Monday, July 31, 2017

…Match Girl…&…Crossing a Field—Portland Opera—Downtown Portland

“The World is Too Much With Us”

The Little Match Girl Passion (from a story by Hans Christian Anderson) and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (from a story by Ambrose Bierce) are composed for the stage by David Lang and directed by Jerry Mouawad (co-Artistic Director/Founder of Imago) and orchestra conducted by Hal France.  It is playing at the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, July 30th, August 3rd & 5th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-241-1802 for tickets.

I asked myself, what do these two stories have in common, that a marriage of a production would be appropriate?  For one thing both the original tales, on which they are based, are from fantasy/fiction writers.  Anderson, a writer of classic children’s stories, and Bierce a writer, in part, of ghost stories (also a newspaper reporter, who disappeared also when doing a story on Poncho Villa).  Both episodes also deal with alienation, change, “holes” in our dimensions, evolution, and a passing over or on, into another realm.  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

“…Crossing a Field” deals with a plantation owner, Mr. Williamson (Michael Streeter) in the Deep South (Selma) during the Civil War era.  As the story goes, it seems that he and a neighbor, Mr. Wren (Allen Nause), who he was to buy some horses from, were crossing one of his fields one sunny day, when he simply disappeared into thin air.

It also seems some slaves (Lisa Williamson, Martin Bakari, Nicole Mitchell, Laila Murphy, Ernest C. Jackson, Jr., and Damien Geter), who were working the fields, under his brother, the overseer, Andrew (Christian Zaremba), also witnessed this event but, because they were slaves, were not considered credible observers.  It is brought to trial to the Magistrate (Todd Van Voris), who must decide, not what happened to him specifically, but whether he is living or dead.

If dead, then his inheritors would divide the Will.  There is his wife, Mrs. Williamson (Hannah S. Penn), who over a course of time, slowly loses her reason, divesting herself of the way of life she’s known.   There is his daughter (Cree Carrico), who seems to have an uncanny connection with other forces in the atmosphere, that might have driven her father to this fate.  Then there is his brother, who would also get a nice piece of the pie.  Did all these people conspire to murder him?  Or did the slaves revolt?  Or did he simply escape to another town, another life, to get away?

There is, of course, the possibility, that he walked through a hole into another dimension.  There are a few recorded cases where similar things have happened.  But, in this case, a world was turned upside down and, although a people, a Nation, were evolving, there is “no gain, without pain.”  For this conclusion, you have to witness it for yourself.

The cast of singers is exceptional, no surprise there as Portland Opera gets the best of the best.  I was especially impressed with Penn, Bakari and Mitchell, as they added an extra dash of depth to their characters, I thought.  The voice actors, Van Voris, Nause and Streeter are also among the best, also, as I have reviewed them favorably in the past many times.  This blend of voice actors with singers is a real asset to this show.  And Mouawad adds stylized movement, as an extra touch, and a simple setting, which focuses us more on the story, acting and singing.

Crossing Over

The second selection is from one of my favorite stories by Anderson, but definitely a tragic one.  It’s about a little waif, a match girl (Max Young), during the 1800’s, who is forced during the winter months to sell matches on the street, her only source for food, to strangers.  She discovers that every time she lights a match, a scene of warmth and friendliness appears, as does her grandmother, who has passed over.  But when she does this, she is also wasting any chance of an income.  It’s a bittersweet ending so I won’t reveal it, but I think you can guess which world she chooses to be a part of.

It would be nice to think that a stranger passing by would take pity on her but when you turn on the news today and see the abject poverty world-wide that children/families must deal with all the time, one should feel ashamed that such things could happen.  This is our future that we are letting die, so take heed!

Young, as the girl, in a wordless performance, speaks volumes with her silence!  You sincerely feel for her and all that she is experiencing.  A wonderful, touching performance!  The singers (again, Williamson, Penn, Bakari, Carrico, Mitchell, Zaremba, Geter and Jackson, Jr.) also act as a sort of Greek Chorus, commenting on the proceedings, and they are super.  Some Movement Artists (Gwendolyn Duffy, Kaician Jade Kitko, Carla Grant, Nathan H. G., Fiely Matias, Sumi Wu and Carol Triffle (co-Artistic Director/Founder of Imago) are added for an additional blow to the emotions.

