Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Pitch scolds the Barn Players for typos

As far as the sins of public relations go, is there any worse than misspelling the title of the play that you're being paid to plug?

more at The Pitch

Pianist Christopher McKiggan talks about UMKC Conservatory

Christopher Janwong McKiggan from Conservatory of Music and Dance on Vimeo.

Living Room "Talk Radio" review by Alan Scherstuhl

Because it's a Coterie show, Lucky Duck plays mornings and afternoons (and 7 p.m. Fridays), which means cast members such as Sam Cordes (who plays a terrified lamb and a cocky rooster) can moonlight. Cordes also turns up in the Living Room's revival of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio, a few blocks' dash from Crown Center.

more at The Pitch (after the Lucky Duck review)

Coterie "Lucky Duck" review by Alan Scherstuhl

In its 80 minutes, the razzle-dazzle singing-animal musical Lucky Duck struts from barnyard to catwalk and from pleasure to pleasure. Over a series of witty, crisply choreographed production numbers, Jennie Greenberry (playing Serena, the title quacker) blossoms from wretched stray to supermodel swan, a transformation that plays like a waterfowl American Idol in a faraway fairy-tale land.

more at The Pitch

Jeff Church "Thrill Me" interview by John Long

Among the many offerings of this year’s Fringe Festival — from July 23 to Aug. 1 — will be the Fishtank Performance Studio’s premiere of Stephen Dolginoff’s Thrill Me. Directed by Jeff Church and featuring musical director Daniel Doss, the musical stars Shea Coffman and Bryan LaFave as the two cold-blooded killers Leopold and Loeb, reportedly a couple, and their 1924 murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks. 

more at Camp

Stage Savvy: Giving the Curtain Speech

ArtsMarketing is a great site for anyone wanting to promote their arts organization, filled with advice and ideas, I have an issue with one particular piece of advice given in the article from April 15, 2010, which I'm just now getting around to reading "Building Audiences One Encounter at a Time" - the curtain speech.

As someone wanting to promote my theatre, I understand the reasoning behind this piece of advice. As Smith writes, it is a captive audience and a perfect time for promoting your organization, upcoming shows, and the ability to donate to the organization.

However, as someone who attends theatre, I also know that curtain speeches - as with anything else - follow
Sturgeon's Law. Most of the curtain speeches I've seen are hammy/corny, too long, and - the worst part - make me even less willing to give, as it tends to lead to compassion fatigue as I hear how much trouble the organization is in and how only my donation can help.

So, if you're determined to make a curtain speech, here are some tips for making it effective.

  • make it brief: for the love of Thespis, PLEASE make it brief. If you're still there after four minutes, you've most likely gone on too long.
  • make it entertaining: this is a partial corrollary to the above, as you can get away with a longer speech if it's humerous. One of the best curtain speeches I've ever heard was when I was in LA for my fellowship at the NEA Institute. While waiting at the Reprise Theatre Company for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I was surprised to have none other than Jason Alexander (yes, that Jason Alexander) give the curtain speech. It was quick paced and filled with jokes (after all, it was Jason Alexander) - but even this one went on a bit too long.
  • hit the highlights. This helps in being brief, but also helps with combating compassion fatigue. Plug where they can go for more information and only hit two or three items (giving, upcoming show, and where to go for more info on the above - and if you're not going to stick around, point out who is going to be there should an audience member want to talk to someone that night).
The curtain speech is a good marketing tool, but like any other marketing tool, it needs to engage the audience - not put them off. So think twice when coming up with your organization's speech.

- Angie Fiedler Sutton

Quixotic "Paix Reveuse" Live Free (Illumination)

Live Free (Illumination)
Music: Produced at Bazillion - Anthony Magliano & Noel Selders
Composers: Anthony Magliano, Noel Selders & Laura Scarborough
Art Direction: Anthony Magliano & Stephen Goldblatt
Projection Design: Bazillion - Tyler Keith
Choreography and Performance: Laura Jones

IFC's One Night Stand "Cannon's Place"

This is an episode of the web series "Cannon's Place" made for and submitted to the One Night Stand.

