Friday, September 30, 2011

Butterfield Youth Services benefit in Columbia

Saturday, the calendar will read Oct. 1. Yet, the date written on the hearts – and inspiring the songs – of a number of gospel music will be Dec. 25.
Located on the edge of town, Hazel Kinder’s Lighthouse Theater will host a concert to benefit Butterfield Youth Services in Marshall. Specifically, proceeds from the show will be directed into a Christmas fund for the young residents of Butterfield’s ranch-style youth centers and intensive care residences. Since the '60s, Butterfield has existed to provide help for children who are at-risk and in need.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

Metropolitan Ensemble "Steady Rain" preview by Robert Trussell

Here’s the question: Who has more testosterone? Scott Cordes or Forrest Attaway? Audiences can judge for themselves when they attend “A Steady Rain,” a two-character drama about Chicago cops that was a hit on Broadway with Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman.

Topeka Symphony, Ivan Zenaty preview by Bill Blankenship

The Topeka Symphony Orchestra on Saturday will begin the first concert of its 2011-12 season and the final one with John W. Strickler at its helm with Czech virtuoso Ivan Zenaty performing Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

more at the Topeka Capital Journal

Footprints Film Series preview by Eric Melin

The greatest myth about silent films is that they are actually silent. Anyone who has seen the world-class Alloy Orchestra from Cambridge, Mass. perform live accompaniment for one of cinema’s timeless classics knows better, and Lawrence residents will get a chance to see just that on Saturday, October 1.

more at

Ambrose Akinmusire interview by Steve Kraske

Plus, trumpet virtuoso Ambrose Akinmusire -- say it with me now; "ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee" -- talks about his meteoric rise in the jazz world, and his quintet's upcoming show at Johnson County Community College. We also find out how Akinmusire and his ensemble are introducing the next generation of musicians and music lovers to the legacy of Miles Davis.

more at Up to Date (mp3 link)

Lyric Opera season preview by Brenna Hawley

In the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s inaugural season at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the company is going to land Air Force One on stage.

more at the Kansas City Business Journal

Citizen Jane Film Festival preview by Jill Renae Hicks

In 2002, Janet Davis, professor of American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin, published a fascinating book titled “The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the Big Top.” In the book, she presents the circus culture of the late 1800s and early 1900s — a time when railroad circuses would shut down entire towns and advertisements would choke main streets nationwide. The big thinkers spearheading this year’s Citizen Jane Film Festival probably hope the same happens in Columbia this week. This year’s film festival stretches to become “Cirque du Cinema” Friday through next Sunday.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

Kauffman Center creates jobs in the Crossroads

The opening of the Kauffman Performing Arts Center is creating new jobs-- at other places. Businesses in the downtown loop and the Crossroads neighborhood are probably getting some new customers as art patrons visit the new center.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

US Air Force Brass performance and review

John Phillip Sousa is a pretty obvious choice for a military band. But Fiona Apple?

more at the Prairie Village Post

Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser praises KC arts

Michael Kaiser is really excited about the opening of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

more at the Pitch

KC Rep "Venice" nominated for 11 Ovation awards

Venice, a co-production by Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Center Theatre Group (CTG) of Los Angeles, has received eleven Los Angeles Ovation Award nominations, including a Best Director for the Rep’s Artistic Director Eric Rosen.  A collaboration between Rosen (book and lyrics) and Matt Sax (music and lyrics), Venice had its world premiere at Kansas City Rep in April/May 2010, followed by a Los Angeles premiere at CTG in the fall of 2010.

Kansas International Film Festival preview by Dan Lybarger

This year’s fest runs Friday through Oct. 6. Each film will play once, except the winners of the two jury awards. Five films have been nominated for best narrative and five for best documentary. The jury will award their prizes on Sunday; the best narrative is scheduled to play again at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, while the best documentary will play again at 5:25 p.m. on Oct. 6.

Quality Hill Playhouse "Noel and Gertie" review by Alexia Lang

Friendship can be a rare commodity to come by. And lifelong friendship is even harder to find, particularly for strong personalities. The latest production at Quality Hill Playhouse offers a glimpse into one such relationship.

more at the Vignette

Barn Players "Drowsy Chaperone" review by cheers

Definitely NOT Drowsy
Rating: 5

The Drowsy Chaperone
The Barn Players, Inc.

The Drowsy Chaperone at the Barn Players is a real treat! The show was hilarious from start to finish.

