“The Andrews Brothers” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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ATI’s second stage show of the 2015-16 season is The Andrews Brothers by Roger Bean, with musical arrangements by Jon Newton. This lively musical comedy, filled with great 1940’s tunes, was directed and choreographed by David Engel and musically directed by Ben Krauss. The show takes the stage at The Studio Theater in The Center for Performing Arts in Carmel IN.

Set in 1943 in the southern Pacific, this is the tale of 3 brothers who work behind the scenes for the USO shows, but who long to be out onstage. Talented enough to catch the eye of USO performer Peggy Jones, their big break comes when an upcoming Andrews Sisters show is going to be canceled due to illness. With a little prodding, the brothers are talked into rescuing the show by impersonating the sisters. The resulting production fills the second act with a hilarious display of gender-bending antics and wonderful 40’s tunes.

Mary Jayne Waddell takes the role of Peggy Jones. Her appearance and portrayal prove to be just right for a 1940’s songstress – full of spunk, talent and allure. She gives a terrific performance whether she is sharing the stage with the boys or soloing on a torchy ballad or a snappy song and dance.

AndBros pic3

(From left) Jay Emrich, Don Farrell, Mary Jayne Waddell and Michael Dotson in ATI’s “The Andrews Brothers”

The Andrews brothers – Lawrence, Max and Patrick – are fearlessly played by Michael Dotson, Jay Emrich and Don Farrell – three veteran performers whose fun-loving approach to their characters makes for a priceless audience experience. Their tremendous talents are obvious as they whip through song after terrific song – non stop and with a perfect exuberance.

The program lists 25 memorable wartime songs, which the cast of 4 share as solos, duets, trios and quartets. They are supported in this endeavor by Mr. Krauss’ slick sounding 5 piece orchestra, which never missed a note or beat. Just right costumes, designed by Brian Horton and coordinated by Amanda K. Bailey – a simple yet functional set designed by Bernie Killian – lights and sound by Daniel Malloy and Jonathan Parke – and amazing makeup and hair design by Daniel Klinger – all work together to impact the look and feel of the 1940’s. An interesting video display takes front and center at preshow and intermission, adding to the in-house atmosphere.

Andrews Bros dress

(From left) Michael Dotson, Don Farrell and Jay Emrich as the Andrews Sisters in “The Andrews Brothers” at ATI

Bottom line: Even if you are not a huge fan of ’40s music, as I am, this energetic production – performed by a highly talented cast of 4 plus 5 amazing musicians – will lift your spirits and make you glad.

ATI’s The Andrews Brothers continues at The Studio Theater in The Center for Performing Arts through November 22. Information for tickets and reservations can be found online at http://www.atistage.org or by calling 317-843-3800.

  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Addams Family” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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Last night Mrs. K and I took our granddaughter Hanna to see Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre’s current production – the 2010 musical comedy The Addams Family, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Based on the popular Addams Family comic strip and the 1964 television program, the show offers a coming of age story about Addams daughter Wednesday, who falls in love with a “normal” young man, Lucas Bieneke. Complications arise when they decide to marry and Wednesday enlists her father Gomez to keep the banns secret from his wife Morticia, whom he has never before been secretive with. Add in mayhem from Uncle Fester, Lurch, Pugsley, Grandma, a cadre of Addams “ancestors” and Lucas’ parents Mal and Alice, and you have a multi-faceted plotline filled with good humor and some surprisingly well-written songs. It’s a perfect Halloween themed show for the month of October!

The Addams Family (from left): Grandma (Amanda Butterbaugh), Lurch (Jeff Stockberger), Wednesday (Samantha Russell), Gomez (Eddie Curry), Morticia (Erin Cohenour), Pugsley (Simon Barnes) and Uncle Fester (Shaun Rice)

The Addams Family (from left): Grandma (Amanda Butterbaugh), Lurch (Jeff Stockberger), Wednesday (Samantha Russell), Gomez (Eddie Curry), Morticia (Erin Cohenour), Pugsley (Simon Barnes) and Uncle Fester (Shaun Rice)

Eddie Curry both directs and takes on the role of Gomez – the hot-blooded, put upon patriarch of this odd clan. He handles the part with polish and verve – easily conveying both the comic and heartening qualities of the husband/father. Curry is often lauded on this site for his comedic abilities, but we sometimes overlook his wonderful serious acting skills, not to mention a strong singing voice. His is the central character in this piece and he gives a superior performance. Also, his direction results in a crisp and well paced production.

