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Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 11:13 AM
— It’s wonderful how dynamic the latest national tour of “An American in Paris” is in its Broadway-caliber regional premiere courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Inspired by the 1951 Academy Award-winning film memorably choreographed by Gene Kelly with songs by George and Ira Gershwin, the show weaves exemplary components of song, dance and technology in its gorgeous blend of musical theater and ballet. Here are five reasons why you should see this entertaining and romantic confection set in 1945 Paris at the end of World War II continuing through Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Schuster Center.
1. A STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND WAR
Following the liberation of France, U.S. Army Lieutenant Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox dancing with skillful finesse) plans to head home, but chooses to stay having been smitten by lovely ballerina Lise Dassin (simply stunning Allison Walsh).
Jerry, an aspiring painter, soon makes friends with fledgling composer Adam Hochberg (a comical yet nuanced Matthew Scott) and wealthy Henri Baurel (fittingly sophisticated Ben Michael), but can’t get Lise off his mind.
Even when he’s devastated to learn Lise is engaged to Henri, he vows to win her heart, desperately hoping for some good to come of his life after experiencing the horrors of war.
“The show is about the characters’ struggle to find life, to find love, to find happiness again after this dark period,” said director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. “The movie was made in the early ‘50s and the war was still very fresh, so Paris was treated in a kind of hyper-unrealistic way.
With the distance of time, there was so much more we could do. We had the freedom to place Paris in a more realistic, historical context, and talk about what the city was like after the Nazis left, and how romance and art and music were balm to the wounds. Paris behaves as a character in the show and we see the city open up and breathe again.”
2. THE TIMELESS MUSIC HITS
George and Ira Gershwin’s timeless hits include such gems as “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “But Not For Me” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
George’s orchestral works, particularly “Concerto in F,” “Second Rhapsody” and “Cuban Overture,” also propel the story to great effect.
“Gershwin is so cool,” said Maddox, former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada who began dancing at the age of 3. “It’s not a challenge to feel cool and sexy at the end of the evening having danced to his music. George was a rock star in his day. When you listen to his music, you really feel that early jazz essence.”
3. TREMENDOUS CHOREOGRAPHY
Wheeldon duly won the Tony Award for Best Choreography and his remarkable routines ranging from tap to jazz are worth the price of admission.
The sheer storytelling flair of dramatic opener “Concerto in F” is notable in addition to the playful restlessness of “Fidgety Feet,” Maddox and Walsh’s expert partnering in “Liza,” the razzle dazzle of “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” (featuring a knockout transition from a small nightclub to the lavish stage of Radio City Music Hall), and the thrilling titular Act 2 ballet (colorfully bathed in red, white, blue, yellow and black).
“In some way Gene Kelly has influenced every male dancer,” Maddox said. “Anytime I’m on stage, I like to feel as if I’m representing Gene Kelly but also Baryshnikov, Nureyev and all the greats that came before me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. But Christopher Wheeldon is brilliant. There was certainly risk involved with this show, but knowing the show itself is pretty much encompassed by the dance, and the dance is really the shining moment of this musical, speaks to Christopher’s fearlessness as an artist.”
4. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN PARIS
The technical, digital landscape of theater design continues to rapidly evolve, specifically enabling projection designers to imaginatively enhance any environment or set pieces. In this instance, 59 Productions completely heightens the look and feel of Paris to astounding degrees. Streets, cafés, boulangeries, the Seine and more vividly appear throughout as if drawn like a painting. It is a marvel. In fact, 59 Productions duly shared the Tony for Best Scenic Design with Bob Crowley, who also designed costumes.
5. THE PEDIGREE
Nominated for 12 Tonys in 2015 including Best Musical, “An American in Paris” was named Outstanding Musical by the Drama League and Outstanding New Musical by the Outer Critics Circle.
The cast album, featuring Muse Machine alumna Jill Paice of Beavercreek as Milo Davenport, received a Grammy nomination.
“There’s so much familiar music in this show, but when you juxtapose that with Christopher’s neo-classical choreography, it makes it a pretty refreshing show,” Maddox said. “This is a show old and young people can enjoy together.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “An American in Paris”
When: Now showing through Sunday, Nov. 12.
Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
Tickets: $25 -$98. Student and military discounts are available. Get tickets online at TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or by phone at 937-228-3630 or 888-228-3630.
NOTE: Saturday matinee performances of Broadway Series presentations are signed and/or audio interpreted. Please let the ticket agent know at least two weeks before the performance if you would like either of these services when you order your tickets at Ticket Center Stage.
Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Happy New Year! Begin 2018 by checking out this slate of shows familiar and new to the area including three symphonic concerts.
Jan. 4-7, Schuster Center
Playground Theatre supplies local premiere of Erica Lipez’s dramedy about a group of friends longing to change the world with a social networking site while tutoring to pay the rent. Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. $15-$20. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.
Jan. 11-14, Victoria Theatre
Muse Machine presents Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s classic 1964 musical comedy about a meddlesome New York matchmaker re-evaluating her life in a joyous and hilarious pursuit of love and happiness. Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.
