Rocky Horror is back at The Boom… and I’m so glad!

Published October 21, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Oh, Brad! The Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Boom is an interactive crazy train that’s an absolute blast from start to finish.

This production involves the movie playing over a big screen in The Boom’s intimate theatre space, while a “Shadow Cast” acts out and sings their roles over the movie. It’s an homage to the original midnight showings that made Rocky Horror the masterpiece of interactive experiences that it is today.

Joshua McGowen is alluring and twisted as “sweet transvestite” Dr. Frank N. Furter. McGowen embodies the role with sex appeal and attitude, making his own tweaks while staying true to the original. His makeup is gorgeous and his attitude is sharp. He has the audience enthralled from the second he appears onstage. However frantic this night may be, one thing is for certain. This is McGowen’s world, and we’re all just playing in it.

Paul Stafford as Riff-Raff and Jessica Carabajal as Magenta are hilarious, heinous and hellish fun. Stafford’s quips and vulgar hatred are more engaging than the smug movie version of Riff-Raff. Kara Chapman as poor, helpless Janet and Brett Young, as her even more helpless fiancé Brad, are perfect. It all culminates into a night of well-organized chaos.

There’s no such thing as a fourth wall in this show, and the audience is made to be a part of the performance, however reluctant they may be at first. Eventually everyone catches on, and audience participation is the name of the game. Simply embracing it is the only option to guarantee a good time.

Unsuspecting first-timers find themselves dragged (literally) onto the stage by Riff-Raff and Magenta before the show even begins. The rarely seen on-stage appearance of this reviewer occurs this night, and one thing’s for certain – I’m not a Rocky Horror Virgin anymore!

The Boom is one of the best places for Rocky Horror, despite any tight squeezes. The closeness actually enhances the immediacy of the show and reminds the audience that you’re more than just a spectator. Serious kudos to the wait staff must be given during Rocky Horror. Tight tables and pelvic thrusts can make for spills all over, and they maneuver perfectly during the mayhem.

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure! There’s no need to overanalyze or even think it through. You may not even know what’s going on at times, but that just adds to the fun. Don’t try to find a plot, although there is one. The movie plays in the background and the cast acts as mimics, singing the lyrics and speaking the infamous dialogue over their silver screen counterparts. The audience is encouraged to yell along and insult the characters right back, even referring to Janet as “slut!” every time her name is said. Chapman responds back innocently, “I’m not, I swear!” McGowen prowls through the tables of guests, even offering “haircuts” with his meat carver prop and working people over with his glittered eyes. Stafford trudges through as well, bringing his insults and disgust along with him. Chapman and Young spend the duration of the show running aimlessly through the crowd, trying to escape their inevitable fate.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cinematic novelty that defined the genre of campy midnight movies, toast throwing and fandom. Decades before Harry Potter and the social media sparkle of the teen movie experience, there was Dr. Frank N. Furter and his troupe of Transylvanian freaks. The Boom brings it back to life in all its glory. To miss it is simply to miss the most fun night of your life. The Rocky Horror Picture Show presented by The Boom is sold out for the remainder of the run this year. But do not fear, it will return next year and you must mark your calendars! Frank and his lab await. Don’t dream it, be it!

Lyric’s world premiere musical When We’re Gone is a rock of art

Published September 30, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre’s latest in their New Works Initiative is the rock musical When We’re Gone, a fascinating new production by two up and coming writers. Scotty Arnold wrote the music and Alana Jacoby created the book and lyrics. They combined three interesting elements: Punk, Pop and Plague. When We’re Gone is a punk-pop musical set in 1349 during the horrendous scourge we know as The Black Plague. The music is a surprisingly good fit for the emotional and physical obstacles these medieval characters encounter. The story centers around one member of a rock band, Todd, who is trying to come to terms with the death and destruction surrounding him, as well as figuring out his place in the world. He must choose his path, and he has four choices. Those choices are piety, love, service, or art.

The play begins with the appearance of the original founder of their band John, who is deceased, and he represents death. He is the guide and narrator. Before his death, he was the lead singer of the band, and the band would play in a tavern run by the beautiful wench Rosie. John and Rosie were lovers. After his death, Ashton becomes the lead singer and Todd, our hero, falls in love with Rosie. Ashton represents art and Rosie represents love. The band’s drummer is Colin, and he has left the band to become a doctor for plague victims. He represents service. Todd is also being pressured by his father, William, who wants him to find solace and salvation in God. He represents piety.

