Archive for May, 2015

A Phenomenal Review of SHREK THE MUSICAL by Joel Taylor of The Column by John Garcia


Critic Joel Taylor of The Column by John Garcia has given PlazaCo’s production of SHREK THE MUSICAL a phenomenal review. Tickets for the show are going fast and are available by calling 817-202-0600 or by visiting Read on for a great review of the show then hurry to get your seats to the show.


SHREK THE MUSICAL at Plaza Theatre Company
by Joel Taylor of The Column by John Garcia

Shrek The Musical is based on the animated motion picture by Dream Works, starring the unforgettable vocal talents of Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Fiona, and John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad.

IMG_3365As with the animated movie, the musical version is also set in the land of Far, Far Away where mythical storybook creatures do exist and are a part of everyday life. The musical tells the story through song on how Shrek came to live alone with no family in the swamp he called home. Important elements early in the story show why Shrek became cynical and chose to avoid others. It also shows how Princess Fiona came to be placed in a castle guarded by a fire-breathing, talking and singing female dragon. Following the storyline of the animated film, Shrek’s swamp home is overrun by a host of storybook characters, including Pinocchio, The Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell The Gingerbread Man, and many other magical storybook characters that are seeking refuge from the evil Lord Farguaad. With the help of Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona, the dastardly lord Farquaad is brought to his knees.

Luke Hunt directs Plaza Theatre’s production in Cleburne. The performance space is in the round, and Hunt effectively uses the limited space and a very large cast to present a colorful, lively, and very popular story. Some of the challenges inherent in the space include using a staging area that, at first glance, appears much too small to use for large casts. However, by effectively using all available entrances and exits, good placement of characters on stage and character involvement with the story, Hunt deftly defies the challenge as he uses the entire area for acting scenes and dance numbers.

Much of the performance in this production takes place in the center area of the set designed by JacSon P. Barrus. The set is largely bare with a raised platform that rotates. There are splashes of swamp green on otherwise black walls. While most of the performance takes place center stage, some of the performance happens in a corner with a doorway that doubles as a castle gate, while another corner is designed for entrances and exits. This area also includes a rotating flat that can be turned to represent different locations such as the swamp, castle, or a town setting in Duloc.

Costuming Costume Designer, Tina Barrus, and Makeup Designer Maria Bautista combine styles in a variety of colors, designs and styles, some whimsical and some practical, to enhance the stereotypical characterizations of the magical IMG_3324creatures in the land of Far Far Away. The costume and character makeup choices are some of the many highlights of the production. Barrus uses the expected dress for Fiona, a shimmering green with regal appearance. Shrek is costumed identical to the animated film version, with loose pants, loose shirt and darker-colored vest. Each of the magical and mythical characters from the land of Far Far Away wears costumes to match their character. Each is easily identifiable and wonderfully stereotypically dressed. Peter Pan is in green with a pointed cap that sports a feather. The Wicked Wtch has loose dark clothing, tall pointed hat and crooked broom, The Mad Hatter comes straight out of Alice in Wonderland, The White Rabbit is in a full bunny suit attire complete with bunny ears, while Donkey wears a grey body suit with tall ears and tail. Lord Farquaad dresses very similar to the animated film, including his tall hat and black wig. As the character is extremely short, the actor wears black leggings and knee pads to disguise his actual height. Bautista designs makeup for each character that also clearly defines each character, from Donkey’s grey face or Shrek’s green face to each of the myriad of magical creatures that we are familiar with from bedtime stories as children.

Lighting Designer Cameron Barrus uses a wide spectrum of colors for the variety of scenes and locations in the story. Specialized choices are made for the swamp, Duloc, the forest, or in the castle with the fire-breathing dragon.

Likewise, Sound Designer G. Aaron Siler provides just the right amount of sound, such as the ogre roars from Shrek, roars and sounds of flame from Dragon and the sounds of birds while Shrek, Donkey and Fiona are on their travels. I did not notice any lapse in sound, and the volume was easily heard and understood in the intimate space at Plaza.

