out the cast for this show - there's a lot of amazing talent to choose from!

The show's going to be one to watch - not only is it based on the long-running Nickelodeon cartoon, it's also going to be presented in the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center!

That makes it just the second community theatre show to be staged in that venue in the last 30 years (if not more). (The first was High School Musical, natch.)

As soon as the cast for Rugrats is announced, I'll post it here. I can't wait to see it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

White Christmas Photo Gallery

You can see some great photos from the production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas at this photo gallery on the Herald-Dispatch's website.

You have two more chances to catch the musical comedy - shows will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium located in Huntington's City Hall. Tickets are $15 and $12 for children 12 and under.

It's a holiday classic - don't miss it!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nick Reynolds Acting in New York

My pal (and Marshall graduate) Nick Reynolds just wrapped up a stint in an Off-Broadway show last month in New York.

There's a big story in today's Herald-Dispatch - here's an excerpt:
Reynolds, 26, was cast as as Pincer, the Superintendent of Police, in the musical comedy Drat! The Cat! — a show about a young detective and a young heiress, who has been stealing diamonds all over town.

After getting his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Marshall in 2008, Reynolds was accepted for Penn State’s graduate acting program, where he taught two theatre classes for undergraduates. He also became a member of Actors’ Equity while working for Pennsylvania Centre Stage in The Apple Tree and Ctrl+Alt+Delete. In addition to Pennsylvania Centre Stage, he worked for the Greenbrier Valley Theatre and the outdoor drama Tecumseh during that time.

Reynolds, who graduated from Huntington’s St. Joseph Central Catholic High School in 2002, said during his time at Marshall he learned a lot of different acting techniques and is thankful for the knowledge and experience of the professors at Marshall.
We're proud of Nick and his accomplishments and looking forward to hearing more about his exploits!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - A Holiday Bonanza

Start planning your weekend now, because you have four community theatre shows to choose from!

Here's the list:

- Irving Berlin's White Christmas - 5th Avenue Theatre presents the classic musical comedy at the City Hall Auditorium Dec. 10 - 12.

- It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play - The Portsmouth Little Theatre will present the show based on the classic film Dec. 10, 11 and 12.

- Nightmare Before Egos Out of Control Saves Christmas
- Red Lion Theatre presents the show Dec. 9 - 12 at the KYOVA Tri-State Mall & Lifestyle Center.

- Anne of Green Gables - Kanawha Players presents the play Dec. 10, 11 and 12 at the Civic Center Little Theater.

So get out there and support your community theatre!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Get the Holiday Spirit with the Collegium Musicum

Hey, if you're ready to get into the holiday spirit, I recommend one of my favorite events - the Christmas Madrigal Dinner put on by Cabell-Midland High School's Renaissance choir, Collegium Musicum.

The food is great, the music is outstanding, the play is always lots of fun, and it all happens this weekend! Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
Imagine the hit show Glee taped from the 15th century. Well, that’s the vocal quality of Cabell Midland High School’s own Renaissance-style ensemble, Collegium Musicum, which is celebrating the 17th year of their Christmas Madrigal Dinner.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-11 with the sit-down dinner, play and concert starting at 7 p.m.

Dinner is $15 for baked ham, baked potato, green beans, roll and dessert along with the traditional wassail and coffee or tea. All proceeds go to the theatrical choir which is raising money for a spring trip to Ireland.

Tickets are available from any Collegium musicum member, CMHS Choir Booster parent or online at www.cmhscollegiummusicum.org. Call director Ed Harkless at 304-743-7400 ext. 7420 or e-mail at tharkles@access.k12.wv.us.

Monday, December 06, 2010

First Stage Looking for a New Home

As comedian George Carlin once observed, we all need a place to put our "stuff," and that's true for community theatre groups, too.

Here's a press release that went out recently that explains the problem facing Huntington's children's theatre. Full disclosure - you'll note that the release includes quotes from yours truly.

If you have any information about a possible building that might house the group, please let me know - the contact info is in the release:
The First Stage Theatre Company has been producing community theatre shows in Huntington for 21 years now, but for all that time it’s been an organization without a home.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the years to have space donated to us to store our sets and costumes, but we recently had to move out of the building we had been using for storage, so we’re looking for a new space,” said First Stage President Chuck Minsker.

First Stage is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that stages up to three shows a year. “It’s a great experience for young people to be part of a show, either onstage or helping out backstage – it builds confidence, they learn teamwork, they make lasting friendships – and we’re proud to be able to offer that to area young people at no cost to them,” according to Minsker.

The group requires a large storage space to house its set pieces and equipment – approximately 3000 square feet. They use the space to store materials and construct the props and sets for each show.

Anyone with information about available space can contact Chuck Minsker at 304-736-4366, or by email at TheMinskers@aol.com.

The First Stage Theatre Company is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an educational, developmental experience for young people through the performing arts. For more information, visit their website at www.firststagetheatre.org.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

"Rugrats" Auditions Next Week

A reminder that Rugrats auditions are a week from today. Here's the announcement from today's Herald-Dispatch:
Auditions for First Stage Theatre’s upcoming performance of Rugrats - A Live Adventure will take Saturday, Dec. 11.

The auditions will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pea Ridge United Methodist Church, 5747 Pea Ridge Road. Children in kindergarten through 12th grade can audition.

The show is a musical comedy with audience interaction. Cast members will need to have high energy and be able to think on their feet. There will be a total of 17 named male and female characters in the ensemble cast.

