Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre celebrates 25 years

Leave a comment

by Ken Klingenmeier

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre came into being in 1997, the brainchild of choreographer Gregory Hancock. He takes little credit for this accomplishment however, stating that it was the support from those around him, especially his mother Florence Fross Hancock, that has lead him to this achievement.

“Very simply, the company would not exist today, if it were not for the work and sacrifice of my mother… I always remind the dancers of GHDT and students of The Academy GHDT of this. Telling them that there would be no company or school had my mother not worked so hard to make it possible, and that their experiences in dance are a direct result of all her work, efforts, and sacrifice.”

Hancock says it was the encouragement and direct participation his mother fostered that made a huge difference working through the difficulties of running a dance performance company. “In the early years of the company, she did everything from helping me make costumes, to schlepping a marley floor to venues and laying and taping the floor. In essence, she did everything imaginable in every aspect of the company. She never missed a single performance or dress rehearsal. At performances she would sell tickets, pass out programs, greet and talk to patrons, and anything that was needed. While doing this, she never wanted anyone to know she was my mother. She always wanted to keep that completely separated from her work with the company.”

And it wasn’t just the onstage efforts of the dancers that Mrs. Hancock impacted.

“Of course, she was the biggest fan of the company, but she was much more, and taught me so much. She was practical and managed money very tightly, never allowing the company to incur any kind of debt. This sensibility was passed on to me. She taught me how to repurpose things and how to make things out of virtually nothing.

“She spent many years lobbying and advocating for arts at city council meetings, writing letters to government officials, and much more. For numerous years she served on the Board of Directors as a Board Member and later as the Treasurer. She meticulously kept all the books for the company, filed taxes, submitted reports, wrote grants, did marketing, correspondence, and much more. I did not fully realize how much she did for the company until she was no longer here.”

Asked about how the company first came to be, Hancock states: “I don’t remember if there was really a conscious decision to create a company. I know I wanted to find a way to tell stories through dance and now to tell extremely personal stories through dance. Things evolved rather organically, but not without hard work and knowing that everything comes with a sacrifice. More wisdom passed on from my mother.”

Overall, Gregory Hancock takes little credit for his accomplishments. “I also want to mention our incredible Board of Directors. My mother would be so pleased that the company has survived and flourished, and the Board has become so passionate about the work and mission of the company. Much appreciation and gratefulness to Akin Akinwande, Tuhina Chakrabarti, Kirsten Ferger, Ivy Heazeltine, Deborah Provisor, Denise Salamie, Anindita Sen, Ross Smith, and Nur Ungan.”

A celebration is at hand – on August 26th and 27th the GHDT company will perform their 25th Season Celebration at The Tarkington Theatre in Carmel. Showtime is 7:30. Call for tickets at 317-843-3800 or go online at https://thecenterpresents.org/tickets-events/events/2223/resident-companies/ghdt-25th-season-celebration/

  • – photos provided by Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre

Civic Theatre YAP’s “42nd Street” at The Tarkington

Leave a comment

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Civic Theatre’s Young Artists Program presents 42nd Street (book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren) on The Tarkington stage with an extraordinary cast of young performers.

Keenly directed by Emily Rogge Tzucker and bolstered by Anne Beck’s amazing choreography (offered by a stage full of surprisingly proficient tappers) the show is a perfectly balanced triple-threat of a production – with superb dancing, professional-level singing and some wonderful acting scenes.

Charlie Steiner as Bill Lawlor and Mary Kate Tanselle as Peggy Sawyer

The cast is stellar. Mary Kate Tanselle is an inspired Peggy Sawyer. Graced with a strong belting voice and impressive tap skills, she plays the chorus girl to Broadway star journey to a T. Joining her lead are Charlie Steiner as Peggy’s dance partner Billy Lawlor, and Daimon Anderson as her director Julian Marsh. These two young gentlemen both give excellent performances – with top level vocal talents, and Steiner’s dancing abilities stand out in his many musical numbers.

Jilayne Kistner takes the role of Dorothy Brock

Jilayne Kistner takes the role of Broadway diva Dorothy Brock and makes it her own with superior voice skills and some wonderful acting. Luke Boyce is cute and comedic, and Natalie Marchal presents triple talents as song writers Bert Barry and Maggie Jones; Maddux Morrison amazes as choreographer Andy Lee; and Claire Kauffman is a plucky chorus girl named Annie. Benjamin Dostalek as Dorothy’s “sugar daddy” Abner Dillon, and Austin Lizama as Dorothy’s true love Pat Denning, are both notable in their roles.