Choreographer Rachel Hunt does remarkable work with the dance numbers in the production. Hunt uses the space and IMG_3285movement to enhance the elements of the story as it unfolds. Whether it is with only between Fiona and Shrek in “I Think I Got You Beat”, or scenes with the cast off characters in “Whats Up Duloc?”, “Make a Move”, and “Forever”; the tap dance sequence with the Rats, or “Freak Flag” and the movements of the Dragon and Skeletons in their respective scenes, Hunt incorporates simplified to complex choreography that makes the audience want to either sit back and appreciate the intricate movements or stand, as young audience members did, and dance along with the characters in the story.

I could write well deserved paragraphs about each actor onstage for this production. Unfortunately, time and publishing space are not sufficient to recognize each of the cast and characters that make Shrek so enjoyable to watch and experience. While there is a moment or two when an actor may not have a complete connection to the character in a particular scene, all of them, leads or ensemble, are actively engaged in the story.

Kelly Nickell plays Pinocchio with a good balance of charm, sincerity and mischievousness. Working with an elongated, expandable nose, Nickell uses a higher pitched voice and body movements to indicate a slight limitation in movement, therefore creating the illusion of being both a wooden puppet and a complete human boy. Nickell’s timing and vocal understanding of Pinocchio makes this an enjoyable and noticeable character to watch.

IMG_3212Teen Fiona is played by Eden Barrus. While only briefly seen on stage as younger Fiona, Barrus carries herself as a young princess. Her vocal skills when singing “I Know It’s Today” or in duet with the other Fiona is strong and pleasant and blends well with the voices of the younger and older Fionas. As one of the performing Blind Mice, Barrus along with LeAnn Indolos, JoAnna Phillips, and Julia Wood, sing and move together as one with a confidence and skill that suggests they have professional experience as a singing group.

Duloc Dancers Kelly Nickell, Cessany Ford, Eden Barrus, Mclain Meachem, Rylee Mullen, Julia Ward, and Ashleigh Moss are seen in when Shrek and Donkey arrive at Duloc. Each girl is dressed in the same style that includes yellow plastic wigs, plastic shirts and skirts that gives the impression they are perfect plastic dolls. During the song “Whats Up Duloc”, the dancers perform well together, working in synchronization, like machine parts working together with limited humanity.

Dashiell Maddox plays Bishop who performs the marriage ceremony between Farquaad and Fiona. His tall ecclesiastical hat certainly has the look of a church official. When pronouncing the wedding vows, Maddox uses a lisp and a voice that reminds me of the priest officiating the wedding in the film “Robin Hood Men in Tights”. While this is a funny choice, his voice, youthful appearance and demeanor are a slight detractor from achieving full comedic effect.

Marquel Dionne plays Dragon. I would assume, due to the space, Dragon is created to be taller than it is long. The main body of the dragon is controlled by a puppeteer. Dionne walks in front of the main body wearing large green and gloves with talons that are painted to look like dragon skin. As Dragon, Dionne menacingly waves her dragon hands as if to warn or attack. The Dragon puppet creation is impressive and will capture attention. Though, when Dionne sings, her rich, powerful and cultured voice will mesmerize and capture attention equally as much. As with several other actors in this production that play multiple roles, Freddy Martinez plays both Papa Ogre and Thelonius. As Papa Ogre, Martinez is unrecognizable in green face paint, funnel ears and the same style of costume Shrek is later seen in as an adult. As Papa Ogre, Martinez physically fits the mold of a large menacing creature. Though, when he and Mama Ogre are sending young Shrek off in the “Big Bight Beautiful World” I expected him to be more menacing. As Thelonius, assistant and right hand man to Lord IMG_3387Farquaad. Martinez plays him with a stoic demeanor and deadpan line delivery, which adds to the humor and counters the sometimes manic actions of Farquaad. . Donkey is played by Jonathan Metting. Whereas a real donkey walks around on four legs, He uses a wide range of body postures, arm movement and vocal variety to make his own the character Eddie Murphy made so famous in the animated film. Metting effectively incorporates non-verbal communications such as a tilt of the head, a stare or a prance, as well as sarcasm, wit, a pleading or indignant tone to be the lovable yet irritating Donkey that a generation grew up loving.

