UCO presents the musical revue There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Published November 27, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

It’s finally here! The holiday season hits hard and fast this week, with Christmas lights going up everywhere and early shopping already starting. Always in the holiday spirit, UCO’s musical theatre department presents another fun night of music with their latest themed revue. There’s No Business Like Snow Business features holiday songs, fun costumes, and a cheery, wintery show at the UCO Jazz Lab. Like their annual Halloween revue Macabret, Snow Business puts a Christmas spin on musical theatre tunes, and showcases nearly 100 of UCO’s finest Musical Theatre students. Kassie Carroll Downey directs this year’s concert, and she says “It’s become a tradition in a lot of families. The most wonderful part of the show is that people come from all over to see this.” Downey promises audiences “fabulous dancing, glorious singing, and a few laughs along the way!”

Cast member Libby McCormack answered a few questions about the upcoming performances and what we can expect from this show that is sure to get us in the Christmas spirit! Her exclusive Q&A is below:

 AP: Tell us about Snow Business! What are you singing this year? What are you most excited about?

LM: There’s No Business Like Snow Business is an adorable and cheerful holiday revue using Christmas songs from musicals! I’m the dance captain of the show and am featured in the number “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”. I’m so excited for everyone to see all of the big dance numbers that are so adorable! I’m also excited for people to see the number “Be A Santa”, which will remind the audience of the importance of compassion during the holiday season.

AP: What is one thing that has been particularly rewarding during this rehearsal process?

LM: I think Christmas shows are so rewarding once you get to share it with an audience. To see the smile on children’s and parent’s faces alike is so rewarding! Just spreading Holiday cheer, especially through music and performance, is rewarding in itself.

 AP: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

LM: My favorite holiday tradition is putting up the Christmas tree with loved ones. Getting to reflect on all of the handmade ornaments and the ornaments from family trips and what not is so much fun.

 AP: Why did you choose UCO for your musical theatre education? What do you think makes them the best?

LM: I chose UCO Musical Theatre because it’s a family. Even when we’re all “competing” for jobs and roles, we’re all still rooting for each other and always supporting each other. A lot of programs are not like that at all. But we’re all here for each other at UCO.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a new tradition at the Pollard

Published November 20, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Pollard Theatre’s new holiday tradition returns for the 2019 Christmas season. It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play tells the story of George Bailey, a business and family man who attempts to end his life on Christmas Eve. An unlikely visitor intervenes, and in turn shows George what life would be like had he never been born. It’s a Wonderful Life is the perfect Christmas movie, and it’s become a tradition in households everywhere to revisit it every holiday season. The live radio play adds a unique quality to the story. The actors utilize the radio show setup and rely heavily on voice work and the rarely seen Foley artistry for sound effects.

Pollard Theatre favorite and returning cast member Kara Chapman sat down with me to answer some questions about Holiday traditions and returning to play the beloved character Mary Hatch in the play:

AP: You’re returning to play Mary Hatch, George Bailey’s love interest in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. What do you love about this character and role?

Kara Chapman: I always love playing roles that are based in decades past. I love 1940s hairstyles and costumes. What I love about Mary is that she’s the epitome of a mother figure. It’s nice and charming to think of a simpler time, especially at Christmas.

AP: Christmas in Guthrie is so special. They go all out at Christmas! What brings you back every year?

Chapman: There’s nothing better than The Pollard Theatre at Christmas time. It kicks off your holiday season and annual Christmas traditions. Guthrie is just enchanting, it’s like a Hallmark movie! I’ll do anything at the Pollard at Christmas. What brings me back to this play every year is watching it again and again, and seeing all the little details you missed the first time. This play is so nuanced and lovely. I really enjoy that feeling of transformation you get as you get deeper into the story. It’s not so much a radio play in the end. It slowly transforms you into the world of Bedford Falls.

AP: What is your favorite Christmas tradition in your family?

Chapman: I have four kids, and I always like to get them their own special ornament each year. It is usually something that represents their year, what they did, or a memory they made that year. It’s fun to watch them remember each one and by the time they’re 18, they’ll have 18 years’ worth of ornaments and memories to take with them.

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play also stars Joshua McGowen as George Bailey, James A. Hughes as Freddie, Timothy Stewart as Harry, and Kris Schinske Wolfe as Lana Sherwood and Violet Bick. David Fletcher-Hall is Clarence the Angel, and the Foley artist is Jared Blount. Pollard Theatre’s Artistic Director W. Jerome Stevenson directs.

The Lyric Academy’s Marvel Spotlight highlights great fun

Published November 18, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The Thelma Gaylord Academy presents a fun set of One Act plays. Marvel Spotlight features superheroes, both known and somewhat unknown, in a new light. In Hammered: A Thor and Loki Play, a teenaged Thor is facing his exams. Not one to make things easy on him, Loki gets up to his usual antics and tricks Thor into getting, well, hammered. In Squirrel Girl Goes to College, a young Doreen Green is just trying to live a normal life and make normal friends, despite the ever-present Doctor Doom trying to ruin things.

In Act I, Briam Zuniga is the older Thor, reminiscing on his younger days. Delaney Horton is Atli/Cul, Eleanor Harris is Hogun, Elissa Marks is Frigg/Hoenir, Erin Thompson is Ellisiv/Heimdall, Ethan Wells is Fandral/Forseti, Kinley Sharp is Freyja, and Mary Brockhaus is the Yearbook Editor and Sif. Megan Gilbert is The Herald, Reece McAbee is the young Thor, Saxon Neal is Volstagg, and Wes Washburn is Loki.