Cast and Crew: Mike Czerniewski: director, producer; Clint Hoffmeier: Jake Cannon, producer; John Keck: Chad Hendrickson; Melody Butler: Amber Reichardt; Victor Hentzen: Amber's Date; Jamal Ross: crew; Matt Thomas: crew

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Urban Film Festival promo (long version)

Paul Burns' story in the works

I had the opportunity last week to shoot some movie production stills for an upcoming documentary entitled "Paul," by Justin Gardner and Brandon Cummins. I covered the premiere of Justin's movie We Will Make You Whole Again back in April on this photoblog. For this movie, Justin and Brandon are collaborating to make a short film about KC resident Paul Burns's life after a horrible incident that occurred last November.
more at Eric Bowers Photo

[Thanks, Tony]

Midwestern Music Academy celebrates 75 years

Chloe Gilligan was in harmony heaven. The ninth-grader knows there are some students who are serious about music at West Junior High School, where she attends during the school year. But for a week this summer, she was surrounded by hundreds of students who treat music as much more than a hobby.

more at the Lawrence Journal-World

IFC's One Night Stand Winners

Congratulations to all the nearly 20 teams who took part in a highly successful One Night Stand!

more at the Independent Filmmaker's Coalition

Mitch Brian's "Rhubarb Pie" short film

Directed by Mitch Brian, written by Lyndall Blake and Bryan Colley, starring Michelle Davidson, Jason Curtis Miller, and Scott Cordes. Photographed and edited by Todd Norris

"Spotlight on Darin Parker" by Angie Fiedler

from the May 2010 issue of KC Stage

Darin Parker has students from Topeka to Liberty. As a vocal teacher, he’s had his own private studio for 17 years now. But when asked why he’s drawn to music, Parker isn’t quite sure how to articulate. “I have thought of that many times, and I just don’t know. It just seems right.”

Parker grew up in Sibley, Mo., and you can hear that slight Midwestern twang in his voice. His career started out as a choir teacher: first in Liberal, Kan., but then he moved back to the Kansas City area (and taught at Richmond High School) when his grandfather passed away. “I felt the need to be closer to home,” he explains. It also helped that Brad Zimmerman, knowing Parker’s desire to start a studio, had let him know that there was a need for signing teachers in the area. “And he was right. There has been a need, and I’ve been really fortunate to be able to fill that void,” Parker says.

Parker has had up to 55 students at once, but really feels that his current load of around 30 is better for everyone. “That’s a good place where I want to be, because I can stay focused for everyone, and at the end of the day, I’m not so tired that somebody’s getting cheated.”

While he’s had students of all ages, from five (although he thinks that’s too young to start voice lessons) to students in their 70s, he has mostly high school students preparing for auditions for high school or community productions. They also are preparing for contests or for scholarship auditions for college. He’s a dedicated teacher, having extra sessions when it’s festival time. “They’ll come in and we’ll go ‘til all hours of the night just to get them prepared for whatever they need.”
Parker’s friendship with Zimmerman is partly responsible for his current production, being involved in the Chestnut Fine Art Theatre’s production of Leading Men of Broadway, performing May 20 - June 20.

“Brad’s fun to work with,” Parker says as to why he auditioned for the Chestnut. “I’m one of his Dickens Carolers, and have been for about 11 years. The first time I ran into him was doing Oklahoma at The Park years ago. I know that I enjoyed working with him in that show and enjoyed working with him caroling every year. “ Parker laughs, and adds, “It doesn’t hurt either that it’s in Olathe and right down the road. I love that, so I can boogie over there without too much delay.”
On a more serious note, Parker continues, “It’s just nice to be able to sing with people you enjoy and for people you enjoy.”

This singing has helped land him a Grammy - in a way - as part of the Kansas City Chorale’s Grammy win two years ago. “It’s obviously not something that I did personally,” he says modestly, “it’s not my award. I sang with them for six years, and to be nominated on two different recordings for the Grammy award is ... it is somewhat overwhelming. I really feel blessed that I have had that opportunity and to actually go to the awards.”

While the Chestnut program is mostly singing, Parker also has acted, most recently as “Tom Collins” in Rent. While his interest in acting came about mostly due to his interest in musicals, it’s become more important as time progressed. “At that point [in high school], that was an outlet to sing. And I probably didn’t focus on the acting like I do now. At that point, it was just, ‘How can I sing more?’”

He laughs as he recalls why he started focusing on acting. “When you start watching videos back of shows that you did where you weren’t necessarily thinking about acting, it was just painfully obvious that something needed to change. So I started working on that in high school and through college.”

