Theater

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ serves up large helping of musical comedy

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A house plant. Not the most original present. Unless as is the case with the newest gift from the Bowing Green State University Department of Theatre the plant happens to be the flesh eating kind and expresses its appetite in such soulful dulcet tones. “Little House of Horrors” opens tonight (Thursday, Nov. 15) at 8 p.m. and continues  with shows Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center for the Arts on campus. Click for tickets. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, known for their later work on Disney musical animated films, turned a grade B horror film into a delightful romp on Skid Row with tuneful, Motown inspired melodies and a story that revels in its campy roots. This is a love story, and a weird celebration of neighborhood. “Downtown (Skid Row)” paints the scene, a place people want to flee, yet there’s a cheerfulness to the despair.  That neighborhood spirit is embodied by the three urchins, essentially a girl group from the 1960s. They are one of the show’s most inspired touches. Chiffon (Zayion Hyman), Crystal (Sherry White), and Ronnette (Gabriyel Thomas) are always on hand, a soulful Greek chorus, belting out reflections and advice, all in robust harmony and rousing rhythm. They are played as ageless sprites, always observing, and amused, but never intervening. Seymour (played by Michael Cuschieri at the dress rehearsal I saw and on Thursday and Saturday, and played by Noah Estep on Friday and Sunday) is a child of Skid Row, a hopeless kind of nerd. An orphan he was taken in by Mushnik (Isaac Batty) who owns a flower shop. As Seymour recounts he has lived in the shop since he was a child, sleeping under a counter and eating scraps. Even God isn’t sure what to make of him. But he loves plants and finds a peculiar species he can’t identify and brings it to the shop to nurture. He names it Audrey II after the shop’s clerk Audrey (Anna Randazzo) whom he has a crush on.  Audrey slut-shames herself and thinks all she deserves for a boyfriend is the sadistic dentist Orin (Noah Froelich). Orin’s treatment of Audrey is hard to stomach even in a comedy.  He’s a one-dimensional villian, but packed with all the minerals and vitamins a carnivorous plant needs. Audrey has her dreams of living in a tract housing development somewhere green, in an arch bit of foreshadowing. The song really sounds like a parody of a Disney heroine — think Ariel singing “Part of Your World” — except this came first. Randazzo invests the song with longing for Pine-Sol scented air, which makes it all the funnier. Once Seymour discovers what Audrey II (voiced with sinister relish by Michel Carder) needs for nourishment, the plant thrives and grows hungrier.  Audrey II’s fame brings the shop prosperity that spills over into the neighborhood. The urchins get busy with deliveries and helping where they can, but you wonder how much do they know? All this unfolds in a preposterous, wide-eyed way. “Little Shop of Horrors” leaves the audience feeling as satisfied as Audrey II after a generous meal. It’s a perfect gift.

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‘You Got Older’ delivers emotional look at family, sex, & cancer

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Late in the play “You Got Older” actor Jim Dachik makes a slight gesture to his neck. That’s where his character has had cancer surgery. The gesture is casual, just something this aging man would do. Yet the slight, silent movement speaks volumes. The touch is freighted with concern about his health, and the desire to conceal that concern from his daughter, Mae (Kelly Dunn) who is seated at the breakfast table across from him. They’d already been through a lot, and it’s all packed in that simple gesture. Clare Barron’s 2014 award-winning drama opens tonight (Thursday, Oct. 18) for a two weekend run in the Eva Marie Saint Theatre at Bowling Green State University. Click showtimes and tickets.  When the play opens, Mae has just arrived to spend some time with her father who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Mae is a 30-something woman at a critical point in her life. She was just dumped by her boyfriend who was also her boss so she also lost her job. She’s missing physical intimacy — she knows exactly how long it’s been since she’s had sex — but she’s also suffering from a severe rash on her back stretching to under her breasts. She struggles to keep all this away from her father, who wants to know. They have the kind of relationship where a discussion of toothbrushes erupts into an argument. He seems determined not to let the cancer weaken his involvement with his family. He’s torn between being resigned and defiant. This is captured in what he calls his cancer song, Regina Spektor’s “Firewood,” the song he listens to on the way to treatment. He has Mae listen to it. The song with its opening line “the piano is not firewood yet” and talk about rising “from your cold hospital bed” expresses what he cannot. Alone in her older sister’s former room though never safe from a casual intrusion by her father, Mae has intense visions of a cowboy (Tyler Fugitt), who treats her as property and handles her roughly. In real life, she goes out to the local bar and meets townie Mac (Adam Hensley), who both offers comfort, but is also kind of odd, at once sweet and  creepy. As Dad goes in for treatment, we meet Mae’s siblings — in-charge older sister Hannah (Hope Elizabeth Eiler), the lost in the muddle middle brother Matthew (Caleb Wise), and the needy younger sister Jenny (Missy Snyder).  The family dynamic plays out as they sit in their father’s hospital room sharing food Hannah has selected, mostly because of Jenny’s dietary restrictions. They have their problems, just like all families, but “You Got Older” does not trade in deep secrets suddenly revealed. The family’s discontents play out within a context of love.  Barron dares employ cell phones, technology that may date it in just a few years, as a device to connect the world to this family’s activities and used by individual members to disconnect from the immediate situation. What they need, Matthew says, is a family dance party. That would mean a wedding. That seems unlikely to occur.  Directed by Sara Lipinski-Chambers, “You Got Older” makes us hope that maybe the family will get a chance to dance together, and maybe the…


