Lyric Theatre stages epic musical Titanic

Published July 12, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The final show in Lyric Theatre’s blast from the past summer series is the real-life disaster tale Titanic. Though not the same plot as the Oscar-sweeping blockbuster movie, the stage version debuted the same year on Broadway, and enjoyed comparable success at the Tony’s in 1997. This story is a musical, and the Lyric is making sure to pack every inch of the Civic Center Thelma Gaylord stage with talent. In order to bring Titanic back from the depths, the cast of 41 is joined by a choir of 58 and a 22-piece orchestra led by OKC Philharmonic’s Alexander Mickelthwate. Phew. Got all that? Good, because there’s more. The Civic Center lobby will also be adorned with real Titanic artifacts, thanks to a collaboration with the Titanic Museum Attraction out of Branson, MO.

Lyric Theatre Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron says “I recently visited the museum and was impressed by the way they tell the story of the R.M.S. Titanic and the emotional journey of the people on board. I would like to thank the museum for making this Lyric production a truly once-in-a-lifetime theatrical event by sharing artifacts that were held and owned by Titanic passengers.”

On display in the lobby will be items that belonged to infamous survivor “Unsinkable” Molly Brown and Bandleader Wallace Hartley, as well as a White Star Line (parent company of the RMS Titanic) cup and saucer.

Like the Lyric always does, this production promises to be epic and grand-scale, with no detail spared. Lyric’s creative team has delved into the real-life story of Titanic, researching eyewitness accounts, diaries, and photographs, to present a truthful and honest telling of the real people aboard the ship that famously sank on her maiden voyage. A mix of fictional and factual-based characters bring this 1912 tragedy to life this Summer at the Civic.

Ashton Byrum stars as Thomas Andrews, Barbara Fox DeMaio as Ida Straus, Stephen Hilton as Isidor Straus, and Charlie Monnot as Harold Bride. The 3 Kates are Tatum Grace Ludlam as Kate McGowan, Megan Carpenter as Kate Mullins, and Jessica Anne Martens as Kate Murphey.

With music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, Titanic was written by Peter Stone and is directed by Baron. Kimberly Powers is scenic designer, the legendary Jeffrey Meek designs costumes, Helena Kuukka designs lighting, and Anthony Risi is sound designer. Vince Leseney serves as choral director while Laurena Sherrill is stage manager.

Sellin’ the papes with Lyric’s Newsies

Published July 1, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Summer at the Civic rolls on! Fresh off their magical series opener Singin’ In the Rain, The Lyric is set to make headlines again, this time with Disney’s beloved musical Newsies. The stage version of Newsies is based on the movie, which starred a young Christian Bale, and the real-life newsboys strike in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Newsies follows a group of newsboys, that is, the child workers who sold papers for pennies on street corners, as they take on the giants of the publishing world. Expect twists and turns, fantastical, sky-high dance numbers and plenty of newspapers flying around. Newsies comprises all the best that Disney musicals have to offer. It teaches you a bit about the world; how it used to be, how it could be, and how it should be. And it entertains you all the while.

Jimmy Mavrikes returns to Lyric Theatre after this spring’s Lyric Plaza production of Girlfriend. Mavrikes plays newsboy Davey, and he answered a Q&A for me below:

AP: Tell us about playing Davey! What are you excited for about this role?

Mavrikes: I am thrilled to be playing Davey. It has been a dream role for quite some time! I saw the show on Broadway right after I graduated college, and I said, “I want to do that!” And since Davey is the brains of the operation, he doesn’t need to do the tricks and flips the rest of the cast are doing. So, it was perfect for me. I’m just glad someone cast me before I got too old.

AP: The story of Newsies actually speaks volumes about issues of class and opportunity in the U.S. There’s also an important theme of immigration and who belongs here. What do you think is so important about the message told in Newsies?

Mavrikes: Newsies is about big business being greedy at the expense of the little man; something that America is still struggling with today. And you have to assume these newsboys are immigrants or the sons of immigrants trying to make a living here in the USA. Joseph Pulitzer really puts them in a terrible position by raising the prices. He really treats them as a consumer, rather than an employee. What many people don’t know is that this story is based on truth. Of course, it is Disney-fied, with amazing dance numbers and amazing vocals, but this strike really happened. Originally, I think Mr. Pulitzer raised the prices to gain money for the Spanish-American War, but never put them back down once the war was over.

