March 2, 2014
Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic story of good vs. evil, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” adapted well to the musical version, Jekyll and Hyde which opened Friday night, Feb. 28 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre in midtown Kansas City, MO with a limited run on weekends from Feb. 28-March 16.
Phantom of the Opera, even though dark and scary in nature turned into a mega-hit on the stage as a musical, so why not Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde” following? The musical version, Jekyll and Hyde did just that, but not with the same Broadway success and now Kansas City audiences can see the show, locally produced by She and Her Productions and directed my co-founder, Tiffany Schweigert.
She & Her Productions launched their version of the Stevenson classic that comes from the conceptual ideas of Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. Schweigert directs Jekyll and Hyde along with musical director, Jim Vinkenberg. The music is by Wildhorn and the lyrics and book for the musical tragedy are by Leslie Bricusse. The score features several known songs and memorable choreography. Choreography, come from the talented mind of Leah Swank Miller.
“I'm just blessed to work with such a talented and hardworking group of people,” Schweigert said. “Moving into a theater on Monday and going up on Friday calls for lots of focus and dedication.”
“Jekyll and Hyde is only going to get better. The actors will continue to grow and build on their characters and relationships on stage,” she said.
Strong acting and characterization set the tone for the current day London concept of the show. By setting the show in current time, period costumes are not needed and do not get in the way of good solid acting performances by the leads, specifically Alex Bigus, Katie Meador, and Kelsie Clark. All three possess very strong vocals and their stage presence stands out from the ensemble cast. Each of the three command the stage when they are speaking and keep the audience focused on them and their characters.
Bigus draws the most attention because he is onstage almost the entire show because he is both incarnations of good and evil as the kindly Dr. Henry Jekyll and the sinister, murderous Edward Hyde. He controls the action of the Jekyll and Hyde, and any weakness in his character would cause a major flaw in the appreciation of the show.
Jekyll’s love interest comes to life via Katie Meador. Her blonde hair, bright soprano voice, small stature and wholesome look make her the perfect ingenue for Jekyll and Hyde . She possesses strong acting skills and is pitch-perfect throughout.
As the “other woman,” Kelsie Clark plays the prostitute with a heart of gold to the max. Her Lucy is strong, vibrant, dark, sexy, alluring, and poignant. She’s bound to a sad life, but allows her vulnerability to show through. Clark plays the part with confidence and gives audiences a reason to stand up and notice her.
Several of the supporting parts also stand out. Those supporting parts come from Chris Gleason, Andy Perkins, Dennis Maddux, Vicki Kerns, and Ray Zarr. Although their parts are not large, they show great acting in movement, dialog delivery, facial expression and stage presence. All deserve recognition of making Jekyll and Hyde a success.
According to Schweigert, the run of Jekyll and Hyde is gaining a lot of support as evidenced by audience reaction, box office receipts, and audience comments. She said she expects the show to grow and tighten by next week, now that the opening night jitters are gone.
Jekyll and Hyde is worth seeing and a great family outing. Unlike so many current shows, the content forJekyll and Hyde is appropriate for all age levels. Even early elementary students will understand and like the show. Jekyll and Hyde is a great story and told in a family-friend context. Although the story revolves around Mr Hyde’s murderous spree, no blood or guts will scare audiences. Jekyll and Hyde comes with the highest recommendations.
Following a world premiere run in Houston, Texas Jekyll and Hyde embarked on a national tour of the United States prior to its Broadway debut in 1997. Jekyll and Hyde opened at the Plymouth Theater on Broadway and ran for more than 1,500 performances, a record long-run for the Plymouth Theater.
On Broadway, Jekyll and Hyde grabbed four Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical - Book by Leslie Bricusse. Best Actor in a Musical, Best Costume Design, and Best Lighting Design, but failed to bring home the coveted award. The musical did fare better with one Theater World Award, and two Drama Desk Awards out of three nominations.
Bricusse rose to fame with several musicals and collaborations. He is often associated with stage star, Anthony Newley. Some of Bricusse’s more famous songs from musicals and movies include: "What Kind of Fool Am I?" "Who Can I Turn To, " "Feeling Good, " "Goldfinger," "A Guide for the Married Man," "You Only Live Twice," "Talk to the Animals," "Candy Man," and "Pure Imagination."