Hughes portrays John with skill and a serenity that only someone who has found grace in the afterlife can display. Todd is brilliantly played by John Furey. Furey’s voice is filled with emotion and he wears his heart on his sleeve. As he sings his heart also grieves. William is expressively played by Matthew Alvin Brown, a talent familiar to Lyric audiences. Kat Metcalfe is Rosie, and she compels not just the love and attention of Todd. She enraptures the entire audience as well. Derrick Medrano is lead singer Ashton, and his angst and drive is palpable. Antonio Rodriguez is Colin, who has a singular mission and is trying his best in an impossible situation.

There are a lot of good musicals out there, but not all of them have genuinely good music, that is, music you can sing to, play on repeat in your car, keep on shuffle in your phone, and belt in the shower. Music you can live with. This show is the exception to that. It’s a play, sure, but what it’s made of is rock music, good rock music, that withstands whatever is thrown at it. If the people who faced the plague and its ravages in the 14th century actually had rock music to get them through it, who knows how they might have fared.

In 2016, Baron and Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells first saw an early version of When We’re Gone in New York City. They immediately knew it was the right show for The Lyric, and began work on bringing this new show to Oklahoma City audiences. The Lyric has created what Arnold calls a “dream production” of the show, making it the best version it can be. The technical aspects of the show contribute to that dreamlike quality. Lighting design by Helena Kuukka is brilliant, ethereal and visually stunning. Scenic design by Adam Koch is deliberate and reminiscent of London. Costume design by Jeffrey Meek is always unique and elaborate, and the costumes in this show blend pop-punk themes with the medieval setting perfectly.

The truth of a rock-star is struggle, and the experience of a musician is travel, which is often accompanied by loneliness and a nomadic lifestyle. Todd must face all of these, and even though it’s 1349, it’s a modern platitude. The struggles themselves may be different than today, but the experience is the same. Blending universal truths with specific themes of rock music, set against a backdrop of a plague that wiped out a third of the world’s population, doesn’t sound like it would work. But it does. The story is complicated, takes itself seriously, but is still fun and rocks harder than anyone would expect from musical theatre. When We’re Gone doesn’t fit a mold. It effectively creates its own rules and makes its own way in the rock theatre genre. Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is ambitious and gracious in their contribution and support of new works. When We’re Gone is new, a world premiere that is nearly perfect and it’s a work, no a ROCK of Art.

Spooky, Sexy, Sultry: The Pollard premieres Ghost The Musical

Published September 27, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Storytelling is what The Pollard Theatre does best. Never capitalizing on glitz and spectacle, Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson and his company choose time and time again to focus on the beautiful stories that unfold on their stage. What results is heartfelt performances that inspire and move audiences, minus unnecessary flash or distraction. Located in gorgeous historic Guthrie, The Pollard is a place to experience down to earth, honest and real storytelling. The Pollard is staying true to that core belief with their new production, the Oklahoma premiere of Ghost: The Musical.

Based on the 1990 movie starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, this musical is written by Bruce Joel Rubin, with new music by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. It also includes “Unchained Melody”, a song that has become synonymous with the movie.

Stevenson and Director of Media Jared Blount are co-directing this love story turned tale of loss and grief. Blount says “One of the reasons we feel that the film and its story have endured for nearly 30 years, is because of the beauty and accessibility of the story. It’s this kind of story-telling where the Pollard excels. So, while the original Broadway production seemed to place its emphasis on the visual effects, we think the strength of our production lies in telling the timeless love story all while honoring the supernatural elements. We can’t wait for fans of the film as well as a brand-new audience to fall in love with these characters and their story”.

The Pollard stage is bursting with talent, and this show will see the best of the best. Emily Pace stars as the lovelorn Molly, whose boyfriend Sam, played by Seth Paden, is tragically killed while their love is still new. Pace has recently been seen at The Pollard in Heathers and The Producers. Paden is new to the Pollard stage. Charlie Monnot is Carl Bruner, and De’Vin Lewis is the storefront psychic Oda Mae Brown, who Sam enlists for help in communicating between the living and the dead. The cast also includes Mariah Warren, Tiffany Tuggle, Kara Pharoah, Megan Montgomery, Lance Overdorff, Maurice Quintel, and Dakota Muckelrath. Music direction is by Todd Malicoate and Ellie Valdez choreographs. Hannah Finnegan is stage manager.

