Curious George: The Golden Meatball is adventurous fun for young audiences

Published December 26, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre’s 2019 kicks off with the third venture in their Theatre for Young Audiences series, presenting Curious George: The Golden Meatball. Opening January 23 through February 17 at the Plaza Theatre location, the four-week run of this kid friendly show features all daytime performances.

Mischievous monkey George and The Man in the Yellow Hat jump off the page and into this adventurous musical journey. George learns about cooking as he travels to Rome to help his friend, Chef Pisghetti, make the perfect dish in the Golden Meatball contest.

Production Director Matthew Sipress says “I’m so excited to bring Curious George to life at Lyric Theatre. It’s a thrill to be able to take characters from the Curious George books and cartoons and introduce them to kids in a whole new way, with live actors, music and dance. And, just like the books and cartoons, George will get into plenty of predicaments, but will always come out on top.”

Generations of children have grown up with the timeless Curious George books by Margret and H.A. Rey. Curious George was first published as a children’s series in 1941 and the books have since been translated into over twenty languages. The popular PBS cartoon debuted in 2006. This new story was written for the stage, and the play, owned by Universal Stage Productions, features music by John Kavanaugh. Book and lyrics are by Jeremy Desmon. The production’s music director is Mary Brozina Wierick.

The cast includes Gavin Guthrie as Curious George and Greg Gore as The Man in the Yellow Hat. Jenna Mazzoccoli is Netti, Bailey Maxwell is the Doorman, Lyric favorite Justin Larman is Chef Pisghetti and Elvie Ellis is Phinneas. Larman has previously been seen at The Lyric in Junie B. Jones: The Musical, Rock of Ages, James and the Giant Peach, and Assassins. Maxwell appeared in last summer’s production of Hello, Dolly! Guthrie, Gore, Mazzoccoli and Ellis are making their Lyric Theatre debuts.

This family-oriented show is a wonderful introduction to the theatre for your young ones. The Lyric produces delightful musicals for kids and parents. The Theatre for Young Audiences offerings are always engaging, fun, and dazzling for the young and young at heart. Kids will love the singing, dancing and antics that George gets into! The show runs just under an hour and is recommended for children aged pre-K through third grade.

Set design by Dawn Drake Toney and lighting design by Fabian Garcia produce a colorful, whimsical and bright stage and set the perfect tone for the kid friendly atmosphere. As always, costume design by Jeffrey Meek is delightful and perfectly similar to the beloved book characters. The Lyric spares no details and always offers superb, high quality theatre for the whole family to enjoy!

XMAS: Consider Yourself DESTROYED… with LOVE

Published December 18, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Christmas is the most wonderful, sparkly, expensive, stressful, exhausting time of year. It’s steeped in tradition and oftentimes, redundancy. Thank goodness for small favors, like turning off the 24/7 radio repetition of the same fifteen songs. And for the Thelma Gaylord Academy’s Rokademy Experiment, which sets out to destroy that traditional Christmas bore… with love, of course. This group of teens is led by Matthew Alvin Brown, and they’re a rockin’ band of musical masterminds. The one night only special Christmas concert features music by The Ramones, The Waitresses, The Wiggles, yes, and even an original tune written by the group, a fun ditty titled “Christmas Muscles”. The students in this genuine school of rock do it all- the singing, the instrument playing… the acting.

Jake Padgham plays cello, the toy piano, bass, and is the Muscles of the operation. Camille Matlock, Gianna Hoffman, Isabella Acuña and Ariana Safi provide beautiful and powerful vocals. Rachel Blitz is on keys, Jackson Murray on bass and electric guitar, and Ethan Wilcox on lead guitar. Brandon Ross plays guitar, Jet Hoffman is on drums and melodica, and Zoe Gfeller is on cello and melodica. Porter Jones plays keys. Rokademy alum Matthew Tripp makes a special appearance as the contest winner/chef.