I also think the writing team of this show really did a great job making you root for these kids and feel for their struggle. One of my favorite lines is “I can eat two days on a dime.” It absolutely makes you realize just how high the stakes were for something that seems so small today.

AP: The songs, the dance numbers, the costumes! Everything about Newsies is iconic and classic Disney. What’s the best part about being a part of this production?

Mavrikes: WATCHING THESE AMAZING PERFORMERS DANCE. Every day I leave rehearsal, and I just think about how lucky I am to be in the same room with these talented people, let alone in the same show. I mean, literally some of them are doing like 6 turns right into an illusion, and then maybe do a back flip. It’s BONKERS. So far I’ve done like 2 counts of 8 of marching, and I’m sore all over! I don’t know how they do it. I cannot wait for Oklahoma to see it. What the heck, let’s take it on tour, I want The World to see it! (Get it? Lol!).

“And The World will know!!!”

Newsies also stars Sean Watkinson as Head Newsboy Jack Kelley, Mattie Joyner as Katherine Plumber, W. Jerome Stevenson as Joseph Pulitzer, M. Denise Lee as Medda Larken, and Sam Brinkley as Crutchie.

The high-flying choreography is by Amy Reynolds Reed, musical direction by Jan McDaniel, set design by Kimberly Powers and stage management by Laurena Sherrill. Jeffrey Meek’s iconic costume design will bring to life the beautiful costumes. The always creative and colorful Helena Kuukka serves in lighting design, and Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells serves as production director. Newsies was written by Harvey Fierstein and features lyrics by Jack Feldman and music by Alan Menken.

Lyric’s summer series returns with Singin’ In the Rain!

Published June 15, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

It’s here again!! The Summer at the Civic Series is the most exciting theatre event of the year. Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma presents a series of three fabulous, fully produced musicals in six weeks on the Civic Center Thelma Gaylord Stage. It’s a spectacular, blink-and-you-miss-it thrill ride and it’s starting soon!! This year, Summer at the Civic opens with the American classic Singin’ In the Rain. The Lyric’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron says “Singin’ In the Rain is one of my favorite movie musicals, and I can’t wait to bring it to life in full technicolor – live on stage. With (set designer) Uldarico Sarmiento recreating the classic film, including a replica of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and Jeffrey Meek’s costumes dripping with Hollywood glamour, this is going to be one of the most sumptuous productions Lyric has ever done. And, of course, it will rain on stage! I can’t wait to work with this all-singing, all-dancing cast!”

Tatum Grace Ludlam stars in all three summer series productions this season! Understandably, she’s busy with rehearsals, but she took some time out of her schedule to tell me a bit about Singin’ In the Rain and the upcoming summer season.

Ludlam says, “In Singin’, I play Kathy Selden, a budding actress with great passion, spunk, and wit. She’s an extremely independent woman with strong opinions and a big heart. I’m excited to play such an intelligent lady and perform with all these individuals who inspire me. Also, I get to tap dance and that makes my heart happy!”

About the Summer at the Civic series, Ludlam adds, “I’m so excited to perform in all three shows this summer! Lyric Theatre is such a welcoming place to work. I’m excited to get to dive into three very different shows in style and subject matter and to meet new people through each production. For Singin’ In the Rain, I’m excited to play with such a classic character and find myself and new fun within Kathy Selden. For Newsies, I’m excited to tell such an important story about justice! And obviously I’m so excited and ready to be inspired by all the crazy dancers. I’m super excited to work on Titanic because I don’t think I’ve ever done something so musically challenging and demanding. The whole season stretches all of my skills as a performer and I can’t wait to see what adventures come.”

Lyric Theatre never fails to bring their own special style and creativity to each production. In true Lyric fashion, Singin’ In the Rain features a few reimagined casting choices, and I asked Ludlam to tell me about it. She says, “I love the reimagined casting of this production! We’re creating an inclusive Classic-Hollywood that showcases all genders, ethnicities, and sexuality to mirror society. The Hollywood we want!! And now we have women in roles of authority and dance partners of the same gender. I think what we’re doing is really special.”

