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Posted June 11, 2014in Center Stage

Sex, drugs, Kermit and Oscar

Turns out it’s not far from Sesame Street to Broadway. “Avenue Q,” now at Stagewest, demonstrates a terrific musical can combine puppets who look like Kermit and Oscar, kiddie-show singalong energy, and a healthy dollop of raunch. In 2003 “Q” garnered three Tony awards, and it remained on Broadway for

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Posted June 04, 2014in Center Stage

Fantasy rebels and Queen rockers hit the Civic Center

Imagine the pitch. Out in Hollywood: the band Queen meets the movie “The Matrix,” and the loser ends up being Orwell’s Big Brother. If that sounds like a bit much, well, so does “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Freddie Mercury was nothing if not over the top, and his surviving bandmates Brian May

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Posted May 28, 2014in Center Stage

Sunday Funday upside-down

That’s quite a box of toys. Rings and dishes in neon plastic, batons of varying length and heft, balls of all sizes, weights and colors — the stuff is a riot of color, in fact. These goodies and more fill the bin carried by Laura Ernst, which she brings to

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Posted May 21, 2014in Center Stage

‘Boeing Boeing’ is a much-needed farce

Half an hour into a late rehearsal for “Boeing Boeing,” after the cast had run through a couple of scenes, Des Moines Playhouse Director Kathy Pingel announced it was time to tackle the entire play from the start. “Ready to rock ‘n’ roll?” she shouted. Michael Davenport, in the lead

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Posted May 14, 2014in Center Stage

‘Always… Patsy Cline’ is Winterset Main Stage debut

At his keynote address for the launch of the Des Moines Social Club, David Byrne called for “a network” of similar venues. DMSC couldn’t do it alone. The arts in Iowa need other places to grow, he said. Well, how about Madison County? Down in covered-bridge country, the Social Club

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Posted May 07, 2014in Center Stage

Nostalgic and intergalactic

“The Intergalactic Nemesis” may be sci-fi fantasy, full of technobabble, but the real fun in it is watching people at play. In particular, Christopher Lee Gibson, who is one of three actors in this “live-action graphic novel,” takes on no fewer than nine characters from the wicked hypnotist Mysterion to

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Posted April 30, 2014in Center Stage

Minnesota nice — and naughty

In show business, there’s an ancient quip about a dying actor. Colleagues gather at his bedside, grieving, and, with his last words, he tries to reassure them. “Dying is easy,” he groans. “Comedy is hard.”  The story’s never been verified (some say Groucho Marx made it up), but there’s no

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Posted April 23, 2014in Center Stage

‘Extremities’ raises questions of violence and victim blaming

Lately, downtown theater has broken through to a new level at the Social Club, but some of this year’s most exciting work took place out west. The Tallgrass Theater Company near Valley Junction has brought two radical challenges: “True West” was an edgy drama that alternated different actors in the

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Posted April 16, 2014in Center Stage

‘The Crucible’ of witchery, tragedy and storm

Last Saturday night, midway into the second act, “The Crucible” brought the thunder. Set at the Salem courthouse, 1692, the witchcraft trials went from bad to worse. Innocent townsfolk found themselves condemned to hang on the “spectral evidence” of hysterical teenage girls. These “Heathers” have their Alpha, the charismatic Abigail,

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Posted April 09, 2014in Center Stage

Hitchcock’s dark farce is funny but flat

Even before Alfred Hitchcock started to toy with it, “Dial M for Murder” was a dark farce. Frederick Knott, the playwright, whipped up some diabolical conniving, as Tony Wendice arranged a hit on his rich wife Margot. In the early ’50s, Broadway audiences couldn’t get enough. Then Hitchcock’s movie (Grace

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