Originality is bursting at the seams, with fun costumes, vibrant makeup, tinsel and Christmas lights, and a Star Wars movie plays in the background on stage. Each song has a bit of dialogue in between, making it a theatre experience wholly developed from the minds of these free spirits. It doesn’t make much logical sense, but that’s not welcome here, and it’s all the more creative because of it. Parents and older Millennials, those thirty-year-olds, are somewhat confused, definitely entertained, and nonetheless impressed with the talents on display. The music may be familiar, but The Rokademy’s renditions are new and different, each with a rock ‘n roll twist. This team of rockers has got the talent and energy to spare, and could probably jam out all night long!

With poise, professionalism, and rock star swagger, the performers of The Rokademy Experiment easily destroy what you’d expect from a regular old Christmas concert. They create a unique experience that is full of holiday cheer and new classics to the world of Christmas tunes. This crazy concert brings back that youthful excitement that is too often lost in adulthood. It’s refreshing and revitalizing to see young musicians given creative freedom to be themselves and make their own music. Kudos to Brown for paving the way for his students to explore authentic expression. When artists are given the space to be wildly original, there’s no telling what kind of deliciously magical fruit salad they’ll come up with. The Rokademy Experiment has effectively destroyed Christmas, with love, with music, and above all a lot of fun. And that is what the Christmas spirit should be about!

The Rokademy Experiment is taking the world for a ride yet again this spring. Their regular spring concert happens in April. Check out lyrictheatreokc.com or back here soon for more info! Hold on tight, all you strange rock ‘n rollers, The Rokademy Experiment will rock your face off!

The Boom’s Scrooge in Rouge is ridiculous holiday fun

Published December 10, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Scrooge in Rouge is a raucous parody of the beloved Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol. All seriousness aside, no really, don’t expect a single moment of genuinely serious dialogue, it pokes fun of the most famous Christmas story ever told in the best way possible. Already a disaster before it’s begun, the cast enters the stage with bad news. Everyone in the show, the cast that would exist if it were actually A Christmas Carol, has gotten food poisoning. The remaining players promise to pull off the full story by playing all the characters amongst the three of them. It’s the perfect setup for two hours of ridiculousness, and off we go.

Cory King is Scrooge and she shares the stage with Paul Stafford and Kitty Bob Aimes, both of whom play multiple roles. The trio is a sight, entering and exiting with different costumes on in every scene, each one over the top and absurd. King executes her lines with hilarity and manages to hold onto the thinnest shred of dignity still left in the role. Possibly the only time you’ll ever see a female Scrooge, her miserly grimaces and grumpy disposition make her a true Ebenezer Scrooge. Stafford is Jacob Marley’s Ghost, or Ghottthhht as he lisps out in spooky incantations, the Ghost of Christmas Past, poor dumb nephew Fred, and even dumber employee Bob Cratchit, whose name they can’t seem to entirely recall. Stafford shares a cute grin and a wink with the audience, keeping them in on his little secrets.

Aimes is everyone else, including Mrs. Cratchit and the creepy Mr. Fezziwig, and she’s consistently a fourth-wall breaker. A sassy flirt, Aimes throws her dress over unsuspecting audience members’ heads, forgets lines, and is generally incapable of staying on task. She’s disastrous and riotous. At one point, Aimes calls out the critics, saying there are some present, and directs a wave at THIS reviewer in the actual audience. The fourth-wall breaking moment is funny and unexpected, throwing me off guard!

There exists a rare moment with Scrooge in Rouge that is not often found in theatre. This show is nearly impossible to review. Everyone knows their lines, probably, and the performances are hilarious. But where there are any mistakes or missteps, nobody can tell. And nobody cares. It’s pure fun, at times exasperating, and the actors laugh as much as the audience. Wig mishaps, missed cues, and all out character breaking might be on purpose, but might not be. The real ruse of Rouge is not giving away what’s an accident and what’s scripted, and in the end everyone leaves happy.

Scrooge in Rouge is everything you hope for in a night out on the town. It offers a break from the traditional, in every sense of the word, and the talent is there, in abundance, to provide a high-quality caliber of entertainment. It feels very much like a game of dress up that’s taken a turn into the ludicrous. They might need a director, or maybe they have one, who knows. It’s a great time, and that’s nothing to Scrooge about.

