5 reasons to go see ‘Little Mermaid’ if you’re a kid or grown-up

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

“The Little Mermaid” comes to the Schuster Center Aug. 8-13. SUBMITTED PHOTO BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY
“The Little Mermaid” comes to the Schuster Center Aug. 8-13. SUBMITTED PHOTO BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

There’s ample time to venture “under the sea” as the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series offers a special Star Attractions presentation of Pittsburgh CLO and Kansas City Starlight Theatre’s vibrantly entertaining production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” through Sunday, Aug. 13 at the Schuster Center.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale and the 1989 Academy Award-winning animated film, “The Little Mermaid” is a whimsical account of the beautiful mermaid princess Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, who longs to leave her ocean home and join the human world above, ultimately falling in love with handsome Prince Eric. However, a pivotal proposition from wicked sea witch Ursula threatens to destroy Ariel’s happiness.

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Here are five reasons why you should see this family-friendly crowd-pleaser.

Diana Huey as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” SUBMITTED PHOTO BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY(Contributing Writer)

1. A STORY WORTH ADMIRING

As Ariel vows to seek a life of her own in spite of adversity, her journey remains relatable, empowering and universal with a few pointed messages about tolerance in the process. After all, she fittingly reminds King Triton, “You can’t blame all humans for a few wicked ones.” “We are reaching out to a whole new generation of musical theater lovers,” said Eric Kunze who plays Prince Eric. “A good amount of our audience consists of young children who perhaps are seeing their first theatrical experience. Hopefully, we are inspiring them. This is a beautifully written show, especially musically.”

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Eric Kunze portrays Prince Eric in the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series special Star Attractions presentation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (Contributed photo)

2. DEEPER SUBTEXT FOR ADULTS

Kunze points out an intriguing commonality in the world of Disney: many of its main characters come from single-parent homes and desire acceptance. “The underlying themes of the show are geared toward adults,” he explained. “King Triton is raising his daughters alone and is having a difficult time letting Ariel go. But the show also (deals) with characters who are trying to fit in and are feeling out of place in the world. They are trying to find where they belong. But everybody has their own journey, their own special path. And if you do feel out of your skin – embrace it.”

Diana Huey will play Ariel in the Victoria Theatre Association’s upcoming production of “The Little Mermaid.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Staff Writer)

3. WELL-DEFINED PORTRAYALS

Director Glenn Casale, working with a libretto by Doug Wright, ensures the show isn’t merely a carbon copy of the film or full of one-dimensional characterizations. In fact, there is a renewed sense of imaginative discovery and fierce determination within Ariel primarily thanks to Diana Huey’s wonderfully lyric-driven rendition of “Part of Your World.” Jennifer Allen’s witty comedic timing is also a plus as she commands attention as Ursula. “The show is so smartly written so we really don’t have to overplay anything,” Kunze noted. “It’s all in the script. We just have to be honest and tell the story clearly as best we can without being cartoon-like.”

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Jennifer Allen is Ursala in “The Little Mermaid.” CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY(Staff Writer)

4. NEW SONGS BROADEN SCOPE

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s original score includes such favorites as “Kiss the Girl,” “Les Poissons” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” but Menken wrote several new tunes with lyricist Glenn Slater to broaden the story’s scope for the stage. “If Only,” a gorgeous quartet for Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian and King Triton, is a particular Act 2 highlight offering varying perspectives on hope and love as each character faces an emotional crossroads. “When the four threads come together it is a gorgeous moment,” Kunze said. “It’s one of my favorite songs in the show.”

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Paul Rubin is a flight choreographer whose talent helps “The Little Mermaid” cast swim under the sea. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Staff Writer)

5. HIGH-FLYING SPECTACLE

The production marvelously conjures underwater fancifulness with an array of colorfully elaborate sets and costumes, outstanding lighting design stretching beyond the proscenium, and nifty flying sequences choreographed by the legendary Paul Rubin (who has choreographed over 300 productions of “Peter Pan”) specifically for Ariel, King Triton and Ariel’s seagull buddy Scuttle. “This is a full-scale Broadway production with mind-blowing technical aspects,” Kunze said. “There’s definitely some pizzazz.”

