On Stage This Week: April 17-23

It’s a light week for the theater, but still you can catch two great shows from two great organizations. Check them out!

~Jen

The Drowsy Chaperone

Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

Gangsters-turned-pastry-chefs, seductive Spaniards, and a well-oiled chaperone will have you roaring like the 20s! In this “musical within a musical”, IU Theatre icon George Pinney takes the stage to share his talent one last time, as the melancholy “Man in Chair”. As he listens to his favorite record, his drab apartment gives way to the sparkling sets and lavish costumes of The Drowsy Chaperone. (musical)

Produced by the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance on Fri 4/18 – Sun 4/22

Buy Tickets Here!

A Year with Frog and Toad

A hit on Broadway, A Year With Frog And Toad was nominated for 3 Tony Awards – including Best Musical. Based on Arnold Lobel’s well-loved books and featuring a hummable score by Robert and Willie Reale, this whimsical show follows two great friends — the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad — through four, fun-filled seasons.

Waking from hibernation in the Spring, Frog and Toad plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding, and learn life lessons along the way. The two best friends celebrate and rejoice in their differences that make them unique and special. Part vaudeville, part make believe, all charm, A Year With Frog And Toad tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.

The jazzy, upbeat score of A Year With Frog And Toad bubbles with melody and wit, making it an inventive, exuberant, and enchanting musical for the whole family.

Produced by Cardinal Stage on 4/22 and 4/23 all performances take place in the afternoon to better accommodate younger audiences.

Buy Tickets Here!

IU’s Drowsy Chaperone Celebrates the Wonders of Musical Theater

Caroline Huerta as the Drowsy Chaperone (Left) and Claire Logan as Janet Van de Graaf (right) in IU's Production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
Caroline Huerta as the Drowsy Chaperone (Left) and Claire Logan as Janet Van de Graaf (right) in IU’s Production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

On Thursday, April 13, the Indiana University Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance inaugurated the creation of the George Pinney Scholarship with a special pre-opening, fundraiser performance of The Drowsy Chaperone. Honestly, I think there is no better musical to honor a person who has dedicated his life and talents to the enrichment of musical theater. The Drowsy Chaperone is a love-letter to the musical theater genre that both pokes fun at the ridiculous and celebrates the joyful aspects of musical theater.

The play features Man in the Chair, an older man who sits in his apartment listening to the records…yes, records…of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Man in the Chair is the audience’s guide to the play within the play. As he listens, he extols on the history of the actors, the experience of going to the theater, the strengths and weaknesses of this particular show, and the wonders and benefits of musical theater. Pinney, himself, played The Man in the Chair in IU’s production, and the role was a perfect tribute. Read more

On Stage This Week: April 10-16

Hello all,

Despite a super busy schedule, I’m trying to make Bravo, Bloomington a bit more active. For this reason, I am starting “On Stage This Week.” On Monday or Tuesday of each week, I will post a list of the shows being performed during that week. As of now, I am focusing mainly on theatrical performances, but I am more than happy to promote any and all local performances and productions here on the site. If you want your event added to the list, please feel free to message me or comment here.

Are you a fan of musicals, then this is the week for you to go to the theater! This week is musicals week in Bloomington, or so it seems. Check out the listings below, go see a show, and sing along to some fun musicals. It’s the perfect cure for whatever ails you.

Enjoy,

Jen

Calling all Kates

Book by Emily Goodson
Music & Lyrics by Jeremy Schonfeld

Marc gets dumped by his fiancé, Kate McBride, right before their wedding and honeymoon around the world. He’s now single and left to travel the globe alone since his plane tickets are non-transferrable and non-refundable. In an act of desperation, Marc posts an ad online for the only companion who could legally join him… someone with the exact same name as his ex-fiancé. Set loose in a bunch of different foreign countries, strangers Marc and Kate must get to know one another and learn to get along in the wake of Marc’s heartbreak. Will they fall in love? Probably not. Will they have a heck of a good time? Definitely. (musical)

Produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project on Thurs 4/13-Sat 4/15

Buy Tickets Here!

 

The Drowsy Chaperone

Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

Gangsters-turned-pastry-chefs, seductive Spaniards, and a well-oiled chaperone will have you roaring like the 20s! In this “musical within a musical”, IU Theatre icon George Pinney takes the stage to share his talent one last time, as the melancholy “Man in Chair”. As he listens to his favorite record, his drab apartment gives way to the sparkling sets and lavish costumes of The Drowsy Chaperone. (musical)

Produced by the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance on Fri 4/14 – Sun 4/16

Buy Tickets Here!

Flower and Sword

By: Ma Sen

Flower and Sword is the story of a Child returning home to visit her father’s grave. The Child is met in sequence by their Mother, Father, and Father’s Friend. A deadly love triangle is revealed as masks drop and characters merge into each other. Is the Child doomed to the same deadly fate as their parents? Taiwanese playwright Ma Sen’s one act play questions the boundaries between love, family, fate, and gender. (play)

Performed as part of the China Remixed festival Mon 4/10 – 4/12

This is a FREE event. Find out more information here!

