February 19, 2015
Last night, I had the opportunity to go see The Liar at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. The Liar is a 17th century comedy by Pierre Corneille that was adapted and translated by David Ives in 2011. The whole show (mostly) is delivered in modern-language rhymed iambic pentameter and it is extremely funny. Once again, the Marquette University Theatre Department does not disappoint in delivering an outstanding show.
As a disclaimer, I must point out that the role of Philiste was portrayed by my son, A.J., a freshman in the MU theatre program. So I may have a slight bias when it comes to my feelings for this performance. That being said, I think that the entire cast did a tremendous job in the show. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that, of the eight characters in the show, six were played by seniors, one by a junior, and one freshman. Over the past several years, we have seen many of these actors in multiple shows on the MU stage and they are all very good. The two main characters in the show are Dorante (played by Ben Braun), a young lawyer that is a practiced liar, and his servant, Cliton (played by Armando Ronconi), who can do nothing but tell the truth. It was just so much fun to watch these two young men interact on stage. They really made this show a success.
I will mention a couple other outstanding performances as well. Kyle Conner played Alcippe, the main rival of Dorante in the show. We have previously seen Kyle in several MU productions including the lead in Hamlet last season. His portrayal of the enraged, jealous fiancé was a joy to watch. Additionally Hannah Klapperich-Mueller portrayed Dorante’s father, Geronte. A challenging role for a young woman and she executed it with ease. It was interesting to see her in this role after having enjoyed her performance as Maggie in Lend Me A Tenor with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre last spring.
Finally, I need to give a huge shout-out to A.J. Magoon and his performance as Philiste, the quintessential renaissance fop. His affectations and his walk were pure comic genius to me. I couldn’t help but chuckle every time he showed up on stage. Hopefully, we will see him many more times on the MU stage and I will be bursting with pride every time.
Kudos to everyone involved in this show. You should be very proud.
October 4, 2014
On Friday Night, Kristi and I went to see the first show of the season at the Helfaer Theatre at Marquette University. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Helfaer Theatre and their season opened with Our Town.
Over the last three years, our family has seen a couple shows a season at the Helfaer Theatre or featuring Marquette students at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. In all cases, the shows have been incredibly well-staged and extremely entertaining. I’m sure that this factored into A.J.’s decision to become a theatre arts major at MU.
Last night’s production of Our Town was just as fantastic as any other Marquette production that we have seen. As a disclaimer, I must admit that I have seen high school and community theatre productions of Our Town on two separate occasions in the last several years and I have never been a fan of the show. This production, however, was so well done that I have changed my opinion of the show. The level of professionalism put forth by the student actors was quite amazing.
The standout performance of the evening was presented by the young man that played the Stage Manager, Alexander Coddington. As A.J. and I had discussed after the show (He had seen it last weekend), we decided that Alex’s portrayal of the Stage Manager had all of folksy demeanor that you would expect with that character but with an ever-so-slight edginess to it. I believe that long pauses in dialogue are the hardest thing for an actor to do and he had such an effective mastery over them.
Of course I could probably gush an equally long amount about each and every one of the actors and actresses in the performance. They were all extraordinary. I would, however, mention Hannah Klapperich-Mueller’s portrayal of Mrs. Gibbs. She was captivating to watch on stage. I have previously seen her in Lend Me A Tenor and Almost, Maine and she is a splendid actress.
I would tell you to go see this show but there are only two performances left and by the time you read this I’m sure that the run will be over. I will say that if you haven’t ventured to see a show at Marquette University yet, please do so. You won’t be sorry.
June 10, 2014
AJ and I went to see A View From The Bridge at Waukesha Civic Theatre on Friday night. This show was written by Arthur Miller, an American playwright known for heavy, dark dramas like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Prior to Friday night, I was not intimately familiar with this show and wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit through heavy drama in a dark theatre at the beginning June, especially as the weather has been nice lately. Boy, I am sure glad that I did.
AJ and I both agree that this is the singular BEST community theatre production that we have seen in years. If you know anything about either of us, you would know that although we enjoy all kinds of theatre, we tend to nitpick the shows that we see. Even the ones that we love. But in this show, we could find nothing to pick on. The set is amazing, the costumes are wonderful, and cast does an amazing job. Their accents are so completely perfect for their characters. Noah Silverstein, the actor that plays the protaganist, Eddie Carbone, is an absolute thrill to watch. And Jacqueline Gosz, who plays his wife Beatrice, is truly believable in her role. The other stand-out in the cast is Ben Ludwig, a local high school senior that plays the Italian immigrant, Rodolpho. Of course, the rest of the cast is fantastic as well.
For me, a show is truly great when I totally forget that I am watching a show and I become invested in what is actually happening to the characters. I start to see them as real people and not actors playing a part. That happened for me on Friday night.
So, here is the deal. I know that it is June and the weather has been nice lately. And I’m sure that the last place that you want to be is in a dark theatre watching a heavy show. But you really, really shouldn’t miss this fantastic show. There are only eight more performances over the next two weekends. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and go out to Waukesha Civic Theatre and support these fine actors. You’ll be glad that you did.