There will also be additional chorus members. Characters will be from the well-known cartoon with established voices and characteristics. Show organizers will be looking for children that can bring these cartoon characters to life being true to their already-established form. Reviewing the cartoons and working voices and characterization is encouraged.

Participants will be asked to read various parts of the script in character as well as sing a portion of a song that this character will sing in the show. Familiar songs will be provided.

Characterization will be considered equally with singing ability. In addition to the main show, there will also be casting for a short pre-show that will be a Nickelodeon-based character concept production. This is will be an actual 30 minute show presenting an assortment of various Nickelodeon characters. All ages will be considered for the Pre-Show characters.

Performance dates are March 17-20, 2011 at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Rehearsals will start in January on weeknights except for Wednesdays, but early in the process, there will be Saturday workshops for various groups.

The Cast List will be posted Sunday evening Dec. 12, and the first cast/parent meeting will be scheduled for that week.

Co-directors are Mary and Tommy Smirl. Musical director is Lara Donahoe. Producers are Elaine Young and Leslie Porter.

For more information, go online at www.firststagetheatre.

Friday, December 03, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - Lots of Shows!

Holy cow, there's no shortage of shows to catch this weekend! Here's the rundown:

- A Christmas Carol - Marshall's Theatre Alliance presents the one-man show by Jack Cirillo at 8 p.m. tonight at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

- Mary - CYAC offers its annual production about the mother of Jesus at the WVSU Capitol Center in Charleston tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.

- Irving Berlin's White Christmas - 5th Avenue Theatre will present the show at the City Hall Auditorium Dec. 3 - 5 and 10 - 12.

- A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley - ACTC will present the holiday classic Dec. 3, 4, 5 and 6.

- Oliver! - The Children's Theatre of Charleston presents the beloved musical Dec. 3 - 5 at the Civic Center Little Theatre.

- It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play - The Portsmouth Little Theatre will present the show based on the classic film Dec. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12.

So get out there and support your community theatre!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Previewing "White Christmas"

My pal Dave Lavender filed a great story today about this weekend's premiere of White Christmas - and here it is:
As if on cue, snowflakes are dancing to the ground, shoppers are rushing home with their treasures and Maxine Loudermilk no longer has to just dream of a "White Christmas."

The executive director of the City of Huntington Foundation had been applying for years so that when the Broadway musical, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas: Musical," was released to community theaters that the Foundation's 5th Avenue Theatre Company would get the rights to do the show.

Wish granted.

One of only 20 community theaters across the country with rights to the show, Fifth Avenue presents the region's first performance of "White Christmas," at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 5 and 12, at the Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium located in Huntington's City Hall.

Tickets are $15 and $12 for children 12 and under.

Director Eddie Harbert, who will be directing, "Titanic: The Musical," for Fifth Avenue in the spring, said bringing in "White Christmas" has long been a dream of Loudermilks, who is serving as the show's producer.

"It's kind of a big deal," Harbert said of snagging the rights to the show. "Maxine started five years ago trying to get the rights for the show and just kept applying and applying. The musical had exclusively been on Broadway during the holidays, but when they released it, because she had asked so long ago, they actually gave her the rights."

Loudermilk, who was applying every six months or so to get the rights, said she stood at the side of the stage Wednesday night in rehearsal and wept watching her favorite holiday movie come alive.

"I stood and cried last night when I watched it," Loudermilk said as snow fell from the stage during the closing number. "We have just wonderful people giving their heart and soul to it ... It is one of my favorite movies that I watch every holiday season and to me it is the most wonderful thing we could do around here."

Harbert said there's been a big buzz surrounding the show, which brings to life the classic holiday movie and that features a slew of Berlin's most beloved songs such as "Blue Skies," "How Deep is the Ocean," and of course, the unforgettable title song, "White Christmas," which is the number one Christmas song of all time.

That buzz has translated into unprecedented tickets sales which started in October, Harbert said. In fact, he said people better scramble and get tickets quick because they are almost gone for this weekend.

"To be truthful I have been surprised at the response," Harbert said. "People that I grew up with 21/2 hours away are wanting to come and see 'White Christmas.' But we've got a lot of people out-of-state coming to see it because 'White Christmas' is one of those things that people get excited about. It's such a classic like a 'Wizard of Oz.' People have a lot of good memories associated with the movie. It's part of their childhood and everyone wants to be taken back to good memories."

Packed with music and dancing, the show follows Army buddies Bob Wallace (Josh Janotta) and Phil Davis (Greg Kisor), first on the Western Front in World War II and then in their travels to New York and to a ski resort in Vermont where Wallace and Davis try to save the inn owned by General Waverly (Scott Black) by having a show in the barn of the inn.

Communications get skewed, fun ensues, and the buddies find perfect mates in the process.

Written by Berlin for the 1942 movie musical, "Holiday Inn," the song softly crooned by Bing Crosby, has gone on to sell more than 100 million copies, making it the best selling record of all time, and one that Crosby sang again in "Blue Skies," in 1946 as well as the classic movie, "White Christmas" in 1954.

Harbert said "White Christmas" has been an epic journey in every way, taking a small army of folks to bring the movie alive on stage.

The show features a cast of 25 actors and singers, including such theater veterans as Angela Wolfe-Hunt and Jessica Maier (playing Betty and Judy Haynes) as well as a rarity for 5th Avenue -- a 13-piece orchestra -- under the direction of Mike Campbell.

