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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Auditions for "Godspell" on Dec. 7

 We're just a week away from auditions for the next First Stage show -

   Here's the info:  

   First Stage Theatre Company will hold auditions for the musical Godspell on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. The Broadway musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak is based on the Gospel of Matthew and Luke.
   The auditions will be held  at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center in Huntington, W.Va. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enter the building by the ramp on the 6th Avenue side of the building and go upstairs to Room 224. Auditions are open only to students in high school. The musical is being directed by Marshall University Theatre professor Jack Cirillo.

   “It’s a terrific opportunity for young actors to work with a professional actor and director of Jack Cirillo’s caliber,” said producer Clint McElroy. “At First Stage, we’re thrilled to have to opportunity to work with Jack on this beloved musical.”
   Participants can arrive and sign up at any time between 10 and 4. There is no charge to audition or to take part in a First Stage production, and no theatre experience is required.
   Auditioners should arrive ready to sing a 30-second section of the song of their choice - an accompanist will be provided. They will also be given a few lines from the script to read, and they’ll be taught a short dance step to demonstrate during the audition (be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes).
   The show will be presented Feb. 14 - 23, 2014, at the Renaissance Theatre (the old Huntington High School).
   The directing team includes: Music Director Lara Donahoe, Choreographer Mary Smirl, and Producers Clint McElroy and Chuck Minsker.
   Based in Huntington, W.Va., 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, contact Chuck Minsker at 304-736-4366.

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor" - A Review

   Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows is considered one of the funniest variety shows in the history of television. Some of the credit obviously belongs to Caesar and his talented cast - but the classic bit of stage wisdom is, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage” - in other words, the hidden star was the stellar group of writers.
   Playwright Neil Simon got his start on that show, and he created the comedy Laughter on the 23rd Floor to capture some of the mayhem, joy and madness of the Writer’s Room, which included such well-known creators as Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart (among others).

   The result is a terrific script that captures the unique, eccentric personalities who made a living creating award-winning comedy for one of the biggest stars in the early days of television.

   We see their struggles to work together, to avoid the urge to kill each other, and to deal with their boss (here named Max Prince), who isn’t the most stable star in town. (There is quite a bit of vulgar language in the show, but all used in a comic fashion.)

   But it takes more than a great script - you need terrific actors to bring the show to life, and this one benefits from an all-star cast.

   Our guide for the show in the newest writer on the staff, Lucas, played by Mike Naglee. It’s a surprising straight-man role for Naglee, who excels at big, over-the-top characters - but he’s perfect (as always) here.

   One of the many colorful writers is Milt, played with gusto by David Vickers. Milt sports some colorful outfits, and leads an equally colorful life, chasing women, trying to keep his wife happy, and firing jokes and one-liners with amazing speed.

   The head writer is Val, played by Len Trent, sporting a terrific Russian accent (which is especially humorous when he cusses, which is often).

   The lovable Simon Woods plays Brian, the hot-headed Irish writer who aspire to greater things, and is always just about to leave for the bright lights of Hollywood.

    Brian Cook plays Kenny, a whiz kid who has been working in TV for virtually his whole life, and he often provides the voice of reason when chaos descends - but he’s also very sharp-witted and clever.

   The only female on the writing staff is Carol, played wonderfully by Joanna Berner. More than anyone on the cast, she seems born to the era, and despite having to share the stage with a boy’s club of hams, she gets her shots in - and is very, very funny.

   The only other female in the cast is the secretary Helen, played with nervous glee by Jenn Naglee. She’s the buffer between the staff and the star of the show, and battles mightily to keep up - all while hiding a secret of her own.

   There are two major scene-stealers in the show. The first is Ira, played by Jerry Morse. Constantly fighting some terrible disease or another, Ira is the butt of jokes - and sparks some of the most incendiary moments. He’s just a heck of a lot of fun to watch!

   But no one steals scenes like Dylan Clark, who plays the star of the show, Max Prince. He’s a literal force of nature, storming through each scene like a hurricane. He’s amazing to watch and lifts a great show to even greater heights!