June 3, 2014
I know that I tend to sing the praises of Erin and AJ quite a bit, but I am so very proud of them that I can’t really help it. If the uncontrollable gushing of a proud parent makes you queasy, please stop reading now.
Okay, now that only the hearty souls remain, I will proceed. I have some fantastic Hamilton Charger Band news about each of them. After the coin toss, I have elected to share Erin’s news first. This spring Erin competed with four other individuals for one of the three available spots as drum major of the Hamilton Charger Marching Band. Drum majors conduct the band during the marching band competition season in the fall. The candidates for drum major compete in front of the entire band and the choice is decided with a popular vote by the band members. Two sophomores and Erin (the only freshman) were selected by their peers. Congratulations, Erin! You will be a spectacular drum major.
And now for AJ’s news. Every year, the band director gives out several awards to the outgoing seniors in recognition of their contributions over the past four years. Only three of those awards also come with a $500 scholarship from the band booster organization; the John Philip Sousa Band award, the Patrick S. Gilmore Band award, and the Louis Armstrong Jazz award. At the spring band concert in May, AJ was presented with the Patrick S. Gilmore Band award and scholarship. Way to go, AJ! It has been a joy to watch you play over the years.
May 6, 2014
Last night, A.J. and I attended a “book reading of sorts” at the UWM Ballroom. Garrison Keillor, the famed host of A Prairie Home Companion, is touring America promoting his new book, The Keillor Reader. He didn’t actually read from his book, however. What he did was much better. He entertained the audience for an a hour and half or more with quaint anecdotes, stories of his life, advice for the future, and even a couple of songs (with audience participation). He followed that up with another half hour of questions from the audience and at least another couple of hours signing his books. And in all that time, I didn’t see him sit down once.
While signing books, he spent several minutes with each individual, talking with them and making them feel special and unique. I don’t believe that I have ever met a more humble, down-to-earth celebrity. He was generous with his time and attention to everyone in the room.
Back in March, 2012, Kristi, Erin, and I got to see A Prairie Home Companion at the Milwaukee Theatre when it was touring. I thoroughly enjoyed myself that night and would recommend seeing that show to anyone. But I have to admit that I had an even better time last night. Mr. Keillor walked through the audience the entire time that he presented and you felt like you really got to know him.
May 5, 2014
On Sunday afternoon, most of the Magoon family took in a performance of Nancy Drew and her BIGGEST CASE EVER at First Stage. Obviously, we were there to support A.J. in his role as Ned Nickerson, Nancy Drew’s boyfriend. I may be slightly biased but I think he does an amazing job as Ned. It was fun to see him on stage again at First Stage in one last show as a youth performer.
This is an absolutely wonderful show and I would heartily recommend seeing it before it closes. While waiting for the show to begin, it was fun to look at all of the terrific items on the set; some of which were needed for the show and some of which were references to the many Nancy Drew books. The set was just stellar and so useful for the various locations needed in the script. In fact, all of the technical aspects of the show (lights, sound, costumes, and the set) were so great and really enhanced the experience of the show.
All that being said, the cast really made this an outstanding show. The young performers in the Wirt cast are so talented and enjoyable to watch. I would like to specifically recognize the superior performance of the actress that played Nancy Drew, Madison Penzkover. Being the title character, there were scant few moments when she wasn’t on stage. And when she was, she had the majority of the dialogue. Her characterization of what we expect from Nancy Drew was spot on. She handled this incredibly difficult part with ease.
The adult members of the cast, Matt Daniels, Niffer Clarke, Joe Faust, and Jim Fletcher, all turned in the fantastic performances that we have come to expect from the local Milwaukee professional actors. Well done all.
As a reminder, the show runs through Sunday, June 1st at 3:30 PM with public performances on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. If you would prefer to see A.J. in the role of Ned, check out my previous post for his schedule. Even if you can’t make those shows, please go see this original production. You really don’t want to miss it.
May 1, 2014
You see that attractive couple right there? That is Nancy Drew and her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Okay, it isn’t really Nancy and Ned. It is local actors, Madison Penzkover and A.J. Magoon, playing Nancy and Ned in the Wirt cast of the upcoming First Stage production of Nancy Drew and her BIGGEST CASE EVER. That’s right folks, those creative geniuses at First Stage have written an original Nancy Drew mystery by combining the dialogue and plot points from three of her original stories; The Bungalow Mystery, The Quest for the Missing Map, and Mystery at the Ski Jump.
This awesome show opens tomorrow night, Friday, May 2nd at 7 PM with the Wirt cast. First Stage double casts the child actors for all of it’s shows and the two casts (Wirt and Benson) are named for one of the ghost writers for the Nancy Drew Mysteries, Mildred Wirt Benson. The show runs through Sunday, June 1st at 3:30 PM with public performances on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This is going to be a spectacular show full of mystery, intrigue, and the occasional ski chase.