He also works on his acting as a way to get cast more. “I think good singers are a dime a dozen,” he says. “You can go into an audition and you can sing technically better than anyone else, but if you cannot connect with the character, you’re not gonna get the part. And I feel that acting is primary.”

Parker is well-rounded, having done his share of song writing and choreography as well. It comes from his philosophy of “the freedom to do. Not given any confines.” He also feels he is constantly trying to better himself. “If you become content, then it suffers,” he says. “I’m constantly working on it, and I think if you’re not, then you need to get out of it.”

This idea of “the freedom to do” also applies to the one piece of advice he wished he had sooner. “One thing that would get me in a lot of trouble mentally, is I would obsess over correct technique. If I didn’t do something technically the way I had planned in an audition, then it would just eat at me at that moment.”

He smiles, and says, “So one thing I’ve learned is just let it go. It doesn’t matter. Your voice cracked? So what? They most generally don’t care if your voice cracks, you know. You can learn from that. Turn it into a character choice. Because it could very well happen in a performance.”

His enthusiasm for music and theatre is apparent: from signed show posters and programs decorating his studio to talking about Glee. He talks with a passion about the current challenges facing the performing arts. “It’s not solely about having fun,” he says. “It is feeding a need of the soul. I think that society as a whole does not feel that it is a need. I think that they feel it’s an elective in life, rather than a core subject.”

Chestnut Fine Arts Theatre, (913) 764-2121.

KC Young Audiences "Get Smart With the Arts"

The Creation of Abby Cadabby.

The Tyger, poem by William Blake, performed by CSA Garage Band.

Hip Hop Class - dancing to the Arthur theme song.

Piano students

Space Ballet

Rasson Wofford, vocalist.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Greg Carroll Jazz Museum interview by Cindy Hoedel

Greg Carroll is CEO of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. In collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City and the Mattie Rhodes Center, the museum is holding an exhibition of large-scale photographs and artifacts that reveals cultural connections between Africa and Latin America. “Atlantic Diaspora: The Musical and Social Influences of Africans in Mexico and the United States” runs through Sept. 30.

Local filmmakers struggle to sell films

It’s an old story in the world of independent film. You’ve struggled and fought to finish your little movie. It has made the festival rounds. Now what?

Blue Valley grad's composition to be played at Kennedy Center

Troy Armstrong, a 2009 graduate of Blue Valley West High School, has composed music since middle school.

more at Sun Publications

Coterie "Lucky Duck" preview by Steve Walker

Since Hans Christian Anderson put plume to paper for the fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling," many creative artists- from Disney to Prokofiev - have been inspired to put their own spin on it. The latest version is “Lucky Duck,” a Coterie Theatre musical for young audiences. 

listen at KCUR

Jewel performs song about Kansas City

Jewel and Steve Poltz perform their song for Kansas City!

[Thanks, Tony]

Musician suggestions for the Royals

Congratulations, Kansas City Royals, on securing the 2012 All-Star Game for Kauffman Stadium! Now it's time to start thinking about the most important decision you'll need to make- whom will you select to perform the national anthem before the game?

more at Plastic Sax

Dancer Eric Sobbe interview by Nicole English

Born in Kansas City, Sobbe graduated from Park Hill High School. After a brief stint as an education major, he auditioned for the Conservatory and decided to pursue his love for musical theater.

more at the University News

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Burlesque Downtown Underground at Dr. Sketchy's

The babes of the Burlesque Downtown Underground struck a stunning series of poses for local artists and TKC had to stoop to paying a cover to grab some pics.

Coterie "Lucky Duck" review by Robert Trussell

The Coterie Theatre has assembled one of the most highly skilled musical-theater casts you're likely to see this year for its production of "Lucky Duck," a wacky retelling of the Ugly Duckling fable.

Musica Estas review by Chuck Furlong

A classical concert attended by one of the composers isn’t uncommon.
A concert featuring seven composers who are all actually in the audience?
That’s rare.