Act II features Eleanor Harris as Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl, Zuniga as Tomas, Horton as Nancy, Marks as the pet Squirrel Tippy Toe, Thompson as The Freak, and Wells as Doctor Doom. Sharp is Smartnoggin, Brockhaus is Professor Brightmind, and Gilbert, McAbee and Washburn make up the Squirrel Chorus. Neal is MODOC.

What a fun set of stories! The Lyric Academy students easily switch from principal roles in Act I to the ensemble in Act II, or vice versa. They work as a team to tell these irreverent and fun Marvel stories about young superheroes before they were anything more than kids themselves. The crowd-pleasing antics of Thor and Loki have the audience tickled. The dynamic between the two brothers is one of warm rivalry. McAbee and Washburn are having too much fun in these roles, and who wouldn’t want to play a Hammer Wielding High school Thor in a denim jacket, or a slick-haired young Loki with angst and a twinkling bit of mischief.

The same goes for Harris as Doreen. A lesser-known superhero, Squirrel Girl is quirky and nerdy, a smart young lady with a love for education and all things squirrelly. Her loyal team of pet rodents who follow her around are her friends and also the voices of reason in this zany play. Harris is lively and chipper, a relatable young heroine.

The Academy students, directed by Nicholas Bartell, create a fun, happy go lucky set of stories in these Marvel tales. Several things are important to point out here. First, it’s important that not every production is large and sumptuous or on a big, lofty mainstage. Students need to learn how to develop a character and a story mere inches from their audience, in smaller studio spaces and intimate settings. That’s an important part of live theatre, and the students handle that aspect well. Being able to reach out and touch an audience is a part of the craft of acting. Being aware that the audience is there but not letting that thought interrupt your process is harder than it sounds, and this is a good opportunity for talented students to hone that skill.

Another important factor is that of a non-musical play. Musicals are big, sweeping, and often overwhelming, not just for performers but for patrons as well. Plays are ESSENTIAL in developing acting skills. What a perfect way to delve into the world of acting with familiar, largely developed characters. The characters are grand scale already. The actors give them their own twists and create their own version of the Marvel universe. Once again, the Lyric Academy creates relatable, relevant theatre for kids and adults, and it’s a great time for all.

Moore High School Fine Arts presents a rousing Les Mis

Published November 18, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The ultimate tale of redemption, love, and loss comes to life on a high school stage. The students of Moore High School Fine Arts department present Les Misérables, known colloquially as Les Mis. Les Mis tells the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who vows to rebuild himself. In the shadow of guilt and the French Revolution, Valjean’s story is a bleak one. Based on the epic historical novel by Victor Hugo, Les Mis was adapted into a musical for the stage and debuted in Paris in 1980. It remains the longest-running production in London’s West End, having ended its 34-year run in July of this year. A 2014 Broadway revival ran for two years, closing in 2016. It’s currently touring both the U.S. and Europe. It’s safe to say there will never be a world without Les Mis.

However, it’s not always easy to come by. As a theatre reviewer, my goal is not just to see all the theatre that I can, but also to make an effort to see iconic, synonymous musicals- those theatrical experiences that define and shape the very idea of theatre itself. Les Mis is essential for theatre-going, and I had never seen it. Luckily for me, when I discovered the School Edition would be produced by the local high school in my community, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet and finally get to experience Les Mis.

The School Edition of Les Mis sounds like a cop-out. It’s not. It’s not dumbed down, but merely adjusted for vocal capabilities of high school students, and shortened for manageable school-play run times. What’s still in place is the intensity of the story and the heartbreak of the characters.

Dylan Fikes is Jean Valjean, and he’s a solid performer. He carries Valjean’s heartbreak, portraying Valjean as the broken man he is. Fikes sings well, a feat for a two and a half-hour show, and particularly for one like Les Mis, which is entirely sung-through.

Nicholas Tran is Javert, the policeman who knows the secret of Valjean’s true identity. They’re enemies to the very end. Tran gives a strong performance, complete with a shocking and impressive exit. Olivia Sorensen is Fantine. Valjean makes a promise to her on her deathbed, and both actors are very present in this moment. Fikes and Sorensen sing with emotion and loss, pulling at heartstrings. Sorenson is superb during Fantine’s lament “I Dreamed a Dream”.

Miki Beagle and Jaidyn Holtzclaw are great as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier. The pair are innkeepers, a married couple set on swindling anyone out of anything they can get their hands on. They’re true villains. Beagle and Holtzclaw are lively and sinister. The worst thievery they’ve committed is robbing young Cosette of a childhood. They’ve put her to work as a slave when they were supposed to be caring for her. Valjean pays them off, taking Cosette away from them and caring for her, like he promised her mother.

Cosette is portrayed by Elaina Lanthripe and she too has an impressive singing voice. She’s gentle as Cosette, a pure-hearted maiden who’s grown up with nobody who truly loves her. Valjean’s charge, and only hope of salvation, is with her. Raising her as his own, Valjean begins to redeem himself, and Cosette becomes a lovely young woman.

Not so lucky is Eponine, the daughter of Thenardier and Madame Thenardier. Eponine is portrayed by Jacey Olson, and she’s perhaps the most tragic of them all. Olson performs beautifully, singing her stirring musical numbers with sorrow and lingering hope. “On My Own” is a standout moment for Olson, followed in turn by the heartrending “A Little Fall of Rain”.

