Dayton Playhouse has announced the reopening of the Dayton Playhouse facility and their 2021-22 season – Roaring Into A New Decade.
“Our board and volunteers are thrilled to be back doing what we do best. We can’t wait to welcome our loyal audience members back as we, once again, bring intriguing plays and delightful musicals to life on our beautiful stage.” Matt Lindsay, Dayton Playhouse board chair.
The Dayton Playhouse 2021-22 Season includes:
Written by Christopher Demos-Brown
September 17–26, 2021
Auditions: July 19 & 20
Directed by Tim Rezash
On the night a teenage boy goes missing, his parents end up at the police precinct trying to figure out what happened to their son. Old wounds are reopened concerning race, fear, and their rocky marriage. “American Son is not a subtle play; it barely feels like a play at all. With its unrelentingly high tension on every level — maternal, marital, societal — it’s more like a slice of a nightmare, with few contours despite its surprises.” – New York Times
The Great Gatsby
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald adapted for stage by Simon Levy
November 5-14, 2021
Auditions: September 20 & 21 (tentative)
Directed by Annie Pesch
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s haunting story of the elusive millionaire is a favorite of so many. Watch as this beautiful story is brought to life on stage. The dialogue, costumes and set will capture the audience as Fitzgerald’s story is brought life.
Into The Woods
Book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
January 14 – 30, 2022
Auditions: November 8 & 9 (tentative)
Directed by Tina McPhearson
This intriguing Sondheim musical blends some of the best-known fairytales with gorgeous, sometimes haunting music to create a story that won several Tony awards and captured the audience’s imagination. Watch as Sleeping Beauty, Jack in the Beanstalk, Cinderella and others weave together a musical story you’ll never forget. “Into the Woods is a journey worth taking.” – Chicago Critic
August: Osage County
Written by Tracy Letts
March 4-13, 2022
Auditions: January 17 & 18 (tentative)
Directed by Jamison Meyer
This drama by Tracy Letts, was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It delves into a family tragedy that causes tensions to run high and secrets to leak. The Weston women are forced to examine themselves and their lives whether they want to or not. Welcome to Osage County, Oklahoma in the smothering heat of August. “Fresh and adroitly updated and conditioned to our time and socio-political climate.” – NY Post
Book by Michael Stewart, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
April 29-May 15, 2022
Auditions: March 7 & 8 (tentative)
Directed by Brian Sharp
We roar out our first season of the decade with Jerry Herman’s classic show about Dolly Levi who puts her hand in there and arranges things! This timeless classic features such tunes as “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Ribbons Down My Back,” and of course, “Hello, Dolly!” Don’t miss this fabulous show…the perfect way to end a perfect season.
Season tickets for 2021-22 may be purchased at www.daytonplayhouse.com, or by calling 937-424-8477. Messages may be left at any time and calls will be returned. Season tickets are $80 for adults and $72 for seniors, students and military. Individual show tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students and military.
The Board and volunteers of the Dayton Playhouse look forward to safely welcoming our audiences back into the thoroughly-cleaned theater, following state guidelines.
The Dayton Playhouse is located at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave, Dayton, OH 45414. The Dayton Playhouse is a community theatre providing outstanding theatrical productions to Miami Valley audiences of all ages for more than sixty years. The Playhouse is nationally recognized for FutureFest, an annual festival of new plays, which takes place each July.
Auditions will take place next door to the Playhouse in the Wegerzyn Administrative building. Please follow the signs that will lead you to the audition room. Callbacks if needed will take place on Wednesday evening. If you are or will be cast in another local performance of Jekyll and Hyde please feel free to contact us as an audition from you will not be necessary. A few of our artistic team will be attending those local performances and will consider that your audition. If you fit into the parameters of our vision you can begin rehearsal upon closing of your show. We will only cast principals from outside our auditions if the roles cannot be adequately cast from what is presented to us during our auditions. All sides and songs for callbacks will be posted to this event at a later date.
For your audition please prepare 16-32 bars of a song in the style of the show and character in which you are auditioning. Due to time constraints we will not allow ANY audition to go over the 32 bar limit. All music must have sheet music clearly marked and no acapella or digital tracks will be permitted. The audition form will be available online for you to print and fill out ahead of your audition.
The artistic stars have aligned at the Dayton Playhouse as evidenced in its impressively grounded production of librettist Dale Wasserman, composer Mitch Leigh and lyricist Joe Darion’s 1965 musical Man of La Mancha, astutely directed with clarity and commendable atmospherics by Dawn Roth Smith.
