“Hairspray” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Vickie Cornelius Phipps

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre has a hit for the entire family!

Hairspray, an original American musical, opened on Broadway in 2002. The stage production by Marc Shaiman, Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan, and Scott Wittman was based on the 1988 film by John Walters. Hairspray is set in 1962 Baltimore (“Good Morning Baltimore”) where 60’s dance music is the rage and segregation is firmly embedded in the culture.

The unlikely heroine is Tracy, a quirky and pleasantly plump teen who yearns to dance on the local teenage hit television program. Tracy’s dream comes true when she wins a spot on “The Corny Collins Show.” With her overwhelming positivity and a strong sense of self, she becomes an overnight success and attracts the eye of the most popular guy on the show, Link Larkin. The antagonist and mother-daughter duo, teen queen Amber and the show’s racist producer Velma Von Tussle will not be dethroned. Tracy joins with her friends to fight institutional racism on the small screen and advocates for the show to be fully integrated.


Nina Stilabower (center) as Tracy Turnblad in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Hairspray”.

All ages can appreciate and enjoy this colorful musical with plenty of laughter and love, while learning to embrace who we are. Tracy Turnblad, played by Nina Stilabower, pulls off the big hair and big dreams with a voice to match. Nina is bright and energetic as she teaches us all to look past the color of one’s skin, and fight for equal rights. Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad is authentically played by Evan Wallace with sensitivity and sass. Edna, herself held back by her own self-doubt, is comforted by husband Wilbur, (J. Stuart Mill), (“Timeless to Me”) winning everyone’s heart. Justin Klein appears as Corny Collins, TV Emcee of the teen dance show, crooning beautifully in his array of colorful suits. Link Larkin, (Zachary Hoover), the heart throb of the show learns that authenticity triumphs over the limelight.


From left: the Turnblad family – Nina Stilabower as Tracy, J. Stuart Mill as her father, Wilbur, and Evan Wallace as her mother, Edna, in Civic Theatre’s production of “Hairspray”

I must give 4 stars to Jenny Reber who plays Penny Pingleton. Not only did she steal some scenes with her portrayal of the nerdy, clumsy side kick to Tracy, but she didn’t overdo it, finding just the right balance. Velma Von Tussle played by Mikayla Koharchik, who proves once again she can sing anything, and Amber Von Tussle (Emily Hollowell), with comedic selfishness, are the villains you love to hate. Both these ladies give strong performances. Joyce Licorish gives us Motormouth Maybelle, mother of Seaweed and Little Inez, and the host of Negro Day who takes us to church with (“I Know Where I’ve Been”) — Amazing! Micheal Hassell as Seaweed J. Stubbs is adorable and charms us with his dance routines. Little Inez played by Renee Carter is equally talented. High points go to B.J. Bovin playing four different parts particularly well and Jennifer Sutton as the Gym Teacher and Matron.


Evan Wallace as Edna Turnblad takes center stage in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Hairspray”.

This lively and talented cast of characters, directed by Michael J. Lasley, keeps this story rolling and musically rocking from the beginning to the finale. Anne Beck’s choreography, visually exciting and fast paced, takes us straight back to the sixties. The musical direction by Brent E. Marty keeps our toes tapping. The bright and colorful costumes, fitting with the era, are designed by Adrienne Conces. Anyone who remembers big hair, upsweeps, bouffant and beehives, will love these, designed by Hair & Make-up Designer, Andrew Elliot. The set pieces by Scenic Designer, David Rockwell, are innovative and creative and keep the pace of the show moving. Lighting Designer, Ryan Koharchik, sets the mood and matches the excitement.

Presented at the Center for the Performing Arts  in the Tarkington in Carmel, Civic Theatre’s production of “Hairspray” runs now through May 12. For tickets call 317-843-3800 or visit civictheatre.org. Tickets can also be purchased at thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.

* – Photos by Zach Rosing


“And Then There Were None” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Vickie Cornelius Phipps

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is a detective fiction novel, first published in the United Kingdom in 1939. It is Christie’s best-selling novel to date, making it the world’s best-selling mystery and the seventh most popular book of all time. One of her darkest and most successful novels, it was adapted into a play in 1943.