   The show is staged in the Renaissance Theatre ballroom, and the stage takes up an entire side of the huge room - making it, I’m told, the biggest stage (left-to-right) of any in Huntington except the Keith-Albee.

   The set is wonderful, recreating the late-’50s era and conveying the chaos of the writer’s room. It’s an intimate setting - the back row is just a short hop away from the stage - and that works perfectly with this comedy.

   Kudos to the directing team and the tech crew for staging a nearly-flawless production, a terrific comedy that will have you laughing and repeating bits as you make your way home.

   ARTS also offers dinner with the show, but you need to hurry - there are just three performances left (and no Sunday matinees), so call 304-733-2787 and make your reservations! (My lovely wife and I had the dinner at Saturday’s performance and loved it!)

   This is the final show for the 2013 ARTS season, and they’re wrapping up on a strong note - highly, highly recommended!

   (By the way,  for those not familiar with the original show, if you want to see the kind of skits that were produced for the Sid Caesar show, here’s one of the best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNbT9Lf9xZo ).

Friday, November 29, 2013

On Stage This Weekend: "Laughter" and "Mary"

   Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! 

    There are just two shows to choose from this weekend, but they're "choice" - you can enjoy a terrific Neil Simon comedy in Huntington or a classic holiday musical in Charleston!

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here's the rundown for this week:

- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Play)
By Neil Simon
Arts Resources for the Tri State (ARTS)
Fri. - Sat., Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 6, 7 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)
Ballroom at ARTS Renaissance Theatre (Old Huntington High School)
900 8th Street in Huntington
Show only: $10 / Dinner and show: $25
Reservations: 304-733-2787
(*Warning: Adult language- For mature audiences only)
Menu: Green salad with raspberry vinaigrette / Chicken breast / Rice pilaf / Carrots & Broccoli / Rolls / Brownie sundae / Tea / Water
(Alcohol cannot be sold at the dinner, but you are welcome to bring a bottle of wine of your own.)

- Mary - A Rock Opera 17th Anniversary (Original Musical)
By Mark Scarpelli and Dan Kehde
Contemporary Youth Arts Company (CYAC)
Fri. - Sat., Nov. 29, 30 and Thur. - Sat., Dec 5, 6, 7 at 8 p.m.
Matinee Sunday, Dec. 1 at 2 p.m.
WVSU Capitol Center Theatre
123 Summers St. in Charleston
$15 Adults / $10 Students and Seniors

    So get out there and support your community theatre!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Interview #2 With the Cast of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

  • For our second interview with the cast of the very funny show, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, let's hear from one of the most talented actors I know.
  • Mike Naglee has played an amazing variety of roles, including saviors, sinners, drunks and heroes. Now he's set to show his comedy chops in the comedy that takes the stage Friday night.  
  • Here's Mike:
  • Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?
  • Mike: Laughter is about the writing staff of "The Max Prince Show," an Emmy award-winning live comedy show, having a blast while dealing with pressure from the network and the red scare in 1953's New York.
  • Q: Tell us about the character you play.
    Mike: I play Lucas Brickman, the new guy in the office struggling to get his bearings. He keeps a running commentary through the course of the play, breaking the fourth wall to introduce characters or set the scene. If only these Zack Morris-like powers worked outside the show...
    Q: What's your background in theatre?
    Mike: I graduated from Marshall with a BFA in acting/directing in 2003. "Real life" took me out of the local theatre scene for a while, but I jumped back in the pool in late 2011. Since then I've been almost continuously involved in one local production after another, and became a member of the ARTS Resident Company in 2013. More literally, my first appearance on Marshall's stage was in 1999's Oliver when I walked behind a cardboard cut-out of a peasant woman and actually *was* background in theatre.
    Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy?
    Mike: Not cracking up. Fortunately, it's usually okay for Lucas to be highly amused at what's happening around him. Sometimes it gets quite difficult not to break character and laugh my fool head off.
    Q: You're staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does that make the show easier or is it more challenging?
    Mike: Both. It's easier to communicate what's happening in your head to an audience that's right on top of you, but you have to work against instincts acquired over years of playing in larger spaces. Reactions have to be bigger to play to an audience that is further away.
    Q: Tell us about the cast you're working with.
    Mike: I love these people. I even married one of 'em. Now *that* is a tight knit cast. Everyone in the cast and crew are great friends, great people, know what they're about and have a blast doing it. (Except that one guy. God, I hate that guy. You will too. Everybody does.)
    Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?
    Mike: It's hilarious! Come for the comedy and culture, stay for the gags and irreverence. The director has done a fantastic job molding a motley cast and crew into an evening of gut-busting entertainment. For *you.* I mean, can you imagine if someone put together a show just for you and you didn't come? Inconceivable.
    Q: Where and when will the show be staged?
    Mike: Laughter on the 23rd Floor opens this Friday night, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. Busy Friday? More chances Nov. 30, Dec. 6-7. Tickets are only $10, or you can join us for dinner first for $15 more. Call 304-733-ARTS for dinner reservations. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/215752481937135/
    Thanks, Mike!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Interview #1 with the Cast of "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