Keon Awopeju is bold as Enjorlas. He rallies a group of students to battle, and the Revolutionaries form a barricade. Sequestered against an ensuing army, their resolve starts to wane. Seth Lancaster is Marius, Eponine’s friend and Cosette’s true love. Valjean risks everything to save Marius, leaving Marius alive but scarred with deep remorse and guilt. Lancaster shines during his duet with Olson, and during his solo number “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. And Katie Ryan as little Gavroche, a street-smart, wise cracking urchin, serves to remind that when grown men fight, it’s the children who suffer.

Les Mis is an epic story, and it’s quite the undertaking for a high school to take on. Kudos to the Moore High Fine arts department for giving their students meaty roles to cut their acting teeth on, not shying away from the harshest of tales, and for braving a fully sung through Tony Award winning musical. Surely as the years go by and these students continue to grow and develop their skills, they’ll remember the bravery and work ethic they utilized during this production of Les Mis, and they’ll feel a sense of pride.

The Lyric Academy’s Mary Poppins is practically perfect!

Published November 11, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Lyric Theatre’s Thelma Gaylord Academy produces top-notch, professional quality theatre for OKC patrons. By utilizing their students, they present a unique experience and a chance for young artists to hone their artistry and technical skills. Their fall production of Mary Poppins is challenging, a technical marvel, and an absolute delight. It’s a spoonful of sugar, and it goes down joyfully.

Mary Poppins is a beloved story for the ages. The 1964 Disney movie starring a youthful Julie Andrews as Mary and Dick Van Dyke as Bert is loved and cherished by the young and old. That is apparent by watching the faces and reactions of the multigenerational audience on opening night. The kids marvel and awe, and the parents, and grandparents, shed tears of joy upon seeing a long-lost childhood memory come back in full detail.

PL Travers’ story of a magical nanny who descends from the heavens to rescue the Banks children was developed into a stage musical by Cameron Mackintosh and Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes. It premiered in London’s West End in 2004, followed by a Broadway run in 2006. The stage version features all the fantasy of the movie, and it includes the iconic songs as well as additional music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Directed by the Academy’s Director of Primary Education Rozz Grigsby, the multifaceted cast creates magic and whimsy on the stage as they bring this treasured story to life for all ages.

Emily Faith is Mary Poppins, and she’s truly supernatural. She’s regal and sweet as she sweeps in to become the new nanny for Jane and Michael Banks. Mary takes the children on adventures, to include walking in the park and going to the bank. As mundane as that may sound, the beauty of this character is her ability to spark imagination. Faith sings beautifully and is so dynamic and magnetic, the audience is enraptured by her. She must create a larger-than-life character, as Mary is idolized by the children. Faith makes it look easy, and complete with her clear, pure singing voice, she presents the perfect portrayal of this wonderful character.

Mary’s charges are Jane and Michael Banks, portrayed by Samantha Rother and Cyrus Glossup. Both are poised and professional, outstanding young talents. They’re hard workers too, and they keep the audience engaged with them for the entire production. They both have timing and interaction skills to be envied by the most experienced actors. They’re natural and effortless, and have chemistry and trust with Faith as Mary. The trio works well together, and they let each other shine in due turn. They’re three to watch out for, and professionals everywhere should take a few notes on how to share a stage from them.

Garrett Langley is Bert, the mysterious Chimney Sweep who also serves as Narrator. There are big shoes to fill here. The character played by Dick Van Dyke is one of the most memorable in cinema history. Langley plays the role his own way. He’s a lovely Bert and he balances Faith beautifully.

Mr. and Mrs. Banks are portrayed by David Flynn and Lily Voth. Flynn is stern yet gracious with the children, a changed man by the end of the show. Voth comes into her own as Winifred. Sharp and light on their feet, they make a good pair. Mary Poppins is there for them as much as she is for the children, and they accept her place in their lives.

Justine Rogers is terrifying as Miss Andrew, a mean nanny who comes to call when Mary mysteriously disappears briefly. Miss Andrew is the former nanny of Mr. Banks, and she incites fear in grown men. Rogers is a powerful presence, sinister, creepy, and every bit the Disney villain. The shopkeeper Mrs. Corry is brightly played by Sophia Sammons. She’s a bubbly, boisterous vision, bursting with personality and becoming an instant crowd favorite.

McKenzie Irby is Miss Brill, Duncan Rumbaugh is Robertson Ay, Jaylynn Nash is Katie Nanna, Presley Harrington is the Policeman, Gracie Boyd is Miss Lark, James Zumwalt is Admiral Boom, and Taylor Grigsby is the Park Keeper. Neleus is played by Ashley Manners, The Bank Manager by Thayer Dycus, Miss Smythe by Emma Poindexter, and Von Hussler by Nate Peterson. Estella Stevenson is Miss Northbrook, Alex Ille is the Bird Woman, Charlee Barks is Annie, and Cassie Magrath is Fannie. There’s not a weak link in the bunch, and they work together like a real team of pros.

And the choreography!! Choreographed by Kassie Carroll Downey, each musical number is more complex than the last. The tap dancing during the chimney sweep tune “Step in Time” is crisp and spirited. It’s a rare treat to see tap dance on stage. The visual grace and rhythmic acoustics it provides are brilliant, and the students are artful technicians of this craft.

