Archive for June, 2011

AUDITION ANNOUNCEMENT – Treasure Island

Plaza Theatre Company is pleased to announce auditions for it’s upcoming production of TREASURE ISLAND. The production will be under the direction of Aaron and Milette Siler. An audition appointment is required for all auditioners. Audition appointments can be made by visiting http://appointmentquest.com/provider/2040169233?schedule=auditionsfortreasureisland

SHOW REQUIREMENTS:
This is a face paced adaptation of one of the most famous adventure novels ever written. This production moves quickly with 15 fight sequences and other physically demanding tasks required by the actors. Stage Combat experience helpful. Due to the literary nature of the script, strong language skills are also needed.

AUDITION PREPARATION:
Cold readings will be provided at the audition. Each auditioner should plan to spend about five minutes auditioning for the Directors. A call back audition will be held on Wednesday July 13th from 7pm to 10pm. Those auditioners who the directors wish to see further will be invited to the call back audition which may last up to three hours time.

ALL ROLES AVAILABLE
10 M. 2 F.

The script is written for a majority of the play to be performed by 12 actors with each one playing two or more characters except for the actor playing Jim Hawkins.

Actor One – Jim Hawkins
Actor Two – Long John Silver, Jim’s Father
Actor Three – Capt. Flint, Dr. Livesey
Actor Four – Squire Trelawney, Job O’Brien, The Bailiff
Actor Five – Capt. Smollett, Black Dog
Actor Six – Rev. Mainwaring, Jemmy Rathbone, Ben Gunn, Josiah Bland
Actor Seven (Female) – Jim’s Mother, Anne Bonny
Actor Eight (Female) – Widow Drews, Justice Death
Actor Nine – Israel Hands, Blind Pew, Baliff’s son, Calico Jack
Actor Ten – George Merry, Bailiff’s Son
Actor Eleven – Ezekiel Hazard, Tom Morgan, Cut Purse, Inn Guest
Actor Twelve – Billy Bones, Bristol Sailor

Townspeople:
– Patrons at the Inn
– Boy with Barrow
– Beggar
– Lady at Dock
– Town Drunk
– Customers at Admiral Benbow Inn
– Sailors at Bristol Docks

Detailed Character Descriptions:
Jim Hawkins – The 14 year old protagonist of the show. This part, to be played by a 13-15 year old boy or
tom boyish girl, carries the show. The story is told from this character’s point of view.

Long John Silver – Lead – A pirate with magnificent geniality. Courageous, quick, and strong. Walks
around on one leg with a crutch with agility. We see in the story why he is the leader of this pirate crew.

Jim’s Mother – A strong woman that runs the Inn and raises Jim by herself when Jim’s father leaves.
Protects Jim during a deadly game of “blind man’s buff” with Blind Pew.

Jim’s Father – Strong loving man that reluctantly leaves his family to go to London so that he can be
accessible to the best doctors to cure him of an illness.

Jemmy Rathbone – Pirate – Sly and filthy. Tries to run away with the treasure map unsuccessfully.

Black Dog – Pirate – Delivers the black spot to Bones. Acts with civility but can turn into a nasty Pirate at a
moments notice. Has a cutlass duel with Bones.

Israel Hands – Pirate – Not the smartest pirate. Let’s his excitement get the better of him. Ends up being
shot and falling off the mast of a ship.

Ezekiel Hazard – Pirate – Superstitious Pirate. Gives Silver the black spot from a page in the Bible. Does
not think things through.

Job O’Brien – Pirate – Plays a deadly game of poker, and loses.

Justice Death – Pirate – Male or female.

George Merry – Pirate – Has illusions of grandeur. Wants to overtake Silver but is always thwarted by
Sliver’s cunning.

Captain James Flint – Pirate – Original captain of the crew of Pirates. Seems sweet and debonair but is evil
to the core.

Anne Bonny – Female Pirate – Irish pirate that holds her own.

The Bailiff – A patron of the Inn, just trying to enjoy his dinner.

Reverend Mainwaring – Timid patron of the Inn.