Clyde Berry, playing the role of Farquaad, spends much of his time onstage walking on his knees to give the appearance of a very short character. For those not familiar with this character, Farquaad may be short of stature but large of ego, arrogant, demanding and slightly sadistic when torturing and threatening Gingy (Gingerbread Man) in order to find the location of Princess Fiona. While John Lithgow voiced the film role with sarcasm and droll humor, Berry appears to take elements of Lithgow’s interpretation and adds a little manic style of his own. This creates a very menacing and manic performance of a man that relishes threatening his minions but plays up the outrageous humor of seeing a full grown man pretending to be a powerful, threatening little person. Berry maximizes the comedic contradiction with well-placed manic laughter and a consistent threatening tone. Berry gives the audience a Farquaad that audience children of all ages will love to hate.

The role of Princess Fiona is double cast, Daron Cockerell playing her on the reviewed performance. Cockerell more than fulfills the expectation of how the princess should look. Her long dress shimmers in the light and, for the most part, her graceful mannerisms are of a fairytale princess. The exception is when she wants to flee from Shrek and Donkey as the sun sets and she is delayed from finding a place by herself. It is then that she becomes more insistent as is seen with a stomp of the foot, glare to Shrek and Donkey and much more stern and demanding tone in the voice Cockerell is an experienced actor that skillfully transitions Fiona between the charming fairytale Princess and her alter ego. Watching Cockerell onstage, you well believe that you are watching reality on stage rather than just an actor playing the role of a character.

Shrek is well played by G. Aaron Siler. Ogres are large, green and always scary, that is except when an ogre secretly has a kind and caring heart, which can create a conflict when the mean, rude, green Ogre falls for the beautiful princess. Siler not only accepts the challenge of showing the multiple layers of this ogre, he excels in allowing the audience to see and experience the complexity of Shrek. The scene in which he attempts to explain to Donkey that ogres are like onions is well delivered with an earnestness that gradually transitions to frustration. Siler uses his body actions and certain attitude for his walk, occasional swagger and purposeful strides to convey the physicality of Shrek, while also allowing his voice to carry real emotion. At times, the Scottish accent Siler uses is inconsistent, but this minor flaw is overlooked with the more complete connection Siler has with his character.

The connection between Siler as Shrek and Cockerell as Fiona is apparent throughout the performance. This connection between the characters enhances the believability of the story. One such example is the touching and lovely interaction between Shrek and Fiona during the song “I Think I Got You Beat”, as each tells the story of their life as a child growing up in the swamp or in the Dragon’s Castle. Each actor skillfully demonstrates an understanding of their character to show sadness, regret, boasting, and ultimately empathy and a little understanding of the other.

For those few that have not seen the immensely popular film or musical, you should first watch the animated movie and then experience the musical. The movie includes such great vocal talent and animated characters that entranced the young and young at heart for over a decade. The musical includes songs, dances, choreography and entertaining acting that bring the audience more intimately into the story unfolding on stage. As I was watching the opening night performance, I saw people of all ages in the audience. Some sang along with the songs, and some knew the lines spoken by heart. Several children in the audience had come to the performance wearing a costume of one of the characters while a few of the young audience stood near their seats and danced away. One young Shrek in the audience made his way to the stage and danced with the cast during the closing oung Princess Fionas and a few young Shreks. During some of the dance numbers number.

Plaza Theatre’s cast is very energetic and enthusiastic, and with colorful costumes, some great singing, and talented acting, it all adds up to a lot of FUN. It reminds me of what it is to be a kid again, or still be a kid, and just enjoy a good story with a happy ending. This is a musical that should be seen and seen soon as I would expect tickets to sell out once word gets out how fun it is.

A Fabulous Review of KISS & TELL By Genevieve Croft Of The Column by John Garcia


There’s still time to catch this genuinely charming comedy. The show plays one more weekend before it closes, and as this review clearly states, “I encourage you to see KISS & TELL at Plaza Theatre Company”. There can’t be any better praise than that. Read on for an outstanding review of the show, then give us a call at 817-202-0600  or visit to reserve your seats.


Reviewed by Genevieve Croft, Associate Critic for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

First appearing on Broadway in 1943, Kiss and Tell, starring actress Joan Caulfield as ingénue Corliss Archer, was a relative success, running for over 900 performances in two venues. After being discovered by Broadway producers in 1943, Caulfield’s stage career took off, which eventually led to signing as an actress with Paramount Pictures. Shortly after the Broadway production closed in 1945, a film version was released by Columbia Pictures starring Shirley Temple. The film also sparked a sequel, A Kiss for Corliss in 1949.

