“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.

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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(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

“Rumors” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

After seeing both a world premiere and an Indiana premiere in the past 7 days, I was contemplating what it was going to be like to see such a familiar play as Neil Simon’s Rumors, which just opened at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. Here’s a play I have worked on in college and have seen at least 3 or 4 times. Would I be mouthing the words while remembering those experiences? Would my mind wander to past productions?

If you have forgotten – Rumors, Simon’s self-described “elegant farce”, is the tale of a group of 8 well-heeled friends meeting at the tenth anniversary party for a couple whom we never see, but whose actions before the play cause a string of mayhem and deception as the friends try to figure out what to do for and about the bedroom bound husband and the never accounted for wife.

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From left: Parrish Williams (as Leonard Ganz), Carrie Schlatter (Claire Ganz) and Clay Mabbit (Ken Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

Well, I needn’t have worried about a nostalgia – this production, directed by Charles Goad with a masterful understanding of Simon’s “set ’em up, knock ’em down” comedy style, is enormously fresh and exceedingly funny. Goad’s cast play the unending laugh lines with ingenious characterizations that fill the stage with a kind of quirky study of humanity.

Rumors is above all an ensemble piece and it was a great treat for me to see so many friends and acquaintances on stage, working so well together. The ensemble aspect is not lost on this group – indeed, it seems to be magnified. The story is told and emoted in a clear framework of comic acuity and tremendous acting agility. (I think having everyone being chaotic in evening clothes is a brilliant Simon bow to Moliere’s farcical plays which generally dealt with the well-to-do.)

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From left: Marni Lemons (as Cookie Cusack), Trevor Fanning (Erne Cusack) and Kim Ruse (Chris Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

Indeed, the first big laugh comes at the first actress’ first entrance, before she says a word. The production has that kind of inspired craftsmanship, hilarious characters saying and doing hilarious things. Of course, Neil Simon is a genuine genius with regard to writing comic situations, relationships, and reactions. This script is full of some of his best work.

It is all done on an uber-impressive two story set, designed by Ryan Koharchik, depicting the rich digs of a deputy mayor – with the main characters all dressed to the nines in Adrienne Conces’ polished costume designs.

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from left: Christine Kruze (as Christine Cooper) and Steve Kruze (Glenn Cooper) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

I won’t try to mention each actor and actress’ individual endeavors, just know that all are remarkable as they contribute to the full effect of the show, which for me was a wonderfully happy two hours, watching a very familiar comedy.

Bottom-line: Even if you have seen Neil Simon’s 1988 farce a few times before, you will appreciate and enjoy this company’s take on the enduring piece. These top rate performers get every last chuckle out of this wonderful old script.

Civic’s production of Rumors continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through February 18th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

*- Photos provided by Civic Theatre

“Beauty and the Beast” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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Reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The final event of our 2016 series of reviews is opening night of BTCT’s Beauty and the Beast at the beautifully decorated Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. The classic tale is a fairly popular one with area theatres – this is our second viewing of a production this calendar year. But the show always seems to  capture one’s imagination, although it is a rather difficult story for most any group to tell properly, with a heap of winsome characters, intricate scoring and demanding technical aspects.

The fine direction and choreography of the show by Ron Morgan is everything we have come to expect from this noted theatre practitioner, with a plethora of choreography that is interesting and fun. Musical direction by Brent E. Marty has all voices soaring, especially in the many ensemble pieces. Trevor Fanning leads the great sounding 23 member orchestra. They add immeasurably to the texture of the production.

Also, the Civic staff has done yet another spectacular job with all technical facets. The details of the costuming designs by Adrienne Conces, the spectacular scenic and lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik, and sound design by Michael J. Lasley all contribute to the professional feel of the show, while the fine particulars of prosthetics by David Schlatter, and wig and hair designs by Debbie Williams and G. Michael Salon render a polished look.

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Virginia Vasquez (center) as Belle, joins the ensemble for “Be My Guest” in Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

As mentioned, the ensemble members are especially good – with top-notch efforts in the big numbers – a flashy “Be Our Guest” show-stopper being the epitome. Performers in supporting roles all handle their duties effectively. Standouts include the castle’s enchanted household staff of Cogsworth (Tom Beeler), Lumiere (David Brock), Mrs. Potts (Ragen Sanner), Babette (Lauren Leigh) and Madame De La Grande Bouche (Susan Boilek Smith) with special mention going to Ms. Sanner for her beautiful rendition of the show’s title song. Also, Andrew Dalstrom and Alex Smith offer a lively pairing as Gaston and Le Fou, respectively, while Will Carlson’s Maurice has an on-the-mark poignancy.

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Belle (Virginia Vasquez) and her father, Maurice (Will Carlson) share a moment in Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

Will Tople brings considerable talents to his portrayal of the Beast and has a precise understanding of the many emotions at work in the character. His “If I Can’t Love Her” is one of the highlights of the show.