Dr. Livesey – Educated patron of the Inn. Stands up to Billy Bones like a true gentleman.

Billy Bones – Pirate – Strong, heavy, drunken pirate. Loud and forceful.

Blind Pew – Pirate – Described as a small hunched man out of a nightmare. Blind. Fights with a gnarled
and bent stick.

Squire Trelawney – An excitable and loveable middle-aged man of ample means. Excited for the adventure
of looking for buried treasure

Josiah Bland – Pirate – Is the sometimes voice of reason on the Pirate crew.

Tom Morgan – A young sailor that decides to not join Silver’s crew with a grave consequence.

Captain Smollet – No-nonsense British Merchant seaman. Hired by Trelawney to run the Hispaniola

Ben Gunn – Former pirate left to rot on Skeleton Island by Captain Flint. Living by himself on a deserted
island has made him crazy. Quick, moves like a rabbit, with an intimate knowledge of the island.

The play is an adaptation by Ken Ludwig of the original book by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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Another Terrific Review of JOSEPH – this from Pegasusnews.com

We’ve had a second great review of JOSEPH – this from pegasusnews.com critic Alex Bentley. We think we may be on our way to selling out every performance of a production for the first time in Plaza history – so once again, we strongly encourage you to reserve early. Read on for another critique of the show.

______________________________________________________________

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (playing at Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne through July 30) is one of those perennial shows that crops up time and again at theater companies across the country. In fact, one production at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center just ended, while Artisan Center Theater in Hurst will start another in October. These three join the well over 20,000 productions that have taken place since the musical’s debut in the early ’70s.

It’s doubtful that many of those productions can match the amount of entertainment value that Plaza Theatre Company packs into their version, though. Utilizing every last square inch of their theatre-in-the-round style stage (and even sometimes spilling into some of the 157 seats), Plaza’s company knocks you out time and again with just how much they’re able to pull off in such a small space.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is based in religion, as it tells the Biblical tale of Joseph, whose 11 brothers are jealous of the attention their father, Jacob, lavishes upon Joseph, favoritism which is nicely represented by a special multi-colored coat. But Joseph rarely, if ever, feels like a Sunday school lesson thanks to the multiple number of musical genres touched upon by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. Everything from ’50s rock ‘n’ roll (“Song of the King”) to calypso (“Benjamin Calypso”) to disco (“Go, Go, Go Joseph”) is thrown into the mix, and while the reason why Webber and Rice chose to tell this story via a musical stew is unclear, the fun it imparts is undeniable.

Greg Gerardi from Plaza Theatre Company's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Plaza Theatre Company’s production is at once simple and complicated. The set consists mainly of four wedges and four blocks that are carted on and off and rearranged into different configurations by various cast members. Plaza’s production team finds seemingly endless uses for these basic props and, save for a couple of instances, their movement around the stage is unobtrusive. The dedication by the staff to create an immersive experience for their audience is obvious by looking at the walls and floor of the theater, which have been painted specifically for this show, an effort that should not go unappreciated since it’s clear they must do the same thing for EVERY show.

The choreography by Tabitha Barrus at times feels a bit simple, but that’s most likely due to the limited space. The company can be forgiven for its lack of high-flying dance moves when there are sometimes 45 people on stage at once. In fact, that the mob of a cast is able to nimbly maneuver around each other at all during numbers like “Joseph’s Coat” is amazing. Barrus deserves praise for her fun choreography that is more complicated than it might appear on the surface.

Speaking of complicated, the sheer number of costume changes required for this cast is staggering. To match the variety of musical numbers, everybody in the cast changes clothes multiple times. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding a hat or neckpiece, but full costume changes are often required, and how they’re able to accomplish that feat with what must be limited backstage space and a huge cast is impressive, to say the least. Costume Designer Tina Barrus does a fantastic job in creating a big theater feel on a community theater budget.