As is typical with any production of La Mancha, set in a dingy dungeon of despair during the Spanish Inquisition, the engaging, inspirational and dark material lives and breathes on the merits of whomever portrays Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote and Aldonza. Thankfully, Tim Rezash and Sarah Viola are firmly at the helm, delivering winning performances layered in deft characterization and vocal assurance. Rezash, instilling noble passion within The Impossible Dream and heartwarming yearning within Dulcinea, wonderfully commands and stimulates the interests of Cervantes’ fellow prisoners, drawing them into the valiant, illusion-driven world of Don Quixote with playful imagination and spirited hope. Viola, an accomplished soprano and a luminous Eliza Doolittle in the Playhouse’s My Fair Lady last season, returns with aplomb, providing gorgeous renditions of It’s All the Same, What Does He Want of Me? and gripping Aldonza.
Elsewhere: Ted Eltzroth offers dopey charm as Cervantes’ faithful sidekick Sancho Panza; William “Kip” Moore supplies fun and flair as the Padre (notably interpreting To Each His Dulcinea with gentle grace); Charles Larkowski is a delightfully gleeful Barber; Brad Bishop, in a refreshing departure, is believably formidable as brutish, violent Pedro; Danny Klingler brings appealing sophistication to the Duke/Carrasco/Knight of Mirrors; lovely sopranos Bryn Corbett (Antonia) and Kate Young (Housekeeper) join Klingler and Moore for a terrifically sung and staged I’m Only Thinking of Him; and Lindsey Cardoza (Maria) and dancer Kiersten Farmer (Moorish Lady) uniquely entertain. The admirable company, attractively costumed by Theresa Kahle, includes Richard Lee Waldeck (Captain), Kevin Rankin (Governore/Innkeeper), John Wysong (Jose/Mirror Guard), Stephen Gogol (Tenorio/Mirror Guard), Jamison Meyer (Paco/Moorish Man), Jamie McQuinn (Juan/Moorish Man), and Michael Plaugher (Anselmo/Mirror Guard).
In addition to Jonathan Sabo’s excellent scenic design and the evocative lighting design of the aforementioned Waldeck, Smith’s first-rate production team includes choreographer Jeffrey M. Payne, sound designer Bob Kovach, properties designer Laura Rea, and music director Sarah Plaugher, leading a fine orchestra.
La Mancha is really staged these days, so I highly recommend taking the time to catch this classic, which has been treated with great respect and reverence at the Playhouse.
Man of La Mancha continues through Feb. 2 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The production is performed in two hours without intermission. Tickets are $18-$20. Call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.
It’s easy to dismiss composer Carol Hall and librettists Larry L. King and Peter Masterson’s hit 1978 musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas as nothing but a cutesy tale of prostitution. But often overshadowed by the sight of alluring women and the sound of mattresses getting an extreme workout is a highly relevant show about empowerment, family, security, sisterhood, and second chances.
In the Dayton Playhouse’s very entertaining production fluidly directed by Brian Sharp, a big-haired, wonderfully grounded Tina McPhearson resoundingly leads the way as the resilient, no-nonsense Miss Mona Stangley, proprietor of the Chicken Ranch in Gilbert, Texas in the late 1970s. With faithful support from her trusty sidekick Jewel (delightfully sassy Pamela Byrd) and good-natured Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (folksy Ted Eltzroth), Miss Mona and her playpen have been able to avoid catastrophic controversy. However, everything unexpectedly crumbles when fiery TV reporter Melvin P. Thorpe (energetic Ron Maurer, far removed from his reserved Tateh in the Playhouse’s Ragtime two years ago) whips the public into a religiously frenzied uproar. Despite Miss Mona’s tuneful opinion that “there’s nothing dirty goin’ on,” Thorpe vows to expose the ranch’s illegal activity, ultimately receiving help from the hopelessly flighty Governor (playful Matt Owens making the most of the silly Sidestep, a highlight of Sandra Hyde’s choreography).
Still, as chaos overwhelms, the heart of the show remains Miss Mona’s gals, an assortment of colorful women from different backgrounds, different homes and different opportunities just trying to get by while feeling protected by their surrogate mother. Kelli Myers (Shy), Adee McFarland (Angel), Shana Fishbein (Eloise), Amber Pfeifer (Taddy Jo), Alicia Walton (Dawn), Shanna Camacho (Durla), Logan Hylinski (Beatrice), Stacey Ward (Ruby Rae), and Sommer McGuire (Linda Lou) are pleasantly unified. Myers, believably evolving from naivete to confidence, and McFarland, beautifully leading the poignant Hard Candy Christmas, are noteworthy in addition to McPhearson’s quietly descriptive account of Miss Mona’s Galveston winter rendezvous late in Act 2.