Those that would like to see the incomparable A.J. Magoon in the role of Ned Nickerson should plan to attend one of the following Wirt cast public performance:
Friday, May 2nd – 7 PM
Saturday, May 3rd – 1 and 3:30 PM
Sunday, May 4th – 1 and 3:30 PM
Saturday, May 10th – 7 PM
Saturday, May 17th – 7 PM
Sunday, May 18th – 1 and 3:30 PM
Sunday, June 1st – 1 and 3:30 PM (Benson Cast performances)
April 29, 2014
Back in the middle of March, A.J. and Erin participated in Solo/Ensemble on the district level. The both performed solos, A.J. on trumpet and Erin on euphonium, and they both performed as part of the brass choir. Additionally, A.J. played with the brass quintet and the jazz ensemble. It was a busy day for the Magoon family.
All of A.J. and Erin’s hard work paid off because Erin received a 1* rating on her euphonium solo, Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann and the Hamilton Brass Choir and Hamilton Brass Quintet also received 1* ratings. This rating qualifies the performer to participate at the State Solo/Ensemble Festival. These three scores meant that both A.J. and Erin would be participating in two areas at the State level; Erin with her solo and the brass choir and A.J. with the brass choir and brass quintet.
The State Solo/Ensemble Festival was last Saturday and I am happy to announce that Erin received a rating of 1 on euphonium solo. Way to go, Erin! It was so fun to watch her play and I have been humming Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann for the last couple of days now. Both the the Hamilton Brass Choir and Hamilton Brass Quintet received a rating of 2 on their performances. They all did extremely well and I am proud of the tremendous effort put forth by both A.J. and Erin.
April 26, 2014
Last night, Kristi and I went the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to see Lend Me A Tenor. The show is a collaboration between the chamber theatre and the Marquette University theatre department. For several years, the chamber theatre has been doing a show every season in conjunction with a local university. Kristi and I were lucky in enough to see their first collaboration with Marquette University in 2011 when they did The Lion In Winter.
I have to say, first of all, that I love Lend Me A Tenor as a show. This is the third time that we have seen it; first in a community theatre, then in a high school production, and now, finally, in a professional production. When done well, this is an extremely funny show and last night’s performance was superb. The frantic, madcap pace of the show was executed perfectly. The set was beautiful, the costumes were perfect, and the work of the cast was comic genius.
I could probably make glowing comments about every member of the cast. They all brought subtle nuances to their roles that made them just that much better. It was enjoyable to see the two Marquette students in the cast turn in performances equal to the seasoned veterans. Marquette junior Hannah Klapperich-Mueller, in the role of Maggie, was so fun to watch throughout. And Marquette junior Peter Sisto, in the role of the bellhop, brought a sense of playfulness to the show. I expect that we will see great things from both of them in the future.
Of course it was nice to see Marquette alumna, Alexandra Bonesho, in the role of Diana. We have enjoyed her performances on the Marquette stage and elsewhere, including the first MU/MCT collaboration, The Lion In Winter. Without mentioning everyone in the cast, I will say that Rick Pendzich as Max and Drew Brhel as Saunders were so well cast and perfectly played their respective roles. They made the show fun to watch.
Thanks to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and the Marquette University theatre department for giving us such an enjoyable evening of entertainment. I wish that I could see all of the shows from both organizations every year but time and money probably wouldn’t permit it.
April 11, 2014
Last night, A.J. and I went to see Hamlet at Marquette University. I’m sure that when you hear the name of this show, you think about when you HAD to read it in high school or maybe you recall some mediocre community theatre or high school production that you experienced years ago. But I have to say, without a doubt, that the Marquette Theatre production was simply the most powerful rendition of this classic show that I have ever seen. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that this is the best Shakespearean production that we have seen in quite a number of years. To put that in context, we have seen eight of the Bard’s play in the last three or four years.
The Marquette student actors were incredible. There wasn’t a weak performance in the entire ensemble. And the young man that played Hamlet, Kyle Conner, was extraordinary. The role of Hamlet, when done well, requires the actor to change his mood from happy to sad to angry to melancholy over and over again. Kyle played it so naturally and believable. He looked physically drained during the curtain call.
The naturalness of all of the actors is what impressed me the most. So often, Shakespeare’s plays are presented very stiff and formal. I believe this comes from the actors not truly understanding what they are saying. In last night’s production, the dialogue was so conversational that you forgot that it was written in iambic pentameter. It is so much easier to understand Shakespeare when the actors’ emotions and actions are completely in sync with what they are saying. Well done cast.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those that intend to see one of the three remaining performances but the treatment of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy was fantastic. It was one of many terrific directorial choices made in the staging of the show. This is just another element to add tremendous power to the show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the set and costumes. The set is a very nondescript unit in the center of the stage with columns, arches, stairs, and levels. Its openness allowed you to see all the way to the back wall of the theatre. It uniquely accommodated the various locations in the play. The costumes complimented the set as the cast was dressed in no particular style or time period. Generally, they were in muted shades of black and gray with a splash of color to denote the families to which they aligned.
This was the fifth production that A.J. and I have seen at Marquette in the last few years. Their production quality is always incredible. I am so happy that A.J. has chosen to attend Marquette University in the fall as a Theatre Arts major. We will hopefully see him up on that stage soon.