Singin’ In the Rain stars Jeremy Benton as Don Lockwood, Richard Riaz Yoder as Cosmo Brown, Tatum Grace Ludlam as Kathy Selden, and Lexi Windsor as Lina Lamont. Lyn Cramer is R.F. Simpson, Andi Dema is Roscoe Dexter, and Phoebe Butts is Dora Bailey/Miss Dinsmore.

Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singin’ in the Rain features music by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed. This production’s choreography is by Cramer and musical direction is by Brian Hamilton. Sound design is by Anthony Risi, lighting design by Helena Kuukka, properties design by Courtney Strong and stage management from Julie Meyer. Baron serves as production director.

The Pollard’s in for a DISASTER!

Published June 9, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

What a Disaster! The Pollard closes out their 32nd season with one wild boat ride. Inspired by the 1970s natural disaster movies and the music of the disco era, Disaster! is a funny, low-brow comedy romp for (almost) all ages. The casino cruise ship where the chaos plays out rocks with hits of the 70s. Soon it rumbles and shakes as an earthquake wreaks havoc and sets off a cascade of impending doom. Killer tides, infernos, gas leaks, rats and sharks all threaten the evening and everyone is just trying to get off the boat alive and fully intact.

Matthew Alvin Brown is the casino owner Tony, a cigarette wielding creep who cuts corners and skimps on safety measures. Brown is brazen and unabashed, blatantly hitting on any woman who crosses his path. Brown is perhaps the most physical actor in the show, hurling himself across the stage, giving chase, dancing, and trying everything to keep the party going and the disaster from ensuing. He becomes worse for the wear as the whole plan falls apart, losing half his broomy mustache in an explosion and loaning his limbs to a petulant shark attack. That cigarette hangs onto his mouth for dear life, dangling lower and lower with each fresh assault on the casino. It’s these subtle sight gags that take a funny show and make it side-splitting hilarious.

Seth Paden is Chad, a heartbroken waiter on the rebound. Paden laments his lost love while belting some of the cheesiest and best breakup songs of the 70s. Love may not be waiting for him, but death certainly is. Paden ranks up there as one of the boldest in a cast of bold. Not afraid to look absolutely ridiculous, he flops to the floor as his emotions get the best of him and the power ballads reach crescendo.

Charlie Monnot is Ted, the dedicated disaster expert committed to getting the party-goers off the ship and saving their lives. Monnot is quirky and loveable as he counteracts Brown’s slimy Tony. Monnot’s the real hero of this absurdity, the only one with half a brain. Monnot’s turn as a singer in disguise is one of the most uproarious and ridiculous moments in the whole crazy two hours.

Kara Chapman is the gorgeous singer Jackie. Chapman can say a thousand words with one facial expression. She’s animated and exuberant, and her Jackie is a real modern woman of the 70s. Chapman is an incredible singer, never missing a beat or a note when wardrobes and microphones malfunction. As if that’s not enough, Chapman proves once again that she’s a true comedic genius in Oklahoma City theatre.

Jackie is mom to twins Ben and Lisa, both of whom are portrayed, simultaneously, by Erin Heatly. Heatly steals every scene with this riotous display. She wears the same costume for both characters, alternating between a short blond wig for Ben, and adding one with pig-tails for Lisa. Heatly and Chapman have an incredibly difficult duet together in which Heatly must switch between both her characters. She also switches positions on stage, popping up on either side of Chapman when it’s her turn to sing. It’s physical comedy, it’s genius and stupid all at the same time, and this musical number in particular brings the house down.

Brenda Williams is Shirley and James A. Hughes is Maury. They’re a married couple and truly adorable together. Williams is carrying a secret that incites sympathy and, of course, sparks further hilarity as that secret comes to light. Williams and Hughes are the delights of the show. They’re genuinely lovely. But Williams gets the last laugh, and the best laugh, when she becomes more than just a sweet wife. She turns quite foul indeed, but being the proper lady that she is, she makes vain attempts to stifle her uncontrollable outbursts.