For the Kansas City production by She and Her, the cast is: Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Alex Bigus; Emma Carew, Katie Meador; Lucy Harris, Kelsie Clark; John Utterson, Chris Gleeson; Simon Stride, Andy Perkins; Sir Danvers Carew, Dennis Maddux; Nellie Manageress “The Red Rat”, Vicki Kerns; The Bishop of Basingstoke, Ray Zarr; Lord Savage/Spider, Taylor Bottles; Lady Beaconsfield, Joy Richardson; Sir Archibald Proops, Trenton Bottles; General Lord Glossop. Richard J. Burt. Ensemble includes: Miles Wirth, Ali Watson, Zachery Phillips, Emmy Hadley, Christoph Cording, Legna Cedillo, Shannon Buhler, Rachel Adcock, Katherine Ruprecht, Nicole Santorella, Megan Hill, John Van De Voort.
“My stage manager is amazing. I am really happy to work with my creative team, Nicole Brewer, light designer; Kevin Verhoff, scenic designer; Doug Schroeder; sounds design, Brendan Kerr; props, Amanda Rhodes, accompanist, Debbie Goddard; and, of course, music director Jim Vinkenberg, choreographer Leah Swank-Miller and acting coach Jennifer Coville-Schweigert” Schweigert said.
The creative crew is: director, Tiffany Schweigert; music director, Jim Vinkenberg; stage manager, Nicole Brewer; choreographer, Leah Swank Miller; accompanist, Debbie Goddard; props/ASM, Amanda Rhodes; scenic design, Doug Schroeder; light design, Kevin Verhoff; sound design, Brendan Kerr; costume design, Jennifer Coville-Schweigert; poster design, Jason Smith; program design, and Clinton Schell.
The pit orchestra includes: Shari Kinder, flute; Amy Schwartz, oboe and English horn; Holly Hague, clarinet; Mike Hicks, bass clarinet; Jim Vinkenberg, alto saxophone; Erik Hulse, trumpet; Debbie Goddard, keyboard 1; Pamela Klifer, keyboard 2; Gordon Case, and percussion.
September 14, 2013
Romeo and Juliet, two teens hopelessly in love but separated by a family feud struggle against insurmountable forces to find peace and happiness in the timeless William Shakespeare classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, now playing for a limited engagement at the Just Off Broadway Theater.
Just Off Broadway Theater hosts Shakespeare’s most well loved and performed tragic love story, playing at 8 p.m., Fri-Sat, Mon.; 2 p.m. Sun, Sept. 13-22 , and produced by She&Her Productions.
Most know the story of Romeo and Juliet that William Shakespeare wrote early in his career. The story centers on two young people from rival families that fall helplessly in love. Shakespeare’s story concerns two young, star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.
“It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Today, the title characters are regarded as archetypal young lovers,” Tiffany Schweigert, producer said.
Romeo and Juliet, being in their young teens, should not be played by anyone older than 25, Schweigert said. That being the case she found her perfect couple in the persons of Joseph Bricker, a high school senior, and Katherine Dick, a college student.
Rival families, similar to current rival gangs, begin the play with sword fights, street vulgarities, finger gestures and the tone of immense hatred for the opposite families create the backbone of Romeo and Juliet. Teenage love and passion come to play with the lead characters, portrayed by Bricker and Dick on first meeting. The delivery of lines, coupled with the reaction to each other sets the story in motion. From the beginning, Romeo and Juliet comes to life.
Both Bricker and Dick give strong performances and speak Shakespeare’s lines with authority. They both bring the story of young love and unbridled passion with their performances. It’s easy to forget these are amateur performing the Bard’s work. They capture the notion and emotion of young love.
Another performance, worthy of note, Benvolio, Richard Burt, sets the tone from his first narrative entrance and his delivery and acting stays true to his character throughout the play. His understanding of the words, poetry, and emotion of Shakespeare is very evident.
The comedy in the show comes from two characters, the likeable Mercutio, Garrett Lawson, and Juliet’s nurse, Michelle Stelting. Stelting brings comedy with her doting and sometimes over emotional character. Her actions and vocal delivery elicit smiles and her acting remains consistent throughout the performance. Lawson gives Mercutio a broad and bawdy character with his gyrations, sexually suggestive props, and gestures. He’s funny to watch and his actions help audiences understand the Bard’s comedic inserts in the tragedy.
Two other performers in the cast bring characters with strong stage presence to the production, as Capulet, Dean Kinsey, and as Friar Laurence, Michael Juncker. Both men deliver strong characters that keep the play moving and help build the emotion for the final act. Each possesses definite on stage presence.
