Newmark Theatre

‘Terra’ firma: OBT’s dancers shine

A ballet program of Nacho Duato and Helen Pickett, including the premiere of her "Terra" belongs to the company's performers

Xuan Cheng, Thomas Baker, Peter Franc, Michael Linsmeier, Avery Reiners, and Brian Simcoe, gazing upward, their mouths held open in a butoh-like silent scream, in the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Terra.

Jacqueline Straughan wrapping her long, beautiful legs around Franc’s bare torso in Nacho Duato’s El Naranjo.

Martina Chavez, bent double, skittering across the stage barefoot in Duato’s Jardi Tancat.

Emily Parker, metaphorically taking down Linsmeier and Franc with a flick of her pointe shoe aimed at the back of their knees in Pickett’s Petal.

The OBT company in the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s “Terra.” Photo: James McGrew

For better or worse, these are some of the images – all of them of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers ( this show belongs to them) – I’ve been mulling over since Thursday night when the company opened its annual mixed repertory program at the Newmark Theater.

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Something Goosebump this way comes

Oregon Children's Theatre's world premiere "Goosebumps The Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium," based on R.L. Stine's beloved series, scares up a little fun

Spooky phantoms, hauntings, and clouds of purple and green smoke fill the Newmark Theatre this Halloween season. Don’t worry, you won’t get too much stage fright. Goosebumps The Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium is a clever junior who-done-it. The gumshoeing of Scooby-Doo meets a middle-school take on Phantom of the Opera with a surprise ending. The kids will get a kick out of solving the riddles of who is the person behind the mask and laugh along with the clumsy moments of growing up.

Stan Foote, artistic director of Oregon Children’s Theatre and director of  this musical, again sets a high bar for a smart, funny and well-staged musical for younger audiences. Like any good children’s art, Goosebumps entertains adults, as well. It’s always a thrill to see young actors in professional productions hit their notes, dance steps, and lines as well as their older counterparts. Goosebumps: The Musical, based on the beloved R.L. Stine book series, is a play within a play within a play. The students of drama teacher Ms. Walker are given a haunted script, discover a chilling lair below the school’s basement, and are ghosted by a phantom who tries to stop the show from going on. There’s disaster afoot with ruined backdrops painted blood-red, an Egyptian tomb, and some fainting by the students in the process.

The clue in the auditorium: Goosebumps in the night. Photo: Owen Carey

The clue in the auditorium: Goosebumps in the night. Photo: Owen Carey

Katie McClanan plays Brooke, a consummate drama geek who lives for the velvet curtain and green lights. She gets the lead, not just in Ms. Walker’s play, but also in solving the mystery of the phantom. Her best friend Zeke (Skylar Derthick) is as obsessed with the stage and plays second detective. They’re a tight duo, natural actors with bright singing voices. But once Brian (Brendan Long) the new kid comes along, a dynamic trio hits the stage and Goosebumps: The Musical poses a serious threat to screen time. Many charming moments are devoted to Brian and Brooke’s crush on each other. McClanan’s performance of Babbling Brooke is a love song to the nervous jitters when you try to make small talk with a cute boy. For most of Brooke and Brian’s time together, they’re with Zeke setting out to solve the mystery of the phantom. Like most kids they have a lot of demands: keeping up with homework, memorizing lines, and doing detective work.

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Preview: ‘Onegin’ with a Gen X twist

Stage director Kevin Newbury talks about his new "Eugene Onegin," set amid the crumbling of the Soviet era, for Portland Opera

Last August opera director Kevin Newbury flew from his home in New York to meet with the Portland Opera creative team to brainstorm for Eugene Onegin, the Tchaikovsky dramatic opera that will open Friday in the Newmark Theatre. As part of the life of a contemporary opera director, Newbury has spent his career jetting around the country working with houses in St. Louis, the famed Santa Fe Opera, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Boston, to name just a few, including Portland Opera for its well-received West Coast premiere of Philip Glass’s Galileo Galilei in 2012. Newbury is well-composed, youthful, tack-sharp, passionate about his work. He speaks in a gentle voice with a well-thought-out command of opera, his place in it, and where he’d like to see the oft-embattled art form go.

Ilya Repin, "Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky's Duel," 1899, watercolor, white lead and India ink on paper, Pushkin Museum, Moscow/Wikimedia Commons

Ilya Repin, “Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky’s Duel,” 1899, watercolor, white lead and India ink on paper, Pushkin Museum, Moscow/Wikimedia Commons

In 2010 he staged a traditional production of Onegin in St. Louis, delicately counterbalancing its romantic pastoralism and the slightly intimidating cosmopolitan worlds that the two main characters, Tatiana and Eugene, navigate. Critics and audiences raved about it, calling it a well-directed traditional performance that celebrated the soprano and musical drama of Tchaikovsky.

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