Daron Cockerell from Plaza Theatre Company's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned the performances yet. The title role of Joseph is double cast in this production, and was played at my performance by Greg Gerardi. Gerardi is a newcomer to the Texas theater scene, and his debut is an auspicious one. Despite his relatively short stature, he commanded the stage with his presence and voice. Other standouts included Daron Cockerell and Caitlin Davis as the two narrators, and John Garcia as Simeon/Pharaoh. The narrator role is usually played by just one person, but Plaza’s decision to have both an alto (Davis) and soprano (Cockerell) share the role paid off handsomely. Their beautiful voices blended together to not only set the tone for the musical but to keep the audience enthralled throughout. Garcia, who’s well-known locally for his comic roles, was a crowd-pleaser yet again with his dual parts. His performance as Elvis Pharaoh during “Song of the King” might have been the highlight of the night.

My only big complaint about this production was the so-so sound quality. The sound levels on the microphones of different actors varied widely, from booming to almost non-existent. This rarely took away from the enjoyment of the show, but it would have been nice to have had everybody on equal footing.

For most people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the drive to Cleburne can be quite the hike. But if you love good theater, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t take the opportunity to see a show at Plaza Theatre Company. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is their latest success, and it’s sure not to be their last.

The Column review of JOSEPH is out. Give it a read here.

We’ve finally gotten to produce JOSEPH at PlazaCo – and what a blast of a show it is. Here’s the first review from The Column by John Garcia. Enjoy the review and be sure to reserve as soon as possible. Tickets are flying out of here.

____JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT ____

Reviewed by Sten-Erik Armitage, Associate Theater Critic
For THE COLUMN

The Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne Texas is a unique and impressive organization. A little over an hour southwest of Dallas, Cleburne’s city motto is, “This is Texas”. As you drive down their main street you can feel the truth of that motto.

Then you enter the Plaza Theatre. In this small Texas town you have one of the most vibrant community theatres I have ever come across. The people in this area love Plaza Theatre Company. Where most theatre companies would consider it a great success to have over 100 season ticket holders, Plaza has over 900 season ticket holders! As a matter of fact WFAA named this company the best theatre going experience in North Texas. Amazingly enough, within this small Texas town, you will find one of the best community theatre experiences in the state.

The current production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was no exception. Director JaceSon Barrus took his limited space and the challenge of doing theatre in the round and created an amazing experience for the theatre goers of Cleburne. This was a small, intimate venue yet there were times when over 45 cast members were onstage with full choreography. How they pulled it off with no injuries was beyond me! I gave a lot of credit to the choreography created by Tabitha Barrus. She was able to have many people in a tight space engaged in controlled chaos throughout the evening. Not an easy task!

The set was simple yet amazingly effective. In order to accommodate some of those large dance numbers there couldn’t be many set pieces at any given time. JaceSon Barrus solved this dilemma by using four ramps and four cubes that were frequently repositioned throughout the evening. The set was left largely to the audience’s imagination but the set pieces gave us just enough framework to understand the plot. Very clever; Tetris at a grand level.

“Joseph” is the first show publically shown from the powerhouse team of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. It has long been a staple of community theatre, high school, and college productions. But that doesn’t mean it’s now relegated to the side lines of musical theatre. In 2005 another national tour of the production was launched with Patrick Cassidy in the title role and the UK national tour is still running and going strong! This is a show that has it all – drama, comedy, satire, stunning vocals, and showy dance numbers. Sounds good, but it’s also a substantial challenge for the theatre company that chooses to take it on.

Thankfully Plaza Theatre Company sunk their teeth into this show and did it with energy and style. And what amazing energy! From start to finish this cast was dancing and singing up a storm. There was no way I could mention every member of this colossal production in this review but I can make one sweeping statement. Every single cast member gave it their all. I didn’t see anyone “phoning it in.” When dealing with such a large cast, that is an impressive claim.

Another challenge in having such a large cast was costuming them! Tina Barrus took this challenge in stride. For the chorus the costumes were simplistic yet effective. For the primary characters, Tina Barrus worked miracles! The titular Coat of Many Colors was amazing. In such an intimate venue everyone could see the smallest detail. The coat was a quality piece of work. The attention to detail, the colors, and the layering all presented a splendid garment which was exactly what needed to happen. Equally impressive were the costumes worn by Joseph when he was the Pharaoh’s right hand man, and the Pharaoh himself. Visually arresting and very well done!

