On Stage Productions Presents: Little Shop of Horrors By Ami Pulaski

Little Shop of Horrors  

On Stage Productions in West Columbia is opening its 2015-2016 season with a show that’s larger than life.  Well, one character will be larger than life for sure.  The theater will be opening its production of “Little Shop of Horrors” Saturday, September 18th.

We follow the story of Seymour, a mild-mannered flower shop assistant who secretly pines for his coworker Audrey.  During a solar eclipse, Seymour discovers a new plant species that takes in the most shocking plant food.  This plant saves the flower shop’s business, but it isn’t satisfied to stop there!

Robert Harrelson, the executive director and president of On Stage Productions, is no stranger to the stage.  His story on the stage began in high school and even led him to New York City, where he owned a theater company and directed several Off-Broadway shows.  Harrelson currently teaches in Lexington District One and devotes his spare time to On Stage Productions, his vision for a nonprofit community theater.

We caught up with Harrelson for a few questions on the upcoming “Little Shop of Horrors”.

  1. How long have you guys been working on this particular production? In general, how long does it take to put a show together?

We have been working on this production for 8 weeks.  It normally only takes six weeks for a musical, [but] with the intricacies of adding puppets to the show, it adds another dimension.


  1. What can we expect to see in this show? Is it going to be very close to the storyline of the movie?

The movie and the stage version are quite the same but have a slightly different twist [to the] ending.  The musical is very upbeat. It really makes you laugh and feel for the characters.

  1. What are you hoping your audiences will take away from the show?

One thing I hope they take away from this production is that live theater has a whole new dimension.  When you have puppeteers and actors playing off of each other, there are truly great experiences for the actors and the audience as well.  This show will transform the audience into a 3D experience as the final curtain descends.  The amazing Audrey 2 was built by Matt and Carrie Marks. This show promises to be a show you’ll want to see again and again. It will make you wonder more about when you are feeding the plants when you should be weeding!


Bring your twisted sense of humor and curiosity to On Stage Productions for the next two weekends!





On Stage Productions

 680 Cherokee Lane West Columbia, S.C.


Performance dates : September  18 ,19, 20,  24 , 25, 26, 27

Thursday 7:30pm

Fridays  7:30 pm

Saturdays 2:30 pm and 7:30pm

Sunday 2:30 pm


Tickets available at www.onstagesc.com


Adults: $19

Seniors/Students/Military: $17

Youth: $15

Review: The Secret Garden at On Stage Productions by Melissa Ellington

secretgarden Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book The Secret Garden has inspired numerous adaptations for stage and film. The classic story follows the metamorphosis of lonely orphan Mary Lennox, a miserably difficult child who blooms into a compassionate leader. Entrusted to the care of her ailing uncle Archibald Craven, Mary defies the stern housekeeper Mrs. Medlock and scoffs at kind Martha and the other maids. As the youthful gardener Dickon Sowerby teaches Mary about the transformative power of nature, the girl bonds with his large family. When granted her wish for a piece of earth to plant seeds and grow living things, Mary knows exactly what she wants: to find the key that opens the door to a secret garden where her aunt perished many years before. Mary’s discovery of her mysterious cousin Colin leads to a touching reunion and redemption of the garden, as well as Mary herself.

Broadway fans will likely remember the 1991 Tony award-winning musical by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon. However, On Stage Productions presents a different musical of The Secret Garden with their current offering. This upbeat version showcases music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur and book by Tim Kelly, proving a suitable choice for the On Stage team.

As with other On Stage shows appreciated by this reviewer, director Robert Harrelson delivers an enjoyable production and inspires confidence in the actors. The cast represents a wide range of ages and artistic backgrounds, which becomes a significant strength through Harrelson’s effective direction. Sincere camaraderie shines in the performance as children and adults work together to tell a beloved story.

Experienced musical director John Norris guides the cast successfully, while remarkable producer Mandy Tenney accomplishes the countless achievements associated with an ambitious theatrical endeavor. The admirable commitment typical of On Stage events is evident as several team members pull double duty both on and off stage. Melissa Berry-Rogers provides sprightly choreography and also performs a lovely dance interlude; Gail Carter serves as Stage Manager while contributing a moving performance as Colin’s mother. Anne Snider and Chris Cheatham play important characters as well as designing scenery and lighting.

Caroline Quinn is excellent in the pivotal role of Mary. She communicates a convincing journey from despising wretch to blossoming triumph, displays an appealing singing voice, and even shares a nifty tap number. Her earnest and believable portrayal illuminates songs like the solo (and later duet) “Secret Garden.”

