Show stopper

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

A little preview. . . August 29, 2010

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Get ready for a plethora of playbills to hit because Belmont University’s Theater Department is in full swing getting ready for the 2010-2011 theater season, and there are additional highlights from local to international artists. For all you theater lovers and goers here’s a preview of a few things Belmont stages have to offer.

Tartuffe, written by the 17th century comedic playwright, Jean Baptiste Molière, is about an impostor who claims to be a zealous, pious man while boarding at the wealthy Orgon’s home. Instead, he’s a deceiver who tries to swindle Orgon out of the deed of his house by winning the respect of his wife and attempting to marry his daughter. Evening performances, all in Troutt Theater, are at 7:30 p.m . Oct. 1, 2, 7, 8, and 9; matinees are at  3 p.m. on Oct. 2, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 3 and Oct. 10.

Troutt Theater will host an entirely different production Oct. 30 when the Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe offers the extravagant Japanese puppet theater known as “ningyo joruri” or bunraku. The troupe trained in Japan with artists who are part of the puppetry troupes that date back to 1684. The Asian Studies Program sponsors this event. Performance time and ticket information will be announced..

The week before Thanksgiving break will be the performance of 33 Variations in the Black Box Theater. 33 Variations is about two different stories that occur 200 years apart in two far off places: America and Austria. It is a dramatic American play written by Moisès Kaufman about what motivates someone to create. Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21; matinees are at 3 p.m. Nov. 13, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 and 20.

The Nashville Ballet will grace the Troutt Theater’s stage with their new ballet based on Anne Frank’s life story. Dr. Mark Volker, a Belmont music faculty member, composed the music. Performances will be Nov. 19-21; times and ticket information will be announced.

The Actor’s Bridge Ensemble and perform Eurydice, playwright Sarah Ruhl’s re-telling of the classic myth. The play presents the story of Orpheus, a popular Greek musician, through the eyes of his wife. The golden ticket of this play? Eurydice “will have an amazing raining elevator and water pool on the set,” said Paul Gatrell, department chair of the theatre and dance department. Evening performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18, 24, 25 and 26; matinees will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 20, 26 and 27.

The Government Inspector will be on stage in the Black Box Theater in April. The Government Inspector is a satirical play written by Russian and Ukrainian playwright Nikolai Gogol about corrupt officials in a Russian town. They get into a tizzy when they hear an undercover inspector will visit to investigate them. They scramble to make their work seem decent and punishments necessary. Their attempts are interrupted when a mysterious visitor has already checked into the inn.The visitor is not an inspector but a civil servant, Khlestakov, who has a wild imagination. It should be a high-spirited and witty play, the perfect way to end the theatre season. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. April 8, 9, 14 and 15; matinees are at 2 p.m. April 9, 10, 16 and 17.

The dance department will round out the theater and dance department’s season with their annual Dance Production where students will showcase their talent and new techniques. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. April 29 and 30 and May 1.


All My Sons is alright February 21, 2010

The calm before the storm. Birds chirping, a quiet house. a fallen tree stage left keeps the audience filing in mystified. Unbeknownst to them the slim limb is the driving force. As the house lights turn down, Hell, slowly, breaks loose.

All My Sons, the Americana play by Arthur Miller, revolves around a man, Joe Keller, and his family. It’s post World War II and the Keller family is trying to move on after the disappearance of their soldier son, Larry. Kate Keller, Larry’s mother, still believes he is alive even though the rest of the family has already said goodbye. She thinks Larry’s memorial tree they planted three years ago was struck by lightning one night is an omen he is going to come back. Meanwhile his brother, Chris, moves in on Larry’s girlfriend, Ann. The two want to become one in marriage but Kate will have nothing to do with it.

It is revealed that Keller was thrown in jail for supposedly selling faulty airplane parts to the government. He was later released. Turns out those parts were built into planes that killed 20 US airmen. His son and Chris’s girlfriend’s brother, George, thinks Keller is to blame. The play makes a dramatic turn as Keller admits to Chris he was the one who sent out the parts to the government. It’s an emotional rollercoaster from there as Chris has to decide whether he will send his father to jail or forgive. A tragic ending leaves the viewer’s mind in shambles.

