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.