Erin Cohenour is cast as Gomez’ sultry wife, Morticia. Tall and lithe, Ms. Cohenour is a perfect choice; she combines vocal and dancing skills with an enchanting presence, giving her creation just the right sense of dangerous allure. Her daughter Wednesday is played by Samantha Russell, a local talent making her first B&B appearance. Ms. Russell is the most pleasant surprise of the evening, as the high school senior handles all of her character’s songs and situations with top-notch professional ability. She shows great confidence and talent as she rolls through her role and I am hopeful we will see more of her on the B&B stage – in fact, I am certain we will.

Pressured by his wife Morticia (Erin Cohenour), right, Gomez (Eddie Curry), center, tries to cancel a dinner planned by his daughter, Wednesday (Samantha Russell)

Pressured by his wife Morticia (Erin Cohenour), right, Gomez (Eddie Curry), center, tries to cancel a dinner planned by his daughter, Wednesday (Samantha Russell)

It’s the crazy characters that make the Addams family so much fun. Uncle Fester – played by another B&B first-timer, Shaun Rice, Lurch – portrayed by funnyman Jeff Stockberger, Grandma – provided by long-time B&B actress, Amanda Butterbaugh, and Pugsley – as presented by young Simon Barnes, all strongly resemble their comic strip counterparts, partly due to the terrific costuming provided by Jill Kelly and remarkable makeup design by Daniel Klingler.

The ancestors of the Addams Family emerge from the family crypt in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of the musical comedy

The ancestors of the Addams Family emerge from the family crypt in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of the musical comedy “The Addams Family”.

The Beineke family, who provide the “normal” side of the equation here – are skillfully portrayed by B&B regulars John Vessels as Mal, Sarah Hund as Alice, and Blake Spellacy, who plays the love-crossed Lucas. Filling out the scenes are the Ancestors: (pictured above) Kenny Shepard, Christine Zavahos, Samuel McKanney, Amy Owens, Jennifer Ladner and Peter Scharborough.

The Beef and Boards Orchestra, directed by Terry Woods, lends a full musical and atmospheric quality to the proceedings, sounding as if there are quite a few more players than just the 5 up in the band loft.

Chef Odell Ward’s offerings on the buffet line are especially tasty (mmmm, Chicken Coq au Vin!) and the B&B staff of waiters and their helpers are always attentive and friendly – making the visit to Beef and Boards a complete pleasure.

Bottomline: Whether or not you are familiar with the antics of The Addams Family, this is a completely enjoyable theatre experience. As always, B&B has cast very talented people to present their shows and this one, in particular, is especially pleasing with it’s combination of familiar and new cast members.

The Addams Family continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through November 22nd. Show times and reservations can be obtained at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

“The Great Gatsby” at IRT

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IRT opens it’s 2015-16 season with Simon Levy’s 2006 stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic – The Great Gatsby. Many are familiar with Fitzgerald’s signature piece, whether in book form or from having seen one or more of the movie versions of the novel. Levy’s version should be highly placed in that roster, and is in fact the only stage version of the story officially sanctioned by the Fitzgerald estate.

IRT’s staging of the script is an ambitious, glittery, and well cast event, which I am certain would please even the most enthusiastic of Fitzgerald aficionados. Starting with Peter Armster’s precise direction of his splendid cast – the production offers a detailed telling of the story, with beautiful and imaginative stagecraft by Lee Savage, Katherine Freer, and their crews; glorious costumes by Tracy Dorman and her assistants; and amazing lighting and sound by Thomas C. Hase and Victoria Deiorio, respectively.