Eric Magnus as the Man in Chair did a fabulous job. He was just perfect in this role - both loveable and a bit odd. He never left his character, even through intermission and it was fun to watch him putz around his apartment while we waited for the second act to start.

Julie O'Rourke played the over the top heroine, Janet, beautifully - her voice was delightful and her mannerisms so coy.

Rob Reeder was the ideal hero as Robert Martin. He made it look easy to roller skate around the stage, blindfolded.

Julie Shaw as the Drowsy Chaperone was phenomenal! Her song "As We Stumble Along" made me get goose bumps, even though I was laughing so hard from the absurdity of the whole number.  She was just cynical enough for the audience to love her.

Rebecca Johnston who played Kitty did a great job with her character, too. Her facial expressions really showed us every time she was trying to think.

The entire cast put together a seamless performance - there was not a weak link anywhere. The gags and special effects just seemed to flow. The voices and music were also spot on.

Barb Nichols and Martha Risser and their team could not have put together a more enchanting show. I wanted it to continue when it was over.

This is musical theatre at its best!

Road repairs happen fast near the Kauffman Center

Arts patrons and reporters from across the country are arriving in Kansas City for the grand opening of the Kauffman Performing Arts Center. Because a lot of national attention is expected, City Hall put a lot of money into making downtown look better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plastic Sax picks KC's jazz geniuses

Jazz percussionist and composer Dafnis Prieto was awarded the MacArthur Foundation's so-called "genius grant" last week. Who on Kansas City's jazz scene qualifies as a potential recipient?

more at Plastic Sax

Cynthia Levin "Red" interview by Laura Ziegler

Unicorn Theatre on Tuesday kicked off their 38th season with the Tony Award winning play RED. Written by John Logan, the play is a chronicle of the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko's life at the height of his fame. Today, the show's director, Cynthia Levin, will join guest host Laura Ziegler to talk about the oft-misunderstood artist, the play and the Unicorn Theatre's upcoming season. In an age where voices from all political and social spectrums are becoming more available (and more mainstream), creating the first draft of history is about more than just the facts, ma'am.

more at Up to Date (mp3 link)

KC Rep "August: Osage County" review by Gabrielle Cook

Life is complicated. But that just so happens to make for good entertainment. “August: Osage County,” The Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s latest production, explores the challenges and heartbreaks of the Weston family of Oklahoma when it is reunited after the disappearance of their patriarch.

more at The Vignette

History of the Playboy Club by Charles Ferruzza

Not many people remember that Kansas City had its own Playboy Club (why would they? It closed decades ago) at the height of Hugh Hefner's fame. The club was a corporate-owned venue — unlike the St. Louis operation, which was a franchise — and featured a full-service restaurant that served lunch and dinner, two show rooms that offered both local entertainers and nationally known headliners, and a banquet room. The Playboy Club Kansas City opened on June 13, 1964, in the top-floor ballroom of the former Continental Hotel at the corner of 11th Street and Baltimore. It's now known as the Mark Twain Tower.

more at The Pitch

Scott Wichael "Turandot" interview by the Lyric Opera

Turandot is approaching quickly, but that doesn’t mean the stars can get out of sitting down with us for 10 Questions.  Scott Wichael, Pang, made time for us recently to talk about his connection to Kansas and why he will take opera over reality TV any day of the week. 

more at the Lyric Opera

What's happening in Wichita?

Good news abounds for Wichita theatergoers, who can choose from at least 93 shows in 18 venues for 2011-2012.

more at

"The Writers Place Welcomes All" by Kerry Chafin

This article appeared in the August issue of KC Stage 

On the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Valentine stands a building that looks, at first glance, to be a cross between a small castle and a three-story house. Throughout its ninety-year history, it has been a private home, a brothel, and even an evangelical church.

Today it stands as The Writers Place, rehabbed as a gathering spot for local writers, readers, and general lovers of the written word. Founded by Gloria Vando and Bill Hickok, The Writers Place mission is "to promote writers and their work, to nurture an interest in writing and literature in a large, diverse audience and to contribute to the quality of cultural life in Kansas City and throughout the Midwest".

more at KC Stage

Tony Botello calls for boycott of Kauffman Center

Once again Kansas City media is leading a celebration when this wicked little town should be ashamed of itself. The opening of The Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts is nothing more than a giant step backward for Kansas City because it reminds us that this Cowtown still can't get its priorities in order.

more at Tony's Kansas City

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New jazz club opens, 1911 Main

Rod Henning, a local businessman who loves jazz, Kansas City, and great food, has combined his passions by opening a restaurant and jazz club in the space formerly known as Bar Natasha.

more at Infozine 
and at The Pitch

Unicorn "Red" review by Luke Harman

“Red” itself is a startling snapshot of a brilliant artist at the height of his career. The play transports you into the mind of the master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, a misunderstood man for whom paintings are “pulsating” life forces and intended to “rip your guts out and expose your soul.”

more at the University News

"Turandot" star Samuel Ramey blogging about KC

 International opera superstar Samuel Ramey arrived in Kansas City the other day to begin rehearing for the Lyric Opera inaugural production in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Puccini’s Turandot. Mr. Ramey has been blogging all summer about his visit to Kansas City. You can read his blog entries by clicking here.