Mouawad also has used shadows/silhouettes for his movement people, a touch of magic that transforms a bare stage into a bustling metropolis, or ghostly presences, or scenes of gladness whenever he chooses.  An exceptional director for both these pieces!

Lang has really transformed both these stories into a nether-world of emotional and artistic pleasure/sadness/wonderment.  I recommend these productions.  If you do choose to see them, please say that Dennis sent you.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

PREVIEW: Urinetown —Anonymous Theatre Company—Pearl District

“…Love, Greed and Revolution”

This multiple, award-winning musical of 2001, has book and lyrics by Greg Kotis and music and lyrics by Mark Hollman.  This production is directed by Darius Pierce (co founder of the group), music direction by Mont Chris Hubbard and choreography by Elizabeth Young.  It is playing, one-time only, at Portland Center Stage’s, Gerding Theatre, 128 NW 11th Ave., on Monday, August 7th at 7 pm.  Tickets are $25.  For more information and tickets, go to their site at
The above quote sounds like an anthem for many countries of the world at this point, but it’s actually the theme of this play.  I’ve never seen this musical but all reports I’ve heard from those who have, say it a real pisser (sorry, had to get that out of my system…damn, did it again).  This blurb is meant to be a Preview of the show since, being that’s it’s only performed once, a review would be anti-climatic, to say the least.

If you’ve never experienced one of Anonymous’ shows, then some explanation may be in order.  Auditions are held in secret, with no actor knowing who the other cast members may be.  They then rehearse separately with the director (and, in this case, also with a choreographer and musical director, too—whew!).  Once the show is performed, they mingle with the audience and when the time comes for their entrance, they say the first line from the audience and ascend the stage, seeing their fellow cast members for the first time.  For more information, check out my previous article on them from a previous season:

It’s quite an adrenaline rush for the actors, I’m sure, and the audience as well.  I have seen a couple of their once-a-year shows in the past and it is amazing how well the cast blends together, as if they’ve been doing this for weeks.  But that is partly because of the actor’s dream (and nightmare) that, no matter what, the show must go on and they will forge ahead with confidence to rally their talents and give the best shows possible under any trying circumstances.  Actors are truly amazing and unique creatures!

The story, in brief, has a town that experiences an extreme water shortage and so private toilets are banned and the citizens are forces to us public facilities run, of course, by a malevolent corporation, looking to make a killing on profits, since it would be a monopoly for them.  Of course, when such evil entities raise their ugly heads, it is just the needed fodder for a revolution and so…see the show.

I’m impressed with the quality of their productions but it does prove that talent will out in the end.  And they do mange to garner an amazing array of seasoned performers for their shows, as well as directors.  Pierce himself is quite a marvel onstage, as you may have seen him in one or more incarnations of the dept. store elf on Christmas Eve at PCS.  And he will be in an upcoming production of Third Rail (at CoHo) in August, too.  And both Hubbard and Young are very talented individuals in their fields, so I can say, from this outpouring of talent and having seen past productions, this is definitely going to be worth your time to attend.  It is truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Obviously, I do recommend this production—sight unseen.  And, as always, if you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tartuffe—Masque Alfresco—Greater Portland Parks

Feathers & Fluff

This classic Commedia dell’arte satire from the 1600’s by Moliere, updated, adapted and directed by Fayra Teeters.  It is playing at various outdoor settings in Beaverton, Hillsboro and Lake Oswego through August 27th.  For more information, go to their site at

This era in American political history will undoubtedly go down as the lowest point (to date) in our existence.  It is full of bullies, con-men, hoodwinkers, egotists and out-and-out, liars.  The Good News is that there is nowhere to go but Up.  And so, as we swim in the dregs, with the sharks, in the bottom of the barrel, we choose to absorb the vino and laugh at the whole proceedings.  After all, In Vino est Gigglas!