And Then There Were None takes place in 1938 when ten people have been summoned to Soldier island off the Devon coast for an island getaway. Their hosts, the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Owens, are oddly not there to greet them. Instead the butler and his wife, the cook, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers (Matt Anderson and Christy Walker) are there to show them to their rooms. The group of strangers meet at dinner and each has no idea why they have been invited. Stranded without a phone or boat, the characters learn that one of them is methodically murdering the members of the group. Who? Why? How? The clues are in the nursery rhyme. “Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little soldier boys…” A jazz record playing in the background switches to a human voice which accuses each of the guests of having contributed to the death or deaths of someone from their pasts. At the end of dinner, one of the guests, Anthony Marston (Bradford Reilly) chokes and drops down dead. And so it begins.

Steve Joshua Ramsey

Detective Albert Blore (Steve Kruze) and Captain Lombard (Joshua Ramsey) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “And Then There Were None”.

There is an interesting range of guests: the ex-nanny and child killer, Vera Claythorne (Carrie A. Schlatter), the highly successful physician, Dr. Edward George Armstrong (David Wood), Detective Albert Blore (Steve Kruze), the bitter bible fanatic, Emily Brent, (Christine Kruze), the retired General Macarthur (Tom Beeler), the Judge (David Mosedale), and a soldier from the colonies, Captain Lombard (Joshua Ramsey). The guests are ferried over to the island by the sea chaffier Fred Narracott (Dick Davis).

Beeler Schlatter

General Macarthur (Tom Beeler) and Vera Claythorne (Carrie A. Schlatter) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “And Then There Were None”.

The actors give a strong performance that anchors the story. My stand out choice was Steve Kruze. “Davis, the name is Davis.” But I love the comic relief.

This is Civic’s second production at the Studio and was staged perfectly under the direction of Charles Goad. The well-balanced cast, using a variety of accents held the attention of the audience. I could hear the whispers of many trying to guess what will happen next. Agatha Christie packed this script with details and nuance, one of which are the ten little soldier boys mysteriously disappearing from the mantle as each character is picked off.

Ryan Koharchik set design was simple and elegant with the right amount of detail. Costume designer Adrienne Conces dresses the cast from my favorite era, late 1930’s to 1940’s. Wowed by Christine Kruse’s costumes and hair design, I wasn’t thrilled with Schlatter’s – and while I’m sure she was following the script, I’m not sure someone would change attire so often if they were worried about being murdered. The sounds of the sea and dramatic lighting set the mood for this terrific “whodunit” mystery but the annoying LED lights on the side of the risers in the audience at times distracted me. Probably a safety issue but I wish they were at floor level or dimmed during performances. Lastly, and I know this is very picky, the suitcases seem a little light when the actors handle them. All in all, though, this is a must-see production that can be enjoyed with the whole family.

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of And Then There Were None runs March 23 – April 8. For tickets call 317-853-6311 or go online http://www.civictheatre.org.

“Sense and Sensibility” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When Jane Austen had her novel “Sense and Sensibility” published in 1811 (with the author line: ‘by a lady’), she could have never imagined the impact her story would have for the next 200+ years. Not only has it been endlessly ‘in print’, it has been adapted for film, for the stage, in parodies, and reimagined with a 21st Century setting. A most recent reworking was offered in 2016 by Kate Hamill, working with the BEDLAM theatre group in New York City. It is this modern adaptation that is presented by the Civic, directed by John Michael Goodson.

Ms. Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility seems to follow the original story and characters faithfully enough. (Note: my only previous exposure to the story has been the wonderful 1995 eponymous film with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet). The modern aspects of this adaptation come about mainly through the staging elements that are used here. An open stage with a gated backdrop becomes all the many areas needed for the 35 scenes that play out for the audience – through furniture placement, set rotation and a dash of audience imagination. Players are re-charactered with the addition (or subtraction) of a costume piece or with a hairdo alteration, rain sound is made for us with wandering rain sticks, a rambunctious pack of dogs appears, and a marvelously depicted horse is nothing more that an actor performing a horse’s gait via a clever dance-step. Each of these ideas works very well on the vast Tarkington stage.