Claire Kauffman (center) as Annie and Mary Kate Tanselle (right) as Peggy Sawyer

There’s certainly plenty of sparkle, soaring voices and amazing choreography to fill the stage and please the eye. The collection of costumes by Adrienne Conces are a wonder in and of themselves. They are countless and truly a spectacular part of the show. Ryan Koharchik’s scenic design is simple and meets all the show’s needs. And Musical Director Trevor Fanning’s fine work is evident in every scene and with the very excellent orchestra he leads.

(at center) Daimon Anderson as Julian Marsh and Mary Kate Tanselle as Peggy Sawyer are joined by the cast of “42nd Street”

Bottomline: With a stage filled with 30+ enthusiastic and talented young performers, director Tzucker has made this an unforgettable summer for a lot of youths and their families by putting together a show experience full of good hard work and new friendships they won’t soon forget, which for some performers will be a launching pad for an interest in theatre they will enjoy for a lifetime. This is an outstanding show – very professionally done and very, very entertaining.

42nd Street continues at The Tarkington theatre for two more performances – July 30th and 31st. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 317.843.3800 or by going online to http://www.Civictheatre.org

  • – photos by David Cunningham

“The Tragedy of Hamlet” at Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park

Leave a comment

reviewed by Daniel Shock

For it’s 30th anniversary production of Shakespeare in the Park, the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission has selected The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare’s well known tale of murder and revenge.  The first time…and last time that I wrote about Shakespeare’s Hamlet was my senior year in high school.   I did not do well on that paper.  It was handwritten and filled with many spelling mistakes. Due to a bad case of senior-itis, I had virtually no interest in doing the work to penetrate the language and make any sense out of the  story.   It amuses me to remember that I did go so far as to find sources for that paper that hated Hamlet and thought it was a terrible play.   Things have changed in the decades since.  Filmed versions of the story from Franco Zeffereli and Kenneth Branagh opened my eyes to the story and allowed me to appreciate it.  Seeing these films  with their star filled casts taught me a lesson – Shakespeare should be seen and heard.  The words should be spoken aloud.    Today there are not many Shakespeare plays that I can write a synopsis  of without plagiarizing the Wikipedia summary.  Hamlet, though, has become familiar.

The setting for Hamlet is the country of Denmark.   The Danish Prince, Hamlet is mourning the loss of his father.  Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, has quickly married Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, his father’s brother.  The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to tell the prince that he was murdered.  And not just by anyone.  That’s right – his uncle.  His father’s ghost urges Hamlet to avenge his murder.  Hamlet agrees, swearing vengeance.  Hamlet, devises a plan to pretend to be mad while seeking to extract the truth of what happened from those involved.  When a group of actors arrive, Hamlet writes a play about murder.  The details of the play’s plot are very similar to the murder of Hamlet’s father.  The play is performed for the new King and his court.  Hamlet watches the King during the performance for signs of guilt.  The play enrages Hamlet’s uncle, the king, and he leaves.  Polonius, father of Ophelia and Laertes, and meddling counselor to King Claudius, calls Hamlet to his mother’s chambers seeking evidence of Hamlet’s madness.  While Hamlet confronts his mother, Polonius (hiding) calls out in fear.  Hamlet, hearing the cry, then, blindly, stabs Polonius through the curtain.  This accidental killing of Polonius sets in motion the tragic fall of dominos that lead us to the bloody conclusion.