Levee Town's Brandon Hudspeth interview by Skaught Patterson

In this interview, the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Examiner explores Brandon Hudspeth's opinions and experiences at the International Blues Challenge, with recording, and in his personal life. He talks about life before and during Levee Town right up to the present.

more at

Marketing a jazz festival

As an organizer of the Kansas City Jazz Festival, staged in Volker Park through much of the 1980s, I learned early on that there are not enough jazz fans in KC to support a large outdoor jazz festival.

more at kcjazzlark

KC Urban Film Fest promo

Digital Milk is proud to present the KC Urban Film Fest! Come see some great films from around the country that were made "by any means necessary."  September 3, 4 and 5 at Screenland Theater.

more at the KC Urban Film Fest 

[Thanks, Tony]

Ogrot Presents more "That's Science"

OPANN is paying a special tribute to a hero in the advancement of global sciences, Albert "Doc" White.

OPANN is proud to bring back it's long-running science special, "That's Science!!!" Featuring some of the most best minds in the science. "Doc" White wants to take time to assure all his faithful viewers he is not dead. Yet.

OPANN's latest addition to the Local News with "That's Science!!!" These facts are full of science, so if you have a particularly nasty allergy to science, we'd suggest turning up the science dial on your monitors now, that way you can slip into a peaceful science coma and live sciencefully in science.

Starlight "Little House" patron photos by Fran Mattox

photos at

Saturday, June 26, 2010

48 Hour Film Project call for entries

The 48 Hour Film Project returns to Kansas City the weekend of August 6th. Each year, the 48 Hour Film Project, the world’s largest filmmaking competition visits nearly 90 cities, challenging teams to complete an entire film from writing and casting to filming and editing in a mere 48 hours! And for the first time ever, with the addition of Casablanca, Johannesburg, and Lima, the 48HFP is going to take place on six continents!

more at Present Magazine

Wireless ban costing theatres for upgrades

Several churches and theaters are beginning to feel the burden of a ban issued by the Federal Communications Commission. Under the new FCC rule, anyone using a wireless microphone that operates in the 700 MHz frequency must stop using the device or buy a replacement.

more at the Lawrence Journal-World

Starlight "Little House on the Prairie" review by John Coovert

What ever preconceived notions you have about Little House on the Prairie The Musical are comfortably accurate. That is to say if the title is something that catches your interest, then this is probably for you. If it is not, well it may be best to sit out the opening show of Starlight’s sixtieth season.

more at Lost in Reviews

"Chamber Music for Change" fundraiser for Rose Brooks Center

When she heard the Rose Brooks Center was over capacity, Melissa Hile Higgins knew she had to help.

Shakespeare Fest "Richard III" review by Alan Scherstuhl

You get a sticker when you pony up at the gate of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. That makes sense. The annual to-do in Southmoreland Park is more like voting or giving blood than spending a night at the theater. It's one of those civic responsibilities that people feel good about doing. And if the show is a washout, well, at least that sticker stands as evidence of your values.

more at The Pitch

Theatre League "Cups" review by Alan Scherstuhl

Janet Henry, a comic actress and dancer, is both bombshell and firecracker. Proportioned like a pinup princess, Henry is a quick-witted comic performer with more voices than Sybil and her own peculiar, fluttery timing. In recent small shows (including a scandalous turn as Sarah Palin at the Fishtank), Henry has proved herself deft at being daft. The smart folks at Theater League have given Henry a one-woman show in which to romp with Cups at the Unicorn Theatre, with often delicious results.

more at The Pitch (after the Richard III review)

Quixotic "Paix Reveuse" review by Mark Edelman

Move Quixotic to the top of our town’s list of exciting performing arts groups.

more at KC Confidential

Friday, June 25, 2010

Living Room "Talk Radio" preview by Robert Trussell

There’s a new actor in town, and he’s talking trash. Actor/playwright Bryan Moses, late of Springfield, Mo., and originally from Los Angeles, has made the move to KC and next week anchors a new production of “Talk Radio” as trash-talking radio personality Barry Champlain.