De’Vin Lewis is Levora and Odra Chapman is Sister Mary. Lewis is the little dog toting, purple clad diva. Like everyone else, she’s ridiculous and hilarious, and her talent cannot be hidden behind any crazy costume or prop. Lewis is a powerhouse and it’s a better show for her presence in it. This Chapman is an endearing nun, relatable in every way as she tries to hold back and keep her true nature at bay. The friendship that strikes up between her and Williams is a tender moment in all the pandemonium.

Pollard favorites Jared Blount and Emily Pace play Scott and Marianne, respectively. Blount’s unfortunate run of bad luck is just too much for his friend and coworker Chad. Blount pulls off the tragedy with his usual aplomb and levity. Pace is determined to remain a professional career woman, even as her smart business suit and put-together professionalism both become woefully reduced. Pace sings the anthem “I Am Woman”, teaching the little onlooker Lisa that it’s okay to choose your career over love, a strong theme for the feminist movement and the 1970s. Pace shines in this moment, and her interaction with Heatly as Lisa is both preposterous and poignant.

Nobody works harder during this production than the ensemble members. Clayton J. Blair, Dakota Muckelrath, Sierra Sikes and Nicole Phillips sing and dance the night away in style, with never-ending energy and disco inspired moves. They also all play a host of minor characters, ranging from the chef to the first class snob and everywhere in between.

This show is full of ridiculous, stupid humor that pays a true homage to the over the top movies that defined the disaster genre of the 1970s. Director Matthew Sipress-Banks assembles a large ensemble of multifaceted and abundantly talented performers. He creates a musical that takes you out of your daily humdrums. Art can sometimes take itself too seriously, which is a shame because laughter heals more than virtually any other activity. Disaster! is the cure for what ails you. Whatever bad week, day, or month you’ve had, it’ll leave you feeling lighter and happier, and that’s worth the silliness of it all. Sometimes you just need a laugh, and that you will do in tidal waves.

Carpenter Square presents the colorful White Guy on the Bus

Published May 21, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Bruce Graham’s 2017 drama White Guy on the Bus offers a surprising and honest take on race relations in the U.S. Bringing a personal touch to the subject matter, Carpenter Square Theatre tackles this heavy topic with a strong cast. Terry Veal is Ray, the titular White Guy who sits on a city bus every week and befriends a black mom who travels the same route for school and work. Time flashes backwards and forwards, showing the audience Ray’s life with his wife Roz, played by Laurie Blankenship, and their conversations with unofficially adoptive son Christopher, played by Ian Marino.

Veal is nerdy and awkward, undoubtedly a richly developed quirk of his character. Veal portrays a once happy man who quickly spirals out of control as his life falls apart. That undoing is chilling, and Veal leaves the audience cringing back while inching closer to the edge of our seats. Blankenship as Roz is boisterous and confident, an English teacher in inner-city Philadelphia schools. She’s sure of herself and her place in the world. A challenge is presented in Christopher’s wife Molly, played by Julia Seely. Seely and Blankenship spar at family get-togethers, gesturing angrily with their wine glasses as the conversations heat up. Both women are courageous in their convictions. Together they speak on the subtle and important race and class issues that still plague our country to this day.

Nykezia Giles is Shatique, the nursing student who Ray befriends on his daily commute on the bus. Giles carries a burden with her. That burden of knowing your life circumstances may never improve, no matter how hard you work. Giles, too, is convicted in her plight and determined in her beliefs. Giles and Veal create an interesting dynamic. They’re unsure of each other, then they reach a level of friendly comfort. Then that level of camaraderie is shattered as harsher truths come to light.  Giles and Veal make a somewhat rocky transition from friend to enemy. But, that is the intention of the play, and it’s carried off well by both. This play is jarring and shocking, which makes it true to real life. It sends the accurate message that life can change without warning, knocking you off the course you thought you were on.

White Guy on the Bus exists mostly in two person conversations. There are a few group scenes, but mostly the actors relate to each other one on one. Veal’s relationships with each of the other characters develop and show you not just who he is, but who he becomes. His relationship with Ian Marino as Christopher is a loving one. Marino meets the high standard set by Veal in each scene, sparking flickers of love and anger into thorough, passionate exchanges. Marino has moments where nerves seem to beset him, but he works through it. Opening weekends are hard for everyone, and as he sinks into the character, those opening night jitters will surely smooth over.

