Musicals and Plays on schedule for 23rd Season at Weekend Theater

WeekendTheaterThe Weekend Theater has recently announced their 2015-2016 season.  The 23rd season for this volunteer theatre includes seven plays, three musicals and a one-man show.

The Addams Family
By Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa.  Based on characters created by Charles Addams.
June 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 2015
Directed by Tom Crone; Music Direction by Lori Isner

Two families with vastly divergent cultures, mores, and expectations collide when the Addams hosts a dinner for Wednesday Addams’ “normal” boyfriend and his parents. Trust and fear, love and truth, acceptance and forgiveness are just a few things on the menu in this magnificently macabre new musical comedy created by Jersey Boys authors, Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice and Drama Desk Award winner, Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party).

 

American Idiot
By Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day and Michael Mayer
July 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 31, August 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 2015
Directed by Frank O. Butler; Music Direction by Lori Isner

The two-time Tony Award-winning hit musical — based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum album – is an energy-fueled rock opera that brings us face-to-face with the perils of war, drug addiction, escapism, and the power of true friendship, as Will, Johnny, and Tunny struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world.

Contains adult language and situations.

 

Two Trains Running
By August Wilson
August 21, 22, 28, 29, September 4, 5, 2015
Directed by Jamie Scott Blakey and Margaret Parker

This is the 1960s chapter of the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright’s decade-by-decade saga of ordinary African Americans in this turbulent century. In Memphis Lee’s Coffee Shop we meet a local sage, an ex con, a numbers runner, a laconic waitress, and a mentally handicapped man through which, with Chekhovian obliqueness, Wilson reveals simple truths, hopes and dreams, creating a microcosm of an era and a community on the brink of change.

 

The Shape of Things
By Neil LaBute
September 25, 26, October 2, 3, 9, 10, 2015
Directed by Byron Taylor

This modern day retelling of the fall of man challenges our most deeply entrenched ideas about art and love. In The Shape of Things, Evelyn, a sexy, aggressive artist, and Adam, a shy, insecure student, become embroiled in an affair after meeting in a museum. Before long, Adam, under Evelyn’s steady influence, goes to unimaginable lengths to meet her approval, and the show veers into the kind of dangerous, seductive territory that LaBute does best.

 

God’s Man in Texas
By David Rambo
November 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 2015
Directed by Allison Pace

Faith and egos collide in the age of mass-market religion at Houston’s Rock Baptist Church. A search committee has been secretly formed to find a successor to Rock’s legendary pastor, and a young up-and-comer is asked to audition for the job. The Biblical struggle climaxes during Rock’s spectacular annual electrical Christmas parade.

 

The Foreigner
By Larry Shue
December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 2014
Directed by Matthew Mentgen
Winner of two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off- Broadway Production, this off-beat comedy demonstrates what can happen when a group of devious and bigoted characters, including a two-faced minister and his bigoted associate, must deal with a stranger who (they think) knows no English but who has heard more than he should of their unscrupulous plans.

 

Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays
By Mo Gaffney, Jordan Harrison, Moisés Kaufman, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, José Rivera, Paul Rudnick, and Doug Wright; Conceived by Brian Shnipper
January 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, 2016
Directed by Duane Jackson

This collection of monologues and short stories celebrates the recent advances in winning marital rights for gay and lesbian couples, and how the changing laws are changing lives. This mostly genial and often funny omnibus holds a magnifying glass to the highs and lows, joys and fears, courage and silliness, of people bucking trends and making history.

 

Once on This Island: A Musical
By Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
February 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26 , 27, 28, 2016
Directed by Monica Clark-Robinson; Music Direction by Greg Robinson

From the Tony Award-winning songwriting team that brought you Ragtime, comes this Tony nominated, Olivier Award-winning musical set in the Caribbean Sea concerning a peasant girl on a tropical island, who uses the power of love to bring together people of different social classes. From the first song you will be enthralled by the music and engaging lyrics of this magical story which includees hints of Romeo and Juliet and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid.