Coterie "Lucky Duck" preview by Robert Trussell

It’s happening again. The Coterie Theatre, which has established a reputation in recent years as the place to reshape existing musicals for young audiences, is doing it again with “Lucky Duck,” a wacky retelling of the Ugly Duckling fable

more at

KC Ballet 2010-11 Season promo

Artistic Director William Whitener and Dancer Kimberly Cowen talk about Kansas City Ballet's upcoming season opening on October 14. Season subscriptions are on sale now for as low as $75. Visit or call 816-931-2232.

more at Youtube

Gay and Lesbian Film Fest preview by Jerry Rapp

Roaring into its 11th exciting year as a benchmark festival, the Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival launches June 25, at the Tivoli Theatre, for a week-long extravaganza of thematically rich and evocative works. The festival encourages like-minded viewers, but invites a wide range of audience, offering a rich, international, multi-disciplined fare.

more at Review

Theatre in the Park "Jesus Christ Superstar" review by AWjames

Jesus Christ... Superstar?
Rating: 3

Jesus Christ Superstar
The Theatre in the Park

I have been going to Theatre in the park for many years and I have seen many productions; and over the years I have witnessed some very solid shows and some shows that were not quite there. For me this one falls into the latter category. My biggest issue with this particular production is the lack of focus, there seems to be a lot of ideas swimming around that cloud the intent of the show. What I got from the show was that we were in a modern world where things like twitter and facebook exist along with cell phones and other such technology; and these things were helping in gathering followers and spreading the word of "JC". The idea of updating a show to a modern setting is fine and has been done with many shows. My problem with this one is that while updating the time period we lost almost all of the inherent religious qualities of the script. If this was intentional then it was a success. My prime example is the BZ Watts character. The idea of a narrator in this show is almost a little redundant, it seems the only purpose of this character was to drive home the idea that we are in a modern era. That said I think that most of the performances were solid and the show overall is enjoyable.

The director, Phil Kinen, who has been working out at theatre in the park for years; some of his previous shows are Cats, Cinderella, Fiddler, Annie, Footloose - just to name a few off the top of my head. Every time I hear that he is directing one the shows I know that I am in for a ride. Of the directors that come through TTIP, Phil seems to have the most unique perspective. Wrapping Cinderella in bubble wrap... enough said. I think that this show fits his more unique styling better than, say, Cinderella but once again I feel the lack of focus may rest on his concept. While stage pictures and blocking were solid - as I expect from Phil; some of my favorite stage pictures were the times that Judas was standing from the second level of the scenery watching the action onstage, simple but extremely effective. His choice to change the script is a bold move. Anytime a director adds an entire character I get a little weary. In this case I am not sure if it was successful. Overall, Phil has created a complex and interesting show with some great collaborations and an extreme amount of bold choices. Kudos, Phil, it may have not been my taste but you can always tell that there is an amazing amount of intense thought and work that goes into the choices that are made. The show is energetic and vivid.

Jesus, Sam Dowling, was not bad in this daunting role. It has to be very difficult to play Jesus Christ. Vocally, he is very talented. There were some pitchy moments but overall technically very good. My biggest problem with this portrayal was the lack of emotional depth. There seemed to be a lack of connection between Jesus and his purpose. The whole idea of trying to save these people is a powerful motivation but it did not come off as important or urgent and I felt it could have. This also plays into the lack of physicality that could help display this tumultuous emotion. Strong performance but could have kicked it up several notches.

Judas, Eric Morris, for me was the highlight of the evening. Morris was able to convey every ounce of contempt and regret through intense vocal prowess and spot on physicality. Vocally he is top notch, from a clean and beautiful tone to the ceiling scraping notes that are required of the role. At every moment, Morris, was interesting to watch onstage. There is often a lack of intensity with actors at TTIP; this was not the case with Morris. I think this was big step for him as well, he was last seen as the youngest brother is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Keep it up and I look forward to your future roles.

Mary Magdalene, Whitney Armstrong, was delightful. She brought a certain softness to the show that I was in desperate need of. Her moments of quiet contemplation through "I don't know how to love him" were simple and elegant. My main problem with this role in general is that there is not a hint of prostitute here but this is the same throughout every production I have seen of this musical. She did a lovely job.

Simon, Adam MacAdoo, who was last seen in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as the Lead did a decent job here. MacAdoo was extremely energetic as Simon and got the stage rocking with "Power and Glory". Vocally, MacAdoo seemed to struggle with some of the higher notes but got the message through with his character choices and physicality.

Peter, Tim Yamnitz, had several moments that were solid and well done. An intense and beautiful song "Could we start again" that was filled with nice harmonies (and by the way a powerful a capella moment!) Then there were other moments that were not so connected. Such as when Peter denies Jesus, there was a huge lack of sincerity.

Pilate, Nathan Johnson, did an excellent job as the man that put Jesus to death. Strong and contemplative to Aggressive and pleading. There were several strong character choices that really came through when he was struggling to get Jesus to save himself. A very nice job overall.