"Having a live orchestra is something new to us since orchestras cost so much money," Harbert said. "But there has been more support for this show than any I've ever seen. We have a 60-page program which I've never had. You get a book when you come and see 'White Christmas.'"

One of the first calls of duty when Harbert signed on for the show was casting in July, and then promptly getting measurements to Magic Makers, the national costume supply house in Huntington, which custom-made the more than 100 costumes needed for "White Christmas," which has a costume mistress, Diane Styles.

"Most of the cast has three to four costume changes and we have 25 people in the cast," Harbert said. "So it was a pretty big job finding the costumes from the 1940s and 1950s. Since this is the first time that the show has been allowed to be performed by community theater, Magic Makers did not have all of the costumes so they had to make them."

While Kerri Easter Stambaugh, who plays Rita, is choreographing the tap-dance-filled show, there is also quite a dance going on the technical side with the show's unique swinging and swiveling sets changed out while folks are still on stage singing as scenes change.

Harbert said tech director and set designer Suzi Henderson has been working since Nov. 1, on choreographing set changes with the eight stage hands.

"It's on wheels, and because it was a Hollywood musical we have to flip the scenes easily so we had to be in New York then on a train and then in an office in New York and in an Inn in Vermont talking so the actors stay on stage and the set revolves around them," Harbert said.

As if putting on the super-sized Christmas show wasn't enough, 5th Avenue has also added a children's pre-show with 16 children performing an original show written by Staci Bond, who works in the children's department at the Cabell County Public Library.

And when folks come into the lobby, there will be a rotating mix of carolers, a band, and dancers from Nancy's School of Dance.

"We wanted to set the mood and to get everybody into the Christmas spirit and to take people back to this whole community of the 1950s where everything stayed in the community and people's lives revolved around church and community activities," Harbert said. "We're having all these activities in the lobby and that creates that feeling of small-town Christmas which is what the show is all about."

WHAT: The City of Huntington Foundation's 5th Avenue Theatre Company's production of "White Christmas"

WHERE: Jean Carlo Stephenson Auditorium located in Huntington's City Hall

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 5 and 12.

HOW MUCH: $15 and $12 for children 12 and under.

GET TICKETS: At the door or contact Maxine Loudermilk, 304-696-5522, to make reservations or get additional information.

BEFORE THE SHOW: Come early and enjoy carolers in the lobby as well as Staci Bond's children's pre-show.

THE CAST: There are 25 in the cast. Some of the main characters and actors include Bob Wallace played by Josh Janotta, Phil Davis played by Greg Kisor, Betty Haynes played by Angela Hunt, Judy Haynes played by Jessica Maier, Gen. Waverly played by Scott Black and Susan Waverly played by Maggie Rawn and Emma Tapley, Martha Watson played by Elaine Tapley and Ralph Sheldrake played by Elijah Boyles.

BEHIND THE SCENES: "White Christmas" is directed by Eddie Harbert with Mike Campbell, musical director. Choreographer is Kerri Easter Stambaugh. Producer is Maxine Loudermilk. Assistant director is Carol Scarberry, stage manager is Cynthia Simmons, Props coordinator is Helga Thorn, props mistress is Pat Manis. Costume mistress is Diane Styles. Set design is Suzi Henderson and sound is Bill Galloway.

ABOUT THE SHOW: The story of "White Christmas" begins on the Western Front in World War II and then travels to New York and continues in the state of Vermont where Bob Wallace and Phil Davis try to save the inn owned by General Waverly by having a show in the barn of the inn. Communications get skewed, and the fun ensues. This fun, romantic comedy introduced great songs such as "White Christmas," "Sisters" and "I Love a Piano." "Snow" and "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing."

ON DECK: Other upcoming 5th Avenue Theatre productions include, "Titanic the Musical," May 6-8 and May 12-15, 2011, directed by Eddie Harbert and "Noises Off," Sept. 9-11 and Sept. 16-18, 2011, directed by Stephanie Sands.

ON THE WEB: Go online at www.cityofhuntingtonfoundation.com for more info.

On Stage Tonight - A Special Version of "Christmas Carol"

Wow, this one snuck up on me (just like the holidays always do)!

It's the one-man version of A Christmas Carol performed by Jack Cirillo. I saw this last Christmas and absolutely adored it - it gets my highest recommendation!

The show runs this weekend only, starting tonight. Here's the story by my pal Angela Henderson-Bentley:
Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his road to redemption is a familiar fixture on area stages at this time of year.

But it's not often it's only performed by one actor playing all of the roles.

But that's exactly how the Marshall University Department of Theatre will present the classic tale this week starring one of its own, faculty member Jack Cirillo.

A Christmas Carol will be presented at 8 p.m. today, Dec. 2 and Friday, Dec. 3, at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Marshall students are admitted free with a valid ID.

The performance is a fundraiser for the Marshall University Theatre Guild. Members of the guild will be singing Christmas carols before each performance.

"It's a great evening for the family to hear one of the greatest classics of our culture and support a great cause," Cirillo said.

The idea of this one-man performance, according to Cirillo, is actually from Dickens himself when he came to America on a book reading tour in the 19th century.

"Dickens fancied himself a theatrical person. He put on quite a show," he said. “The actual presentation is verbatim to what Dickens used. It's a little bit of readers' theatre and a little bit of improvisation. It's a challenge that way."

The play gives Cirillo a chance to perform, which is something he doesn't get to do a lot of these days.