 

Vincent
By Leonard Nimoy; Based on the play “Van Gogh” by Phillip Stephens
March 18 and 19, 2016
Directed by Alan Douglas

In van Gogh’s lifetime, he sold only one painting and critics labeled his work madness. His story, however, is so much more than that of the misunderstood genius who cut off his own ear. In this play, Vincent’s brother, Theo, movingly reveals Vincent as few knew him, arguing the bigger meaning and significance of his brother’s life to all humankind. As seen through the eyes of Theo, Vincent van Gogh lives on as a symbol of inspiration, courage, passion, and the lust for life that art kindles in all of us.

This is a special presentation, not part of the regular season.

 

Driving Miss Daisy
By Alfred Uhrey
April 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 15, 16, 17, 2016
Directed by Andy Hall

The place is the Deep South, 1948, just prior to the civil rights movement, where Daisy Werthan, a rich, sharp- tongued Jewish widow of seventy-two learns that she must rely on the services of a chauffeur, a thoughtful, unemployed black man. In a series of absorbing scenes spanning twenty-five years, the two, despite their mutual differences, grow ever closer, realizing they have more in common than they ever believed possible.

 

A Piece of My Heart
By Shirley Lauro
May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 2016
Directed by Betty Fernau

This is a powerful, true drama of six women who went to Vietnam: five nurses and a country western singer booked by an unscrupulous agent to entertain the troops. The play which was recently been named “The most enduring play on Vietnam in the nation,” by The Vietnam Vets Association, portrays each young woman before, during, and after her tour in the war-torn nation, drawing attention to the largely unsung American women who served in Vietnam.

World premiere of Phillip McMath’s play KARSKI’S MESSAGE next at Weekend Theater

Karaskis-Message-Poster_LgThe latest offering of the Weekend Theater is a world premiere of Phillip McMath’s new play, Karski’s Message.

A local playwright, lawyer and historian, McMath based the play on the true story of Jan Karski, a Polish World War II resistance fighter and later professor at Georgetown University. In 1942 and 1943, Karski escaped capture and near death to report to the Western Allies — Britain and the United States — on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps. Karski personally met with world leaders, telling them about the situation in Poland, becoming the first eyewitness to try to convince the world that the Jewish Holocaust was a reality.

The cast includes Ryan Whitfield, Jeff Lewellen, Terry White, Brice Ward, Madison Wolfe, Barry Clifton, Tommie Tinker, Ann Norris, Deb Lewis, Bill Jones, Alexander White, Elijah White, Lauren Lasseigne and Justin Wolfe.  It is directed by Matthew Mentgen.

The play opened last night and continues its run tonight, April 17 & 18 and April 24 & 25. Curtain times are 7:30.

 

A Charmed Two Hours at THE LAST FIVE YEARS

L5Y TST setWith The Last Five Years, the fledgling Studio Theatre has staked its claim as a force in Little Rock’s community theatre scene.  This production of Jason Robert Brown’s time-bending, two character musical highlights not only the talents Little Rock offers, but also the virtues of the space in which it was performed.

The musical tells of the rise and fall of the relationship of budding novelist Jamie and struggling actress Cathy.  The audience sees his perspective moving forward and her’s moving backwards with the two intersecting only momentarily at their wedding.  Because of this conceit, there is very little chance for interaction between actors Jeremy Hall and Erin Martinez. But what the show does offer is ample opportunities for each to shine as they thoroughly inhabit the characters.

As Cathy, Martinez uses her expressive features and wide vocal range (notes and styles) to move from pathos to frustration to love and excitement.  From his first entrance to his final exit, Hall is full of energy. It moves from nerves to joy to confidence to guilt and finally resignation. His pace may vary, but there is ever-present force in his trajectory.

