It happens every June. The big musicals at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the Rose open while the Great Plains Theatre Conference fills every waking hour with up to three plays at a time.
And this time Brigit St. Brigit replaced their scheduled Canterbury Tales with a must-see one-woman show, The Great Goddess Bazaar, that’s as appealing an hour-plus of entertaining artistry as you’ll see in these drama-filled days, thanks to a talented pro named Tammy Meneghini. For this viewer, her performance on Friday followed the Thursday preview of Hairspray at the Playhouse and left me fascinated by the contrast between a big high-powered production and a lone woman with a few props, both highly successful.
My favorite musicals directed by Susie Baer Collins have long been The Secret Garden and Ragtime, both serious shows with and soaring scores. Yes, Hairspray has its significant side, dealing with integrating the Corny Collins television dance show (think Dick Clark’s American Bandstand).
But it’s more of a lightweight lark than the other two, so it gave me new appreciation for Susie’s talent in assembling a star-studded cast and creating an evening of delights. As solid as Eastin Yates and David Zenchuk, Jr., were as the romantic leads, much of the fun came from Bailey Carlson, mugging up a storm and striking crazy poses as the female sidekick.
Add great dance moves by Luther Simon and the unmatchable vocals of Kathy Tyree, and you completely forgot about the preview night glitches, including an irritating sound system. And for good old-fashioned show biz pizazz, we got Jim McKain as the massive mom, Edna, and Jerry Van Horn hoofing and crooning as her husband Wilbur, plus Stacy Maddux making nasty as the villainess Velma Van Tussle, the legendary Miss Baltimore Crabs.
In brief, the director and her choreographer Kathy Wheeldon have filled a large stage with a big winner.
On the other hand, give the Brigit’s Meneghini no more than a few seconds to slip into different shoes and she’ll give you nine completely different characters—a stage star, a child, a widow, street lady, soldier, etc., each compelling and mesmerizing. She’s done it in Scotland and will soon do it in New York City, but you’ve got this weekend to see her Goddess at Brigit’s 10th and Dodge Street digs. Call 402.502.4910.
Meanwhile, as the GPTC winds up this weekend, Suessical the Musical opens at the Rose on 20th Street. You can catch it in memory of the late great creator of all things Suess, or for retiring director James Larsen, but most of all there’s the fun of seeing Kevin Ehrhart as the Cat in the Hat and his daughter Stella as Baby Roo.