Ghost: The Musical has everything that a love story should, and the movie is timeless in American movie culture. This adaption is true to the original saga that made the movie so fascinating and iconic. With new music, familiar scenes, love, drama, tragedy, and comedy throughout, it’s sure to bring a hint of nostalgia and novelty this October. Ghost: The Musical is sexy and sultry, a swoon-worthy musical with a hint of spooky chills and drama. At its core is the all-encompassing theme of love, and it teaches the most important lesson of all. To tell our loved ones how we feel about them and what they mean to us, before it’s too late.

Lyric Theatre stages world premiere musical When We’re Gone

Published September 6, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre of OKC has a history of unique story offerings. Their New Works Initiative has brought the world premieres of Triangle (2014), Bernice Bobs Her Hair (2015) and Mann… And Wife (2016). The tradition continues with their final show of the 2018 season, When We’re Gone. The Lyric is debuting this show, a new rock musical with an old twist. Set in 1349, in the (quite literally) plagued city of London, When We’re Gone features teenaged Todd on his quest to make “great art in a time of great need”. The book and lyrics were written by New York-based Alana Jacoby and Scotty Arnold. Arnold and Jacoby have collaborated with the Lyric, in an eight-year endeavor, to bring this rockin’ musical to life on the Lyric stage.

The mashup of multiple art forms- rock music, a history lesson, and a live stage, along with the novel concept of a brand-new production, must be a complex process. To enlighten me on the experience, I asked one of the show’s stars, Lyric Theatre favorite Matthew Alvin Brown, some questions regarding the upcoming show.

AP: Tell us about your character! Who do you play? How is this character different from other roles you’ve done?

Matthew Alvin Brown: I play William, father of the central character, Todd. William is a godly man who values faith and family above everything else. His wife has died and he feels as if he is about to lose his son to either rock-n-roll or the plague. He tries not to be a hard-ass, but he’s very serious about being right with God. William is somewhat different from the roles I often play. He is mature, responsible and reverent. I don’t always get to play the most reverent or responsible characters, so it’s very nice.

AP: This musical features a unique mix of modern punk-rock music with a 14th century setting. What has been the most challenging aspect of that combination? What has been the most fun?

MAB: I feel like the collision of modern rock and a 14th century setting really works. It frames the issues and the emotions in a way that makes it immediate and accessible. Also, it’s just cool. Spring Awakening did a similar thing. And Hamilton. Even Jesus Christ Superstar. So, I think it’s a natural fit for this kind of story-telling, which is my favorite kind of story-telling, by the way; the intersection of rock and theatre. Everyone plays guitar at some point. It’s the most exciting kind of theatre for me.

AP: When We’re Gone features a main character who seeks to make “great art in a time of great need”. How do you think that will resonate with modern audiences?

MAB: The main character wants to make his mark on the world through his art. It’s his way of contributing something important. That’s something we can all relate to. The play deals with basic human issues: faith, family, the need to make your mark on the world, service to your fellow human. Those things will always be important to us. So, it resonates today, for sure.

AP: What is the most exciting part about being in a world premiere production?

MAB: I really couldn’t pick a favorite aspect of being in a world premiere production. The whole thing is exciting! Working with the writers as you are building a character that didn’t really exist before… Just being part of a vision becoming reality. It’s super cool and pretty rare.

When We’re Gone stars Van Hughes as John, John Furey as the lead character Todd, Derrick Medrano as Ashton, and Antonio Rodriguez as Colin. Matthew Alvin Brown is William, and Kat Metcalfe is Rosie. Hughes, Furey and Metcalfe are making their Lyric Theatre debuts.

According to Lyric’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron, “When We’re Gone mashes up a rock musical with a morality play. Audiences who loved The Who’s Tommy will enjoy this wildly creative new musical that strikes a brilliant balance of modern-day characters with a pop-punk score.”

Baron will direct the production, with scenic design by Adam Koch. The inimitable costume design is by Jeffrey Meek, and lighting design is by Helena Kuukka. Sound design is by Sam Kusnetz, music direction is by James Dobinson, and Laurena Sherrill is stage manager.

Fresh off the heels of their hotter than hot Summer at the Civic series, The Lyric is back at their home in the Plaza district for this final production of the season. Don’t miss this rocking good time, lest you be plagued!