Aimes, King and Stafford are accompanied and kept on beat by the lovely musical stylings of pianist Michael Stafford. The wait staff and bar staff of The Boom are excellent talents in their own right and deserve highest honors.

The Rokademy Experiment destroys XMAS: with LOVE

Published December 5, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s so wonderful, sometimes you just can’t stand it. By mid-December, even the jolliest of holiday elves needs a little break. You may even be tempted to turn off the Christmas shopping radio commercials, roll up the windows to block out the wintry Oklahoma wind, and blast some not-so holy night rock ‘n roll power tunes. But, there’s an even better option for the steering wheel singer in us all!

Just in time for a temporary reprieve from caroling and cocoa comes The Rokademy Experiment’s Christmas rock concert. The Rokademy Experiment Destroys XMAS: with LOVE features some of OKC’s finest musical students. This group of true rockers is led by rock musical theatre icon Matthew Alvin Brown, and together they’ve written a brand-new holiday song. The new anthem, “Christmas Muscles”, will be featured alongside other classic tunes by the likes of John Lennon, The Ramones, The Zombies, and more. Did I mention the students are ages 13 to 18? Impressed yet!?

According to Brown, “The Rokademy Experiment will endeavor to provide you the antidote to Holiday Fatigue. By December 17th, you should be neck deep in the holiday spirit. You will have Jingled the Bells, Decked the Halls, and you will have asked the burning question ‘What Child Is This?’ about 500 times. And there’s still ONE MORE WEEK TO GO. You’ll be weary and worn from the usual Xmas fare… This Xmas show is unlike any you will attend this holiday season. Come to the FREAKOUT and bask in the psychedelic chaos that is: THE ROKADEMY EXPERIMENT.”

Attending this fun event means not only hearing some awesome music and having a great time, but also supporting the arts and young talent in our community. Nothing is more rock ‘n roll than that!

OU University Theatre and Helmerich School of Drama present A Christmas Carol

Published December 3, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

The quintessential Christmas story about second chances, ghostly visits, and the things we can and cannot change returns to OU University Theatre. A new adaptation by director Tom Huston Orr is staged this year, and it’s rich in the history of A Christmas Carol. With poetic dialogue and moving moments for the would-be hero Ebenezer Scrooge, the audience is led into the colorful world of Victorian London and the most wonderful Christmas tale ever told.

Micah Weese is exceptional as Scrooge. Weese is at first booming and commanding, then becoming softer and more transparent in his emotions. Weese makes a drastic turn as Scrooge sees the error of his ways. The change the audience is waiting for is a delight to experience alongside him. Justin Armer as Scrooge’s faithful employee Bob Cratchit is the underdog you love to cheer for. Armer takes the abuse slung at him by his employer and still has grace and forgiveness in his heart, as well as love for his family and hope for his precious tiny Tim. Race Ricketts is a fright as Scrooge’s “dead as a doornail” business partner Jacob Marley. With chains around him and lightning at his command, Ricketts delivers some hard truths to Scrooge in his brief visitation. Madison Penzkover is pleasant as the Ghost of Christmas Past. The easiest of the spirits to receive, she’s light on her feet and delivers her message with kindness.

Reagan Sudduth is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and his time on earth is fleeting. Sudduth enters the scene with a bang, as many of the scenes in this play do, and the chorus line that accompanies him is a symphony of holiday cheer. Sudduth also plays Fezziwig, Scrooge’s old boss and one of the happiest characters ever to grace the stage. Fezziwig embodies everything that Scrooge does not, and reminds him of who he could and used to be. Sudduth is boisterous and jovial, perfect for each role. Likewise, Alyssa Fantel as Mrs. Fezziwig absolutely steals the show! The scene featuring the Fezziwig Christmas party is terrific, with dynamite dance numbers and an energy uptick that perks up audience and cast members alike.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is depicted by two puppeteers, Jaden Kelly and Chip Keebaugh, who wield a 12-foot-tall Death-like apparition that floats ominously behind Scrooge. This is perhaps the scariest scene in an already jumpy production. The final spirit to visit Scrooge is accompanied by heavy rolling sound effects, and the favorited lightning and thunder that’s already been utilized several times. This may all prove too much for the littlest of children in the audience.