Wylliams/Henry Dance celebrates 20 years

Kansas City’s richly diverse dance community wasn’t created overnight.
Twenty years ago there was the Kansas City Ballet, of course, but only a couple of other dance companies. The Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company was founded by Mary Pat Henry and Leni Wylliams to bring cutting-edge choreography to Kansas City. In doing so they helped blaze the way for the daring dance ensembles that followed.

more at
and at the University News

Resident Theatre "Feelin' Groovy" review by DeborahBuckner

Get Your Groove!
Rating: 4

Feelin' Groovy: The Music of Paul Simon
The Resident Theatre

The Jewish Community  Center's Resident Theatre celebrates Paul Simon's long career as composer and lyricist with "Feelin' Groovy--The Music of Paul Simon."  Simon's music has provided the soundtrack to the lives of most American "baby boomers," and, for his far-reaching influence, he received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007.

Simon's songs--particularly in his years with Art Garfunkel--have been delivered with a unique vocal style.  No one could imitate it, and it would be a mistake to try.  Vocal Director Kristi Mitchell doesn't do that.  Instead, Jake Borowski, Dustin Cates, Jeff Martin and Mike Needleman give Simon's music their own interpretations, resulting in an entertaining evening.

Highlights include Jeff Martin's version of "Still Crazy After All These Years," which brings out the lyrics in a fresh new way; Dustin Cate's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," also featuring Mike Needleman and backed up by The Shawnee Mission South Heritage Singers; and "Kathy's Song" performed by Jake Borowski, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.  The Heritage Singers perform a beautiful arrangement of "Scarborough Fair" and "The Sound of Silence" and, wearing brightly colored scarves, provide a spirited back up to "Under African Skies" and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."

Needleman received a burst of applause for his whistling in "Me & Julio" and added a haunting harmonica to several songs.  Ron Ernst and Greg Haynes on percussion, Jan Wilbanks on keyboard and Danny Kaul on bass support Martin, Needleman and Borowski on guitar.

The performers encouraged the audience to join in singing the choruses, and several voices seized the opportunity.  The rest supported with rhythmic clapping, demonstrating they were, indeed, feelin' groovy!

KC Rep "August: Osage County" review by StageSavvy

Family Matters
Rating: 4

August: Osage County
Kansas City Repertory Theatre

As usual, you can also read this review at my blog:

Warning: there are minor plot spoilers in this review.

Families are at the heart of most storytelling, especially ones that are falling apart. So explains the article by Ed Matheny in the program for "August: Osage County", and he's right. "August: Osage County" is the Tony Award winner by Tracy Letts, and is about the Weston family drawn together (and torn apart) by the disappearance of the patriarch, Beverly (played distantly by Kip Niven).

Set in Oklahoma in 2007, Act I sets the plot in motion as Beverly hires Johnna (played wonderfully by Vanessa Severo) to take care of his wife, Violet (played a little too well by Merle Moores), who was recently diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. He then walks out, never to be seen again. The rest of the play is the family slowly gathering together, each with their own issues.

As I wrote, Moores plays Violet a little too well. Act I hit a little too close to home, with Violet interacting with middle daughter Ivy (played by Manon Halliburton) in ways that reminded me that there's a reason I live five hours away from my family. I love them, and they are nowhere near as bad as the family in "August: Osage County" (at least with the incest), but the constant guilt trips and 'you should dress a certain way and act a certain way if you want to get my approval' was something that made it hard for me to watch. Too many times was there a comment (and not all by Violet) that made me think of my own family.

It's in Act II that Moores really takes off, playing a caustic, hateful woman that takes everything out on her three kids that just gets worse as the play progresses. It's her portrayal that made me say at the first intermission that I don't like this play, but that doesn't mean it's not any good. In fact, as the family starts realizing that Beverly committed suicide, I realized that his hiring of Johnna is because the man guessed that his death would be the spark that would make the family finally come to terms with each other, and that the only person who would be willing to stay with Violet is someone who was paid to do it.

