REVIEW: Paul Gnadt says: “Greenawalt Sparkles In Plaza’s ENCHANTED APRIL”

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ENCHANTED APRIL opened at PlazaCo last weekend and the reviews for the show are coming in strong. Patrons are telling us that they weren’t sure what to expect with a show that they were unfamiliar with, but that they are walking away having loved this magical and beautiful show. Critic Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers echoes those sentiments with his fabulous review of the show. We hope you’ll examine these positive reports of the show and perhaps reconsider your willingness to attend a show that may be unknown to you. As the critics are saying: it’s worth giving something new a chance. Read on for a great review of the show and then call us at 817-202-0600 or visit www.plaza-theatre.com to reserve.

GREENAWALT SPARKLES IN PLAZA’S ENCHANTED APRIL
by Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers

There were hints and glimpses that she could do it, and now she has.

Stacey Greenawalt, who could be seen just on the periphery of the spotlight in her previous 13 Plaza Theater Company productions — the detective in “Clue the Musical,” the confused and frustrated fiancee who beats the daylights out of a corpse in “Cash on Delivery,” or the wealthy manipulator in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” — displayed the comic timing, expressiveness, charisma and energy that made you believe she could be the centerpiece. She can.

Albeit surrounded by some of Plaza’s most talented and veteran actors, Greenawalt is everything you knew she could be in PTC’s production of “Enchanted April,” playing through May 10 at the Plaza Theatre in Cleburne.

With only eight actors, “Enchanted” is perfect for the intimacy of PTC’s 160-seat theater-in-the-round, and, as usual, the set designed by PTC cofounder JaceSon Barrus is clever and functional, serving its purpose without taking your attention away from the dialogue.

And the dialogue is fast, furious and often funny in this humorous play with dramatic undertones that, at first, appears to be about a girls getaway, but ends up being about facing problems, transformation and hope for tomorrow.

Greenawalt is Lotty Wilton, who lives with her very proper and very chauvinistic husband, Mellersh, (PTC fan favorite Jonathan Metting, who apparently lives at the Plaza and can handle with ease whatever part he’s assigned) in dreary, dark and damp London in 1922.

It’s raining as Lotty, tired of being the target of what today would be called psychological abuse, reads a “for rent” ad for a castle in Italy called San Salvatore and decides to spend her meager rainy-day fund to rent it for one month.

When Lotty sees Rose Arnott (played by the talented Tina Barrus) reading the same ad, she persuades Rose to join her, unlocking a dark history from Rose’s past that may have led to her tormented present.

Barrus, also a cofounder of PTC, is usually responsible for the company’s costumes, and she is this time, too, giving herself and the others outfits that fit the mood of the situations of Act 1, then transforming the outfits to just the right message for Act 2.

The scene where Lotty and Rose tell their husbands (Metting and the versatile Jay Lewis as Frederick Arnott) they are going away to Italy for one month is one of the most clever ever at the PTC. Both couples are on stage simultaneously but, as the spotlight jumps back and forth from one to the other, they alternate in delivering the news and dealing with the expected reaction.
It is a powerful scene with an unusual technique that requires split-second timing and delivery.

To help with expenses and make things interesting and entangled, Lotty and Rose take on two additional women — the street-wise Caroline Bramble (played smoothly by Jennifer Fortson) and the aristocratic Mrs. Graves, a role made for Trich Zaitoon, who can be overpowering when needed and dripping with sugar when necessary.

Completing the cast are Joann Gracey as Constanza, the Italian-speaking maid whose physical expressions need no interpretation, and Michael McMillan as Antony Wilding, the castle’s owner whose manners are impeccable and perceptions even sharper.

Although Bramble and Graves have taken the best rooms at the castle for themselves, Lotty and Rose are having such a good time they invite their husbands to join them — which causes a problem because Arnott (Lewis), who travels a lot promoting his salacious novels, is having a romantic relationship with Bramble. A scene when Metting decides to take a bath and the tub blows up is PTC physical comedy at its best.

Weaving the tapestry together is Greenawalt, using an energy that so connects with the audience that you just want to leave your seat and go rowing with her, or shopping, or for a walk, just to feel better.

As you would expect from a British comedy, all ends well, but it takes some laughs and serious introspection to get there.

“Enchanted April” is enchanting, indeed. See it.

Written by Matthew Barber from a novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim, directed by JaceSon Barrus with assistance from Jay A. Cornils, with costumes by Tina Barrus, with sound, set and lights designed by JaceSon P. Barrus, “Enchanted April” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a matinee at 3 p.m. Saturdays through May 10 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St. in Cleburne.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for age 65 and older and high school and college students, and $13 for children age 13 and under — and can be purchased online at http://www.plaza-theatre.com, or at the box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or by phone at 817-202-0600.