The set exuded the American simple yet difficult life Miller portrays in his plays. The play took place mainly in the backyard of the Keller’s home. Eye-catching, beautiful and vivid flower and vegetable colors contrasted with the tan and dark browns of the lawn furniture. There were many props the actors had to interact with which positively contributed to the play. Four out of five stars to Patrick White, the set designer.

Bill Feehely, Joe Keller, and Cynthia Tucker, Kate Keller, were a part of the Actor’s Bridge Ensemble. You could definitely tell. Their professionalism couldn’t be missed as they emotionally delivered and drew the audience in, having them feel what they were feeling, inviting them into the Kellers’ tumultuous life. My favorite out of the two had to be Feehely. He was very comfortable on stage and provided comedy as well as drama.

Zach McCann, Chris, was stiff in the beginning. I think he was nervous/excited to be working with professionals. I think he was miscast because when it came time for him to become angry and yell, he sounded strained. Chris had to have a powerful voice and in this McCann fell short. Not one of my favorite roles for him. He can play more of the sly, almost villainous, characters.

Kyla Ledes, Ann, did a good job. She wasn’t the brightest star but she held her own. A little nervous energy was felt from her. Ledes had some comedy in her and she showed that which made her likeable. Her dramatic parts were delivered sensibly.

I was surprised with Jordan Parkyn, George, when he arrived on stage. He played a very minor role in the play Urinetown, hardly any speaking parts. However, he exploded as he played George. I was speechless and happily taken aback. He brought life to the stage. He was intense, free, fabulous! He was the best student actor. More definitely must be seen from him in his Belmont theatre career.

The ones I didn’t care for were Luke Hatmaker, Dr. Jim Bayliss, Kristin McCalley, Sue Bayliss, and Lindsay Phillpott, Lydia Lubey. Hatmaker was not memorable and he underplayed his minor part. Every part is important and he just wasn’t great. He redeemed himself a little by the end of the second act. He gets a shrug of the shoulders with indifference.

Could McCalley be any more UNlikable?! I know she played a meddling wife but, come on! A meddling wife doesn’t have to be a sourpuss. Her small frame was consumed with bad vibes. The play was better when she wasn’t on stage. I’ve seen her in Belmont’s fall production of Galileo and even in that part she was unlikable. Loosen up, McCalley.

Lindsay Phillpott was reminded of a 12-year-old by some audience members. Her high-pitched voice and mannerisms didn’t deter this perception. However I thought she played a decent character and was great with Ben Stonick, who played Frank Lubey. Her sunny demeanor was refreshing.

All My Sons was executed fine. There isn’t any set change so the audience member may become bored at times with the ongoing dialogue. I would give Belmont three out of five stars overall. If you like drama and tragedy, then go see All My Sons. It’s better than your daytime soap opera.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for faculty, staff, and non-Belmont students. The show is free and culture and arts convo for students.


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.


Urinetown–Is that REALLY the title?! November 20, 2009

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 10:32 am
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“It’s a privilege to pee!”

At least it is in Urinetown, the comedic, satirical musical written by Greg Kotis and musically composed by Mark Hollman and performed by Belmont’s musical theater program in MPAC. The opening night was November 19.

Officer Lockstock is the narrator and comedic relief throughout the show. Urinetown is about a pay-as-you-go public restroom. Because there has been a 20 year water shortage, citizens have to limit their flow, highly taxed to relieve themselves. There are laws against going behind the bushes or on the sidewalks. The rich owner, Caldwell B. Caldwell, of Urine Good Company (UGC) hikes up the tax once again.

Enter the dashing Bobby Strong. He works for Penelope Pennywise, a sour woman who is stuck between the corporate and everyman world. She enforces the pee tax because the public amenity #9 is her livelihood. She enforces the taxes much to the chagrin of the citizens.

