Archive for February, 2012

The official Cast List for Plaza Theatre Company’s production of THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE

Plaza Theatre Company is pleased to announce the official Cast List of the upcoming production of THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE. The production will be under the direction of Taffy Geisel. The show will play the Plaza from April 20th thru May 12th.

The Cast List is: (Double cast where noted)

The Happiest Millionaire Cast List

Anthony J. Drexel Biddle – Luke Hunt

Mrs. Biddle – Joann Gracey, Katy Wood

Cordy Biddle – Tabitha Barrus, Gretta Rebstock

Mrs. Duke – Tonya Laree

Emma – Stacy Greenawalt King

Aunt Mary Drexel – Trich Zaitoon

Lucy Rittenhouse – Teran Jones, Brittany Reese

John Lawless, the Butler – Jay Cornils (double TBA)

Angier Duke – Andrew Guzman, David Phillips

Tony Livingston – Daniel Robinson

Livingston Biddle – Jeff Loy

Joe Mancuso – Devlin Pollock

Spike O’Malley – Michael Lain

Texas Jewish Post: Plaza Theatre’s Fiddler Succeeds in Style, Song and Authenticity

In the nearly 5 years we’ve been open and in the 51 shows we’ve produced, we are as proud of this review of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF from the Texas Jewish Post as any we’ve ever had. Congratulations and thank you to Directors Jodie and Soni Barrus and to our phenomenal cast and crew. Click the link below to find out what Amy Wolff Sorter of the Texas Jewish Post thought of our current production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, playing now through March 10th. Then give us a call at 817-202-0600 to reserve.

The Column by John Garcia’s review of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – 100% Snuffer’s cheese fries!

We’ve received more critical acclaim for our production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – this time from Ashlea Palladino of The Column by John Garcia. If you don’t understand the headline of this article, read on for details about our Snuffer’s cheese fries comparison. When you’re done reading, give us a call to set up your seats for this legendary show. Starting next weekend we’ll have seats available as well as next Tuesday night for our “Valentine Show” which includes a dessert extravaganza and dancing after the show. 817-202-0600.

Congratulations to our wonderful cast & crew as well as to Directors Jodie and Soni Barrus. Way to go y’all. Read on for a magnificent review of the show.



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

Talking an eight-year old who has never seen the show into watching Fiddler on the Roof is like persuading a grown man to watch an episode of iCarly – neither are easy tasks. My Junior Associate Theater Critic complained about our review assignment all the way to Cleburne’s Plaza Theatre, and she continued to bemoan the injustice of her situation through the pre-curtain blackout. But then the music started and “Tradition” began. She stared wide-eyed at the massive ensemble of villagers and then turned to me and said, “Mama, I think I’m gonna like it after all”.

In a previous review I admitted disappointment with one of Plaza’s earlier productions and likened the show in question to Snookie’s cheese fries: pretty darned good, but not up to par with Snuffer’s cheese fries. I was wondrously excited, and relieved, to now proclaim that my experience with Plaza’s Fiddler on the Roof was 100% Snuffer’s…what an absolutely delightful evening of theater!

The production team at Plaza had always been incredibly creative and smart about how to best use their in-the-round space, show off their sets and costuming, and stage a large ensemble. What I noted with Fiddler more so than any other production I’ve seen at PTC was the precision and absolute beauty of the group vocals. Soni Barrus co-directed with her husband Jodie (the parents of PTC co-founder JaceSon P. Barrus), but she also served as Music Director. The harmonies and dynamics during many of the ensemble pieces were a joy to my ears, but the female-only harmony portions of “Sunrise, Sunset” brought forth a lump in my throat to match that joy. Kudos to Mrs. Barrus for bringing out the absolute best I’ve heard from any PTC ensemble to date.