OU’s production is touted as family friendly, but it’s no child’s tale that is shown here. Several disruptively loud scenes cause little ones to cover their ears, and some moments are downright disturbing. The scene with Ignorance and Want is practically nightmare inducing. This play is quite a thriller. After all, it is based on the classic Charles Dickens novella, which was subtitled ‘A Ghost Story of Christmas’, and that it certainly is.

The child actors bring an added sense of wonder to this Christmas fairytale, and the young pros onstage are lovely and versatile. Hanna Andreassen, Hannah Butler, Joshua Cheng, Alexis Jordan Dorris, high-schooler Madilyn Kellam, and Harper Orr all play multiple roles as well as the ensemble, and knock each scene out of the park. Fantastic dance numbers are performed by Joni Keaton, Kieran King, Cameron Terry and Claire Willcutt. Costume design by Lloyd Cracknell is authentic and bright. J. Clayton Winters is assistant director.

If you wish to attend this show with your kids, keep in mind the somewhat scary elements. Children five and up should be okay, particularly if your child seems to think that ghosts are “awesome and cool”. That’s a direct quote from a certain five-year-old who attended with his mom, who happens to be writing this review. Most kids will do fine, although there are a few startling moments throughout. However, all ages are welcome. Just keep in mind any sensitivities and tolerance levels, especially when bringing the young ones.

Nostalgia and holiday memories blend beautifully in It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Published November 24, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Historic Guthrie at Christmas is one of the most magical experiences in Oklahoma. The Pollard Theatre is a pivotal part of the traditional Christmas celebrations, and this year they’re offering a different story from the one they’ve become famous for. After the deaths of two important artists who helped create The Territorial Christmas Story, beloved Scrooge James Ong and playwright Stephen P. Scott, the company has decided to give themselves a year-long deep breath to recoup, and redesign, their traditional Christmas staple. This temporary reprieve has opened the door for another classic Christmas story to grace the Pollard stage, and it’s genuinely The American Christmas Story. It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry ushers audiences into a long-forgotten golden age of radio entertainment, before televisions arrived in every home and nobody knew what their favorite actors looked like.

The cast begins the play as radio actors, walking in from the back of the house and greeting the audience, which has now become the studio audience. Each actor takes their places, ready to begin the live radio program. They kindly let the audience know that we are active participants, encouraging those in the studio audience to clap along and create the story with them.

Kara Chapman is Sally Applewhite, the glamorous actress portraying Mary Hatch. Joshua McGowen is Jake Laurents, the charming young actor charged with playing George Bailey. Kris Schinske Wolf is Lana Sherwood, and she portrays several roles with her diverse voice skills, including Violet Bick. Timothy Stewart is Harry Heywood and several other roles, including George’s brother Harry Bailey. David Fletcher-Hall is William Buckingham and Clarence the wayward angel. James A. Hughes is Freddie Filmore and portrays an assorted array of characters within the radio play, including the evil Mr. Potter. Foley artist Jared Blount is an interesting addition to the activity onstage, providing context and detail with simple props that create ambient sound effects.

The idea of a radio play is different, and The Pollard offers a unique experience for patrons. The 1940s era costumes are elaborate and beautiful, but even with the visual representations and the actors on stage, it’s tempting to close your eyes and experience the show as truly an audio interpretation. It’s so pleasant and realistic to do, so try it! You won’t feel silly for long, and you can always open your eyes again to watch the story play out.

As the radio program progresses, the actors slowly dissolve into their Wonderful Life characters, and the show becomes more and more of a traditional stage setting. The change is subtle and the shift is gradual. Only when the snow begins to fall on George Bailey’s life altering evening is it obvious that we’re no longer in a studio, but have been transported to Bedford Falls.

The roles of Mary Hatch and George Bailey that were portrayed in the 1946 film by Donna Reed and war veteran Jimmy Stewart have been canonized in the American psyche. It’s simply impossible to reproduce the performances exactly, and never the goal of a true artist to create a copy of the originals. But how to chisel away and create something new? That is what Chapman and McGowen have done.