This play, done in sort-of period costuming (Nan Frederick), has been adapted in language (Fayra Teeters) to fit the above-mentioned era, not an easy task but it seems to fit into our palms like a well-greased glove.  To bastardize the Bard, “We are such stuff as [Nightmares] are made on, and our little life is rounded with a [deep coma].”

In this story, Orgon (Jonas D. Israel) is a very rich land-owner in Paris.  He rules it with his attractive, trophy-wife, Elmire (Athena McElrath) and his cranky Mom (Karen Kalensky).  The inheritors of said property, besides wife and Mom, are his rebellious son, Damis (KJ McElrath) and Orgon’s defiant daughter, Mariane (Sami Pfeifer), who is engaged to Valere (Erik Montague), a troubadour, of sorts.  They also have a rather outspoken, sassy maid, Dorine (Jessica Reed), who keeps poking her nose into family business.  And there is also the practical brother-in-law, Cleante (Rian Turner), who is also faithful to Orgon.

Into their lives arrives the unscrupulous, Tartuffe (Kenneth Dembo).  Taken in as a homeless creature, who had seemed to just need the basics in life, quickly proclaims himself a prophet and feels it’s his duty to save this unfortunate family (with the bulk of the change going to him).  Orgon falls for his ploy hook, line and sinker and willingly gives Tartuffe anything he desires.  He even offers his daughter in marriage to this “goodly” man.  But Tartuffe’s roving eye seems to fall onto Orgon’s wife, who spurns his advances, until she realizes it may be the way to revive her husband from his religious stupor.

To reveal more would spoil the ending.  But, let’s just say the Courts, via Loyal (KJ McElrath, again)), and the Law, care of an officer (Montague, again), are heavily involved in the climax.  Any resemblance to current affairs and personas is purely…intentional.  This is outrageous, physical comedy, akin to our own Vaudeville at times, and with audience participation throw in for good measure.  A side note, check out the McElrath’s other enterprise, along similar lines at as they are a talented duo in their other, artistic life, as well.  

Teeters certainly knows her politics and the barbs come fast and furious and keep the audience a-titter.  Also kudos must be given to her for the use of a small, outdoor space and still keeping the story intact.  The costumes (Frederick), especially the women, are quite lovely and add to the success of the show.  The entire cast is obviously having fun.  I especially liked Reed as the saucy maid (who has an operatic voice, as well) and, as in the Bard’s plays as well, the servants (or “domestic engineers”) are usually the wise clowns of the piece.  And Dembo, as the title character, leaves no scene “un-chewed,” which is entirely appropriate with this character.  He’s a scream, as well as the rest of the cast, as this type of material is not easy to do but they pull it off with glee.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Visit to a Small Planet—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

Alien Perspective

The comedy by the famous political/historical writer, Gore Vidal, is directed by the equally famous, local actor/director, Tobias Andersen.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego, through August 13th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-635-3901.

What would we look like now to an alien being from a totally foreign environment?  My guess he would take one view of our situations on Earth and conclude we weren’t worth bothering about, because we seemed hell-bent on self destruction, and would deduce that they found no intelligent life here!  In the late 1950’s, the time-frame of this story, it might look slightly more subdued than that.  But, nevertheless, we would still spell doom.

This play was made into a silly, worthless film many years ago starring Jerry Lewis and most of the political edge was removed for his antics.  The actual stage version had the brilliant Cyril Richard (remember Captain Hook from the Mary Martin, “Peter Pan”) in the lead role.  This time out, we have Jeremy Southard as Kreton, the alien from a faraway galaxy (or dimension).  He seems a cross between Dick Shawn, Paul Lynde and Jonathan Winters.  He is more subtle than Lewis and that is probably more the way Vidal saw it.

Anyway, as to the story, we have him landing in a typical, middle-class home of the era, ala an Ozzie & Harriet-type of family.  There is the hubby, a TV commentator, Roger (Todd Hermanson), and his sanitized wife, bedecked with pearl necklace and hoop skirt, Reba (Julie Elizabeth Knell).  Of course they have a perky daughter, just ripe for the 60’s rebellion era, Ellen (Melissa Sondergeld), and her country, farm-boy sweetie, Conrad (Paul Harestad).  And let us not forget the feisty, family cat, Rosemary (Dusty), who has some uncanny abilities of her own.