In case you don’t know, the story concerns the plight of the Dashwood family, made up of a second wife and her 3 daughters, after the husband/father dies. Because of difficulties with strict inheritance laws and the father’s unsympathetic oldest son and his wife, they are left without means. The two oldest sisters are further left in the position of being far less attractive for good marriages due to the loss of their father and any reliable income.


From left: Matt Anderson, Abby Gilster, Emily Jackson, Bradford Reilly, Marni Lemons, Elisabeth Giffin Speckman, Justin Klein, Morgan Morton, Emily Bohn and Joshua Ramsey perform a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Sense and Sensibility”

Civic newcomer Emily Bohn stars as older sister Elinor, whose countenance is very down-to-earth and whose manner is to absorb most of life’s challenges to her future with a certain grace. Ms. Bohn plays her role with a steady hand, and is a pleasure to watch as she manages Emily’s perspective. Younger sister Marianne is brought to life by Morgan Morton, who also makes her Civic debut. Ms. Morton is very genuine is her role, giving the overly romantic and soft-hearted middle sister every ounce of vulnerability we might expect. Youngest sister Margaret is offered by yet another debuter, Elisabeth Giffin Speckman. Ms. Speckman, who is also featured as Anne, does solid work with both characters, and manages to garner many of the laughs in the show.

Several Civic regulars handle secondary characters – Carrie Neal is a sweet and motherly Mrs. Dashwood; Justin Klein is adroit and effective in his series of portrayals: as John Dashwood (the late Mr. Dashwood’s first child and only son), as John Willoughby, a scoundrel who wins then wounds Marianne’s heart, and as the aforementioned horse; and Joshua Ramsey is perfect as Elinor’s favorite, Edward Ferrars (with a quick stopover as Edward’s áffected brother, Robert).

Dashwood Family

The Dashwoods: Carrie Neal as Mrs. Dashwood, Emily Bohn as Elinor, Morgan Morton as Marianne, and Elisabeth Giffin Speckman as Margaret.

Marni Lemons is absolutely wonderful in her turn as the good-natured busybody, and friend to the young women – Mrs. Jennings; Matt Anderson is a walking excitement as Sir John Middleton; Bradford Reilly is solid and straightforward as the kindly and sincere Colonel Brandon; Abby Gilster finds all the fun in Lucy Steele, while balancing it with the snobbishness of John’s wife, Fanny; And Emily Jackson fills out her roles as the Lady Middleton and the elderly Mrs. Ferrars with polished efforts.

These actors move through the action of their scenes, their stagehand assignments, and their background character duties (very correctly listed as “Gossips”) with well-practiced precision, which accounts for a good deal of the audience’s enjoyment of the piece.


From left: Joshua Ramsey, Justin Klein, Bradford Reilly, and Matt Anderson in Civic’s production of “Sense and Sensibility”

The costumes by Adrienne Conces set just the right tone for the period and for the characterizations, and Ryan Koharchik’s contributions in scenic and lighting design are most impressive, to say the least.

Small problems with actor diction can and should be addressed here. There are some complicated passages that go by undistinguishably, and the unmiked state of the actors should demand extra care in pronouncing the English accented lines.

Bottomline: Overall, the presentation of this treasured story is a truly pleasant two hours. I recommend it both for its familiarity and its innovative staging.

Sense and Sensibility continues at the Booth Tarkington theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through February 17th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photo from Civic Theatre

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre



reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

In his program notes, Director Michael J. Lasley writes of his concerns that having produced and directed so many productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, (this is the ninth such iteration by Civic!) he would run out of things to say with the piece. On a parallel track, I have now seen the show 3 times at various venues in just the past year or so, and attended the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s rendition of it with some of the same concerns – what could yet another Joseph say to me? As Mr. Lasley further writes: so much rich material is set into the text and music, his fears (and subsequently, mine) were unfounded.