The featured dancers are Ashley Manners, Alex Ille, Abigail Manners, Cadence Barreda, Emma Thornhill, Gracie Boyd, Justine Rogers, Katrina Gedmin, Sophia Sammons, and Susannah Toney. The lead vocalists are Emma Poindexter, Faith Tames, Ainsley Manners, James Zumwalt, Nate Peterson, Olivia Neumann, Sydney Starr, and Thayer Dycus. The ensemble is made up of Estella Stevenson, Peyton Harris, Elliot Yi, Harper Johnson, Kelly Briseno, Jarah Nash, Jules Reed, Presley Harrington, Jaylynn Nash, Maddox Radcliff, Audrey Manners, Caedmon Glossup, Cavin Nash, Claire Ockershauser, Colton Anderson, Jo Barks, Miller Dick, and Prestyn Yi.

A hit song is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. During this number, the cast is superbly in sync, dancing, singing, and spelling the infamous made-up word that Mary creates with letters she “buys” at a “conversation store”. They spell it out for the audience, quickly and with visual letter cues. It’s adorable, hilarious, and more than a little impressive. Nobody misses a beat, or a letter, and the frenetic energy the cast dispels onto the audience gives everyone the time of their lives.

The technical aspects of the show are complex and well done. They serve to add to the fantastical quality of Mary Poppins, and it wouldn’t be the same show without them. When Mary is hooked onto the fly rail and flies up and away from London, primly holding her suitcase and pointing her feet out just-so, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Lighting design by Fabian J. Garcia creates rainbows, whimsical color blocks, and a charming atmosphere for Cherry Tree Lane.

Mary Poppins is in essence a story of childhood itself, a reminder to find magic in everyday life, to break out of the tiny parameters we set for ourselves, and to stop and smell the roses. Or even, perhaps, to go fly a kite. Well done Lyric Theatre and the Thelma Gaylord Academy!

UCO’s musical theatre students twist the knife with Macabret

Published October 28, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

The UCO Musical Theatre students present a “Spooktactular Halloween Revue” at the UCO Jazz Lab. The annual concert, Macabret, features the full cast of UCO musical theatre students, presenting contemporary pop/rock songs with a Halloween inspired twist. The production is wholly produced, performed, directed and designed by the students, with a little help from department directors and choreographers. Talent, hard-work, energy, passion, and a macabre sense of fun are on display, and it’s a wild and wicked event for the Edmond community to enjoy each year.

The show opens, as tradition holds, with the full cast performing that Halloween staple “Thriller”. This year’s opening number is a mashup of “Thriller” and “Heads Will Roll”, a song combo popularized on the musical theatre TV show Glee. It’s a unique take on an old classic and it sets the evening for creative, Halloween inspired renditions of popular tunes.

Each song performance features its own costumes and themes, making them individual musical vignettes. Well-known characters are seen, from Beetlejuice to Harley Quinn, Queen Elsa to Freddy Krueger, and everywhere in between. It becomes a fun game to figure out how the characters will fit into the song, and some of the costume choices are puzzling at first, but it works out every time.

Logan Vohs is the spooky voice in “Thriller”, starting the evening off with a deep and menacing laugh. Sarah Royse dances beautifully during “Dark Lady” while Jackson Lease and Graeme Morrison sing her fate. Sam Brinkley as Beetlejuice begs for the love and affection of Skylar Hemenway as Lydia in “Oh! Darling”. Madison Eckerson gives a powerful performance in “Jolene”, setting the bar high early on in the show. Skylar Hemenway battles angels and demons, portrayed by Sophie Mings and Hayley Martini, in “Fire”.

A similar plight is faced by Mandy Miller and McKenna Nolin-Haygarth in “Highway to Hell”. Erica Burkett gets the last laugh in “I Will Survive”, as does Carly Johnson in “Crazy Train”. The men of “Heartache Tonight” are charming and creep-tastic, including Cameron Blakely, Ben Hardin, Dylan Herrin, and Hagen Wano. Mica Martinez is dynamite, crooning about “The Man That Got Away”, and it’s clearly his loss. Mackenzie Ford as Queen Elsa is sly and sparkly in “Cold as Ice”, casting her spell on the audience. Cara Chesney rips her own heart out in “Take Another Piece of My Heart”, and Shafer Wilkerson shows his true colors in “Born to Be Wild”. The Freaks inspire originality and acceptance in “This is Me”, and the closing number, “Another One Bites the Dust”, ends the evening with the same level of energy with which they started.

The full show is two hours, with a variety of collaborations and roles, showcasing the talent and education of the musical theatre students. This Halloween-themed revue serves as a fundraising event for the theatre department’s audition season, but it’s also a chance for the students to show off what they’re learning and the skills that are being refined in University level theatre. There are so many in the company, they’ve been split into two casts, alternating casts and performing twice a night for the 3-night run. Both casts are listed here, as it’s important for their work to be acknowledged, whether each student specifically performs for the reviewers or not:

BLACK Cast: Chelsea Thiessen, Holly Gray, Emma Livingston, Mandy Miller, Emilee Stubbs, Zoe Parkinson, Gabriella Jimenez, Mica Martinez, Hailey Hatfield, Julie Rodrigues-Santos, Jaci Reed, Cara Chesney, Sarah Royse, Madison Eckerson, Ashlea Stewart, Sophia Mulligan, Abby Morris, Carly Johnson, Maura McMurray, Erica Burkett, Skylar Hemenway, Makenzie Ford, Baylee Fitzgerald, Caprie Gordon, Kendall McCollum, Kynzi Gumm, Halsey Shelley, Maya Cook, Sam Brinkley, Darnell Reedom, Jordan Harris, Robert Voigt, Jackson Lease, Shafer Wilkerson, Cameron Blakely, Dylan Herrin, DJ Fortner, Pierson Van den Dyssel, Logan Boyd, Logan Wright, Logan Corley, Cale Smith, Roberto Lopez, Wyatt Walker