Kudos out to Donald Eastman's set design, as the house is just as important as the play - and the level of detail is astronomical (up to the clock on the wall that I swear he stole from my grandmother's house). I also have to give a shout out to Mark Kent Varns' lighting design, as I felt the lighting (especially near the end) was very effective.

This play isn't perfect, by any means, but that makes it that much more appropriate - as what family is perfect? Family matters in this show about family matters. "August: Osage County" runs until October 9, and more information can be found at

Journeyman Theatre "Generation Why" review by Guildenstern


Rockin musical for the youth to embrace
Rating: 5

Generation Why
Journeyman Theatre Company

Amidst all the hoopla surrounding the opening of the Kauffman Center, one thing seems to have been forgotten. Namely, everything else that's going on in this city. And while music flowed all weekend from the Kauffman Center stages, good ole' rock and roll was notably absent. The rockers were down the street at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, where "Generation Why," a rock musical by the band Shudder, was angrily challenging the very "Man" that built our celebrated armadillo.

Perhaps it's only appropriate that this little show in the valley has been drowned out by the gleaming castle on the hill. It gives validity to an otherwise often-told story, a story that its creators readily admit has been told again and again. It's the story of one generation assuming control from the previous generation. Drawing upon the amazing sociological work of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who proposed a generational history of America, "Generation Why" recounts the "journey of rising against a 'cruel' authority, only to find yourself the same person you're rising against."  There's an old Who song that said the same thing to the generation in power now, but they probably fail to see the irony. Irony's more of a Generation X thing, anyway.

As someone who feels Broadway flubbed its opportunity to embrace rock music in the seventies, we need musicals like "Generation Why" much more than we need another showtuned movie on stage.  "Generation Why" features some stunning music that's a throwback to the prog-rock concept album days of yore, much like Green Day's recent reincarnation with "American Idiot."

The cast is full of enthusiasm and Emma Taylor and Francisco "Pancho" Villegas are particularly outstanding performers. Most of the lyrics get lost in the noise, but the story is adequately told visually thanks to some sure direction by Gregory Chafin. It would have helped if the body mics and music could have been mixed better, but that seems like a continual problem on stages all over town. Nevertheless, the power of the music comes through loud and clear. It's worth repeat listens and can be streamed from Shudder's website

I watched a news report about people paying $500 for tickets to the Kauffman Center and not having a clue (or not even caring) what it was they were there to see. It's nice to know that in some corners of Kansas City people do care what they're paying for, and there are artists creating new, bold, and adventurous works right here within city limits. If only there were an audience ready for the challenge.

I might add that the weekend was also the debut of the much improved Just Off Broadway Theatre, with a real lobby and everything. It's very nice and worth checking out.

Kauffman Center cleanup

[Thanks, Tony]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wynton Marsalis preview by Malcolm Abram

At 49, trumpeter/composer/bandleader Wynton Marsalis (he’ll turn 50 in October), is generally considered past the age of obsolescence in the pop realm but still in his prime in the jazz world.

"Bob and the Monster" making two film festival debuts

Keirda Bahruth’s documentary “Bob and the Monster” has impressed festival programmers so much that it’s opening two festivals, 100 miles apart on the same night at almost the same time.

Folly Theatre, Caroline Goulding review by John Heuertz

Listen to violinist Caroline Goulding play, and you’ll understand how a teenager could talk someone into letting her travel around the country with a borrowed Stradivarius.

Nelson-Atkins "After Ghostcatching" review by Alice Thorson

Created for viewing with 3-D glasses, “After Ghostcatching” is a dance video like no other. In fact, it so radically redefines the genre that it deserves a category of its own.

Lyric Opera "Turandot" costume designs

You’re mounting an enormous production about China back in the misty distance of “legendary times,” so the logical source of costumes would be … China?