Elsewhere, Jackie Pfeifer (waitress Doatsey Mae) provides a tenderly reflective Doatsey Mae, Mark Diffenderfer (recently memorable in Dayton Theatre Guild’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) brings understated authenticity to the Narrator, Sean Gunther (Senator Wingwoah), John Jeurgens (Mayor Rufus Poindexter), Malcolm Casey (CJ Scruggs), Marabeth Klejna (Announcer), and Cheryl MacGowan (Miss Wulla Jean) add greatly to the material’s humor, and there’s plenty of rowdy fun bursting within the sexually rambunctious Aggies consisting of John Carrington, Samuel Hamilton, Adonis Lemke, Sean Mayo, Ryan Petrie, Bryan Schuck, and Josh Vance. Hamilton, Schuck, Vance, and strong tenor Lemke are also notable as the Dogettes Quartet.
Sharp’s first-rate artistic team includes scenic designer Red Newman, costumer Teresa Kahle, wig designer Steve Burton, lighting designer Richard Lee Waldeck, sound designer Bob Kovach, and music director Ron Kindell. Violinist John Root is particularly excellent among Kindell’s orchestra during Doatsey Mae.
Surprisingly, considering the subject matter, the Playhouse offers a relatively genteel, sexually tame Whorehouse. By no means does this production ever ascend to questionable levels of gritty, carnal ecstasy in tone or characterizations, clearing allowing for a genuinely fun, worthwhile outing.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas continues through Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Act One: 80 minutes; Act Two: 40 minutes. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students and military. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com. Patrons are advised the show contains adult content, language and situations.
ABBA. Whether you loved the 1970s Swedish pop group for their tunes or fashion, there’s no denying their lasting impact on pop culture and the global landscape of pop music. Mamma Mia!, the 1999 musical blockbuster currently receiving its entertaining local community theater premiere at the Dayton Playhouse under the direction of Richard Lee Waldeck, enjoyably continues the group’s iconic legacy by featuring over 20 popular earworms written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.
At its core, Mamma Mia!, like all jukebox musicals, is primarily about the music, but this isn’t one of those poorly conceived jukebox musicals constantly stalling until the next song arrives due to a weak or scattershot plot. Here, a sweet, relatable, witty, and fun story of connection, female empowerment and friendship arises on a tiny Greek island centered on single mother Donna Sheridan, who delicately balances the upcoming nuptials of her only daughter Sophie with the surprise of being reunited with her three former lovers. As Donna and Sophie attempt to make sense of the past, in addition to Sophie’s desire to discover the identity of her father, both learn important lessons in forgiveness and acceptance.
Despite vocal strain at the performance attended, Playhouse newcomer Denise A. Schnieders is an admirable, believably conflicted Donna, holding firm to her strong ideals of independence while showcasing genuine, heartfelt concern for Sophie’s future, beautifully realized in the poignant ballad Slipping Through My Fingers (greatly heightened by Derek Dunavent’s lovely lighting design). Lillian Robillard, in her Playhouse debut, warmly navigates Sophie’s journey with winning vocals (most significantly The Name of the Game and I Have a Dream) and charming investigatory impulses. As Donna’s friends and former bandmates Rosie and Tanya, Lindsey Cardoza and Amy Askins are a delightful pair of comedic opposites. The nerdy, flirty Cardoza and sassy, sophisticated Askins bring kooky glee to Chiquitita and Dancing Queen while separately and respectively shining in energetic Take a Chance on Me (opposite humorous Brad Bishop as Bill Austin) and Does Your Mother Know (opposite Treonté King as ladies man Pepper).
Pleasant featured performances extend to Naman Clark as Sophie’s fiancée Sky, Ron Mauer (providing a comical, wistful Our Last Summer) as Harry Bright, Ted Elzroth (filling Knowing Me, Knowing You with clear intention) as Sam Carmichael, Ryan Petrie as Eddie, Kailey Yeakley as Lisa, Shana Fishbein as Ali, and Matt Wirtz as Father Alexandrios. Spirited ensemble members include Juangabriel Encarnacion, Casey Dillon, Nate Strawser, Bryan Schuck, Shanna Camacho, Anna Ryan Kolb, Kaylee Maple, Rachael Kindred, and Amber Pfeifer.
Waldeck’s artistic team includes choreographer Kara Castle (the oddly nonchalant Money, Money, Money notably lacks attack but Under Attack is a standout), set designer Red Newman, costumer Theresa Kahle, technical director Bob Kovach, prop mistresses Cathy Finn-Long and Ann Pelsor-Jones, and dialect coaches Fran Pesch and Annie Pesch. Interestingly, Waldeck places the orchestra above the audience in a booth in the rear of the auditorium. As the performance transpired, his decision led me to wonder at times if the orchestra was too loud or whether the cast wasn’t loud enough. Nonetheless, musical director/keyboardist Andrew Hackworth assembles an excellent group of seven musicians, particularly drummer Tyler Ohlemacher who wonderfully drives the beat in Knowing Me, Knowing You.