King Herod, Bob Kohler, did a nice job of capturing the "Jerry Springer"-esque performance. The character was fun and demeaning. Solid vocal performance wrapped in committed physicality. Fun to watch!

Caiaphas, Rob Hallifax, was appropriate for this role and delivered a solid performance. The ominous character was portrayed with unflinching grit and without a hint of remorse. Well done.

Annas, Debbie Blinn, who was the real mastermind behind the operation to kill Jesus, did an excellent job overall. Solid vocals and clear intent made this performance a delight. The really interesting part was the death of Judas - did we want the audience to feel sorry for him? A big departure from the script but Blinn pulled it off successfully.

BZ Watts, here is my biggest problem with the show. By the way this has nothing to do with the actress. She did a beautiful job as the squeaky and overly perky narrator. Quality performance. That said, for me, this was the big disconnect in the show. Beside the fact that it was strange but the moments she came out on stage were often in the middle of something important happening onstage and was a huge distraction. I would have like to have seen this actor in another role, and this character removed.

Sound for this show was a small issue for me, the overall balance, to me, was off. There seemed to be moments where the orchestra was quiet when it needed to be loud and in your face and there also were moments that the vocals were too soft to hear what was going on. It's hard to put my finger on but it seemed that the balance was all over the place throughout the show. I have heard better at the park.

Russell Langdon is back for his third season at TTIP and this was quite the way to kick it off. The lighting for this show, no matter what production, is always very important. With a mix of concert and theatrical techniques, Langdon has done a beautiful job. The use of color and focus throughout propelled the show into dramatic emotional spaces. At almost every moment in the show you knew where you needed to be looking because of the lighting composition. Langdon has been able to create large production numbers with big sweeping strokes as well as small quiet moments with some simple nuance. There were some issues I had, though. The main issue was the use of audience blinders. They were effective because, along with myself, I witnessed many other audience members flinch and turn away from the stage. The lighting should never cause the audience to miss something onstage. Other than that I thought the crucifixion was interesting and well executed. Well done - I look forward to Annie

Glen Anderson is back for his second season as scenic designer with a very simple scenic design. Truss towers and fabric arches encompass almost the entire design. This simple and effective set allows for many levels and business for the actors to work through. I am not a huge fan of symmetry in scenic design but this works alright. I did, however, enjoy the twelve towers and their metaphorical implications.

Costumes were an interesting mix of modern. It seemed to span from the 1960s to today but I think it worked for the most part, I always feel sorry for the actors who have to wear heavy clothing such as denim jackets and coats when it is 90 degrees outside. But overall it looked good.

read the review at KC Stage

UMKC's Summer Composition Workshop

The 18-year-old is attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Summer Composition Workshop, a rare opportunity for 30 young composers from across the country to work with local musicians and to write their own music.

More Quixotic "Paix Reveuse" photos

Quixotic -- a local a collaboration of musicians, dancers, aerialists and designers -- presented its summer show, Paix Reveuse, at the Madrid Theatre this past weekend. The show was a mesh of engaging sights and sounds.

photos at Ink
with a review of the Quixotic Soundtrack

Metaphor Media "Chasing Frankie Avalon" short

My newest film collaboration with the brilliant King William Peck showcasing the 3-minute essence of chasing down what you really, really, REALLY want out of life. Starring Rachel Werner and Micah Williams.

Melissa Gilbert interview by Robert Trussell

And so “Little House on the Prairie” returns to, well, the prairie.
A big stage musical based on the perennially popular books by Laura Ingalls Wilder makes its final tour stop in Kansas City, where it opens Starlight Theatre’s 2010 season on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marilyn Maye review by Brian McTavish

Marilyn Maye does this thing while singing that happens so fast yet seems to last forever: Her pupils playfully dart to the upper corners of her eyes and hold there for what seems like a permanent instant.

Quadrivium review by Timothy MacDonald

Chamber music seems to suit Kansas City quite well in the warm-weather months. The chamber ensemble Quadrivium treated a small but receptive audience to a program of contemporary works Sunday afternoon at White Hall.

Helen Gillet review by Steve Paul

It’s the middle of a primordial jazz composition/performance by saxophonist Mark Southerland, and Helen Gillet, an eclectic and busy cellist and singer from New Orleans, is fully engaged in the spectacle.