Chapman as Mary is vibrant and lovely, easy to fall in love with and admire. She creates a truly classic leading lady, set in a timeframe many years ago, but never overdone or tired. Chapman’s speaking voice and stylized accent are accurate representations of decades past, and she sounds just as beautiful talking as singing. Chapman’s portrayal of the radio actress and her flirtation with Blount as the Foley artist is a fun little secret storyline to peek at throughout the show.

McGowen is at times reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart, particularly in his speaking cadence, but his mannerisms and demeanor are wholly his own. McGowen offers a beautiful homage to the timeless movie. His performance is spellbinding, heartbreaking and captivating. The struggle of his character is felt by everyone in attendance, and hearts are lifted along with his. Trying to find a dry eye in the house, even among the critics, is nearly impossible.

Instant connections are made between McGowen and Chapman, who have sparkling chemistry together and bring to life some of the most iconic scenes in all of American cinema memory.

David Fletcher-Hall as Clarence the Angel is joyful and touching. Fletcher-Hall saves the day as the hero’s hero, bringing true purpose to light. James A. Hughes and Timothy Stewart play so many roles, it would be hard to keep up, but each one sounds uniquely different. The same is true of Kris Schinske Wolf as Violet, who takes a turn as Mary’s mother, then George’s mother, and several other minor characters. No shortcuts can be made in voice acting, as there’s no visual to fall back on. These brilliant artists create an entire cast of characters, and if you couldn’t see them, you’d hardly believe there was only a handful of them. The supporting cast proves itself as versatile and multifaceted.

Likewise, Jared Blount as the Foley artist is a unique addition that you don’t see often onstage. It’s mesmerizing to watch what mundane items he brings to life to create specific sounds, like celery for snow, a comb for outdoor crickets, and a wooden door, to represent entrances and exits, naturally. Papers rustle, glasses clink, and the world of It’s A Wonderful Life comes alive with a few items.

The child actors are always an added joy to any play, especially a Christmas play, and the ones on stage here are superb. Impressive performances are given all around, with Austin Barber as Young George/Tommy, Jaxon Pickens as Young Harry/Pete, Rianna Stottemyre as Young Mary/Zuzu, and Ruth Daigle as Young Violet/Janie. These young artists exemplify professionalism and produce delight. They’re a perfect troupe of little Bailey children, at times annoying their father and other times bringing absolute glee to both their parents.

Hannah Finnegan serves as Stage Manager. Scenic design by James Hughes and Michael James creates both a radio studio and a sleepy town of Bedford Falls. Lighting design by Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson is beautiful and poignant. Period costumes are artfully designed by Michael James, and the production is directed, as always, brilliantly and thoroughly by Stevenson.

Stevenson and his company continue to create not just memorable pieces of theatre, but shows that are love letters to their audience. It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is heard, seen, and felt as an act of love to all Pollard patrons, those who’ve made the theatre a part of their family’s holiday tradition, and of course, the recently gone but never forgotten Mr. Ong and Mr. Scott, the artists of Pollard Christmases past whose spirits are felt on that stage ever still.

Have the most wonderful time with It’s A Wonderful Life

Published November 13, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

This Christmas season, The Pollard Theatre is offering a new take on a well-known holiday story. It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is based on the timeless 1946 movie, which starred James Stewart and Donna Reed. Joshua McGowen stars as the down and out George Bailey, with Kara Chapman starring alongside him as Mary.

Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson says that he and the company asked themselves, “What new way can we tell the story?” and decided the goal was to fall back into the story-telling. Stevenson realized there was no point in trying to modernize the show since it’s very heavily engrained in the timeframe. Stevenson calls the radio play version “simpler, broken down, and ideal for the show. He says “this format will resonate with modern audiences in its ability to transcend timeframes with its universal message.” Stevenson also remarks on the pre-television experience offered by live radio performances, which relied heavily on voices and sound effects, saying “television created the first visual entertainment experience. Now, we can individualize what we watch and when. Each thing we personalize for our own viewing device separates us a little more from each other. Live radio had families huddled together, listening and experiencing a story together. That value we put on togetherness, particularly during entertainment, just doesn’t exist in our society anymore. It’s gone.”