THE WHO’S TOMMY
Jan. 12-20, Schuster Center
Dare to Defy Production’s takes on the classic 1969 rock opus about an inspirational pinball-playing whiz whose physical limitations do not hinder him from overcoming adversity. Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Jan. 13. $16.50-$25. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.
ONE SUNDAY IN BIRMINGHAM
Jan. 15, Xenia Area Community Theater
Writer/director Joyce A. Barnes tells the dramatic story of 15-year-old Ruby Watson who joined thousands of other young people in the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama. Weaving together historic characters of the time including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bull Connor, this multimedia presentation pinpoints the struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement. Monday at 3 and 7 p.m. Xenia Area Community Theater, 45 E. Second St., Xenia. $9-$10. (937) 372-0516 or www.xeniaact.org.
BEEHIVE: THE ‘60S MUSICAL
Jan. 19-Feb. 4, Dayton Playhouse
This musical revue pays tribute to female singers of the 1960s such as Leslie Gore, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner. Songs include “It’s My Party,” “To Sir With Love,” “Proud Mary,” and “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. $16-$18. (937) 424-8477 or www.daytonplayhouse.com.
STELLA AND LOU
Jan. 19-Feb. 4, Dayton Theatre Guild
In this local premiere by Bruce Graham, a South Philadelphia bar owner and a regular patron ponder a future together beyond mere friendship. Amy Taint and Geoff Burkman play the titular roles. Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. (with the exception of the Jan. 20 performance at 8 p.m.) and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Guild, 430 Wayne Ave. $13-$20. (937) 278-5993 or www.daytontheatreguild.org.
BRAHMS: FIRST AND FOREMOST
Jan. 19 and 20, Schuster Center
Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra spotlights three of the great first symphonies by Johannes Brahms, Joseph Haydn and Leonard Bernstein. The second movement of Bernstein’s biblical-themed work (“Jeremiah”) will feature guest soloist Layna Chiankas who has performed many leading roles with Dayton Opera. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Tickets are $15.45-$64.30. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.
Jan. 26 and 27, Schuster Center
Ohio native Steven Reineke, a graduate of Miami University and music director and conductor of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, guest conducts this Dayton Philharmonic SuperPops concert saluting African-American female jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Broadway powerhouses Montego Glover (Tony nominee for “Memphis”), N’Kenge (“Motown”) and Capathia Jenkins (“Newsies”) serve as guest vocalists. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Tickets are $29-$79. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.
Jan. 28, Dayton Art Institute
Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
— If you’re heading to New York City, it’s no secret that Wright State University’s Theatre Department is well-represented.
In fact, Law Terrell Dunford (Javert in 2014’s “Les Misérables”) is in the ensemble of Broadway’s hit musical “Waitress” and Jon Hacker (Curly in 2013’s “Oklahoma!”) portrays Joey in the newly remounted off-Broadway production of “Jersey Boys.” But across the pond, three alums have particularly taken London’s West End theater scene by storm.
Heather Douglas, the Department’s first Distinguished Alumna, portrayed Velma Kelly in “Chicago,” Bombalurina in “Cats” and Ulla in “The Producers” to name just a few. Her film contributions include “De-Lovely” (starring Kevin Kline) and “The Producers” (she was Uma Thurman’s body double). She credits Suzanne Walker, former WSU dance instructor, for nurturing her artistic gifts.
“The craziest thing in the world is that Suzanne Walker gave me the opportunity to choreograph the 1991 spring musical in my final year at Wright State,” Douglas said. “I never fully understood at the time why she had such faith in me. It was the last show of the year, ‘Gypsy,’ and a big subscriber audience. Boy, did she have some serious insight to know that I would later go on to choreograph in the West End and internationally in opera, cabaret and musical theater.
“I feel truly blessed to have worked with such greats as Tommy Tune, Cy Coleman, Susan Stroman, Mike Ockrent, Frank Wildhorn, Anne Reinking, Gwen Verdon, Gillian Lynne, Mel Brooks, Mitzi Gaynor, Julie Andrews, and my mentor Suzanne Walker.”
Douglas currently choreographs gala events and shows throughout England. Her most recent assignment was a project for P&O/Cunard/Carnival Cruise Lines about Dusty Springfield. She remains grateful for the instruction she received at WSU.
“I could not have imagined any better training than the training I received at Wright State,” she said. “One of the greatest things I talk about to this very day is how my training taught me versatility. All of my tutors stressed the importance of this. I realize how lucky I was to learn different styles within each discipline and not just in the execution of the style, but the history and importance of it in every decade that was being taught.
“Most drama colleges do not have the time or staff to be able to cover such things as well as Wright State. The staff I had throughout my time there was exceptional. I owe so much of who I am as a professional to my tutors. Of course every experience working after college helps you to grow and learn, but Wright State really prepared me for ‘the business we call show.’”
In addition, KJ Hippensteel, a Tom Hanks Scholar seen in 2005’s “Uncle Vanya” and “Ragtime,” stars as Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon.” He also performed on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon” and toured the U.S. in “Wicked.”
“The show has an open-ended run at the Prince of Wales Theatre,” said WSU artistic director W. Stuart McDowell. “When I saw it last year the place was packed to the rafters (and Hippensteel) received a standing ovation.”