The Fishtank's fundraising campaign aims for $5,000

The Fishtank Performance Studio celebrates our first birthday this June. Your participation has already helped show that Kansas City needs and wants a place where performing artists can take risks, experiment with new forms, and respond rapidly to current events and pressing issues.

more at Kickstarter

Starlight "Little House on the Prairie" review by Guildenstern

Little House Tours the Prairie
Rating: 4

Little House on the Prairie The Musical
Starlight Theatre Association

I should start out by confessing that this was my first visit to Starlight. I'm generally not fond of theatre where I have to use binoculars to see the actor's facial expressions, nor do I typically enjoy musicals, but I am a great minority judging from the thousands of people that attended this show. Truthfully, I primarily went because I have a twelve-year-old daughter whose favorite television show happens to be "Little House on the Prairie".  Her review amounted to "I can't believe I just saw Melissa Gilbert," so I'll try to do a little better.

Like a superhero's origin story, every new iteration of "Little House" is forced to recount how the family traveled west and settled in Minnesota before it can get down to business. The script did this in broad strokes, jumping from the wagon train to the claims office to the school house to tilling the land to famine while spanning summer and winter in huge steps. It made the first act horribly episodic and it never lingered long enough on one thing to give it any real impact. Triumph quickly followed on the heels of tragedy, with disaster returning only a song later. The only moment that really worked is when Mary got scarlet fever, and even then it felt more like just another pioneer hardship than a turning point in the story. Act One was lively and boisterous but never engaging.

The second act settled down and fared much better. Laura grows up quickly and takes a job teaching to pay for Mary's education. Most of the act is focused on her relationship with Almanzo, and it's handled delicately and believably in small steps. It's here that the burden of the play falls on Laura, and Kara Lindsay did an amazing job of maturing from wild child to responsible adult right before our eyes. It's a challenging role for any young actress and she made the play worth watching.

However, most people attending this show were probably just interested in seeing Melissa Gilbert as Ma. I hope they weren't disappointed to find that her role is secondary, but the fact that she's there at all is crucial. It somehow makes the show legitimate and not just some nostalgic cash-grab, and it wouldn't be the same experience without her. It doesn't matter that Gilbert can't sing as well as her co-stars. In fact, it was kind of refreshing to see someone on stage who wasn't belting out everything Broadway-style. There was only one moment where she had to strain to hit the notes, and it happened to be the only time where I felt the presence of young Melissa Gilbert from my childhood. Perhaps singing on the Starlight stage is a hardship of its own, but it was one of the few moments that felt truly honest.

As for the rest of the cast, Steve Blanchard as Charles Ingalls had a fine speaking voice, but often seemed too gruff and angry. Kate Loprest was fine as Nellie, but the role is too cartoonish to do much with. If anything, I'd say she was too self aware of her own snootiness, playing into her reputation as one of television's most famous teen villains. Jessica Hershberg as Mary was dutifully pleasant and bland. There were several other supporting characters, one of which was Michael Boxleitner, Melissa Gilbert's son, as Willy Oleson. He does a fine job. The role of storekeeper Mr. Oleson is pitifully small, and Mrs. Oleson - so memorable from the television show - is not even in the play. That goes to show how much this story is about Laura and her peers. The only standout role besides Laura was Almanzo Wilder, played by Kevin Massey. His was the only character truly eager to conquer the west, never getting disheartened or letting his ambition waver except when faced with the equally rambunctious Laura. A point is repeatedly made about who belongs out west and who doesn't. Laura and Almanzo were two people who could easily tame the frontier. To paraphrase Laura, "The more scared I get, the more I want to do it." Model pioneers!

For a major touring show, the sets were simplistic and functional. A couple of walls made a house, a leather strap tied to the floor made a wagon, and a hanging sign made a general store. Everything was dominated by a glowing sky projected on a backdrop, representing the expansive prairie. This left the stage wide open to fill with colorful costumes and several interludes that demonstrated the physical labor it required to survive. The simplicity was effective, but maybe not from row ZZ at Starlight.