Casting Announcement: CAMELOT at Plaza Theatre Company

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Plaza Theatre Company is pleased to announce the official cast list for its upcoming production of CAMELOT. The show will open on May 16th and play thru June 14th. It is under the direction of Luke Hunt with musical direction by Dick Helmcamp and choreography by Rachel Hunt. The cast is as follows: (double cast where noted)

Arthur – Hillard Cochran

Merlyn – Jay Cornils

Guenevere – Meredith Browning

Lancelot – Joel Lagrone

Pellinore – Ozzie Ingram

Mordred – David Phillips/Jason Phillip Cole

Tom of Warwick – Liam Blanton

Sir Dinadan – Robert Shores

Sir Lionel – Jesse Bowron

Sir Sagramore – Raymond Blanton

Dap – Joshua Cummins

Lady Anne – Molly Morgan

Lady Catherine – Stacey Blanton

Lady Sybil – Cherie Robinson

Guilliam – Michael Sorter/Nolan Moralez

Colgrevence – Michael Lain

Bliant – Nathan Glenn

Castor – Al Mayo

Clarius – Michael Sorter/Nolan Moralez

Squire/Herald – Greg Hooper

Nimue – Kathy Lemons

Ensemble -
Kendall Paredes
Justine Henderson
Rylee Mullen
Lena Moralez
Madison Heaps
Maddie Almond
Noelle Mitchell

“KISS ME KATE Is A Singing And Dancing Delight” – Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers

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The second review is out for KISS ME KATE, and it’s another great recommendation of the show. Tickets are still available for most performances between now and closing by visiting www.plaza-theatre.com or by calling the PlazaCo Box Office at 817-202-0600. Read on for a great review then hurry up and get your tickets.

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KISS ME KATE Is A Singing And Dancing Delight
by Paul Gnadt of The Star Group Newspapers

Some familiar faces with good voices are joined by a new face with a pleasant voice in The Plaza Theatre Company’s presentation of “Kiss Me, Kate,” playing through April 12 at the Plaza Theatre in Cleburne.

PTC cofounder JaceSon Barrus and 25-Plaza-productions veteran Daron Cockerell are back and in fine voice as usual as the leads in this musical that is a “play within a play,” a theatrical device whereby the main story calls for the actors to present a secondary story by way of a play, which reveals character flaws or other traits of the actors in the main play.

Perhaps two of the most widely known examples of a “play within a play” are “Man of La Mancha,” in which Don Quixote’s fantasies are acted out by his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition, and “Singing in the Rain,” where Donald O’Conner and Debbie Reynolds are always singing and dancing in rehearsal mode for another show.
It must work because it sure is used a lot.

Barrus and Cockerell (who long ago both earned asterisks next to their names in the playbill, denoting their membership in the PTC 20 Club of those who have participated in 20 or more PTC productions) are joined by PTC veteran Jonathan Metting, fresh off his Column Award for best supporting actor in Metroplex live stage for PTC’s “Dear Ruth,” and newcomer Carlee Cagle, a tall and athletic performer with a pleasant voice.

Barrus and Cockerell starred opposite each other before in PTC’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “Ragtime,” and their comfort with, confidence in and respect for each other is obvious.

That familiarity with each other allows Cockerell plenty of time to get off some zingy one-liners without Barrus stepping on her lines, and also gives Barrus equal opportunity.

Barrus is featured in seven Cole Porter songs, and while he is equally good at serious acting or comedy, this may be his best singing performance of all the 51 PTC shows in which he has appeared.

The musical opens on the bare stage of Baltimore’s Ford Theatre in June 1948. A troupe of traveling actors is rehearsing for their musical version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” starring Fred Graham (Barrus) and his ego as Petruchio, and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Cockerell) as Katharine, the shrew to be tamed.

However, troupe member Bill Calhoun (Metting), who is also in the “other” play, has a gambling problem that is threatening his relationship with Lois Lane (Cagle), who is Bianca in the “Taming” play.

Calhoun loses a betting bundle and signs Graham’s name to the IOU. That’s when thugs First Man (Michael D. Durington) and Second Man (G. Aaron Siler) show up to collect the debt and become part of the troupe.

Durington and Siler’s version of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” is a hoot and the best example of the double and triple rhyming that is part of the dialogue and lyrics throughout the play.

