5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is heinously delicious

Published April 15, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Hold on to your quiches! The Boom’s quick-witted, crazy good-time play 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is comedy gold. Based in 1956, five ladies of superb style and class gather together at the annual quiche contest. This passionate group, known as The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, is prepared for anything. Armed with forks, ready to taste this year’s winning egg concoction, they gather in the community center turned bomb shelter. There, along with the audience members, they set off to taste and judge the quiches. If that doesn’t sound wild enough, just wait until the bomb sirens sound and the ladies find themselves facing down the next four years locked in the shelter together. With no quiches to look forward to, true natures quickly show themselves. And when one of their own betrays them, the oven mitts come off. Nothing short of hilarious, raunchy, and rip-roaring, 5 Lesbians will have you laughing the whole way through.

The five lovely ladies of the society are Erin Heatly as Ginny, Kara Chapman as Wren, Courtney Hahne as Vern, Jodi Nestander as Dale, and Rebecca McCauley as Lulie, the honored president of the club.  They’re all perfectly pretentious, creating a hierarchy in their own ranks. The self-imposed social order decides who deserves to taste the quiches and who hasn’t yet earned their place. But soon all hell breaks loose and pretenses dissolve along with reservations.

What keeps this egg afloat is the superb acting of all five actresses. Physical comedy combines with ridiculous plot twists and increasingly absurd scenarios. The women at the helm of it all hold up and deliver some uproarious moments. They also must interact with the audience, something that can be challenging as well as unpredictable. It works well and the audience is quick to participate. At one point, we all shout, “I am a lesbian!!” together as one, and it feels right.

Heatly is reserved and innocent, but soon falls prey to her more primitive desires. Chapman is the perfect Stepford wife, who may not actually be a wife at all. Her revelations are hysterical, with facial expressions to match. Hahne is the reasonable one who’s thought of everything. But even she can’t keep her cool when the heat and tensions rise. Nestander has a glorious backstory, and she becomes the noble heroine the lesbians need. McCauley is lofty and snobbish, but those in the highest seats have the furthest to fall.

A play this fun and ridiculous, with plot-points so wild, could be hard to follow and could easily fall flat. But these ladies are real pros, and they make it work in their favor. It takes a solid cast to make a silly thing like this show succeed. A true test of acting talent is comedy- not just the timing but the delivery itself. Luckily for everyone in attendance, this cast knows what they’re doing and they kill it with every line. It’s no small feat to make an audience laugh, and continue to do so, for the duration of a play. But they do it. Your sides will serve as a reminder. It’s so funny it hurts! Whatever you do, don’t be like Marjorie, bless her wretched heart. See this show while you still can!! You’ll laugh your quiche off.

The Rokademy Experiment braves The Hazards of Love

Published March 23, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Thelma Gaylord Academy’s Rokademy Experiment is gearing up for another epic concert performance. This time around, they’re performing The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists. Part rock theatre, part storytelling, the concept album is more than just fun rock music. The album features a plot and characters and creates a lavish musical fairy tale with each of the seventeen songs. The Rokademy has already impressed peers and parents alike with their rockin’ Christmas show, and this year’s annual spring concert is sure to bring the fire once again. This intricate lyrical journey is a chance for the students of The Rokademy to show off their musical chops. Their dedicated director Matthew Alvin Brown filled me in about the project and answered some of my burning questions below:

AP: Tell us about The Rokademy Experiment! How long have you been involved with it? What’s exciting about this year’s concert performances?

Brown: The Rokademy Experiment is an ever-evolving rock theatre project I’ve facilitated since 2009. Each school year, students aged 12-18 select a concept album to learn and perform in a theatrical setting. Every Experiment is different in style, tone and approach, but we always focus on blurring the lines between concert and theatre. Total creative freedom is the law of the land. Anything goes. And often does. It’s rock-n-roll in its purest form: wild, a little dangerous, sometimes confusing, and always incredibly impressive.

Most of the albums we’ve performed in the past have ranged from classic to obscure: OK Computer by Radiohead, Spilt Milk by Jellyfish, Revolver and Abbey Road by The Beatles, and The Wall by Pink Floyd. This year, we’re doing The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists. This is not a super well-known album, but it’s one of the best concept albums ever made. I’m particularly excited about this Experiment because, like Spilt Milk, not a lot of people are familiar with this record, so I think it’s a really great way to introduce people to the music. Experiencing young artists perform an intricate and dense record like this, with all the swagger they exude, is a really unique way to share the love of these great works.