Lyric’s fabulous summer series concludes with Mamma Mia

Published July 16, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

What a whirlwind! Lyric Theatre has given us a wonderful Summer at the Civic series, and this memorable season is closing out with another hit. Mamma Mia! opens July 24th and runs until the 29th. Mamma Mia! is a crowd pleaser that features the legendary music of Abba. Lyric’s production of this fun show is directed and choreographed by Lyn Cramer. Of the show, Cramer says “Mamma Mia! is the ultimate feel-good tale of love conquering all. A celebration of love, laughter, family and friendship, Mamma Mia! is exactly what the world needs right now, an uplifting, fun-filled night at the theatre.”

The third and final show of the season continues a familiar theme- weddings. Sophie, played by Jessica Martens, is on a gorgeous Greek island for her wedding. She wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, but she’s not quite sure who that is! Thanks to some inventive research, she invites three prospective dads, without telling her unsuspecting Mom, Donna (Meredith Inglesby). A revelation, a calamity, and an unexpected reunion is in store, all set to flashy musical numbers that defined the disco era.

The three possible fathers who show up to walk their could-be daughter down the aisle are Harry, played by Gregory DeCandia, Bill, played by Tommy Glenn, and Sam, played by Steve Blanchard. Lyric’s production also stars Renee Anderson as Rosie, Barb Schoenhofer as Tanya, and Ashley Arnold as Lisa. Music direction is by David Andrews Rogers, scenic design is by Kimberly Powers, and costume design is by Jeffrey Meek. Lighting design is by Helena Kuukka and sound design is by Anthony Risi. Julie Meyer is the production stage manager.

Mamma Mia first opened on Broadway in 1999 and was an instant success. Two of the original members of the band ABBA helped develop the theatrical work. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus incorporated some of Abba’s most popular songs into the show. Mamma Mia the movie, released in 2008 and starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, was one of the top films of the year. The movie sequel is set to be released later this month. That makes Lyric’s production of the original show a perfectly timed event to close out the summer. With fun music, a wild story-line, and unforgettable dance numbers, Mamma Mia will entertain and uplift audiences, and serve a dose of nostalgia that’s just perfect for a hot summer night. 

More questions than answers as OSP takes on The Revolutionists

Published July 6, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, presented by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, offers a confusing and odd spin on historical events. It lumps four real women of the French Revolution together in a single room, as if they’ve all been stuck in an elevator, and attempts to find out what they have in common. These women who really lived and died in Paris in 1793 didn’t actually know each other. But if they had, what would they have said? It’s a lofty attempt at humanizing an iconic figure and three of her forgotten contemporaries.

Erin Woods is playwright Olympe de Gouges, a feminist writer who met her demise, like so many revolutionaries did, via the guillotine. Set before her trial and impending execution, the show focuses on de Gouges as she writes a would-be play and includes the queen, an abolitionist, an assassin, and herself in the narrative. She can’t come up with the name, but feels the best she’s got is something called The Revolutionists. Such is the tone for the entire show. It’s partly self-aware, but largely self-righteous and derogatory toward its audience. Who would watch a play called The Revolutionists, de Gouges asks, to the very patrons currently doing so. It sets in motion a question that it doesn’t manage to find its way back to answering.

Woods handles herself well as de Gouges, a disillusioned and misguided artist with murky convictions. Woods has lovely chemistry with the ladies she shares the stage with and works hard to make a dark comedy seem lighthearted, however doomed they all may be. As she writes, stops, and starts again, her characters join the scene, and they know how to make an entrance.

Alexis Ward bursts on stage as Marianne Angelle, a spy from the Caribbean and outspoken abolitionist who lead multitudes. Then comes Madison Hill as famed assassin Charlotte Corday. Saving the best for last, Amanda Lee pops into the scene in a cloud of powder and pink, donning rosy sunglasses and a very French bouffant. Lee is none other than Marie Antoinette, and her presence is queenly and commanding.

Lee creates a ridiculous queen, with all the pomp and snobbery of someone who has no idea just how awful they are. The high-pitched voice she employs is perfectly annoying, making her the most fascinating person in the room. Though insufferable, she’s delightful and fun, innocent to her own role in starting a war. Someone so clueless is hard to hate. Lee makes a relatable queen. We may not all be her, but we all know her, and that’s a feat, especially in the sky-high pink wig and cloud puff dress.