 

The Music Man

By Meredith Wilson

One of the most joyous family musicals ever! Professor Harold Hill’s a slick but charming con man who’s got the perfect get-rich-quick scheme. First, get the folks of Iowa’s River City to invest in a marching band for the kids, complete with instruments and uniforms. Then, take the cash and skip town before anyone figures out that he doesn’t know a note! But figure him out they do—especially lovely Marian the librarian and the hard-nosed mayor. Does tragedy ensue? Of course not, because the flimflam man turns out to have a heart, romance blossoms, and that mythical band turns out to be real after all! (musical)

Produced by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music on Fri 4/14 and Sat 4/15

Buy Tickets Here!

 

Long Live Cardinal’s King Charles III

Who knew Shakespeare was still writing plays? He is currently using the pseudonym Mike Bartlett. Either that or Mike Bartlett is a reincarnation of Shakespeare. I jest, but yet how else would he be able to create a modern history play that is so perfectly Shakespearean? Bartlett’s King Charles III is a wonderful piece of theater that bring Shakespearean language, historicity, and archetypes to the world of modern politics. Cardinal’s modern, clean production of the play just adds to the play’s power and impact.

King Charles III is a fictional history of the English Royal Family that begins with the announcement that Queen Elizabeth II has just died. Like the funeral scene at the beginning of Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, the family, ministers, lords, and ladies gather to honor a well-loved monarch. The play constantly remembers Queen Elizabeth II as a strong leader who helped her country survive some very turbulent times. Read more

The BSO Tells the Best Stories in Scene Change

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Alejandro Gomez Guillen, BSO Artistic Director and Conductor

Once again, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is changing up the way we think about symphonic music. Their most recent show, Scene Change: Untold Musical Stories of Latin America was a lush celebration of the numerous riches contained in the archives of the Latin American Music Center (LAMC) and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

The collaboration between the BSO and the LAMC created a beautiful program that changed the way I understood Latin Music. I will admit that I know little about Latin symphonic music. Like most people, I tend to associate the term Latin American music with the traditional street or dance music that surrounded me when I would visit places like San Antonio. I envisioned stereotypes like mariachis and salsa dancers, but instead I got a night of wonderfully unique and diverse symphonic orchestrations that ranged from the classical (Bachianas by Adolfo Mejia) to the experimental (Introduccion y Allegro Concertante, Op. 117 by Juan Orrego-Salas) all created and performed with the passion and energy of Latin America.

The main event of the evening was, of course, the world premiere of Juan Orrego-Salas’s Ash Wednesday. Originally written in 1989, Salas’s composition has never been performed before a live audience due to a number of mishaps, but at the age of 98, Salas was finally able to hear his lovely work performed while surrounded by family and friends.

Salas based this composition on T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name. Written when Eliot was older, Ash Wednesday is a contemplative poem about the nature of faith and belief. Eliot expresses his desires to put his doubt aside and become a true believer through introspective and metaphysical poetic prose for which he is famous. Salas combined selections of the poem with musical orchestration to explore the depths of doubt, the transcendence of faith, and the individual’s struggle to sublimate one to achieve the other. The result was haunting, moving, and beautiful.

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Reader Tony Brewer and Soprano Alejandra Maritinez on stage for Salas’s Ash Wednesday.

Prior to song’s first performance, Tony Brewer, chair of the Writer’s Guild at Bloomington, took the stage to read a selection from Eliot’s poem. Poetry itself is meant to be heard not just read, so I really enjoyed this part of the show. I love hearing poetry read out loud. Not only did it allow the audience to hear the music present in the original words, but it also gave us the ability to compare the original to Salas’s composition.

The BSO’s performance of the piece was really lovely. Soprano Alejandra Martinez accompanied the BSO, singing Eliot’s words beautifully despite the obvious difficulty of the piece. Martinez, who had joined the BSO in the fall of 2016 for their opera showcase, sang with such emotion and expression that I couldn’t help but tear up a little. Her voice, along with the orchestra’s energetic performance, made Eliot’s poem even more impactful. I could hear the speaker’s struggle with doubt in the looming threat of the low brass, the flittering promise of happiness through faith in flutes and strings, and the speaker’s struggles find her place in the middle of all this noise surrounding her.

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Composer Juan Orrego-Salas accepting applause after the world premiere of Ash Wednesday.

At the completion of the piece, the audience wildly applauded as the BSO presented Salas with a lovely bouquet of flowers. He stood and waved. I was not very far away from Salas; his happiness was practically radiating from him. It was such a special night for Salas, and it was such a special night for all of us that got to celebrate it with him.

Overall, Scene Change was another fantastic example of both the BSO’s commitment to music excellence, especially considering the difficulty of the program. According to Donna Lafferty, Executive Director and orchestra trombonist, not only were these pieces completely new to all of the musicians, but they were also some of the most difficult pieces they have ever had to prepare. The audience could tell, though, that this concert was a labor of love for all involved, and the richness of the program once again exemplified the BSO’s deep commitment to celebrating the cultural treasures of the Bloomington community.