AP: The Hazards of Love has been called a “rock opera” in the sense that it’s musical story-telling, with a plot and characters. It’s more than just an album. It’s almost like theatre in a way. What has been fun about working with both of those ideas to create a singular experience?

Brown: The Hazards of Love is such a visual album. The lyrics are incredibly high-brow (delightfully pretentious) and super detailed. It takes a LOT of listens to get all of the story. We’re going to project the lyrics in supertitles like an opera, just to give the audience a little help. I also think that’s a stylistic choice that sort of elevates the evening. Classes it up a bit. In the past, our Experiments have been psychedelic happenings with reckless abandon. But this record is measured and controlled and sophisticated. I’m excited to show everyone that buttoned-up side of The Rokademy Experiment. That said, with the exception of The Wall, this album will be the most theatrical in its presentation. We have lots of cool props being made, puppets and all sorts of great stuff. And we’re performing on the Bright Star set, which is really, really great!

AP: What do you think the Rokademy students are most looking forward to about the concert?

Brown: I don’t think the whole band was super on board with this album from the very beginning. By the time we started working on the songs, they were all totally on board. I think it speaks to the power of playing music. Only when they started playing it, did they start to “get it” on a new level. To see the whole band come together so quickly, not only to learn the record, but LOVE it, and play it with integrity and precision… that’s the coolest thing to me. And that enthusiasm and respect will come through in their performance. This album is very intricate and grown up. It doesn’t faze them a bit. They got that swagger. And I think it’s really going to be a pretty heavy evening of rock theatre.

The Rokademy Experiment features Jackson Murray as William, Gianna Hoffman and Isabella Acuña as Margaret, and Porter Jones as The Rake. Jones also plays keys while Murray also plays bass, mandolin and guitar. Ariana Safi and Camille Matlock are The Queen. Ethan Wilcox plays lead guitar, with Brandon Ross on guitars, Jet Hoffman on drums and melodica, and Rachel Blitz on keys. Zoe Gfeller plays cello and autoharp, Jake Padgham plays cello, bass and autoharp, and Matthew Alvin Brown plays guitar and keys.

Bluegrass musical Bright Star premieres at Lyric Theatre

Published March 16, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Bluegrass is the classically American music, and it finds its home in musical storytelling with Lyric Theatre’s Bright Star. Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star is a southern story of hope and growing up in North Carolina. Based in the 1920s and the 40s, Bright Star follows Alice Murphy through life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The musical was inspired by the 2013 bluegrass album Love Has Come for You, which earned a Grammy Award for Martin and Brickell.

According to Lyric Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron, “Steve Martin’s wit and heart are evident in the wonderful script for Bright Star. When musical theatre really works, the audience is brought to a place where they can have empathy for the characters on stage, and feel along with them the hardships and triumphs that life gives us each day. I feel Bright Star is that kind of show – one that stays with you and that you will remember for a lifetime.”

New York City based artist Bligh Voth stars as Alice. Voth was recently seen in Lyric’s 2013 Summer at the Civic production of Big River. She recently answered a few of our questions about the upcoming production. Her responses are below.

AP: Tell us about your character! What do you love about her? What are you looking forward to about playing her?

Voth: Alice is ahead of her time. She’s ambitious and strong-willed and laser focused on what she wants- be it a boy or to get out of her small North Carolina town. What’s not to love about that? I’ve been known to be a bit aggressive myself, so Alice and I are cut from the same cloth in that respect! No matter how perfect or flawed a character may be, it’s my job to find what I love about her. And with Alice, it’s so easy. I love her because of her heart, because of her unwavering belief, her ability to forgive. I love and gravitate towards unrefined people because real grit like that intrigues me. I like a bit of mess. We all have some, and Alice airs hers. She makes no apologies for the woman she is and the choices she’s made.

AP: What’s exciting about coming back to Oklahoma City to play this role on the Lyric Theatre stage?

Voth: Listen- if you thought Big River (written by genius Roger Miller) was the quintessential bluegrass/country musical, well, Bright Star might actually have it beat! I couldn’t have loved being here for Big River more. That show was so special to me. But this feels like a true gift from Michael Baron, and I cannot WAIT to see how people react to this band, and this cast of voices, and this MUSIC. You aren’t going to hear better live bluegrass anywhere else this spring in Oklahoma City, I will bet that!

AP: How do you think the bluegrass and banjo music will resonate with audiences and relate to the show?

Voth: Bluegrass music is root music. What I mean by that is it can come across as quaint but the musicianship required to play bluegrass and to sing bluegrass is incredibly technical. Because of that, it appeals to the music intellectuals and the passionate fans. And with the Banjo Museum here in OKC, we are getting to play with some of the most fantastic musicians. The audience is not ready for what’s coming! I cannot wait for the response! There is such a music appreciation here in Oklahoma City, and I think people are going to be blown away by our story.