I was hoping the music would be a little more authentic to the period. The score by prolific British film composer Rachel Portman repeatedly reached for the grandiose, but there's nothing that felt especially homespun or folksy. It mostly pulsed and crescendoed like a movie soundtrack, but at least it wasn't drippingly sentimental, which could have easily ruined the show. The same goes for the lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, which only made me cringe from sappiness once or twice. I didn't go home humming any of the tunes, but I don't necessarily think a musical needs to do that. There's plenty of show-stopping, applause-seeking numbers, especially in the first act, but the most effective songs were Laura's moments of self-reflection, building to a climactic solo at the end that was the only time I felt moved to applaud.

Thematically, the focus was on coming of age and Laura trying to decide what kind of woman she's going to be - one that acts for herself or for others. There's a touch of modern feminism and I'm not sure if it's from the books or not, but it's unobtrusive. There's also some overt politics that I don't remember from the television show. These pioneers are obviously infected with "manifest destiny" and on orders to go forth and multiply from Washington, D.C. The story doesn't exactly lean one way or the other on the issue, but they're apparently not just building a life on the prairie, they're building America. Unfortunately, this didn't expand the scope of the play so much as put too modern a perspective on things. These are minor issues in a play that's largely about what kind of person it takes to conquer the frontier and the physical and mental difficulties they face, something that made the "Little House on the Prairie" books beloved classics, and which this play demonstrates admirably.

read the review at KC Stage

Coterie "Lucky Duck" preview

"Lucky Duck" is at the Coterie Theatre, at Kansas City's Crown Center, until August 7, 2010. Tickets available at

Ringers coming to Kansas Expocenter

Landon Arena will be filled with the sound of heavy metal Saturday night — but not the kind produced by distorted electric guitars. Instead, the heavy metal will be the lowest range of handbells, some of which weigh nearly 19 pounds, as they are played along with higher-pitched bells weighing as little as 7 ounces at 8 p.m. Saturday during the closing concert of the Area VIII conference of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Inc. The gathering will draw more than 500 ringers from Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska who will meet from Thursday through Friday at the Kansas Expocentre for classes, concerts and camaraderie.

more at the Topeka Capital-Journal

Quixotic "Paix Reveuese" review and photos by Mike Strong

So how important is the string of themes? I'm not sure except as a conceptual framework to construct the show. For the audience it is probably less about any seeming narrative or set of concepts than it is about the experience of light, and sound and motion. Quixotic is at least partially about being fashionable. So showing up is as much about watching a show as it is about showing off threads for the night. A social investment. A fashion accessory.

more at KC Dance

Starlight "Little House on the Prairie" review by Robert Trussell

Rachel Portman’s stately overture announces that “Little House on the Prairie the Musical” is a serious piece of theater — aimed at a family audience, to be sure, but serious nonetheless.
Think of it as a feel-good show with an edge.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clair de lune sponsoring "Cups"

Clair de lune, a lingerie boutique and bra specialist located in Hawthorne Plaza, 5045 W. 119th St., Overland Park, is sponsoring the Theater League’s production of “Cups,” a humorous one-woman play that traces the life experience of a woman through the bras she has worn.

more at Sun Publications

Columbia Entertainment "Into the Woods" review by Dan Stahl

“I’m not good/I’m not nice/I’m just right,” sings the resident witch in Stephen Sondheim’s musical fairytale, “Into the Woods.” The same goes for theater critics, except sometimes they’re not even right. They might resemble more closely the show’s she-giant, who stomps through the kingdom in search of the boy who robbed her home and murdered her husband, zealous for justice but inadvertently deadly. Still, even those most critical of critics must acknowledge a slight disparity in such a comparison. One monster crushes bones and kills innocents; the other crushes hopes and kills theater.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

Washburn University "Art" review by Phil Grecian

What is art? Art is the current Washburn University theatre production of Yasmina Reza's award-winning comedy "Art."

more at the Topeka Capital-Journal

Starlight "Little House on the Prairie" review by Mark Edelman

If Laura Ingalls Wilder had been around today, she’d have kicked butt on Survivor. That’s the message I got from the touring Broadway musical Little House on the Prairie, playing now thru Sunday at Starlight Theater. The talented touring company of this pre-Broadway try-out kicks butt, too.

more at KC Confidential

Tech N9ne "O.G." video praises Ollie Gates

Gates Bar B.Q. is smokin’ hot right now. On his new single, "O.G.," Kansas City rap king Tech N9ne gives major props to Kansas City’s barbecue king, Ollie Gates, who founded the restaurant in 1946.