This production of Romeo and Juliet should be seen mature students because of the sexual gestures and gyrations may not be appropriate for all ages. The production does expound the bawdy side of Shakespeare, sometimes to excess in this production. Romeo and Juliet traditionally appeared in student anthologies, so many middle school students and high school students know the story, but do not know Shakespeare’s penchant for encouraging sexual content for the amusement of his audiences.
“This classic story of star crossed lovers is, arguably, the most read and performed of all
Rival families, and similar to current rival gangs begin the play with swordfishes, street vulgarities, finger gestures and the tone of immense hatred for the opposite family. Teenage love and passion come to play with the lead characters, portrayed by Bricker and Dick on first meeting. The delivery of lines the reaction to each other sets the story in motion. From the beginning, Romeo and Juliet comes to life.
“The idea that love can persist against all obstacles, but the reason that it still persists is because it asks some tough questions about love, sex, family bonds, revenge and duty. These are all human traits that are explored in Romeo and Juliet and can give all of us cause to think and perhaps apply its lessons to our own lives,” Riggs said.
The director’s concept of the play differs greatly from any cinema version of the story. Any and all glamor are replaced with street scenes, every day, visions. Shakespeare’s audiences were not the noble, but more the common man. As such, Riggs altered the preconceived notion with a more gritty concept. He did play upon Shakespeare’s use of comedy and physical humor, but sometimes in too broad of visuals. The first half is lighter and fun while the second half delves deeply into the sadness and tragedy of the lovers. Overall, his concept is acceptable.
The non-equity cast deserves praise for their dedication of time, memorization, acting, and rehearsal to bring the classic to life. It’s true, Shakespeare should be seen and not just read. Performances bring the story to a fuller life and understanding of the audience.
The cast consists of: House of Montague: Romeo, Joseph Bricker; Montague, Michael Masterson; Lady Montague, Elizabeth Hillman; Benvolio, Richard Burt; Balthasar, Chelsea Rolfes; Abraham, Christian Johanning. House of Capulet: Juliet, Katherine Dick; Capulet, Dean Kinsey; Lady Capulet, Angela Zieber; Nurse, Michelle Stelting; Tybalt, Jake Smith; Sampson, Katie Lee; Gregory, Alex Roschitz; Peter, Matthew Sweeten; Tybalt’s Page, Vincent Polito; Capulet Servant, Rowan Riggs; Capulet Musician, Keely Siefers.House of Escalus: The Queen, Lindsay Roland; Paris, Joseph Carr; Mercutio, Garrett Lawson; Paris’s Page, Vincent Polito. The Town of Verona: Friar Laurence, Michael Juncker; Watchman / Friar John, Bethany Hall; Watchman /Apothecary, Christian Johanning; Citizen, Dvonna Riggs.
Tickets cost $12-$15. The theater, Just Off Broadway Theatre, is located at: 3051 Central
A FEMININE Ending:
May 25, 2013
Inspiration and perspiration go hand in hand when trying to create something new from nothing, and for artists, that’s exactly where genius comes–from the blank slate of their mind and inspiration through the hard work, labor, drafting, editing, polishing, countless revision, and life.
Explore the personal journey of a talented, young, female composer as she struggles to compose the piece of music that she has envisioned throughout her entire life. A Feminine Ending chronicles that struggle and journey. But, life happens along the way. Life interrupts the process. Dreams, visions, plans, learned behavior–all change the course of one’s life. As outsiders gaze in, they see the discarded notes, the lives torn, the precious moments lost.
See what happens when a female composer works to make her mark in a male dominated musical world, and examine how her life mirrors the linguistic teachings of a childhood flame who teaches her about opposites and constants.
Plan now to attend Sarah Treem’s play, A Feminine Ending, produced by She & Her Productions, at the Just Off Broadway theater, and watch the story of multiple levels unfold. See a mother-daughter conflict play out to a justifiable resolution. Watch the inner-conflict of an artist as she finds her life after revisiting her life past.
A Feminine Ending focuses on a young woman reaching a turning point in her life. Should she try to finish her symphony and attempt to become a famous composer or give up her dreams to live with her rising pop star boyfriend? Is it possible to have it all? Her decisions are complicated when she returns to her childhood home to find her parent’s marriage in shambles. Then, matters complicate more when she reunites with her first love.
Taylor St. John, director of A Feminine Ending compiled a talented cast of actors to bring truth and humor to this Kansas City debut of this production. The cast: Ted Collins, Gabe Moyer, Kate O’Neill, Chris Roady, and Shelley Wyche. Local composer, Stephanie Wienecke created original music for the production.