A terrific comedy takes the stage this weekend, so let's hear from some of the cast members of the ARTS production of the Neil Simon comedy, Laughter on the 23rd Floor!

The show features an all-star cast - first up to talk to us is the talented Len Trent:

Q: What is the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor all about?
Len: It is based on Neil Simon's time working on the wonderful sketch comedy show Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and his star writing staff. Which included Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart. 
Q: Tell us about the character you play.
Len: Val Slotsky is based on Mel Tolkin, one of the writers on Caesar's show. An immigrant from Russia, Val is the head writer for "The Max Prince Show." He is nervous at times but confident in his ability to deliver as a writer of comedy. As the Head Writer he knows if "dots funny" or not.
Q: What's your background in theatre? 
Len: Acting and stage combat, in one way or another, for 20 years.
Q: What's the most challenging thing about doing a comedy.  
Len: Timing. You hope you have it down but don't know until that live audience tells you.
Q: You are staging this in the Renaissance Ballroom, a more intimate setting than the main stage. Does this make the show easier or is it more challenging?
Len: A little of both. The audience is right there with you, so small things carry more weight than they would on the main stage. However, you can't let that intimacy take away from your energy.
Q: Tell us about the cast you are working with. 
Len: These people are unbelievable. I am having one of the best experiences ever. Each and every one of them is talented and hard working. It is so comfortable and safe. You feel as if you can try anything.
Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers? 
Len: Simple, you will have a blast.
Q: Tell us the dates, times and place for the show.
Len: November 29, 30 and December 6, 7 at 8 p.m. Arts Resources for the Tri-State Renaissance Theatre Huntington, W.Va.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Coming Soon: "It's a Wonderful Life"

   Here's a great way to enjoy the holiday - with a classic show!

   You can catch a live 
version of It's a 
Wonderful Life Live 
Radio Play by Joe 

   It will be staged in 
the style of a live radio 
drama on Dec. 6 and 7 
at 7:30 p.m. 
and Dec. 8 at 2:30 p..m. 
at Johnson Memorial 
United Methodist 
Church at 513 10th Street in Huntington.   

   The story lets you take a spin back to the 194's with the timeless Christmas classic. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Bring the family and kick off the Holiday season with this heart warming story.
   The show is directed by Bruce Rous and features Clay McKnight, Bil Neal, Linda Reynolds, Dan Imes, Justin Carlson, Amy Carlson and Bruce Rous.

   Drop by and see if an angel can find a way to earn his wings!

Coming Soon: "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

  Taking the stage this week is a terrific comedy - Neil Simon's hilarious Laughter on the 23rd Floor . I'll have a lot more to say about it in the weeks ahead, but here's the basic information -and if you want to sign up for the dinner and the show, bette get those reservations in no - time is running out.

The show is directed by Mike Murdock, and the play contains A lot of adult language. It's also very funny.  

November 29 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)
November 30 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)
December 6 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)
December 7 at 8 p.m. (Dinner at 6:30 p.m.)