"I love working with my students,” he said. “But I do miss the opportunity to work with peer professionals in theatre on a regular basis.”

After receiving his graduate degree from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1986, Cirillo, whose given name is John Colclough, moved to New York City, where he lived for 14 years. He stayed busy doing theatre, commercials and television work. One of the highlights of his career was doing an episode of the NBC series, The Cosby Mysteries, starring Bill Cosby.

"I bought the TV Guide because my name was in it,” he said. “It was pretty cool."

One of his last major performances was at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where he got the chance to work with Lynn Redgrave.

"That was such an education. A magnificent experience," Cirillo said. "I had my fair share of those high moments. A great 'New York Times' review, great feedback from Stephen Sondheim. But New York has a way of wearing you down."

So when his wife, Penny Watkins, got the opportunity to become the executive director of the Marshall Artist Series, the couple moved to Huntington. They planned to only stay a few years, but after Cirillo was hired at Marshall and the couple had their second child, they ended up staying.

"My focus now is different both personally and professionally," he said. "Professionally I want to continue to work with my students and continue to encourage them to develop companies and product for themselves," Cirillo said. "Personally, I'm all about my kids and seeing where life takes them. For me, it's been a terrific ride."

"White Christmas" Photo Gallery

This weekend the musical White Christmas takes the stage at Huntington's City Hall auditorium, and you can get a sneak peek courtesy of this photo gallery at the Herald-Dispatch's website.

The show is based on the film that starred Bing Crosby, and this is the first time the stage version has been produced by a community theatre group n our area.

I'm looking forward to seeing this one - it's produced by 5th Avenue Theatre Company, and directed by my pal Eddie Harbert. Break a leg, y'all!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On Stage in December

There are ten shows on the way in December, just in time for the holiday. Here's the rundown:

- A Christmas Carol - Marshall's Theatre Alliance presents the one-man show by Jack Cirillo at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

- Mary - CYAC offers its annual production about the mother of Jesus at the WVSU Capitol Center in Charleston Dec. 2 - 4 at 8 p.m.

- Irving Berlin's White Christmas - 5th Avenue Theatre will present the show at the City Hall Auditorium Dec. 3 - 5 and 10 - 12.

- A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley - ACTC will present the holiday classic Dec. 3, 4, 5 and 6.

- Oliver! - The Children's Theatre of Charleston presents the beloved musical Dec. 3 - 5 at the Civic Center Little Theatre.

- It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play - The Portsmouth Little Theatre will present the show based on the classic film Dec. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12.

- Nightmare Before Egos Out of Control Saves Christmas - Red Lion Theatre presents the show Dec. 9 - 12 at the KYOVA Tri-State Mall & Lifestyle Center.

- Anne of Green Gables - Kanawha Players presents the play Dec. 10, 11 and 12 at the Civic Center Little Theater.

- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - the Paramount Theatre presents the play Dec. 16.

- The Homecoming - The Kanawha Players presents the heartwarming classic Dec. 17, 18 and 19 at the Kanawha Players Theater.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Cast of "Mary"

This weekend is your last chance to catch this year's annual production based on the life of Mary.

CYAC offers its beloved annual production about the mother of Jesus at the WVSU Capitol Center in Charleston Dec. 2 - 4 at 8 p.m.

My pal Mel sends the cast list - and here 'tis:
Shepherd soloists: Will Taylor, Nik Tidquist, Nick Foster, Austin Thomas

Hear Us O Lord Ensemble: Lauren Mallory, Will Taylor, Nik Tidquist, Nick Foster, Austin Thomas

Spies: Will Taylor, Nik Tidquist, Nick Foster, Austin Thomas, Lauren Mallory, Mariah Plante, Daniel Calwell, Austin Sussman, Kaylen Surface, Susanna Morris, Hannah Ayersman, Stephen Lucas, Jillian Kronberg, Kelsey Hall, Holly Denning, Rowan Maher

Angels: Lauren Mallory, April Richardson, Kim Howard, Taylor Henderson, Paige Baisden, Jaclyn Cobb, Susanna Tucker, Mandy Harper, Amanda Mandirola

Zechariah: Craig Auge

Elizabeth: Katrina Mulyono

Herod: Jonathan Tucker

Gabriel: Maddy Gourevitch

Joseph: Donnie Smith

Mary: Brynna Horswell

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Rugrats" Auditions

Hope everyone had a great holiday! (Mine was great, thanks!)

Here's the announcement young actors all over the tri-state have been waiting for - auditions for Rugrats: A Live Adventure are coming up next month!

The auditions will be held Saturday, December 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pea Ridge United Methodist Church at 5747 East Pea Ridge Road in Huntington, W.Va. Auditions are open to ages from Kindergarten to the 12th grade.

Here's all the info:
First Stage Theatre Company is excited to announce auditions for Rugrats - A Live Adventure, a musical comedy with audience interaction.

All hopefuls should have high energy and be able to think on their feet. There are a total of 17 named male and female characters in this ensemble cast, with additional chorus members.

The characters you will be portraying are from a well-known children’s cartoon with established voices and characteristics. We will be looking for people who can bring these cartoon characters to life, being true to their already established form. Reviewing the cartoons and working on voices and characterization is encouraged.

Participants will be asked to read various parts of the script in character as well as sing a portion of a song that this character will sing in the show (no prepared song is required - familiar songs will be provided).