Of course, we also have to have the political connection, as their best friend is a General in the Army, the puffy, Tom Powers (Erik James), and his trusty, meek Aide (Kaleb Hood).  And also, to round out things, we have a mysterious stranger, Delton 4 (Ethan LaFrance), adding to the confusion.  Mix them all together and you have the beginnings of a scary new world.  But how to set things right again is the question.

It seems that Kreton is not unlike some of the aliens Star Trek envisioned, like the enigmatic “Q,” having no concept of human emotions or purpose.  Once the alien perspective is added to this concoction, then weaknesses, prejudices, and strengths are revealed and lessons can be gleaned, that is, if all survive.  For more information, tune in to this episode.  And you’ve probably never seen anything funnier that a military man with laundry and his future vision for it.

The story may be a bit dated but it does truly reflect that era, as it should be.  Andersen is an actor’s director and it shows in the cast he has chosen, they all epitomize the artificial roles that were pictured on the boob tube of what we were supposed to be like.  And his handling of the comic bits, rather than being zany, as Lewis portrayed them, are subtler and eerily more creepy that way, as if they were skirting around the truth.

Southard does well in keeping his character in check, as it could have been over-blown but works much better this way.  James, a season veteran, is perfect as the General and his comic bits with the washing machine are priceless.  This is a show for the whole family.  And, although a comedy, it does have some serious digs as to how we view things, as seen through an outsider’s eyes.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Homer’s, The Odyssey—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

Home is Where the Heart is

This classic Greek tale of the aftermath of the Trojan Wars from Homer is translated by Robert Fitzgerald and adapted & directed by Mary Zimmerman  It is playing at the Allen Elizabethan outdoor Theatre, downtown Ashland, through October 14 (in repertory).  For more information, go to their site at or call 800-219-8161.

The author, Thomas Wolfe, has famously said, “You can’t go home again.”  A bit of a misnomer, as you can find the “place” but not the “spirit” that it represents.  What is so important about finding home is that you are searching for your roots, your innocence, childhood in all its glory, no responsibilities.  It represents more than a place but a state of mind.  So when Odysseus (Ulysses) begin his search, after winning the Trojan Wars, nothing will stop him from getting back to his family, not even the gods, or a trip through the Underworld (Hades/Hell).  And so this journey will take us all from the depths of despair to the summit of joy, to rekindle, recreate, revive this long dormant sense of one’s true purpose.

It seems that on his home soil of Ithaca, his patient wife, Penelope (Kate Hurster) and her reactive son, Telemachus (Benjamin Bonenfant), are still awaiting his return after many years.  But certain laws and customs must be followed, one of which is that a woman can’t inherit property & goods of her husband so must re-marry in order to regain her status (shades of “Beauty and the Beast”).  So several suitors, (akin to Aussie tribesmen or Samurai warriors) are anxiously awaiting her answer to their proposals, chief among them is Etenous (Jon Cates).

Meanwhile Odysseus (Christopher Donahue) has found a patron in the goddess, Athena (Christiana Clark), who takes on several guises throughout the story to aid in his journey.  But other goddesse,s like Calypso (Amy Newman) and Circe (Miriam A. Laube), have more than a passing interest in him and want to keep this traveler all for their own.  Other gods, chiefly, the petulant Poseidon (Danforth Comins), have grudges against him and attempt to thwart his attempt to reach home.  And proud Zeus (Daniel T. Parker), the chief god, seems ambivalent to the whole proceedings.

He will have friends like Menelaus (Howie Seago), Alcinous (Armando McClain) and his daughter, Nausicaa (Britney Simpson), an old friend, Eumaeus (Richard Howard), et al. that will aid him on his sojourn.  Others, like the Cyclops (Parker, again), the Sirens, the suitors, et. al., will try to distract him from his mission.  Like all fables, lessons will be learned but at a cost.  And the old adage, “there’s no place like home,” will ring true.