The costumes by Kara Barnes were reflective of rural Russia in 1905 and they were uncannily similar to those worn by actors in the 1971 film. JaceSon P. Barrus designed the set and, combined with the properties by Tammie Phillips and the incredible mural paintings by Mayre Stewart and Julie Lee, the village of Anatevka was brought to life in downtown Cleburne. Each of the murals depicted a beautifully-recreated scene from the village: a farm, a house, a synagogue, etc. My favorite part of the set was the area near the main stage where a stone chimney and a thatched roof were added onto the mural for a three dimensional effect.

This production didn’t boast a live orchestra but the tracks were clear and appropriately balanced – they didn’t detract from the beauty of the music in any way. The tracks were perfectly cued, and this was the first time I’d seen at show at PTC where the microphones didn’t pop at some point. G. Aaron Siler designed the aforementioned sound, and also designed the lighting scheme along with Cameron Barrus. Their choices for certain scenes – especially during
“Sabbath Prayer” and “Far From the Home I Love” – were fantastic.

Fiddler on the Roof is truly Tevye’s story and if the Tevye is not strong, the show isn’t going to work. Thankfully Mrs. Barrus cast G. Aaron Siler in this iconic role and he did not disappoint. His mannerisms, singing voice, humor and physicality all blended together to build a lovely, well-rounded Tevye. Tevye’s brassy, world-weary wife Golde was played by Samantha Parrish who was positively charming as the other half of this arranged marriage. She was sarcastic and snarky and demanding but she also showed a splendid softness during songs like “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Do You Love Me?”

Mr. Siler and Ms. Parrish were nothing short of gut-busting funny during “Tevye’s Dream”. Add Mrs. Barrus as Grandma Tzeitel, Caroline
Rivera as Fruma-Sarah and a village of tatter-clothed ghosties to the mix, and the painted Plaza floor turned into The Cleburne Comedy Store.

Tabitha Barrus, who also choreographed, played Tevye and Golde’s oldest daughter Tzeitel. Secretly in love with her childhood friend Motel, played by Jerry Downey, Tzeitel convinces her father to allow her to marry without the help of the traditional matchmaker Yente, played by Stacey Greenwalt King. Mr. Downy was appropriately bumbling and somewhat silly but he performed “Miracle of Miracles” fairly well and he seemed to have genuine fun in his interactions with Miss Barrus. Ms. King was harder to believe in her role because of her young age.

I’ve enjoyed Miss Barrus on stage when I’ve seen her in previous Plaza shows, but most often as a dancer. Fiddler presented the opportunity for her to show some acting chops with a multi-faceted character and Miss Barrus was equal to the task. She was earnest and cheeky in “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” but then impassioned and firm when she asked for Tevye’s approval for her and Motel to marry.

Three of the supporting men stood out amongst the villagers: Auston McIntosh as Fyedka, Andrew Guzman as Perchik, and David Phillips as Mendel. Mr. McIntosh’s dancing during the “To Life” scene was very impressive, and I was always able to identify Mr. Guzman’s voice when singing in a group. My eye kept returning to Mr. Phillips when he was on stage primarily because he looked every inch the part of a Rabbi’s son.

As seems to be the calling of the youngest Barrus children, Mimi Barrus stole the “Chavelah” scene with her precious smile and countenance. Her (dance) partners in crime, Lulu Ashley, Katrina Nicholas as the older Hodel, Taylor O’Toole as the older Chava, and Mimi’s sisters Tabitha and Eden, each sprinkled a handful of invisible theater glitter into this scene and made it one of the most memorable of the production. Thank you, ladies.

In some places the show seemed a little rushed and a couple of the best lines were thrown away (i.e. when the Constable confides to Tevye that there is going to be a military demonstration in Anatevka). In a few other places the dialogue seemed to drag, like when Yente comes to visit Golde to tell her about Lazar Wolf’s interest in Tzeitel. Notwithstanding the pacing and a few accent and dialect issues here and there (isn’t the correct pronunciation luh-KHah-yim?), Fiddler on the Roof was one of the overall best PTC productions to date.