Zach Kenney as Nick Caraway and Teagan Rose as Jordan Baker in IRT's production of

Zach Kenney as Nick Caraway and Teagan Rose as Jordan Baker in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Zach Kenney leads the cast with a thoughtful portrayal of Nick Caraway, the Fitzgerald-like story teller who is our eyes and conscience for the tale. Kenney’s easy manner sets just the right tone for Nick’s response to his interactions with the upper-class crowd in New York. He is fascinated, acceptlng, troubled, repulsed and rejecting all in good order as he joins the swirl of his cousin, Daisy and her friends. Hillary Clemens is remarkably adept in her rendition of the love-torn Daisy Buchanan. She presents a frail and self-absorbed young woman, who is wonderfully obverse to her husband, Tom Buchanan, played with a repellant charm by David Folsom. Teagan Rose is lovely and engaging as Daisy’s good friend Jordan Baker, and Angela Ingersoll plays Tom Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle Wilson with a sufficiently hard faux-classiness. Ryan Artzberger drips of piteousness as Myrtle’s husband, George, while IRT regulars Charles Goad and Constance Macy are solid in an assortment of supporting roles.

Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader star as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in IRT's production of

Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader star as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Finally, and of some significance, Matt Schwader makes the role of Jay Gatsby his own with a vulnerable quality that somehow rings truer than the movie Gatsbys I have seen or the one that existed for me in my readings of the book. Schwader seems to understand that the native Dakotan is a bit out of his element in his current status and that all his climbs and accumulations have been for one, perhaps misguided, purpose – to win Daisy.

The result of this combination of fine actors and actresses is a clear telling of the familiar story, with noticeable departures from this writer’s concepts. Here is a fresher Gatsby than I expected and therefore a more enjoyable theatre experience.

Charles Goad, Zach Kenney, Angela Ingersoll and Constance Macy frolic in IRT's production of

Charles Goad, Zach Kenney, Angela Ingersoll and Constance Macy frolic in IRT’s production of “The Great Gatsby”

Bottom line: One goes to an IRT production with a certain expectation of quality and that was surely met here – with an outstanding and captivating production, both in interpretation of the classic source work and in innovative stagecraft that presented the multifaceted story with authority.

The Great Gatsby continues on IRT’s main stage through October 25th. For ticket and reservation information, go to http://www.irtlive.com or call the ticket office at 317-635-5252.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Lion in Winter” at Carmel Community Players


Lion logo

Mrs. K and I traveled up to Carmel last Friday night for the opening night performance of The Lion in Winter by James Goldman. CCP’s season opener is directed by Brent Wooldridge and presents an outstanding cast performing what to me is an unfulfilling script.

As I say, the problem is not the cast. All involved took their characterizations to a high level. Mark Kamish takes the role of Henry II, King of England in 1183, and works through the many conflicts at hand with a marvelously wide depiction, showing Henry’s nature as a range of sentiments – from hale and humorous to tough and threatening.

His three sons Richard, Geoffrey and John are masterfully portrayed by Kyle A. Martin, Jay Hemphill and Jacob Swain, respectively. They offer a broad variance of characters with Martin – strong and stubborn as he vies for Richard’s rightful place in succession to the throne, Hemphill – mild yet calculating in Geoffrey’s quest for power, and Swain – spoiled and boyish as Henry’s choice to succeed him, John.

Susan Boilek Smith as Eleanor, Mark Kamish as Henry and Emma Kivett as Alais form an intriguing triangle in CCP's

Susan Boilek Smith as Eleanor, Mark Kamish as Henry and Emma Kivett as Alais form an intriguing triangle in CCP’s “The Lion in Winter”

Adding intrigue to the plot is Phillip, the youthful King of France, well played by John Parks Whitaker. Whitaker is quietly impressive as the peevish king, a pawn in Henry’s plans – in over his head as he deals with the wiles of his enemy. Emma Kivett, as Phillip’s sister and Henry’s lover Alais, turns in a brilliant performance. Ms. Kivett shows talent beyond her years (she is a high school senior) as she fully grasps the effects of her character’s hidden power potential.

Susan Boilek Smith shines in the role of Queen Eleanor, who has been let out of her prison cell (10 years or so ago, she tried to kill Henry) for the Christmas court. In a role filled with humor and conniving, Ms. Smith puts forth a deep, well-conceived and multi-faceted portrait of this complicated and original female. I have appeared onstage with Ms. Smith as well as having seen her perform on several occasions, and I believe this is her best work.

Lion group

All in all, this is a tremendous cast of actors, who do their best to tell the story, which in my opinion is flawed. The arc of the plot deals with the rivalry between Henry and Eleanor, as each one champions a different son for succession to the throne – Henry choosing the youngest, John, with Eleanor trying to push the oldest, Richard. This leaves Geoffrey out of the mix and he struggles to gain his best possible position of power. Adding to that the wants and needs of Phillip and Alais makes for a full menu of intrigue and deceit. But the scenario is not the problem.