Arts Resources for the Tri-State
(Old Huntington High School)
Renaissance Ballroom
900 8th Street, Huntington, W.Va. 25701-2756
(304) 733 - 2787 (ARTS)

RESERVE YOUR TICKETS NOW! The space is limited for both dinner and the show. The ballroom is a much more intimate space, so please reserve your dinner spots and/or show tickets ahead of time, because they will fill up very quickly! Call (304) 733 - 2787. If no one answer immediately, please leave a detailed message and someone will return your call as soon as they can.

Dinner + Show Tickets are only $25!
Show Only Tickets are only $10!

This play is based on Neil Simon's experiences as a writer on Sid Caesar's Your Show Of Shows and Caesar's Hour.

"Laughter..." takes place in the 1950s, in the writers room of "The Max Prince Show." The writing staff continually tries to one-up each other with gags to impress Max, all while dealing with the fact that the studio wants to dumb down the program for the Midwest and make the show shorter. Not only that, but Senator Joe McCarthy has started hunting Communists, and no one knows what is going to happen next.

This hilarious, fast-paced comedy is one of Simon's funniest and most poignant plays.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Monster" - A Review

   Monster is a show unlike any other.

   It's an adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein story, though one that much more true to the original tale than any of the movies carrying the famous name.

   That translates into an unsettling tale of horror that starts small and quickly moves into the realm of cosmic questions, including life, death and the existence of God.

   It centers around scientist Victor Frankenstein's attempts to solve the world's biggest puzzle - death itself.

   His investigations lead him to an attempt to reanimate a cadaver - but he finds that he has unleashed a power beyond his control, one that threatens to destroy his world and those he loves.

   As always, Marshall University's Theatre Alliance (and the director, Clint McElroy) does tremendous work, including terrific performances by: Remy Sylvain as the haunted and driven Victor; James Lucas dominates the stage as the sometimes sympathetic and sometimes murderous Creature; Meghan Martin is a vision as the ethereal and lovely Elizabeth;  Luke Hagley is delightful as Victor's younger brother, the mercurial William; Levi Kelley and Meghan Martin are spot-on as Victor's long-suffering parents; Jordan Marx runs from comedy to horror as the tragic servant Justine; Michael Ross and Tim Woda anchor the story as sailors who face a grim fate in the Arctic; Ryan Cardwell is excellent as Victor's loyal associate; and Sarah Bryan and Ethan Hess are delightful as Young Elizabeth and Victor.

   The play is presented in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre, and uses clever lighting and a complex, creative set to create an amazing mood setting for each sequence.

   The story is dark and adult - I wouldn't recommend it for the young ones - but for anyone mature enough to enjoy a good horror tale, this is one to relish.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On Stage This Weekend

   Lots of terrific shows on stage this weekend (though if you want to see Monster, better reserve those tickets quick - last weekend's shows sold out!). 

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here are your choices:

- Monster (Play)
Marshall Theatre Alliance
Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Francis-Booth Experimental Theater
Joan C Edwards Performing Arts Center
Marshall University
$20 Adults / $15 - MU Faculty / Seniors Free for students w/ MU ID Reserved Seating
Box Office 304-696-2787

- The 39 Steps (Play)
Morehead State University Theatre & Dance Programs
Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Lucille Caudill Little Theatre
Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky.
Tickets $5

- Arsenic and Old Lace (Play)
Grace Christian School
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 22-23 at 7 p.m.
Grace Christian School
1111 Adams Avenue, Huntington
Tickets $5

- Fashion Runway: Murdering Divas! (Murder Dinner Party)
Murder and Merriment
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 22-23 at 7 p.m.
South Charleston Holiday Inn
400 2nd Ave SW, Charleston
Tickets: $40
Reservations Required: 304.744.0051

- Goodnight Desdamona (Good Morning Juliet) (Play)
Shawnee State University Theater Dept.
Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Kahl Studio Theater at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, Portsmouth, Ohio
$10 Adults / $3 Students
Mature Comedy

- White Christmas (Musical)
Actors Guild of Parkersburg
Sat.-Sun., Nov. 23, 24, 29, 30 and Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.
Matinees Sun., Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 8 at 2:30 p.m.
724 Market Street
Parkersburg, W.Va. (corner of 8th and Market)
Adult $17 / Senior $14 / Student $14 / Child $7