Ka’lena Cuevas as Horatio and Logan Laflin as Prince Hamlet

Director Jennie Otterman has assembled a diverse and talented cast for this 30th anniversary production.  Logan Laflin effectively takes on the very challenging role of Prince Hamlet. As the murderous King Claudius, Ian Hauser plays the part as almost a reasonable man.  For the first time, I felt for this character.  Molly Belner is back on stage as Queen Gertrude, Hamlets mother.  Belner is moving as a woman caught between the clash of scheming and violent men.  Matt Hartzburg brings comic energy to Polonius, the meddler.  He is a loving father to his daughter Ophelia and son Laertes.   Anna Himes, in a standout performance, gives Ophelia vibrant life as she is transformed by Hamlet’s abuse from loving sister, friend and daughter to an anxiety ridden, gas-lit and grieving woman on the edge of sanity.  As Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, Steven Moore is thrilling as he is pounded by grief and driven to revenge.  Nathaniel Taff, Gideon Roark, Madalyn Cottrell, Eric Dixon and Monya Wolf as the band of actors that come to entertain and stoke the fires of guilt in King Claudius are all funny and effective in their roles.  As the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, Aaron Ploof is scary and foreboding.   Three of the actors in the play were non-traditionally cast women in men’s roles.  This is an encouraging trend, as it expands opportunity and gives new textures to roles that have been done and done and done.  Ka’lena Cuevas as Horatio, Hamlet’s closest friend, was exceptional.  As Marcellus, Rachel Kelso was refreshing and Kelli Conkin was obviously having fun as the Gravedigger.   Some of these performances forced me to think about the play in new ways.  If Hamlet’s closest friends are women… what does that say about his mis-treatment of Ophelia?  For the first time with Hamlet, I questioned Hamlet’s role as ‘hero’.  Does the murder of Hamlet’s father justify the bloodbath at the end of the play?  I don’t have the answers.  But, I love that this production had me seeing new things and asking new questions.

Anna Himes as Ophelia

I do have a couple of criticisms.  They are small matters, but frustrating in that I feel that making a couple of changes would have a big impact:  Costume and Makeup.  98% of the costuming was great.  However, one character I feel was really let down by his costume: Polonius.  Matt Hartzburg is a young man brilliantly playing a spry old man, but his costume did none of the lifting for him.  I would rather have seen him in a robe along with some attempt at aging him with makeup.   Also, the Ghost, wonderfully played by Aaron Ploof would have benefited from makeup to make his face pale and haunting.   These are small matters and will not impede your enjoyment of the show.  That aside, Horatio got my favorite costume of the show.  I loved the blue coat.

Sound by Geoff Lynch was great.  Dialog was clear and easy to hear.  Effects were well done – beware that scary Ghost!  Lights by Michael Totty and sets by Rob Heighway were likewise, masterly.

Director Jen Otterman and Assistant Directory Rob Heighway have delivered a thoughtful production of Hamlet that is well worth your time.  You have two more chances to see it – absolutely free! Tonight(Friday, July 29) at 8:30 and again on Saturday at 8:30.  The performances are held in Noblesville at  Federal Hill Commons, 175 Logan Street. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission (approx)

BardFest’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” at Arts for Lawrence

Leave a comment

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the Bard’s most often produced play in the USA for good reason. It’s fun, it’s moldable (very important these days), it’s great for all ages, and for many of us the story is such a familiar one that the usual toil to keep up with what is going on is eliminated.

BardFest’s current production, in association with Arts for Lawrence, is ably directed by Matthew Socey with an eye on not being the “old-fashioned production of old white guys in tights.” Indeed, Socey’s lively effort is innovation in location (New Orleans), relationships (LGBTQ inclusive), role assignments (there are two males in the 18-member cast) and even blocking (due to the configuration of Fort Ben’s brand-new outdoor staging area, much of the action is offered on a walkway approaching the stage). And his players seem to have been given a freedom of expressing which is fresh and effective.

from left: Hippolyta (Afton Shepard) and Theseus (Jo Bennett) in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The cast that BardFest has attracted for this production is way up on the skill scale and performs what is in many ways a physically taxing program with aplomb, especially considering the 90+ degree weather.

The many fine portrayals are highlighted by Kelsey VanVoorst’s Bottom – a perfect role for the effusive actress which she puts much originality into. Jo Bennett as Oberon/Theseus and Afton Shepard as Titania/Hippolyta make a handsome couple, both in the N’Orleans section and in the world of the fairies. The four lovers – Hermia, Helena, Lysandra (sic), and Demetrius are all rendered very fully and with remarkable energies by Maggie Lengerich, Evangeline Bouw, Kristie Schuh, and Matt Walls, respectively.

Helena (Evangeline Bouw) insists on getting Demetrios’ (Matt Walls) attention in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Likewise, the “Rough Mechanicals” find good comic output for their silly characters whose “play” includes a gator substituting for the “as written” lion character. Chynna Fry, Justina Savage, Emily Hauer, Beverly Roche, and Sarah Froehlke make a wonderful ensemble for the proceedings. Finally, Diane Tsao’s Puck is a delight – full of flicks and bits.