Tucker Privette tackles the role of Colin with vigor, creating an audience-pleasing performance that is entertaining and poignant. Led by the enchanting Ingram Trexler as Mrs. Sowerby, likeable siblings Dickon (John Carter) and Martha (Hayward Moak) invite Mary into their comforting world, aided by the rest of the good-natured family (Dominick Campbell, James Rabon, Mia Coats, and Ella Johnson). The delightful Sowerby clan presents a standout musical sequence along with Mary, “One Big Happy Family,” one of several numbers that highlight Trexler’s gorgeous voice.

Cheatham crafts an appropriately haunted portrayal of Archibald Craven, while Tim Privette becomes a forceful Dr. Craven. Debb Adams (Cook), Snider (Mrs. Medlock), Julie Smoak (Mrs. Crawford), Alexandra and Murphey White (Kanchi), Michelle Privette (Nurse), Brighton Grice (Chorus/Bellmaid), and Gloria Edlam (Chorus/Servant) give valuable performances that help to convey this compelling tale. Considerable care has been taken with the details of costumes (Gina Cotton and Harrelson), scenic design (Snider and Harrelson), lighting and sound (Cheatham and Zach Tenney). In the pre-show welcome, Harrelson warned that the play can be a “tearjerker,” and he was quite correct. A longtime fan of Burnett’s book and familiar with other stage and film adaptations, this reviewer was nevertheless surprised by the emotional impact of the final scenes and gratified by the actors’ unabashed investment in their roles.

Attending an On Stage performance is a rich experience. An environment of warmth and welcome pervades the theatre from the moment an audience member walks in the door. Thoughtful touches like actors distributing flowers after “Take a Flower to the Fair” mean a lot to viewers, especially young ones (including this reviewer’s enthralled seven-year-old). Through The Secret Garden, On Stage Productions shares an irresistible invitation with the community: Join this “One Big Happy Family” for a satisfying sojourn into a magical garden in an inspiring theatre. Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 23, 24, and 25 and at 2:30 p.m. on April 26. Visit www.onstagesc.com for tickets and information, or call (803) 351-6751. On Stage Productions is located at 680 Cherokee Lane in West Columbia, SC.

Holiday Shows A-Plenty Across Midlands Stages

christmasbells2 There's no shortage of seasonal favorites to be found around town.  The winter holidays are all about tradition; as days grow shorter, darker, and colder, we're comforted by what is familiar.  Local theatres are no exception, offering revivals of yuletide favorites, as well as productions of classics from the screen and stage.  Here are just a few!

The Waltons was a huge hit on television, but in Earl Hamner's novels and on the big screen, they were the Spencers, and Hamner adapted his memories of growing up in rural Virginia into a stage play as well.  Narrated by Clay-Boy Spencer, The Homecoming recalls a pivotal Christmas, a missing father, and lean times during the Depression. Lexington's Village Square Theatre returns with this favorite from a few seasons ago for one weekend only, December 4-7. MonaLisa Botts directs; for information, call 803-359-1436, or visit http://www.villagesquaretheatre.com.


Similar small town warmth and values, filtered through a quirkier Southern Gothic perspective, earned Pamela Parker a Pulitzer nomination for her play Second Samuel.  West Columbia's On Stage Productions is reviving their successful production from earlier this year.  The Jasper review of that production said "like Steel Magnolias, the local ladies gather to chat at the beauty parlor, while the men convene at 'Frisky’s Bait and Brew,' the kind of place where you can get a Nehi and a Moon Pie as easily as a cold beer or a shot of whiskey...(The play) can be enjoyed at face value as a variation on Mayberry or Vicky Lawrence’s Momma’s Family, or taken at a much deeper level."

SecondSamuel2014-HolidayShow_pages Most of director Robert Harrelson's cast return, including Debra Leopard, MJ Maurer, Courtney Long, Anne Merritt Snider, Courtney Long, Sam Edelson, and Antoine T. Marion.  Run dates are December 4-13; for information, call 407-319-2596, or visit http://www.onstagesc.com/.  There will also be a special staged reading of the sequel, A Very Second Samuel Christmas  on Saturday, December 6, with the playwright in attendance - your chance to give feedback on a new  work in progress!