- Willy Wonka (Musical)
by Roald Dahl
Boone County School's S.T.A.G.E.
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 22-23 at 7 p.m.
Matinee Sun., Nov. 24 at 3 p.m.
Madison Civic Center
261 Washington Ave, Madison, W.Va.
Adult $8 / Student $5

    So get out there and support your local theatre!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Actors for Children Theatre Wins “Outstanding Production” Award

    A local touring troupe for children won top honors at the Kentucky Theatre Association Community Theatre Festival. Actors for Children Theatre of Flatwoods, Ky., was selected as KTA’s 2013 “Outstanding Production” for its performance of A Thousand Cranes, a play for children written by Katherine Shultz Miller.

   ACT was also honored with the festivals award for Best Actor,for Zach Davis portrayal of Kenji. The production also won Outstanding Costume Design.

   “ACT could not be more excited that to be selected by to represent Kentucky next March at the Southeastern Theatre Conference Community Theatre Festival,” said Sarah Diamond Burroway, director of ACT.

   A Thousand Cranes was presented by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing of Woodstock, Ill. ACT presented the performance throughout the tri-state area this fall in a tour of middle and high school venues and public libraries.

   “ACT exists to share live, educational theatre with arts-underserved audiences,Burroway stated.
“Telling the true story of a young Japanese girl who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II, then later died from leukemia caused by radiation exposure allowed ACT to bring history, literature, art, science and world studies to hundreds and hundreds of local students,she continued.

   In addition to Diamond Burroway, who served on the cast and as director, cast members for ACT include: Bill Burroway of Flatwoods, Ky.; Zach Davis of Kenova, W.Va.; Jinnie Knight of Huntington; and Tish Maynard of Ashland.

   KTA also advanced Artists Collaborative Theatre of Elkhorn City to SETC for their Outstanding Production” of Quilters: The Musical. The Pike County troupe also won Best Actress,” “Best Supporting Actressand Outstanding Scenic Designat the festival.

   The Flatwoods company will perform in competition with theatre groups from 10 southeastern states in Mobile, Ala., in March 2014.

   For more information or to book a performance, contact Sarah Diamond Burroway, director, at 606-922-2903. ACT is a non-profit organization and a member of the Kentucky Theatre Association and the American Association of Community Theatres. 

   (Photos courtesy Bill Tussey)

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Stage This Weekend

   Lots of great shows hitting the stages this weekend - here's the lineup, courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman:

- Monster (Play)
Marshall Theatre Alliance
Nov. 15-16 at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Francis-Booth Experimental Theater
Joan C Edwards Performing Arts Center
Marshall University
$20 Adults / $15 - MU Faculty / Seniors Free for students w/ MU ID Reserved Seating
Box Office 304-696-2787

- A Coal History (Dance)
WV Dance Company
Nov 17 at 2 p.m.
Huntington High School
1 Highlander Way

- Almost Maine (Play)
GWHS Theatre Of The Nevertheless
Nov. 15-16 at 7 p.m.
Nov 17 at 1 p.m.
George Washington High School auditorium
1522 Tennis Club Rd, Charleston, WV
$10 Adults / $7 Students
(304) 348-7729

- Dracula - A Rock Opera (Musical)
by John R. Briggs and Dennis West
Greenbrier Valley Theatre
Nov. 15-16 at 7:30 p.m.
113 East Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV
$24 Adults / $21 Seniors 60+ / $15 Students & Children

- Goodnight Desdamona (Good Morning Juliet) (Play)
Shawnee State University Theater Dept.
Nov 15-16 and 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Kahl Studio Theater at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts Portsmouth, OH
$10 Adults / $3 Students
Mature Comedy

- Hairspray (Musical)
Logan High School 
Nov. 15-16 at 7 p.m.
Nov. 16 at 2 p.m.
Coalfield Jamboree
Logan, WV
All tickets $8