Strong’s father gets arrested for peeing on the sidewalk because he can’t afford the high tax. Strong decides to lead a revolution, leading the people to fight and secure their right to pee—for free. Along the way, he meets Caldwell’s daughter, Hope, who teaches Strong to follow his heart. They’re attraction is instantaneous. During the revolution, Strong takes Hope hostage, taking the rebels to the sewers.

Pennywise chooses to work for the corporate world and tells Caldwell about Strong. Caldwell seizes the opportunity to deal with Strong most severely by asking him to come to his office and discuss a possible cash compromise. As Strong arrives, he is seized and taken to Urinetown, getting pushed off a building.

Hope then takes over the revolution after she tells Strong’s mother she loved him. Hope and the rebels take over UGC. Unfortunately, because of their irresponsible freedom, the water dries up and Hope is killed by the rebels for leading them to their foolish demise.

While Urinetown is a comedy, it deals with some important issues: capitalism, corporate corruption, and social irresponsibility. It shows life is unsustainable; resources must be handled delicately in order to preserve them.

The entire Belmont cast did a fantastic job on opening night. The dances were strong and on point. The songs were beautifully sung and everyone was flawless with their deliverance of lines. Ben Laxton, Bobby Strong, was a big star in the show. A junior musical theater major, Laxton took the audience by surprise with his powerful voice in “Run, Freedom Run”. Chills may just creep up your arms as he controls his voice and hits the high notes.

Maggie McDowell, who plays Hope Caldwell, was a joy to see on stage and had a powerhouse of a voice. She owned her part and gave a strong performance.

Michael Rosenbaum, as Officer Lockstock, along with Brittany Church as Little Sally, was absolutely fabulous. They were so funny and played off each other’s humor.

Urinetown is free to the public and runs through November 22.

It’s so funny you may just pee your pants.


Cosi Fan Tutte November 14, 2009

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 12:21 pm
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Belmont’s Troutt Theatre may not scream operatic gala to some. But it’s hard not to associate Belmont and opera when the stage is precisely set and the voices of the actors ring out iin beautiful music.

 Cosi fan tutte, written by Lorenzo da Ponte and musically arranged by Wolfgang Mozart, tells a story about two men who are dearly devoted to their lovers, Fiordiligi and Dorabella. As they go on and on about their lovers—how they are beautiful and charming, pure and loyal, Don Alfonso, an old philosopher, proposes a bet that if the men were away, the women would turn from their loyalty on Guglielmo and Ferrando and profess their love and devotion to other men.

Thinking he is proposterous, Guglielmo and Ferrando accept the bribe. They tell their lovers they are going to leave for the warfront. There is a great deal of protest and tears from the women but the song of the soldiers silences them. The men don’t truly go to war but disguise themselves as other men, pretending to seduce the women.

Though the women are set on not falling for the men, through constant flattery and comedic confessions of love, the men seduce the women into marrying them. Guglielmo and Ferrando are disheartened by the women’s actions but Don Alfonso assures them all will work out. 

During the ceremony, the soldiers come back as soon as the women sign the “marriage licenses”. The men reveal their true identities and are cross with the women for ever thinking of potentially being disloyal. Don Alfonso urges them to take the good with the bad and through forgiving song, all turns well.

The star of the show was by far Ben Schultz, Don Alfonso. From the moment he stepped on stage to the moment of his bow, he was in full character. He produced an air of wisdom, trickery, and importance Don Alfonso should have. Natalie Lassinger, Fiordiligi, and Adam Richardson, Guglielmo, were also stars. Lassinger’s voice ressonated through the entire theatre, capturing the heart of the audience with her angelic soprano voice. Richardson was the star of comedy. His facial expressions and body language was goofy and fun to watch. The audience laughed heartily at his different mannerisms.

Ben Petty, Ferrando, and Rebecca Boucher, Dorabella, were the weakest of the cast. Petty was funny but was outshone by Richardson. You get laughs, you lose laughs. Such is the way of the comedic career. Boucher just seemed too concerned with singing than with the art of acting. Her face remained in the worried or fained furious look. I waited for her to wake up and become a great opera singer AND actress. I was sadly disappointed.