Kiss and Tell is set in America 1943, in the midst of World War II, when sons, brothers, boyfriends and husbands were off at war. The large cast includes two families and assorted neighbors and friends representing the idealistic view of an American family in the 1940’s. In the midst of such a serious time comes an assortment of humorous and eccentric characters, confusing situations, and quick paced story, the perfect elements to any well-written comedy.

Set Designer JaceSon Barrus nicely transformed Plaza Theatre’s in the round space into the back porch of the Archer home. I was impressed with his attention to detail, using period issues of The Saturday Evening Post to dress the set while also creating a very open atmosphere on stage. I was also impressed with Barrus’ overall vision and design. One of the gems was the use of vintage style posters dressing the walls around the perimeter of the theater. These posters promoted purchasing war bonds or Rosie the Riveter and really set the atmosphere quite nicely. They were reminiscent of tin signs that were popular advertisements from the 1940’s. I loved how something so simple could really draw the audience into the play. There were several playing areas that provided effective stage pictures of a simplistic life when families gathered on the porch after supper, read the newspaper and listened to the radio. It was an excellent way to transform the remaining space into the time period.

Lighting, also designed by Barrus (he certainly has a multitude of talents!), executed his vision of the set design and was also impressive. There are few things a lighting designer can implement in such a straightforward play to represent day and night. However, I felt the mood was established and consistent throughout the course of the play. The only drawback was the long, darkened scene transitions. At times I felt they slowed down the pacing, especially when the comic situations and pace of the story had taken flight, and when the audience was on the edge of their seats ready to see what was happening next.

Assisting the lighting and set, Barrus also carried through with his selection of music throughout the play. I especially appreciated his vast selection of songs. I believe music can make or break a play, allowing the audience to experience the setting, mood and theme of a production. It was nice to hear early Sinatra’s “I’ll Never Smile Again”, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, and the quintessential sounds of The Andrews Sisters. It was also nice to hear vintage radio broadcasts of the Gene Krupa Orchestra, advertisements, and the recognizable three note radio jingle of the National Broadcasting Company playing on the radio during the preshow and intermission. It was nice to see something as simple as music make such a lasting impression on audiences when often it’s an afterthought in other productions. As an audiophile, I was greatly satisfied by the library of songs Barrus chose to take audiences back to 1943. As for sound, the actors overcame some issues with the mics early on and were able to adapt quickly to some apparent audio issues.

Benjamin Midkiff designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. The 1940’s was such a fun time for fashion. Men and women alike dressed more formally, even when merely gathered on the back porch. The hats and gloves, eye glasses and period hairstyles, all added authenticity to the roles. Each costume was visually appealing and certainly complimented the characters portrayed.

Emma Colwell was very remarkable in the role of Corliss Archer. Through facial expressions, voice, and a youthful appearance, Colwell convincingly portrayed the fifteen-year-old school girl who longed to wear rouge, perfume and go on dates with her on again, off again teenage neighbor, Dexter Franklin. For me, Miss Colwell was the epitome of 1940’s adolescence – naive, wide-eyed, and innocent. Corliss longed to be seen as someone older than fifteen, and Colwell played her with seeming maturity, making her humorous situations with her family and friends enjoyable to watch. I also enjoyed the character’s use of word play in the story, Colwell often mispronouncing words and confusing words as an inexperienced child often would.

Another standout performance was Jay Lewis’ in the role of Mr. Archer. Mr. Lewis was convincing as the patriarch of the Archer family, with earnest chemistry between Mr. Archer and his daughter, and between him and his wife. Not only did Lewis come across as the quintessential caring father figure, but also provided quite a bit of the comedy to many situations and scenes.