WANT TO GO?

What: Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton

When: Through Aug. 13; 8 p.m. through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $25-$108

Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com

These are the holiday shows you shouldn’t miss in December

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            Sinclair Community College s annual production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, an adaptation of Charles M. Schulz s beloved Emmy-winning TV special, is slated Dec. 14-17 in Blair Hall Theatre. (Photo by Patti Celek)
Sinclair Community College s annual production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, an adaptation of Charles M. Schulz s beloved Emmy-winning TV special, is slated Dec. 14-17 in Blair Hall Theatre. (Photo by Patti Celek)

While you’re busy this holiday season making lists and checking them twice, keep these entertaining options in mind.

“The Littlest Angel”

Dec. 1-2, University of Dayton

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company delivers its annual holiday staging of the heartwarming children’s tale by Charles Tazewell. UD’s Boll Theatre in Kennedy Union, 300 College Park, Dayton. Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m. $22.50-$25. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

“Little Women: The Musical”

Dec. 1-9, Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center

Dare to Defy Productions presents 2005 musical adaptation of beloved Civil War-era novel by Louisa May Alcott concerning the four resilient March sisters and their devoted mother. Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., Dec. 2 at 2 and 8 p.m., Dec. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. $16.50-$25. Mathile Theatre of Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

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“Urinetown: The Musical”

Dec. 1-10, Wright State University

Wright State presents kooky 2001 Tony Award-winning musical satire about love, revolution and corporate greed. Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m., Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 3, 9 and 10 at 2 p.m. in the Herbst Theatre of the Creative Arts Center on campus, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn. $5-$12. (937) 775-2500 or visit https://liberal-arts.wright.edu/theatre-dance-and-motion-pictures/box-office.

Sweet Sounds of the Holidays

Dec. 3, Kettering Adventist Church

Bach Society of Dayton presents holiday program saluting well-known composers and traditional songs of various cultures. Kettering Children’s Choir Chorale and Kettering Advent Ringers also participate. 7:30 p.m. Kettering Adventist Church, 3939 Stonebridge Road, Kettering. $15-$20. Children 12 and under are free. www.bachsocietyofdayton.org.

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“A Christmas Story”

Dec. 12-17, Victoria Theatre

Victoria Theatre Association presents Human Race Theatre Company production of Jean Shepherd’s comical 1940s tale about Ralphie Parker’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. There are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. $30-$60. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Dec. 14-17, Sinclair Community College

Charlie and Co. are back as Sinclair remounts its popular staging of Charles M. Schulz’s endearing classic. Thursday at noon, Friday at noon and 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 4 p.m. All seats $8. Blair Hall Theatre, Building 2, 444 W. Third St., Dayton. (937) 512-2808 or sinclair.edu/tickets.

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“The Nutcracker”

Dec. 15-23, Schuster Center

If you enjoyed the Dayton Ballet’s marvelous, encore-worthy “Great Gatsby” (and who didn’t?), the company returns with its annual holiday staple accompanied by the Dayton Philharmonic. Times vary. Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Tickets are $17-$72. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

New Year’s Eve: The Grand Tour

Dec. 31, Schuster Center

Ring in the New Year with the Dayton Philharmonic for a festive evening encompassing classical composers such as Johannes Brahms and Johann Strauss in addition to Golden Age musicals such as “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Kismet.” 8 p.m. Sunday. Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton. Tickets are $19-$74. (937) 228-3630 or www.ticketcenterstage.com.

Magician Adam Trent plans to blow your mind at Schuster show

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

Magician/illusionist Adam Trent performs Dec. 3 at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Magician/illusionist Adam Trent performs Dec. 3 at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Adam Trent, a crowd-pleasing entertainer who specialized in technology illusions as a member of the Broadway and touring companies of global phenomenon “The Illusionists,” brings his signature skills to the Schuster Center Sunday, Dec. 3, courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association.

Influenced when he was younger by David Copperfield, Trent began performing at birthday party shows when he was 9 years old and contributed to larger events by the time he was 13. At 14, he started street performances which he regarded as “the most amazing and brutal training a performer could ever have.” After he had a change of heart about pursuing a degree in finance and entertainment marketing at a Los Angeles college, he found his purpose as a magician.

