Thursday, May 16, 2013


By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Whether you were raised with the original fairy tale or Disney’s “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” version, you have never seen a Cinderella quite like the one currently offered by Hillsboro’s STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy.  The 19-person cast, stage manager, and lighting designer are all young people ranging from pre-pre-teens to seventeen-year-olds. While few of them are bound for show biz careers, they are all learning a lot about theater, diction, teamwork, organization, and public presentation by participating in the STAGES program.

The adaptation by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy is a musical, with the songs fully integrated into the show. While none of the music is terribly memorable, the musical numbers offer lots of opportunities for the entire cast to participate in the singing and dancing. Because this version is loosely based on English pantomime style theater, the cast members also get to interact playfully with the audience – a fun touch that really helps to bring younger audience members into the spirit of the evening.

The show opens with a stage full of fairy tale characters, including many of the famous fairies of folk lore (who knew there were so many?) – and leads up to the introduction of the most wonderful fairy of all, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Lindsay DeLapp). The Fairy Godmother sends two of the cutest Helpers in history (Lily Frerichs and Danielle Martinek) out to locate the most worthy and needy person in the kingdom. Frerichs and Martinek are, by turns, wry, spritely, woeful, and enthusiastic – but always articulate and charming. The three girls all bring a wealth of stage experience to their roles.

The Helpers’ search eventually leads them to the home of the Stepmother (Heather Sutherland), her two daughters, Henrietta (Hallie Bartell) and Gertrude (Emily Niebergall), and of course the much-oppressed step-daughter, Ella. The wicked trio takes great delight in tormenting poor Ella, forcing her to sleep in the kitchen among the cinders (hence, the name “Cinderella”) and, in one of the show’s liveliest musical numbers, shrieking for her to fulfill their every whim.

The role of Cinderella is filled with poignant optimism by Sarah LaTray. She is perfect for the role physically, winsome and innocently pretty, and she ably handles the transition from the scullery to the palace (and back). Her singing voice is effective when she wistfully sings “what’s to become of me” as she patiently awaits deliverance from her woeful plight.

David VanDyke (Prince Charming) initially comes off as an egotistical poser (ala the princes of Into the Woods), but he soon reveals his own sad predicament – lonely, looking for true love but pressured to marry for state purposes. He, too, muses “what’s to become of me,” until he finally meets Cinderella. VanDyke earns our sympathy as he exposes his emotions, and he is very effective in the role. Comic relief is amply provided by Charming’s father, King Darling III (Caleb Kinder). Running gags based on Darling’s nearsightedness are played to full effect by this deft comedian.

The job of providing musical accompaniment is filled by two pianists, Beverly Bean and Anne Poulos. In addition to supporting the music and dance numbers, the pianists also provide sound effects (in particular, the haunting tubular bells to accent moments of magic).

Many thanks to Director Donald Cleland, Musical Director/Choreographer Linda Anderson, and the other adults who gave of their time to make this show a reality. Special kudos to coach designer Dan McFarling for the clever pumpkin-to-coach transition!

HART Theatre is to be commended for sharing their wonderful facility with this special group.

Cinderella runs through Sunday, May 19th at the HART Theatre, 185 S. E. Washington Street, Hillsboro.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bag&Baggage Braves The Storm

The cast of Rough Crossing at Bag&Baggage Productions

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Hillsboro’s Bag&Baggage is currently offering Rough Crossing, a somewhat absurdist farce by British playwright Tom Stoppard. Adapted from two previous works, Ferenc Molnar’s Play at the Castle and P. G. Wodehouse’s The Play’s the Thing, Rough Crossing is packed full of witty dialogue and physical comedy that never quite makes the transition from “charming” to “hilarious,” despite the best efforts of director Scott Palmer and a superb cast.

Set in the 1930s on the S.S. Italian Castle, a transatlantic liner bound for New York, Rough Crossing tells the story of a pair of famous playwrights trying to finish their new show before its Broadway debut. Complications include a traumatized composer with serious mommy issues, his fiancée’s questionable (okay, compromised) fidelity, an inept but mysteriously omniscient cabin steward with a taste for the passengers’ cognac, an obsessively amorous leading man, a storm at sea, and a brace of amateurs seeking to foist their scripts on the playwrights. Author Stoppard, in deliberate parody of the genre’s stylistic antecedents, has included almost every conceivable cliché.

The show is not really a musical – rather, it is a play about the development of a musical – but it still requires competent singers.  The six-member cast is more than equal to the task; their solos, a cappella work, and harmonies deliver some of the show’s best moments.