Characterization will be considered equally with singing ability. In addition to the main show, we will also be casting a short Pre-Show that will be a Nickelodeon based character concept production. This is not your “Momma’s Pre-Show” as it will be an actual 30 minute show presenting an assortment of various Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob, Blue’s Clues, Jimmy Neutron and Dora the Explorer. All ages will be considered for the Pre-Show characters, as this is not just to add little kids in the show but to enhance the main production - It’s “The Warm-Up Band”!

Performance dates are March 17-20, 2011 at the magnificent Keith Albee Theatre! Rehearsals will start in January on weeknights except for Wednesdays, but early in the process, there will be Saturday workshops for various groups to find their “Inner Babies” and work on big dance numbers.

The Cast List will be posted Dec. 12 and the first cast/parent meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14 at Pea Ridge United Methodist Church.

Co-directors: Mary and Tommy Smirl – 304-525-2557
Musical Director: Lara Donahoe
Producers: Elaine Young, Leslie Porter – 304-525-6132

Or visit the First Stage website at www.firststagetheatre.org.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you're having a great holiday, everyone!

I'll be taking a break for a few days, but check back after the holiday - there are lots of big shows to talk about and some big announcements brewing!

Just as a reminder, there are two shows going on this weekend.

They are:

- Mary - CYAC offers its beloved annual production about the mother of Jesus at the WVSU Capitol Center in Charleston Nov. 26 - 30 and Dec. 1 - 3 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 27 at 2 p.m.

- Happy Holidays! A Christmas Cabaret - the Pullman Players present a concert of Holiday music at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, at the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Happy Holidays! A Christmas Cabaret"

Here's a story from today's edition of the Herald-Dispatch about a special holiday concert coming up this weekend:
WSAZ Meteorologist Marina Jurica has some good news and bad news about the weather this weekend.

The bad news is that is going to be cold and wet.

The good news is she's smart enough to be heading inside and is inviting you along.

Jurica, her husband Todd Preston, and a couple dozen of their best singing and dancing friends are gathering for Happy Holidays! A Christmas Cabaret, that is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, at the Pullman Plaza Hotel, 1001 3rd Ave., Huntington.

The cabaret stars such standout singers as Catlettsburg native/Nashville songwriter Stephen Salyers, up-and-coming songwriter Bronson Bush, stage veteran Ryan Hardiman, and some WSAZ personalities including Melanie Shafer, as well as Rob Johnson and Tony Cavalier who will be reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas" during the show.

Tickets are $15 and $10 for children and students for this fundraiser for the Pullman Plaza Playhouse 2011 season.

Jurica said they think the cabaret is a perfect way to kick off the holiday season for folks wanting something to do with family in for Thanksgiving.

"I am telling you right now the weather does not look good, so put your Christmas lights up now because next weekend -- not so good," Jurica said. "But inside, we are trying to make it a real nice kickoff to the holiday season. There's so much that happens in December that you almost get inundated but there's hardly anything that happens Thanksgiving weekend and everyone is here visiting family."

Jurica, who is on the Playhouse board with her husband, said the cabaret is another fun way to raise some money for the Playhouse, which just completed its inaugural 2010 season with productions of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Little Shop of Horrors, in addition to a Starry Starry Night Cabaret.

"They are picking up a lot of steam with everything," Jurica said. "We had fantastic audiences for 'Starry, Starry Night,' selling out the first night and almost 75 percent sold out the second night going up against Liza Minelli. 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' did well and 'Little Shop' did even better. So all of them have made profit at a time when most community theater companies barely break even or go into the red."

Jurica, who has put together several "Starry Starry Night" cabarets that have been mostly Broadway song revues, said this Christmas cabaret is a bit more geared for all ages with a visit from Santa, her WSAZ co-horts, Johnson and Cavalier reading Christmas stories, as well as some children singing songs such as "Nuttin' for Christmas," blended into the program that features a wide array of Christmas songs.

Singers are coming from as far away as Nashville, Morgantown, Charleston and Lexington for the show that features about 40 songs including "Let There Be Peace on Earth," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," that will feature the entire cast.

Jurica's friends from UK Opera in Lexington, Ky., Victoria and Peter Guy are coming over to sing as are young country singers as Stephen Salyers, who's been based out of Nashville for about five years, and Bronson Bush, a local high school student who has already performed at the world famous Bluebird Cafe.

They'll kick off the show with some Christmas on Broadway featuring a slew of songs such as "Sleigh Ride," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "I'll Be Home for Christmas, "Silent Night," and others.

Jurica and Hardiman, who've performed together as featured soloists at the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, will be singing, "The Prayer," an Andrea Bocelli song.

There's also a touch of country with Nancy Jackson, Beth Winkler and Melanie Shafer singing, "Tennessee Christmas," and "Hard Candy Christmas," the song Dolly Parton made famous.

Jurica, who is also singing "The Wexford Carol," an acapella solo and "Baby, It's Cold Outside," with her husband, said they'll be plenty of costumes and fun with folks dressed up for such songs as "Santa Baby," and as well as for a song from "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

While several of the cabarets have been dinner and a show, this will be a show only.

"People are looking for things to do and people want to get into the holiday spirit," Jurica said. "I think after all of that shopping on Friday that people will get rested up and be reading for a great night."
If You Go:

WHERE: Pullman Plaza Hotel, 1001 3rd Ave., Huntington

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $15 and $10 for children and students

WHAT FOR: A fundraiser for the Pullman Plaza Playhouse 2011 season. The Playhouse is a new dinner theater based out of the Pullman Plaza Hotel.