The script problem for me is that, in my opinion, the various conflicts in this piece never really get any resolution. They are each presented in turn and then a devious solution is arrived at and then that solution is found to be lacking or is trumped by one intrigue or another. This form of action is just fine the first two or three times we are met with it. But after a while and on into the 2nd act, this devise is used again and again. The effect is we are left with none of these conflicts resolved and indeed at the end of the play we are nearly exactly where we began, albeit entertained. I am not sure why this is so unsatisfying to me – other than perhaps my theatre sense is expecting a resolution to be a part of the story’s outcome.

Bottom line: a marvelous cast presents a less than satisfying script with aplomb. Go to see the stellar performances.

The Lion in Winter continues at CCP’s Clay Terrace venue through October 11. Ticket information is available by going to http://www.carmelplayers.org or by calling 317.815.9387.

“The Fantasticks” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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Have you ever had the experience of going to the theatre to see a familiar play, only to have the show’s cast present you with such a perfect and delightful rendition of the production, it’s almost as though you’d never seen it before? Such was my feeling last night as Mrs K and I attended ATI’s season opener, The Fantasticks.

This enduring off-Broadway musical by Tom Jones (book and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music), which features many well known songs – “Try to Remember”, “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You”, ran on NYC stages for an unbeatable 42 years. Directed for ATI by Bill Jenkins, with Musical Direction by Brent Marty, this edition is everything any theatre lover could hope for in such a familiar piece.

Director Jenkins has set up his talented cast with the perfect interpretation of this classically simple  “boy meets/loves/loses/reconnects with girl” story. Michael Ferraro and Laura Sportiello, both graduates of the Ball State University theatre program, star as the young lovers – Matt and Luisa. Ferraro brings a strong presence to his coming-of-age Matt, armed with a thrillingly versatile voice and dynamic acting skills. Ms Sportiello is truly lovely in her endearing portrayal of the romantic young Luisa. Her clear and perfect vocal skills are unfailing in her renditions of Luisa’s many songs and she acts the part with such a sweet and dreamy quality that one cannot help but fall under her spell.

Holly Stults (top) is The Mute, and Michael Ferraro is Matt to Laura Sportiello's Luisa in ATI's production of

Holly Stults (top) is The Mute, and Michael Ferraro is Matt to Laura Sportiello’s Luisa in ATI’s production of “The Fantasticks”

Logan Moore, returning to ATI after his winning turn in The 39 Steps, provides the narrator/antagonist El Gallo. His quietly strong approach gives Moore plenty of room to expand into El Gallo’s professional stature as bandit-for-hire in the story line. Moore also gives forth with a well-trained baritone that adds to the ensemble.

In a brilliant contortion of gender, Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald take the roles of the lovers’ fathers – Hucklebee and Bellomy, respectively. In that twisted circumstance, these two stage pros add a layer of comedy to the proceedings, and as always, they offer up polished skills with their humorous characterizations and their song and dance.

Michael Elliott (left) and Paul Collier Hansen perform as Mortimer and Henry in ATI's production of

Michael Elliott (left) and Paul Collier Hansen perform as Mortimer and Henry in ATI’s production of “The Fantasticks”

Holly Stults gives The Mute a quality of grace and charisma in her return to ATI. Ms. Stults’ unquestionable talents make her character a delight to watch as she provides movement and dance to accentuate the action. Paul Collier Hansen, playing alongside Michael Elliott, as Henry and Mortimer – the two actors-for-hire, give outlandishly funny performances. Hansen’s energetic depiction as the woefully untalented Henry, coupled with Elliott’s Brit-accented and low-keyed Mortimer is a highlight of the show.

Further kudos must go to harpist Melissa Gallant, who along with pianist Brent Marty provides the precise musical accompaniment for the singers, Bernie Killian, for his simple and adaptive set design, Katie Cowan Sickmeier for the equally simple and proper costumes, and finally – Tyler Hartman, whose choreography was unfailingly on the mark.