The Rough Mechanicals respond to Bottom’s changes in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Bottomline: this is a very entertaining and original working of a very familiar story. The new venue at The Fort seems well located behind the Theatre at The Fort with good parking and a play area for the kids. This event was well attended by around 200.

Sadly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream only continues tonight and Sunday night, beginning at 6:30 with Pork & Beans, a high energy New Orleans style band, which was very impressive. Curtain is around 7:30 and there is a food truck available (they are hoping for more coverage there). Bring a chair or blanket, some refreshments and a hat and/or sunglasses, and be ready to enjoy a quite remarkable Shakespeare experience.

  • – photos by Indy Ghost Light Photography

“The Honky Tonk Angels” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

2 Comments

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It’s summer and that typically means a rollicking musical provided by Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. The theatre company’s issue this year is a surprisingly fresh Country Music themed journey – Ted Swindley’s song-filled The Honky Tonk Angels. This show is the tale of three disparate women from California, Texas, and the hills of West Virginia who all decide that their lives need a break and a breakout.

from left: Shelbi Berry as Darlene, Kaylee Verble as Sue Ellen, and Bridgette Ludlow as Angela in B&B’s “The Honky Tonk Angels”

Each one’s dream is to head to Nashville, Tennessee to try their luck and their skills at a country music experience. When Fate allows the three to meet on their Nashville bound bus, they hit on the idea of forming their own singing group – The Honky Tonk Angels.

Bridgette Ludlow plays unhappy double-wide trailer housewife Angela, Shelbi Berri is cast as Darlene – the WV hills girl, and Kaylee Verble takes the role of the slightly more sophisticated Californian by way of Texas, Sue Ellen. These three actresses do a wonderful job telling their stories, but the thrills of the production are in their amazing performances of the show’s many country songs.

The trio provides an array of absolutely stunning blended harmonies, along with solo performances that range from comic to poignant. Ms. Verble, whose noted lead performance in B&B’s 42nd Street won her a 2019 Mitty Award from ASOTA, plays her CaliTexan Sue Ellen with a brassy edge in such solo numbers as “9 to 5” and “Cornell Crawford”. Ms. Ludlow, whose local lead performance in The Color Purple won her a 2021 Mitty Award, does some fine comic work in Angela’s “Harper Valley PTA” and “Barroom Habits” before crooning a lovely “Almost Persuaded”.

The Honky Tonk Angels perform “Sittin’ on the Front Porch Swing”

Shelbi Berry, in the first lead performance I have witnessed from her, possesses a remarkable vocal range – with the ability to belt a phrase smoothly followed by a sublime voicing of heart-breaking effect. Her “Coal Miner’s Daughter” coupled with “Ode to Billy Joe”, offered early in the program, set the stage for what is a noteworthy performance through-out – which includes an enchanting “Angels Among Us”.

As I wrote previously, the threesome’s trio work is as good as you might ever experience. “I Will Always Love You”, “Amazing Grace”, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Sittin’ on the Front Porch Swing” are all memorable in the 30+ song “score”.

The performers are aided by the clean precision of the band, led by Musical Director Kristy Templet. Jeff Stockberger directs with good balance, accompanied by Doug King’s boot-scootin’ choreography. Terry Woods’ costume design is on the mark and Ryan Koharchik’s lighting of Michael Layton’s set design is significant. And we can’t not mention Chef Larry Stoops’ tempting buffet.

Bottomline: The Honky Tonk Angels is an entertaining journey – chock full of remarkable performances by three very talented ladies who know their way around crafting a song.

The Honky Tonk Angels continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through August 14th. Find show times and reservation info at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry

Agape Theater Company’s “West Side Story” at Lutheran High School

Leave a comment

Photo by Lillian May Photography

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

West Side Story is an American Theatre Classic, a result of the extraordinary assemblage of Leonard Bernstein (Music), Steven Sondheim (Lyrics), Arthur Laurents (Book) and Jerome Robbins (Choreography and Concept). All are theatre legends. West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957, running for 732 performances.

Agape Theater Company’s production opened last evening at the fine theatre space in Lutheran High School in Indianapolis. It is directed by April Barnes and ATC’s founder Kathy Phipps, with choreography by Joel Flynn and musical direction by David Turner.