The is a very complex tale but, being that it is told in a story-telling fashion, the simplest of settings can be the most elaborate of surroundings because of the some very talented people in creating the atmosphere for us and allowing us to participate, by filling in the blanks by the use of our imagination (for those of us who still employ that element, instead of relying on artificial means of forcing images into our head).  Zimmerman has a monumental task of both adapting for the stage and directing this extremely complex story for us and has done an outstanding job of both!

Another major artist to be touted is the choreographer of the Suitors’ and Naucicaa’s dances, Kirstin Hara.  They are a show in themselves and add much to the success of this production!  Another small but touching scene is when Odysseus reunites with his old dog Argos.  Although amusing, at first, as it is a puppet, it soon becomes very touching (for me because dogs have been my best friends throughout my life) and so this one hits that teary note for me.

The actors are all very strong.  Donahue, as the lead character, is unique in his portrayal because he underplays much of it, which is very convincing and compelling.  It allows the audience to infuse their own feelings into his plight and therefore becomes more personal for us.  Clark plays many guises of mortal beings and, with essentially no change in appearance except her own talent, transforms before your eyes into another persona.  And, Howard, the pro, always shines in any show he does here and is very moving as the old retainer of the hero.

I highly recommend this show but know that it is over 3 hours long so be patient (and comfortable) as it is worth the time.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Ashland Experience:  OSF

I have experienced this unique company since the late 60’s, when I became a member of the acting company for two years.  Bill Patton and the Founder, Dr. Angus Bowmer, were prominent then.  I came back over the years then as an audience member.  And, over the last five years, as a reviewer.  Of course, it went through some growing pains, evolved and now is a first-class company (and Tony winner for regional theatre).  The OSF family has grown by leaps and bounds over these years.  One thing this company has (that some professional companies do not) is Warmth.  It is a feeling that, whether an actor, backstage artist, usher or audience, you feel as though you belong…they’re family.

The experience you have is not only that you are you seeing first-rate productions but, through tours of the facilities, backstage talks, green shows, et. al., you are participating in an unforgettable event.  And when you observe the talent involved of designers, administration, Tutor Guild and actors, you have to be impressed.  Just consider that a relatively small ensemble (compared to the number of roles demanded in these productions) not only have to be fine actors to play any age, but also have to sing, dance, play musical instruments, fence, do acrobatics, and many other skills, so you can be assured that these folks are the best of the best and this company can rival any in the world—bar none!  Amen.

Henry IV, Part Two—Ashland Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“What Price Glory?”

This is part of the history canon of the Bard’s plays, directed by Carl Cofield.  It is playing at the Thomas Theatre in repertory through October 28th.  For more information, go their site at or call 1-800-219-8161.

The above title could easily reflect on the price of fame, in today’s market, as well, when one is catapulted into another frame of reference, another perspective, asking what sacrifices must be made in order to inhabit this world?  If left to our own devices, what existence would we choose and if, in a position of Power, what mantles must be shed in order to cope, to maintain, that “brave, new world?”  In Hal/Harry/Henry’s worlds, civic duty must take precedence over individual pleasure.  But we are such fragile creatures, do we not lose part of our humanity, our soul, in that transformation?  “Must give us pause.”

All the familiar pawns are here as in Part One but evolution/revolution is spreading. It seems that King Henry (Jeffery King) may be in charge of his own clan, the English, Warwick (Tyrone Wilson), Westmorland (Robert Vincent Frank), Prince John (Jeremy Gallardo), and Clarence (Alejandra Escalante).  But the Scot’s and Welsh families have their own ideas of who should be in charge.  Even Henry’s son, Hal (Daniel José Molina) is, in actuality, the Prince of Wales. But since all those clans are inter-related by marriage and birth, in some way, it makes for some sticky situations.