My favorite Plaza production, 2010’s A Christmas Carol, introduced live instrumentation that flowed seamlessly with the story. The production team chose to use a talented violinist for this production, Jeanette Vehwig, and as she performed she literally became The Fiddler on the Roof. The humor, honesty and beauty of this story – combined with Plaza’s energy and commitment to family-oriented theater – made this drive to Johnson County a no-brainer.

Audition Announcement – THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE

All roles are open for Plaza Theatre Company’s upcoming production of THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE. The show will be PlazaCo’s 53rd produced since opening in the spring of 2007. Here are the details about the upcoming audition.


Monday February 20th, 2012 from 7 to 10pm

Callbacks are Tuesday February 21st

Directed by Taffy Geisel


Click here to make an audition appointment:


Auditioners will be asked to read cold from selected portions of the script provided at the audition. Each auditioner should plan to spend about five minutes auditioning for the Director. A call back audition will be held on Tuesday February 21st, 7 to 10pm. Those auditioners who the director wishes to see further will be invited to the call back audition which may last up to three hours time.


Suggested by the real life of Cordelia Drexel Biddle. “Life’s a pretty precious and wonderful thing. But you can’t sit down and let it lap around you . . . you have to plunge into it! You have to dive through it! You can’t save it, you can’t store it up, you can’t hoard it in a vault. You’ve got to feel it, you’ve got to taste it; you’ve got to use it. And the more you use, the more you have . . . that’s the miracle of it!” So proclaims the wealthy, life-loving Anthony Drexel Biddle. It’s September, 1916, and war is raging in Europe. The Biddles, a wealthy family in Philadelphia, are preparing to do their part. Father, an eccentric, keeps alligators in the conservatory as he runs his boxing matches and the Biddle Bible Club. His sons are chomping at the bit to get into uniform and go blast the Kaiser. And Cordy, his daughter, is in love with a most unsuitable young man, whose high society mother would rather die than cut the apron strings. Anthony’s wife is trying to ride the waves created by these intense personalities, whom she loves very much. Are all trying to keep together as the tides of war overflow from across the sea.The Biddles are a funny, passionate family, who box their way into each others hearts. Facing the American involvement in WWI, they argue, dance and laugh their way through the life changes that the emerging war is causing them to face.

(All Roles Are Available)


Anthony Drexel Biddle – Father. Eccentric, energetic, entirely his own person. Full of the wonder of life. Very rich. Strong opinions, quick to act, still very much in love with his wife, and uber protective of his three beloved children. He finds himself very torn between wanting his children to become their own persons, and keeping them safe at home, under his unpredictable, but watchful eye. Strong comedic timing. Willing to learn to box. 45 – 60

Angier Duke – dreamer who falls in love with Cody. He is the heir to a tobacco fortune, but has no interest in sitting in a board room. He is in love with automobiles, and wants to go to Detroit, to be part of the exciting new industry. He has not yet gotten out from his mother’s thumb, so he must decide whether his love for Cordy can stand up to his mother’s determination to run his life. Must be willing to learn Jiu jitsu. Older teen to young adult

Livingston Biddle – beloved son, ready to take make his mark on life, and do his part to fight the evil in Europe – but avoids his sister, who is a far superior boxer. Wants to fight the Kaiser, but must stand up to his father’s desire to keep him safe. Must learn basic boxing. Older teen to young 20s

Tony Biddle – funny son who becomes the athletic hero of his school – who also has felt the sting of his sister’s superior boxing skills. He, too, wants to fight the evil in Europe, and he also must take his stand as an adult. Must learn basic boxing. Older teen to young 20s

John Lawless – the Butler. Dry wit, very smart, very suave, never even blinks at the outrageous things the Biddles say and do. Very smooth, takes everything in his stride. His answer to Anthony’s hollers? ‘You yelled, Sir?’ Adult.

Joe Mancuso – college drop out who Mr. Biddle takes under his wing. Former football champ – becomes a faithful follower of Biddle’s life affirming philosophies. Older teen, young adult.

Charlie Taylor – would-be suitor of Cordy’s, who can’t box, so is scared off of pursuing this lovely young lass. Older teen, young adult.