Johnny Gaiffe as Tony and Rebekah Barajas as Maria

The large cast is headed by a talented quartet of young performers. Rebekah Barajas shines in the role of Maria, showcasing her stunning vocal qualities, which are matched by Johnny Gaiffe as a thoughtful Tony. Their duet renditions of “Tonight” and “One Heart, One Hand” are stand-outs in the show and their romantic scenes together are quite touching. Tony’s “Maria” is given a strong performance by Gaiffe.

(at center) Cordale Hankins as Bernardo and Jaelynn Keating as Anita

Jaelynn Keating is a spunky Anita and lights up the stage in “America” and in her show-stopping duet with Maria – “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love”. Cordale Hankins plays Bernardo and shows some fine acting and dancing skills in his performance.

The supporting groups of Jets and Sharks and their “girls” all work hard through their featured numbers: “Jet Song”, “America”, and “Cool”. The “Dance at the Gym” is one of the choreographic highlights of the show, offered with some wonderful polish and verve. “Gee, Officer Krupke” by some of the Jets plays well as a humorous interlude.

Rebekah Barajas as Marie and Jaelynn Keating as Anita

The set is a simplistic design using projections and a few stage pieces to indicate place, which works quite well. Some technical sound problems bewitched the opening, but those are the type of things one can expect to be corrected quickly.

Bottomline: West Side Story is a rather ambitious undertaking, being a dance-heavy production, with a superior score for singers to tackle. ACT’s “mixed” results were none-the-less good solid entertainment with many delights, and every young performer gave their all to the show. More than once, they brought a tear to my eye with their storytelling.

Agape Theater Company’s West Side Story continues through June 26th. Tickets are available by going to https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/agape-theater-company/west-side-story-57885. Info regarding ATC’s programs is available at https://agapetheatercompany.com/

  • – photos by Indy Ghost Light Photography

GHDT’s “Antony & Cleopatra” at The Tarkington Theatre

Leave a comment

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre’s production of Antony & Cleopatra opened last evening as a world premiere event at the Booth Tarkington Theatre. A collaborative project by choreographer Greg Glade Hancock and composer/lyricist Cory Gabel, the piece is loosely based on the eponymous play by William Shakespeare.

Mr. Hancock’s innovatory adaptation takes place in a nightclub setting – at Club Isis. The story presents Cleopatra as a famous drag performer, Antony as a star rock musician, and his wife Octavia as a featured singer at the club. Also included are Caesar Octavian, the wealthy and influential brother of Octavia, Antony’s supporters – Enobarbus and Eros, and Cleopatra’s backup dancers Charmian and Iras. Lamprius, a soothsayer who represents the Fates, oversees the destructive action as Antony falls for Cleopatra and forsakes his wife, triggering a spiral of events.

Octavia (Abigail Lessaris) and her husband Antony (Adrian Dominguez)

Adrian Dominguez and Thomas Mason dance the major roles of Antony and Cleopatra, respectively. The compromised Antony is offered with great expression and style, while Cleopatra’s self-assured nature clearly comes through as Dominguez and Mason join forces for a variety of emotional segments. One remarkable duet implies their physical joining, with both dancers evoking the progressing stages of a love affair.

Cleopatra (Thomas Mason, center) with her attendants

All other characters, male and female, are offered by the remaining ladies in the Hancock troupe. Abigail Lessaris impresses as Octavia – the abandoned wife. She ardently expresses the throes of rejection and jealousy with deep passion. Chloe Holzman plays Caesar Octavian in an authoritative manner, while Zoe Maish is a steady and meaningful presence as the fateful Lamprius. Olivia Payton, Josie Moody, Hannah Brown and Camden Lancaster fill the roles of the main characters’ entourages.

Lamprius, the Soothsayer (Zoe Maish)

As is usual, whether the dance is solo, duet or an ensemble piece, the GHDT dancers are amazing to watch as they present Mr. Hancock’s innovative and interesting choreography with polished proficiency. And the impressive original music provided by the talents of Mr. Gabel runs the gamut from lovely ballad to high energy romp. The combined package of imaginative dance, expressive score and energetic dance performances make this new piece a highly successful endeavor for all involved.

Bottomline: This world premiere event has a short window of opportunity as it only runs through Saturday, June 11th. GHDT always provides a thrilling experience for their audiences, and I would recommend that this show be put on your calendar – quickly.