Bottom-line: The Fantasticks is the first of this theatre season’s “don’t miss” productions. The sweet, simple story, it’s portrayal by the amazing cast, and the beautiful voices providing soaring versions of the familiar score – makes for a delightfully perfect evening at the theatre. Or is it perfectly delightful? Either will do…

The Fantasticks continues for ATI at Carmel’s Studio Theatre in The Center for the Performing Arts through September 27th. Ticket information and reservations can be found online at http://www.atistage.org or by calling 317-843-3800. Don’t miss this thoroughly wonderful show.

  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“South Pacific” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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South Pacific logo

When the 2015 season was announced about a year ago and I saw that South Pacific was on the list, I looked forward to the opening with great anticipation. This Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from 1949 has been a favorite of mine since I saw the film version in 1958, when I was 9 years old. My aunt owned the soundtrack LP and when I visited her I nearly always gave it a listen and did so frequently enough that I still know most of the words to the wonderful songs in the score.

The Seabees and nurses perform “Honey Bun” featuring Nellie Forbush (Deb Wims) and Luther Billis (Jeff Stockberger in Beef & Boards' production of

The Seabees and nurses perform “Honey Bun” featuring Nellie Forbush (Deb Wims) and Luther Billis (Jeff Stockberger) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Beef and Boards presents an entertaining version of the landmark show, but it is with this hardwired memory of the film version and my resultant love of the score that I make my comparisons and evaluations. I was exposed to South Pacific at such a formative time in my life, it has never left me, and indeed I can say it raised my interest in theatre to a higher level, just by the appreciation I felt for it.

Emile de Becque (Robert Wilde) with Nellie (Deb Wims) and his children Ngana (Anjali Rooney) and Jerome (Ian Gamble) in Beef & Boards' production of

Emile de Becque (Robert Wilde) with Nellie (Deb Wims) and his children Ngana (Anjali Rooney) and Jerome (Ian Gamble) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

As always, B&B finds immensely talented performers for it’s shows, especially in the lead roles. Two first-time B&B performers, Robert Wilde  as Emile de Becque and Mickey Rafalski as Lt. Cable, are brilliant in their portrayals. Wilde brings a distinguished bass voiced quality to his handsome de Becque, especially in his rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” and Rafalski, who has a marvelous tenor voice one could listen to all evening (and who looked a LOT like Brad Pitt from my seat on the third tier) enchants us with a powerful “Younger Than Springtime”. B&B veteran Deb Wims repeats her role as Nellie Forbush – giving us a girlish, unsophisticated portrayal and winning us over with fine performances of Nellie’s catalogue of songs. Cynthia Thomas uses her strong voice to portray Bloody Mary as a no nonsense profiteer. While she provided a rather enjoyably unique version of “Happy Talk”, I felt we may have missed some of the mysterious possibilities in her offering of “Bali Ha’i”.

B&B favorite Jeff Stockberger fills the stage with his Luther Billis, the Bilkoesque sailor striving for fun and profit. Stockberger loads his character with dozens of schticks and expressions, capping it all off with an enlarged bit of physical comedy that stops the show.

Bloody Mary (Cynthia Thomas), center, laughs with the Seabees in Beef & Boards' production of South Pacific.

Bloody Mary (Cynthia Thomas), center, laughs with the Seabees in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

In smaller roles, Bob Payne and Adam Crowe as Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison, respectively, do admirable work. So too the supporting Seabees – Doug King, Aaron Choi, A.J. Morrison, Craig Underwood, Samuel McKanney, and nurses Sally Scharbrough, Amanda Lehman, Amy Owens, and Annalee Traeger. Ian Gamble and Anjali Rooney are sweet as the de Becque children. Arrianne Villareal provides a solid and lovely Liat.

Nellie (Deb Wims), center, sings “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” with the nurses in Beef & Boards' production of South Pacific

Nellie (Deb Wims), center, sings “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” with the nurses in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Of course, we are all accustomed to the small stage aspect that B&B must deal with in presenting large format shows such as Les Miserables and South Pacific. As in the former, I thought an ingenious bit of design work by Michael Layton gave adequate space to all the settings in the present offering – de Becque’s mansion, the Captain’s office, as well as various beach areas and stages. Likewise, the costuming by Jill Kelly came through smartly with the correct blend of military blandness and colorful island flair. And the smallish band, led by Kristy Templet, provided the score with an apt adroitness.