O’Malley – a boxing champ friend of Anthony’s, a little addle-headed from taking so many direct punches – but a great supporter of the Biddle Bible Club. Adult


Cordy Biddle – beautiful, rebellious, vivacious, romantic dreamer of a daughter. A top notch boxer who can beat the tar out of her brothers. Falls head over heels for Angier Duke, whose grandfather founded Duke University. She has enough spunk and spark to be willing to buck her family – to leave the comforts of Philadelphia and go with Angier all the way to Detroit. But is she willing to take second chair to Angier’s dominating mother? Must learn some boxing. Older teen.

Mrs. Cordelia Biddle – Cordy’s mother, Anthony’s adoring wife – the true north of this family of strong personalities. Cordelia is still passionately in love with her husband – doesn’t mind alligators roaming the house, and wants her children to pursue their dreams, and be all they can be. A gracious hostess, she greets each trial with humor and grace. Early 40s to early 50s

Aunt Mary Drexel – Anthony’s aunt – so dreaded that the family scatters whenever she approaches. Opinionated, domineering, yet very much a supporter of the Biddle clan – a ferocious opponent to anyone who attacks her beloved family. Mature woman

Mrs. Benjamin Duke – Angier’s mother. Extremely wealthy, extremely conscious of propriety, and idolizes her social status. Determined that her son will live life only as she dictates it, she sets out to destroy his relationship with Cordy, whom she deems to be entirely unsuitable. She is quite a match for the sharp tongue of Aunt Mary. Mature woman

Cousin Lucy Rittenhouse – gossipy, jealous, cousin. Wants so much to be as free and full of life as Cordy – and to have so many suitors – that she has to try to cut everyone down to her size. Flirty, flighty, but very conscious of wealth, and puts great store in doing everything according to ‘society’s’ expectations. Older teen, young 20s

Emma – the dedicated cook, a devoted family retainer. Funny, sassy, faithful to this very eccentric family, ready at all hours to feed whichever of her beloved children is hungry, or in need. With John keeps the house running smoothly, making sure that everyone’s needs are met.

Join us for a Special Valentine Performance of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

It’s that time of year y’all. When you want to show your sweetheart a good time without breaking the bank. Well we’ve got a great deal for you here at Plaza Theatre Company.

Join us for a special performance of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF the evening of February 14th. The event includes a lavish dessert bar, the production, dancing afterward and a gift for the happy couple at the end of the evening. Guys, she’ll love you for being so thoughtful and it’s all taken care of here at the Plaza.

The event starts at 6:30 here at PlazaCo on February 14th. They are $25 General Admission and $15 for 2012 Season Ticket holders. Tickets are very limited but available right now by calling 817-202-0600. Reservations are highly suggested. Come on out for a great show and a great evening. She’ll be thanking you for weeks.

The first review of FIDDLER is out – and it’s a smash!

The first review of Plaza’s FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is out, and with a headline like “Fiddler May Be Plaza’s Best”, you know it’s glowing. Folks, we can’t suggest enough that you make plans to see this phenomenal show and that you reserve early. We are honored to have this show on our stage. Read on for a terrific review of the show then call us at 817-202-0600 to reserve.


‘Fidder’ may be Plaza’s best
By Paul Gnadt

The matchmaker got it right.

The decision to cast G. Aaron Siler in the lead role as Tevye in the Plaza Theatre Company’s presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof” deserves almost as much credit as Siler.

He gave what must be the most outstanding performance by a leading man in live musical theater this season, certainly in community playhouses in Johnson and Tarrant counties and perhaps the entire Metroplex.

This is “Must see Tevye.”

PTC regulars — season tickets were capped when sales reached 1,000 — know Siler as the organization’s co-founding producer and are used to seeing him in a variety of supporting roles (Buffalo Bill in “Annie Get Your Gun”) and occasional co-lead turns (Burl Sanders in the “Smoke on the Mountain” series).

His behind-the-scenes talents in scenic design, sound design and as overall director earned him Column Awards last year.