Antony & Cleopatra will be presented at The Tarkington in The Carmel Center for the Performing Arts June 10th and 11th only at 7pm. Call for tickets: 317-843-3800 or go online at thecenterpresents.org/ 

  • – photos provided by Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse production of “Cabaret” at Phoenix Theatre

Leave a comment

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Since 2004, Summer Stock Stage has offered summer programs enabling school-aged youth to have quality stage production experiences. In 2017 those programs were expanded with Eclipse, an emerging artist program for SSS alums and others from the college ranks. Their production of Cabaret, which had a preview performance last evening, is this year’s first Eclipse offering – presented at Phoenix Theatre in downtown Indianapolis.

Cynthia Kauffman as Sally Bowles and Matthew Conwell as the Emcee

There are plenty of talented individuals in the show, directed by Carlos Medina Maldonado and choreographed by Alexandria Van Paris. Cynthia Kauffman, who wowed us in 2019 as the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie, is cast as Sally Bowles. Ms. Kauffman brings the perfect combination of vocal skills and stage presence to plunge into the iconic role. Matthew Conwell is the energetic Emcee. His lanky, stylized movements and lecherously punctuated characterization work well for the part, which is packed with ominous outlooks and lascivious actions. Donathan Arnold plays American novelist Cliff Bradshaw in a refined and mostly low-key manner, nicely offsetting the near riotous musical numbers at the Kit Kat Klub. All three performers are blessed with strong stage abilities and do their best to move the thinly rendered storyline along.

Sally Bowles (Cynthia Kauffman) with Clifford Bradshaw (Donathan Arnold)

Most of the “action” of the show occurs at the Kit Kat Klub – the raunchy setting for most of the musical numbers. This production seems to have placed much of the show’s energies here, albeit with a skilled cadre of dancers. The Emcee and the Kit Kat Girls (and Boys) take every opportunity to be outrageous in the dances and movements provided by Ms. Van Paris’ choices. While the movements provide lively enough entertainment, in my view they are quite often over the top with regard to their implied sexualities. One number – “Two Ladies” is a virtual catalogue of sexual positions and techniques, perhaps with no other intent but to embarrass and chagrin audience members.

Emcee (Matthew Conwell) with the Kit Kat Klub Girls

Granted, the Kit Kat Klub is supposed to be a reflection of the downward swirl of civilization during the late 1920s and early 1930s, but I have seen quite a few productions of Cabaret, and even played Cliff in college, but never saw what I saw here. It just seems overdone at times – in my opinion. And the forced energies spent at the Klub, don’t favor the eased telling of the Bowles story, leaving it hung out in a corner.

Ernst Ludwig (Scott Van Wye) with Fraulein Kost (Lizzie Mowry)

In supporting roles, Scott Van Wye creates a strong Ernst Ludwig, the man most connected here to the rise of Nazi power, while Lizzie Mowry’s Fraulein Kost, who must continually explain to landlady Schneider why so many sailors visit her, is a well-done bit of comic relief in the piece.

One of the most successful segments of the show is the Fraulein Schneider/Herr Schultz section. Offered by stage veterans Judy Fitzgerald and Charles Goad, this simple love story survives the crudeness and is touching, and lovely, and very telling of the times.

Fraulein Schneider (Judy Fitzgerald) and Herr Schultz (Charles Goad)

I must also note the stunning ending – very original, powerful and quite effective.

Bottomline: As I say, the ensemble members and lead players are all nicely developing young performers, and the show is entertaining with some truly rousing numbers. I just feel like an element of balance is askew as the Klub sections overpower the storytelling sections. I don’t expect you will want to bring your minor children to this one.

Cabaret continues at Phoenix Theatre through June 12th. Tickets and show times are available at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35828

Up next for Summer Stock Stage is The Addams Family June 23-26 at Ayres Auditorium on the Park Tudor campus. Find show info at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35828/production/1107421

  • – photos by Indy Ghost Light Photography

The U/S Experience: taking a lead role at IRT with only a few hours notice

1 Comment

by Ken Klingenmeier

I’ve known local actor Ian Cruz for a good number of years. I met him in 2007 when we both were in the Phoenix Theatre production of Stuff Happens, and I have directed him in a series of videos for the American College of Dentists which we shot at the I.U. School of Dentistry. He’s a great guy with a great family (I also worked with his wife Nathalie in the IUSD series), and he stays pretty busy in the Indianapolis theatre scene. Many of you local theatre types probably know him.

