Show stopper

Sugarcoating is for suckers. And this isn't a candy store.

9 to 5: The Musical impresses TPAC September 24, 2010

The red carpet was rolled out at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) Tuesday night, September 21. Photographers donned professional cameras around their necks. The Channel 2 and 4 correspondents were ready with their 100-watt smiles and black no-nonsense clothing, gripping the microphones and rattling about the upcoming excitement the night would bring. Fans lined the opposite street. Their expectant faces and digital point-and-shoot cameras were at the ready. They heard some country stars would be under the Nashville stars tonight. Dolly Parton. Naomi Judd. Bo Bice. Everyone turned to see the first jet-black stretch limo pull up. Then another and another.

The national tour of “9 to 5: The Musical” premiered at TPAC in Nashville, Tenn. Tuesday night, September 21. The musical was adapted by the 1980’s film “Nine to Five”. Dolly Parton starred in the movie and wrote the music and lyrics for the musical. Patricia Resnick formed the concept of the story and wrote the musical.

“9 to 5: The Musical” is about three women trying to make it in a man’s world. There’s Judy Bernly, a recent divorcee who just can’t seem to get over her divorce; Violet Newstead, a widow raising her 17-year-old son alone; and Doralee Rhodes, a blonde bombshell who has been unfairly classified as the office hussy. Mr. Hart, their heartless boss, runs his office like a sweatshop. He demands perfection and isn’t scared to fire someone for the smallest infraction. The women want revenge against Mr. Hart and eventually get him sent far away from the office. The musical deals with sexism and feminism in the late 70’s amongst the dings of the typewriters and early photocopiers.

Dee Hoty, Violet, was exceptional. She portrayed the widow to be a strong, independent woman. When office sweetheart, Joe, was sweet on her, she held her ground. Under her hard surface, it was evident she desperately wanted to be loved. Hoty was sarcastic and a firecracker as she stomped around stage, commanding attention and respect even though her title still read “secretary”.

Mamie Parris, Judy, was sweet, quirky and funny. She comes off as skittish and uncertain of herself. As the days progress, she comes to find her value is priceless. When her ex-husband tries to win her back, she fights the urges with her freedom song “Get Out and Stay Out”.

Dianna DeGarmo, runner-up of American Idol Season 6, played Parton’s role as Doralee. She acted just like Parton: from the big hair, the strut and the booming voice. Her performance of “Backwoods Barbie” was heart-warming. She comes off as a blonde bimbo but deep down she has a heart of gold and a good head on her shoulders.

Dolly Parton could definitely be seen in all her songs. There are songs about the hard-working man and the even-harder-working woman; songs about appreciating a woman’s brains than objectifying her body; songs of independence and freedom. The songs are foot-tapping and fun, catchy and strong. They are definitely memorable.

The final curtain closed as the audience whooped and hollered, giving a standing ovation. The night wouldn’t be complete, though, without Dolly Parton coming on stage and graciously thanking the audience for a wonderful evening.

If you’re a theater-geek-college student and want to attend TPAC’s shows, you’re in luck. Students can get $15 to $25 tickets for any show at TPAC. “9 to 5: The Musical” runs until September 26. Don’t miss your chance to clock-in and see this hilarious show.

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Colorful “Butterfly” Captivates in Troutt’s Black Box April 17, 2010

A small space makes for a small play. Right?

Definitely wrong.

Well, at least not when it comes to the Troutt’s Black Box Theater. Though, the theater is considered small, the set designers know how to work the space.

So was the case for “The Butterfly” an Iranian children’s play written by Bijan Mofid. The story was simple enough. A butterfly, helplessly caught in a spider’s web in a barn, makes a deal with the black creature she will find another suitable meal for him. But along the way, as she meets the Grasshopper, Auntie Beetle and her five little ones, the Fly, Lightning Bug and Honey Bee, she realizes she can’t force them to succumb to the fate she so easily escaped. She returns to the Spider who surprises her by setting her free once again, allowing her to return to the sunlight. There is a twist to the story which leaves the audience on the edge of their seats until the stage fades to black.

Though the story was simple, the set was not. In one corner, boxes haphazardly were placed with strips of cloth hanging from the ceiling. In another corner a tall rectangular construction with the sign “Termites Grasshopper’s Carpentry”. In yet another, a foreboding roped spider web, where the play begins and ends, a full circle. In the last corner, a hovel of a home where the beetles reside.

“Someone’s going to come out of the hobbit door,” Ashley Lehenbauer, an audience member said.