Ward and Hill have their respective stand-out moments, and Woods stays consistently present, but this show belongs to Lee. Something in her favor is that Marie Antoinette is arguably the most well-known character in the show, as many people have likely never heard of the other three. That detail serves another purpose of the play. A revolution is a full circle, and if you end where you’ve begun, what has really changed? If you die for your cause, but nobody remembers you, was your death in vain? Or worse, was your life?

It’s frustrating to see a work that reaches high but fails to extend its aim to something it can actually grasp. As a reviewer, I always appreciate theatre that is made for patrons. Even when it’s trying as hard as The Revolutionists does, I never want to blow smoke up anyone’s period costume. There are obvious problems with the show from a patron’s perspective. That may be despite the best efforts of the four leads, and may be because of them, too. Had they spoken with French accents, it would’ve been a much more convincing setting. Costuming is lacking except for Marie Antoinette’s, but even the glorious costume and top-notch performance of Lee can’t save the whole thing.

Direction by Tyler Woods is good, but some of the more subtle moments are just too subtle and far-reaching. Hill and Ward aren’t as memorable as they probably should be, which is a directing failure.

Lighting design by Carson Decker is superb, with poignant stripes that mimic the French flag, and a red wash for deaths and murder.

The play within a play concept is confusing and exasperating, a notion of theatre that doesn’t bring any value to the stage. Four real people squeezed into a singular, completely implausible story line adds to the confusion, and one of the four characters never offers an explanation for her fate. When and how three of the four women died is detailed in Act II, but one of the characters is left still standing by the end. The red ribbons around the necks of the other three is an artistic touch, but only serves to remind the audience that nobody bothered to explain what happened to the fourth woman.

The Revolutionists sends itself to the guillotine, and leaves the audience to wonder why they showed up to begin with. It leaves more questions than it brought answers. While there are intriguing moments, it’s just not the revelation, or the revolution, it promises to be.

EDIT:

I never wish to give away key plot elements or spoilers, but an important detail has come to my attention. I recently learned that the character Marianne, played by Alexis Ward, is not based on a real person. Ward’s character is based on the ideas of freedom, feminism, and motherhood, and she represents all the women of the French Revolution. This detail was not understood at the time of reviewing. The story is not clear enough to adequately convey this message. It proves another frustrating lack of attention to detail from the director, as well as an oversight on the playwright’s part. Never wanting to add to the confusion, I felt it was important to bring this detail to the forefront.

**UPDATE 5/29/2020** This review got me banned from Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. I leave it posted here as a badge of honor, as it remains the first and only review that has resulted in an indefinite ban from a theatre. While the theatre cannot legally ban me from attending as a paying customer, they can refuse to comp me for my reviews. The feeling is mutual, however, because I do not wish to provide my energy or writing promotion to a director who is going to act like a petty child and ban a reviewer for saying he made directing mistakes. You can see from reading this review that I offer objective and constructive criticism of the piece. I am, essentially, doing my job. In the three years I’ve been professionally reviewing theatre in Oklahoma City, I have never been met with this kind of childish melodrama before or since. Tyler Woods has a well-deserved bad reputation in the theatre community, and I will gladly never review him or type his name again. #RESIST

Lyric Theatre says “Hello, Dolly!” as Next in Summer Series Opens

Published July 3, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Summer is hot, and Summer at the Civic is even hotter! Rolling out three shows in a five-week span, Lyric Theatre is pulling out all the stops for their second show of the series. They’re welcoming back Dee Hoty, 3-time Tony nominee and Lyric Theatre favorite, to star as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Hoty returns to the Lyric after her 2014 performance in A Little Night Music. Hello, Dolly! also stars George Dvorsky as Horace Vandergelder, Bailey Maxwell as Ernestina, Jackson Walker as Ambrose Kemper, Megan Carpenter as Ermengarde, Matthew Alvin Brown as Cornelius Hackl, Gordie Beingessner as Barnaby Tucker, Virginia Newsome as Minnie Fay, Kristy Cates as Irene Molloy, and Vince Leseney as Rudolph.

Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells is directing this fully-orchestrated musical. Wells and choreographer Matthew Sipress both worked alongside the original Dolly, Carol Channing, in a recent Broadway Revival of the show. Of Hoty, Wells says “I can’t wait to see Dee Hoty play the remarkable Dolly Levi… I am excited to get to work with her on a show that holds a special place in my heart. Matthew and I are looking forward to sharing this amazing classic with Oklahoma audiences.”