Ian Cruz

When I saw on Facebook recently that Ian had been hired at Indiana Repertory Theatre as a u/s (understudy) for The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin, I was really happy for him. I know all of us local actors and actresses would love the opportunity to work there.

Then, on Saturday, May 14th, I heard that he had gotten a call to take a role. Probably some cast member failed a Covid test, I reasoned, and I thought – Nice that Ian gets a chance to fill in. Then I learned it was the lead role! I had reviewed the show and had noted that actor David Shih, who played the lead Harry Chin role, barely left the stage during his performance! This was going to be an immense undertaking for Ian…

I started wondering what that would be like – being called in to cover a role. I had never had that experience personally. So I recently asked Ian if he would answer a few questions so I could write about it. He agreed to and here is what he said:

How did you come about getting an understudy gig?

Ansley Valentine directed me last year with The Two Kids That Blow Sh*t Up ! at Fonseca Theatre. He messaged me that IRT was looking for a male swing for The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin. I messaged him back that I was interested and the rest is history.

Did you have to be there for every performance “just in case”?

We were required/encouraged to watch the show at least twice a week once it was up and running. Prior to that, we were sent a couple of YouTube videos of some of their rehearsal runs.

Did you have to learn multiple roles?

Yeah, I had to learn all 3 male roles. The role of Harry, the Poet/Immigration Office and Boss/Interrogator

Note from Ken: Harry was the lead role, perpetually onstage. It required going back and forth with accents, attitudes and mannerisms as the story was told in the past in China, the present in the US, and in dreams. Poet was a very uniquely stylized role. The Interrogator used a very original gibberish style that was difficult to perform, I am sure.

Were you given rehearsal time with other cast members to do that?

Not with the actual cast members during the one understudy in-person rehearsal I went to. It was more like figuring out on-stage and backstage traffic. I also shadowed the actors during one live show to see how they moved backstage.

So, I really only had that one true rehearsal with all the actual cast members which was 3 hours prior to when I went on-stage.

What was it like when you got “the call” that you were going on? In the lead role!?

I was at Fonseca Theatre that Saturday morning in the middle of a rehearsal run for the next show I’m in (shameless plug — FADE at Fonseca Theatre running May 27 – June 12). As part of the script, I check my cellphone and when I saw a text from the IRT stage manager… I literally stopped the scene I was in and shouted “OMG!! It had to be Harry?!!” Lol … then I said “sorry” to everyone and just continued with the run and didn’t reply back immediately because I wanted to finish the rehearsal run first. As soon as we finished the last scene, all the FTC staff just said, “Ian, reply back to IRT” and…”You better go now, coz people have been looking for you and they need you to be there at 1 pm to rehearse!” IRT even called Nathalie at work looking for me! I should’ve replied immediately, but I was in the middle of a scene and possibly also in shock!

Did you feel prepared?

Not really.

Well -as prepared as I could be based on what I’ve seen in videos and the times I’ve watched it. But, of the 3 roles, I believe my body type and age and voice were closest to the Harry Chin character, so strangely, I felt calmer once we were actually doing the one rehearsal I had prior to the show. I probably would’ve panicked more if it was the Poet role (with more poetic line delivery and acrobatic feats of blocking) or the Interrogator role (the stylized gibberish needed for that was so new to me).

Did your performance go smoothly? Any gaffes?

Personally, I thought it went relatively smooth for what it was. Not sure really. Maybe an actual audience member who was there can chime in on this question.

Making sure I didn’t mess up my co-actors’ lines and cues was my top priority, as well as just keeping the pace of the show moving. I can’t recall any serious gaffes, really.

How do you think you handled the experience?

I’m not sure really. I was terrified at first. First reaction really was “OMG, this is an EXCELLENT show and David Shih (and the rest of the cast) were EXCEPTIONAL and I did NOT want to ruin the show!!” I got to the theater for that rehearsal and everyone at the IRT (both Cast & Crew) were SUPPORTIVE and FANTASTIC. They made sure at that point they were setting me up for success. That’s probably why I calmed down once we got through that one rehearsal prior to the 5pm curtain.

How did you feel while you actually did the role?