The set contributed greatly to the play. Although, Nathan Lee, Spider, did get a little hung up on the ropes a few times. He pulled through and gave a wickedly exciting performance with his hollowed voice. Though, his dance was a little awkward.

Kristin McCalley, Butterfly, was just okay. It seems with every play she over acts. She emphatically says each word to where it’s unnatural. Actors must be understood, we get it. However, let’s get some natural voice variation, shall we?

Luke Hatmaker, Grasshopper, was great. He was dramatic, but not too much, and fun to watch.

I didn’t know beetles could have Russian accents. Apparently, they do according to Joanna Rolan who played Auntie Beetle. Though the accent threw me off a bit, she held her own and was consistent with the pronunciation, making sure the accent gave each word some spice.

The beetles were fun. They were full of energy and really committed to their parts which was refreshing.

The Lightning Bug, played by Matthew Rosenbaum, was reminiscent of someone who took a hit of a bong way too often. He sounded stoned!…but in a good way. Rosenbaum made the Lightning Bug more interesting. A peculiar profession calls for a peculiar personality.

Ben Stonick was sweet as honey as the Bee. He was cute, portraying the pathetic life of a trapped bee beautifully.

John Pickard Creek played the flamboyant Fly. Even though his costume sparkled, his acting ability outshined all the razzle dazzle.

“The Butterfly” was one of the better plays performed at Belmont. Though it was meant as a children’s play, the audience was entertained. The costumes were practical but still interesting to keep the audience engaged. The actors did a great job and the set was truly something to “ooh” and “ahh” about. If you have time, catch a performance of “The Butterfly” before it flutters away.

Performances run through April 25th with tickets $8 for non-Belmont students, faculty/staff $4 and free for Belmont students.

 

Mixed Bill VI: Once More, With Feeling! April 11, 2010

Jazz, tap, ballet, modern.

The Troutt Theater exploded in a riveting display of coloring lights and graceful individuals. Some were theatrical, others were strongly soft, making sure every movement was shown with poise.

The dance department at Belmont hosts a mixed bill every year. It’s a chance to display the talent and show just how great the dancers are. And how great they were!

As the house lights dimmed, the show started with a slinky, modern/jazz/ballet performance entitled “Little Bit of History”. Pirouettes and hip rolling were popular. The dancers wore sparkly black and white costumes. The audience went wild and settled into their seats for a great show.

Every dance, whether it was fabulous or just so so, was perfectly executed. There were some favorites that need to take a bow for its exceptional choreography and performance.

“Little Bit of History” was one of the favorites. After the lights dimmed to black, there was a feeling the mixed bill was going to be one to remember.

“Look Ma, No Hands!”, “Back to the Boondocks”, “Unrest”, “Church” and “Dream Boogie” were no doubt resonating in the minds of the audience.

“Look Ma, No Hands!” opened with the curtain only showing the feet of the dancers and their whimsical knee-high socks. It was adorably creative. The audience was very amused. Audience members commented on how they loved the concept. Simply brilliant.

Dancers were clad in plaid for “Back to the Boondocks”, a tap number. Little Big Town “Boondocks” set the mood for a good time. It floated to the rafters, getting onlookers swaying in their seats. The number fit Nashville perfectly. The dance was a great tribute to South.

“Unrest” was a bit of a turn after the first intermission. It was a very modern dance; you could see the energy pulsating from the tendons all the way to the fingertips of the dancers. Strong movements made for a strong performance. Bravo!

The company came together for the performance of “Church”. This was another favorite among the audience. Laughter sparked as the audience was captivated and engaged. “Church” was the equivalent of a Southern Baptist Church. The preaching gets too long and church members get restless. People need spiritual as well as nutritional food. Gotta eat! Claire Warner, the reverend, was exceptionally comical.

The finale was the best part of the show. “Dream Boogie” featured every dance from “the Juba” to the “Jitterbug, “Doowop” to “Disco”, the “Hustle” to “Hip Hop”. Whoops and cheers exploded in the theater. Words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech were featured on a projection screen.

We cannot turn back.

Whether it be societal acts or dance’s evolution, we cannot turn back.

Overall, Mixed Bill VI was a huge success. If you get a chance to catch a performance, please do! You certainly will not be disappointed. I’ll bet ya you’ll be dancing in your seats and out of the theater.

 

Grease Lights the Stage March 28, 2010

Grease is the word. It’s got groove. It’s got meaning.