Indeed, under Mr. Lasley’s inventive guidance, this production of the very popular show simply sparkles and shines, with great performances, imaginative staging, and immense production values regarding set, lighting, costumes, orchestration and choreography. Those technical aspects are an important feature in this edition. Ryan Koharchik imagines and creates a scenic design with great function and an undeniable “wow” factor. Likewise, the costumes designed and coordinated by Adrienne Conces are an eyeful of color and spectacle. Brent Marty has outdone himself with his direction of the astonishing vocal and instrumental renditions set forth here. Finally, the intricate and ingenious choreography by Anne Nicole Beck truly takes that aspect of the show to new and higher levels.

Elvis stage

Logan Rivera (center) is featured as The Pharaoh, on one of Ryan Koharchik’s dynamic stage designs in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Naturally, a good deal of the production’s radiance comes from the remarkable performances by the talented cast. Dynamic turns by Jacob Butler as Joseph and Katie Stark as the Narrator anchor a splendid ensemble of players who fill the many roles with a very high degree of excellence. Butler plays Joseph with a simple and honest approach. He uses his high quality vocal skills to great advantage, yet never tips away from his straightforward performance choices. Ms. Stark has a pleasingly easy style in her delivery, as well. She handles the Narrator’s almost constant presence in a quite effortless seeming manner, whether she is called on to simply sing us the story or to perform an elaborate dance number. Also noteworthy are Jeff Angel’s fine handling of dual roles, Jacob and Potiphar, and Logan Rivera’s exciting performance as the Elvis themed Pharaoh.

Jacob B

Jacob Butler as Joseph in his prized coat in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Whether the action calls for solos (Butler’s rendition of the lament “Close Every Door” is a show-stopper), ensemble vocals (exquiste blendings of voices abound throughout the show), or complex choreographic displays (Daniela Pretorius’ solo “Apache Dance” for “Those Canaan Days” is a special treat), this assemblage of skilled performers go above and beyond – they are all simply great. Every single musical number in this show is done with impressive originality and polish. Even the Children’s Choir, consisting of 16 young performers, receives extended duties in the production team’s inventive format, and each and every member does an outstanding job.

Katie S 2

Katie Stark takes the role of the Narrator in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Bottomline: This is a wonderful Joseph, especially for those of us who are very familiar with the show and could benefit from an original, fresh, and innovative production. Genuinely dazzling performances by every member of the ensemble, coupled with remarkable production values at every turn, make this a “must-see”.


The cast performs Megamix in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through January 7th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

“Annie” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre



reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre opens its 2017-18 season with a well-crafted production of Annie. This perennial favorite took the Broadway theatre world by storm with its original production in 1977, running for six years. Based on Harold Gray’s depression era comic strip, the musical features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan.

Under direction and choreography by Anne Nicole Beck, and musical direction by Brent Marty, Civic Theatre’s offering in a sometimes spectacular presentation. Though it sports an unevenness in some production areas, the show is dotted with numerous impressive performances and musical numbers.

Warbucks and Annie

Daniel Scharbrough (Daddy Warbucks) and Mary Kate Tanselle (Annie) star in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

On the high side, we are treated to Mary Kate Tanselle’s plucky and energetic Annie. Young Miss Tanselle shows an easy talent in her portrayal and lights up the stage with her fine vocal talents. Already a stage veteran in her eighth grade year, Miss Tanselle never wavers in a poised and professional grade performance.

Another shining light, much “like the top of the Chrysler Building”, is provided by Daniel Scharbrough, whose superior Daddy Warbucks reprisal comes off with a smooth confidence that reflects this fine actor’s many years of stage experience. Scharbrough is joined at this high level by relative newcomer Amanda Boldt, who turns in a successfully full portrayal of Warbucks’ faithful secretary, Grace Farrell.


“It’s a Hard Knock Life” for the orphans in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”


Ms. Beck’s cadre of orphans gives solid energies in their various appearances in the show. Anna Wagner (Duffy), Nya Beck (Julie), Emily Chrzanowski (Kate), Abigail Judy (Molly), Emily Carlisle (Pepper), and Claire Kauffman (Tessie) are especially wonderful in “Hard Knock Life” with its robust choreography – one of Ms. Beck’s best efforts in that department.