I was nervous at first when I entered the very first time, but as soon as I heard audible reactions and laughter (that really was my gauge to see if they’re still listening – haha) from the audience, I felt good and comfortable being on stage and just started telling the story of Harry as best I could. And again, I just want to say that the rest of the cast (Anne, Allison, Linden,Samuel and Tracy) and crew had our backs the whole time! They all are true professionals, and it was such a pleasure and honor to have shared the stage with them.

Would you take on a u/s gig again?

If you asked me this the day before I went on stage, I probably would’ve said “NO!”

If it’s for just one role, then yes maybe. But for multiple roles? OMG, I have utmost respect now for all the swings and understudies in the world! Having to memorize all those lines with minimal rehearsal time and not knowing if you’re even going to go on-stage was a totally new experience for me and I wasn’t sure if it’s my cup-o-tea or if I can actually do it. I was stressed and terrified of getting the “call” because I felt I had taken on more than I could chew the last couple of months (having 2 kids graduating from college, work stuff and rehearsing another play among other things).

HOWEVER, once I did it, I was actually truly grateful to the universe that I was given the chance to do it that one time! What a day! It was an experience I won’t ever forget!

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre’s “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”

Leave a comment

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It’s difficult to think that it’s been eight years since B&B last presented Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical, let alone that the Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke opened 58 years ago! On top of that, the cast members for the major roles from the 2014 B&B production have all returned! Cara Statham Serber is back as the “practically perfect” Mary Poppins, Buddy Reeder returns as the street-wise Bert, and Eddie Curry and Heather Patterson King again play George and Winifred Banks. It’s all so supercalifragilis… well, you know the rest!

Ms. Serber’s Mary Poppins is so smoothly done, it’s a bit like visiting an old friend, as is Reed’s Bert – both are great reminders of the excellent 2014 production. It seemed to me that the Banks roles, as reworked by Curry and Ms. King in this version, were a bit less tragic than before, which works much better, I believe. Ms. King has a strikingly beautiful voice for her role, while Curry offers a balance of comedy and drama as Mr. Banks.

at center – Mary Poppins (Cara Statham Serber) and Bert (Eddie Reed) enjoy performing “Jolly Holiday” with the dance ensemble members

As the Beef’s annual family-friendly show, Mary Poppins definitely hits the mark. Filled with magic, zany fun, and so many outstanding songs and dance segments, it’s a great kid’s show, but still delights people of all ages.

Directed by Eddie Curry, with Ron Morgan’s imaginative choreography – the story whirls through the grand events that only happen when “Mary holds your hand.” Not only are the lead roles well covered by the aforementioned talented foursome, the many ancillary characters are also very impressively done by both new and returning cast members.

Goerge Banks (Eddie Curry) seems disagreeable about a kiss from Winifred Banks (Heather Patterson King)

Deb Wims brings the Banks’ housekeeper Mrs. Brill to new levels, alongside the returning Doug King as valet Robertson Ay; Devan Mathias sets a sensitive tone for the Bird Woman; and Sarah Hund enlarges both of her characterizations – as Mrs. Corry, the Talking Shop owner, and as Miss Andrew (“The Holy Terror” – Mr. Banks’ childhood nanny).

The Banks children, Jane and Michael, are portrayed by Kate Boice and Max Geronimo. Both young performers do steadily fine work. Young Miss Boice has a quality vocal talent in addition to a very good stage presence, and 9-year-old Max G. is actually revisiting the Michael role that he recently did in “Mary Poppins Jr.”

from left – Michael Banks (Max Geronimo), Mary Poppins (Cara Statham Serber) and Jane Banks (Kate Boice)

A strong group of dancers carry out Ron Morgan’s dance combinations and are especially impressive with his “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” patterns. These ensemble members all deserve much praise for the long list of roles they take on in this production.

The set design by Michael Layton is ingenious, and costumes coordinated by Amy Gaton are a spectacle. Terry Woods leads the B&B band through their paces with precision.

Mrs. Corry (Sarah Hund – center) and the ensemble perform the show-stopping “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” number

Bottomline: If you are going to offer a children’s show, you probably can’t do much better than Mary Poppins. It’s full of fun, great characters and familiar songs. Beef and Boards does a wonderful job presenting it with energetic performances by all. Plus, Chef Larry Stoops offers a very kid-friendly menu which includes chicken tenders, and mac and cheese.

Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through July 10th. Find show times and reservation info at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry

Older Entries