GET TICKETS: Call 304-710-7290 or visit www.pullmanplayhouse.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Strike the Set!

After this afternoon's final performance of Once Upon a Mattress, the cast, crew and parents took the stage to strike the set. (Hope you got to see the show - it was terrific!)

After most of the set had been taken apart and moved out of the theatre, I walked back in and saw what you see in this (admitted somewhat fuzzy) photo. About 15 of the young actors from the show were on stage holding up the "Traveler" curtain (it's a black curtain that can be opened and closed like the curtain on a window - left or right, rather than up and down).

The curtain's pretty heavy - about 300 pounds, someone said - but here's the perfect example of teamwork and young people doing a big job. In other words, just like they do on stage every time they put on a show.

In a matter of minutes, the "Traveler" was moved to its proper position and hoisted back into place - but seeing those kids pitching in to tackle such a big job made me smile.

Teamwork and working with your friends - that's what theatre is all about!

Last Chance to Catch "Once Upon a Mattress"

This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. is your last chance to catch the delightful Once Upon a Mattress at the old Huntington High School at 900 8th Street.

My lovely wife and I caught last night's show and we had a blast. The performances were better than ever!

I also had the honor of making the official presentation to the winner of this year's Jim Stone Scholarship - it went to Cody Verbage, a talented young actor who's now studying at the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He received a check for $1000 to apply toward his education.

Cody's yet another young performer who got his start on stage with the children's theatre. With First Stage, he was in Children of Eden, Peter Pan and Into the Woods.

So congratulations to him for a well-deserved honor - and one last recommendation to you, gentle reader, to check out Once Upon a Mattress while you can - it's a keeper!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Three More Chances to Catch "Once Upon a Mattress"

This weekend is the last one for Once Upon a Mattress, which is being presented by First Stage Theatre Company as part of its 21st season.

You can read my comments about the show right here, but the short version is: I loved it!

It's a classic musical comedy based on the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, and it's loaded with laughs, great songs and quite a few surprises.

You'll be impressed by the all-star cast of young performers from around the tri-state area who bring this show to life.

The costumes are great, the set is terrific, and the performances are outstanding - it even features a live orchestra, and they're outstanding!

The show runs tonight at 8 p.m. at the old Huntington High School at 900 8th Street. There will be another show on Saturday at 8 p.m. and the final performance will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Don't miss it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some Quick Plays for a Friday

Here's an unique theatre offering to check out:
The Marshall Theatre Alliance will host Honey, I Shrunk the Plays with a night of 10-minute shorts, starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.

The one-act plays and staged readings will include Bert V. Royal's Dog Sees God: Confessions of Teenage Blockhead.

Other one-act works include Welcome to the Moon by John Patrick Shanley, That Midnight Rodeo by Mary Sue Price, A Sermon by David Mamet, The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From by Christopher Durang, Time Trap by Marshall University Theatre Student Erik Woods and several other comedic pieces.

For more information, call 304-696-6395 or 304-696-2787.

The production is for mature audiences only.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - "Once Upon a Mattress" and "Dreamgirls"

There are only two shows on tap this weekend, but they're both outstanding.

Here are your choices - one in Huntington and one in Charleston:

- Once Upon a Mattress - The First Stage Theatre Company presents the final weekend for this classic musical comedy at the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School) at 900 8th Street. The show runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

- Dreamgirls - The Charleston Light Opera Guild will present the Broadway hit musical at the Civic Center Little Theater Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 3 p.m.

Don't miss 'em!

5th Avenue Theatre Company Announces 2011 Season

My pal Eddie Harbert sends along this press release announcing next year's season of shows for 5th Avenue Theatre Company - and an impressive line-up it is:
The City of Huntington Foundation and 5th Avenue Theatre Company are proud to announce their 2011 Season.

The first show of the season will be Titanic: The Musical May 6-8 and 12-15. Come journey back in time and take a ride on the Titanic - City of the Seas. The musical is not based on the film version of the story but rather is based on actual events that transpired between the passengers on that fated voyage. Auditions will take place in March, and the show is being directed by Eddie Harbert.

Noises Off will be the second show of the season September 9-11 and 16-18. This non-musical tells the story of a theatre troupe as they attempt to put on the premiere of a broadway show. It is the hilarious telling of the backstage trials and travails of the group as they go through the ordeal of putting up the show. This hysterical farce will be directed by Stephanie Sands in her directorial debut.

The last show of the season will be the Christmas favorite White Christmas which is being brought back by popular demand. Follow Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy as they travel to Vermont to help the general "put up a show" in the barn in order to save the inn. The show is packed full of favorites like "Sisters," "Blue Skies," "I Love a Piano" and, of course, "White Christmas." Dates for the show are December 2-4 and 8-11 and is also being directed by Eddie Harbert.

Season tickets will once again be available for all three shows with a 20% discount off of regular ticket prices. Season tickets will go on sale December 1 and make wonderful Christmas gifts for friends and family.

For more information or to purchase your season tickets, please call Maxine Loudermilk at 304-696-5522.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Story About "Once Upon a Mattress"

Sunday's edition of the Herald-Dispatch featured a new story about the musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress, and the website featured an additional photo gallery, which you can see right here.

If you missed it, here's the story by Lacie Pierson:
When Sarah Jessica Parker starred in a Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress in 1996, several of the members of the First Stage Theatre Company hadn't even been born.

