|From the Desk of
|Wildwood Fire by Lauren de Graaf and Kelsey Krogman|
Wildwood Fire tells Cash-Carter story
By TERRY PUGH
“Ring of Fire” was one of Johnny Cash’s biggest hits back in the 1960s.
Written by his wife, June Carter, the song was also a fitting metaphor for the couple’s turbulent marriage. While they loved each other deeply, they both had serious emotional issues that often came close to tearing them apart.
“Wildwood Fire,” a one-act play written by Lauren de Graaf and Kelsey Krogman, puts this stormy relationship under the microscope and shows us that even beautiful, famous people with the world at their feet are just as flawed as the rest of us.
Staged as a professional production at the community hall in Langham last weekend, Wildwood Fire was a big step beyond the Langham Theatrical Company’s usual comedic offerings. But it still had enough down-home country flavour to appeal to the loyal crowd that look forward to the annual community theatre’s productions. Wildwood Fire premiered in Rosebud, Alberta in 2014 and was among the plays featured at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival last summer.
Set in a concert hall, the drama is a mixture of dialogue between June Carter and her mother, Maybelle, the matriarch of the Carter Family; and a series of songs recorded by the first family of country music between 1927 and 1967. The tight, perfectly-blended harmonies between June (played by Lauren de Graaf) and Maybelle (Alexandra Cowman) in the musical numbers are in stark contrast to the vocal barbs they throw at each other during the spoken dialogue.
When the stage lights first come on, Maybelle is reluctantly preparing to do a solo act. She just gets started when she’s unexpectedly joined on stage by a visibly upset June, who’s just come from the hospital where her husband, Johnny Cash, is on death’s door after overdosing (yet again) on pills.
Maybelle tries to persuade June to return to her husband’s side, but June is fed up and confused and refuses to leave the stage, instead insisting on performing. Through the dialogue, the audience gets a rare glimpse into the private lives of the famous Carter Family and the even-more famous Cash-Carter “ring of fire” marriage.
June is half-considering leaving her beloved Johnny to his suicidal fate and reclaiming her place in the old Carter Family band. But Maybelle persuades her to build a future rather than dwell on past disappointments and faded glories: “All that’s been lost is nothing compared to what can be found,” says Maybelle.
The songs are heartfelt and true to the original versions without sounding corny, and the dialogue keeps the audience on their toes with unexpected flashes of humour and pathos. A scene where June digs up old memories of learning to play guitar as a little girl, and suddenly starts speaking in a little kid’s voice, is both jarring and effective.
An added bonus during the second half of the production was a concert by Dave and Debbie Norman of Rosetown. The husband-wife duo goes by the stage name of “Cash Back” and cover an almost limitless repertoire of songs made famous by the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. From the opening riff of “Folsom Prison Blues” to the final bars of “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down,” the Normans had the crowd in the palm of their hand as they served up a trainload of hits that were true to the originals.
I am pleased to report that Elaine Nemanishen will be co-directing the 2015 performance; Elaine is no stranger to the stage as she has been with the Langham Theatrical Company for many, many years, however this is her first go in the director’s chair. The play we are presenting is a sequel to our 2014 production and is titled, ‘A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Wedding’ written by Kristine Bauske.
I regret to inform you that due to a significant number of unfortunate issues I have resolved to cancel the Dinner Theatre Production, which was scheduled for November 2015.
I apologize for whatever effect this decision will have on you our valued guests.
Regards, Sela Balzer
|A Good, Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas|
In conclusion to this year’s LTC happenings I begin by extending a huge “thank you to” all who attended our 2014 production of ‘A Good, Old Fashioned Country Christmas’ and an even bigger ‘thank you’ to all of its cast and crew members. The end result of months of learning lines, attending rehearsals, set construction and planning certainly paid off as I believe we raised the bar once again, with not only the performance and the set décor but that of attendance as well. Well done all of you!
I have begun the task of searching for plays and reading scripts, it is always exciting planning for the next year, I promise to let you know what is in store for 2015 as soon as I have made my selection. What I can tell you is that I have learned from the past performances that you, our guests, love to laugh and that’s what our aspiration for you will be.
Langham theatre troupe puts a hillbilly spin on Christmas tale
By Terry Pugh Clark's
It’s Christmas Eve in the little of town of Christmas, USA, and everybody’s got problems.
With their relationships. With their workplace. With their friends. Even with their phones. Nothing’s working.
Sounds like a recipe for a Good, Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas. And the Langham Theatrical Company is serving up another fresh batch this weekend.
At Lou’s Diner, Barbie Jo Fox (played by Corinne Waldner) is burning apple pies. Again. And her mother is ragging on her about her bad decision to marry Dave. She’s trying to sort out her problems with the help of her employer Lou Wexler (Treena Rowat) and co-worker Darlene Fulmer (Janene Bueckert). Janene is blessed with a pathological love for Christmas carols and a voice that sounds like “someone field-dressing a cat”, to quote Barbie Jo.