If you go to see Cosi fan tutte, be sure to enjoy an excellent performance. It’s a colorful affair and a feast for the eyes. Oh, and you are guarenteed to laugh your fanny off.

 Cosi fan tutte runs until Sunday, November 15. Tickets are $10 for the public, $5 for senior citizens. The show is free for Belmont students, faculty and staff.


Suspenseful “Wait Until Dark” opens in Black Box October 28, 2009

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 10:05 am
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The audience was on the edge of their seats. Their eyes glued to the spectacle unraveling before them. Sometimes they would laugh. Sometimes they would clap. Sometimes they would sit in stunned silence, gripping the knee or arm of one of their viewing buddies who tagged along.

Such was the audience at the Troutt’s Black Box Theater as it made its second showing of ‘Wait until Dark’, a play by Frederick Knott, adapted by Laura Skaug, the director.

‘Wait until Dark’ is a suspenseful comedy about a blind woman who is in possession of a doll that happens to have heroine inside of it. Three good-for-nothings try to con the woman into giving the doll to them. When she refuses, the play takes on a wickedly nail-biting turn that had some audience members shrieking.

The play throughout has some funny scenes that had the audience cracking up. For instance when Mike Talman, played by the comedic and sensitive Ben Stonick, Sgt. Carlino, played by Daniel Hackman who dons a great New Yorker accent, and Harry Roat, Jr., played by Barrett Anderson who gives Roat a sinister side, are caught inside the house as Susy Hendrix, played by the talented Joanna Rolan, feels her way around her familiar environment, not noticing the three who have trespassed into her home. The men’s faces were priceless in this scene as they tried so hard to keep still. Hackman hid behind a rolled up carpet before he knew the person entering was blind; he was ridiculously funny.

Ben Stonick played Talman terrifically. He was smart, sensitive toward Susy at the end, and just all around a great guy. You could tell he was apprehensive about making the deal with Roat and you could see his questions throughout the play, even if he didn’t verbally voice them. The con idea was a complete struggle for the character and Stonick executed it flawlessly.

I’ve seen Daniel Hackman play in Belmont’s productions like “Biloxi Blues” and “Galileo”. He always gives a top-notch performance and with “Wait until Dark” I was not surprised with the fact he lit up the stage with his on-going energy and put-on accent. He has this way of being serious but totally candid and alive. You can tell he sinks his teeth into every character he plays and delves deep into their psyche, developing the character and bringing Sgt. Carlino to life.

Like Daniel Hackman, I have also seen Zack McCann act before. He has an air of sophistication that gives an extra boost to any play he is cast in. As he played Sam Hendrix, the loving yet somewhat critical husband of Susy Hendrix, he would walk back and forth, completely comfortable with his character. If he did have stage fright, it definitely did not show.

Joanna Rolan as Susy Hendrix made the hearts of the audience go out to her. Though Susy was blind, she was tough and Rolan portrayed that spot on. She stumbles and feels around the walls. The audience became concerned for her. In the end, when she is struggling against Roat and his plot to kill her in order to get the doll, the audience was silently cheering her on.

Barrett Anderson shined in this play. His languid but evil sound of his voice was haunting and disturbing. He had the audience clutching each other in fear in the end as everyone though he was dead because Susy stabbed him but as the stage was cloaked in darkness, he crawled from the bedroom. Anderson was amazing and gives a new meaning to the term “bad guy”. He showed Harry Roat Jr. as an authentic, 100 percent creeper. Anderson did a great job.

The play is definitely worth seeing. The comedic relief in this suspenseful play is great. With Halloween around the corner, this play is just the right dosage of fear to get the fright back into your veins.

The show runs until November 1 at 2 p.m. at the Troutt Black Box Theater.

Tickets are $4 for faculty, staff, and non-Belmont students. Belmont students get free admission.