- 2013 KTS Community Theatre Festival
Nov. 16 1:10 p.m. - Paramount Players "The Outsiders;"
2:55 p.m. Actors for Children Theatre "A Thousand Cranes:"
4:10 p.m. Artists Collaborative Theatre "The Quilters."
Lucille Caudill Little Theatre in Breckinridge Hall.
Morehead State University, Morehead, KY
Tickets $5

   Lots of great stuff out there - get out there and support your community theatre!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


   Today's Herald-Dispatch has a great story about Monster, the new Marshall Theatre Alliance production.
   Here's an except from my pal Paul Sebert's story:
   Halloween may be over but there's still a "Monster" on campus. The Marshall University Theater Alliance will be presenting a showing of Monster, a play by Obie award winning playwright Neal Bell
   The play will be shown in the Francis-Booth Experimental theater from Wednesday, Nov. 13, through Saturday, Nov. 16, and Nov. 21 through 23. Showtime for the play is 7:30 p.m. 
   Monster is a remaking of Frankenstein," said Clint McElroy, the director of this production. "Bell wanted to go back to the source material of Mary Shelly's 'Frankenstein' or 'The Modern Prometheus' and not write a play that was like the Borris Karloff film or movie that Kenneth Branagh did. He wanted to go back to some of the basic issues and questions that the play asked. It's a very modernized tale and an adult take on the story. It is definitely not for children, and you won't see a man in green makeup with bolts in his neck."
   You can read the rest of the story and see more excellent photos bMarcus Constantino right here.  And don't miss the show - it's a classic!

On Stage This Week: "Monster"

   Taking the stage on Wednesday is a new twist on the classic story of Frankenstein.

   It's a play called Monster, and it's being presented by the Marshall Theatre Alliance over two weekends, on Nov. 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre. 

   The play is a slick and streamlined new stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic science fiction story. It provides a disturbing yet poignant look at one man’s insatiable quest to defeat death by creating life, and the dreadful results of abandoning his creation. Monster weaves a chilling tale of rampant human ambition and ever-present human longing.

   The show is directed by my pal Clint McElroy, and while it's not for kids, grownups (and horror fans) will love it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Les Miserables"

   My lovely wife and I got to see the musical Les Miserables at the Clay Center Saturday night, and I'm so glad we did!

   It really is a terrific production, with amazing talent, professional production values and a wonderful orchestra - it's worth every penny!

   How good was it? I heard someone sitting behind me ask during intermission, "Are these really local performers?"

   The all-star cast is loaded with top talent, led by Ryan Hardiman, whose powerful, soaring voice (and incredible range) is perfectly suited to playing Jean Valjean. Seven years ago Ryan told me Valjean was his dream role, and I remember thinking, "He'll be great in that part." Audiences can be grateful that he finally got a chance to live the dream! (Oh, and I love it when I'm right.)

   He's well matched against Chris Terpening, who plays the fiercely determined Inspector Javert. It takes a heck of a singer to go toe-to-toe with Ryan, and Terpening does just that, putting his stamp on several classic songs.

   I could go on and on! There's Emily Capece breaking your heart with her song as the tragic Fantine; Bria White stealing hearts as Little Cosette; Alan and Laurie Pennington stealing scenes (and creating big laughs) as the dastardly Thenardiers; Will Manahan delighting the audience as young Gavroche; Beth Winkler Bowden delivering a stunning, heartfelt performance as the lovelorn Eponine; Evan Sullivan provides an amazing performance as the lovestruck Marius; Bryanna Horswell is sweet and tender as the grown-up Cosette; and Jonathan Tucker is terrific as the idealistic Enjolras, leading an powerful chorus of rebellious students (gotta love those male chorus numbers).

   None of that is intended to take away from the Ensemble, who wear many hats and costumes and provide thrilling vocals every step of the way - truly impressive!

   You get the whole package with this show - a professional orchestra, set and costumes - the tech work was nearly flawless - all staged in what is probably the best theatre space in the state!

   Who could ask for more?

   Look, I admit I'm a long-time fan of Les Miserables - it's a big, bold show that hits you emotionally, takes you on ups and downs as the story winds through the epic (and sometimes tragic) lives of numerous characters, to its ultimately uplifting conclusion. It's loaded with amazing songs and performances, and brings out the best in everyone who takes part - audience and performers.