As Voth mentioned, Lyric Theatre is partnering with the American Banjo Museum in Bricktown to present Bright Star. Johnny Baier, executive director of the museum, says “The American Banjo Museum is thrilled to see Lyric Theatre bring Bright Star to Oklahoma. Aside from the great story and powerful music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, we love to see the banjo featured so prominently. After being inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2015, Steve Martin has been a champion for not only the banjo, but our museum as well. Although beloved as an actor and comedian, he is, without a doubt, one of the most influential banjo players of our generation.”

Bright Star also includes Vince Leseney as Daddy Murphy, Stephen Hilton as Daddy Cane, Jonathan Beck Reed as Mayor Dobbs, and Lexi Windsor as Lucy Grant. Michael Isaac is Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Zak Reynolds is Daryl Ames, Patty Irwin is Margo Crawford, Jessica Tate is Mama Murphy, and Ken Singleton is Billy Cane. The ensemble includes Joseph Campbell, Marcus Canada, Jessica Martens, Carly Ann Moore, Janna Linae Schmid and Adam LaPorte.

Music direction is by Brian Hamilton. Choreography is by Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells. Shawn Irish serves as the set and lighting designer. Costumes are by Lyric’s Resident Costume Designer Jeffrey Meek. Sound design is by Kevin Alexander.

CityRep presents the unique play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Published March 11, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, CityRep, is presenting the regional professional premiere of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an intriguing tale with a special main character. Curious Incident focuses on Christopher, a 15-year-old, exceptional young man with a mystery to solve. Christopher must find a way to navigate the unknown outside world and the detective work at hand, a dilemma that is harder for him than most.

Christopher has a special mind and therefore sees and experiences the world differently. He’s never ventured past his own street and faces retribution from his strict father. But he defies the odds and embarks on a life-changing journey to find out what happened to his neighbor’s dead dog. Armed with his extraordinary math skills and his record-keeping notebook, he sets off to crack the case.

Based on the acclaimed novel of the same title by Mark Haddon, Curious Incident first premiered on stage in London in 2012. It later premiered on Broadway in 2014 and won accolades throughout the theatre community, including Tony and Drama Desk awards for Outstanding Play in 2015. It has been called “a testament to the singular power of theatre” (Vogue) and “profoundly moving… dazzling” (Independent-London).

Curious Incident stars Cameron Law as Christopher, alongside Luke Eddy as his father Ed and Maria Hurdle as his mother Judy. Lisa Fairchild is Christopher’s teacher Siobhan. These four actors are making their CityRep debuts. Completing the cast is Allie Alexander, Mary Buss, Ruth Charnay, Matt Cheek, David Fletcher-Hall, Renee Krapff, Jacob Livesay, Dawson MacLeod, Denise Moses, and Kaylila Pasha.

Curious Incident is directed by CityRep Affiliated Artist W. Jerome Stevenson. Stevenson serves as Artistic Director of The Pollard Theatre in Guthrie. Hui Cha Poos choreographs the production and Steve Emerson serves as stage manager and sound designer. Scenic design is by Ben Hall with costume design by Lloyd Cracknell. Lighting design is by Adam Chamberlin.

Speaking by phone about the play, Stevenson says “The story is quite simple. It’s a coming of age story, one in which the main character unlocks family secrets, finds the key to understanding his parents and discovers the world isn’t black and white.” He continues, “it’s not about a disability, but about Christopher’s abilities that exceed beyond normal capabilities. Normalizing the character changes what makes him extraordinary. Those qualities that we consider normal, I question whether considering them that way really makes them better. Christopher certainly has quirks, behavioral problems, and discomfort with social cues. But no one is representative of all normal behavior. I’d rather be exceptional than just typical.”

Stevenson also adds that directing the production has been freeing, saying “The way Christopher sees the world is different, and because of that, it allows us freedom as artists to tell the story through his eyes and create a world the way Christopher sees it.”

CityRep is partnering with local organizations Autism Oklahoma and Oklahoma Autism Network in their objective to provide information and resources that assist parents and teachers of children with autism. CityRep also seeks to raise Autism awareness within the community at large. Presenting a play with a special needs character is an important step for representation and inclusion in the theatre.

Now in its seventeenth season, CityRep operates under the leadership of Artistic Director Donald Jordan.  CityRep’s mission is to serve Oklahoma’s diverse artistic, educational and civic needs by providing dynamic professional theatre. They entertain, enlighten and inspire!