Production Director Doobie Potter makes intentional choices with the characters, set and costuming. A succinct color scheme is displayed throughout the show, reminding the audience that the world itself is not black and white. Costumes, set design, and props all follow through with this same theme, and it makes for a fun night of looking for “Easter eggs” in each scene. Potter is a talented and unique director, who’s created a poignant and bold play.

White Guy on the Bus forces us to look inward. There’s at least one character or conversation we can all recognize in someone we know or even in ourselves. It’s a conversation starter for some important topics that need to be talked about, and the performances are powerful and well-done.

INCOMING! The Pollard prepares for Disaster!

Published May 18, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Downtown Guthrie this June is looking to be quite troubling. The Pollard Theatre’s upcoming production of Disaster!, written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, pays tribute to the great music and stylized catastrophe movies of the 1970s. It includes a large cast full of comedic greats in the local theatre scene, and features some of the best music money can buy. Two of the production’s stars, Emily Pace and Matthew Alvin Brown, sat down with me to chat about the upcoming musical and their roles.

Pace, who plays Marianne, says “Disaster! is such a fun musical. It’s truly one of those shows that takes you out of the world. It just makes you smile. It’s the definition of campy, with so many 1970s references. And it’s still really funny, even if you don’t get all the references. You’ll still enjoy yourself. And the tunes!! It’s paying homage to those 70s singers like Diana Ross. It’s all about good music and good times. It’s the perfect show for right now.”

Brown agrees, saying “Disaster! is so campy and fun. It’s lampooning those 70s movies like Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Jaws. But it’s still funny on its own. It’s silly, with lots of sight gags and low brow comedy. It’s like something your stepdad would watch.” About his character Tony, Brown says “Tony is the stereotypical sleaze-ball. He’s smarmy, sexist. He’s the classic casino owning Lothario.” Pace’s character Marianne is a journalist. Seeking a way out of the social columns and into the world of more serious reporting, Marianne sets her sights on ousting the slimy Tony. When their paths cross, well, Disaster! ensues.

Speaking about the large cast, Pace says “This is an exciting cast. It’s such a collaboration. It’s a huge ensemble piece, which I love.” The cast is directed by Matthew Sipress-Banks, who’s returning to direct at The Pollard after 2017’s hysterical ensemble production of The Producers, which also starred Pace.

Disaster! also stars Seth Paden as Chad, Jared Blount as Scott, and Charlie Monnot as Ted. Odra Chapman is Sister Mary, James A. Hughes is Maury, Brenda Williams is Shirley, and De’Vin Lewis is Levora. Kara Chapman is Jackie, and Erin Heatly is Lisa/Ben. Nicole Phillips, Sierra Sikes, Clayton J. Blair and Dakota Muckelrath make up the ensemble. Sipress-Banks serves as production director, while Todd Malicoate is Musical Director. The Pollard’s Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson serves as Assistant Musical Director and in Scenic and Lighting Design. Sound design is by Jared Blount.

Blair, Blount and Monnot were seen in 2017 alongside Pace in The Producers. Paden, Monnot, and Lewis were also seen alongside Pace in last fall’s production of Ghost: The Musical. Lewis was also most recently on The Pollard stage in Beehive: The 60s Musical. Kara Chapman is familiar to Pollard audiences for her iconic portrayal of Patsy Cline in Always… Patsy Cline, as well as her role as Mary Hatch in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Williams, Muckelrath and Hughes were recently in An Act of God. Brown is known to Pollard patrons for his roles in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Idiot and Passing Strange. Heatly was recently featured in Ruthless and 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche at The Boom in OKC. This show is chock-full of Pollard favorites, and you’re sure to find a few more.

With classic tunes like “Hot Stuff”, “Knock on Wood,” “I Will Survive,” and “I Am Woman”, as well as every imaginable catastrophic phenomenon of earth, air, fire and water, Disaster! is jukebox musical fun at its craziest. It’s sure to be a wildly disastrous good time!

Lyric Academy’s Honk, jr. is a honk of a great time!

Published May 13, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Honk, jr. is a lovely adaptation of The Ugly Duckling, and the Thelma Gaylord Academy presents it with Spring in their step. Featuring a cast made up of the Academy’s 7-14-year-olds, these students tell the sweet tale of Ugly, a baby chick who just doesn’t quite belong with his duckling siblings. After being unfortunately separated, Ugly sets off to find his family, and meets some wonderful friends along the way.