Stevenson adds, “This art form, not just live theatre, but storytelling, is in danger in today’s plugged-in society. Lots of musicals appeal to audiences by attempting to impress with effects and high-budget flash.” Chapman adds, “You watch it, and you’re into it, because it’s flashing in your face.” That’s never been what The Pollard is about. Their goal is to engage the imagination and bring an aspect of human empathy to their performances. Stevenson says, “The audience knows what it feels. Nothing disengages empathy more than telling someone how to feel. But if they understand the emotion on the stage because they recognize it, that’s when they can empathize.”

Chapman agrees, “The holidays can actually be the loneliest, most depressing time of year. The younger generation is living in this era of ‘13 Reasons Why’ and this glorified image of suicide. It’s A Wonderful Life shows that truthful side of suicide and even depression, and it’s human and real to feel that way. And it shows something that people may not consider; the domino effect of your life.”

Stevenson adds, “Most people with some humility think ‘I’m lucky. My life is wonderful, but, when is the bottom going to fall out? I’m not worth what I thought I would be.’ It can cause some to self-destruct. Everyone around us now seems to have a wonderful life. Thanks to social media and Instagram filtered versions of reality. But, love is your success, and the message of the show is simple. We don’t always know where we’re valued, or if we’re valued at all. And God’s greatest gift is the gift of life he gives us.”

On playing Mary, Chapman says her character is “continuously the one who reels it back in for George. She’s constantly sacrificing for him the way he’s constantly sacrificing for everyone else. She’s really the heroine of the story.”

Chapman continues, “Playing Mary has an iconic sense to it. You don’t want to exactly recreate the movie performance. You have to make it your own. Mary is so patient and sweet. She’s sincere. I look at her, as a modern woman, and see how some could paint her as a cliché. But that’s who she is. Some people just have the ability to love without conditions, and that’s Mary. I’m excited to be a part of something different and to introduce a new audience to this beautiful story. As an actress, I like to see the effect I have on people, and change perspectives. I ask myself, ‘How can I be human? Who is this person?’ I get the chance to do that.”

Discussing his role as George and The Pollard’s new Christmas tradition, McGowen says “The Pollard does a great job at telling stories. And the fact that we get to tell a different kind of Christmas story is the most exciting part for me. It’s A Wonderful Life is a story that never gets old. I’ve always loved the movie, and to be playing George is like a dream come true. I can’t wait to tell his story again.”

When asked how he and his character are similar, and what differences they have, McGowen adds, “George and I are both passionate and determined. But, I already love my life, whereas that’s what George must learn.”

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play also stars James Hughes as Freddie, Timothy Stewart as Harry, and Kris Schinske-Wolfe is Lana Sherwood and Violet. David Fletcher-Hall is Clarence. The child cast includes Ruth Daigle as Young Violet, Rianna Stottlemyre as Young Mary, Austin Barber as Young George, and Jaxon Pickens as Young Harry. Sound effects provided by Foley artist Jared Blount.It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play opens November 23 and runs until the eve of Christmas Eve, December 23rd, in historic downtown Guthrie, 120 W. Harrison Ave, Guthrie OK. Guthrie at Christmas time is simply a must-see that you will want

Lyric Theatre continues a new holiday tradition with A Christmas Carol

Published November 7, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

The holiday season is soon to be upon us! This time of year, we hold onto traditions and make new memories. The timeless Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol is a subtly profound tale that’s been done by everyone from Patrick Stewart to The Muppets. Taking a seat at the table of memorable versions is Lyric Theatre of OKC in its eighth production of the show.

Dirk Lumbard returns for his third year as Scrooge. Charlie Monnot is Bob Cratchit, Thomas E. Cunningham is Jacob Marley/Mr. Fezziwig/Old Joe, Mateja Govich is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Susan Riley is the solicitor. Matthew Alvin Brown is Topper, Lexi Windsor is Belle, Jennifer Teel is Mrs. Fred and Brenda Williams is Mrs. Dilber. The cast includes Andi Dema as Fred/Young Scrooge, Natalya Fisher as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Kizzie Ledbetter as Mrs. Cratchit.