Crushing on Lyric Theatre’s Girlfriend

Published March 7, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre’s Oklahoma premiere musical Girlfriend is a coming of age story about two recent high school graduates falling in love. It’s typical in every way that love stories are. There are nerves, first kisses, awkward silences, and shared mixtapes. It’s young love at its finest, most recognizable moments. What’s not so expected is that this isn’t a regular boy-girl post high school story. The two lovers at the center are both men, and that brings a refreshing, unexpected turn of events to the stage. New love is a universal experience that immediately brings back memories for anyone who has ever been young or in love, gay or straight. Set to the early 90s album by Matthew Sweet of the same title, Girlfriend reminds audiences that the normal experience of figuring out yourself, finding your way, getting your heart broken and repaired again is a feeling we can all relate to.

Jimmy Mavrikes is reprising his role as Will, whom he played in the D.C. production of Girlfriend at Signature Theatre. Mavrikes was recently nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for the role, a prestigious honor in the D.C. arts community. Mavrikes is the narrator and the one who has a crush on his friend Mike, played by Ian Marcontell.

Marcontell portrays the perfect jock. He’s popular, a baseball star, set to go to college and become a brain surgeon. This is the 90s in Nebraska, however, and being openly gay just isn’t a common thing in this timeframe. Mavrikes as Will is sure of who he is. He’s confident and hopeful, then becomes hesitant, not sure of his relationship with Mike. The two work out the awkwardness of figuring out their relationship in cute and charming ways, like calling each other, going to the movies, hanging out and becoming closer friends.

Mavrikes carries the weight of knowing he’s in love with his friend who may or may not love him back. Marcontell has a fear with him, one that doesn’t come with typical straight relationships. Unable to simply feel his feelings, for worry about ridicule from family and friends, Mike is at times resistant and unaccepting of Will.

These two actors handle that tension with thoughtful sensitivity that is innocent and emotionally provocative. Anyone who’s ever felt marginalized because of who they love will recognize the feeling instantly. Likewise, anyone who hasn’t experienced it in more socially accepted relationships will immediately feel that burden. It’s a heavy, powerful message that is important to convey.

Music fills the gaps when Mike and Will can’t find the words for what they want to say. They bond over their love for it, and play it for each other when moments get tough. This is real life reflected in art. Everyday life isn’t always filled with perfect philosophy and intelligent wit. Sometimes, you know what you want to say, but not how to say it. Sometimes you just can’t talk at all. When that happens, music can serve as the perfect way to convey true feelings. The soundtrack of their lives is the Matthew Sweet album, shown in a new light as a way to relate and communicate with each other.

The rock band set behind them in the sound booth is comprised of members Britt Bonney, Taylor Yancey, Susannah Leonard, and Bat-or Kalo. The ladies in the band can really rock and set the mood for this love story. Expert direction by Matthew Gardiner creates a dynamic between the actors and the band that makes them all constantly aware of each other. The band represents the music that is always in their heads, a thread that binds the two in their newfound love.

One of the best things about this sweet show is the chemistry between Mavrikes and Marcontell. There are several quiet moments between them. When they’re not rocking out to their favorite album, or chatting on the phone, they’re sitting next to each other, closely and intimately. You can watch them falling in love, and it’s in those quiet times that the poise of these actors is shown. Silence is hard to convey on stage. It can be awkward, with an expectation of dialogue. But sitting in their own silence, however brief, is where these actors shine. It’s not awkward, but natural. Then, when they do speak, or touch, it’s electric. The fire between them is authentic and sets hearts aflutter. It’s true love, and it sparks joy to watch.

Mavrikes has puppy dog eyes that will melt any heart, and Marcontell keeps up the tough guy façade just long enough to convince you it’s not really how he feels. These two leading men are gentle with each other and understanding of this story. They’re champions of the deeper message, that love is always something to celebrate, dance to, and sing about. And the experience of first love, no matter who you are, is something worth remembering.

90s rock musical Girlfriend set to premiere at Lyric Theatre

Published February 15, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The rock musical Girlfriend, inspired by Matthew Sweet’s 1991 alt rock album, is a coming of age story of young love and self-discovery. The Lyric is bringing this regional premiere to OKC and their Plaza district stage via a collaboration with Washington D.C.’s Signature Theatre. Set in early nineties Nebraska, two young men find love in a world that’s not quite ready for them. Before the LGBTQ+ movement, before Pride Week, Queer Eye, and legal gay marriage, the world was a darker place for equality and the gay community. Particularly in the breezy winds of small-town middle America, where these two characters discover each other and themselves.