First seen on the Broadway stage in 1964, Hello, Dolly! has enjoyed four revivals, including a current run starring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. There have also been four West End Productions, a movie, a tour, and a record 10 Tony wins. That’s a resume no other show can touch! It’s the quintessential tale of a widowed Matchmaker named Dolly, and it’s a romp for the ages. Hello, Dolly! is as recognizable as it is iconic, and the musical numbers are classics. The choreography is head-turning, the comedy is side-splitting, and it promises a great time!

Lyric Theatre’s sets and costumes are always noteworthy additions to their spectacular productions. For Hello, Dolly!, set design is by Kimberly Powers and the memorable costumes are by Jeffrey Meek. Music direction is by David Andrews Rogers. Props design will be by Courtney Strong, with lighting design by Helena Kuukka and Julie Meyer as production stage manager.

I spoke with actor Gordie Beingessner via email. Beingessner is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is a recent graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a BFA in Musical Theatre.  Beingessner is in all three productions of Lyric’s Summer at the Civic series this season. Beingessner plays Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly! and took some time out of his busy rehearsal schedule to answer our questions below:

AP: What are you most looking forward to about Hello, Dolly? What do you think audiences will love?

GB: Hello, Dolly! is a hilarious musical theatre classic and I am overjoyed to be a part of the production. I love any opportunity to be a part of a highly comedic show, and to be able to share the stage with Dee Hoty, George Dvorsky and Kristy Cates is so delightful. The show is quite ridiculous, yet at its core it is so incredibly heartfelt and sincere. I think that that is what audiences will love most about it- watching these wonderfully eager and lovely characters go through completely ridiculous situations whilst looking for the adventure of a lifetime.

AP: What do you like about this current role?

GB: I love playing the character of Barnaby Tucker. He is a 17-year-old boy who has had next to no life experience and his journey in the play is full of so many wonderful discoveries. He is constantly at a level 10 stress about how much money he and Cornelius Hackl have left, which having just graduated university, I relate to strongly. What I love most about him is his determination, his loyalty to his friend Cornelius Hackl, and his journey to discover the courage to stand up for himself.

AP: You were in 2 of the 3 summer series shows this season! Great work! What has that experience been like?

GB: I’m actually in all three shows this season! Last week while we were performing Freaky Friday at night, we would rehearse Hello, Dolly! during the day, which was a whirlwind to say the least. If I managed to say my lines, sing my notes, eat food and get sleep every day I would count the day as a success. To say I was tired is the understatement of the century, BUT it is so exciting and inspiring to be a part of such a fast and thrilling process. We put up each show in under two weeks, and we had mostly blocked all of Hello, Dolly! in five days. Crazy town! I love working at Lyric Theatre and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to do so.

Disney’s Freaky Friday is a Hit for Families This Summer at the Civic

Published June 28, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Disney’s Freaky Friday offers a new concept for Disney and the theatre. Directed at older audiences than many of their formulaic stage musicals, Freaky Friday aims its sights at tweens and up. It’s based on the popular novels and movies of the same name. Freaky Friday features a mother-daughter team who switch bodies thanks to some lessons that must be learned and that necessary ingredient- Disney Magic. With only one day before the mother’s wedding, and just before the daughter needs to pass the 11th grade, there’s little time for such a mess.

Cue the antics as Lyric Theatre sets off on its Summer at the Civic Series, a wild three-show ride that starts this week and concludes in late July. Only one of two theatres in the country granted rights to produce Freaky Friday, Lyric is entering new territory and tackling the task with aplomb.

Jennifer Teel and Celeste Rose are the powerhouse duo who lead this dynamite show, and they’re backed by a supporting cast that is equally energetic. Teel plays Katherine, the sharply wound bride to be and Mother who does it all. Rose is her teenaged daughter Ellie and is every bit her opposite. Minutes into Act I, the tides turn as the actresses are now playing each other. Teel is a force, with a commanding singing voice. There are nearly thirty musical numbers in the show, and much of the narrative is provided via song. Teel is effective. She sets the bar high early on.

Celeste Rose begins as a bratty teenager and immediately becomes the one in charge, only as a mom trapped in her daughter’s body possibly could. Rose is poised and controlled, while gradually letting loose as she realizes she’s young all over again. Together, Rose and Teel create a two-woman act that could carry on for hours and nobody would mind. They’re captivating and lovely, the very best Disney and the Lyric have to offer.