Overall, the ensemble displayed some excellent chemistry together. Director Barrus’ cast worked well together, both the veteran and newer actors. It was enjoyable to see such talented actors, and was among the best I have seen in a production of this size, as it can be difficult to have a tight ensemble with a large cast. I feel every actor brought an element of importance to his or her character. I enjoyed the facial expressions and line delivery of Cameron Barrus in the role of Dexter Franklin (Corliss’ suitor), and the comic timing of JoAnn Gracey, playing Louise. The ensemble’s youngest member, Joshua McLemore in the role of Raymond Pringle, was another standout, playing the annoying neighbor always looking to make a quick buck. As Mr. McLemore matures and expands his acting resume, he will certainly become a well-rounded actor.

Kiss and Tell is definitely worth seeing. The care for detail is evident in all aspects of the production, and makes for a wonderful experience at the theater. If you are looking for an opportunity to travel back to the 1940’s, I encourage you to see Kiss and Tell at Plaza Theatre Company. To take a phrase from the 40’s, it will certainly be a really “swell” time!

SHREK THE MUSICAL coming to Plaza Theatre Company


Plaza Theatre Company – PRESS RELEASE

SHREK THE MUSICAL is coming to Plaza Theatre Company next

May 5th, 2015

Plaza Theatre Company is proud to announce the opening of SHREK THE MUSICAL on May 22nd, 2015. The production will play Plaza’s newly renovated theatre at 111 S. Main Street in Cleburne, TX opening on May 22nd and playing thru June 27th. The show will be the 86th produced by Plaza Theatre Company since it’s inception in November of 2006.

Set in a mythical “once upon a time” sort of land, SHREK THE MUSICAL is the story of a hulking green ogre who, after being mocked and feared his entire life by anything that crosses his path, retreats to an ugly green swamp to exist in happy isolation. Suddenly, a gang of homeless fairy-tale characters (Pinocchio, Cinderella, the Three Pigs, you name it) raid his sanctuary, saying they’ve been evicted by the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. So Shrek strikes a deal: I’ll get your homes back, if you give me my home back! But when Shrek and Farquaad meet, the Lord strikes a deal of his own: He’ll give the fairy-tale characters their homes back, if Shrek rescues Princess Fiona. Shrek obliges, yet finds something appealing–something strange and different–about this pretty princess. He likes her. A lot. But why does she always run off when the sun sets?

Additionally, the evening performances on Friday May 22nd and Saturday May 23rd will see the Plaza Guild hosting an OPENING WEEKEND SOCIAL immediately following the show. Those who attend will be invited to enjoy post show coffee and dessert while enjoying a social event with cast and crew to celebrate the opening of the show.

The Cast List for SHREK THE MUSICAL is: (Double Cast where noted)

SHREK – G. Aaron Siler

PRINCESS FIONA – Paulie Cocke / Daron Cockerell

DONKEY – Jonathan Metting


DRAGON / TWEEDLEDUM – Marquel Dionne


PINOCCHIO – Kelly Nickell


PETER PAN – Daniel Scott Robinson

TINKERBELL – Ashleigh Moss



MAMA OGRE / MAMA BEAR – Stacey Greenawalt

UGLY DUCKLING – LeAnn Indolos, Eden Barrus

PIG 1 (STRAW) / YOUNG SHREK – Henry Cawood

PIG 2 (STICKS) – Haden Cawood

PIG 3 (BRICKS) – Hayley Boswell

WHITE RABBIT – David Midkiff



SHOEMAKER’S ELF – Cessany Ford

PAPA OGRE / THELONIUS – Freddy Martinez



TEEN FIONA – Eden Barrus

BISHOP – Dashiell Maddox

HERALD – Joe Skipper

Eden Barrus / LeAnn Indolos
JoAnna Philips
Julia Wood

Kelly Nickell
Cessany Ford
Eden Barrus
Mclain Meachem
Maddie Almond / Rylee Mullen
Julia Wood
Ashleigh Moss

Kelly Nickell
Henry Cawood
Hayden Cawood
Miranda Barrus
Cessany Ford
David Midkiff
Maddie Almond / Rylee Mullen

David Midkiff
Mclain Meachem
Jozy Camp

Daniel Scott Robinson
Dashiell Maddox
Harrison Cawood
Noah Allen Foster

Harrison Cawood
Noah Allen Foster
Jodie Barrus
Dashiell Maddox

Haley Boswell
Dashiell Maddox
Joe Skipper
Noah Allen Foster
Maddie Almond / Rylee Mullen
JoAnna Philips
Ashleigh Moss

The production is under the direction of Luke Hunt with musical direction by Soni Barrus, choreography by Rachel Hunt and stage management by Ruth Ann Warwick. SHREK THE MUSICAL will open on Friday May 22nd at 7:30pm. The show will then play every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening thru June 27th at 7:30pm with Saturday matinees every Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Ticket prices are $15 for Adults, $14 for Seniors and Students and $13 for Children.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 817-202-0600, by visiting or visiting the Plaza Box Office between the hours of 10am and 6pm Monday thru Saturday.