His opposers, including Hastings (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), Mowbray (Lauren Modica), Bardolph (Richard Elmore), and Northumberland are equally adamant as to their cause.  Then we have the Boar’s Head Tavern crowd of misfits, miscreants and motley, mischief-makers.  Mistress Quickly (Michele Mais), being the major domo there and her fellow imbibers (including Hal), are Sir John Falstaff (Ted Lange, the understudy) holding his own court, with the likes of Poins (Goodfriend, again), Bardolph (Frank, again), Peto (Modica, again), Doll Tearsheet (Escalante, again) and a Page (Yi Shostrom).  The scenes with these scene-stealers comprise the humor in the show.

The warring factions of both comedy and tragedy are too complicated to get into in any detail but know that this is the middle play/act and, like all trilogies, is not quite as interesting, like the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars series, but there are some gems within this.  My favorite and the show-stopper, as far as I’m concerned, is when Falstaff attempts to hire recruits for his army.  By their names alone you can deduce how desperate he is in garnering troops.  Shallow (Elmore, again) and Silence (Modica, again), country justices, along with Falstaff find the lowest of the low, including the repulsive, Mouldy (Kimberly Scott), the dumb ox, Bullcalf (King, again), the disgusting, Wart (Gallardo, again), the elusive, Shadow (Nemuna Ceesay) and the dimwit, Feeble (Robin Goodrin Nordli).  Comedy at its best!  

All these varying elements will eventually clash, some will die or be captured, and some to survive for the next installment in Henry V (next season).  Perhaps the saddest, cruelest and oddest of happenings is the breaking down of the relationship between Falstaff and Hal.  Can’t tell you more without revealing character devices.  As always, they are all super in playing multiple roles but Elmore, a very seasoned professional, as Shallow, truly shines!  And a positive boost to Lange, as he had to, at the last minute, fill in for one of the lead characters, Falstaff.  He may have had book in hand but he never wavered in his confidence when playing the character and this speaks volumes about the talent this actor possesses!  He got a well-deserved, rousing hand at curtain call, a tribute to his tenacity.

It is amazing the creative use of a small, essentially bare stage can belie in the hands of a clever craftsman, the director, Cofield.  Not only does he manage to keep things moving but also embraces the hundreds of small factions of characters and places into an understandable pattern.  A monumental task, extremely well done.

I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Ashland Experience:  Ashland Hills/Springs

If you are looking for a comfortable place to stay while visiting the Bard’s stories, I highly recommend the Ashland Springs rooms, (downtown Ashland, just feet away from OSF) with their secured parking lot.  There is also their Ashland Hills suites, about 3 miles South of the downtown area, which also has a pool and hot tub.  Both these establishments offer a complimentary breakfast buffet, including bagels, muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, waffles, sausage patties, hot & cold cereals, coffee and juices, et. al.  It certainly will enhance your experience in this great little town.  For more information, go to their site at or call 855-482-8310.  And, as always, if you do choose to stay at one of their fine places, tell them Dennis sent you.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast—Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“Tale as Old as Time”

This classic musical has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton, is directed by Eric Tucker, music direction and arrangements by J. Oconer Navarro and choreography by Erika Shong Shuch.  It is playing at the Allen Elizabethan outdoor Theatre, downtown Ashland, through October 15 (in repertory).  For more information, go to their site at or call 800-219-8161.

As in all fairy tales, there is a moral to be learned, and this one is no exception:  To seek out Truth, wherever it is hidden, and the Beauty of an individual, by looking deeper than the surface.  As a Reward, Love will out in the end, if your course is True, and you speak from the Heart.  Such is the lesson to be gleaned here.

A few versions of this tale have been presented.  There is the very good musical, stage version by Disney based on his Oscar-nominated, animated movie.  There was also a TV, non-musical version of it some years back starring Klaus Kinski and Susan Sarandon.  But the best by far was the 1940’s, French version by Jean Cocteau.  And it is the only one to reflect the true message.  At the end (spoiler alert) when the Beast is transformed into the handsome Prince, Beauty is aghast and cries out, “Where is my Beast?!”  Folks, she fell in love with the Beast, as he was, therefore, no need to alter his appearance!