An impressive feat is how their mannerisms change. Teel is at first upright and put together, then, as she becomes the daughter, she’s throwing her hair down and slouching in her pantsuit. Likewise, Rose enters the stage as a standoffish young lady with a chip on her shoulder. The moment the switch happens, she becomes her Mother to a point. Her words and actions get crisper and bolder. It’s important to keep the audience from getting confused as to who’s who, and Teel and Rose pull it off perfectly.

Stand-out performances are given by several of the supporting cast members. Noah Waggoner is young Fletcher, Ellie’s little brother and an aspiring puppeteer. Waggoner is the ultimate professional, talented beyond his years and innocent as little Fletcher. Just try not to love him!  Mateja Govich plays Mike, Katherine’s fiancé and stepdad to Ellie and Fletcher. Govich’s support and love for the women in his life who just aren’t being themselves today is legitimizing. Waggoner and Govich complete their perfectly imperfect family.

Sean Watkinson as Adam and Maggie Spicer as Torrey are more than just comic relief. Watkinson is the teenaged dream we all remember, and he sets both Ellie and Katherine’s hearts aflutter. Watkinson proves himself and turns any cynic into a believer by Act II. Spicer is nothing short of hilarious as Katherine’s assistant wedding planner. Trying to keep it all together just isn’t working out for her, and the downward spiral she suffers is ridiculously fun to witness. Madison Hamilton as Savannah, the mean girl you love to hate, delivers another perfect moment for teens and adults alike. Hamilton is effectively Ellie’s “frien-emy” and her unknowing interactions with Katherine in Ellie’s body add another layer of hilarity to the show.

The beauty of Disney is that it must always teach us, touch our hearts, and remind us of small truths we may have forgotten. Freaky Friday is humorous and quick-witted, with complex musical numbers that reach beyond the “kid show” cliché. The Lyric has produced another gorgeous musical, with expert choreography by Amy Reynolds Reed, smart direction by Dawn Drake, and the ever precise costume design of Jeffrey Meek. It’s what every family needs as a reminder to laugh together and reconnect with the ties that bind us.

Ellie and Katherine are running out of time, and so are you! Lyric’s Summer at the Civic Series offers a quick turn-around on shows, and Freaky Friday runs just until July 1st.

Fresh Paint Performance Lab premieres Honey

Published June 18, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Oklahoma Contemporary has teamed up with Fresh Paint Performance Lab to present the latest installment in their “Women in Performance” series. Honey: An Immersive Performance is a new work written, starring, directed and choreographed by female artists.

Immersion Theatre gives the audience a chance to really be in the story. For Honey, doors open five minutes before the show’s official start time, but the performance begins as soon as you walk in. The beautiful waitresses who greet you are also your supporting cast, and they escort you to your personal tables like they would in a VIP section at the sexiest club in town. Promises of being served shortly are purred in your ear, and flirtations and winks are passed as you take your seat. Already, you’re engulfed in a seductive world. Your eyes are directed to the stage down front, and you notice a housekeeper quietly fixing the bed in a nondescript hotel room. It’s painfully ordinary, recognizable for its existence on every highway in America. Then the housekeeper leaves as Melissa enters and starts a pot of coffee.

As her coffee brews, she dresses for her evening of work. It’s immediately apparent what Melissa’s job is. This is a hotel room currently occupied by a sex worker, and now the audience is on her clock. Korri Werner portrays Melissa, though she’s known by her clients as Ivy. Melissa is playing a role. Throughout the night, she must switch back and forth from Ivy to Melissa, so often it’s hard to tell when she’s being herself and when she’s being her persona.

Werner shows us a Melissa/Ivy who is down to earth, empathetic and relatable. She’s just a normal person. She gets bored at work, she complains about her job, and she is living the common American life. However, she’s a prostitute in a hotel room. That remains the only difference between her and any other employee on a business trip. Werner presents a character who could be, and is, any one of us.

Melissa endures the night as she waits for client after client. She’s also visited by a massage therapist, fellow coworkers of her specialty, and several hotel employees who are more than a little suspicious of the activities inside the room. The simple way that each character interacts with Melissa is a commentary all on its own. The masseuse, played by Morgaine Gooding-Silverwood, describes her job and career moves in a way that makes what she does sound nearly identical to Melissa’s profession. This could essentially be considered a way “out” of the treacherous line of work Melissa is in. Several of these would-be opportunities are presented to Melissa throughout the show. Even the housekeeper, expertly portrayed by Julie Watts, provides a similar level of labor-intensive work that isn’t that far off from Melissa’s world. What Melissa does with these presumed opportunities is a revelation at the end of the performance.