This is a small show full of quiet moments. Hall and Martinez are both able to maximize these moments with a change in posture, a small gesture, a tilt of the head or a raised eyebrow.  They also each have moments of joyous ebullience where they let go – while staying in character. For Martinez it was “A Summer in Ohio” which joyfully recounts a hellish summer. Hall had several lively songs but his highlight was probably “The Schmuel Song” where he channels a bit of Tevye in a dopey romantic way.

Director Ryan Whitfield kept the action fluid as it shifted between the two perspectives and time frames.  He ensured honest portrayals and created an atmosphere where the audience was more eavesdropping than “watching a performance.” He also kept the continuity so that the two halves of the same scene (played at different times in the show) gelled properly.

Musical Director Mark Binns not only maximized the vocal talents of the two performers, he led the live band through the score’s varied musical styles. (It was a pleasure to walk in to the theatre and hear an orchestra warming up – a joy one misses with pre-recorded music or only a synthesizer or keyboard.)  Musicians Bob Bidewell, Charlie Friedman, Brian Wolverton, Sam Clark and Binns displayed their own musical talents while also supporting the singers.

With a proscenium stage, tiered seating in comfortable chairs, and a balcony for orchestra and technicians, the Studio Theatre provides a “traditional” theatre setting. It, however, has enough flexibility to incorporate a blackbox-like setting as needed.  While theatre can be performed any where, too often community theatre tries to do “proscenium” shows in a blackbox setting for economic and not artistic reasons.  The Studio Theatre space allows for both types of settings which means that decisions can be made based on artistic reasons.

While this production could have been done on a completely blank space, the set (by Whitfield and Matthew Mentgen) features levels and a variety of distinct playing areas that enhanced the production.  The giant clock on the back wall served not only as a visually interesting element, but the changing hands were an added touch as the story moved back and forth.

The Last Five Years tells a tale that is both humorous and heartbreaking, woeful and wistful. These are not heroes and heroines – they are two humans caught up in this thing known as living and loving.  By the end of the performance, Martinez and Hall have taken the audience on a journey full of faults, flaws, fascination, fondness, first-dates, first novels and a snake named Wayne. What more could you want?

 

 

The Last Five Years continues Friday and Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm at The Studio Theatre.

CAROLINE, OR CHANGE continues at The Weekend Theater

Caroline-or-Change_smWinner of the Laurence Olivier Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best New Musical, Caroline, or Change centers its action on the Gellman family and their African-American maid, Caroline. It is now playing at The Weekend Theater.

It is 1963 in sleepy Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline is drifting through her life as a single mother of four working in a service job to a white family. A fragile, yet beautiful friendship develops between the young Gellman son, Noah (who has lost his mother), and Caroline. Noah’s stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, tells Caroline that she may keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline balks, and refuses to take money from a child, but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes.

Regardless of the circumstances, whether it is the death of President Kennedy, her daughter’s growing activism and misunderstood dismissal of what she perceives to be Caroline’s choice to remain a maid, her son’s enlistment in Vietnam, a fight with a newly college-bound friend, or a spin with the dryer, Caroline remains unflappable.

The show features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer and Tony winner Tony Kushner (who based it partially on his own childhood in Louisiana) and music by Tony nominee Jeanine Tesori.  It is directed by Matthew Mentgen and features music direction by Lori Isner.

The cast is led by Satia Spencer in the title role with Johnika Wright, Diondre Wright and Daveon Coleman as her kids. The Gellman and Stopnick families are played by Alex Harkins, Mary Ann Hansen, David Weatherly, Erin Martinez, Adam Smith and Drew Ellis. Caroline’s friends, both human and otherwise, are played by Antisha Anderson Scruggs, Katherine Yacko, Adriana Napolitano, Haley Coughlin, Kenneth Gaddie, Steven Young and Sarah Dailey.

The show continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend and next.

The 2014-2015 season for the Weekend Theater

WeekendTheaterThe Weekend Theater has announced its 2014-2015 season.  It will kick off next month with the Tony-nominated musical Caroline, or Change.  The season includes classic plays and musicals as well as more recent shows.