The musical is a lot more complicated than the original, short tale or any of its versions.  Belle (Jennie Greenberry), an eligible young lady of a village is being pursued by the biggest braggart in town, Gaston (James Ryen).  He and his faithful stooge, Le Fou (Kate Hurster) pretty well have the town under their thumbs.  That is except for Maurice (Michael J. Hume), an eccentric inventor and his lovely daughter, Belle.  But one day, on his way to the Fair, to sell his contraptions, Maurice gets lost and is trapped in a castle by the Beast (Jordan Barbour), who was once a Prince but has been turned into an animal because he lacked compassion toward a wandering traveler.  The only way to break the spell is to find someone who will love him just as he is.

If not, the transformation will be irreversible and he and his staff will fully become the objects they resemble.  There is the rotund clock, Cogsworth (Daniel T. Parker); his love interest, the operatic Mme. de la Grande Bouche (Britney Simpson), now a Wardrobe; the flighty, Lumiére (David Kelly), candle sticks; and his main squeeze, the sexy, Babette (Robin Goodrin Nordli), a feather duster; the matronly, Mrs. Potts (Kate Mulligan), a teapot; and her precocious son, Chip (Cayo Sharma), now a teacup.  When Beauty tracks her father down, she offers herself in exchange for him.

Now a prisoner herself, she must deal with the Beast and, with the help of his staff, she slowly changes his animalistic ways.  And he realizes, a caged bird does not sing, or love, so he must set her free.  In the end, Love wins out and the lesson may be, not to judge others by their outward appearance but look at what’s beneath.  The lyrics of the music enhance the story to an enormous degree, giving all the characters a full view of their feelings.

This is done in story-book fashion which allows the beautiful costumes (Ana Kuzmanic), the actors’ talents and, most importantly, the audience’s imagination, to participate in creating the tale.  Tucker manages to keep the play flowing by allowing the actors to illuminate the various settings in essentially the same physical atmosphere.  His vision of the Beast is also unique, as it is often played as a Lion but the story doesn’t say that, and so this beast has ram’s horns and resembles something out of Greek mythology.  And the show-stopping, “Be Our Guest,” is a delight in dance and music, as well as an outstanding cast of singers.

This is a happy experience for the whole family and to have it presented under the stars is an added bonus to the magic of the show.  As always, the cast is neigh-on perfect.  Greenberry is a lovely young lady, with a voice to match.  And her character is a proto-type to women’s rights, standing up to a male-dominated society, and putting a suitor in his place by commenting on who is the real beast here.  And, again, to tout that old adage, “there are no small parts…,” Jeremy Peter Johnson shines in the small role of, Monsieur D’Arque, the head of the asylum, as he struts and shakes his way about the stage, leaving no “scenery un-chewed.”

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Ashland Experience:  Black Sheep

I am so happy to say my favorite restaurant has survived, as Susan, the owner, is retiring and left it in the hands of the Fates if it would continue.  Susan writes: 

“It is with great pleasurer and gratitude that I announce I have secured buyers for The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant!  I am honored to introduce the community to our new owners, Clarinda & John Merripen, who will be taking over management of the establishment at the end of July 2017 . . . so keep Flocking on . . .  here’s to another 25 years of The Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant!  Long live The Black Sheep – Where – Where you Belong!

Susan Chester, Proprietor”

I have always enjoyed their food & drinks from the British Isles, as they are reasonably priced, a friendly atmosphere, especially Greg, who converses with you as if you were an old friend and Raquel, as charming as she is lovely and with a very impressive background in the hospitality industry, and a past favorite, Prairie, who was the initial reason I was a returning customer.

Also, so far, they are endeavoring to be open late for play-going customers.  This time out I tried their specialty, a pulled-pork pasty, with homemade coleslaw and potato salad and, of course, a Guinness to top it off.  Their special dessert was sweet concoction made with Earl Grey tea.  All of it first-rate and a tasty delight.  I highly recommend this place, just steps away from OSF on the plaza, look for the bright red door!  As always, if you do choose to visit, tell them Dennis sent you (and say “Hi” from me to any of the above mentioned folks).