Other recognizable and enjoyable musical numbers include “Another Op’nin’ Another Show,” “Wunderbar,” “So in Love,” and “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Barrus, Cagle, Cockerell and Metting are a delight singing and clowning in “We Open in Venice,” and  Cagle shows why this is only her first of many more PTC appearances in “Always True to You (In My Fashion).”

She is in top form as the eye of the storm created by Metting, Jesse Bowron and Levi King, who swirl around her vying for affection in the lively “Tom, Dick or Harry.”

Choreographer Tiffany Mullins has Metting, Cagle and the ensemble doing some neat dance routines in the 160-seat theatre-in-the-round, but I thought a couple of dance routines were a little longer than necessary in the almost 2 and 1/2-hour performance that includes a 15-minute intermission.
While the dancers were fancy on their feet, I was getting antsy in my seat.

Robert Shores provides a perfect “by the book” military man who is supposed to marry Lilli, but is more in love with his career. The role is double-cast with Luke Hunt, who I don’t have to see to know he does a good job.

As with any G. Aaron Siler-directed effort, watch how the actors on the periphery remain engaged, either with facial expressions, fake talk or both.

The thing about “a play within a play” is you get to see two shows for the price of one. And at the Plaza, that’s always a good deal.
With music and lyrics by Cole Porter, from a book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, with musical direction by Cheri Dee Mega, costumes by Kara Barnes, sound and lights by Siler and set design by Barrus and Siler, “Kiss Me, Kate” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St. in Cleburne.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for age 65 and older and high school and college students, and $13 for children age 13 and under — and can be purchased online at http://www.plaza-theatre.com, or at the box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or by phone at 817-202-0600.

Poll Question: Vote For The Camp Show You’d Most Like To See Us Produce

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We’re seeking your input today. Every year we present a Summer Teen Camp where teenagers take part in our annual summer show. Some successful productions from the past include FOOTLOOSE, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, ALL SHOOK UP, JOSEPH…DREAMCOAT, BYE BYE BIRDIE – and this year we’ll be presenting SEUSSICAL the MUSICAL. It truly is one of our biggest events of the season. But choosing a Camp Show is also a challenge because there are several criteria the show has to meet. Among them:

  • Is it a show that WE are capable of producing?
  • Does it meet our family-friendly model?
  • Will young people WANT to be a part of this show?
  • Are we capable of getting a cast for the show?
  • Are there enough parts of the show that campers can be on stage for?

and lastly…

  • Will our audience like it?

As you can see, it can be quite a daunting task to find the perfect title that fits the bill. So today we are asking for your opinion. Please consider the criteria above and vote in our poll. Your answers will be a big help in giving us guidance. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Jeremy Osborne of The Column by John Garcia: “KISS ME KATE is a first-class musical”

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The first review of our production of KISS ME KATE has been released and it features some excellent comments about the show. Read on for an excellent recommendation of the show and then give us a call at 817-202-0600 or visit www.plaza-theatre.com to get your seats.

__________________KISS ME KATE __________________
by Jeremy William Osborne of The Column by John Garcia

They open in Cleburne. They next play … well, Cleburne. Such is the life of community theatre where we don’t get to play exotic locations like Venice or Verona. However, Cleburne’s Plaza Theatre Company has a great production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate ready for you to see.

In 1948, after a slew of flops, Porter presented this musical, his first “new style” of musical with songs written to integrate into the story, first created by Rodgers and Hammerstein with Oklahoma. It was an unprecedented success, winning the first Tony Award ever given for Best Musical in 1949. It was made into the 1953 film of the same name, starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, directed by George Sidney, and choreographed by Bob Fosse.

The musical is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew about a recently divorced acting couple brought back together to play the lead roles in a musical version of the aforementioned Shakespeare play. Hijinks ensue as the play within the play’s Producer/Director/Leading Man is saddled into a gambling debt he did not create and bullied by a pair of mobsters, while his estranged wife/co-star threatens to walk out on the show. Things end on a happy note with the mobsters averted and the foreshadowed “shrew” being tamed.

Direction and choreography are supremely well done for the in-the-round configuration of Plaza Theatre Center. All sides of the audience are given equal “face time” with the action on the stage. In “We Open in Venice”; the actors turn a different direction for each verse. Even the set design takes this into account. The dressing room/split set has the actors facing in opposite directions so that no one misses out on the plot or seeing at least half of the cast.

Set design is kept simple, no cluttering the stage and leaving plenty of room for dancing and movement. This also allows pieces of scenery to not block views. Most scenes involve the entrances and exits, which have archways during the Taming of the Shrew scenes to differentiate what’s happening “on stage” in the play as opposed to
the musical’s action. The most elaborate set is the dressing room which features a door jaggedly cut in half to create the illusion of a full door so as to not block views. In all areas of direction and design, G. Aaron Siler shows that he is an expert with this difficult stage lay out.