3B’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ hits the right tone in reprise of beloved show

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The freak flag is flying high in the Maumee Indoor Theatre again, thanks to 3B Productions. The company is bringing the fairy tale musical, based on the hit animated film itself inspired by William Stieg’s picture book, back just four years after last staging it. The show’s charms are undeniable — a twisted love story with a fairytale backdrop and an uplifting message about accepting oneself. Not to mention a love-besotted dragon. “Shrek the Musical” will be on stage at the Maumee Indoor Theatre this weekend Oct. 18-21 with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Contact 3Bproductions.org for tickets. This “Shrek” hits the mark in several important ways. To me, the show’s big challenge is to take on  the leads as real characters not simply the comic projections of the actors in the beloved animated film. Jake Drouillard as the title character, Dylan Coale as his sidekick Donkey, Jennifer Braun as Princess Fiona, and Matthew D. Badyna as the evil Lord Farquaad all understand this, and bring their characters to life in a fresh way that remains true to the script. Drouillard makes sure Shrek’s lovable layers are evident from the start. Coale’s Donkey is more level-headed for all his hysterics. Braun’s inner ogre shades her whole performance. Even when she’s trying to play out the standard damsel in distress script, she insists on being in charge. Badyna, acting as the part requires on his knees, plays up the comedy as the scheming lord. And you have to love the nod to “The Producers” in the production number “What’s Up Duloc.” All this comes through because their enunciation of witty lyrics is clear. They deliver the comic and emotional nuances embedded in the songs. Special mention should be made of Chloe Smallwood who provides the voice of the dragon. A lot goes on in her big scene. Her vocal has to compete with an antic Donkey being pursued the dragon — the creation of Hannah Kinney for 3B’s 2014 show and the go-to dragon for other area “Shrek” productions. Stationed apart from all this, Smallwood delivers the dragon’s soaring internal monologue about what’s really on her mind. She’s in love with Donkey. Smallwood’s voice cuts through all the stage business to set up that important emotional twist. The show’s popularity also rests on the large cast, including a host of fairy tale creatures, each with a personality and back story.  The climatic “Freak Flag” is a rousing anthem — “what makes us different makes us strong.” Pinocchio (Bob Marzola-Hughes), who struggles with his own identity crisis, debates whether they should just retreat while the Gingy (Cayla Kale) argues for rebellion. One can feel the collective energy of the story book characters as they decide to confront Lord Farquaad over his campaign of fairy-tale cleansing. Unlike them the diminutive Farquaad — the son of Grumpy (Zack Hubaker) of the Seven Dwarfs — wants to deny his special qualities and instead wants stand tall among “normal” folk. The production team opted to use projected backdrops for most of the scenery, with only a very few select set pieces. That means the show moves along with little time between scene changes. The show, directed by Joe Barton with…