Lastly, Virginia Vasquez is the perfect Belle. She plays the part with a thoughtful ease and her melodic voice is truly a marvel – one could listen to her sing for hours. But it is her talent for expressive interpretation that sets her apart, I think. Ms. Vasquez brings truthful emotion to the performance of her songs. Her rueful rendition of “Home”, and her hopeful “A Change in Me” are both great examples of this performer’s uncommon talents.  All told, I think her Belle may well be my favorite of all I have seen.

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Le Fou (Alex Smith), Gaston (Andrew Dalstrom) and Belle (Virginia Vaquez) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

Bottom-line: As usual, dozens of small girls with roses dotted the audience. This is a wonderful production for them and for their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to bring them (and their brothers) to. Thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted, Beauty and the Beast makes for yet another special holiday treat.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through January 1st. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

 

 

“Young Frankenstein” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last evening, Mrs. K and I made our first foray to the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre to see their 2016-17 season opener – Mel Brook’s musical version of Young Frankenstein. First of all, I would like to note what a tremendous facility the Civic has in Carmel. Featuring an unbelievably large stage, superb technical fixtures, and spacious and comfortable audience seating, one expects a Broadway caliber show just by entering the premises. And that is exactly what we got!

So, for those of you who have not seen or heard of this show (I imagine that is not very many of my readers!), Young Frankenstein – the 2007 musical version – is based on the eponymous 1974 film. This was Mel Brook’s parody of the horror genre as only Mr. Brooks can render, full of schtick and what the New York Times, in it’s review of the original show, identified as a “giggly smuttiness”. For those who loved the film, nearly all the laughable bits are intact – the huge knockers, the whinnying horses, the moveable hump, and the Inspector’s mechanical arm, to name but a few.

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From left: Devan Mathias (Inga), Damon Clevenger (Igor) and Steve Kruze (Frederick) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

 

Civic’s production, directed by Michael Lasley, with choreography and musical staging by Anne Nicole Beck, and musical direction by Brent Marty, appears to be based on the Broadway blueprint. Included are many technical aspects borrowed, literally and physically, from the touring production. This is a wonderful asset to the show as we are treated to some astonishing scenic properties, as well as many amazingly impressive musical numbers. These include several showstoppers – “Family Business”, featuring a 25 foot puppet of the monster; “He Vas My Boyfriend”, Frau Blücher’s (cue the horse whinnies) stylized lament; and, of course, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, done in a much expanded version compared to the film.

From left – Nathalie Cruz (Elizabeth) and Vickie Cornelius Phipps (Frau Blücher), and B.J.Bovin (The Monster) and Steve Kruze (Frederick) in scenes from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

But what all these great technical facets actually do is lend support to the truly outstanding work of the cast. From top to bottom – everyone gives their all in this production. Steve Kruze takes the role of Frederick Frankenstein and runs with it. Never trying to duplicate the late Gene Wilder’s impressive portrayal, Kruze sets his own course and, with an energetic and dynamically voiced performance, makes the Doctor very much his own creation. Sharing the stage with him are: Damon Clevenger – lively and witty as the be-humped Igor; Devan Mathias – captivating as a beguiling Inga; Vickie Cornelius Phipps – catching and delivering all the clever nuance of the mysterious Frau Blücher (distant horse whinnies); Nathalie Cruz – beautifully voicing the part of the spunky and self-involved Elizabeth, the Doctor’s fiancé (and The Monster’s future mistress); and B.J.Bovin – in a simply spot-on appearance, grunting, singing and dancing his way into our hearts as The Monster. (Another technical achievement needs to be mentioned here – David Schlatter’s prosthetic design for The Monster’s head and face is an impressive accomplishment!) Likewise, Parrish Williams did a noteworthy job with both his roles – Inspector Kemp and the Hermit, and Evan Wallace vigorously led us through one of the production’s show-stopping numbers as Frederick’s grandfather Victor.

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At center: Parrish Williams (Inspector Kemp) surrounded by ensemble members in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

It would be my misgiving to not give mention to the wonderful work of the 14 member ensemble. They filled the stage with their voices and their footwork. All the impressive, big musical numbers would not have been so notable without their contributions. Believe me – this group of performers are kept very busy!

I cannot finish without a nod to the great sounding pit orchestra, led by Trevor Fanning. We often forget their work in preparing for a show of this size. Their input was extremely important to the success of this show and they did an outstanding job.

I think it may also be of note that this performance was done before a rather quiet audience. I could go on for several paragraphs about audiences and their contribution to what happens on stage – but let me just say that I noticed how there were moments that fell flat, some of the many Brooksian schtick moments in particular, that were no fault of the people onstage. They were working – and the audience was indeed listening, as evidenced by the standing ovation at the end – but sometimes Saturday night audiences can be quite restful, and this seemed to be one of that ilk. So I salute these performers, who gave great and energetic performances without very much energy being returned to them from the seats.

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B.J.Bovin (The Monster) leads the ensemble in “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

Bottom-line: Outstanding vocal talents, impressive dance abilities and great technical aspects make this retelling of a familiar story fun and satisfying. For any Mel Brooks fan, this is a “must see” production!

Young Frankenstein continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through November 5th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

– Photos by Aren Straiger