ORANGE Cast: Isabella Emamghoraishi, Sydney Brown, Maddi Hill, Ashley Raydon, Keyi Hu, Destyni Newman-Williams, Sophie Mings, Auburn Hilliard, Morgan Rothwell, Sarah Zorn, Sierra Sikes, MK Mackey, McKenna Nolin-Haygarth, Nicole Phillips, Auburn Kirkhart, Mary Brozina Wierick, Libby McCormack, Olivia White, Hayley Martini, Gabriella Beck, Sarah Scott, Alyssa Jones, Madison Zandt, Jessica Cajina, Tyler Treat, Denver King, Hagen Wano, Easton Edwards, Ben Hardin, Carter Wyatt, Graeme Morrison, Jason Burnam, Daniel Johnson, Adam Thomas, Seth Paden, Joshua Thompson, Avery Ernsberger, Sam Cox, Josh Wilson, D’Shaud Howard.

Music Director is Eric Grigg, Sound Design is by Sam Aldridge, Sound Engineer is Caleb Rose, Lighting Design is by Graeme Morrison and Caleb Barnett, and Spotlight Operators are Mandy Miller and Julie Rodrigues-Santos. Stage Managers are Skylar Hemenway, Hayley Martini, and Libby McCormack.

Macabret is indeed spooktacular, creative fun, and it’s a new tradition that should be revisited every year! The venue is close and comfortable, an ideal place to see live music. Bar service from Hideaway Pizza next door means you’ve got all you need in one spot, and it’s a perfect evening of live entertainment.

The Pollard’s Evil Dead is bloody great!

Published October 17, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Evil Dead: The Musical is a bloody, gory, funny, grotesque, absurd, ridiculous thrill of a parody and it’s great fun for theatre-goers. The Pollard Theatre brings it back by popular demand after a sold-out run five years ago. This go-round is exceptionally directed by Pollard company member Jared Blount, who’s not afraid to bring the gore directly to the audience. Evil Dead follows a group of five college kids on a Spring Break trip, in an abandoned cabin, in a dark and mysterious wood. What could go wrong? The co-eds are soon to find out when they unleash an evil force and awaken a bona fide Army of the Dead.

The hero of this story is the noble and brave Ashley Williams. Reprising his role as Ash is Wil Rogers. Rogers is perfectly cast in this role. Not only does he look the part, complete with that mischievous raised eyebrow, but he delivers the performance with all the arrogance and half-witted charm you’d expect from Ash. Fans of the movie will appreciate Rogers and his take on the iconic chainsaw wielding Everyman. Rogers is up for anything; fighting the undead, beheading his girlfriend, even finding new love mere minutes after his beloved’s untimely, and inconvenient, demise. Rogers is an intelligent comedic actor, and he takes whatever is thrown at him, which is quite a lot!

Megan Montgomery is also back after the 2014 production to play Linda, Ash’s girlfriend. Montgomery is hilarious and innocent as Ash’s true love. Her duet with Rogers, “Housewares Employee” is funny and over the top, and showcases Montgomery’s vocal talent and her chemistry with Rogers. Like Rogers, she too is unabashed and bold. With comedy this physical, holding back is not possible. Montgomery goes for it, and she’s the ideal girl next door who happens to meet an unfortunate beheading.

Kristin Küns is wildly wicked and undead as Cheryl, Ash’s kid sister and the first to join the Army of the Dead. Locked in the cellar by her brother after she turns, Küns spends the duration of the show popping out of the trap door on stage, endlessly mocking and tormenting her brother. She’s brazen and frightful. Those sitting nearby in the splatter zone jump out of their skin every time she pops up! It never gets old and it makes for a hysterical prank that only gets increasingly funny as her antics escalate. Küns cackles and rails like the true Evil Dead that she is.

Ian Cummings is Scott, an insufferable frat guy with all the appeal of a collegiate drunk who’s just after the next conquest. Cummings is appropriately hate-able, hurling commentary that is so insulting, you can’t wait to see him go. He’s aptly suited for that horror genre trope; there’s always a character the audience loves to hate. Cummings plays it up and is delightful as the wretched Scott, a role that must be tons of fun to play.

Laura Renfro is fun and infuriating as Shelly, Scott’s flavor of the week. She’s smart and shrill as Annie, the real heroine of the tale. Renfro plays both roles brilliantly, relying on charm and sex appeal, as well as wit and girl power as she sweeps in to save the day. She’s a victim of the ever-present evil demons that keep wrecking her love life. Renfro is so quick-witted, sharp and intelligent, you simply can’t take your eyes off her.

Jon Phillip-Olson is Jake, an ambiguous local who the gang enlists for help. Phillip-Olson is menacing and creepy as Jake, with a malevolent smile and disarming Southern drawl. He’s misunderstood and of course, underestimated, and has an uproarious change of heart as he shows his true colors.

Kaleb Michael Bruza is the strong, silent type as Annie’s companion Ed. He gets his time to shine, however, and he goes out with a bang. He earns his applause, and it’s the loudest of the night.