Town Theatre is also bringing back a popular hit, the stage adaptation by David Ives and Paul Blake of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Based on the 1954 film, this musical, nominated for multiple Tony and Drama Desk Awards, is directed and choreographed by Shannon Willis Scruggs, with musical direction by Sharon McElveen Altman.  Frank Thompson and Scott Vaughan play Army buddies who stage a show at a quaint Vermont inn, encountering show biz shenanigans and romantic entanglements with Abigail Ludwig and Celeste Mills along the way.   Joining them are Bill DeWitt, Kathy Hartzog, Parker Byun, Andy Nyland, and Bob Blencowe;  the show continues this week, closing with a matinee on Sunday, December 7, and you can find a review at Onstage Columbia.

Two other special performances are also scheduled for holiday fun. First,  Jamie Carr Harrington directs  Disney’s Sleeping Beauty - Kids, the culmination of her Fall Youth Program.  This timeless classic will magic its way into your heart this holiday season. There will be music and dancing, as well as magic spells and evil curses.  Maleficent crashes little Aurora’s Christening party, and places a curse on the baby simply because she was not invited. A urora is whisked away to the woods where she lives for 16 years.  Once upon a dream she meets a handsome stranger, who ends up being the prince who will break the spell with true love’s kiss. Come see Town Theatre’s Youth Program bring a little magic now to the stage, with ayoung beauty who pricks her finger on a spindle and falls asleep due to a curse. There will be fun bumbling fairies, happy woodland creatures, and fantastical goons. (Gotta love fantastical goons! ~ ed.) The show runs Dec. 12-14, with multiple matinee and evening performances.

Also, Jasper Theatre Artist of the Year Finalist Frank Thompson directs A Christmas Carol Columbia - a new version of the Dickens novella, presented live on stage as a radio play, and written by James Kirk. (The author, not the captain.) This special performance will be presented just one, at 3 PM on Sunday, Dec. 21st.  For ticket information on all three productions, call 803-799-2510, or visit www.towntheatre.com.


The St. Paul’s Players are presenting  The Fourth Wise Man, a musical adaptation of the short story “The Other Wise Man” by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), an author, educator, and clergyman who is credited with writing the lyrics for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”  The Fourth Wise Man is the story of Artaban, portrayed by Jim Jarvis.  Other cast members are John Arnold, Brenda Byrd, Olin Jenkins, Randy Nolff, Mark Wade, and Valerie Ward.  Artaban, one of the Magi who has studied the stars, endeavors to journey with Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthazar to pay tribute to the Christ Child. He carries three gifts, a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl; however, during his travels he faces tests and challenges. What happens when he finally has the chance to meet Jesus face-to-face?

The St. Paul’s Players' production of The Fourth Wise Man will be presented in the Good Shepherd Theatre at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, on the corner of Bull and Blanding Streets in downtown Columbia.  A dinner theatre performance will be held on Friday, December 5 at 6 p.m.  The cost is $10.00 per person, with advance reservations required. Call (803) 779-0030 to make reservations.  Two more performances will be held on Saturday, December 6 at 3 p.m. andat  7 p.m. There is no cost for the Saturday performances and no required reservations. For more information, contact John W. Henry, Producer, at 803-917-1002, or Paula Benson, Director, at 803-206-4965.
Trustus Theatre found great success last year with Patrick Barlow's post-modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which remained faithful to the original Dickens material, while incorporating technical wizardry, live music enhanced with synthesizer effects, and sexy, steampunk-influenced costumes for the Ghosts.  You can read the Jasper review of that production here,  but there have been a few changes for this year's iteration, with Kendrick Marion joining Director Chad Henderson and last year's cast, including Catherine Hunsinger, Avery Bateman, Scott Herr,  and Stann Gwynn as Scrooge. The show runs through December 20 on the Thigpen Main Stage.


Trustus also has a couple of special events scheduled this month. First,  late nights are back with The Ladies of Lady Street Late Night Cabaret, featuring the best in female impersonation. Join a highly entertaining quartet of both local and guest performers on Friday December 12th at 11:00pm.  The hour-long show features an entertaining mix of female impersonation, celebrity illusions, showgirl costumes, comedy, glamour and live singing. Vista Queen Emeritus Patti O’Furniture leads a cast that features Dorae Saunders (as seen on “America’s Got Talent” and former Miss US of A at Large),  the live singing talents of Denise Russell, and Veronica La Blank (Columbia’s Wild Card of Drag.) This is the second offering of a series of four shows during Trustus’ 30th season. The show takes place on the Thigpen Mainstage;    tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at www.trustus.org or at the door.  Doors open at 10:45pm after the evening performance of A Christmas Carol. The show is at 11:00pm. The Trustus bar will open at 10:45pm and will remain open during the show. Or, make a night of it, and check out the Trustus production of A Christmas Carol that same night at 8pm. Tickets for that show are also available online.