The play opened with two narrators who gave an introduction to the story in song, as young children came and sat around the stage to hear the tale being spun.

Daron Cockerell and Caitlan Davis did a wonderful job throughout the show as the narrators. Their voices were powerful, beautiful, and blended together in a most pleasing way. A special nod went to Caitlan Davis as I felt she really connected with the kids as she sang – and her voice was truly captivating.

It is amazing what they have done with the lighting in such a small space. Every square inch of that ceiling is covered with lighting equipment, and it was typically used well. That said, during this number as well as during the opening number of the second act the narrators were often in shadow as they walked around and sang. I recognize it would have been difficult to have a follow spot illuminating them throughout the songs due to the nature of the venue, but something needed to be done to prevent them from walking in and out of shadow during these two numbers.

When you have a production that relies on children you take a significant gamble. My kudos went to this production’s kids, their parents, and the people who worked with them. They knew their roles and were expressive and completely engaged in the show. They did a great job and I could tell they were having a blast being a part of this fun show.

Then Gregory Gerardi, as Joseph, came out and continued the story told to the kids with the song “Any Dream Will Do”. This was our first taste of Gerardi’s vocal skills, and he did not disappoint. He had a clean, pure voice with a natural vibrato that enhanced his singing. This number stretched Gerardi vocally and his delivery diminished during the segments that required a lower range, but all-in-all he handled the song very well.

Then came the big musical number “Jacob and Sons” where we got to meet Joseph’s large family. This was the first number with a large number of people on the stage and it was executed very well! As I looked around the theatre I saw smiles on every face in the audience. This was a great way to kick off the show and the energy stayed throughout the night.

As the cast moved into the next number I noticed the first significant problem that was recurrent throughout the night. “Joseph’s Coat” was another number full of dancing and singing chorus. Gerardi had significant lines to sing but his voice was drowned out by the chorus despite the fact that Joseph was wearing a microphone. This difficulty with sound balance reoccurred during the songs “Potiphar” “Grovel, Grovel” and “Joseph All the Time”. I’m not sure if the issue was simply that the intimacy of the venue caused the chorus to overpower the lead voice or if it was a technical issue. I leaned towards the latter as there were several minor sound glitches throughout the night. Often a principle character began to sing unamplified and then their microphone would come up mid-number.

The most frustrating instance of this was Josh Leblo’s Levi singing the big number, “One More Angel in Heaven”. Sadly, his microphone was off the entire time and the song was largely lost. This was a shame as I could tell Leblo was doing an excellent job acting and emoting through the song, and what I could hear of his voice was excellent.

During all the beautiful chaos of the dance and chorus numbers it was difficult at times for me to tell who was who but I would like to point out a couple of standout performers from the 11 brothers. All of them did an excellent job but I was particularly aware of the energy and engagement of John Garcia as Simeon, JaceSon P. Barrus who played Naphtali, Daniel Scott Robinson as Gad, and Parker Barrus who was Benjamin. Again, all the brothers were an absolute joy to watch but these particular men caught my attention with their characterizations of their parts.

Another wonderful yet all-too-brief performance was Kyle Macy as Potiphar. His comic timing, facial expressions and physicality were a lot of fun. I enjoyed his time on the stage. Daniel Scott Robinson as the Butler has a lot of fun with his part, and Jacob Humphries as the Baker exhibited some great vocals. This was an amazingly talented cast all around!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, having been around for quite some time, had certain songs that stuck out. One of these songs was “Close Every Door”. This was the song by which any actor who played Joseph should be judged. It was a serious number that showcased both the actor’s vocal skills and their acting ability and Gerardi did not disappoint. He sang with passion, longing and intensity. His engagement with the kids through the bars of his jail cell was deeply moving. He could have simply sung the song mechanically but he poured himself into the number.