Signature Theatre director Matthew Gardiner says he first fell in love with the beautiful simplicity of the story, one which seeks to normalize the experience of a same sex couple. After all, first love is first love, and that feeling is universal.

Jimmy Mavrikes makes his Lyric Theatre debut as Will. Ian Marcontell returns to the Lyric, after last season’s production of Mamma Mia!, to play Mike. In a recent email interview, Marcontell says that his character, a recent high school graduate, is “on the surface, kind of an ideal high school boy. He plays football and baseball, ran for prom king, plays guitar and sings, all of those classic tropes. But underneath, Mike actually feels quite isolated as he struggles to navigate his sexuality and feelings for Will, wanting to get away from his father and hometown, and the mystery of what to do and what path to take in college and in life.”

Marcontell says he relates to the show, and thinks everyone else will too, in the “inherent awkwardness of a new relationship. You can be the most confident person you know up to a point, but I think we all know the feeling of getting near the person you like and then immediately clamming up and not knowing what to say anymore, which Mike and Will do plenty of in the show.” Marcontell continues, “I have to say what I relate to most with my character is the need to get away, especially after high school has ended. I love my hometown and all of the memories that I made there, but I think it’s so important, for your own personal growth, to eventually leave the nest and experience new things on your own.”

When asked about the overarching themes of this role, Marcontell says “As a person, I just believe that everyone deserves to live and love how they choose, and that accepting everyone for no less than exactly how they are is just the bottom-line for being a good person. And I think if people can see this show and see these kids going through the nervousness and anxiousness of new love, the same nervousness and anxiousness that they went through at some point in their life, then hopefully they can realize that ever attaching some stigma or prejudice against people just trying to live their lives like anyone else deserves to is just crazy.”

Marcontell also remarks on the unique aspect of a rock album turned stage musical, saying “I grew up listening to rock music so, for me, listening to Matthew Sweet and that whole genre/time period is truly a reintroduction into the first kind of music that I really got into. And I think that style is just so much more vulnerable than it lets on to be. So you listen to it and jam out, but then you tune-in to what the words are actually saying and you connect with it… and then you continue to jam out some more!”

Another unique quality of the musical is the all-female rock band, set to perform the music that inspired the show. The D.C. production of Girlfriend was recently nominated for eight Helen Hayes Awards, a prestigious honor in the D.C. arts community.

Written by Todd Almond with music and lyrics from Sweet, Girlfriend features music direction by Britt Bonney, scenic design by Misha Kachman and costume design by Frank Labovitz. Colin K. Bills provides lighting design, and the sound design is by Ryan Hickey.

Come in from the cold and warm your heart with Almost, Maine

Published January 30, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

It’s cold outside! The northern U.S. is experiencing subzero temps, and even temperate Oklahoma is blustery and chilly by February. What better way to treat your Valentine than to snuggle up in a cozy theatre and warm up with a love story. Actor and playwright John Cariani’s play Almost, Maine is the perfect show for just that. One of the most produced plays in the U.S., four thousand theatre companies have produced it so far, and it has surpassed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school productions.

The play about the town that almost is and isn’t quite finds its perfect footing in Guthrie with The Pollard Theatre. The beauty of it, and what makes it so producible, is the simplicity of the story. Presented in nine short scenes, the show focuses on the residents of a snowy, beatific town in Northern Maine called Almost. It’s not even a town, really, and the people who live there are finding love, in a way, but what they’re really finding is connection. It’s rich in conversational dialogue that feels comfortable and warm. As the townsfolk make realizations and new acquaintances, love is lost and found under the glow of the Northern Lights.

Every vignette in the show is a charming standalone scene. They’re individually named, making them effectively independent and freestanding plays themselves. Setting is the only thing they have in common, and the episodes do not intertwine. A few favorites include “They Fell”, “Getting it Back” and “Her Heart”. A new pair of characters appears in each of the nine segments. Romantic and sweet, this is a perfect date night show for couples. And even the skeptics won’t stand a chance against this lovely play. It’s that heartwarming.

Though it may often feel that way, stage productions don’t just emerge fully formed from the set they’re built around. Rehearsal is where the real work is done and it’s not just fine tuning and memorization. Rehearsal is where something beautiful and moving is built, from the stage up, where there was nothing but empty floor before. I was given an inside peek into a rehearsal session for Almost, Maine and it was educational as well as entertaining.

Every move is deliberate on stage, so as to convey the correct language, further a story line, and develop the characters. The process is intricate, complicated, and so subtle it’s hardly noticed by an audience. But those decisions must be made, and this cast is committed. What results in the deliberate work of these fine actors is well-rounded characters that teem with real emotions and actions. Their movements match their story and they’re not just reciting lines. What’s written in black and white on paper scripts becomes full color on stage.