Speaking of choreography, this is one of the areas which, in my opinion, was somewhat variable. Some numbers, such as “Hard Knock Life” and especially “NYC” and “Easy Street” were simply knockouts with remarkable performances of inventive step patterns. A few others, though somewhat creative, lacked that special something I have grown to expect from this choreographer. I know there are more than a few musical numbers to deal with here, but after the inventive creations I saw from Ms. Beck in Civic’s The Music Man,  I was struck by a downturn with what I saw here. Again, merely my observation and opinion…


One of the many ensemble numbers in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

Civic’s use of set designs based on the work of legendary designer Ming Cho Lee, is certainly among the high points in the show. Soaring skylines, lofty highway bridges, and well-appointed mansion interiors are provided, along with subtly slanted renditions of the orphanage and the oval office. Also high on my list is the wonderful presentation of the score by the Annie orchestra, under the baton of Matthew Konrad Tippel. It is first rate throughout. The costumes by Adrienne Conces also enrich the big-show quality of the production.

Other fine performances are sprinkled throughout: Paige Scott (Miss Hannigan), Jeremy Shivers-Brimm (Rooster Hannigan) and Virginia Vasquez (Lilly St. Regis) have some five star moments in their trio work as well as in their scene work together; Piper Murphy makes the most of her spotlight moment as “Star to Be”; and the rather vast ensemble has moments of spectacular rendition.

Frankly, any disappointment I may have had with this edition of Annie could be the product of several factors. Primarily, I have seen various productions of this piece and that in itself always lends an aspect of familiarity and undeniable comparison. Also, it occurs to me that the show I saw last evening was a second show in the run – which in theatre circles can often mean a letdown in the performers’ energies and efforts after a hellish full week of preparations for the opening night show. I know that feeling well.

Hannigans and Lilly

From left: Paige Scott (Miss Hannigan), Virginia Vasquez (Lilly St. Regis) and Jeremy Shivers-Brimm (Rooster Hannigan) provide the villainry in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie”

Bottomline: I believe if this is the very first production that you have seen of Annie, you will be blown away and delighted by what is offered here. In that light, it was fun to see all the little girls in attendance with Annie-bows in their hair, some in red dresses, all very excited to see this show. As for an old theatre goer like myself, I genuinely appreciate what has been assembled here, and was impressed by many of the choices and performances.

Annie continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through October 28th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

“The Music Man” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Meredith Willson’s iconic Broadway musical, The Music Man, is the final installment in Tarkington Civic Theatre’s stellar 2016-17 season. Full of insightful direction and inventive choreography, both provided by Anne Nicole Beck, the show opened last night with a sparkle and a smash. Brent E. Marty provides the inspired musical direction.

Ms. Beck’s immense cast of 42 fills the stage with remarkable performances from top to bottom. Leading the way is Steve Kruze as slick, traveling salesman Professor Harold Hill. Kruze manages a difficult role with pellucidity, energizing the role which brought Robert Preston much fame. Though I feel Kruze lacked the full spark he brought to his earlier Civic appearance as Frederick Frankenstein in 2016’s Young Frankenstein, he nonetheless makes the most of his significant talents here, always focused on Hill’s divided attentions as he hoodwinks the townspeople and unexpectedly finds true love. Joining him as Marion (the librarian) is a lovely Mikayla Reed Koharchik. Ms. Koharchik offers a definitive version of the reluctant miss, using her beautiful (and powerful) vocal talents to maximum effect. Her Marion is gracefully aware of what is happening to her as Hill first confronts her with his charms, then finds he cannot do without her.

Hill crop2

Steve Kruze plays Professor Harold Hill in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”

Adding texture to the show are distinctive performances by several supporting players including: Tom Beeler as a pleasingly frustrated Mayor Shinn; Robyne J. Ault as his over-the-top arts loving wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn; Krista Wright as Marion’s hopeful mother, Mrs. Paroo; and Joe Steiner as Hill’s vengeful rival, anvil salesman Charlie Cowell.