If you’re in the mood for a good dose of nostalgic escapism, don’t miss Mamma Mia! ABBA, thank you for the music.
Mamma Mia! continues through Sunday, May 19 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Act One: 60 minutes; Act Two: 60 minutes. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students and military. For more information, visit daytonplayhouse.org.
The Board of Directors of The Dayton Playhouse, Inc. (DPI) announced the cancellation of the March 8-17, 2019 production of To Kill a Mockingbird due to circumstances beyond the organization’s control.
DPI did everything correctly to acquire the rights to the Sergel adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird; such rights were secured, and paid for properly, 14 months ago. However, the opening of the new production in New York has changed the business landscape and appears to have rendered DPI’s rights no longer valid.
The Board of Directors in partnership with legal counsel have thoroughly explored avenues to overcome these obstacles and present our production, but under threat of substantial legal action from Rudinplay the decision was made to cancel the production. Rudinplay holds the rights to the new production currently running on Broadway, also inspired by Harper Lee’s 1960 novel. The Board of Directors determined that DPI is not in a position to risk an expensive legal battle that could threaten the corporation’s future viability.
“We are in complete shock,” stated Matt Lindsay, Chair of the DPI Board of Directors. “I and the whole Board of Directors are devastated by this situation. I feel terrible for our artists, on stage and backstage, who poured their hearts into making something beautiful and meaningful, only to have it ended so suddenly.” The cast and crew have been hard at work on the production for weeks.
The Dayton Playhouse box office will be reaching out to purchasers of tickets to offer alternatives including tickets to another show, tax donation or simply a refund. DPI holds itself to a high standard of quality and professionalism. Please do not reach out to the box office – as DPI will be in touch with patrons within the next weeks.
The Board of Directors sincerely hopes this will not tarnish the theatre’s relationship with any of its patrons, who we value deeply. We are disappointed to be unable to present this beautiful play to our audiences. We will work tirelessly to retain their trust and patronage.
Women raising funds by raising eyebrows is the heartwarming thread binding the love, humor, bravery, and sass within Tim Firth’s 2008 British comedy Calendar Girls, pleasantly presented by the Young at Heart Players at the Dayton Playhouse.
Firmly directed by Annie Pesch and expansively adapted from the 2003 film of the same name, Calendar Girls is based on the 1999 true story of a group of Yorkshire women who produced a cheeky nude calendar to raise money for leukemia research under the auspices of the Women’s Institutes. In the play, which is often very funny although there are many sentimental scenes, sensitive Annie (Kerry Simpson in her finest role to date) and outspoken Chris (a vibrantly earthy Becky Howard) spearhead the calendar, a lighthearted tribute to Annie’s late husband John (an endearing Jim Spencer) with proceeds going toward purchasing a new couch for the WI waiting room. Annie and Chris’ friends are initially unsure about shedding their clothes, but ultimately all agree and the calendar becomes an enormous success, bolstering the Yorkshire village of Knapely to international notoriety. Along the way, feelings are bruised and friendships are tested, but positive public reaction to the cause, the sheer power of sisterhood, and the fond remembrance of John’s gentle spirit prevails. In fact, one of the play’s best moments involves numerous letters descending from the sky serving as beautiful reminders of the ladies’ impact and influence.
In addition to expertly staging the poignancy of the aforementioned scene as well as John’s heartbreaking exit, Pesch smoothly guides the playful frenzy of the Act 1 finale, the pivotal photo shoot overseen by Lawrence (a fittingly bashful Michael Plaugher). This delightful moment exemplifies how well Simpson and Howard are connected with and supported by principals Amy Askins (pianist Cora), Gayle Smith (amiable Jessie), Heather Martin (sophisticated Celia), and Fran Pesch (reticent Ruth). The appealing cast, one of the largest assembled by YAH, includes Cheryl Mellen (Marie), Kelli Locker (Brenda Hulse and Elaine), John Spitler (Rod), Jane E. McBride (Lady Cravenshire), and Brian Buttrey (Liam).
Calendar Girls continues through Nov. 25 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Act 1: 63 minutes; Act 2: 50 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors. Tickets may be purchased at the door. For reservations, call (937) 654-0400. For more information, visit youngatheartplayers.com. Patrons are advised the production contains adult language and partial nudity.
The Man Who Killed the Cure
Typically, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta has absolutely nothing to do with the stage, but a notable storyline has brought a refreshing level of depth to the popular franchise.