There are two rotating children’s casts. The Holly Cast includes Camille Matlock as Martha, Seth McConnell as Tiny Tim, Braden Henson as Peter, Eleanor Harris as Belinda/School Girl, Serena Feng as Fan/School Girl, Colton Anderson as Turkey Boy/Boy Scrooge and Myles Currin-Moore as School Boy. The Ivy Cast stars Emily Trnka as Martha, Taylor Grigsby as Tiny Tim, Nate Peterson as Peter/Boy Scrooge, Erin Thompson as Belinda/School Girl, Emma I.X. Wells as Fan/School Girl, Zenon Hendrix as Turkey Boy/School Boy, and Ainsley Manners as School Girl.

Choreography is by Ashley Wells, music direction by Brian T. Hamilton, lighting design by Weston Wilkerson, set design by Kimberly Powers, costume design by Jeffrey Meek, sound design by Brad Poarch and props design by Courtney Strong.

Start a new Christmas pastime this year with your family at Lyric’s production of this classic Christmas tale! Lyric Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is presented by Devon Energy and runs November 23 – December 24th at the Lyric Plaza Theatre, 1725 NW 16th St, OKC OK. The Plaza District is a lovely place for an evening at the theatre. For tickets, visit lyrictheatreokc.com or call the box office at 405-524-9312. Don’t be a Scrooge!

OU’s Wartime Drama Dogfight is Beautiful and Heartbreaking

Published November 5, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and Oklahoma University present the musical Dogfight, a beautiful and haunting story of innocence, love, and things lost. Based on the 1991 film of the same name, Dogfight follows a group of young Marines on their last night of freedom before shipping off to serve their country in 1961. The 60s brought the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of a president, and a conflict in an unknown jungle called Vietnam. Looking back with our modern perspective, the world seems more innocent, if not idealistically naïve.

But as anyone who actually lived and died during that time could probably attest, there was certainly cruelty then as there is now. Dogfight is based on a real-life Marine tradition. The young men featured in the show place bets to find the ugliest date they can land, and bring her to a dance the night before they leave. A last hurrah for the men, they dance with their unwitting partners for final scores. The Marine with the highest score, meaning his date is the ugliest, wins the pot and bragging rights among his brothers. With a cry of “Semper Fi”, the men set off to find their dates.

Daryl Tofa is Eddie Birdlace, the leader of a trio of Marines who call themselves the Three Bees. Tofa is gracious under fire, delivering some hurtful words and actions. Still he maintains his potential for kindness. Tofa is bold, and boldness is required in this role. Katja Rivera Yanko is Rose Fenny, a waitress who works for her mother and the victim of Birdlace’s “ugly date” advances. Yanko is reserved but strong, a true testament to the women of the time and to her character. Yanko and Tofa are believable, a hard sell for such an unbelievably cruel storyline. Yanko’s solos are sweet and clear. She takes a turn into deep emotional expression by the end of Act I.  Yanko’s voice is powerful and her talent can’t be held back. Yet she maintains control and composure throughout the show.

Tanner Berry as Boland and Keith Gruber as Bernstein complete the Three Bees trio. Both are impressively arrogant and charming. Berry and Gruber keep up appearances long enough, but eventually both show their vulnerability. They’re facing uncertain futures for unclear reasons, and they’re scared. It’s a harsh truth to remember. The people charged with defending our country are, too often, just kids. Berry and Gruber approach the reality of the Vietnam War with honor, fire, and fear that’s honest and engaging.

Hannah McNew is Marcy, one of the contestants of the ugly date contest, and the only one who’s keen to the secret. McNew is supposed to be ugly, but the obvious flaw in this plan is that she’s far too pretty. Even the fake teeth she uses to help drive up the scores don’t hide her beauty very well. McNew is sly and smart. Convincing as ugly, not so much, but convincing as a wonderful talent she certainly is.

Aaron Stewart as Stevens, Jermarcus Riggins as Gibbs and Gonzalo Aburto de la Fuente complete the company of Marines. Notable ensemble scenes include several on-stage costume changes. Tricky, but well executed, these quick-change scenes serve as potent reminders that there are just regular people underneath the uniforms.