Lt. Cable (Mickey Rafalski) sings “Younger Than Springtime” to Liat (Arianne Villareal) in Beef & Boards' production of

Lt. Cable (Mickey Rafalski) sings “Younger Than Springtime” to Liat (Arianne Villareal) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Given all these impressive parts of the show, I fear I hold the musical too dear to have been totally satisfied by what I saw here. But, I realize it perhaps could not be presented differently. For example – I felt the action was a bit rushed throughout, with a quickened pace in most of the scenes. This resulted in my feeling that the main relationships, those between de Becque and Nellie, and between Lt. Cable and Liat, seemed lacking in fervor and emotion as time was not often given to portray anything but a quick warmth. This I am guessing is Liz Stark, the director, trying to make a very long musical shortened to a comfortable 2 hours and 15 minutes. She accomplished that, but at the cost, I feel, of a fullness to the romantic facets of the stories. That, to me, is what the production mainly lacked – the romance that is such a large part of the story arc and which provides the pay-offs at the end – for Liat’s sadness and for Nellie’s joy. I understand the tradeoff – but regret it has to be so.

Bottom line: Really fine performances, a very good selection on Chef Ward’s buffet and beautiful set design and costuming, are slightly undone by a pace that is often too rapid to allow things to develop in the storyline. An enjoyable evening, nonetheless, but my expectations from having loved the show since childhood go unmet.

South Pacific continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through October 4th. Show times and reservations can be obtained at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

Memories I Can Hear and Share – Jesus Christ Superstar 1975


JC superstar

Forty years ago, I was a 26 year old Navy veteran going to school on the GI Bill at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey CA. I had started my classes at MPC in 1974 and I was taking mostly theatre courses hoping to someday have a career in that field.  I had already been in a few “main stage” shows and had also done quite a bit of scene work in my classes. Also, I had just begun to get my feet wet directing scenes and short plays.

The MPC theatre department had a summer program during which they scheduled an extended run of a popular show. The year before, in the summer of ’74, the show had been Hair. It was actually a restaging of the production of Hair which had been our very successful spring show earlier that year. I had a small part, George, and I enjoyed working on an expanded schedule for the first time. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and we sold a bunch of tickets – 18 sellouts in the spring and an equal number in the summer, in a 350 seat theatre.

The word had gotten out that for the summer of ‘75 the department was planning something very special. We soon learned that we would be staging three different productions in repertory for the Monterey Theatre Festival. When the schedule was announced the shows were Charley’s Aunt, Gypsy and Jesus Christ Superstar. As you might imagine the excitement in our college theatre community was at a high point.

So, auditions were held, the roles were assigned and I was lucky enough to be cast as Sir Francis Chesney in Charley’s Aunt, Grandpa in Gypsy (I was also in charge of the scene change crew) and, after a rigorous audition process, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. (It didn’t hurt that I had long hair past my shoulders and showed promise for hitting “the note” – A above high C in “Gethsemane”) That bit of luck was made all the more exciting when my very good friend Michael King got the role that he sought, Judas. The third important role of Mary Magdalene went to a young lady from the music department who had an amazing voice, Charmaigne Scott.

The summer played out well and it was a huge success. All three shows filled the seats – it seemed everyone wanted to see Superstar. Remember, the “rock opera” had begun as a concept album in 1970 and had hit Broadway in 1971. The film version was not until 1973. We were one of the first theatres on the west coast to produce it.

The experience of that summer was truly an amazing one for me. Working on three shows at once was grueling at times, but most of my memories are of great friends, great shows and great times.

After the shows closed, there was a call for the cast of Superstar to do a recording session. Two microphones on stage, the full orchestra in the pit and an ‘engineer’ in the booth was the best we could do back in 1975 and the entire show was recorded (with our very tired voices) onto a reel to reel ¼ inch tape. (All the songs were done in single takes – so there are some few vocal mishaps that are included.) I never knew how many of those tapes existed. As far as I can tell there was only one. Somehow, I am really not certain how, I wound up with that recording and I kept it with me through 40 years of marriages and moves. For the past 20 years it’s been laying in a box in the rafters in our garage.

So – with the 40th anniversary of the opening of our Superstar coming up on August 5th 2015, I pondered what to do with this personal artifact. It was such an outdated media format, I wasn’t sure if it would be of any use, or indeed if any quality of sound survived on it. On a whim, I started a conversation about it with a friend of mine, Dennis Forkel, here in Indianapolis. Dennis is an audio/video aficionado and collector. He has old 33 1/3 albums and the equipment to play them on, and that’s not the half of his collection of stuff.