In the latest episode, NeNe Leakes’ husband Gregg, diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in May, visited his doctor for a checkup, anxiously awaiting the assessment. When told he should begin another round of chemotherapy for precautionary measures, Gregg asked his doctor about alternative treatments, an idea his doctor openly opposed. Weighing his options, he decided against chemotherapy. While watching this emotional exchange, I couldn’t help but think of Luke Yankee’s controversial drama The Man Who Killed the Cure, a thought-provoking tale of family, friendship, betrayal, and hope commendably presented in its Midwestern premiere by the Dayton Theatre Guild under the fluidly character-conscious direction of Jeff Sams (also responsible for efficient scenic design).
Set in Germany and New York in the 1930s and 1940s (sound designer K.L. Storer supplies a superb period soundtrack), Cure is based on the life of Max Gerson, one of the fathers of natural healing terrifically portrayed by J. Gary Thompson. The play examines how all hell broke loose within the medical community when Max discovered an all-natural cure for cancer in the late 1940s. Was Max merely a quack for suggesting treating ailing patients with apples? Some were intrigued by his forward-thinking findings, including prominent radio personalities such as Long John Nebel (an admirable Scott Madden), but the majority sought to bring him down personally and/or professionally, even to the point of poisoning.
One of Max’s conspirators was his former partner Rudy Heller, the titular role, a self-described Judas and Brutus, portrayed by an equally winning David Williamson. Rudy saved Max’s life in Germany during World War II and was pleased to join forces with him as up-and-coming Manhattan doctors, but he chose to separate when Max’s reputation grew problematic despite only one patient dying under his care over a span of 10 years compared to Rudy’s 24. Rudy’s decision also stemmed from being blackmailed by powerful pharmaceutical companies, represented here in the form of Carmichael, portrayed by a charmingly cunning Ryan Shannon (a standout last season in the Guild’s local premiere of Marjorie Prime).
Yankee, providing fascinating projections, aspires to absolute balance in his perspectives, but Rudy just isn’t as interesting or engaging as Max. Rudy is primarily written from a narrative focus, but I wonder how the play would evolve without the narration. Perhaps Yankee believed there could be some redemption in Rudy if he established a relationship with the audience at the outset. Even so, Rudy oddly becomes a nastier and more vindictive curmudgeon along the way, which doesn’t necessarily help his case in the end. At the same rate, I’m left a bit puzzled by meek Max, who seems too clear-cut and is often overshadowed by the flashier presence of Rudy. Did Max ever have serious doubts about his alternative methods? Did he battle any personal demons? In terms of dramatic structure, a more complex, multifaceted look at his life at home and in the midst of medicine would give this play significant bite.
In addition, I find the inclusion of Rudy’s shrewd, sexual mistress Helga (Kristyna Zaharek in a breakthrough performance) forced, especially when situations turn and Helga suddenly falls for Max who has no idea she’s working for and being abused by Rudy. Yankee could also do without his insertion of Hedda Gabler, spotlighting the progression of Rudy and Helga’s relationship and featuring the versatile Melissa Kerr Ertsgaard. By and large, it’s an inconsequential scene unintentionally questioning Cure’s talky nature.
No matter your opinion on the delicate subject of cancer treatment, you’ll be glad to know Yankee understands everyone must ask themselves what is best for the betterment of their body. Cure isn’t as excellent as his Last Lifeboat, a hit for the Guild in 2016, but it celebrates a decent man nonetheless.
The Man Who Killed the Cure continues through Nov. 25 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Act 1: 60 minutes; Act 2: 65 minutes. Tickets are $15. For more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org. Patrons are advised the production contains adult language.
The Dayton Playhouse’s pleasant production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick’s Loewe’s classic 1956 musical My Fair Lady, the organization’s 60th anniversary season opener, ascends to another level thanks to Sarah Viola’s marvelously sung and skillfully interpreted portrayal of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle.
A classically trained, Cincinnati-based soprano and graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Viola vocally dazzles with warmhearted wistfulness in Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?, playful vengeance in Just You Wait, fierce fervor in Show Me, and empowering confidence in Without You. But in one of the most thrilling numbers at the Playhouse in recent memory, she jumps an octave at the conclusion of the signature tune I Could Have Danced All Night. It is a blissfully breathtaking, nearly showstopping moment not even attempted by Julie Andrews (the original Eliza), Marni Nixon (the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film) or Lauren Ambrose (the Tony-nominated Eliza in Lincoln Center’s current, lavish revival). Vocals aside, Viola initially ensures Eliza is conveyed within a tough, scrappy mindset, an honest reflection of her hard-knock life acquiring a few shillings, pounds or pence on the streets of 1913 London. But as Eliza attempts a better life personally and professionally under the strict tutelage of linguistics Professor Henry Higgins (David Shough), she astutely blossoms with elegance, femininity, and self-worth, solidifying the pivotal transformation at the core of this story of socioeconomics, gender wars, family, love, and forgiveness based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion.