The development of the onstage movement and placement of actors is fully detailed by the director, a part played in this production by Matthew Alvin Brown. Brown’s expertise and attention to even the most understated detail is what brings this play to life. Pollard patrons will recognize Brown from prior Pollard productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Company, American Idiot, In the Heights, and Passing Strange.

Artistic director W. Jerome Stevenson says “I loved the way Almost, Maine blended real character with its specific style of ‘romantic magic’ and I immediately reached out to Matthew to direct. The play is at once lyrical and whimsical; poignant and playful. It comes right to the edge of too sweet but when it reaches that threshold, it turns and endears itself to me all over again.”

The nineteen roles in the show are played by Company members Timothy Stewart and Jared Blount, along with returning artists Kris Schinske Wolfe and Renee Krapff. Scenic and lighting design is by W. Jerome Stevenson, sound design by Jared Blount, and costume design by Michael James. Dakota Muckelrath serves as Stage Manager. Stewart has previously been seen in popular productions Hairspray, Sylvia, and It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. He’s also known as the beloved narrator in A Territorial Christmas Carol. Blount has recently been seen in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Producers, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Returning artist Kris Schinske Wolfe was most recently seen in It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play as Violet Bick. Renee Krapff is known to Pollard audiences for her role in God of Carnage.

Lyric Theatre serves up delicious fun with Curious George: The Golden Meatball

Published January 27, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre has done it again with their newest Theatre for Young Audiences show. Curious George: The Golden Meatball is a delightful musical that’s suited for the youngest patrons in the family. Geared toward kids in the pre-k through third grade age ranges, the show features the sweet little monkey on his quest to help his friend enter the Golden Meatball contest in Rome. Gavin Guthrie is little George and he’s joined by his good friends, The Man in the Yellow Hat, Chef Pisghetti, Phinneas, The Doorman, and Netti. The classic characters that are known and loved by generations of children are joined by new friends and a brand-new story for the stage.

Guthrie is adorable and cute as the loveable monkey George. Guthrie’s mannerisms, facial expressions and sweet voice are reminiscent of a monkey but also childlike. He’s got the innocence and demeanor of a younger character, which is appealing to the children in the audience. Gore is George’s best buddy, The Man in the Yellow Hat, and together the two get up to fun antics and adventures. Larman’s take on Chef Pisghetti is jovial and happy. When things don’t go well for Chef Pisghetti, George sets off to help his friend win the cooking contest, an idea that takes him all the way to Rome.

Of course, his group of loyal friends must follow. Bailey Maxwell as the Doorman and Jenna Mazzoccoli as Netti come along as well, and everyone is delighted to see the beautiful city and find George on his latest escapade. Elvie Ellis as Phinneas enters the contest as well, and his automatic meatball maker is the one to beat. If George can recreate the perfect recipe, and not forget the secret ingredient, he’s got a chance of winning The Golden Meatball.

The musical numbers are lovely and quite sophisticated for a TYA production. Children’s theatre is not always as enjoyable for the parents, but the Lyric has thought of everyone. Matthew Sipress directs and choreographs an energetic and special show that is great entertainment for theatregoers of all ages. Costumes by Jeffrey Meek are pleasantly bright and colorful, fully detailed and recognizable to fans of the books. The Q & A session after the show gives the kids a chance to ask questions and talk to the actors, learning more about the process and production of musical theatre.

No critic is tougher than an audience of kids. This production, while keeping the children in mind, is by no means dumbed down or simplified. That’s the great thing about this series at The Lyric. They don’t skimp on quality, and they provide their audience with age appropriate entertainment that shows them the magic of the theatre. One of the most important things we can do as parents is to introduce our kids to the arts. Shows where they can relate to the characters and feel welcome provide a fun and magical experience for the young ones. It’s equally fulfilling for the parents and grandparents to watch and enjoy with their kids. Kids deserve good theatre as much as adults, possibly even more. The dedication of the entire cast and crew has created a charming show that serves as an introduction to what is sure to become a lifelong love of live theatre.

A few quotable preschoolers went on record when asked about the show. Three-year-old Harrison says “I liked the singing parts” while his five-year-old brother Asher replied “The part where George was doing flips was my favorite!” Liam also says “I loved when they painted George in the park. And I like the way the Man in the Yellow Hat danced!” Their moms had so much fun it was bananas. There may be a future reviewer in the ranks!