Watch for good performances from this cast but stand back and watch as Wyche and Roady craft characters not often seen on stage. They bring nuances to their characterizations that probably go beyond the vision of the author. Their stage presence, delivery, expression, gestures never stray from the character they develop.
Wyche appears first as the nagging, self -centered mother whose character absolutely changes as the play unfolds. She delivers a bell-ringing performance that sticks with the audience. She gives a performance that leaves the audience looking for her next scene and wondering about her afterward. Watch for this powerhouse performer as she garners more choice rolls. This is but a stepping stone to a performance future.
As the former love interest, Chris Roady comes along as a postal worker with a heart and soul just too good to be true. He explains the motivations that drove him toward achievement. His character shows pain, suffering, and the realization that sometimes the heart’s desire may not be as special as we once thought, and we sometimes locate the wisdom to let go and move on. It’s his character and the explanation of his evolution that hinges the play’s resolution. Only in Roady’s hands does this seem so eloquent and easy. Roady continues to build an impressive resume. Watch for him in future events. He shows depth of character knowledge and performance.
Probably the most distracting parts of A Feminine Ending are small issues of blocking. The set needs a more intimate space for the actions to develop, possible smaller spaces within the bigger space to signify a different locale. It’s hard to envision a small New York apartment as big as the staging suggests or a room so big that characters have to race around it like marbles in a pin-ball machine as they speak to one another and try to utilize the entire stage. Some smaller spacing would make the show more intimate. Sometimes the scripting got in the way of the story with words one reads from books but never actually speaks.
Still with minor issues, A Feminine Ending works. It educates the audience on finer details of music. It shows the creativity as real life interludes cloud the creative process. It demonstrates how the person on the inside gets distracted by outside forces. As for the unfinished symphony in everyone’s head, let it play on until completion.
A Feminine Ending runs May 24, 25, 27, 31, and June 1 at 8pm at the Just Off Broadway Theater, 3051 Central St, Kansas City, MO 64108. Tickets are on sale now: $15 for general admission; $12 for seniors and military, military ID; and, $10 with student ID. To purchase tickets or for more information please visithttp://www.sheandherproductions.com or http://afeminineending.brownpapertickets.com.
April 13, 2013
She and Her Productions scores again with a new musical, Ordinary Days, where a small, intimate cast creates an entertaining musical story with a script mostly sung in the fashion of newer musicals like Rent, Phantom of the Opera, Next to Normal, and more. Gone are the days of the “book” musicals like South Pacific, Sweet Charity, Carousel, and so many more standards.
In this new musical by Adam Gwon, four characters find happiness through daily living and uneventful happenstance. Jason and Claire begin a live-in relationship that continues to evolve, while Warren and Deb meet and discover similar situations in life.
All four characters live in New York City and notice the loneliness and emptiness in his or her life. Nothing is decided. Nothing is complete. Nothing draws them forward. They exist in isolated personal spaces: one life filled with clutter; one life filled with anticipation; one life, seemingly on hold; and one life in limbo while looking for something better. Jason wants commitment while Claire wants to hold on to something from her past. Deb wants bigger and better, yet knows not what she seeks. Warren stands in limbo with no real desire, probably the result of past failures or rejections.
The show runs less than 2 hours complete with intermission and resolution comes, but until the resolution, the audience will not know where the show will turn. Finally, the audience understands Claire’s reluctance and reason behind it. Deb finds her own happiness where she least expects it. To say more would give away the story and spoil the surprises.
Four very talented actors bring the show to life. They are: Steven Ansel James, as Warren; Katie Meador, as Deb; John Cleary, as Jason; and Valerie Dykes, as Claire. All possess beautiful, strong voices that allow them to move effortlessly between speech and vocal lyric. Cleary stands out with his facial features that help develop and identify his character. James seems to have the superior vocal range of the two men. As for the women, both deliver really clear vocal performances with drama and feeling. Dykes has the strongest solo in Act II, while Meador provides the lapses of comedy in Act I. All in all, great performances by four well-skilled actors.
As for the direction, Tiffany Garrison Schweigert proves that less is more. She directed the troupe to a very entertaining and believable conclusion. And give lots of credit to the crews for providing a workable set with only a few props that can function and not hinder the story or the actors as they develop their characters. The lighting is simple and appropriate to the mood of the show, and with only four characters, sound becomes even more important. In this case, the sound crew made all dialog and music very crisp and clear. Music comes in the form of an electric piano skillfully stroked by Vicki Kerns.
Ordinary Days is a small scale musical but very worth a view. The simplicity of story, music, set, props, etc are reminiscent of The Fantasticks, the longest running ever musical.