You can experience the excitement and richness of the BSO at their next performance Beasts Among Us on Sunday April 2 at Bloomington High School South. This is a free concert featuring such beastly classics at Peter and the Wolf and The Firebird Suite. The concert will also include a lovely cello performance by Ethan Murphey, this year’s Youth Concerto second place winner.

IU’s Tempest is “Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On”

Shakespeare’s The Tempest has always been a favorite of mine both as a lover of plays and as a teacher of dramatic literature. Why? That’s easy. It’s full of beauty and magic. Prospero brings to life an “insubstantial pageant” in which he creates “the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself.” He is the playwright of his own performance, and this performative layering utilizes and embodies the magic of theater in ways that Shakespeare excels over the majority of other playwrights. By tapping into new art forms and technologies, the IU Department of Theatre and Drama delivered the beauty, artistry, and magic I would expect…nay…demand of a production of The Tempest. Read more

No Escaping the Fun at BPP

Last night, my husband, my best friend, and I embarked upon a puzzle-filled adventure that I’m sure we will be talking about for weeks to come. The Bloomington Playwrights Project has created Bloomington’s first ever escape room experience!

Now if you are like I was 48 hours ago and have no idea what an escape room is, I will give you the explanation my teenage son gave me. Escape rooms are a new form of interactive performance that puts a small group of people in a situation they have to escape from in a certain amount of time. Sometimes there is a fear factor aspect to it. For example, Chris Evans (Captain America) created one where Red Skull threatened to kill those that did not escape. The ones trapped in the room can escape by solving a series of puzzles that lead to more clues and more puzzles, but they must do so in the allotted amount of time, or they fail.

I was asked to come test out the escape room with a small group of friends. I knew that the BPP was using an IU basketball theme for their escape room, but I had no idea what to expect. My son’s description had me envisioning Bobby Knight coming after me with a chair if I didn’t solve the puzzles in time. It was a humorous if not slightly disturbing image to say the least. Plus, I don’t know anything about basketball. I am a theater, literature, gaming nerd. I only know the basics about sports because my family is full of sports fans. But on sports days, I would do my best to hide in my room with a fantasy novel while they indulged in the sportsball. I hoped my lack of sports knowledge wouldn’t impede my ability to escape nor my enjoyment of the event. Read more

Plenty of Blood: IU’s Duchess of Malfi

John Webster. When I hear that name I automatically think of the 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love. In one of my favorite scenes, we meet Webster outside of the playhouse where Shakespeare’s troupe is rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare (played by Joseph Fiennes) comes out of the playhouse and sees a filthy young boy (Joe Roberts) sitting in the mud playing with several mice.

Boy: “I was in a play. They cut my head off in Titus Andronicus. When I write plays, they’ll be like Titus.”

Shakespeare: “You admire it?”

Boy: “I liked it when they cut heads off, and the daughter mutilated with knives.”

Shakespeare: “What’s your name?”

Boy: “John Webster, here kitty kitty.” (Goes to feed one of the mice to a black cat that has come up to him) “Plenty of blood. That’s the only writing.”

We know little about Webster’s life, but there is little doubt that this funny yet disturbing depiction is the brainchild of Tom Stoppard. This is his Webster, and since seeing this movie almost a decade ago, it’s also mine. It fits the bloodiness of his plays, and the dark twisted mind of a playwright whose predilection for horror and the supernatural seems more akin to Shyamalan than to Shakespeare. Every confrontation I have with a Webster play is colored by this depiction, for better for worse. I want to see that twisted, masochistic little boy in the creations that bear his name.

Read more

A Dragstravaganza: Cardinal’s Legend of Georgia McBride

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Last week, Limestone Post published a preview piece about The Legend of Georgia McBride by yours truly. While writing, I could barely contain my giddiness about the show. I was so excited that part of me worried the production could never live up to my expectations. We have all had that experience. After waiting weeks for that 5-star meal or that video game sequel, you have the meal or play the game. While it’s good, it just doesn’t live up to your grandiose expectations. So there I was Friday afternoon, fretting that perhaps I had oversold this performance in my article and in my own imagination.

But every once in a while, we have the exact opposite experience. We work ourselves up into a tizzy with excitement, and then the reality of the thing is so much better than we ever could imagine. The Legend of Georgia McBride did that for me. It gave me everything I wanted from a play about drag:  shade, puns, glamour heart, strength, rebellion, and laughs galore!

Read more

Touching History in BPP’s Row After Row

We have all heard the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Philosopher George Satayana’s oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) phrase has become so cliché and so overused that it is both overflowing with and devoid of meaning, yet it is one writers, philosophers, and politicians all like to use to emphasize the need for remembering. Forgetting the past hinders our progress toward a “more perfect” future, but can the process of remembering do the same thing? Do our reconstructions of history replace the lived reality of historical event? Can remembering also condemn us to repeating the past?

My mind has been full of questions like these since seeing the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of Row After Row this past weekend.  Row After Row is a short play (run time of 1hr and 10mins), but a lot of funny jokes, character development, and historical layering occurs during that short time. The play takes a close look at the world of modern day Civil War reenactments. As someone who loves performance, I have always been intrigued by the men and women that dedicate numerous hours and an insane amount of money to participating in this large-scale performance, and this play provide a nice little glimpse into that world. Read more