All joking aside, this is a wonderful theatre experience for kids and parents. The Lyric has once again provided a worthwhile time for the whole family in the beautiful Plaza District. The show runs 55 minutes, not including the short Q&A talkback afterwards.

Hedwig at The Boom is everything you’ve waited for

Published January 26, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Renowned stage and screen writer John Cameron Mitchell and musician Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is not a musical. It’s a rock narrative, disguised as theatre, which is disguised as a drag show, and it’s all balled up into the fire and fury of one wronged woman. It’s a middle American tragedy set in the back-alley dive bars that decorate our country, playing host to the down and outs and the would-be rock stars on open mic nights. And it’s unapologetically and unequivocally rock and roll.

Hedwig’s is no one’s success story, least of all hers, but it’s a story that must be told. Described by her creators as “genderqueer”, the East German-born rock icon unfurls her tale and unravels in front of her small but agreeable audience. The scene is intimate at The Boom, the venue that fits this show more perfectly than any bright regional stage in OKC can. The small space makes the audience a part of the show. When you’re there, you’re in it.

Hedwig begins life as Hansel, a “slip of a girly boy” from Cold War era East Germany. Hansel dreams of life and love on the other side of that hated border wall, no, not that one, the other one. His desperation to escape and find his mythical other half leads him to a reluctant sex change that doesn’t take and leaves Hansel in a hopeless state of being no longer a man but not quite a woman. Now Hedwig, she finds herself stuck and alone in Kansas.

Though bleak, Hedwig deserves as much of a chance at a happy ever after as any of us do, and her troubles will leave you hoping the best for her. The music pulls you in. The show begins with a hard rock tune that quickly reminds you that you’re not witnessing a cookie-cutter musical. But it’s the acting that keeps you engaged, and the two main roles are expertly crafted by Matthew Alvin Brown as Hedwig and Renee Anderson as Yitzhak. Brown and Anderson are reprising the roles that they’ve played, and played well, several times over the last ten-ish years in various productions in Oklahoma City.

The tension between Brown and Anderson is gritty and raw. They clash both emotionally and physically as Hedwig’s anger explodes onto everyone she shares the stage with. Something seems amiss from the get-go and it’s clear that this night isn’t like the others. Hedwig’s letting Yitzhak have it, like she always does, but tonight, Yitzhak isn’t taking it like he normally does. There’s a subtle shift that begins to show itself early on. Both actors convey that tension. It’s funny and uncomfortable, and adds layers of complication to their already complex relationship.

Hedwig’s band is a powerhouse force of glitter and rock. The Angry Inch is portrayed by Jason Hunt on guitar and keys, Larz Justice on bass, Tristan Gfeller on guitar, and Aaron Marshall on drums. These dudes truly rock and together with Brown and Anderson, they’ve created a hard-hitting show that is in your face and loud. It’s awesome, no holds barred, rock out music you can sing along to. Just try not to throw out a “rock on” hand sign or keep your body still. You’ll fail.

This cast is putting it all out there. Their tears and sweat, and in the case of opening night, their actual blood, is left onstage. They’re truly committed and are convincing in their plight as a struggling rock band, taking the abuse hurled at them by their broken and angry front woman.

Yes Brown and Anderson have performed Hedwig, many times before, and much has been said about prior productions. And yes, those other runs were good, even great. But this one is better. The chemistry between the two leads has gotten deeper over the years. Their connection is stronger. They’re seasoned, not just as performers but in these roles. It makes for rich storytelling and a beautiful relationship. Where they may have been green in productions past, now they’re solid gold.

Brown has delved so deep into playing Hedwig, and portrayed her so many times, that the bond he shares with her is unlike any other between actor and character. Brown is a rock icon in his own right, and his wit and honesty make Hedwig real and alive. Too often, Hedwig is portrayed as a caricature, a funny drag persona with little depth. Brown takes her seriously and makes her human. He tells Hedwig’s truth, in all its beauty and anguish.

One night of basking in this character is enough to make you a lifelong fan, perpetually waiting for the next time you can see the show again, and hoping against all odds that it’s Brown and Anderson when you do. Their commitment to this story, and the previous turns as Hed and Yitz, have led up to the beautiful thing that’s happening on 39th Street. It’s easy to see that Hedwig is a part of who is portraying her, and vice versa. Perhaps Hedwig has found her long sought-after other half after all, in the two superb actors who’ve been dedicated to telling her story, with sensitivity and levity, for nearing a decade alongside each other.