The delightful cast is a large ensemble, and they’re ever present and professional. Hanna Andreassen is Grace, Carys Argueta is Bouncy Froglet, and Charlee Barks is Beaky Duckling. Josephine Barks is Jumper Froglet, Kelly Briseno is Pink Foot, Susannah Brown is Snowy, and Maylee Chapman is Skippy Froglet. The Blizzard Soloists are Natalie Dennison and Reagan Riley, Caedmon Glossup is Billy, and Cyrus Glossup is Barnacles. Proud papa Drake is played by Ayden Hartel. Eila Hartley is Hoppy Froglet, Harper Johnson is Penny, and Emmaline Jones is Jaybird. Lily Lashely is Greylag, Ainsley Manners is Mother Swan, and Claire Ockershauser is Downy Duckling. Nikki Oliphant is Ribetta Froglet, Emma Poindexter is Maureen, and Maddox Radcliff is Father Swan.

The sneaky, slinky cat is played by Samantha Rother. The adorable turkey is played by Sophia Sammons. Mama Duckling Ida is Nia Sier, and the lovely and not at all “ugly” duckling, simply known as “Ugly”, is played by Estella Stevenson. Kiara Tournear is Henrietta, Wes Washburn is the Bullfrog, and Emma Wells is Dot. Emma Wilson is Beatrice, Elliott Yi is Bewick, and Prestyn Yi is Fluff Duckling.

What a great cast!! These performers don’t miss a beat. Even the most critical theatre reviewer can’t find a complaint, and we don’t grade on a curve for student productions. The show has vibrant, beautiful costumes that invoke Spring-time, rainy days and flowers. The makeup sparkles in the bright stage lighting, gleaming like feathers. Each group of animals that comes on stage has their “duty” toward helping Ugly, and the clear demarcation between the species is entertaining and pertinent. All the wonderful aspects of childhood and storytelling are presented here. Honk, jr. is imaginative, magical, and heartfelt. It’s a superb lesson for children, and a gentle reminder to adults, that love and acceptance are universal themes found throughout our natural world. It also serves to remind that the planet we share with animals is their home as much as it is ours. Yes, all these deep moments can be found in this sweet story.

The harshest critics are the kid patrons, always, because they expect and deserve quality. In today’s screen-time world, it’s a refreshing break to expose those junior members of the family to live theatre. The whole way into the Lyric’s plaza location, my 3-year-old asks me about the movie theatre. I remind him each time that we aren’t going to a movie, but a live play with real actors on stage. Neither of my children’s attention spans are tested. They are held mesmerized throughout the two-act show while they watch and experience a live production put on by people they can recognize. Little people, like them. Just like how Ugly finds his way, the kids in the audience are shown that there’s a place for everyone in the theatre. And acceptance is key! There’s always room for more love, and that is not in the least bit “Ugly”!

Urinetown is the place to be!

Published May 5, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Urinetown: The Musical brings us to a not-so distant dystopian future where vital natural resources are in desperately short supply. The citizens who live in this dusty world must stand in line for hours each day, scraping pennies to use the bathrooms. Public facilities are closely monitored, and big business runs the show. Lyric Theatre’s Thelma Gaylord Academy presents this musical with all its wit, irreverence, and surprisingly poignant statements regarding the lifestyles we lead and take for granted every day.

Logan Boyd is Officer Lockstock and the narrator of the show. Boyd is the fourth wall breaker. He talks directly to the audience, reminding us that we’re witnessing a terribly unhappy show with an even worse title. Boyd is boastful and funny, smoothly transitioning from distinguished narrator to Officer Lockstock. Boyd’s onstage interactions with Delaney Horton as Little Sally bring a smile and a bit of levity while they deliver the bad news. Horton likewise is a comedic gem. She’s charming and sweet, with a powerhouse singing voice that’ll knock your socks off. Sarah Teel is Penelope Pennywise and she runs Public Amenity Number 9, alongside Briam Zuniga as Bobby Strong. Teel is crazy-eyed and mad, wielding her plunger as her scepter and demanding adequate payment from even the most pathetic townspeople in line. Teel also is an amazing singer. She commands the stage with vocals so powerful you can almost feel them.