But this time, he has the lead and the part fits him perfectly. It’s a match. It’s Siler’s best work in PTC’s three-year history, and what makes it stand out even more is this is the most ambitious ensemble singing, choreography and costuming PTC has assembled on stage.

The role of Tevye is double cast — as are the roles of Tevye’s wife, Golde, and their three daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava — with veteran Burl Proctor in the lead role on some nights. But it was Siler on the night I attended.

PTC’s “Fiddler” involves 54 individual actors, requiring clever and precise use of every bit of floor space in the 160-seat theatre-in-the-round, plus the first five or six steps of every aisle on most of the production numbers. First produced on Broadway in 1964, “Fiddler” features Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics and Joseph Stein’s book, based on the humorous folk stories of a writer who called himself Sholem Aleichem, which translated from the Yiddish means, “Peace be with you.”

The setting is Anatevka, a little Jewish village in Tsarist Russia. It’s 1905 and Tevye, a poor milkman trying to make a living for his wife and five daughters, is struggling to preserve Jewish traditions in a fast-changing world. The oldest of Tevye’s three daughters, Tzeitel, is double cast with Jessica Astorga and, on the night I attended, the getting-better-with-each-production Tabitha Barrus, who, acts, sings, dances and somehow manages to direct the choreography.

As with most PTC presentations, “Fiddler” has a considerable Barrus family presence.

Tabitha’s parents, JaceSon and Tina, are the company’s co-founders and co-producers — along with Aaron and Milette Siler — her grandparents, Jodie and Soni directed the play, while Soni doubled as music director and found time to play Grandma Tzeitel, and a brother, Cameron, assisted Aaron Siler with light design.

The other sisters, Hodel (Monica Music and Katrina Nicholas) and Chava (Julianna Keller and Taylor O’Toole), are charming and can sing, just like everyone else in the play.

Jerry Downey, fresh off his PTC debut as Ellard in “The Foreigner,” is amusingly timid as Motel, the poor tailor who wins Tzeitel’s hand. The role of Golde, Tevye’s lovingly shrewish wife, is shared by Judy Keller and Samantha Parrish, a PTC first-timer who has an impressive national touring pedigree. And she can sing.

While there are many new faces with speaking parts, there are familiar faces too, such as Andrew Guzman as Perchik, a student from the “outside world” who breaks down “traditions” and persuades one of Tevye’s daughters to leave, Jay Cornils as a constable and Auston McIntosh as a Russian soldier who also takes a daughter.

The ensemble production numbers are what I’ve come to expect from the Plaza, and they deliver right from the start with “Tradition,” followed by “To Life,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Anatevka.”

Somewhere in between are two knockout numbers that stand out because they are so different. One is “The Bottle Dance,” a Russian folk-type routine where Mark McKee, Mitchell Moore, David Phillips and Devlin Pollock balance half-full wine bottles on their heads while dancing around the stage.

The other is the most ambitious and clever production number I’ve seen at the PTC, the featured performers of which just might be costume designer Kara Barnes and set designer JaceSon Barrus, whose interpretation of Tevye’s Dream is a visual delight.

With all respect to previous Plaza musical ensemble presentations such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “All Shook Up,” this production of “Fiddler” just may be the best. I’ve seen it at the Muny Opera in St. Louis and at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth with a Broadway touring company, and I enjoyed PTC’s version much more. As they say, get your tickets while they last, cause they’ll be gone fast, just like Anatevka.

With stage management by Cessany Ford, sound design by G. Aaron Siler (he’s everywhere), set design by JaceSon Barrus and excellent wall mural and set painting by Mayre Stewart and Julie Lee, “Fiddler on the Roof” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays through March 10 at the Plaza Theatre, 111 S. Main St., in Cleburne.

Tickets — $15 for adults, $13 for seniors age 65 and older and students, and $12 for children age 12 and under — are on sale 10 a.m. -6 p.m.  Monday-Saturday at the Plaza box office or by calling 817-202-0600.