The equally praiseworthy Shough creates palpable chemistry with Viola and doesn’t overreach in communicating Higgins’ arrogance and cruelty, a wise choice since the role can be terribly unnerving. After all, a powerful man second-guessing a woman’s potential by calling her heartless, disgusting and a disgrace is tough to digest when viewed in context of today’s #MeToo movement. Nonetheless, Shough’s nuances are great (notice how he says “America” in Why Can’t the English?) and the forceful fury he brings to Higgins’ dismay of Eliza joining forces with his former student Zoltan Karpathy signals a betrayal that would sting forever. Shough also keeps the contemplative poignancy of I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face intact and unhurried in spite of the production’s problematic pacing which has the number arriving well after the three-hour mark.
Furthermore, enjoyable featured roles are offered by Brian Laughlin (a lovingly daft Colonel Pickering), Brad Bishop (a hearty Alfred P. Doolittle), Dodie Lockwood (a delightfully sophisticated Mrs. Higgins), Donna Bostwick (a fittingly dutiful Mrs. Pearce), Jamie McQuinn (a kooky Karpathy), Drew Roby (a believably smitten Freddy Eynsford-Hill), Jackie Pfeifer (Mrs. Eynsford-Hill), Steve Strawser and Karla Enix (Lord and Lady Boxington), Mark Sharp and Jim Spencer (Alfred’s boozy chums Harry and Jamie), Ryan Petrie (a dashing Prince of Transylvania), and Angelé Price-Maddah (making the most of meddlesome Mrs. Hopkins). Ensemble members include CJ Suchyta, Benjamin Jones, Elainah Skaroupka, Shana Fishbein, Stacey Brewer, Amber Pfeifer, Neve Barker, Jamie Pavlofsky, Annie Sayers, Cathy Long, Marabeth Klejna, Jacob Christy, and Samuel Hamilton.
Director Brian Sharp should’ve tightened many scenes and quickened scene changes, but his desire to incorporate shades of the film version will likely please many patrons. I honestly couldn’t help but think of Hepburn when Viola stunningly enters in her white Embassy Ball gown (costumer Theresa Kahle is responsible for the Cecil Beaton-esque recreation). However, he curiously borrows a page from the aforementioned Broadway revival at the show’s conclusion, but fails to establish enough romantic subtext between Eliza and Higgins from the outset to make the climactic moment truly resonate. Considering the fact that the film seems to be one of Sharp’s major influences, Shough simply should’ve slumped in his chair with Viola standing nearby approvingly as the orchestra swells.
In addition to Kahle, who also does a swell job coordinating Ascot in black, gray and white, the artistic team includes choreographer Sandra Hyde (supplying variety from the easygoing breeziness of Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? and With a Little Bit of Luck to the tiptoe synchronization of Ascot Gavotte and the spiritedness of Get Me To The Church on Time), scenic designer Red Newman (notably providing a beautiful backdrop for Mrs. Higgins’ home), lighting designer Richard Lee Waldeck, sound designer Bob Kovach, music director Ron Kindell (leading a fine 16-piece orchestra), vocal director Tim Rezash, property designer Tina McPhearson, and wig designer Marvel Elcessor.
My Fair Lady will always be remembered for its wonderful score defining the Golden Age of Broadway, but perhaps more significantly, it remains a cautionary tale about communication, specifically the importance of treating others with respect. As Eliza overcomes adversity to embrace her future with hope, Viola displays considerable strength and power, attributes vocally exemplified in her glorious final note of I Could Have Danced All Night. In a perfect world, we would look forward to seeing her again as a member of Lincoln Center’s 2019-2020 My Fair Lady national tour, or better yet, in the immediate future, she’d be a stellar addition to the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming concert My Fair Broadway: The Hits of Lerner and Loewe. Nevertheless, let us be grateful she’s at the Dayton Playhouse effortlessly singing songs you’d think were written just for her.
My Fair Lady continues through Sept. 30 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler, Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. At the performance attended, the production ran 3 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 or seniors, students and military. For more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com
Coming to terms with the past in order to embrace a healthier future provides the relatable foundation of Lisa Kron’s fascinating and thought-provoking 2004 autobiographical play Well, terrifically presented by the senior-themed theater troupe Young at Heart Players at the Dayton Playhouse.