Puppetry Arts Institute celebrates 10 years

“I think of him often,” Diane Houk says of the late Robert LeRoy Smith, one of the founding fathers of the Puppetry Arts Institute, which officially opened its doors on Oct. 13, 2001, in the Englewood shopping district of Independence.

more at The Examiner

Kauffman Center lures Starlight indoors

Kansas City Starlight Theatre is synonymous with its outdoor performance venue, but in August, it’s taking one show inside. From Aug. 3-12, Starlight will present “Aida” under the roof of the $413 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

more at the Kansas City Business Journal

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kauffman Center opening night projections by Quixotic

Conceived by Quixotic & Event Producers Baruch Gayton Entertainment Group

Unicorn "Red" review by Mark Edelman

"Make something new," the paint-splattered abstract expressionist Mark Rothko commands his assistant Ken in the Tony Award winning play RED. Director Cynthia Levin must have been listening, because in her fine production of John Logan's new work (now through October 2 at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main) she's created a new star on the KC scene: Sam Cordes, the terrific young actor who plays Rothko's assistant.

more at KC Confidential

Lyric Opera "Turandot" preview by Robert Trussell

For the Lyric Opera, the time has come to embrace the new normal. The opera company earlier this year was liberated from its home of 41 years, the Lyric Theatre, and made ready to open its first production at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, one of two venues in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

more at

KC Ballet, Kauffman Center preview by Brenna Hawley

For the Kansas City Ballet, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a place of opportunity. At least, that’s how Executive Director Jeff Bentley sees it.

more at the Kansas City Business Journal

KC Symphony, Emmanuel Ax review by Timothy McDonald

Every season opener for the Kansas City Symphony is a festive affair, but Friday night’s classical series concert proved exceptional. For loyal followers of the orchestra, it was a trip to the Promised Land — the beginning of an exciting future in Helzberg Hall in the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

more at

Renaissance Festival features local performers

The process to become one of the dozens of performers at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival is long. There are workshops, auditions and more than two months of rehearsal before the popular festival even opens.

more at The Examiner

Kings of Swing preview by Bill Blankenship

The Kings of Swing, a 15-piece Topeka-based big band, will play hits from the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the Golden Age of Swing, at the concert sponsored by Penwell-Gabel Cemetery & Mausoleum.

more at the Topeka Capital Journal

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wynton Marsalis preview by Jill Renae Hicks

The “We Always Swing” Jazz Series isn’t fooling around. This year’s events start with a huge bang as highly decorated, multiple-award-winning jazz artist Wynton Marsalis gains the stage Tuesday evening. Marsalis is fresh from a recent visit to Harvard University, where he spoke as part of the school’s 375th anniversary celebration. And after his appearance here, he will return to Jazz at Lincoln Center to celebrate his 50th birthday in appropriate improvisational style.

more at the Columbia Daily Tribune

Michael Chioldi "Turandot" interview by the Lyric Opera

We had a chance to sit down with Michael Chioldi, Ping in Turandot, and talk with him about some funny Ping moments, his love of tennis, and why you should love opera.  Read about Mr. Chioldi below.

more at the Lyric Opera

Arts commissioner resigns over Brownback's funding veto

A Lawrence resident has resigned from the Kansas Arts Commission because of Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of its state funding.

more at the Lawrence Journal World

KC Symphony, Emanuel Ax, Chen Yi preview

Guest pianist Emanuel Ax's reaction to his first rehearsal with the Kansas City Symphony in their new home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

and an interview with Chen Yi by Laura Spencer at KCUR
and a preview by Paul Horsley at The Independent

Washburn University "Mosaic Concert" preview by Bill Blankenship

When bits of colored glass, stone or other material are assembled to create a unique, aw-inspiring image, it's called a mosaic, and that's the concept behind Washburn University's second annual Mosaic Concert.

more at the Topeka Capital Journal

Starlight Theatre wins multiple awards

Starlight Theatre has been entertaining Kansas City residents and visitors since 1951, and, if the results of local award competitions are a good barometer of success, it appears those individuals who attend Starlight like what they see and hear.

more at Starlight Theatre

Ruel Joyce and Jazz Recital Series 2011-2012 Season

Since 1989, the free Ruel Joyce and Jazz recital series have attracted the best musicians Kansas City has to offer in a small, intimate performance setting. The Ruel Joyce series are at noon Monday and the Jazz Series are at noon Tuesday. All performances are in the Carlsen Center Recital Hall. Recitals are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

more at Johnson County Community College

[Thanks, Plastic Sax]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Through a Glass Productions aerial demo

CinemaKC show moves to 6pm

Who doesn’t enjoy dinner and a movie? Film fans can put the two together in an appetizing new way starting Sept. 24 when “CinemaKC,” featuring Kansas City area filmmakers, moves from 9:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KSMO-TV, Channel 62. (Programs will be repeated at midnight on Sundays.)

more at CinemaKC

Electronic Music Midwest Festival preview by Alan Hoskins

A world premiere will highlight the annual Electronic Music Midwest Festival to be presented at Kansas City Kansas Community College Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

more at the Kansas City Kansan