Thursday, April 30, 2015


Back Row:  left to right

Janeen Sollman:  Aunt Leora
Larry Jensen:  Frank
Marlena Starrs:  Ernestine
Alex Hyatt:  Dan
Caleb Kinder: Bill
Tim Oppenlander:  Tom
Rachel Oppelander:  Lillian
Brett Peer:  Mr. Hathaway
Eric McMichael:  Dr. Bob

Front Row:
Isaac Ellingson (he is wearing the hat):  Fred
Beth Self:  Mrs. Gilbreth
Colin Taylor:  Bob
Parker the Pup:  The $5 DogRobert Cartusciello:  Al Lynch

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy is putting a score of actors - some youths, some adults – on the boards at the HART Theatre for Belles On Their Toes. This sequel to the group’s 2013 production of Cheaper By The Dozen is set a few years later, and continues the well-loved story of the Gilbreth family. William Crawford returns as director of this lighthearted show, and many of the cast members are also reprising their 2013 roles.

Belles On Their Toes shows the Gilbreth children coping with both the loss of their father, efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth Sr., and their mother’s subsequent departure for a six week European tour to fulfill her late husband’s speaking engagements. The children now range from toddlers to college age, and it was fun for us to see how much some cast members have grown as actors in the last two years. In particular, Hannah Solheim (“Anne”), and Larry Jensen (“Frank”) bring an impressive maturity to their 2015 performances. Beth Self also returns (as Mrs. Gilbreth), now burdened with supporting her huge family. While her stage time is minimized by her prolonged absence, she captures the strength and heartbreak of a mother struggling to keep her family together.  We cannot overlook (nor could we take our eyes off) local dog star Parker Pup, once again playing “The $5 Dog” with good cheer and a steady eye on his young handler, Colin Taylor (“Bob”).

The cast as a whole is excellent, although a couple of the adolescent boys have a tendency to overact and could use some extra guidance. Marlena Starrs (“Ernestine”) and Megan Willison (“Martha”) are especially believable as love-struck teens. Tim Oppenlander (as the cook/handyman “Tom”) is oddly placed in loco parentis during Mrs. Gilbreth’s absence; the character’s irreverence and quirky interjections are even funnier when delivered in Oppenlander’s convincing Irish brogue, and his irrepressible mirth after an unfortunate incident with a tennis racket keeps the audience in stitches. Following in her father’s footsteps, young Rachel Oppenlander turns in a great performance as “Lillian.”

In addition to directing the show, Crawford also acted as set designer, and (as always) the outcome is spectacular.  High praise also to the costume committee – all of the clothing was period appropriate, and it cannot have been easy to concoct those remarkable bathing suits! Stage managers Riley Bartell and Hannah Vertner kept the production moving smoothly – no mean feat for a pair of pre-teens.

We continue to be impressed by the important role that STAGES is playing in introducing young people to the theater – as actors, crew members, and most important, as audience members. Cuts in arts education put the future of live theater at risk, but the Hillsboro community is doing a wonderful job of ensuring that local school children will have ample access to theater programs.  

“Belles On Their Toes” is playing at the HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington Street, Hillsboro through Sunday, May 10th with 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and 2:00 matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Sarah Thornton, Carl Coughlan, Patti Speight, Rebecca Rowland
Hines, Gary Romans, Jan Rosenthal, and Karlyn Weaver.

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Almost 65 years ago, John Patrick’s The Curious Savage opened in New York City – and it has since become a community theater staple. It is easily staged, family friendly, touchingly funny, and (unlike many vintage comedies), it has held up remarkably well, perhaps because it is much more than a series of one-liners and cheap jokes.  In the deft hands of director Linda Talluto, the current Mask & Mirror production of the show takes full advantage of these features. The result is an entertaining and thought provoking production that helps the audience question society’s boundaries between and definitions of sanity and mental illness.

The story is set in “The Cloisters,” a genteel mental asylum that treats its residents more like guests than inmates. Wealthy widow Ethel P. Savage is facing commitment by her greedy and venal stepchildren, who are horrified that she is spending what they consider “their” money on a foundation that helps people achieve their hopes and dreams. Proof of her insanity? Ethel has begun pursuing her own dream of being an actress – what could be crazier? Five residents eagerly await Ethel’s arrival, and quickly charm her with their quirky but harmless behavior. Unlike Ethel’s stepchildren (a Senator, a judge, and a much-married socialite) the denizens of The Cloisters are fundamentally good and gentle souls, loyal and protective of their “family” – the other inmates. Ultimately, Ethel decides to live out her life at The Cloisters, administering her foundation from within its sheltering walls as she learns that the bars on the window really are not to keep the inmates in, but to keep the world out.