Sha Sha Higby’s multifaceted art to take wing at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Sha Sha Higby’s art is a continual work in progress. The performance artist blends sculpture, puppetry, costuming, drawing, lights, and music, all influenced by ancient traditions from Japan, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian traditions. When Higby presents her one-person show “Paperwings III” at Bowling Green State University Wednesday, she will bring together two pieces. This is not their culmination though. The puppeteer-sculptor will surely make more alterations. Higby’s performance will be the opening event for the New Music Festival, which continues on campus through Saturday with a full schedule of concerts and presentations. “Paperwings III” will be staged Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The performance is free. When people arrive, they will find a sculpture on stage. That sculpture that the audience sees will come alive. “I’m using my body as a motor,” Higby said in a recent telephone interview. The work then unfolds as she uses her limbs to bring masks to life. Her drawings are projected onto the wings of her costume, and the whole scene is bathed in dramatic lighting, designed with the assistance of her husband Albert Hollander, also assists with the music. That soundtrack washes over the scene. Some of it is original music, but mostly it’s snippets of sound picked up from her travels. It may be birds, electronics or a gamelan orchestra. (Higby performed years ago at BGSU with the university’s gamelan.) Some audience members will be given small bells so they can contribute to the sound. “It’s like a piece of poetry. You have to use your imagination to link the parts,” Higby said. “It’s a visual dessert of images that are flowing.” In addition to the performance a retrospective exhibit of her work will be on display at the Bryan Gallery in the Fine Arts Center through Nov. 4.  “The costumes and sculptures are elaborate, lyrical and meticulously hand-crafted,” gallery director Jacqueline Nathan stated. The show will include a video of some of her earlier performances. The exhibit was  a challenge to set up because it is shipped in pieces and requires assembly. In fact, Higby said, the amount of work would cover a football field of arms, legs, wings, masks, and more.  “I’ll fluff it when I come,” she said. Higby, who was born in Michigan and grew up in California, started sewing and making doll clothes as a child. Her stepfather made shirts, and her brother also took up the craft and continues to make sails. Higby created dolls, clothes for them, and dollhouses. When she attended art school she was told that dolls weren’t art. So she focused on drawing. “It’s the most direct medium,” she said. “Drawings are the window to the soul.” In 1971, early in her college career, she traveled to Japan and became entranced with Noh Theater. Later she studied dance, shadow puppet making and performance arts in Indonesia. Then 25 years later she returned to Japan to study the intricate craft of lacquering the masks, which require 50 layers of lacquer that is made from the sap of a particular tree. The lacquer, Higby said, is, like yogurt, living … fitting for her work. In creating her work, Higby does not draw out her designs…


HYT musical looks back, but not far, at being 13

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Being 13 is hard. Maybe singing and dancing about it makes it better. The Horizon Youth Theatre is staging the Jason Robert Brown musical “13: The Musical” this weekend at the Otsego High auditorium, Thursday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.  and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/tickets-available-now-for-hyts-13-the-musical/) The cast of teen actors are not far removed from those troublesome years. The script by Dan Elish and Robert Horn plays heavily on the social aspects of being in junior high. There’s nary an adult mentioned, save for the lead character’s mother, and the off-stage voice of a rabbi. This is all about the kids, and their relationships with their peers and their own emerging personalities. The musical opens with Evan (Thomas Long) singing about turning 13, when everything changes. He’s looking forward to his bar mitzvah which he envisions as a wild party with the hottest DJ in the city and dancing. Then he learns his parents are divorcing, and he and his mother are moving to Appleton, Indiana, where he knows no one. Who will come to his bar mitzvah now? Certainly Patrice (Terra Sloane) his new neighbor who befriends him, and he wants the in-crowd led by quarterback Brett (Isaac Douglass). And there lies the conflict on which the whole plot hinges. Patrice, a girl who thinks for herself, is an outcast, and if she goes then none of the “cool” kids will attend, or at least so sayeth alpha boy-child Brett. All this leads to about 90 minutes of navigation through the circles of middle school hell. The hierarchy is familiar — the jocks and cheerleaders and the nerds. The script keeps the divisions simple and clear. Evan, who is both determined and quite confused, has to be on one side or the other, as much as he tries in his awkward almost 13-year-old way to straddle them. He ingratiates himself to Brett by suggesting how he can get close enough to Kendra (Anne Weaver) to get some “tongue.” The idea is to go to a horror movie, an R-rated horror movie, and that means getting Evan’s off-stage mom to buy the tickets. So he enlists Archie (M. Clifford). Archie has muscular dystrophy and walks using crutches, to ask his mother because “no one says ‘no’ to a boy with a terminal illness.”  Archie is the most interesting character. Archie understands his dilemma and that he must scheme to get anything. When he and Evan scheme together, though, things are bound to go awry. Throw into the mix another schemer Lucy (Scarlet Frishman) supposedly Kendra’s best friend, who really has her sights set on Brett. The fragility of these relationships plays out in the songs, which have a retro rock sound. “Hey Kendra” sung by Brett’s posse Malcolm (Gavin Miller) and Eddie (Bob Walters) sounds like a barbershop quartet singing on a corner. The lyrics are full of clever turns. Brett pondering when he’ll make his move on Kendra during the movie sings of how everyone “is immersed in all the blood vessels bursting” on the screen. Sloane’s Patrice gets to sing the heart-wrenching number about “What It Means To Be a Friend.” And then late in the show, she and Long’s Evan do that musical theater…


