Friday, May 29, 2015


Posted May 27, 2015in Center Stage

Ghosts, ghouls and puppy love

At a recent rehearsal for “The Addams Family,” the stage manager started things off with a weird warning. “Some of you,” he said, “have got to watch out for those dangling chains.” Ah, Addams Mansion, with its clanking chains and groaning ghosts. The set, by Alan Reynolds, will of course

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Posted May 20, 2015in Center Stage

Young and full of promise

Most shows at the Civic Center require a ton of setup — “The Lion King” tours with an endless caravan of trucks — but none have put 30 high schools onstage. Not until now, anyway, in year three of the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards. For 2014-15, the awards

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Posted May 13, 2015in Center Stage

Silly, female-centric, a success

Ten minutes into a read-through of “Choices,” the latest from Des Moines playwright Karen Schaeffer, I found myself surprised by my own laughter. The way my chuckles kept erupting, I wondered when grownups got so silly? The answer lies with the woman who wrote the script. Schaeffer generated similar hilarity

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Posted May 06, 2015in Center Stage

Roller-coaster to the heart

Even in rehearsal, the chemistry starts to percolate. No sooner do Jim Benda (as Vanya) and Ann Woldt (as Sonia) settle in over their coffee during the opening of “Vanya, Sonia, Masha, & Spike,” the comic molecules start to bounce dizzily — and this when the actors aren’t yet in

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Posted April 29, 2015in Center Stage

More magic than math

Even as the U.S. tour of “The Lion King” is finishing its run in Cincinnati, it’ll start setting up in Des Moines. The show travels with “a dupe,” as Ken Davis puts it — a backup. As production stage manager, Davis takes pride in the jaw-dropping math of “Lion King.”

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Posted April 22, 2015in Center Stage

Chuckle-worthy gadgetry

John Viars, in his director’s notes for “Around the World in 80 Days,” says he’s sorry his show doesn’t have a balloon. The balloon was a feature of the 1956 movie, and the Playhouse actually uses one in its ads. Still, I don’t think Viars has to apologize. His choreography

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Posted April 15, 2015in Center Stage

Brightness in a blackout

Screens and shadows rarely matter so much as they do in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The show takes place in cramped quarters where the Franks and other Jews survive two years in Nazi-held Amsterdam. But Jay Jaglim, who designed the set and handles the lighting, finds unexpected nooks and

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Posted April 08, 2015in Center Stage

Dream and nightmare

You can thank God you never had a mother like Mary Bricker. Her face set in a grim, seamy square like a box of drawers set with traps, Bricker continues to break down and manipulate her daughters long after they’ve grown to adulthood. “Independence” may be the latest Tallgrass “Dream

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Posted March 31, 2015in Center Stage

Show me the money!

Hillary Clinton can wear a director out. The former Secretary of State, even in late rehearsal for the PAC-funded show at Stagewest, keeps quibbling over stage directions. “Stage left?” asked Clinton. “That depends on your definition of ‘left.’ ” With the presidential campaigns beginning to show signs of catching fire,

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Posted March 25, 2015in Center Stage

The war within

For a minute halfway into “My Name is Asher Lev,” nothing matters so much as a shadow. The dark profile of the title character, a budding artist, falls across a blank canvas, while his mentor prods him to do better — to leave his mark. What’s more, the shadow evokes

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Barmuda