Joel Flynn takes the role of town “trouble-maker” Tommy Djilas, showing some impressive talents as a featured dancer; third-grader Jack Clark does himself (and the Clark family) proud as he sweetly plays young Winthrop Paroo, highlighted by his delightful rendition of “Gary Indiana”; and John Hall, Eric Turpen, David Brock and Darrin Gowan join forces as the combative school board members turned barber shop quartet, offering a selection of beautifully harmonized arrangements.

Marion crop2

Mikayla Reed Koharchik plays Marion Paroo in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”

It would be difficult to list all the contributions of the other 30 performers, just know that they add lots of glow and shine to the impressive proceedings. Also noteworthy is the fine Broadway level orchestra, under the baton of Trevor Fanning, which richly accompanies the action onstage.

And what action! Favorite numbers from my perspective include: the lively “Seventy-Six Trombones” which displays the entire cast in a bright rendition; the wonderfully original and complex movement of “Marian the Librarian” featuring the two leads with a dozen or so young adult performers; and the all-stops-out, full-cast, dance-filled “Shipoopi”. The show is full of terrific and interesting staging ideas throughout.

Finally, kudos must go to the imaginative scenic and lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik  and the plethora of costumes designed by Andrienne Conces. Andrew Boyd added his skillful work with the period style wigs.


The entire cast in a rousing rendition of “Seventy-Six Trombones” in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”.

Bottom-line: Here is yet another thoroughly enjoyable show from the magnificent Tarkington Civic organization. The high quality of their productions this entire season has certainly been on a par with any of the professional companies in our theatre-rich area.

The Music Man continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through May 13th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .



This evening, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre announced the shows in the upcoming 2017-18 season – starting with Annie, which opens on October 12, 2017. This will be followed by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Dec. 15), a non-musical Sense and Sensibility (Feb 2), Agatha Christies’ And Then There Were None in the Studio Theater (Mar 23), and finally Hairspray (Apr 27). Young artists productions of The Cat in the Hat, James and the Giant Peach and Guys and Dolls are also included. Season tickets are available now – call 317.843.3800 for information.


“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Thirty years ago in 1987, three American actors and writers, Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jeff Winfield – known as the Reduced Shakespeare Company – wrote and produced a very original idea. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was presented that year at the famous Edinburgh Festive Fringe to great fanfare and soon after, began a nine year run at the Criterion Theatre in London, England.

The show, directed for Civic Theatre by John Michael Goodson, is a burlesque of sorts, with no fourth wall, employing a trio of actors to present the show directly to, and sometimes with, the audience. That aspect makes The Studio Theatre at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts, usually the domain of Actors Theatre of Indiana, the perfect venue for this lively presentation of mayhem and frequently wacky humor.

Civic Complete Works

(from left) Kelsey VanVoorst, Frankie Bolda and Antoine Demmings – the cast of Civic Theatre’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”.

The show features sketch-savvy actresses Frankie Bolda and Kelsey VanVoorst, and introduces first time stage actor, Antoine Demmings. All three provide the necessary energized personas for the task at hand – 37 plays (plus a brief fly-over of the sonnets) in 97 minutes. The action is a string of routines (or “bits”) glued together by the purported task. Most bits work, some don’t. The script also provides plenty of room for improvisation and references to “news of the day” or current pop culture and, depending somewhat on your political preferences, some ideas which this group has chosen hit the mark squarely.

Regardless of content – the efforts of the actors are unquestionably first rate. There is an obvious cohesion among them which undoubtedly comes from the programming of director Goodson and the cast’s basic hard work. The flow of the show is unstoppable and the trio has sharpened their actions and responses to a fine point. As impressive as the more veteran actresses are, newcomer Demmings more than does himself proud in his debut. (I’ll expect to see more of Mr. Demmings on local stages in the future.)

Set designer Will Tople offers simple function with his attractive barn-like set; the lights designed by Quinten James are as near to a fourth character as lights can be; and Janet and Jennifer Sutton are to be applauded for their amazing collection of various props and notions, which augment Adrienne Conces’ sizable variety of costume pieces.

Bottomline: I think risks taken onstage very often justify the overall results. Such is what I saw here in the sometimes (but not often) unevenness of a nimble and very alive feeling production.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues at the Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through April 1. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos provided by Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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