AUDITION NOTICE: Little Women at Plaza Theatre Company


Audition Notice: LITTLE WOMEN at Plaza Theatre Company

Auditions are: May 11th and May 12th, 2015

Directed by G. Aaron Siler
Stage Management by Cessany Ford
Music Direction by Doug Henry
Choreography by Tabitha Barrus

Monday May 11 & Tuesday May 12, 201
7pm – 9pm at the Plaza Academy Studio
211 S. Mill St, Cleburne, TX
Auditions are by appointment only

Click here to make an audition appointment!

Auditioners will be asked to come prepared to sing 32 bars of music, preferably from a musical. An accompanist will be provided. Auditioners should also be prepared to read cold from the script at the audition. Each auditioner should plan to spend about five to ten minutes auditioning for the Directors.

A call back audition will be held on Saturday, May 16th starting at 9am and may last for up to three hours. Those auditioners who the Directors wish to see further will be invited to the call back audition.

Rehearsals will commence Saturday, May 23 and take place usually on Mon. – Wed. evenings and Saturday mornings depending on performer schedules. No Sunday rehearsals or performances.

The production will play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and Saturday afternoons opening on THURSDAY, JULY 2ND and playing through August 1st. There will be NO performances on July 4th.

This recent Broadway smash tells the story of the four March sisters. Jo has unsuccessfully been trying to sell her stories for publication, so her friend tells her that she has to write more from herself and she begrudgingly takes his advice. Jo weaves the story of herself and her sisters and their experience growing up in Civil War America.


* Please note that the age ranges on the characters are for guidance only. Actors who play older or younger will be considered for characters outside their age range based on ability.

JO MARCH (belt/mix, age 16-22)
Our story’s protagonist. Passionate, adventurous, and brave. She has the idea of writing Little Women and eventually becomes engaged to Professor Bhaer. — Range: E3 – A5

MEG MARCH (soprano, age 16-22)
The world-weary, yet hopeful, oldest sister who yearns for a great life. She marries John and has twins with him. — Range: A#3 – Gb5

BETH MARCH (soprano, age 15-20)
The second youngest sister who tragically dies of Scarlet Fever. Peace-maker, lover, and an optimist who is always encouraging her sisters to dream. Can double as Rodrigo II. — Range: A3 – G5

AMY MARCH (soprano/mix, age 16-22)
The youngest, most energetic sister with a rather pompous air about her. She later marries Laurie. — Range: Cb4 – Gb5

LAURIE LAURENCE (tenor, age 16-22)
The bright-eyed boy-next-door with considerable charm. He loves Jo but later falls in love with Amy. — Range: Bb2 – Bb4

MR. JOHN BROOKE (baritone, age 17-22)
Laurie’s tutor and a rather stiff man; shows very little emotion. He later marries Meg and changes. — Range: C#3 – F#4

German Professor who exemplifies proper manners. He is a boarder in Mrs. Kirk’s boarding house and eventually falls in love with Jo. — Range: G2 – F#4

MARMEE MARCH (mezzo sop/belt, age 40-55)
The girls’ mother. She is the strong backbone of the family, who is courageous in spite of the difficult odds she faces. — Range: Eb3 – Eb5

AUNT MARCH (mezzo with high notes, age 42-60)
A formidable, over-bearing matron and great-aunt to the March sisters. The wealthy socialite in town. She believes good manners and breeding are everything. — Range: E3 – F5

MR. LAURENCE (baritone, age 55-70)
Laurie’s Grandfather who lives next door. He is crotchety who is quite strict but is “softened” by the March girls.

Some of the characters will double for parts in the “operatic tragedy.” There are no plans to include a chorus in this production.