Friday, September 4, 2015


Posted June 24, 2015in Center Stage

Exotic and erupting with beauty

For one show this year, Des Moines Metro Opera brought in a woman from the Czech Embassy in Chicago. She spent a week teaching the cast her language. For another, performers learned to juggle opera Italian and cowboy lingo: “Howdy, ragazzi!” And for the third, by Mozart, the design team

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Posted June 17, 2015in Center Stage

The penguins sing and dance

In Winterset, the evening I saw “Nunsense,” they had a Classic Car invitational in the square. A cherry 1940s Mercury sat next to a sleek ’60s Mustang. Such wheels are impractical, of course — think of the gas mileage — but they make scrumptious eye candy. I got my fill,

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Posted June 10, 2015in Center Stage

Shakespeare does spring break

Allow me a nerd moment. Back in Shakespeare’s day, we nerds know, “nothing” had a double meaning. Pronounced “not-ting,” it referred either to nothing, as it does today, or to gossip. So the fun starts in the very title of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” It’s more than a cliché.

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Posted June 03, 2015in Center Stage

Canny mischief, cartoon murder

Only a rare theater scene offers a gem like this for free. “The Real Inspector Hound” charges no admission as part of the Fine Arts Series at Westminster Presbyterian. Nonetheless it maintains the standard set this winter with “The Mountaintop,” a haunting meditation on Martin Luther King Jr. “Inspector Hound,”

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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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