Karlyn Weaver (“Florence”) watches over her fellow inmates with the intensity of a mother hen; while sometimes strident and domineering, her presence provides order and security to the others. Stephen Radley (as the shell-shocked pianist “Jeffrey”) is quietly endearing, and Radley’s shy and tentative performance subtly expresses his post-war aversion to all conflict. Comedienne Sarah Thornton is lovably hilarious as the plain and emotionally needy Fairy May, bobbing in and out of reality with a sure sense of timing and injecting just the right notes of pathos when appropriate.

Senator Titus (one of the evil stepchildren) is the slimiest politician in Washington, and Carl Coughlan performs as though he was born to the role. He is apoplectic, scheming, and convincing as the only congressman so unpopular that he is barred from the White House. Patti Speight (as stepdaughter Lily Belle) brings a brassiness that belies her haughty demeanor; we easily believe that she could change husbands as often as she changes her garish hats.

Gary Romans is well cast as the kindly, if somewhat befuddled, Dr. Emmett, who clearly has his patients’ best interests at heart. Jayne Furlong (“Nurse Willie”) projects both the crisp orderliness of a head nurse and an unexpected tenderness toward all of her charges.

The story revolves around the character of Ethel Savage, and Jan Rosenthal is a fine actress who easily navigates the character’s development throughout the show.  She is often funny, always warm, and wonderfully devious in her dealings with the evil stepchildren.

Nick Hamilton and Cindy Zimmerman have outdone themselves with the beautiful set that immediately tells the audience all they need to know about the ambience at The Cloisters. Viola Pruitt’s costumes are inventive, eye-catching, and very appropriate to the period.

Mask & Mirror’s production of The Curious Savage runs through Sunday, May 10th at Calvin Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard with shows Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GREASE – A Hit From Broadway to Broadway Rose

The cast of "Grease" at Broadway Rose.

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Producing Director Sharon Maroney, in her program welcome, says a mouthful when she explains Grease’s  enduring popularity: “it taps into the fun and innocence that we ‘think’ was the ‘50s.” Some of us who were actually there, crouching under our wooden desks as protection from Russian nukes, remember a world where the birth of rock & roll helped to distract us from some pretty terrifying stuff. Luckily, audiences today need escapism just as much as their mid-century predecessors. Hence, Grease can still be relied on to draw good-sized audiences, and a production as strong as the one at Broadway Rose is a sure-fire sellout.

 Kylie Clarke Johnson (Sandy) and Peter Liptak (Danny)  
In case someone just moved the rock you’ve been under, here’s a brief synopsis: Squeaky clean new girl Sandy Dumbrowski shows up at Rydell High, still aglow from a summer romance with Danny Zuko. Surprise! Danny is a student at Rydell, and in best “Leader of the Pack” fashion, a bad boy. Sandy hangs with the Pink Ladies, bad girl corollaries to Danny and the gang, but she’s too pure to really fit in (or keep her man). Baddest girl Rizzo thinks she’s pregnant by Kenickie, but it turns out she’s not. Sandy sheds her Sandra Dee image, dons black leather, and dances her way back into Danny’s arms. Remarkably, kids and adults way too young to have ever heard of Sandra Dee or “Leader of the Pack” still flock to see Grease, and they LOVE it. From the opening notes of the Rydell Alma Mater sing-along (a masterful touch to ensure audience engagement) to the finale, a thoroughly multi-generational Broadway Rose audience was cheering even louder than head cheerleader Patty Simcox!

Peter Liptak (“Danny”) and Kylie Clarke Johnson (“Sandy”) are at their best when performing together – their duet leads on “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One That I Want” are flawless, and beautifully supported by a typical Broadway Rose “power ensemble.” The parallel couple, Max Artsis (“Kenickie”) and Claire Rigsby (“Rizzo”) get the most interesting story line and some of the show’s best songs. “Greased Lighting,” Kenickie’s big vocal number, is a triple threat – pulsing lead and ensemble vocals, clever staging, and impressive (if punishing) athleticism. However, the show’s single finest moment is unquestionably Rigsby’s heart-wrenching delivery of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” We’ve seen countless productions of Grease through the years, and have never seen the song performed more convincingly.

“Beauty School Dropout” is an iconic number that is sometimes given more attention than it’s worth. However, the lighting, direction, staging, and unbelievable vocal by “Teen Angel” Collin Carver exceed our jaded expectations by a mile – and “Frenchy” (Emma Holland) is suitably overwhelmed by his advice. It would be criminal to overlook “Mooning” – a spectacular performance by Bryce Earheart (“Roger”) whose falsetto soars as he climbs the bleachers.