Another highlight of the show was when the Pharaoh took the stage. Traditionally this is the comedic moment everyone who knows the show looks forward to and those who don’t know the show are blown away by this character & his solo. John Garcia as Pharaoh had the audience in hysterics with his royal rendition of Elvis. Complete with an amazing costume straight out of Elvis’ Vegas years, and an impressive pompadour hairstyle, Garcia proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was “All Shook Up” about those bad dreams. This was a challenging role that needed to be executed well and Garcia delivered. There were still some sound problems with a loose microphone that caused us to lose some lyrics but Garcia’s performance overcame that obstacle and the audience had a great time.

JaceSon Barrus led the brothers in a parody of the French tragic ballad as they mourned “Those Canaan Days” and they truly mourned them in style. This was one of the defining moments of the show for me. The brothers, with their chairs, berets and the occasional stuffed sheep, were simply amazing. Every one of those men nailed this number. Thank you!

I had never mentioned a curtain call in a review before but the curtain call for this production was unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. Consisting of a medley of some of the high points of the show the curtain call was at least 10 minutes of intense dancing, singing and hilarity. I’m certain I saw one of Joseph’s brothers dressed as a storm trooper straight out of Star Wars!

Without a doubt the absolute best moment of this musical occurred during the first act after the song “Poor, Poor Joseph”. I won’t spoil it for you but I could safely say that, by far, the best actress in the production was Mimi Barrus. I’m not going to tell you why. But when you attend the show, watch for this moment. Best. Acting. Ever.

Should you buy your tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Plaza Theatre? Yes – without a doubt. I drove over an hour in order to review this production and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Don’t miss this one – you will not be disappointed!

It’s gonna be one HOT summer at PlazaCo

Summer 2011 is gonna be hot y’all, and so are the many wonderful things going on at PlazaCo this summer. Here’s a rundown of all that’s happening at “Cleburne’s Unsurpassed Family Entertainment Destination”.

KIDS SUMMER SHOW CAMP

We’re in full swing with our Kids Summer Show Camp right now. Over fifty kids between 6 and 12 are taking part in our show camp – a week long acting camp that culminates in participation in this year’s summer production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT.

TEEN SUMMER SHOW CAMP

Next week, starting June 13th, we’ll be starting our annual Teen Summer Show Camp. Students receive a two-week, intensive acting course that also culminates in participation in PlazaCo’s summer production, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. (There are just a few spots left for this camp for any interested teens out there). Past Show Camp Shows have included FOOTLOOSE, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and ALL SHOOK UP. This year’s show promises to be the best yet!

MURDER MYSTERY FUNDRAZOR

Tonight is our annual Murder Mystery Fundrazor at PlazaCo. We’ll be presenting an original production by Kyle and Megan Adams entitled, “I Have An Inkling” based on the famous mystery board game, Clue. The evening includes a dinner at The Lemon Sisters Cafe, the Murder Mystery complete with audience participation as investigators, prizes and an exciting silent auction to benefit Plaza’s annual fund. (There are still 5 seats available for anyone wishing to join us last minute).

HELLO DOLLY!

Dolly has been here at Plaza for the past few weekends and has been playing to huge crowds and wonderful acclaim. HELLO DOLLY! will be playing weekends at PlazaCo through June 18th, and after that she’ll be gone. two more weekends to catch this charming musical.

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT

Opening on June 24th and playing thru July 30th, JOSEPH promises to be Plaza’s biggest summer show yet with a marvelous children’s and teen camp chorus as well as some of the finest talent the Metroplex has to offer, not to mention an uplifting and exciting show written by the magnificent team of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Tickets for this show are FLYING out the door, so reserve early.

SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN

From August 5th thru September 10th, PlazaCo will be bringing back it’s most popular production for one last time before putting the SMOKE franchise to rest for a while. Thrill with the Sanders family as they return to the gospel circuit in the first and best production in the Smoke series. This is a sure sell-out, so make sure to make plans to see SMOKE early.

And just in case you thought we were done…

AUDITIONS for the Ken Judwig adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel TREASURE ISLAND

This will be a production the likes of which have never been seen at PlazaCo. AUDITIONS for the show are July 11th and a small but capable cast will be required to accomplish the feat of bringing this magnificent work to the Plaza stage. The show will be directed by award winning director Aaron Siler.