Caroline, or Change

Book and Lyrics by Tony Kushner
Score by Jeanine Tesori
June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 2014
Directed by Matthew Mentgen
Music Direction by Lori Isner

Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best New Musical, Caroline, or Change centers its action on the Gellman family and their African-American maid, Caroline. It is 1963 in sleepy Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline is drifting through her life as a single mother of four working in a service job to a white family. A fragile, yet beautiful friendship develops between the young Gellman son, Noah (who has lost his mother), and Caroline. Noah’s stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, tells Caroline that she may keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline balks, and refuses to take money from a child, but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes. Regardless of the circumstances, whether it is the death of President Kennedy, her daughter’s growing activism and misunderstood dismissal of what she perceives to be Caroline’s choice to remain a maid, her son’s enlistment in Vietnam, a fight with a newly college-bound friend, or a spin with the dryer, Caroline remains unflappable.

 


Next To Normal

Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Music by Tom Kitt
July 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 2014
Directed by Ralph Hyman
Music Direction by Lori Isner

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Next To Normal tells the story of a mother, Diane Goodman, who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. This contemporary musical is an emotional powerhouse that addresses such issues as grieving a loss, ethics in modern psychiatry, and suburban life. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling score, this musical shows how far two parents will go to keep themselves sane and their family’s world intact.

 


The Beauty Queen of Leenane

By Martin McDonagh
August 22, 23, 29, 30, September 5, 6, 2014
Directed by Deb Lewis

Co-winner of the 1998 Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding play and set in the mountains of Connemara County, Galway, Ireland, The Beauty Queen of Leenane tells the darkly comic tale of Maureen Folan, a plain and lonely woman in her early forties, and Mag, her manipulative aging mother, whose interference in Maureen’s first and possibly final chance of a loving relationship sets in motion a train of events that leads inexorably towards the play’s terrifying dénouement.


A Quiet End

By Robin Swados
September 26, 27, October 3, 4, 10, 11, 2014
Directed by Ryan Whitfield

Written in 1985, A Quiet End was one of the earliest dramas to deal with the AIDS crisis in the United States. Three men, a teacher, an aspiring jazz pianist and an unemployed actor, are in a rundown Manhattan apartment. All have lost their jobs and are shunned by their families; they have AIDS. Their interaction with a psychiatrist heard but not seen throughout the play and the entrance of an ex-lover healthy yet unsure of his future provide a forum for exploring the meaning of friendship, loyalty and love. By celebrating the lives of men who, in the face of death, become fearlessly life embracing, the play explores the human side of the AIDS crisis.

 


Topdog/Underdog

By Suzan-Lori Parks
October 31, November 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 2014
Directed by Jermaine McClure

Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Topdog/Underdog, a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity, is Suzan-Lori Parks’ latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two African American brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future. Vibrating with the clamor of big ideas, audaciously and exuberantly expressed, this play considers nothing less than the existential traps of being African-American and male in the United States, the masks that wear the men as well as vice versa.

 


Other Desert Cities

By Jon Robin Baitz
December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 2014
Directed by Ralph Hyman

A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Other Desert Cities involves a family with differing political views and a long-held family secret. Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas with her parents, her brother, and her aunt. Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history—a wound they don’t want reopened. In effect, she draws a line in the sand and dares them all to cross it.

 


No Exit

By Jean-Paul Sartre
Adapted from the French by Paul Bowles
January 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31, 2015
Directed by Tommie Tinker

In No Exit, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Jean-Paul Sartre tells his story of two women and one man, who are locked up together for eternity in one hideous room in hell. The windows are bricked up; there are no mirrors; the electric lights can never be turned off; and there is no exit. The irony of this hell is that its torture is not of the rack and fire, but of the burning humiliation of each soul as it is stripped of its pretenses by the cruel curiosity of the damned. Here the soul is shorn of secrecy, and even the blackest deeds are mercilessly exposed to the fierce light of hell. It is an eternal torment.