Grease done right is definitely a dancer’s show, and this production definitely gets it right. It’s not surprising, since director/choreographer Jacob Toth was assistant choreographer for the show’s most recent Broadway revival. The big dance-themed numbers like “Born to Hand Jive” and “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” are complemented by a steady flow of dance integrated into practically every song; we suspect that many of the actors will be nursing hidden bruises for weeks from all the high energy leaping and sliding!

Not surprisingly, tickets are in short supply, even with the last-minute addition of some Wednesday performances. The small, intimate theater is great for audience engagement, but limits the seating capacity. Buy your tickets on-line soon, and be prepared to be flexible about when you go!

Grease is playing at the Broadway Rose New Stage Theater in Tigard through Sunday, May 24th, with performances at 7:30 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (plus Wednesday May 6, 13, and 20), 2:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays and a special 2:00 PM performance on Friday, May 1.

Monday, April 20, 2015

THE FULL MONTY Deserves a Full House!

From Left: Tyler Oshiro, Zachary Centers, Brandon B. Weaver (on
floor), Tanner Norbury,  Mark Putnam, and Keith White.

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

While many of their shows are typical of traditional community theater offerings, in recent years Theatre in the Grove has also taken some pretty significant risks (think August in Osage County). However, nothing we have seen on a local stage can touch their current production, The Full Monty, for uninhibited, go-for-broke ballsiness (pun intended). Director Ken Centers and his amazingly courageous cast have set a new standard for cheekiness that will be hard to top.

Based on the original 1997 film, the musical version is transplanted from England to Buffalo, New York, where six out-of-work steelworkers, depressed and emasculated by unemployment, decide to emulate a troupe Chippendales dancers to raise some quick cash. The opening number sets up the fundamental problem – unlike Chippendales stripper Buddy (Dean Dwinn), the steel workers are anything but buff and they really can’t dance.  This is not a Disney show with a “Mighty Ducks” ending, so the second act brings no magical transformation (at least physically) of the ugly ducklings – but the psychological transformation is stunning. Wives, ex-wives, and 1000 other locals form a raucously appreciative cheering section for their hometown strippers when they learn that (unlike the Chippendales boys) the “Hot Metal” guys will go “the full monty” – take it ALL off.

Each of the six steelworkers (Tanner Norbury, Brandon B. Weaver, Zachary Centers, Mark Putnam, Keith White, and Tyler Oshiro) brings a unique character to the stage, but their real strength is in their comic exchanges and in the vocal and dance ensemble numbers.  Tyler Oshiro (as the exceptionally well-endowed “Ethan”) is hilarious in his fruitless but persistent attempts to emulate Donald O’Connor’s wall climbing routine, yet he displays surprising warmth and sensitivity in “You Walk With Me” with Zachary Centers (“Malcolm”). Centers, Norbury (tough guy “Jerry”) and Weaver (the somewhat corpulent “Dave”) are exquisitely droll in “Big Ass Rock,” one of the show’s funniest numbers. Once seen, we may never rid ourselves of the image of Weaver sitting on the toilet wrapping himself in Saran Wrap - but why would we want to?

Of course, it’s not all about the guys – there are several remarkable women in the cast. Alison Luey (Dave’s wife “Georgie”) brings the audience to tears in her beautiful reprise of “You Rule My World” with Wendy Bax. Leslie Collins (“Pam”) conveys, with surprising subtlety, her lingering fondness for ex-husband Jerry. Best comedienne honors go to Pruella Centers, whose crusty “Jeanette” delivers the bluesy “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number” and some great one-liners. However, Lindsey Bruno (“Estelle”) offers stiff competition when she drops trou to use the men’s urinal.  Deven Rieck also merits special recognition for his understated but often intense performance as Jerry’s 12 year old son Nathan.

Choreographer Jeananne Kelsey and vocal director Tiara Herr have done a fine job of whipping their talented raw material into a cohesive, but necessarily still raw and  chaotic, ensemble. The orchestra provides well-modulated support throughout, and they really cut loose at the beginning of each act. Ken Centers’ direction keeps the action moving constantly, with spotlights on small vignettes distracting the audience during scene changes. Lighting designer Ward Ramsdell and lighting operator William Gilbert brilliantly allow the cast to pull off The Full Monty’s full monty without violating public decency standards.

While definitely not family fare (please leave the kids home!), The Full Monty is lots of fun, terribly funny, and (despite some raunchy language) really very tasteful and at times quite touching. Local audiences are not likely to have another chance to see this show, so grab your seats while they are still available!

The Full Monty is running at Forest Grove’s Theatre in the Grove through May 3d with performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.