Whew! Lots, we know. We look forward to seeing you soon here at Plaza and wish you a safe a enjoyable summer.

Sincerely,
~JTAM

Our Exciting Silent Auction Items – ONLY Available To FundRazor Attendees

Hello y’all,

We are so excited for our June 7th MURDER MYSTERY FUNDRAZOR. One of the things we are really looking forward to this year is our annual “Silent Auction”. This time around, the items have been provided by several local merchants through the hard work of Plaza Guild members, performers and friends of Plaza – Heather Aikman and Julie Hefner. And their hard work has yielded a huge assortment of items for bidding.

The Silent Auction will be available to all in attendance at the Tuesday, June 7th MURDER MYSTERY. Below are photos of the items available for bid at this year’s auction. (By the way, tickets for this special event are still available by calling the Plaza Box Office at 817-202-0600). Thank you to the local merchants who helped out as well as to Julie, Heather and their families for their gifts of time and effort. Enjoy the photos and we hope to see you Tuesday night for the annual Plaza MURDER MYSTERY FUNDRAZOR.

Night at the Movies

Palm Springs getaway for 2

Sleepy Read Original Painting

Dance Party Gift Certificate

Cowgirl Necklace, Bracelet and Earrings

Family Portrait Package

Family Disneyland Trip

Game Chest with Pizza for a YEAR!

Romantic Package

Mary Kay Basket

Monterey Getaway for 2

Car Care Package

Reader's Paradise Mugs

Civil War Package

Plaza’s 2011 FundRazor – A Murder Mystery to die for

It’s time for Plaza’s annual FUNDRAZOR MURDER MYSTERY. Last year’s inaugural Fundraiser event was a screaming success as Plaza presented an evening of murder and mayhem entitled KARAOKE KILLER. This year’s event promises to be an even better evening of mystery as we unveil a fun whodunit entitled I HAVE AN INKLING.

The fun begins when someone is unexpectedly murdered. Who’s the killer? Well, every guest gets an opportunity to investigate, solve the mystery and win the game. There are even prizes for those who come closest to sleuthing out the murderer.

The annual Murder Mystery dinner also serves as Plaza Theatre Company’s annual fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting Plaza’s annual fund. Guests will also have the opportunity to bid in Plaza’s annual silent auction. The evening also includes dinner and dessert served at the Lemon Sisters Café.

Plaza’s second annual FUNDRAZOR MURDER MYSTERY begins at 6:30pm on June 7th. Tickets for the event are $50 per person which includes dinner and dessert as well as an evening playing detective. Reservations are available by calling the Plaza Box Office at 817-202-0600.

So put on your best Sherlock Holmes impersonation and please consider joining is for this exciting evening of mystery, investigation, food and fun. We’d love to see you.

A review of HELLO DOLLY! from Ashlea Palladino of The Column by John Garcia

We are so very proud of our cast and crew of HELLO DOLLY! We are also honored to be held to a high standard. This critic, Ashlea Palladino of The Column by John Garcia, rates our production of HELLO DOLLY! as “very good” and then mixes in some constructive criticisms as well as praise. We hope you’ll come to see the show and form your own opinion as well. HELLO DOLLY! plays thru June 18th and seats are still available for most nights. Thanks to Ashlea and The Column by John Garcia for the compliments as well as the constructive comments. Excellence is always our goal.

HELLO, DOLLY!_______________________

Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

You know how sometimes your mind can get set on something and then you can think of nothing else until you’ve sated that particular need?  For example, I often crave cheese fries.  And not just cheese fries, but SNUFFER’S cheese fries.  A cheese fry anywhere else is simply not as…well…magical.  The basic ingredients are the same at other eateries, but Snuffer’s manages that extra shot of je ne sais quoi that catapults their basket full of cheesy, bacon-y deliciousness to another level.  While this is definitely not a restaurant review, I like to think of Plaza Theatre Company as the Snuffer’s of community theater.  There’s just something special happening out in Cleburne and I want to be a part of it as often as I can afford to trek out west.