Abby Cramer is Rose’s Mama and Lily Nicholas is one of the dance contestants, Ruth Two Bears. A standout moment of hilarity occurs with Tanner Dillon as the lounge singer. The entire cast is talented beyond their years or experience, and they deliver an important message with compassion and great sensitivity.

The strength of Dogfight remains not in the transformation of a villain into a hero, or the rise and fall of youth and promise. It’s in the subtle reminder that any of us can be the bad guy, or the savior, at any moment in life. To judge anyone by their worst moments, or their best, is to forget their humanity. This talented cast of students, directed by Lyn Cramer, shows the brutally truthful side to a painful time in American history. And they remind us that we’re all just doing the best we can with the circumstances we’re given.

All You Need is Music… and a LOT of Hairspray!

Published October 23, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Hairspray is presented by Sooner Theatre and directed by Jennifer Teel. Music direction is by Mervin Tay. Hairspray is a fun little ditty of a show about the 1960s, black and white television ads, aerosol cans of styling products, and bouncy teenager Tracy Turnblad. Tracy is a devoted fan of the local teen dance television program “The Corny Collins Show”. Tracy and her best friend Penny set out to land a spot dancing in the show, and on the way discover a noble quest.

Phoebe Butts is our heroine Tracy, and she’s ideal for the role. Butts is charming and lively, an energetic force of optimism and youthful hope. Jace Appling is a dreamboat as Link Larkin, Tracy’s beau, if only in her mind. Appling is a wonderful partner to Butts, never outshining her but giving her space to standout. The result is that they shine together.

Eric Key is absolutely marvelous as Mrs. Edna Turnblad, a crowd pleaser and fan favorite. Edna is a stay-at-home laundry maven and supportive mother to Tracy. Key possesses the role with all the grace that a tall, stocky guy in a house dress and curlers possibly can. David Mays is Key’s counterpart, Wilbur, Tracy’s father. The size difference between the two is adorable and fitting. Together Mays and Key are a husband and wife team that’s ready to take on the world hand in hand, or head in bosom. Whatever it takes.

Musicals are only as strong as their supporting roles. In this case, the support is solid. Evie Lawson is Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend. Lawson is nerdy and cute, ready to burst out of her gum bubble. Lawson is precious to watch. Her chemistry with Butts is friendly and comfortable. The two seem easily like good friends and they consistently have each other’s backs.

Danielle Flesher Webb as TV producer Velma and Laura Renfro as her impossibly perfect daughter Amber are thick as thieves and thoroughly malicious. Webb is an impressively powerful vocalist and her solo singing moments are divine. Renfro is every bit the girl you love to hate, and her dance and singing talents make her the one to watch for.

Chanda Graham is Motormouth Maybelle, and the show doesn’t truly come to life until she’s on stage. Graham sets the standard for strong vocals, and she owns every scene she’s in. Graham saves the show when the energy starts to dip midway through.

A standout performance is given by Kamilla Quiambao as Little Inez. Quiambao’s role serves as the voice of reason and truth, and she’s got talent to spare. Quiambao is going places, and the world better step back and watch!

Campbell Walker Fields as Seaweed and Mark Ledbetter as Corny Collins make for great allies to the female leads. Fields has a presence on stage and his buoyancy meshes well with Lawson in their scenes together. Comedic timing is the ace up his sleeve, and he catches the crowd off guard with his shocking turns of barely appropriate humor. Ledbetter may seem a bit villainous at first, but proves himself as one of the good guys as the show goes on.

The numerous dance numbers may partially contribute to the struggle the entire cast seems to have keeping up the energy level. It’s a demanding show, but they fight through together. It should also be noted that the reviewed perfomance is a Sunday matinee, and matinees are hard on everyone. Even reviewers.

The choreography is complex and Mackay Adams does an excellent job coordinating the large ensemble dance routines. Likewise, Teel’s direction of the show is smooth and flowy. The cast is in constant motion, a reminder that you simply can’t stop the beat!