Determined to shatter stereotypes, he’s focused on reshaping magic for the next generation. His notable TV appearances include “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Today Show.”

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The Colorado native’s solo tour is produced by the same creative team behind “The Illusionists.” The production promises to be an immersive, audience-friendly extravaganza filled with magic, comedy and dance. In advance of his appearance, Trent reflected on the show and what audiences should anticipate.

Q: Is this tour one of the largest you’ve done?

A: This show is on a different scale from the tours I used to do. I used to tour across the country in a rental car with just a briefcase. But this tour, with the exception of “The Illusionists,” is probably the world’s largest touring magic show. It’s allowing me the capability to do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life. I never had the production to facilitate it until now.

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Q: Which aspects of the show are you particularly proud of?

A: I do a lot of hologram projections. I also clone myself and teleport across the stage. This show has a lot of really cool and wacky futuristic illusions in it which are far beyond what I’ve been able to do on my own in the past. With a tour of this size, I tried to figure out what were the most spectacular things I could do. I’ve been able to dream limitless.

Q: What do you feel are the special ingredients that make your show a success?

A: I think it’s the audience involvement as well as the combination of music, comedy and magic. If you like magic, this show is for you. If you don’t like magic, this show is for you. This show is for magic fans and non-magic fans alike. One of the biggest compliments I receive after the show is someone coming up to me and saying how different the show was from what they expected. They feel differently about magic after seeing this show. And I also enjoy taking volunteers from the audience.

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For instance, I’ll put someone’s phone in a blender and receive a lot of varied responses. Things like that make the show fun, unique and special. When I watch magic as an audience member, I never like it when magicians take themselves too seriously as if they’re trying to change the world. Magic shows are supposed to be fun and the whole family should be able to come and enjoy it. A 5-year-old should be laughing just as hard as the 95-year-old next to them.

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Illusionists Present Adam Trent”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Dec. 3; 7 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $35-$55

Tickets: Call (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com

FYI: The performance is slated to run 1 hour and 50 minutes including a 20-minute intermission.

Regional premiere of ‘Christians’ at Dayton Theatre Guild

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            Richard Young (from left), Jill Evans, Steve Strawser, Jackie Anderson, and Thor Sage appear in the Dayton Theatre Guild s regional premiere of The Christians through Dec. 3. CONTRIBUTED
Richard Young (from left), Jill Evans, Steve Strawser, Jackie Anderson, and Thor Sage appear in the Dayton Theatre Guild s regional premiere of The Christians through Dec. 3. CONTRIBUTED

Lucas Hnath’s contemporary drama “The Christians,” a thought-provoking look at faith, spirituality, ministry, doctrine, debate, and growth, continues its regional premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild through Sunday, Dec. 3.

This intriguing and insightful play concerns Pastor Paul, who shocks his congregation by revealing a newfound belief. His epiphany threatens to split the church, particularly his relationship with his associate pastor. How the church copes with Pastor Paul’s stance fuels the play’s engrossing and relevant themes.

“This play offers a really sensitive and moving journey inside one person’s journey to why they believe what they believe, and what happens to communities when beliefs change,” said director Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, a dynamic Lady Utterword in the Guild’s 2015 production of “Heartbreak House.” “What happens in the play is very personal to everyone involved. Relationships are damaged, bonds of trust are broken, love between church family and actual family is deeply challenged. It is a human story and those always make for the most compelling plays to see and experience.”

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Sparrow-Knapp also says the play isn’t political. She found it very respectful to her own experience growing up as a member of an evangelical church in Springfield.

“People of faith who have read the script (mentioned) how it really captures the inner workings and dynamics of large churches and I agree wholeheartedly,” she said. “The staff and congregation are very much families within church communities in every sense of the word. They possess deep love for each other, but they also fight and disagree and have to work through conflicts and change, good times and bad, just like any other family. For those who share the faith professed in ‘The Christians,’ the play is a really deep and poetic look at these relationships.”