This cast is obviously having fun, dancing and singing the night away in one ludicrous scenario after the other. The first two rows are The Splatter Zone, and they deliver on that promise. The actors spray scented, kool-aid colored “blood” on the audience several times, and Act II becomes a bloodbath for the ages. It’s a memorable, unique theatrical experience that keeps fans of the movie franchise and the stage play coming back for more and more. Evil Dead is certain to become a staple for theatre-going at The Pollard, and when they inevitably bring it to back to life again, they must include this bloody great cast once again. With Blount at the helm, and armed with their cursed Necronomicon, their chainsaws and blood sprayers, they’re not soon to leave anyone dissatisfied, alive or otherwise, for as long as they’re doing this show.

OU’s Cabaret remains startling and relevant

Published October 7, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Cabaret opened on Broadway in 1966, but it remains shockingly relevant in 2019.  Based in Berlin in the early days of the Nazi party, Cabaret is alluring and tempting, dark and horrific, and it still speaks to cultural and political topics that we’re debating to this very day. Cabaret features two worlds: The drab boarding house where American writer Cliff Bradshaw spends his days working on his latest novel, and the exciting and seedy Kit Kat Klub, every bit the opposite, where he spends his nights.

Taylor Ratliff is the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee) at the Kit Kat Klub, and he invites us in with the opening number “Willkommen”. Welcome, indeed. Ratliff encourages the audience to “forget your troubles” as the women of The Kit Kat swarm around him in silken lingerie. Ratliff is playful with the audience, an emcee through and through. But when the spotlight goes out, he becomes something much more sinister. He slinks and stalks through nearly every scene of the show, silent and ever present as a reminder of something lurking just ahead, tantalizing and terrifying. In a way, he represents the truth that the growing political divide in 1930s Germany was planting the seeds of hatred that grew into the horror of World War II. Like that growing mindset, Ratliff is constantly in some dark corner, always lingering but never quite noticed. Ratliff in these moments is nearly frightening. He also represents the victims, fully embodying both conflicting representations: the Nazi regime and those targeted by it. This is a powerful, haunting performance by Ratliff, an incredible talent. He shines during “I Don’t Care Much”, bringing the house down with his vocal performance.

Joseph Campbell is Cliff Bradshaw, the American novelist who’s setting up shop at the boarding house. Campbell starts off reserved and proper, even a little stiff. He’s a no-nonsense American in the compelling world of Berlin. He has secrets, however, and he’s perhaps the most socially conscious and self-aware of any of the characters. Campbell has difficult choices to make, and he makes them well. His chemistry with Kirsten Myers as Sally Bowles is at times palpable, other times cold and standoffish. This is an important dynamic that conveys his mixed feelings for her. They love and understand each other more than anyone else can.

Myers is glorious as the infamous Sally Bowles. Sally is the Kit Kat Klub’s main event, a nightclub singer from England who’s the life of the party everywhere she goes. Myers possesses an emotional range equal only to her vocal range. She’s nearly manic as Sally, constantly trying to keep the party going, living in denial and doubt of the realities surrounding her. The breakdown she experiences is so subtle, when she pulls the rug out from the audience, it’s a visceral gut-punch. She’s sexy and flirty when she’s performing in the nightclub, a charm she can’t turn off in regular life. Myers makes it clear; this isn’t just Sally’s performance style. It’s survival.

Myers performing “Maybe This Time” is heartbreaking, while the power she belts out during “Cabaret” is breathtaking. She’s undeniably strong, hurling herself into her portrayal of this iconic character. Yet, there’s a minor detail that simply must be mentioned. Myers creates a tonic for herself in front of Cliff, a so-called “hangover cure” called a Prairie Oyster that’s just a raw egg with Worcestershire sauce. Myers actually cracks an egg into a mug, shakes a few dashes of unhelpful Worcestershire sauce into it, and downs it onstage with a smile on her face, exclaiming, “Mmm! Delicious!” and not flinching for a second. Talk about a trooper.

Tessa Giordano is stern and sharp as Fraulein Schneider, the owner of the boarding house. She has a resigned disposition, just getting by as best she can. Her unlikely romance with Garrett Morris as the Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz proves to be the catalyst on which the tides turn. Loyalties are tested, and Fraulein Schneider must choose between career and love. Giordano remains diligent, while Morris stays hopeful. The sad truth is, they’re both on the wrong side of history. Their love and loss is proof that there are no winners in War.

Kate Kemmet is smart and intuitive as Fraulein Kost. A tennent of Fraulein Schneider’s, she plays hostess to a litany of sailors, much to Fraulein Schneider’s dismay. The two spar heartily, and Kemmet holds her own. Kemmet carries the scene during an engagement party, and singlehandedly turns the play from teetering on the edge of that impending darkness to jumping into the deep end.

Tanner Berry is Ernst Ludwig, a pupil of Cliff’s who shows his true colors. Keith Gruber is Bobby, someone who Cliff thought would stay in the past. And Gonzalo Aburto de la Fuente is Kit Kat Klub owner Max, Sally’s on-again off-again boyfriend. Berry is chilling in his portrayal of a burgeoning Nazi leader. Gruber has depth and bravery as Bobby, and he holds secrets too. Aburto de la Fuente is menacing as Max. He could be considered a “bad guy”, but even he pales in comparison to the evil that waits ahead.