   Is it the best community theatre show of the year?


   Will you be sorry if you miss it?

   You should be!

   Take my advice, make time, go to the show - the Sunday matinee may be your last chance to see this show outside Broadway for quite a while.

   You can thank me later.


Friday, November 08, 2013

On Stage This Weekend

   Courtesy of my pal Ryan Hardiman, here's the short (but excellent) list of shows taking the stage this weekend.

   (And not to single out any favorites, but if you miss Les Mis, you'll be sorry!)

   Here's the list:

- Les Misérables (Musical)
by Boublil and Schönberg
The Charleston Light Opera Guild / The Clay Center
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee performance Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences
Maier Performance Hall
One Clay Square, Charleston, WV 25301
$25 Reserved tickets available NOW at the Clay Center Box Office. Call 304-561-3570 or walk up. Open 7 days a week 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. or online at theclaycenter.org

- How I Learned to Drive (Play)
Company of Dreams
Thursday - Saturday, Nov. 7 - 9 at 8 p.m.
Fairview High School Band Room
Ashland, KY
Tickets $5

- Death on Black Friday! (Dinner Murder Party)
Murder and Merriment
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8-9 at 7 p.m.
The Greenhouse of Teays Valley
Hurricane, WV
Tickets: $40
Reservations Required: 304-397-6316

   So get out there and catch some great theatre!

WV Dance Company Presents a Free Performance in Huntington

   Here's a wonderful production taking the stage in Huntington on Nov. 17 - and the most amazing thing is, it's all free!

   Here are the details from my pals Donna and Stewart Duke:
   The West Virginia Dance Company (WVDC), West Virginia's only truly professional dance company is performing at Huntington High School on Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. These dancers are all college graduates, several with their Masters.
   The performance is totally free! The performance, "A Coal History," is presented by the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.

   The dance is made possible by grants from the Coal Heritage Association and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. We chose Huntington because so many of our friends have heard us sing the praises of WVDC and this will be a gift for everyone who sees it.

   The Company performs for over 50,000 school students in the state and surrounding area, mostly in rural and low income schools. There are many college and university shows as well as public performances like this one. The school shows are very different from the public shows.  School shows are based on West Virginia educational standards and bring learning to schools in a new and engaging way.

   The WVDC is a non-profit organization so we need as much support as possible.  The dancers and choreographer are all salaried. 
   For more information those interested can contact Donna Duke at 304-743-6664 or donnaduke67@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Reviews Are In for "Les Miserables"

   Sadly, I haven't had the chance to catch the Charleston Light Opera Guild production of the beloved musical Les Miserables yet (something I plan to correct this weekend), but I've heard nothing but rave reviews from those who have been lucky enough to see it.

   Here are actual comments from friends of mine who attended the show:

   "Best choral ensemble work I have ever witnessed."

   "Les Miserables by CLOG can simply be put into one word: Phenomenal."

   "Vocally, the show is amazing."

   "I have never seen anything of the same caliber, produced on a local level, as I did tonight with CLOG's Les Miserables." 

   "I encourage everyone to catch it next weekend!"

   "This is a phenomenal production!"

   So my advice is: take the hint, reserve your tickets, and don't miss this one!

Monday, November 04, 2013

On Stage This Weekend: "How I Learned to Drive"

   We just got word about another show taking the stage this weekend in Kentucky.

   It's How I Learned to Drive, a tough and edgy play that's being presented by Company of Dreams Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. at Fairview High School at 2123 Main Street in Ashland, Ky.

   Tickets are $5 for general admission.

Friday, November 01, 2013

On Stage in November

   On stage in November, the lineup includes one of the year's biggest shows, a terrific comedy, a slice of horror, the most colorful group around, some holiday music, a new awards show, a mystery and a little murder.

   Here's the list

- Les Misérables - The Charleston Light Opera Guild and The Clay Center present the beloved Broadway musical Nov. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Maier Performance Hall at One Clay Square in Charleston. Tickets are $25 - reserved tickets are available at the Clay Center Box Office. Call 304-561-3570 or walk up. Open 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. or online at theclaycenter.org.