Tickets available now for HYT’s “13 the Musical”

Submitted by HORIZON YOUTH THEATRE Award-winning Horizon Youth Theatre is proud to present Jason Robert Brown’s 13 the Musical October 4th and 6th at 7:00 pm and October 7th at 2:00 pm at Otsego High School. Paraphrasing from Music Theatre International’s website, 13, which is celebrating its tenth year, is a musical about fitting in, and (of course) standing out. Geek… poser… jock… beauty queen… wannabe: these are the labels that can last a lifetime. In the story by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, Evan Goldman is unexpectedly plucked from his fast-paced, preteen New York City life and plopped into a sleepy Indiana town following his parents’ divorce. Surrounded by a new array of small town – and sometimes small minded – middle school students, he needs to establish his place in the popularity pecking order. Can he situate himself on a comfortable link of the food chain… or will he dangle at the end with the freaks and nerds? Directed by Cassie Greenlee, the musical features 13 students ages 12-17 from several area schools including Bowling Green. The rest of the production team: Kat Knoell, stage manager; Tim Barker, choreographer; Tyler Strayer, music director; Kay Kleingers, technical director; and Meghan Koesters, assistant director. Cast list: Evan – Thomas Long Patrice – Terra Sloane Archie – M Clifford Brett – Isaac Douglass Lucy – Scarlet Frishman Kendra – Anne Weaver Eddie – Bob Walters Malcolm – Gavin Miller Simon – Eli Marx Ritchie – Aubrey Evans Charlotte – Rose Walters Molly – Whitney Bechstein Cassie – Alexandra Meade Though the musical is about teenagers, the stories that come to life here are ageless, the emotions they explore timeless, the laughter and the memories they provide priceless. Otsego High School is only seven minutes from downtown BG. Come enjoy the singing, dancing, and PG-13 humor… and leave the little ones at home this time! Bring them to HYT’s Silly Goose October 26-28. Tickets available now for both shows on Horizon Youth Theatre’s website. Prices for 13 are $10.00 student / senior and $13.00 adult.


BGSU Arts Events through Oct. 3

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATION Through Oct. 21 – Bowling Green State University’s School of Art announces the opening of “So Much More: Ohio’s African-American Artists.” Over the course of its planning, the exhibition has evolved from a tribute to the legacy of athlete, actor, visual artist and BGSU alumnus Bernie Casey, and other African-American alumni to a broader intergenerational conversation among alumni, current students and invited African-American artists from Ohio addressing the intersection of racial identity and personal expression.  The exhibition, in the Willard Wankelman Gallery in the Fine Arts Center, runs through Oct. 21. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Through Sept. 29 – BGSU is part of the collaborative “ScupltureX – Igniting Change: Teaching Artists and Social Practice” with the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Toledo Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Toledo. The BGSU exhibition, sponsored by David and Myrna Bryan and curated by Saul Ostrow, features the work of regional sculpture faculty. BGSU also will host a series of presentations, including talks by Ostrow and Mel Chin, on campus Sept. 29.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 17 – The Grammy-winning choral ensemble Conspirare presents “Considering Matthew Shepard” as part of the McMaster Residency in the College of Musical Arts. Under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, the group will perform the three-part oratorio, an evocative and compassionate musical response to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a young, gay college student at the University of Wyoming who in October 1998 was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a lonely field under a blanket of stars. The performance begins at 7 p.m. in Kobacker Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. A talkback with BGSU panelists and Johnson will follow the performance at 9 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. Admission is free for all BGSU faculty, staff and students with ID at the door. Advance tickets for community members are $7 for adults and $3 for students and children. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Call the BGSU Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171 or purchase online at www.bgsu.edu/arts. Sept. 18 – Tuesdays at the Gish presents “The Florida Project” (2017, U.S., 115 minutes, directed by Sean Baker), with an introduction by Britt Rhuart, doctoral student in American culture studies. This independent film starring Willem Dafoe as a caring motel manager introduces Brooklyn Prince as a six-year-old girl who lives with her brash young mother (Bria Vinaite) in a cheap motel near Disney World. The film follows her adventures and misadventures with her raging band of friends throughout a summer. The screening begins at 7:30 p.m. in 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union (Theater). Free Sept. 19 – The Faculty Artist Series presents saxophonist David Bixler. Bixler, associate professor and director of Jazz Activities Ensembles, is a composer and educator who has steadily garnered attention for his unique playing and writing. Joining Bixler for this performance are Jon Cowherd, piano; Ike Sturm, bass; and Rogerio Boccato, percussion. The recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 20 – The Edwin H. Simmons Creative Minds…