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Posted October 05, 2016in Center Stage

High kicks and controversy

Almost as soon as “West Side Story” opened in 1957, it ascended to heaven. The angels included the musical maestro Leonard Bernstein, and songs like “Tonight” were instant classics. The Oscar-winning movie helped cement its landmark status, and this month’s revival at the Playhouse looks to put a new generation

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Posted September 26, 2016in Center Stage

Use and discard and explode

It comes down to chemistry, finally. Mark Gruber and Kerry Skram, as the couple who dance with doom throughout “Death of a Salesman,” make a volatile compound. Each time they explode, they help Repertory Theater of Iowa deliver the tragedy without once feeling like a drag. This salesman goes down

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Posted September 14, 2016in Center Stage

Syncopated and over the top

In “Hand to God,” local standout Charlie Reese delivers another winning turn. As the teenage Jason, he works through the kid’s grief over losing his dad in a strange way — through a sock-puppet. The puppeteer may struggle for words, but not the potty-mouthed “Tyrone” at the end of his

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Posted August 31, 2016in Center Stage

Death of a dream, triumph onstage

Visiting its new rehearsal space, one can feel the excitement of the new season for Repertory Theater of Iowa.  Formerly a factory, the single vast room has been partitioned into sections for meetings, readings and a rough set. One can feel the pleasure that players take in spreading out. Clearly

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Posted August 10, 2016in Center Stage

Celebrating the stars, far off and at home

Cloris Leachman may be a hometown girl made good, but she hasn’t often come home. Now 90, she prefers retirement Hollywood-style, with a trophy room full of awards — including a record eight Emmys. Yet when John Busbee, the man behind “The Culture Buzz” on KFMG, called the West Coast

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Posted July 27, 2016in Center Stage

Outside the cell, outside the box

A play outside the box, “Hooded” uses a box as a set.  The design for Pyramid’s latest production — itself something of an experiment — is by Jordan Weber, an installation artist. Weber has come up with a rotating box, placed center-stage within a horseshoe seating arrangement. Players perch on

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Posted July 20, 2016in Center Stage

Rock times two

No tribute band ever got a better endorsement. George Harrison, the late great Beatle, once showed up at a performance by Damian Darlington, then and now the leader of a Pink Floyd tribute. What’s more, this was a birthday party for David Gilmour, a founder of the original ensemble. “There

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Posted July 13, 2016in Center Stage

Crying mercy, and doing good

    “Raisin In the Sun” has a rollercoaster of a second act, so gasp-inducing that Lorraine Hansberry’s play became Broadway’s hottest ticket of 1959, and after that, a star-making film for Sidney Poitier. For the production from Pyramid Theatre, Des Moines’ first African-American company, Director Tiffany Johnson found a

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Posted July 06, 2016in Center Stage

The lady packs a wallop

  Is this the birth of a star? Sydney Mancasola comes to Des Moines between assignments in Berlin and London, playing the title character in “Manon,” one of opera’s great tragic heroines. She commands the stage on the strength of her voice alone, a soprano that, even as it soars,

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Posted June 29, 2016in Center Stage

Skinny jeans and belly whoppers

    Were those skinny jeans for opening night at the opera? Actually, yes, and a couple of young women sported black ankle-high lace-ups, bohemian. Looking around, you might think the opera was hip. The idea had Artistic Director Michael Egel nodding in agreement. “We’ve done a lot of outreach

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