For his part, Dave (Steve Balzer) has high-tailed it up to a hunting lodge on Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve!) with his buddies Bill Wexler (Martin Bembridge) and Jimmy Weaver (Erron Leafloor). They’re looking for a break - Bill from his wife Lou and Jimmy from his girlfriend Darlene.
Meantime, it’s snowing to beat sixty outside, and with each passing hour, the blizzard is just getting worse and worse.
Holed up in the cafe are a marooned truck driver named Bob and his dog Bailey (Darrell Novakovski and his dog Bailey - what a coincidence); and Mark Riley, who’s studying to be a doctor like his dad.
Suddenly, a young pregnant woman named Mary Sue Archer drops into the cafe out of the blue after getting off a passing bus. She’s got no place to stay.
When Mary Sue decides to leave the cafe and gets lost in the blizzard, Mark sets off to find her. Truth is, he’s smitten, and when he finds her, the young couple stumble upon a horse barn on the outskirts of town. She’s about to give birth.
Meanwhile, the three hunters have had no luck bagging any game. They’ve run out of food. Their truck won’t start. They have no wood for a fire and their cell phones are not working. They set out back to town on foot, and come upon the scene in the manger.
These three wise guys aren’t wise men, but they come bearing gifts in spite of themselves.
It’s clear from the beginning where this allegory tale is headed, but it’s a sleigh full of fun watching the characters and the plot weave toward the pseudo-Biblical First Christmas-tale ending.
With plenty of one-liners and sight gags, this comedy hits all the right notes. But it also has just enough pathos and touching scenes to offset the levity. Plus the set is really cool. The hunting lodge paraphernalia comes direct from Archerwill, so you know it’s the real thing.
By Terry Pugh
It’s Christmas Eve in the little of town of Christmas, USA, and everybody’s got problems.
|Way Out West in a Dress
The Langham Theatrical Company Hits all the Right Notes in its Latest Production, "Way out West in a Dress."
By Terry Pugh
Clark's Crossing Gazette
November 7, 2013 edition
The quirky, over-the-top musical melodrama combines a funny, entertaining score with great acting by a large, talented cast. The result is a polished play that delivers exactly what the audience is looking for: an entertaining evening where you leave humming a tune with a smile on your face.
Strangely enough, this is the first musical ever staged by the Langham community drama club. And Artistic Director Sela Balzer says that's because it takes a special chemistry to pull off a production like that. Comedy is one thing; musical comedy is quite another. You have to have multi-talented people who can sing and act. It's actually a lot harder than it looks.
Fortunately, Gillian Pearson, who is also the driving force behind Langham's other theatrical group, the Prairie Players, stepped up to the plate and took on the role of musical director for the production. That allowed Balzer to concentrate on the acting aspects, while Pearson handled the musical end.
There was also the challenge of a big production with a large cast, but "Way out West in a Dress" gives the supporting cast a lot of responsibility when it comes to backing up the leading characters. There's not a square inch of stage space that doesn't get used at some point, and the actors have to be careful they aren't bumping into the props or each other. When they do, they heroically incorporate it into their dialogue and grin right along with the audience.
The plot revolves around the story of a troupe of struggling actors in 1892 who inherit a hairdressing salon in a one-horse western cowboy town. The male actors are reluctant to take on the job of styling women's hair because it's "un-manly." Fortunately, they have a trunk full of wigs and dresses, and since they're actors, they dress in drag and re-invent themselves as female characters – supposedly from Europe.
Part of the fun in the play lies in the names of the characters: each name is a pun related to the character's job or personal quirk: Carrie O'Key (singer), Elieen Dover (stands and walks with a slant), Melody Plunkett (piano player), Bobbi Pinz, Nell Clipper, Philip Glass (bartender), Barbara Seville, Colt Revolver, Jessica James, Will Reader (lawyer), Bob Burr (barber), Bill Holder (banker), M.I. Dunn (undertaker), Levy Fines (judge), Rhoda Steed (rancher), Russell Grub (cook).
Martin Bembridge shines in his role as Clarence Rawlins (alias Lady Claire Rawl), particularly when he sings. His falsetto British accent in his Lady Claire Rawl character is a bit funky (think Miss Piggy with a Monty Python-esque English accent).
His colleague Roger Gaines (alias Rogaine), played by Erron Leafloor, also does a great job although he has to stretch a bit on the songs. (His faux French accent in his female alter-ego Rogaine reminds one of that amorous skunk, Pepe le Pew – except an octave higher).
