Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Posted May 18, 2017in Center online exclusive

Shock and awe

StageWest is going out with a bang. The fireworks of “Hir” put an exclamation point on the company’s final year, before it’s absorbed into the larger Iowa Stage Company. This comes after 20 years of “bold, challenging” work, as called for in StageWest’s mission. Always frank, often very funny, and

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Posted May 03, 2017in Center Stage

A fresh cocktail for theater arts

Playhouse board of directors implements a three-legged leadership stool John Viars is happy to break down the numbers. “When I began here, we did six shows a year and employed two folks full-time,” says the man who’s run the Des Moines Playhouse since 1982. No longer, however. “Now we’ve got

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Posted April 05, 2017in Center Stage

Songs, shadow and sharp pangs, with a passel of awards

Robert Petkoff doesn’t worry about bringing what might be the weirdest musical ever made to Des Moines. He recalls that when he toured with “Spamalot,” a few years back, he found the Civic Center audience was “really on the ball.” A New York native who’s played on Broadway and in

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Posted March 20, 2017in Center online exclusive

Chock-Full O’Nuts

Everyone knows Mel Brooks made some of the funniest movies ever, and “Young Frankenstein” may rank right at the top. But when you see the stage version at the Playhouse, if you can stop laughing long enough to think straight, you realize the man was also crazy for musicals. No

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Posted March 06, 2017in Center online exclusive

The Game of Thrones, with whiskey and pills

When I say one of the best moments onstage was incomprehensible, I mean it as a compliment. Director Matthew McIver has brought off a wow of a show in “August: Osage County,” wringing the recent Pulitzer winner for every last hoot of laughter and gasp of horror. Often these erupt

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Posted March 01, 2017in Center Stage

Upping the game everywhere

Just how big of a splash has local theater made during the last decade? The best measure may be how far the ripples have reached. Community stages in Ames, Winterset, Newton and Ankeny have all recently upped their games — to enthusiastic applause. A case in point came over the

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Posted February 03, 2017in Center online exclusive

‘Well played, old sport’

Benjamin Sheridan has delivered the sort of supporting performances that put the leads in the shade. Last fall, in “Death of a Salesman,” his turn as the title character’s older son — first worshipful, then scornful — sketched a tragic, emotional journey that those who saw it won’t soon forget.

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Posted February 01, 2017in Center Stage

Everything from electricity to silk

Matthew Baker, a product of the suburban Midwest, sounds inspired to work with a man whose roots are in New York hip-hop. Kyle Abraham, creator of, came out of Queens with a fresh vision for the art of dance. “He’s a man of his times,” says Baker. “The issues

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Posted January 04, 2017in Center Stage

Intense, intimate and jazzy

The city’s most intense musical theater last year took place practically in audience members’ laps. The audience sat eye-level with the players as they wove through the jazz club Noce, putting across “Murder Ballad” with lust and violence. Rarely has “dinner theater” felt so edgy. “The space is so intimate,”

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Posted November 30, 2016in Center Stage

The Miracle of the Espresso

These days, Des Moines has a showcase area known as the Western Gateway that includes Papajohn Sculpture Park and downtown anchors like Centro restaurant. Yet, 15 years ago much of the area was badly dilapidated. The Masonic Temple was still in renovation, and many locals believed the place should have

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