The boys of the Kit Kat Klub are sultry and more than merely decorative. They dance beautifully, with agonizing emotion. They are Aburto de la Fuenta as Hermann, Brick Ban as Victor, and Aidan DeWitt as Hans. Likewise, the girls of the Klub dance on the Kit Kat stage with smiles that don’t reach their eyes. They slip into trances, staring blankly while they perform with perfection. They hold onto that empty look, stirring up the most painful emotions. They’re Anna McGuire as Helga, Mia Munn as Fritzie, Evie Lawson as Texas, Hannah McEvilly as Rosie, Natalie Rae Goodin as Lulu, and Bianca Bulgarelli as Frenchie. Rounding out the cast is Cameron Saims as Rudy/Officer and Evan Lennon in a striking number with the Emcee, as a character titled simply “Chimpanzee”.

The period costumes and makeup design by Benjamin Burton are superb and spot-on. Scenic Design by Cliona Smith and lighting design by Renée Brode create a warm, glowing night club and a homely, humble boarding house. Photography is by Richard Sprecker and this production is as always excellently directed and choreographed by Lyn Cramer.

As the Emcee closes the show, he asks us, “Where are your troubles now?” and that’s the most disturbing moment yet. Why does this show still feel so relevant? It’s from the 60s, and it’s about the 30s, but it speaks loudly to today. It begs the question: how long will we continue to deny what’s unfolding around us as a society, just for one more night believing that life is indeed a cabaret, old chum. Well done to the cast and crew of Cabaret. As the audience exits out into the October evening, one thing is certain: we’re leaving it, but this show won’t be leaving us any time soon.

UCO’s musical theatre students present the spooky, spectacular Macabret

Published October 4, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

There’s something fun about mashing up words, especially for the season at hand. The ever popular Snowpocalypse comes around occasionally for an impeding snow storm and the apocalyptic response that ensues. Then of course, there’s the classic Fallsummoween. This is one we’re very familiar with in Oklahoma. It’s officially Fall, according to the calendar, but it still looks and feels like Summer outside. So naturally, we crank the A/C down, turn off the lights, and burn a pumpkin candle, just pretending like it’s Halloween. The UCO musical theatre students are capitalizing on this fun idea, presenting their annual musical revue, Macabret. Yes, you read that right. And it promises to be, naturally, “spooktacular”.

This macabre cabaret is a fun Halloween experiment. Macab is fully student-produced, a “jukebox musical” style concert in which the students choose a hefty lineup of popular songs and arrange them with a Halloween spin. Early on into rehearsals for Macabret, two MT students, Hagen Wano and Caleb Barnett, sat down with me to fill me in on the exciting details.

Barnett says “We’re still figuring out the full set list, but we know we’re opening with Thriller. We do that every year. We’re also going to do Born to Be Wild and It’s Raining Men. It’s coming together.” He elaborates, “I love Macab so much. It’s an annual event that the whole community in and around Edmond looks forward to every year, and so do we. It’s the show I look forward to the most.” Wano agrees, saying, “Macab features the entire UCO Musical Theatre student body. The students have input in all the concepts presented. We make our own costumes. Direction and tech are all done by the students. It’s the one time we have to all get to know each other. The rest of the year we’re spread out with different projects.”

The show doesn’t have a storyline or dialogue, it’s just, as Wano puts it, “A bunch of people singing at you for two hours.” It’s a different lineup of songs every year, richly collaborative and a show that the students work hard to perfect. The final number will remain a tantalizing secret, although they tell me what it is, and trust me, it’s going to deliver.

Ticket sales for Macabret also serve as fundraising for the UCO MT department. Funds raised during ticket sales for this event will be partially allocated towards travel expenses during the Theatre Dept’s audition season. This is the students’ way of giving back to the community that has given so much to them. Barnett agrees that it’s a way to reach back to the community, saying “I love seeing people react to this show. Seeing the audience respond and get excited when they recognize the next song, it makes the 4-5 weeks of working on it all worth it.” Wano adds, “When we’re working on it, it can be chaotic at first, but our Stage Managers (Libby McCormack, Hayley Martini, Skylar Hemenway) really help us out. And when we’re there performing it, the flow of it all connects. And it can still be crazy backstage, but on stage it works.”

Go back to high school with UCO’s Grease

Published September 30, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor

Though it debuted in 1971, with a hit movie in 1978, it seems like Grease has been around forever. It’s woven so completely into the American songbook, and heavily into the theatre rotation, that nearly everyone from sea to shining sea knows the songs, the characters and at least some of the story. But in case you’ve somehow missed it entirely, here’s a quick rundown: Based in 1959, the classmates of Rydell High, an Anywhere, USA High School, assemble back at school after an eventful summer. A new student joins them, the demure Sandy Dumbrowski, Catholic school reject with that classic “new girl” persona. She recounts “summer nights” spent at the beach with the dreamiest of boys, completely unaware that the boy in her story, Danny Zuko, is the leader of a band of ruffians called the Greasers, and he goes to Rydell also. Sandy’s new group of friends, The Pink Ladies, are the feminine equivalent of the Greasers, and they’ve got stories of their own. Danny and Sandy are quickly reunited, but trials are evident from the get-go. Grease is a sock-hop era Romeo and Juliet, and Sandy and Danny are two star-crossed teenagers from different sides of the tracks.

The Greasers are Danny, played by Dylan Herrin, and his buddies Kenickie, Doody, Roger, and Sonny. The Pink Ladies are Betty Rizzo, Frenchy, Jan, and Marty. Sandy is played by Morgan Rothwell. Herrin has a smooth swagger as Danny. He’s confident and suave, but fooling no one about his feelings for Sandy. Herrin is an enjoyable Danny Zuko. This character doesn’t typically hold up well for modern audiences. He’s just not traditionally a likeable guy. Herrin’s version, however, is toned down just enough that he’s slick, but not slimy. He’s got that princely charm, but he’s not obnoxious or crass. He’s a real dreamboat. Rothwell is understandably sweet as Sandy, but she’s also strong. She finds her place among the Pink Ladies, at her new school, and with Danny. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself. Rothwell portrays Sandy like she should be. Not weak, but coming into her own. She’s tough in her own gentle way.