Whether you like it or not… HEDWIG returns to The Boom

Published January 1, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Internationally ignored yet universally loved, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a hard-rock musical that takes no prisoners and makes its own rules. It is welcome in theatre much like its title character, Hedwig Robinson, makes her own way in the world; by not really fitting right in anywhere. Hedwig is born Hansel Schmidt, a gay man who faces a miserable fate in East Germany (remember THAT border wall?). Hansel is heavily influenced by American radio and learns the story of Plato’s Symposium, a tale that’s relayed in the iconic musical number “The Origin of Love”. This sparks Hansel’s lifelong search for his other half, the one who may have been separated from him due to the wrath of angry gods.

Persuaded by his American soldier boyfriend and his cold German mother, Hansel undergoes a sex change and adopts a new identity, marrying the soldier and becoming Mrs. Hedwig Robinson. That all fits into a somewhat tidy box, but for the fact that the surgery she never really wanted is botched, leaving her somewhere between a man and a woman. Then, her new husband leaves her for a man. And, as history reminds us, the Berlin wall comes down, proving with finality that the disasters she’s gone through in the name of love were all for naught.

Proving her resiliency, Hedwig doesn’t give up hope that she’ll find her other half. As she rebuilds herself and her life in Junction City, Kansas, she babysits, fronts a rock band, aptly named The Angry Inch, and launches a famous career for teenaged brat Tommy Speck. Hilarity and tragedy ensue, but don’t write Ms. Hedwig off just yet. Her story doesn’t truly begin until it’s seemingly all over for her. When she’s hit the lowest point possible, Hedwig and the Angry Inch becomes something you’d never expect.

The show is setup like a concert, with Hedwig telling her story to the audience. In between timely comedic commentary and Hedwig’s verbal abuse of her tour mate and husband, Yitzhak, there’s really, really good punk-rock music, in the spirit of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. It’s androgynous, angsty and glittery music that rocks with lyrical depth. With a comedy routine, concert, mythology and monologue, it becomes something more than musical theatre. In short, Hedwig’s got layers. Layers that run deep, hiding underneath that giant blonde hair and sparkly blue eyeshadow.

The story of how Hedwig came about is as interesting as the show itself. By the time it debuted off-Broadway in 1998, Hedwig had lived as a drag/punk dive bar persona. Writers John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask workshopped the character in the NYC nightclub scene where punk-rock cover bands, fronted by drag performers, reigned supreme. After years of development, Hedwig and the Angry Inch finally emerged and went on to achieve Obie Awards, a movie, a national tour, a yearlong Broadway run, and four Tony Awards. But where Hedwig truly thrives is in the margins. Originally a minor character in her own story, Hedwig finds a way to make you notice her. Her story must be told, and her truth shines through.

An anniversary of sorts, Matthew Alvin Brown and Renee Anderson are celebrating almost a decade of performing the show together. Brown as the heroine Hedwig and Anderson as the man of few words Yitzhak. Likewise, The Boom is celebrating ten years in their current space, and the 39th Street stage is the first place Brown and Anderson collaborated on the musical. After spending years performing the role in and around OKC, Brown says the homecoming to The Boom “provides the perfect space for Hedwig”. It’s tight, the tables are close, and it demands an immediacy of the audience that more traditional stages don’t allow for. Hedwig is stalking Tommy’s more successful tour, performing wherever she can and riding a short wave of fame and scandal, so the authentic feel of a smaller space is ideal.

Brown and Anderson’s partnership and years performing together bring a richness to the roles and a familiarity with their characters.

In a recent interview discussing the role of Yitzhak, Anderson says “I enjoy the many challenges of playing Yitzhak. I must make the audience believe that I am a male and in that I have to physically carry myself that way. Yitzhak also has very little to say in the show as far as dialogue is concerned, so I feel I must work a little harder than usual to visually convey the complex emotions that Yitzhak feels. I have to get the audience to ‘listen’ to me with little dialogue. The way I move and facial expressions are very challenging, but I really enjoy it! As cliché as it sounds, I feel my own personal life experiences have helped me dive deeper into playing Yitzhak. It’s been over 8 years since I first became a part of the show and a lot can happen in that time to help one grow as a person and an artist.”

Anderson agrees that the show is universally appealing, resonating with diverse audiences. Anderson adds “I believe most people root for the underdog. Whether it’s rooting for Hedwig because of Tommy’s notoriety, or rooting for Yitzhak because of Hedwig’s control, by the end of the show the underdogs have essentially won, and who doesn’t love that? And who doesn’t resonate with kick ass rock music?”

The band includes Jason Hunt on guitar and keys, Larz Justice on bass, Tristan Gfeller on guitar, and Aaron Marshall on drums. Hunt serves as music director and Brown is production director.