That said, I was so looking forward to this energetic company’s take on the matchmaking classic, Hello, Dolly!  The show fit perfectly between Plaza’s pillars of fun-loving and family-friendly, and based on previous experience with this theater I expected nothing less than complete sensory bliss.  Unfortunately, instead of Snuffer’s cheese fries I got Snookie’s cheese fries – pretty dad-gummed good but not exactly what I had my heart set on.

Set Designer JaceSon Barrus took advantage of all possible wall and floor space in this homey theater-in-the-round to create the feeling of a neighborhood parade – all with paint.  Charles J. Conti was credited with the wall mural paintings, and while they were lovely, I didn’t quite understand how the burnished Greek columns fit into the story.  The floor painting, however, in shades of red, blue and yellow was creatively conceptualized and beautifully rendered.  My eye went back to the centerpiece floor time and time again.

Kara Barnes’s costume design was another highlight of the production.  The fabric stores in Cleburne must be plum out of satin, tulle, and feathers as all of the ladies’ costumes and headpieces were eye-popping colorful and appropriate to the period.  Mrs. Dolly Levi herself wore at least three very different ensembles complete with bustles, each one lively and original (especially Dolly’s red getup).  The uniforms worn by the service team at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant were also of particular note.

The track music was bright and nicely cued but there was quite a bit of feedback on some of the actors’ microphones.  Hopefully Dolly’s and Cornelius’s microphones can be adjusted a bit for future performances, as the feedback seemed to happen when these actors sang in their higher registers, and also when they held notes with heavy vibrato.  The feedback issue was not constant and it didn’t happen with every actor.

With a gazillion Column Awards under their belt, not to mention numerous accolades and honors given by other organizations, the theater community’s expectation of Plaza shows is undeniably high.  With 901 season ticket holders this production team does not want to disappoint, right?  The only problem with setting a bar so high is keeping that bar high.  And while most (if not all) of the performances in this show were high-caliber, overall it felt like watching an early dress rehearsal during tech week (i.e. several dropped lines and out-of-sync choreography) rather than a show in its second weekend of a month’s run.  My slight disappointment might have stemmed from the height of the aforementioned bar as well as the double-casting of several principal roles – perhaps the actors worked more cohesively with members of the alternate cast.  That said, let’s move on to individual performances.

As the titular Dolly Levi, Kristin Spires (who also served as Music Director) did an admirable job with such an iconic role.  There was no Carol Channing and no Barbra Streisand present in Ms. Spires’s portrayal of the widowed Yenta, but she was funny in her own, more reserved way.  Ms. Spires had a beautiful voice and an enviable range, and I wished the microphone issue hadn’t interrupted the pleasure of hearing her sing.

Jay Lewis played Horace Vandergelder and was one of only two principals not double-cast.  Mr. Lewis was physically suited to the part though I expected slightly more frustration and curmudgeonly behavior from his character.  Jonathan Metting played Vandergelder’s beleaguered shop clerk, Cornelius Hackl, and his performance was one of the most energetic amongst the cast.  Sometimes that energy was a little over the top for me but Mr. Metting was, at minimum, very committed to his role.  Daron Cockerell, as Irene Molloy, shared the production’s best couple chemistry with Mr. Metting.  Their ages appeared similar, and their connection was believable.  Like Ms. Spires, Ms. Cockerell had an incredible voice, and thankfully, the microphone issue didn’t affect her performance.

The two standouts in this show were the couple Minnie Fay (Tabitha Barrus) and Barnaby Tucker (Michael Sylvester).  Miss Barrus was a bolt of sunshine whenever she was on stage and her lines were delivered with cheeky optimism and a brilliant smile.  Mr. Sylvester was responsible for the production’s best dance sequences and his physical comedy was right on point.  When partnered for a particular dance or scene Miss Barrus and Mr. Sylvester were a dream.  I noted that Miss Barrus is choreographing the company’s next show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – I’ll drive to Cleburne to see that.

Hello, Dolly! was not Plaza’s greatest theatrical offering to date, but it was enjoyable and it was fun for the whole family.  Hopefully with Joseph, Plaza Theatre Company can raise the bar again.

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