The audience was groovin’ with the musical theatre program as the cast flawlessly performed Grease in the Troutt Theatre at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. It started out very intimate. Sandy Dumbrowski, Elizabeth Smith, and Danny Zuko, Deonte’ Warren stood on opposite ends of the stage with their beautiful duet of “Sandy”. Flared, long skirts and popped leather collars flooded the stage and carried the audience through this adorable 50s love story.

We all know the deal. Sandy and Danny meet over the summer and then coincidentally meet at Rydell High School. Reputations and social circles keep the two apart until they realize they need to change for each other. The early 1970s  Broadway musical, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, deals with love, sex and rock n roll in 1959.

Kenickie, Michael Rosenbaum, and the T-Birds entertained with their testosterone-filled rendition of “Greased Lightnin'” while the musical took a melancholic turn with “Hopelessly Devoted to You” performed by Sandy.

The entire cast did fabulously and everyone was on point. While everyone was a star, there were a few lightbulbs in the box that shined brighter than the others. My favorite of the night were Betty Rizzo, Lindsey Schroeder and Kenickie, Matthew Rosenbaum. Schroeder played it cool, strutting her stuff as if she owned the place (which she did!). She belted “There are Worse Things I Could Do” and looked fabulous. Rosenbaum is always great, truly transforming himself and embracing any character he’s given. I was eager to see how he would do as a greaser and he definitely impressed. He was light on his feet, powerful with his voice, and smooth in his mannerisms.

Special recognition does have to be given to Sonny, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Doody, Ben Laxton, and Patty Simcox, Maggie McDowell. While these parts were semi-minor, Waterbury-Tieman evoked the best greaser, from his flawless strut to always fixing his coif. He was a greaser through and through and was so fun to see.  Laxton was the goof. “Those Magic Changes” showed off his heart-fluttering vocals. McDowell played the valley girl cheerleader, Patty Simcox, hilariously well. She was a mixture of fun and funny with just a dash of annoying. Perfection.

While the actors played their parts well, casting was a little off. Rizzo had long hair instead of the short tight-curled do we all know and love. Frenchie was extremely watered down. Her hair was in a tight up do. No pink? No flare? Come on! Jan’s hair was fine but should’ve been a few shades darker. And, hello, why not get a curvy girl to play Jan? I couldn’t really recognize who Jan was because she was too thin! Deonte’ Warren, Danny, was really great in the first act. I don’t know what happened between then and intermission but he took on a whole new level of corny. He was too teeny-bopper. Danny Zuko is supposed to be cool and Warren portrayed him as a corny push-over. Sandy, Elizabeth Smith, wasn’t quite right. She had no life to her face, especially during “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. Sure, the lyrics were sad but that’s about it. She definitely could’ve played up the desperation a whole lot more. Smith is a great singer. It would’ve been nice if she let go and truly got into the part. She redeemed herself in “You’re the One That I Want”.

The set was way too simple and a little disappointing. It seemed as thought the musical theater program was short in funding. If the play was in Massey Performing Arts Center, Grease would’ve blew the other plays of the year out of the water. The set is the muscle of the play. The parts seemed thrown together and kind of cheap.

Overall, Grease was something new and the actors did their job. They provided a lovely form of entertainment and made sure they perfected every step, every line before performing. Too bad the stage wasn’t up to par with the actors. If it was, Grease would’ve been one of the musicals written down in Belmont history as one of the greatest musicals ever done. Instead, Urinetown will always outshine Grease when one recollects the plays of the Belmont school year 2009-2010.

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead falls flat January 20, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 1:49 am
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I went to see the infamous play by Tom Stoppard with a few of my friends on Saturday, January 16. After the lights dimmed, I sat in my chair and wondered what just happened. My wonderments weren’t because the play was so fantastically mind-blowing, but that it was confusingly mind-blowing.

The play itself is a great concept. The story of Hamlet is told by two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Hamlet. They’re sent on a mission from Hamlet’s uncle king to find out what is troubling him. In the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are faced with taking Hamlet to England with a letter from his uncle ordering his death. Hamlet switches letters whilst the two are asleep, making his escape from the boat, and the king of England hangs the two.