Lastly, Grammy-nominated pop star and reality TV judge Nicole Scherzinger, dynamic in 1997’s “Chicago” and 1998’s “Show Boat,” was nominated for the 2015 Laurence Olivier Award (the London equivalent of the Tony Award) for her portrayal of Grizabella in the revival of “Cats.”
“I was blown away by her performance,” McDowell noted. “Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has called her one of the best singers he’s ever heard.”
Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 11:03 AM
— The Dayton Ballet presents the classic story of The Nutcracker every winter, with a cast that includes young dancers from throughout the Dayton area, with music by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
This year’s Nutcracker will run from Dec. 15-23 at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, with tickets ranging from $21-$72. The costumes are phenomenal, the choreography is beautiful, the little kids are adorable and the holiday spirit is strong at this event.
If you plan to make this tradition part of your holiday season ...
WHAT: Dayton Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
WHEN: Ten performances between Dec. 15-23, 2017:
WHERE: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
ABOUT THE BALLET
Dayton Ballet artistic director Karen Russo Burke estimates the iconic holiday ballet is a traditional part of a season repertoire for 99.9 percent of ballet companies. “By the time you’re prepared to dance in a professional company you’ve gone through a lot of ballet schooling and have been training for years,” she explains. “In all that time there’s no way you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to dance in some production of ‘ The Nutcracker.’ Chances are you would have danced it nearly every year.”
Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music combined with fanciful choreography, gorgeous costumes and sparkling stage settings make this special ballet a perfect introduction to the world of dance — for both audiences and dancers. This will be the fifth year for the Dayton Ballet’s current production with choreography by Burke, sets by designer Ray Zupp, and costumes by Lowell Mathwich. The story of little Clara and her adventures in the Land of Sweets comes to the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center Dec. 15-21 and will be accompanied by the full Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Neal Gittleman.
Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 3:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 12:19 PM
— Ralphie Parker’s memorable quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun is back in the spotlight as the Victoria Theatre Association presents the Human Race Theatre Company’s excellent production of “A Christmas Story” through Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Victoria Theatre.
Here are five reasons why you should catch this entertaining showcase, adapted by Philip Grecian based on Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” and the iconic 1983 film of the same name.
IF YOU LOVED THE MOVIE, YOU’LL LOVE THE PLAY
Set in Hohman, Ind., in 1938, the play smoothly balances the endearing sentiments of Shepherd’s book with the kooky situations/images from the film.
But let’s face it – you’ll want to see the play because of what you remember from the film. Thankfully, you won’t be disappointed. The flagpole, the leg lamp, Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie decoder pin, Randy’s oversized winter gear, the legendary Scut Farkus Affair, the tire fiasco, and the department store slide are all here just to name a few.
Director Igor Goldin even ensures you’ll hear a snippet of the infamous rendition of “Deck the Halls” from the Chinese restaurant.
But the play also provides some refreshing moments such as a jungle expedition fantasy, Esther Jane’s big crush on Ralphie, Randy’s inability to control his bladder, and a funny bit of living room stage business between The Old Man (Race resident artist Tim Lile) and Mother (Teri Clark Linden) centered on the leg lamp and a sandwich.
Charming Wright State University alum Greg Mallios truly shines and engagingly connects as Ralph Parker, narrating the proceedings with great warmth and enthusiasm.
Tapping into Shepherd’s extremely colorful vernacular is a huge challenge, but Mallios winningly steps up to the plate. For instance, when Ralph reminisces about his intimidating time with Santa (hilariously voiced by Lile), he spins the line “dazed in the presence of divine celebrity” into comic gold.
Casting is everything when it comes to a character-specific show like this, but an array of talented youngsters absolutely fit the bill.
The principal actors include admirable Eric Pettit (Winthrop in Wright State’s outstanding 2016 production of “The Music Man”) as Ralphie, Alex Glen as Randy, Jason Caldwell as Flick, energetic Noah Rutkowski as Schwartz, a wonderfully imposing Jack Lockwood using his physicality very convincingly as bully Scut Farkus, Danika Márquez as smitten Esther Jane, Reese Hornick as Helen, and ensemble members Emery Kimmins, and JaBreayle Lyle.
Featured opposite the kids, Race resident artist Katie Pees is an absolute hoot as Miss Shields and an overworked Higbee’s elf.
Scenic designer Dick Block, a Dayton native, supplies another terrific set for the Human Race. Block’s revolving, snowglobe-esque design fuels the show’s fluidity as the action goes back and forth between the Parker household, the school, Higbee’s, and more.
His previous Human Race credits include “The Full Monty,” “Avenue Q,” “Gem of the Ocean,” “Lend Me a Tenor,” and “The Tempest.”
Although the Red Ryder BB Gun is of utmost importance, the nostalgic beauty of this show, this heartwarming story, is in its potent reminder of what the Christmas season is all about: family, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.
Tickets: Prices range from $30 to $60. Purchase online at www.TicketCenterStage.com, at the Box Office, or call (937) 228-3630 or 888-228-3630. Group, military and student discounts available. For information: www.victoriatheatre.com