This kooky yet engaging play-within-a-play about parent-child relationships, illness and social activism concerns the playful tug-of-war down memory lane between Lisa Kron (Annie Pesch) and her chronically fatigued mother Ann Kron (Barbara Jorgensen). Lisa’s main goal is to decipher, in a universal context, what makes people sick and what makes them well? What lies within the transition from sickness to wellness? Do you lose a sense of self along the way for good or bad? With a therapeutic mindset and incorporating the innate theatricality of metatheatre, which particularly eliminates the fourth wall allowing actors to directly address and involve the audience, Lisa addresses significant moments of her life, particularly her childhood insecurities and her eye-opening stay at an allergy clinic. As these moments transpire, Ann’s progressive creation of the West Side Neighborhood Association in Lansing, Michigan receives major attention. The Association helped bring people from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds together in order to form a stronger community bound by social activities rather than political ties.
Pesch, seamlessly and fluidly co-directing with her mother and YAH founder Fran Pesch, creates a beautifully complex portrayal of the agitated, befuddled and ultimately grateful Lisa. Her skillful command of the script’s colorfully offbeat structure is effortless and impressive. She also importantly establishes a light yet appropriately uptight rapport with her cast and the audience to fully sell the material’s unconventionality, which at times feels like a one-woman show thanks to a distinct time warp-esque sound cue and Richard Lee Waldeck’s sharp lighting.
Pesch also receives outstanding support from YAH veteran Jorgensen, whose motherly warmth and down-to-earth realism absolutely shines especially as Ann keeps the audience firmly in her grasp. Jorgensen weaves in and out of the action with finesse, humorously commenting on Ann’s diuretics or her admiration for figure skating, but her finest and most poignant scene arrives late in the play. She wonderfully delivers Ann’s life-changing monologue centered on her belief that integration was the key to a better world not only for her but her neighbors. The monologue is so impactful and moving I wonder why Kron didn’t expand the play just a little bit more to allow greater investigation into Ann and her Lansing legacy.
In addition, strong ensemble work is offered by Bryana Bentley, Justin Lampkins, Kerry Simpson, and Steve Strawser who take on multiple roles with charm and vibrancy, particularly Bentley and Lampkins who receive the most flavorful material.
Like life itself, Well is funny yet cynical, enlightening yet complicated, intriguing yet messy. Just when you have it figured out it veers down a road you didn’t know existed. If you’re looking for a unique theatrical experience, don’t miss this show.
Well continues through June 10 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 pm Friday and Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. The production is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Cash or check only. Reservations can be made by calling Fran Pesch at (937) 654-0400. For additional information, visit youngatheartplayers.com.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid
There’s a lot of cute charm under the sea as the Dayton Playhouse presents composer Alan Menken, librettist Doug Wright, and lyricists Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater’s 2008 musical adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen and directed by Matthew Smith, The Little Mermaid splashes forth as a decently sweet diversion admirably led by Abby Stoffel as the lovely Ariel, daughter of King Triton (Steven Lakes, looking toned and sounding great). Curious about the human world and longing to leave her ocean home, Ariel falls for handsome prince Eric (strong tenor Garrett Young), but is ultimately lured by treacherous sea witch Ursula (a deliciously evil Angelé Price in one of her finest performances) seeking to usurp Triton’s throne.
Stoffel is pleasant as the main focus (her tender rendition of “Part of Your World” is an early highlight), but the support she receives from Price as well as the entertaining trio of William ‘Kip” Moore (Sebastian), Samantha Creech (Scuttle), and Chavin Medina (Flounder) absolutely bolsters the action, which also features an energetic Brad Bishop as excitable Chef Louis (“Les Poissons”).
Smith’s artistic team includes music director Lorri B. Johnson-Topping (ensuring If Only Quartet is the standout it was written to be), scenic designer Chris “Red” Newman (whose imaginative instincts extend to filling Ariel’s hideaway with an array of eye-catching knickknacks), costumer Janet Powell (supplying colorful contributions although Ariel’s skirt could be more elegantly distinguished), lighting designer Richard Lee Waldeck (utilizing warm ocean-inspired blues and greens), choreographers Kiersten Farmer and JuanGabriel Encarnacion, sound designer J. Gary Thompson, and projection designer Ray Zupp.
Interestingly, this feel-good production feels artistically at war with itself. Some moments reveal the Playhouse overstepping its bounds in terms of what they can do with space while other moments suggest they simply didn’t go far enough. Regardless of cohesive issues, if you loved the movie you’ll love this show.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid continues through May 20 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler, Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 or seniors, students and military. For more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.
Artistic authenticity and personal integrity are key factors fueling Stephen Sachs’ timely and topical 2014 two-hander Bakersfield Mist, which has received a firm local premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild.