Zuniga has hilarious chemistry with Emily Trnka as Hope. Inspired by his love, Zuniga rouses the silty townsfolk into an inspiring rebellion. Trnka’s Hope is idealistic and privileged, the only character who lacks self-awareness. Trnka bounces along, blissfully unaware of the realities surrounding her. But realization kicks in, and she’s the one nobody expects. No damsel in distress, Trnka becomes the heroine and symbol of the rebellion. Zuniga maintains his tongue-in-cheek hilarity, seeking the greater good and Hope’s affections until the bitter end.

Nicodemus Meade-Greenman is perfectly villainous as Caldwell B. Cladwell, the businessman in charge of keeping the people down. He’s vile and wicked, and clearly has no qualms about his own corruption. Meade-Greenman delivers his dialogue with a sly smirk and a smooth drawl. Donning all white with a black bolo tie, he’s reminiscent of Colonel Sanders, just quite a bit greasier.

Urinetown also stars Jackson Murray as Officer Barrel, Ethan Wells as Mr. McQueen, Gracie Boyd as Senator Fipp, Justine Rogers as Josephine Strong, Garrett Langley as Joseph Strong/Hot Blades Harry, and Kavi Zuniga as Little Becky Two Shoes. Miles Forgue is Tiny Tom/Dr. Billeaux, and Amy Schoelen is Robby the Stockfish. Lily Voth is Billy Boy Bill, Eleanor Harris is Soupy Sue/Cladwell’s Secretary, and Chloe Jones is Mrs. Millennium.

The ensemble that completes the cast includes Abigail Manners, Ashlynn Chapman, Aubrey Miller, Blake Compton, Camille Matlock, Erin Thompson, Isabella Acuña, Jackson Murphy, and Saxon Neal. They’re a constant presence on stage, spinning and swirling while they dance in the dirt.

The dance numbers are complex and intricate, fairly comparable to the likes of West Side Story and Singin’ in the Rain. This large ensemble cast performs some tricky numbers. They make it look easy and have fun all the while. Noteworthy also is the vocal arrangement of the cast. Their harmonies are magnificent. This show is quite ridiculous and silly, but the cast is nonetheless impressive in their talents.

The Urinetown Band is made up of Kevin Smith on Keyboard, Dillan Francis as Woodwind Specialist, Nathan Walyer on trombone, Jasmine Mohammadi on bass, and Aaron Marshall on percussion. Nicholas Bartell directs this fun and poignant show. Kevin Smith is music director, and Sheridan McMichael choreographs.

Urinetown is a great experience for the students and the audience. The talented performers get the experience of working as a group, getting their timing down and stretching their comedic muscles. And the audience gets to see the polish and poise of the finished product; a hilarious musical that has been fine-tuned and perfected with lots of hard work and rehearsal. The students put on a wonderful, uproarious show. Don’t let that “awful” title fool you. Urinetown is the place to be!

The Rokademy students won’t want for love

Published April 24, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Thelma Gaylord Academy’s Rokademy Experiment is no child’s play. The students that make up this band are polished performers who sparkle with the gleam of seasoned rock-stars. They take their audience on a ride they won’t soon forget. After attending an impromptu Christmas concert of theirs in December, the springtime show has remained one of the upcoming experiences I’ve looked forward to most. Unsurprisingly, they do not disappoint. This year’s concert is a 3-performance run of the concept album The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists.

The album is weighty in lyrics and technique. It’s got a thorough storyline, swaying and swooping harmonies that rise and fall with the tide, and a couple of the most brutal villains ever found in rock theatre. Led by OKC-based musical theatre icon Matthew Alvin Brown, The Rokademy Experiment is just plain awesome.

The performance begins in a rush of guitar and drums, followed by the leading ladies breezing onto the stage. They’re dressed in flowing white, a look that alternates between sweetly demure and more than a little creepy. For this performance, Camille Matlock plays The Queen and Isabella Acuña is Margaret. Gianna Hoffman is Margaret while Ariana Safi is the Queen for the other two performances. They’ve all got talent coming through their fingertips, and their vocals are haunting. They hold onto an otherworldly energy for the entire hour-long concert. They float on the stage, white dresses twirling, while they dip, dance, and enchant the audience. The spell is not even close to being broken as they switch into rock-star mode. Make no mistake. These ladies can rock.

