RSSOffBeat With Phil Potempa
Stage farce is a tricky maneuver for actors, all faced with the same feat to deliver a success that results with laughter and engaging entertainment for the audience.
And before any such cast steps on stage, it's also a matter of what material they've been given to bring to life and what guidance and advice comes from the director.
This month welcomes the world premiere of "Tell Me When it Hurts," the new comedy stage farce by Lisa Scott presented by Three Cat Productions at the charming and intimate Berger Park Coach House Theater of the Chicago Park District's Berger Park along Lake Michigan on Sheridan Road in Chicago's north neighborhood of Edgewater. It is directed by Jason Smith.
News of actress Jane Kean's death last week comes during the month of December, a time when her familiar voice was heard this season on what was the once so very popular animated Christmas TV special favorite, "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." It first aired Dec. 18, 1962, on NBC, as a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous short story and became a part of television history, since it was the first animated holiday special ever produced specifically for television. (Charles Schulz's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" came along in 1965). Kean provided the voice of the beauty Belle, who is forsaken, because of greed, by grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge, as portrayed by Mr. Magoo as voiced by legendary Jim Backus.
Kean, 90, lived in Toluca Lake, Calif. and died last Tuesday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank where she was taken after a fall that led to a hemorrhagic stroke, her niece, Deirdre Wolpert told the Associated Press for her wire obituary. Wolpert is the daughter of Kean's equally famous sister Betty, who was the other half of their popular comedy and song sister act The Kean Sisters.
In writing my headline for her tribute today, I opted to highlight that she was best known playing next door neighbor wife Trixie alongside, Jackie Gleason when he did his later TV revival of the popular series "The Honeymooners," lasting five years. While Gleason and Art Carney returned for their original roles of Ralph and Norton, Gleason opted to recast their TV wives, with Kean taking over the role created by Joyce Randolph and Hollywood movie star wife Sheila MacRae (real-life wife of the late Gordon MacRae) stepped in as Ralph's wife Alice, played in the original series by wonderful Audrey Meadows. (Both Randolph and MacRae are still alive and well, both age 89!)
It's a tough challenge to improve on something perfect.
The 1964 stop-animation television special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has been capturing the holiday spirit, imagination and love of three generations of old and young.
So when Broadway In Chicago announced a stage tribute called "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical" was coming to the Windy City for a holiday flight, I was as skeptical as the marooned castaways of the Island of Misfit Toys and their woeful pleas to be rescued.
Reader Irma Cunningham of Merrillville called and left a message for me over the holiday weekend telling me about an interesting window display along the courthouse square in Crown Point.
"I read one of your columns from a couple weeks ago about the 75th birthday of Bishop Dale Melczek of the Gary Catholic Diocese and his mention of the religious icons in his office," Cunningham said.
"On the subject of religious icons, the store Antiques on Main in Crown Point, just across from the courthouse, has a holiday window display that includes two church statues. Stop and take a look while driving through that area."
My column Friday about Chicago newspaper columnist Irv "Kup" Kupcinet prompted Hammond reader Jim Pratt to contact me about one of the bold-face names referenced.
"You mentioned in your column that after Kup's daughter died, he received messages of condolences from his newspaper columnist colleagues, including Earl WISON," Pratt recounted.
"It might just be a typo, but this columnist's last name was WILSON and he was quite well known, especially for us here in the Midwest since The Hammond Times used to run his syndicated column."
I've seen 8-track cassettes. But since I was born in 1970, their mod-technology "hey-day" happened just prior to my time of musical awareness.
My age also means the Detroit Riots of 1967 are only familiar from history books.
Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, offers a Midwest Premiere stage run this month of "Detroit '67" by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Ron OJ Parson, adding faces and story characterization connections to this turbulent time in the Michigan city.
The British custom of observing afternoon tea comes to the Trinity Church Bishop's Mansion, 614 Franklin St, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
I'm told the traditional tea-time menu will be bite-size sandwiches, a variety of holiday scones topped with Devonshire clotted cream and jam, and a selection of traditional cakes, pastries and chocolates. English style tea with cream, and the Russian style tea with lemon and sugar will both be served on Barker Hall monogrammed china. Hot punch will also be served. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for children under 12, and the event is free for children under 6. FYI: (219) 874-4355
Recently renovated, this mansion space is adjacent to Trinity Church and was built in 1901 by industrialist John Barker to serve as the residence of the bishop of what was then known as the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan City.
Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor are ready for the magic of the holiday season with the world-premiere production of "Once Upon A People: A Dancesical," written and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Rueben D. Echoles and made possible through a grant from Chicago Community Trust.
During a limited run, I'm told "Once Upon A People" is for all ages, staged at the new Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark St. in Chicago.
The show opens for previews today, Nov. 30 until Dec. 30 with performances on Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays in repertory with "The Curtis Mayfield Story." The press opening is Tuesday, Dec. 3.
On Jan. 18, 1943, Chicago gossip columnist Irv "Kup" Kupcinet published his first newspaper column.
And 60 years later, when his column celebrated it's 60th anniversary in the Chicago Sun-Times, the favorite feature of famed bold-faced names, continued right where it started, inconveniently sandwiched in the middle of the tabloid newspaper.
"They always left my column in the middle of the newspaper, instead of moving it to the front, because they wanted to give readers a reason to have to come to the middle of the newspaper," Kup once told me in his later years while I was at his Lake Shore Drive apartment for a visit.
The 2003 holiday film comedy "Elf," starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell in the title role, also features an all-star cast of other favorite faces like Ed Asner as Santa Claus, Bob Newhart as Papa Elf, Peter Billingsley as Supervisor Elf, James Caan as grouchy father Walter and Mary Steenburgen as his wife Emily, along with Zooey Deschanel, Andy Richter and Amy Sedaris in supporting roles.
Broadway In Chicago in association with NETworks Presentations, LLC is hosting a Chicago engagement run of the new national Broadway tour of the new stage musical "Elf the Musical" playing now until Dec 15 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W Randolph St. in Chicago.
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