While the massage scene is an important one for the overall theme of the show, it is overly long. Receiving a massage is relaxing, but watching someone get a massage can verge on boring. Werner seems preoccupied with her towel staying on, which is understandable considering she’s dressed in next to nothing underneath. The clunky massage table presents an awkward prop to work around, and neither Werner nor Gooding-Silverwood seem very comfortable in this scene.

Similar commentary can be said about the scene with the Video Vigilante, portrayed by David Burkhart. The Vigilante is an unnamed local who takes it upon himself to film prostitutes with johns, to expose them both, and with neither’s consent. Using a real news story, based on a real person, is an extremely bold move for the writers of Honey. It sends a succinct message. The Vigilante’s dialogue is portrayed gorgeously by a female voice. It’s a lovely element, but this is another scene that is too long. It feels longer considering it is carried out in absolute darkness, besides the single light used by the Vigilante’s camera. After some work and tailoring, this scene will become the powerful moment it promises to be.

In today’s social networking climate, hardly anything is left to the imagination. However, the position of sex worker remains one of the few aspects of modern society that is still shrouded in mystery. It’s consistently plagued by bias, judgement and controversy. Honey is a step away from that tired narrative. The characters presented are real, funny, and believable. The choreography by Chelcy Harrell and Kaylene Snarsky is divine. Every movement has a specific message, thanks to brilliant direction by Katherine Wilkinson.

The topic of sex work is not a light or a small conversation, and all the aspects brought up here take more time than a one act show can possibly allow. Honey does have the potential, and the nerve, to convey every important message brought up, with a bit more work. A talkback after the show may be beneficial for the creative team to receive feedback from their audience. It would also give audiences a chance to ask questions and receive clarification, as several of the more subtle points aren’t clear. Fresh Paint Performance Lab specializes in developing works, and this show is a wonderful example of the caliber of work they’re creating.

Lyric’s Summer Series Opens with Disney’s Freaky Friday

Published June 10, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor

Finally, summertime is here! And with it comes Lyric Theatre’s much anticipated summer series at Civic Center Music Hall. First in the lineup is Disney’s Freaky Friday, a fun and hilarious family musical about a mysterious mother-daughter mix-up. Lyric’s Artistic Director Michael Baron directs this regional premiere, and he says “Freaky Friday is a modern, upbeat musical comedy that is truly funny with an awesome, new pop-musical score.”

Freaky Friday stars Jennifer Teel and Celeste Rose as Katherine and Ellie Blake, the duo who switch bodies in an exciting twist of fate. Katherine and Ellie must find a way to switch back where they belong before the Mother’s wedding! And they only have one day to do it!

The cast also includes Noah Waggoner as Fletcher Blake, Mateja Govich as Mike Riley, Sean Watkinson as Adam, Maggie Spicer as Torrey and Madison Hamilton as Savannah.

Based on the original novel by Mary Rodgers, and following two hit Disney movies, Freaky Friday is a great musical for families. The show features original songs written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Kitt is a star in the theatre world and his musical numbers are catchy and energetic. This production is choreographed by Amy Reynolds-Reed. Jan McDaniel serves as musical director, with set design by Katie Sullivan, costume design by Jeffrey Meek and sound design by Anthony Risi. Courtney Strong is props designer, Helena Kuukka serves as lighting designer and Julie Meyer is stage manager.

Freaky Friday is perfect for mothers and daughters who have ever wanted a chance to see the world through the other’s eyes. Likewise, dads and boys will love the lighthearted musical numbers, and relish the antics of the appealing characters. Recommended for “tweens” and up, Freaky Friday is a fun-loving great time for the whole family. According to Baron, “This theatre delight holds up a magical mirror to modern parenthood and gives the whole family reasons to laugh with each other… about each other.”

A contemporary family musical, Lyric is opening their summer series with a sure-fire hit. Parents will enjoy this familiar story, and their children will get to experience a new favorite. The Civic Center is the ideal venue for a summer show, and Lyric Theatre’s Summer at the Civic is highly anticipated every year! Freaky Friday is not to miss! Bring the whole family for a wonderful evening of theatre that is heartwarming and fun!