Porter Jones makes an impressive villain as The Rake. When he’s not stalking up and down the stage and lamenting what life could’ve been, he’s rocking out on keys. Jackson Murray is Margaret’s love William and if that’s not enough, he also plays bass, mandolin, and guitar. Ethan Wilcox and Brandon Ross play guitar, Jet Hoffman plays drums and melodica, and Rachel Blitz is dynamite on the keys. Zoe Gfeller and Jake Padgham play cello and autoharp. Padgham also plays bass, and Matthew Alvin Brown plays guitar and keys.

What a night! The Rokademy Experiment is a talented group, and their concerts are unforgettable. You won’t hear better live rock music, period. Their talent is vibrant and noticeable. But what sticks with you when you leave the theatre, besides the rich lyrics of the album, is the band’s work ethic. They’re clearly having fun up on that stage, but they’re also learning and growing as performers. They’re working hard to present a unique and professional concert experience to their audience. The fruits of their labor is one of the best things in Oklahoma musical theatre. This is a tough album. It’s challenging and complex. And they’re presenting it on stage, all without batting a glittered eyelash.

It’s wonderful to watch young performers showing the world how it’s done. It’s a team effort and a labor of love for all involved, especially director Brown, who’s been committed to this project for ten years. This tenth anniversary performance of The Rokademy Experiment is a gift. If you’ve seen them perform, you’ve likely returned. If you haven’t seen them, you’re really missing out. The promise and potential of these artists is never more obvious than during this final show of the academy year. Congrats to The Rokademy. It’s certain the hazards of love will not trouble them, not in the slightest.

Beehive is a rockin’ tribute to the 60s

Published April 20, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Beehive: The 60s Musical is a hair-raising good time for Pollard patrons. Susan Riley serves as narrator and she takes us from 1960, with the girl groups and iconic hairdos, all the way to Woodstock in 1969. Seen through the eyes of someone coming of age during this infamous decade, Beehive shows what it truly felt like to live while this era was unfolding. Music reflected the changing times as female empowerment began to take hold. Along with Riley, Beehive stars Mariah Warren, Jennifer Teel, Stef Fortney, De’Vin Lewis and Megan Montgomery. The six ladies recreate the musical numbers of Grace Slick, Lulu, Dusty Springfield, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Tina Turner, and of course, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. These artists defined a decade as well as American culture, and changed the world forever.

Each leading lady goes by her own name, and together the cast recreates perfectly stylized routines reminiscent of the 60s. Timothy Stewart directs this jukebox musical that rocks from start to finish. The wigs are elaborately crafted by Hannah Finnegan. The period costumes by Michael James are perfectly suited to each artist they represent. Louise Goldberg leads an incredible band that creates an authentic and powerful rock experience. The cast of professional actors and singers power through a host of microphone issues, but it remains the only hiccup in the production.

Mariah Warren stands bold and beautiful as she belts out Tina Turner. Stef Fortney and De’Vin Lewis bring the house down with their duet of Aretha songs. Megan Montgomery sends a shiver through the audience with her potent portrayal of Grace Slick. Riley grows as the decade continues and the women’s rights movement explodes. As feminism begins to take root, her buttoned up look gets looser and freer. Riley’s tightly bunched beehive wig subtly comes down. And as Jennifer Teel takes the stage for the closing Janis Joplin performance, the girl Riley was in the beginning is now a self-confident and empowered young woman.

The nostalgia brought forth in this show is strong for anyone who remembers when these songs and artists first arrived on the scene. But it’s familiar even for those 80s babies and beyond. If you’ve ever ridden around in your parents’ car, listening to the Oldies stations, you’ll recognize the songs featured here. Songs like “Me and Bobby McGee”, “It’s My Party”, “Natural Woman” “Proud Mary” and “Somebody to Love” are so ingrained in American culture, that it no longer matters what decade you were born in. Beehive: The 60s Musical uplifts women of all ages and eras and celebrates the important contributions that female artists made on the world. It’s a fun time and features rock artists the way they always should be; alive again, young always, and forever singing their hearts out on stage.