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“Who or what is God is a strong underlying theme of the play,” added Richard Young, a retired Catholic priest who portrays Pastor Paul and has performed with numerous troupes over the years, including the Guild and Dayton Playhouse. “People are challenged in Pastor Paul’s church to think beyond the male, kingly, images they were so used to. In a rare moment of mysticism in the play, Pastor Paul says, ‘I want a God who is not as small-minded as I am.’

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“Another strong theme concerns the idea of being faithful to your convictions and still trusting that doing so will not get you condemned. The world may condemn, but the God revealed in Christ does not. What is required for Pastor Paul’s people, struggling to be true to their faith, is a ‘leap of faith.’ It is about letting go of old formulae and old ways of interpreting the stories of our tradition. Can they do that and still think of themselves as Christians?”

The cast also features Jill Evans as Paul’s wife Elizabeth, Thor Sage as associate pastor Joshua, Steve Strawser as church elder Jay, and Jackie Anderson as congregant Jennifer. Julia Hoff will provide musical selections.

“The Christians,” a finalist at the 2014 Humana Festival, opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2015. In 2016, it was chosen as the eighth most-produced new play by American Theatre magazine. Hnath, who grew up in an Assemblies of God church in Orlando, Florida and based some elements of the play on his own experience, received his first Tony Award nomination last season for his brilliant dramedy “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

“God is very much a part of this play, both in Hnath’s words and in the characters he creates,” Sparrow-Knapp reminded. “In the end, it’s really about that for all of us and our understanding of our own spirituality. How do the things we believe deepen our relationship between us and the divine?”

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Christians”

Where: Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton

When: Through Dec. 3; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 5 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.

Cost: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $13 for students

Tickets/more info: Call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.

FYI: The play is performed in 90 minutes without intermission.

DCDC presents ‘Littlest Angel’ at UD

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 12:00 AM


            DCDC s fourth annual holiday presentation of The Littlest Angel, based on the children s book by Charles Tazewell, will be held Dec. 1 and 2 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY AUDREY INGRAM
DCDC s fourth annual holiday presentation of The Littlest Angel, based on the children s book by Charles Tazewell, will be held Dec. 1 and 2 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY AUDREY INGRAM

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company ushers in the holidays with its family-friendly presentation of Charles Tazewell’s beloved 1946 children’s story “The Littlest Angel” Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2, in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton.

This heartwarming and joyful tale of giving and humility concerns a 4-year-old child homesick in heaven who is allowed to return to Earth to retrieve a box he left behind. Meanwhile, God announces Jesus will soon be born in Bethlehem and every angel prepares a gift.

The Littlest Angel decides to give Jesus a small box of personal items, but ultimately questions its worth compared to the other gifts. However, God recognizes the inherent value in his gift nonetheless.

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“I think it’s one of the most beautifully put-together evenings of dance that tells a story,” said DCDC Artistic Director Debbie Blunden-Diggs, who fondly remembers her mother, DCDC founder Jeraldyne Blunden, reading the story to her when she was a young girl. “The music (and) movement vocabulary inspired by words within the story (is) really stunning.”

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“The ideas of tradition and heritage and culture are important,” echoed choreographer and DCDC Associate Artistic Director Crystal Michelle. “To hear feedback from people that something I created has become something people expect to do during the holidays with their loved ones, that ‘The Littlest Angel’ is special in their life, is special to me.”

In related news, DCDC has been invited to perform across numerous cities in Russia and Kazakhstan in May 2018 as cultural ambassadors through the U.S. State Department’s “DanceMotion USA” exchange program.

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“As we are planning for the 50th anniversary celebration of our world-renowned dance company, this particular invitation is a special blessing of renewed spirit as our legacy continues,” said DCDC CEO Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders. “I’m excited for the dancers and for the exposure of our company to this worldwide audience. This kind of tour allows us to connect beautiful art to other cultures as we strive for knowledge and understanding of each other.”

WANT TO GO?

What: “The Littlest Angel”

Where: Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton, 300 College Park, Dayton

When: Dec. 1 and 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $22.50-$25

Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com

FYI: For a sneak peek of “The Littlest Angel” check out #LittlestAngel on DCDC social media accounts: Facebook/Instagram: @daytoncontemporarydancecompany and Twitter: @DCDCLive.