 


The Sound of Music

Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II,
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp

February 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, March 1, 2015
Directed by Elizabeth Reha
Music Direction by Lisa Petursson

Winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this final collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein was destined to become the world’s most beloved musical. When a postulant proves too high-spirited for the religious life, she is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval Captain. Her growing rapport with the youngsters, coupled with her generosity of spirit, gradually captures the heart of the stern Captain, and they marry. Upon returning from their honeymoon they discover that Austria has been invaded by the Nazis, who demand the Captain’s immediate service in their navy. The family’s narrow escape over the mountains to Switzerland on the eve of World War II provides one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in the theatre. The motion picture version of The Sound of Music remains the most popular movie musical of all time.

 


Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

By Jane Chambers
March 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28, 2015
Directed by Lana Hallmark

Winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and seven Hollywood Drama-Logue Awards, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is the story of a dissatisfied straight woman who leaves her husband to spend some quiet time by herself and who unwittingly and naively wanders into the midst of a group of seven lesbians at the beginning of their annual beachside vacation. She falls in love with the charming leading character who, unknown to her, is dying of cancer. The friendships, the laughter, the love, the fears of being outed, the difficulties of being gay and how it affects relationships with family, children, parents and careers, the demonstrations of what the painful price could be for a gay life 30 years ago in everyday America, had never before been told with such respect. Chambers’ comedic dialogue, sensitivity to human nature and tender treatment of her characters help the play transcend preconceptions and show the universality of these women’s journeys, whether straight or gay.

 


Karski’s Message

By Phillip McMath
April 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 2015
Directed by Ralph Hyman

A World Premier of local playwright, lawyer and historian Phillip McMath’s well-crafted story of how no one listened or helped when the genocide of the Jews was happening, Karski’s Message is the story of Jan Karski, a Polish World War II resistance movement fighter and later professor at Georgetown University. In 1942 and 1943, Karski reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies, Britain and the United States, on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps. Karski personally met with President Roosevelt in the Oval Office, telling him about the situation in Poland and becoming the first eyewitness to tell him about the Jewish Holocaust. During their meeting Roosevelt asked about the condition of horses in Poland. Roosevelt did not ask one question about the Jews.

 


The Member of the Wedding

By Carson McCullers
May 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30, 2015
Directed by Margaret Pierson Bates

Winner of the 1950 Critics’ Circle Award as the best play, Carson McCullers’ report of a harum-scarum adolescent girl in Georgia is wonderfully—almost painfully—perceptive; and her associated sketches of a Negro mammy and a busy little boy are masterly pieces of writing. This is a study of loneliness is felt, observed and phrased with exceptional sensitivity. The Member of the Wedding deals with the torturing dreams, the hungry egotism, and the heartbreak of childhood in a manner as rare as it is welcome.

Acclaimed musical BABY is latest offering of CTLR

Baby CTLRThe latest offering of the Community Theatre of Little Rock (now in its 58th season) is BABY.  This Tony nominated musical from acclaimed duo Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire, examines how parents-to-be experience the emotional stresses and triumphs, as well as the desperate lows and the comic highs that accompany the anticipation and arrival of a baby.

BABY tells the story of three couples on a university campus as they deal with the painful, rewarding and agonizingly funny consequences of this universal experience. There are the college students, barely at the beginning of their adult lives; the thirtysomethings, having trouble conceiving but determined to try; and the middle aged parents, looking forward to seeing their last child graduate from college when a night of unexpected passion lands them back where they started.

The cast is led by Miki Thompson, Jeremy Elliot, Elizabeth Reha, Bob Bidewell, Erin Murphey Martinez and Justin Pike.  Others in the cast are Pammi Fabert, Mary Ann Hansen Cheryl Troillett, Duane Jackson, Danny Troillett, Case Dillard, Libby Smith and Doug Robillard.  The production was directed by Michael Henderson with music direction by Matthew Mentgen.  Jerry Woods is the executive producer.

The show opened last weekend and continues through March 2.  Show times are 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays; Sunday matinees are at 2pm.