Adam Syron and Norman Wilson portray Sandor Turai and Alex Gal, the playwrights who, despite (or because of) their different personalities have successfully churned out a stream of popular fluff. Turai is the nervous member of the team, afflicted with verbal diarrhea that presumably permeates his writing style. Syron brings an over-the-top melodramatic energy that is perfect for the part. Gal is a study in contradiction – his role is to provide the restraint necessary to counterbalance Turai’s excess, yet he eats (healthily) incessantly and obsessively. Wilson nails it, and delivers perhaps the strongest performance of the show – but he gets powerful competition from cabin steward Dvornichek (Ian Armstrong). Armstrong smoothly navigates his character’s accent(s) and personality changes, and brings surprising comedic subtlety to the running joke of his cognac filching.

The aging leading man, Ivor Fish, proves that even before Viagra there was no shortage of dirty old men. Peter Schuyler plays the role with a mockingly lustful ennui that nicely captures the oily essence of this Svengali wannabe. His rival for the hand(?) of the fair maiden is fiancé/composer Adam Adam, played by Benjamin Farmer. Farmer gets two of the best laughs of the evening in one particularly funny scene – you’ll have to see the show to find out how he elevates “Timing” and “They did” into heavy-duty punch lines. The aforementioned fair maiden is Natasha Navratilova, played with consistent dynamism by Megan Carver. Her high energy and solid soprano during the musical numbers nicely complement the deliberate triteness of the lyrics and melody.

The set, while relatively simple, is striking enough that we kept expecting Reno Sweeney to come strutting down the staircase – Cole Porter would have loved it! The costumes are appropriate to the period and add to the elegant ‘30s ambience.

Bag&Baggage presents Rough Crossing at Hillsboro’s Venetian Theatre, 253 E. Main Street, through May 26th.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Deb Holmes as governess Miss Prism and Margie Young as Cecily Cardew.
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
The last time we were in Paris, we made a pilgrimage to the legendary Pére Lachaise Cemetery. Most visiting Americans are drawn to Jim Morrison’s grave, while Edith Piaf attracts a wide range of flower-bearing music-lovers. We, however, made a bee-line for Oscar Wilde’s monument, eager to pay homage to one of the wittiest wordsmiths in the history of the English language.

Mask & Mirror’s current production of The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy Set in the Serious South, is contemporary proof that time has not diminished the impact of Wilde’s cutting satire. Furthermore, the relevance of the script demonstrates that in many ways things haven’t really changed much since the work was penned.

Margie Young and Casey Faubion as Algernon Moncrieff.
Adapting the show to a setting in the post-Civil War South, rather than its original Victorian locale, was an excellent choice on the part of director Mason Hall. In both cases, the upper classes were in denial about the erosion of their “empires” and were clinging to the superficial trappings of their social positions. The gentle southern accents ensure that none of Wilde’s amazing punch lines are lost in translation, and help the audience to grasp the fundamental likeability of the often-silly lead characters.

Casey Faubion plays charming fop Algernon Moncrieff with a decadent confidence that masks his character’s genteel poverty. He fluidly delivers Wilde’s complex dialogue, and on opening night he made brilliant use of a cucumber sandwich to regroup after a minor lapse. James Kilmury is equally effective as Moncrieff’s counterpart, the love-struck John/Jack/Earnest Worthing. His slightly smarmy affect is perfect for the role. Sheila Zook brings a headstrong determination to her portrayal of Gwendolyn, and one of her strengths as an actress is her ability to modulate her intense delivery when the action dictates that she step back. Margie Young (Cecily Cardew) presents her character as Gwendolyn’s cloistered and naïve opposite, but despite her comically wide-eyed naïveté, she reveals a devilish fascination with “bad boy” Moncrieff.

Greg Prosser as Minister Dr. Chasuble and Deb Holmes.
The show’s strongest performance is by Elisabeth Goebel (Lady Bracknell), a battleship of societal tradition fighting to salvage the remnants of her once-illustrious family. Goebel’s delivery is letter-perfect, crisp, and powerful, and she uses her face and body to enhance her status as a regal dowager.

Scott Rushford (butler Lane/Merriman), Deb Holmes (governess Miss Prism), and Greg Prosser (minister Dr. Chasuble) round out this talented cast and provide effective support to the production. The sets are appropriately elegant, completely masking the bare-bones ambience of the church recreation room. The detailed costumes lend lavish period authenticity to the production. The refreshments at intermission, in uniquely Mask & Mirror style, are mint juleps (alcohol-free) and southern pecan cookies, further drawing the audience into the spirit of the evening.

Mask & Mirror Community Theater’s production The Importance of Being Earnest  runs through May 19th, with productions at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays at “The Stage,” Calvin Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard, 97224. Ticket information is available at