Fluidly directed by Doug Lloyd and set in Bakersfield, California, this relatable yet relatively thin dramedy concerns unemployed Maude Gutman (Rachel Oprea), a loud-mouthed loner thrilled to have discovered what may or may not be a Jackson Pollock original. For verification purposes, Maude invites sophisticated Lionel Percy (Charles Larkowski), former director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, to her trailer park. Tension ensues, sparks fly, and feelings are hurt, but the old-fashioned reminder that polar opposites can find common ground ultimately arises.
Performed without intermission, Bakersfield is at its best when Maude and Lionel stop slinging insults and fully embrace the idea of connection. Both have emotionally scarred pasts, particularly Maude, and during these prized instances of vulnerability the play becomes more credible. After all, I question the believability of Lionel choosing to stay long past his welcome, especially when he’s on his way out the door only to be pulled in by Maude’s admiration for Law & Order. Even so, Larkowski particularly and marvelously delivers a passionate monologue professing Lionel’s love of art, and Oprea handles Maude’s investigatory brashness with earthy aplomb. In addition, Maude’s visually kooky world, encompassing beer bottle wind chimes, hamburger salt and pepper shakers, and a random bowling pin, is wonderfully realized by scenic designer Patrick Allyn Hayes with set dressing by Hayes, Deirdre Root, Mark Mickle, and Rick Flynn.
In our current political climate, and depending on your perspective, there’s something truly inspirational or truly unnerving about Maude. She seems to boldly represent those who feel they’ve been left behind, the ignored underdogs longing for what’s owed them. Laugh if you will but as the midterm election approaches, Sachs supplies a surprisingly cautionary tale of America’s great divide.
Bakersfield Mist continues through May 27 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $13 for students. For more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.
The socially tumultuous but musically wondrous 1960s takes center stage as the Dayton Playhouse presents an entertaining and warmly nostalgic production of the off-Broadway musical revue Beehive.
Created in the 1980s by the late Larry Gallagher, Beehive salutes various female pop artists of the decade from girl groups such as the Chiffons, the Shirelles, and the Supremes to distinctive legends such as Janis Joplin, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Adhering to the standard revue blueprint, the songs are the main attraction. There’s no need for a trite, shoe-horned storyline when a bevy of 30 fantastic hits from toe-tapping confections (It’s My Party, My Boyfriend’s Back, One Fine Day, You Can’t Hurry Love) to soulful anthems (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, Abraham, Martin and John) breezily fuel the show’s feel-good momentum.
Director Tina McPhearson (who memorably helmed the Playhouse’s Hairspray) and choreographer Annette Looper (playfully evoking the spirit of American Bandstand and Hullabaloo) seemingly work in tandem to bring lighthearted joy to this fast-moving, audience-friendly outing. McPhearson’s lively and compatible six-member cast, attractively costumed by McPhearson, Kathleen Carroll and Tim Grewe with fabulous wigs by Steve Burton, beautifully blend vocally while enjoying individual opportunities to bask in the spotlight. Tamar Fishbein (Wanda) winningly takes on the role of narrator, gleefully offering commentary on important fashion trends and the significance of certain songs to provide greater context. Playhouse newcomer Kailey Yeakley (Alison) absolutely charms in full debutante mode rendering a lovingly demure and strong version of Where the Boys Are. Madeline Hart (Pattie) also provides a fine Playhouse debut, notably shining with You Don’t Own Me and Son of a Preacher Man. Alicia Walton (Jasmine), a standout earlier this season as Sister Mary Robert in the Playhouse’s Sister Act, returns with a particularly spirited River Deep –Mountain High. Shanna Comacho (Laura) continues her impressive versatility this season with a gently poignant To Sir, With Love (a personal favorite that still sounds as earnest and impactful as the day it was written) and a fully committed, Woodstock-esque embodiment of Somebody to Love, Cry Baby and Me and Bobby McGee. The marvelously expressive Elana Elmore (Gina), trained in opera but skillfully navigating R&B in this instance, delivers a rousing Proud Mary and wonderfully lyric-driven renditions of Chain of Fools and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. She effortlessly interprets Chain of Fools and A Natural Woman with delicate nuances and unique vocal flourishes that make its dual assessments of love, complicated vs. satisfying, arise fresh and new.
The production is also bolstered by Chris “Red” Newman’s variety show-inspired scenic design, John Falkenbach’s expert lighting, Bob Kovach’s terrific sound design, and conductor Ron Kindell’s well-balanced orchestra. Accented by amusing photos and commercials of yesteryear, Beehive is a worthwhile trip down memory lane.
Beehive continues through Sunday, Feb. 4 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The musical is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $16-$18. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.com.