That didn't stop more than a dozen students between the ages of 11 and 18 from putting on a performance of the musical in front of a packed Renaissance Theater in Huntington on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Some of these kids have been in dozens of shows, and, for some, it's their first. If you come here and bring something special to the table, we're going to pull you up and show your talents," Amy Browning, director of the show, said. "Everything from the performers, to the costumers, to the sound and lights are done by the kids -- with some supervision. Not everyone wants to be on stage, and we want to make sure each person finds their calling."

Once Upon a Mattress was written as an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea in 1959. Carol Burnett was the original Princess Winifred in the play, but a handful of aspiring actors from throughout the Tri-State were more than prepared to fill the shoes of Burnett and Parker this weekend.

"It's so much fun. It's great to be around people who are such good and funny people," said Madeline Southall, a 17-year-old junior at Nitro High School, who portrays Lady Larkin in the show. "It's more complex than just getting up there and singing. It's an opportunity to expand on what I've been able to do in school. It's really exciting."

Southall said this was one of her first performances outside of school, but Kristin Caviani, a 16-year-old junior at Huntington High School, has been in more than 20 productions in the Tri-State.

She said while she enjoys the opportunity to polish her performing skills, she hopes that her efforts benefit the audience, as well.

"I want people to leave this performance in a better mood than they came here with," Caviani, who portrays Queen Aggrabain, said. "People should just give it a try, you'll never know if you like a show or the arts if you never give it a try. If nothing else, it's a way for people to know that not all kids are bad, and there are plenty of good teenagers out here in the world."

Once Upon a Mattress
will be presented next weekend at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. For more information,call 304-416-KIDS (5437) or visit www.firststagetheatre.org.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Once Upon a Mattress"

I got to see Once Upon a Mattress last night, and am I glad I did!

First of all, it's a very funny show, with lots of great songs, outstanding costumes and an impressive set. (You can see a photo gallery from the show right here.) But best of all, the cast is packed with terrific performers!

The beauty of First Stage is that it draws on some of the top talent around the tri-state area and gives them a stage to show off those abilities. And this show is loaded with gifted performers - an all-star cast!

I've known Chloe Donahoe since she was in First Stage's High School Musical, and this is (as far as I know) her first star turn - but it won't be the last. She's terrific as Winifred, the rough-edged and good-hearted princess who's trying to win the hand of the Prince. Her comic timing is perfect, and what an amazing voice! When she sings "Shy" she brings the house down! (That's her in the red in the photo above.)

Another great performance is provided by Kristin Caviani as Queen Aggravain - she's loud, obnoxious and tremendously funny - she steals almost every scene she's in! (That's her in the photo on the right.)

This is not to take away from the guys: Daniel King as Sir Harry is an amazing singer - he has the kind of commanding voice you'd expect from someone much older - and his comic skills are sharp, too. Jack McGee provides a lot of comic relief as the still-tied-to-the-apron-strings prince, and he plays his part with the skill of a stage veteran (and he's a fine singer, too). (He's in the photo above with Kristin.) Samuel Collins doesn't get to say much as the mute King Sextimus, but he gets lots of laughs with his Harpo Marx stylings.

There are many outstanding supporting performances here, too, including Sarah Bryan as the Minstrel - she sings beautifully and wears that beard proudly; Catherine Dennison as the Jester, who provides a wonderful performance as she gets to sing, dance and move the plot along cleverly; Madeline Southall is terrific as the desperate Lady Larkin, who has a special reason for wanting the Prince to get hitched.

I could go on and on, but let's just say that the rest of the cast is equally terrific, whether it's singing and dancing in the big group numbers or taking part in the comic bits that knit the show together.

It's wonderful to see this kind of big musical production locally, with an excellent 11-piece orchestra, no less! You just can't beat live music!

Kudos to director Amy Browning and the rest of her team for an outstanding job on this show!

You have one more chance to catch it this weekend - it runs tonight at 8 p.m. at the old Huntington High School at 900 8th Street. There is no Sunday show this weekend, but there will be additional performances next Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.

Don't miss this one!

Friday, November 12, 2010

On Stage This Weekend - "Mattress," "Doctor" and "Dreamgirls"

You have three outstanding shows to choose from this weekend - all highly recommended!

They are:

- Once Upon a Mattress - First Stage Theatre Company presents the classic musical comedy at the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School) tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m., Nov. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.

- The Good Doctor - The Marshall Theatre Alliance presents the Neil Simon / Anton Chekhov comedy at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.

- Dreamgirls
- Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the Broadway hit musical at the Civic Center Little Theater tonight and tomorrow and Nov. 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 3 p.m.

So get out there and support your local theatre!

A Word About "Once Upon a Mattress"

Various obligations have kept me hopping lately (I just got back from several days in Boston, for example), so I'm trying to make up for it by calling your attention to the great shows being staged this weekend.

One of them is Once Upon a Mattress (which takes the stage tonight), and my pal Jack Welch (who's been working on the construction of the set for weeks now) sent along these comments:
Just wanted to give you an update on Once Upon a Mattress.

I can sum it up in one word: WOW!

I think we have a show here. I never stop being amazed at the talented young actors we have here in the tri-state area. The show musically is as good as Les Miserables and a lot more fun. (Happy ever after in this one.)

I have been at the rehearsals and it gets funnier ever time I see it.

The rehearsals have been going great! What we need now is an audience (hint, hint, readers).

This is a show you don't want to miss.
Thanks, Jack!

He's absolutely right - I know this cast has been working incredibly hard and has put together an amazing show - I urge everyone to take the time to see this all-star cast!