So looking for advice, I told Dennis about my reel-to-reel dilemma and as luck would have it, he had the capabilities to transfer the sound from this old knocked-about tape to a digital format, CDs. (Unbelievably, we found that on the reverse side of the tape, there was a recording of our 1974 production of HAIR!!)

And so, with many thanks to Dennis, it has been accomplished. And now I am ready to share these vintage, college-age performances with my friends. Mostly the significance of these recordings lies in their age (they are a bit of an audio time capsule), and the memories they bring for those who were a part of this long ago summer show, and possibly some enjoyment for some of you who merely like the show.

I’ll not include all the cuts. I will try to select the best of them and hope that will suffice to give a good sampling of what we did 40 years ago in the summer of 1975.




Directed by Morgan Stock – Musical Direction by Barney Hulse

Heaven on Their Minds: Here is Michael Carlton King as Judas (Note: Michael is a professional singer, performing in clubs and restaurants in the Atlanta GA area).

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/4ZknVwsVffQ

Strange Thing Mystifying: Michael as Judas and you will hear me as Jesus in this cut.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/VGW2LYupcqA

Everything’s Alright: Michael and I are joined by Charmaigne Scott as Mary Magdalene (Note: Charmaigne is a performer in the central California area)

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/rclH-bRcDow

This Jesus Must Die: Here we have Lawrence Martin singing the deep-voiced Caiaphas, and Bruce Roberts as Annas.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/ESrhbrwp2iI

Hosanna: Lawrence Martin and the JCS chorus join me on this rousing number.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/yHrenn2uoMk

Simon Zealotes: Here the late Steve Barnes sings the part of Simon along with the great JCS chorus – you should have seen Akemi Ito’s wild choreography! This is one I wish I had a video of so I could share it.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/_dXA4FeD7bs

Poor Jerusalem: One of my favorite songs from the show – soft, sweet and meaningful.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/5vbryMGv8TM

Pilate’s Dream: We were so lucky to have Joel Fleischer in the role of Pontius Pilate.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/GnowL93Kkjk

I Don’t Know How to Love Him: Charmaigne Scott’s lovely rendition of this signature song somehow wasn’t available on the tape. I have no idea why that is so – but it is sad to miss what I thought was the best singing in the entire show.

So we move on to…

Damned For All Time/Blood Money: Martin, Roberts and King knock this one out of the park.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/68_-HAzaPVQ

The Last Supper: This number began the second act and featured a typically iconic visual arrangement borrowed from the Da Vinci masterpiece.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/C2WzdrKFjM4

Gethsemane: My big solo. I couldn’t make it to the A above high C with my ragged voice that day, but I think it still might be mostly okay…

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/N8G303dB0Ro

Michael C. King as Judas betrays with a kiss.

Michael C. King as Judas betrays with a kiss.

Pilate and Christ/King Herod’s Song: Joel Fleischer is amazing in the first portion of this piece as Pilate. And my good friend Don Porter, whom I have completely lost track of, takes the role of the flamboyant King Herod in the conclusion of the number.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/J7XIvLMLHmU

Don Porter as King Herod in a publicity photo with me as JCS.

Don Porter as King Herod in a publicity photo with me as JCS.

Could We Start Again Please: Charmaigne Scott’s beautiful voice is fully featured in this cut. Buzz Curry as Peter joins in.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/1vhJ2mUYWZU

Judas’ Death: Michael’s dramatic exit song, with Bruce Roberts and Lawrence Martin.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/hzs0CL3pAkA

Superstar: Michael C. King and the three Soul Girls – Linda Sparks, Vicki White and Latanya Wilson rock it out

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Xu5d8PqJb0I

John 19:41: This closing piece features our musical director Barney Hulse, still very active in the music world, as he leads the 30 piece orchestra which was so solid throughout the show’s run. I’ve also added show credits…

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/xdz4B_2V0Bo

Behind the scenes: June Carnegie fits me into my Jesus costume

Behind the scenes: June Carnegie fits me into my Jesus costume


I just found this in my files. The review from The Monterey Peninsula Herald – 8/6/75

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