Costume design for this production is pretty good. The Shakespearean costumes are appropriate, with great attention paid to Katharine and Bianca’s costumes. Unfortunately, Katharine’s purple dress in the first act underwent an apparent emergency costume fix during the reviewed performance. The modern costumes for the backstage scenes were fine Special attention is paid to period-appropriate hairstyles, while slacks and shirts for the men or dresses and dressing gowns for the women are period accurate. The biggest misstep is the General’s uniform. An analogue for Gen. MacArthur, he strides in without a single medal or adornment on his shirt. Not even a single star on his collar, the simplest mark of a general, appears. His plain khaki uniform is fine but is a glaring oversight in an otherwise good work.

Lighting for the show is also adequate. There were moments in the reviewed performance I wasn’t certain if the darkness was a design flaw or a missed light cue. Daron Cockerell also finished delivering her lines in the dressing room in what is probably scene change lighting. Later, during “I Hate Men,” some lighting angles leave her face in shadow.

The choreography is fun and Fosse-inspired, and the actors do their best to keep up. The dance steps are intricate, and at times it’s apparent they are not experienced enough for them. During “Tom, Dick, or Harry,” Jonathan Metting attempts to do a roll across Levi King’s back, kicking his feet into the air. Instead he does more of a wind-milling hop near King. Little things like this are not disastrous but do lower the quality of the show.

The singing throughout the musical is fantastic. The actors are singing along with music tracts which are perfectly cued and well balanced. However, there are multiple instances when the ensemble seems not familiar with their parts. Many times they missed the start of a phrase and then caught up once they realized what line they should be on.

2014 COLUMN Award winner Daron Cockerell turns in one of the greatest performances possible as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine. She’s spiteful and full of hate, while still hilarious, with well-placed jabs of humor. Her song, “I Hate Men”, is one of the best musical performances of the year.

Opposite her, as Fred Graham, is JaceSon P.Barrus who wonderfully keeps pace with Cockerell’s tour de force performance, but sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the action happening around him His seems more of a supporting role than a leading man, setting up scenarios for those around him to play out. His singing and mannerisms are spot on for the character but needs greater leading man qualities to pull off the role.

As the mobsters shaking down Fred Graham, Michael D. Durington and G. Aaron Siler steal the show in any scene they’re in. It’s impossible to not follow their every move to see what wacky thing they do next. The bit where Durington tries to signal Siler to put his gun away, but Siler doesn’t understand, works wonderfully and draws great laughs from the audience. They are a great comedic pair and their rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” is fun and silly.

Carlee Cagle plays cute show girl, Lois Lane, and performs “Always True to You in my Fashion” stunningly. Jonathan Metting (who earned a 2014 COLUMN Award in February) is her scheming beau, Bill Calhoun, who has the gambling debt he passes on to Fred Graham. His performance is great for the character His swagger as the classic bad boy is impeccable. They are a fine pair that does a fantastic job in supporting roles.

A special mention goes to Tom Cockerell and his unapologetic Texas accent, which cracked me up. One of the funniest moments of the show follows a great scene with Daron Cockerell and Barrus – Tom Cockerell comes onstage and delivers a line of Shakespearean dialogue with his accent which lands on the ears like the punch line of a sensational joke – it is beautiful.

Amazing performances, great music and scenery, and fine dancing, despite a couple minor missteps, makes Kiss Me Kate at Plaza Theatre Company a first-class musical. Daron Cockerell’s performance is astonishing and G. Aaron Siler’s direction is near perfection. I highly recommend the drive down to Cleburne to see this show.

Casting Announcement: ENCHANTED APRIL at Plaza Theatre Company

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Plaza Theatre Company is pleased to announce the official Cast List for its upcoming production of ENCHANTED APRIL. The show is under the direction of JaceSon P. Barrus and will play at PlazaCo from April 18th thru May 10th. Thank you to all who auditioned and congratulations to those cast.

