A Review of August: Osage County

aoc1by Sharon Falduto
Photos by Jackie Blake Jensen

Coralville – Tracy Lett’s August: Osage County, presented by City Circle Acting Company of Coralville at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on October 21 and 22 at 7:30 and October 23 at 2pm, is not a lighthearted romp. It’s a cynical, engaging and harrowing look at a dysfunctional family flayed open like a fish and displayed for antagonistic consumption. Continue reading

This is My Brave at CCPA on Friday

braveCoralville – It is unfortunate that so many with mental illness feel they have to suffer quietly, alone, for fear of being stigmatized. This Friday, brave souls who are coping with mental illness will present This is My Brave, for a 2nd annual show in the Iowa City area this Friday, May 13, at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. Continue reading

Invitation to Participate–W.A.R.M. Cabaret

Coralville–The Coralville Public Library would like to invite you to participate in their W.A.R.M. (Winter Adult Reading Month) cabaret. Do you have a song to sing? A story to share? A dance to dance? Please share your talents with the corridor.

The event will be at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, February 15, 7-8:30pm. For more information, follow this link.



BK Davis performs a Stevie Wonder Tribute at CCPA

BK Davis*CCPA press release*

Coralville – Byron “BK” Davis Steinway International Artist is returning to Coralville to perform a ninety minute Stevie Wonder tribute. The performance will take place Friday, November 20 at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $14-$18, and are available through the CCPA Box Office at 319-248-9370, and online at http://www.coralvillearts.org.

Davis’ Steinway peers are legends such as Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, Elton John and others. This concert is a must see! Continue reading

One Night Only – Company!

companyselfieby Matthew Falduto

Coralville – So do you remember when I wrote about experiencing three unique shows last summer? One of them was a production of Company, produced by Chris Okiishi and Patrick Dulaney. It was a wonderfully fun evening and the only downside was that more people couldn’t attend because of the size of the North Ridge Pavilion. Fortunately, they’re doing it again, this time at the CCPA! Here’s all of the information: Continue reading

Evan Hilsaback Hired as Managing Director of CCPA

Coralville – A new Managing Director will soon take the stage at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. Evan Hilsabeck will join the City of Coralville in June as the new leader of the Center. Most recently, Hilsabeck has served as the Managing Artistic Director for the Spencer Community Theater in Spencer, Iowa. Similar to the CCPA, Hilsabeck has overseen the programming and operations of their 266 seat house. He has been responsible for the technical and creative elements of producing theater works, developing a robust volunteer program, overseeing a rental costume shop operation, and leading both annual and major gifts campaigns. “I’m thrilled to be joining the team at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. There’s such tremendous programming happening at the CCPA, and I look forward to meeting the many artists and patrons who call this theatre home,” comments Hilsabeck.

Hilsabeck is a graduate of Gustavus Adophus College and the Eugene O’Neill National Theatre institute. He serves as a board member on the Iowa Arts Council. Hilsabeck will begin with the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on June 8.

(Source: CCPA email)

A Review of Into the Woods

photo by Jackie Blake Jensen Photography

by Sharon Falduto  

Iowa City – Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 musical Into the Woods has cast a powerful spell on audiences for nearly 30 years and is always popular in revival, which is why the corridor was able to support two performances of the show in the same season that Disney released a movie.

My 11 year old daughter sold Girl Scout cookies to the cast of City Circle Acting Company of Coralville’s Into the Woods when they were still rehearsing in their street clothes. Without the benefit of props, costumes, or set, she stood enthralled as the actors dug into the prologue of the piece. Naturally, she was my accompaniment for the premiere of the show on April 24, 2015.

The show interweaves and overlaps several Grimm fairy tales. We see Cinderella, longing to go to the King’s Festival but hindered by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Jack, of future Beanstalk fame, and his mother are in desperate need of food, and his mother demands that he sell his pet cow, Milky White. Little Red Riding Hood is off to visit her Granny, but runs into some trouble along the way. A childless Baker and his Wife long for the child who does not come. A wicked witch explains that she has cast a spell on the Baker’s family that his household will always be barren (which, if you think about it, is a pretty short-sighted spell). The only way to overcome the spell is for the Baker to retrieve four objects; “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold.”