Tiffany Boucher as Melody Plunkett, the piano-player love interest of Clarence, steals the show with an up-tempo, fast-talking song. Chris Byers is convincing as the cunning Colt Revolver (he delivers his lines with a B-movie monotone sneer), while his sidekick Charity Meili as Jessica James brings an bubbly gusto to her part, and looks pretty dangerous with a pistol.
From the desk of the director:
If a good 'belly-laugh' comedy is what you were wishing for in our 2012 fall dinner theater production then your wish has come true. My selection for this our 16th performance is THE BIG FIVE – OH, a 2-act comedy by Brian Mitchell.
Synopsis: Whoever said life is better after fifty had better be right! George Thomas is turning fifty on Saturday, and it has been a terrible week. His dog is sick, his son is a freeloader, and his daughter wants to marry a Republican. With a neurotic wife and a neighbor who insists on bringing her dear departed husband, Steve, with her to dinner the week is presenting more challenges than even George, a Professor of Sociology, can overcome. Add to this the irritation of a student stalker the week is undoubtedly becoming the worst week of his life. Through these trying days, George will discover the wonders of family, the responsibilities of parenthood, and the results of his latest physical.
The Big Five – Oh is a hilarious, sometimes touching account of a grown man coming to terms with his age, his relationship with his son, and his future. It is the story of a middle-aged man finally growing up.
I am also excited to inform you that as a result of our increasing ticket sales we have made a decision to add one more performance to that of our 2012 performance dates. We will be offering a 'Show only' performance on Thursday evening November 8th beginning at 7:30 pm.
Ticket Vendor and prices (presently unavailable)
Friday –Sunday November 2-4, 6:00 pm
Thursday 'Show Only' November 8, 7:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday November 9 & 10, 6:00 pm
Sunday Matinee November 11, 1:00 pm
Langham Theatrical Company raises the bar again with new comedy
By Terry Pugh
Clark's Crossing Gazette
November 8, 2012 edition
Around the Clock
The Education of Angels
It's ironic that Angels, who are supposed to inhabit lofty realms, apparently have to descend back down to Earth to receive their higher education.
But it's also nice to see that those who have passed on still retain their sense of humour.
"The Education of Angels", staged over the past two weekends as a dinner theatre production by the Langham Theatrical Company, earned excellent marks from audiences for its clever script and solid acting. A standing ovation at the end of the performance November 13 was indicative of how well the play was received.
Langham Theatrical Company Director Sela Balzer chose the play after seeing it performed by a community theatre group in Speers earlier this year, and decided it was a nice fit for her own group. The combination of humour, pathos and a surprise ending contained in playwright Matthew Carlin's script struck a chord with the appreciative audience. But even the best script needs a director, actors, and production crew to bring it to life – and that's where the Langham troupe shone.
Corinne Waldner stole most of the scenes she was in with her character of Jenna, an "Angel-in-Training" who is actually quite un-angelic. "Pushy" would be a kind way of characterizing her attitude and actions. She has all the subtlety of a snowplow. Still, she grows on you, and by the end of the play, she emerges as one of the most kind-hearted and sensitive of the protagonists. Beneath that blustery exterior is a soul yearning to help others – whether they want it or not.
It turns out her personality is just the ticket for "Dave", the character played by Steven Balzer. Dave is a chronically-insecure guy who's about to get married for the second time. But the prospective groom is having second thoughts on his wedding day, and his dilemma is aggravated by his ex-wife Natalie, played with a toxic flair by Crystal Levesque. Natalie likes to push Dave around – literally – and Jenna pushes Dave to push back.
The thing is, apparently, angels are invisible to most people. They are only seen by those people who need their help, so the one-way conversations with non-visible angels make for some interesting moments on stage.
While Jenna's character is aggressively helpful, the other Angel-in-Training is morose and even a little bitter. "Nicholas", played by Rocky Dyck, has still not gotten over the fact that he's had to leave behind his wife and child on earth. It's not until he comes across an old man on a park bench who shares some insights on life, love and taking the time to enjoy both. It seems that apparently, mortals can dispense wisdom to angels.
A great supporting cast includes Darrell Novakovski - the wise-cracking, stogie-smoking cab driver; Emery Ens – perfectly cast as the soft-spoken pastor; Tom Wall as the wisdom-dispensing old chap on the park bench; Evan Pady as Dave the groom's best friend, and Jordyn Kuzek – who plays the prospective young step-daughter of Dave. One of the nice touches was the provision of live music by an angelic duo – pianist Linda Gossen and vocalist Sonia Zacharias.
Of course, the theatre portion is only half the equation in a "dinner theatre" presentation. The superb meal prepared by Creative Catering was indescribably tasty. It's no wonder people keep coming back year after year to take in these productions. It's great entertainment, and it shows how professional a community theatre performance can be.
2010 The Education of Angels 2010