LOTTY WILTON – Stacey Greenawalt
ROSE ARNOTT – Tina Barrus
MELLERSH WILTON – Jonathan Metting
FREDERICK ARNOTT – Jay Lewis
CAROLINE BRAMBLE – Jennifer Fortson
MRS. GRAVES – Trich Zaitoon
ANTONY WILDING – Michael McMillan
COSTANZA – JoAnn Gracey

Audition Notice: CAMELOT at Plaza Theatre Company

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Audition Notice: CAMELOT at Plaza Theatre Company

Plaza Theatre Company is pleased to announce open auditions for its upcoming production of CAMELOT. The initial audition is being held on Monday March 24th and Tuesday March 25th from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. Auditioners need only make an appointment for one of the available days. Audition appointments are available by calling the Plaza Box Office at 817-202-0600 or by visiting here:Plaza Audition Appointments

The audition will be held at Plaza Academy which is located at 221 Mill Street in Cleburne about 1 block from Plaza Theatre Company. The show will be directed by Luke Hunt with musical direction by Dick Helmcamp and choreography by Rachel Hunt.

AUDITION INFORMATION

Those auditioning are asked to come prepared to sing 16 bars of music in the style of the show that will best display their vocal ability. An accompanist will be provided. Additionally, those auditioning will be asked to read cold from the script during the initial audition. The directors will spend around 5 minutes with each individual performer at this initial audition.

A call back audition will be held on Saturday March 29th at 9am. Those who the Directors wish to see further will be invited to the call back audition which may last up to 4 hours time. PLEASE REFER TO THE PLAZA AUDITION GUIDELINES AS WELL AS THE PLAZA AUDITION CREDO WHEN PREPARING YOUR AUDITION. The guidelines and Credo can be found at plaza-theatre.com/auditions

PRODUCTION INFORMATION

The production will play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and Saturday afternoons opening on May 16th and playing thru June 14th. Rehearsals will commence on April 5th and will usually take place Monday thru Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings until opening. No Sunday rehearsals or performances.

SHOW INFORMATION

This beloved Lerner and Loewe musical tells the story of Guinevere, King Arthur’s lovely wife, who encourages him to establish the Knights of the Round Table. As the Knights grow in fame, Lancelot becomes the most celebrated, but rumors begin to circulate about he and Guinevere. A time-honored tale of love, forgiveness and dignity.

ABOUT THE THEATRE

Plaza Theatre Company is a 158 seat theatre-in-the-round located at 111 S. Main in Cleburne, TX. The Company produces 10 shows a year usually in the style of family-friendly comedies and musicals. PlazaCo opened in November of 2006 and is currently producing it’s 72nd show. The Company has been the proud recipient of over 49 Column Awards including winning “Best Musical” in 2009, 2010 and 2012 in addition to recently being named “Best Theatre Group” by the WFAA A-List for 2011. Further information about PlazaCo is available by visiting http://www.plaza-theatre.com

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

ARTHUR – (Baritone age 28 to 40) – “The once and future king,” Arthur is at once wise, generous, compassionate, and boyish – rather unsure of himself, yet an inspiration to others. A rich and complex character.

GUENEVERE – (Mezzo age 22 – 34) – A young, spirited woman who is quite caught up in chivalry and the exciting possibilities of a promising life. She loves Arthur, but is very much thrown by the arrival of Lancelot – the start of the famous “love triangle.”

LANCELOT – (Baritone age 25 to 38) – An abundantly self-assured knight from France who is a passionate disciple of Arthur and his Round Table. “The greatest knight in the world,” whose only weakness is his love for Guenevere.

KING PELLINORE – (age 65 to 99) – A wonderfully funny and stuffily “British” old knight – provides the most consistent comic relief in the play. Dedicated to Arthur. Very eccentric.

MERLYN – (age 40 to 70) – The famous wizard who teaches Arthur almost all he needs to know. He disappears after the second scene in the show.

MORDRED – (Tenor age 18 to 26) – A truly evil young man, who was “sired” by Arthur when the king was young and naïve. A thoroughly and fascinatingly unlikable fellow.

SIR DINADAN – (age 30 to 50) – One of the three named knights who serve Arthur. Dinadan is devoted to Guenevere and doesn’t care for Lancelot.

NIMUE – (Mezzo age 30 to 99) – The “nymph” who lures Merlyn away with her hauntingly beautiful singing.

MORGAN LE FEY – (30 to 99) – a powerful sorceress in the Arthurian legend, she is the half-sister of Arthur and aunt of Mordred, who inhabits the forest and is a gourmand with a weakness – her sweet tooth and her capacity for mischief – and a “hidden” strength – she is invisible.

CHORUS – There are several other named characters, both male and female, which will be cast based on auditions for the above-named characters, and on singing tryouts. (Clarius, Lady Anne, Lady Sybil, Sir Sagramore,Sir Lionel, Squire Dap, a Page). We are also looking for children for the chorus or to play Nimue’s Lake Anemones, or Morgan Le Fey’s court attendants.

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