- Laughter on the 23rd Floor - ARTS presents the Neil Simon comedy at the Renaissance Theatre Nov. 29 and 30, Dec. 6 and 7 at 8 p.m. The play is based on Simon's experiences as a writer on Sid Caesar's Your Show Of Shows. It takes place in the 1950s in the writer’s room of "The Max Prince Show." The writing staff continually tries to one-up each other with gags to impress Max. The hilarious, fast-paced comedy is one of Simon's funniest and most poignant plays.

- Monster - Marshall Theatre Alliance present the play on Nov. 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre. The play is a slick and streamlined new stage adaptation of the Frankenstein saga. Mary Shelley’s classic science fiction story provides a disturbing yet poignant look at one man’s insatiable quest to defeat death by creating life, and the dreadful results of abandoning his creation. Monster weaves a chilling tale of rampant human ambition and ever-present human longing.

- A Holiday Concert - Curtains Up Players presents a performance of holiday music on Nov. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center in Huntington.

- Blue Man Group - The Marshall Artists Series presents the performers best known for their multinational, insanely popular theatrical shows and concerts which combine comedy, music, and technology to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The show will be presented Nov. 12 and 13 at the Keith Albee Theatre in Huntington.

- The First Annual IMEA Awards - The International Music and Entertainment Association (IMEA) Awards will be held Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Arts Center. Performers will include Eden Espinosa (Broadway star from Wicked, Brooklyn, and RENT, and recording artist), Sheila Raye Charles (Christian/gospel singer-songwriter and daughter of the legendary Ray Charles), Tyler Matl (teen pop sensation), Greylan James (country music artist from NBC's The Voice Season 4), and the Paramount Players. The IMEA Awards will honor individuals and organizations in pop, hip hop, country, christian/gospel, and rock music and theatre categories. Tickets are $15 for balcony seating and $20 for orchestra.
- The 39 Steps - Portsmouth Little Theatre presents the Hitchcock play Nov. 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Portsmouth Little Theatre at 1117 Lawson Street in Portsmouth.  Tickets are Adults $12 / Students-Seniors $10.

Fashion Runway - Murdering Divas - Music, Murder and Mayhem presents the Interactive Murder Party Nov. 22 and 23 at 7 p.m. at the South Charleston Holiday Inn. Finalists compete for Top Fashion Diva on the hit reality TV Show - Fashion Runway. Judges, Heidi Klam, Simon Powell, and Neena Garcia are on hand to select the winner! For more info go to www.murderandmerriment.com.

   So get out there and support your community theatre group - they need you!

On Stage Tonight: "Les Miserables"

   This is almost certainly the biggest show of the year, as the Charleston Light Opera Guild presents the blockbuster Broadway musical  Les Miserables, starting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Clay Center in Charleston.

   The show is a huge undertaking. It requires a large cast loaded with great singers, a huge set, extensive costuming, a full orchestra, a big stage, special effects - all the things that make community theatre expensive.

   It's been reported that this is the most expensive show CLOG has ever tackled, and I believe it - but the organization has established its reputation for top-notch productions, and judging by the cast this looks like their best production yet.

   The lineup includes one of the area's best performers, Ryan Hardiman, training his powerful voice on the iconic role of Jean Valjean.

   Certainly it's one of the most beloved musicals in the world. The sprawling tale covers a lot of ground, largely focusing on Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. When he's finally released from prison, he almost returns to a life of crime - but is saved by an act of kindness, and he rededicates his life to doing the right thing. Even so, he must stay one step ahead of the indefatigable Inspector Javert, who nearly captures him. Valjean rescues the abused child Cosette and raises her as his own, only to become involved with the violent student revolution as he tries to save the life of the man the now grown-up Cosette loves.

    Whew! So it's a big story, loaded with emotional moments, amazing songs, humorous bits and uplifting, spiritual events.

   It's a show I never get tired of seeing, and this is going to be a production that you don't want to miss. It runs over the next two weekends - so make your plans and reserve your tickets now!