The characters set off into the woods to fulfill their wishes and to find their destinies.

The Baker and his Wife, Patrick Du Laney and Carrie Houchins-Witt, are the emotional heart of the show. Their marriage feels real; their chemistry true to the characters, obviously in love with each other but care-worn by the lack of the child they both so desperately want. They treat each other with respect and humor, which comes across in small gestures and exchanged glances.

photo by Jackie Blake Jensen Photography

Jack, Hank Welter, is the young heroic giant slayer of the group—the boy who grows into a man after being forced to sell his beloved cow. His mother, Rebecca Ogilvie, worries for his future—she fears her son is touched (“who has a cow for a best friend?”). You can see her love for her son, but her exasperation with him as well.

Elijah Jones as Milky White had no lines at all, but he was really committed to being a cow. Even in the choreography he managed a bovine lilt, and he someone managed to make even his eyes seem cow-like.

Victoria Vaughn’s Cinderella was vague—she knew she wanted something, although she didn’t quite know what it was. Vaughn eloquently inhabited the role of the young girl on the cusp of deciding what she wants. She knows she doesn’t want to live with her step-mother, Robyn Calhoun, and step-sisters, Hannah Green and Hannah Loeb; however, she doesn’t seem to want to be tied down with a prince, either.

The princes who pine for Cinderella and for Rapunzel provided the comic relief of the show, singing about their “Agony” in pursuing these elusive women. Rob Keech and Rob Kemp were both hilarious as they try to upstage each other throughout their duets, and then dash off in strides clearly cribbed from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

photo by Jackie Blake Jensen Photography

Lindsay Raasch as Little Red played the line between innocent girl and young woman extremely well—straying from the path, then returning quickly when she remembers her mother’s warning words. After her encounter with the Wolf at her granny’s house, her edges grow harder and she grows sharper, clearly having undergone a transformation. And let’s talk about that wolf. As we all know, there are the stories that fairy tales tell—“little girl gets eaten by wolf,” and then there is the thing the fairy tale is really about—“little girl discovers boys.” Felipe Carrasco as the Wolf oozed lupine sexuality as he sang a song about eating the little girl, which wasn’t, of course, really about eating the little girl.

Unfortunately the relationship, and two characters, who never quite grabbed my heart were the Witch (Kristen Behrendt DeGrazia) and Rapunzel (Maya Bassuk). Rapunzel was a lovely singer, but I didn’t feel her intense desire to escape the tower. And the Witch, though a very skilled singer who was able to blow through Sondehim’s complicated score with ease, seemed to be more of a singer than an actor.

Christopher Okiishi showed a deft hand at directing; the scenes stayed moving with focal points of interest all over the stage, but nothing seemed left out or glossed over. The choreographed pieces added to the show without being distracting. And though I hate to say it as a musician, the hallmark of a good orchestral accompaniment is that the audience doesn’t notice it. The orchestra under the direction of Wes Habley was beautiful and symphonic, without ever overpowering the singing.

Kudos, as always, to the set designers, who managed to make a forest grow on the stage of the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. The costumes designed by Jill Beardsley, Mary Jo Harken, and Jacque Green were simple but effective. Milky White wore white pants and a t-shirt silkscreened with a cow face. Little Red’s wolf was in jeans, leather jacket, and a wolf t-shirt. Cinderella dressed up for the festival in beautiful gold, and down for her chores in her familiar brown dress and apron combo. Little Red’s hooded cape was the most stunning blood red.

Into The Woods is a show about desire, about longing, and loss. It is an emotional ride for the cast and the audience. You should attend for the superb acting, the superior singing, and the emotional heft.

And keep your eye on that cow.

Into the Woods runs through May 3. Tickets are available here.