I will give Belmont’s theatre group credit for attempting to sink their teeth into this difficult play. However, the point of sinking your teeth into something is being able to pull your teeth out, chew, and digest it. The group got their teeth stuck. The quick banter was too quick, especially when talking about probability and philosophical ideas. Am I saying they should’ve watered the play down? By no means, NO! I wish they would’ve conveyed what they spent their precious time memorizing a little clearer. The fast-talking Dan Hackman, Guildenstern, left me scratching my head. If he wasn’t blabbering about an abstract idea, he was pacing back and forth, making my head spin. I don’t even think he understood exactly what he was saying (in the context of philosophical and mathematical ideas). Hackman usually gives a great performance. He’s cool. He’s suave. But this performance just made him seem tired, as if he wanted to say what he had to say, do what he had to do and then get the heck out of there!

Ben Stonick, Rosencrantz, did better than Hackman. He was the comedian and kept my attention. Without him, I don’t think the play would be as okay as it was. Zach McCann was energetic as well as he played the player. He bounced and slinked around the stage in a wonderful fashion. When he entered, he was a breath of fresh air and only then did the play become somewhat interesting.

The players were too stiff. They overacted their minor parts walking a thin line bordering mediocrity and downright annoyance. I breathed a sigh of relief when they exited the stage. The play was better when they weren’t in the spotlight. 

Props do have to be given to Michael Rosenbaum as Hamlet. He was dark, mysterious and a joy to see. Even though he didn’t have very many lines, he took his role seriously. His eyes burned with passion and insanity. It was sensational, addicting; his performance was spot on. Rosenbaum has a true gift no matter what character he plays.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is a great play. I just don’t think Belmont’s students digested it as well as they could have. Some students walked out of the theater and expressed they enjoyed it but were confused most of the time. A good attempt but one, if tried again, should have a little more time to develop among the actors before a performance.

 

The Tempest makes a splash in Troutt

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival took the Troutt Theater by storm January 15 with their rendition of ‘The Tempest’. Blue, violet and sea green pieces of cloth dangled from the rafters. Two ‘rock’ formations took up most of the stage. When the lights dimmed, the audience was taken on a fun and daring cruise through one of Shakespeare’s famous works.

The story circles around a man named Prospero, a former duke of Milan. He was exiled with his daughter, Miranda, by his brother Antonio. Prospero is a magician, his books being his source of power, and survives 12 years on an island with his daughter, a spirit named Ariel, and a monster and slave, Caliban. Antonio and his co-conspirator, King Alonso with his son Ferdinand, along with a few others, travel by sea. Prospero commands a great storm to engulf the boat and the men find themselves shipwrecked, father and son being separated.

Ferdinand happens upon Prospero and falls madly in love with Miranda. Her father is apprehensive about the boy, thinking he’s just like his father. With hard labor, Ferdinand shows Prospero he is humble and pure, nothing like his father and a very good match for Miranda.Alonso thinks his son is dead which makes him humble and he begs for forgiveness for his actions toward Prospero. Meanwhile, Caliban makes friends with Stephano the cook/butler and the jester, Trinculo. Together, they decide they will kill Prospero and steal Miranda, his magic and powers. Ariel finds out about this and uses their drunkenness to spoil their plans.

The audience finds Prospero make amends and forgives Antonio and Alonso for his treason. Ferdinand and Miranda are then married and the future of Milan is brighter. Prospero ends the play with his vow to drown his magical books.

To say the Nashville Shakespeare Festival did a good job would not suffice. From the very exquisite costumes to the actors’ smooth transitions through their performances. The audience laughed with Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban’s antics as they stumbled about in their drunken stupor. During Ferdinand and Miranda’s wedding, an air of happiness filled the theater.

A few Belmont students acted in the play as well.

Cory Carter, Caitlin Owen Kelly, freshman, and Christine Lamborn, senior, were the three spirits who assisted Ariel in her duties to Prospero. Their movements were graceful and ethereal as they reeled about the stage. Miranda was played by Christiana White, a Belmont theatre performance major. Her performance was flawless, roping the audience in with her high energy.

Brian Webb Russell, Prospero, portrayed the old magician very well. His rich, deep voice is perfect for Shakespearean plays! His whole being was thrown into his character, making it quite difficult for the audience not to think of him as anything but Prospero.

The comedian of the group was probably Dustin Napier, Trinculo. Because he played the jester doesn’t necessarily mean he had to be funny. He could’ve been a very flat jester. However, with Napier, he dedicated himself to every line, every movement. He floundered on the stage and made facial expressions that had the audience howling.

If you plan on going to The Tempest get ready for a very creative, talent-filled show. Get ready to be swept up in the colors, humor and beautiful story.

Catch a performance January 14-31. Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday matinees 2:30pm. Tickets are $19 in advance for adults and $22 at the door. Student tickets are $10.