(And I forgive Jack for his comment about my beloved "Les Miz" - a great, uplifting show, but not exactly famous for having a happy ending.)

"The Good Doctor" - A Review

Hey, I got to see The Good Doctor Thursday night - it's the latest play being presented by the Marshall Theatre Alliance. All I can say is: what a terrific show!

It starts with a great script by Neil Simon, based on humorous stories by Anton Chekhov. The set is amazing (I was so impressed I took a photo of it)! Take all that and add an incredibly talented cast and you end up with a terrific show!

The show is made up of a dozen short stories, woven together into one narrative. Some are funny, some are extremely funny, some are sad and sweet - it's a great mix!

The cast is small (eight in all) but brimming over with talent. Dylan Clark is masterful as the Narrator (the perfect host); Chuck Heardon absolutely kills in three parts (especially as the ultimate ladies man); Ally Jimenez is a riot as a "defenseless" woman; Chelsea Saunders is perfect as the seduced woman who does the unexpected; Ethan Treutle had me on the floor laughing as an old man with a toothache; Christian Whitt gets to play for laughs as a stuffy General and touches your heart with a song that may be too late; Erik Woods is hilarious as the young dentist wrestling with his profession (literally); and Heidi Woodward is a delight as a young woman realizing her lifelong dream at an audition.

Kudos to the directing team, including my pal Clint McElroy, making his directing debut (on the big stage) for Marshall. He's honed his skills in community theatre, and he gets the most out of his cast and crew here - I'm looking forward to his next project!

The large crowd roared with laughter and applause - and you will, too. You have two more chances to catch The Good Doctor - Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. - my prescription is: catch it while you can!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Stage Tomorrow - "Once Upon a Mattress"

I can't wait to see this show - the musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress starts tomorrow night!

Here's the story from today's Herald-Dispatch:
First Stage Theatre Company presents the fairy-tale-spun musical, Once Upon a Mattress with an all-star cast of 35 middle school and high school students from Cabell, Wayne, Kanawha and Putnam counties participating.

Show time is 8 p.m. Nov. 12-13, and 19-20, as well as 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21. A special school performance is set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, as well at the Renaissance Art Center, 900 8th St., Huntington.

Tickets are available at the door or by calling the ticket line 304-416-KIDS (5437).

Tickets $14 and $12 for children 12 and under. Group rates are available for groups of 10 or more.

For more information, visit the website www.firststagetheatre.org.

Once Upon A Mattress, with music by Mary Rodgers; lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, Marshall Barer, takes the story of The Princess and the Pea and presents it with a twist.

Did you know, for instance, that Princess Winnifred actually swam the moat to reach Prince Dauntless the Drab? Or that Lady Larken's love for Sir Harry provided a rather compelling reason that she reach the bridal altar post haste?

Or that, in fact, it wasn't the pea at all that caused the princess a sleepless night? Carried on a wave of wonderful songs, by turns hilarious and raucous, romantic and melodic, this rollicking spin on the familiar classic of royal courtship and comeuppance provides for some sidesplitting shenanigans.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More About "The Good Doctor"

My pal Angela Henderson-Bentley files this story about Marshall's latest show, which takes the stage tonight:
Anton Chekov's short stories about ordinary people willl be transformed into a hilarious comedy with music this week by the Marshall University Department of Theatre.

The Good Doctor will be presented at 8 p.m. nightly Wednesday, Nov. 10 through Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and MU faculty. Marshall students are admitted free with valid ID.

"Doctor" was written by Neil Simon based on Chekov's stories. The director, Clint McElroy, said the play has a lot of familiar Simon characteristics, but it's not a typical Simon show.

"It has all the laughs, the jokes, and the one-liners that Neil Simon has. But he went about it in a really different way," McElroy said. "He took these stories by Chekov and turned them into very funny-and very moving, in some cases-scenes."

Instead of one continuous story, the play is made up of a number of different scenes.

"It's like reading a book of short stories instead of a novel," McElroy said. However, there are themes that run throughout the play. "Much of it is all about the creative process and how writers come up with things," he said.

"There's music and a lot of humor, but it's all tied together from Chekov's experience," McElroy added. "It's all really tremendous."

McElroy said directing the production has been an amazing experience for him and he can't offer enough praise for both the actors and people behind the scenes.

"I've learned a lot. It's been very educational for me. Hopefully it's been educational for them too," he said.

"It's such a terrific opportunity to work with students that this is what they want to do and what they study for," he said. "And they're very creative."

McElroy is well-known in the Tri-State arts community for a number of roles he has played over the years, but he also enjoys the different challenges of being behind the scenes.

"As an actor, you focus on one role. A director has to have a vision of all these things," he said. "The director's job is to lay it out for people. Here's the challenge. How are you going to solve it?

"The theater is the most collaborative of all the arts. These people have really embraced that," McElroy said. "I love when actors bring their own interpretation. I don't think I've ever directed a show that turned out the way I thought. It always turns out better than I thought because you have all of these other people contributing," he said.

According to McElroy, "Doctor" is a show that can be enjoyed by all ages.

"It really is a wonderful evening," he said. "It's very funny. The dialogue absolutely jumps off the stage. And each one of the stories has a twist to it. It's the comedy version of The Twilight Zone.

"Anyone who comes is going to enjoy it. And who couldn't stand to have a few more laughs?" McElroy said.

To buy tickets or for more information, contact the Marshall Theatre box office at 304-696-2787.