D.J. Fortner is Kenickie, Graeme Morrison is Doody, Ben Hardin is Roger, and Seth Paden is Sonny. Stand out moments occur for each of the Greasers. Fortner’s “Greased Lightnin’” pumps up the audience, and rightfully so. He’s perfectly placed in the convertible during this number, showing off as the singing, gyrating, jalopy-with-potential owning Kenickie. Likewise, Morrison tears it up during “Magic Changes”, stealing the scene with his pizzazz. He utilizes the acoustics in that high-ceilinged theatre flawlessly. It’s magic indeed. Hardin’s moment comes, of course, with “Mooning”, Roger’s anthem and love song to Jan. Hardin has wit, personality, and comedic timing down to an art. Paden is the class clown of the bunch. He’s a full-body actor, expressive from head to toe. As Sonny he’s quite endearing and cute. He’s up for anything, with energy and lightness on his feet to drive home that point.

Chelsea Thiessen is saucy and sultry as Rizzo. She walks with a haughty air, the posture that’s synonymous with Rizzo. Her song “There are Worse Things I Could Do” is a turning point for both her character and Sandy. Thiessen delivers the song, and the message therein, with emotion and poise. Thiessen’s a powerhouse, a true force to behold.

Kalyn Glover is superb as Frenchy, the bubbly beautician to be. Glover is delightful and cheery as she incites empathy for the crestfallen Frenchy. She’s an everywoman, very relatable in her struggles with her studies and education endeavors. Her imagination runs wild during “Beauty School Dropout”, which is sung to her by the Teen Angel, played by D’Shaud Howard. Howard is brilliant, a sparkling angel who brings Frenchy back down to earth.

Hailey Hatfield is Jan, the funny Pink Lady who loves to eat. Thankfully, that aspect has been downplayed in this production. Nothing is more miserable than having to sit through a two-hour musical while watching a character who’s eating during every line of dialogue. That kitsch is downright gross and distracting. While she does down a Twinkie or two, it’s not constant, thankfully. It would certainly be terrible to miss the vocal and acting talents of Hatfield due to edible props. More than just comedic relief, Hatfield’s Jan is genuinely likeable and crowd-pleasing. Her banter and budding romance with Roger is pulled off without a hitch.

Sarah Royse is Marty, the glamorous goddess of The Pink Ladies. Royse croons effortlessly during “Freddy My Love”, slinking up and down the stage in her silk robe, a gift from her out of town beau. Marty’s the fashionable one. She’s also the voice of reason and packs a punch with her one-liners. Royse is statuesque and cool as she stares down those greasers, and no man stands a chance against her. She’s just too smart for them all.

Jackson Lease is the adorkable Eugene Florczyk. Lease is silly and sweet as this nerd, and watching him dance is simply hilarious. Tyler Treat is the terse Patty Simcox, a teacher’s pet who takes high school very seriously. Treat sashays across the stage and pertly swings her ponytail, a woman on a mission. She proves a worthy foe to Sandy as she vies for Danny’s affections. Daniel Johnson is Vince Fontaine, radio personality and host of a school dance competition. Johnson is appealing yet sleazy, elegant and snakelike. He’s downright villainous.

Jaci Reed is Miss Lynch, the killjoy teacher and cohost of the dance contest. The excitement during the dance proves too much for her, and in this moment Reed lets loose. Reed is brave and unabashed, with a skillset that ranges from uptight and snobby, all the way to jubilant and carefree. Jessica Cajina wipes the floor with the fellow dance contestants as Cha-Cha DiGregorio. She singlehandedly wins the dance-off with Danny as her partner.

Steven Smeltzer directs and choreographs this production, and the dancing is impressive. It’s continuous and constant, filling the stage for the entire show with swirling, leaping, and high-flying moves. The ensemble works hard, sweating their way through two hours of choreography and making it look easy.

The always moving ensemble members are Cameron Blakely, Sam Brinkley, Erica Burkett, Jessica Cajina, Cara Chesney, Maya Cook, Sam Cox, Easton Edwards, Makenzie Ford, Kynzi Gumm, Jordan Harris, McKenna Haygarth, Maddi Hill, D’Shaud Howard, MK Mackey, Mica Martinez, Hayley Martini, Nicole Phillips, Darnell Reedom, Joshua Thompson, Logan Vohs, Robby Voigt, Wyatt Walker, and Josh Wilson. They’re incredible! They never lose pace or falter their smiles. They’ve got to be tired by the end of Act II, but if they are, they don’t let on at all.

This production is a thoroughly rehearsed, well-greased machine. Smeltzer’s choreography is air tight. Fans of the movie can easily recognize the characters, but they’re not carbon copies of the film. Each actor has taken their role and given it their own personal touch and flair. Grease is nearly fifty years old, and with its controversial themes of youthful angst, underage drinking, teen pregnancy, and fitting in with the crowd, it could easily feel tired, archaic and overdone. Thankfully, that won’t be found here. This cast and Smeltzer’s crisp direction make an absolutely dynamite show. They’re energetic and electric. This Grease feels new and exciting, while remaining nostalgic and yes, even more than a little empowering. For now, and probably forever, Grease is still the Word.