Mark Rapp, appearing at Trustus Theatre

Then get ready for Jingle Bell Jazz, featuring the Mark Rapp Quartet and special guests on  December 17th.  Celebrated jazz trumpeter Mark Rapp and his quartet present a grooving, swinging, funky fun Christmas concert that will leave you toasty, warm and happy for the holidays. Rapp has prepared unique jazz arrangements of such Christmas classics as: Angels We Have Heard on High, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, O Come All Ye Faithful, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer to Wham!’s Last Christmas.Rapp has performed with such distinct artists from Branford Marsalis to Hootie and the Blowfish, released 5 diverse recordings, and is featured leading and playing the closing track of Disney’s "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" CD which also features such artists as Dave Brubeck and Esperanza Spalding. Mark is a featured artist in Mellen Press' "How Jazz Trumpeters Understand Their Music" among a prestigious list including Terence Blanchard, Lew Soloff, Freddie Hubbard, Tim Hagans, Dave Douglas and more. Mark has performed in jazz festivals around the world from the Fillmore Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, WC Handy Festival, to Jazz Festivals in Switzerland, Croatia and Brazil.  The concert performance will begin at 9pm. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased from www.trustus.org.  For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732 .

mistletoe Theatre Rowe is presenting  Murder Under the Mistletoe at both its Columbia and Lexington locations: Scheduled dates are:

Lexington: December 4-7, 11-14, 18-21

Columbia: December 6, 7, 11, 12, 18, 19, 21

For information, call 803-200-2012, or visit http://scdinnertheatre.com.

Shakespeare's Kidz, the youth program of the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, presents MidWinter's Eve: A Shakespeare's Kidz Tale on December 11th, at 6:00 pm at the Richland Country Library - and it's free!  Written and directed by London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate Katie Mixon, the show is a fun, family friendly, heart-warming inside look at Christmas in Elizabethan England. It's the night before Christmas, when William Shakespeare pops off for some holiday cheer with the wife for the evening. The Shakespeare brood is on their own! Young twins Judith and Hamnet dance, and duel with swords, while Susanna dreams of romance. Friends Emilia, Malvolio, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern join the party, with a search for the Yule Log, and visits from The Lord of Misrule!   Will the Shakespeare kids and their friends survive the night, or will chaos trump all?


Featured in the cast of young performers are Elin Johnson, Joss Kim, Maize Cook, Walt Cook, Napoleon Rodriguez, Guillermo Rodriguez Oliveira, and Lindsay Knowlton.  The perforance is approximately 30 minutes;  you're encouraged to arrive at few minutes early to make your way downstairs and claim a good seat!  For more information, visit   http://www.shakespearesc.org/kidz.html.

jack frost

Columbia Children's Theatre presents Jack Frost, the world premiere of a new musical for children, with music by Paul Lindley II, and book and lyrics by Crystal Aldamuy. Run dates are December 5-14.

Something’s up with the weather.  The leaves are turning non-existent colors, unexpected snows are blanketing the orange groves and farmers are getting frost bite in the summer.  What is going on?  Is it global warming?  No, it’s Jack Frost being “creative” again. When Jack’s rebellion and yearning for self-expression start landing him in hot water, his parents The Snow Queen and The Frost King, decide that a little time spent with the industrious and practical Kringle family would teach the head-strong lad a lesson. So, in a move straight out of Trading Spaces, Jack and Crystal Kringle trade lives and suffice it to say cleaning up after reindeer is not exactly Jack’s cup of iced tea.  With a book and lyrics by Crystal-Alisa Aldamuy and music by Paul Gilbert Lindley II this wintry world premiere musical is just the thing to warm your heart!

Show Times:

~ August Krickel

"Simple Cindy" - Melissa Swick Ellington reviews the new original children's musical at On Stage Productions

On Stage Productions presentsSimple Cindy: A Full Fledged Musical? at their West Columbia  location with five more performances June 19-22. This original musical representssimplecindy a unique collaboration between writer and theatre director Robert Harrelson and his young niece Sydney Porth. About five years ago, Harrelson wrote the book and lyrics for Simple Cindy and offered his then eight-year-old niece the opportunity to compose the music. Just fourteen years old and attending Governor’s School for music this summer, Porth has musical theatre experience well beyond her years.


Celebration of youth and emphasis on learning characterize the welcoming theatre community of On Stage Productions.  In addition to providing a forum for a young teen composer’s appealing music to be realized in full production, Simple Cindy also features the capable work of a high school student (Ryan Rogers) as the show’s director. The cast of Simple Cindy includes first-time actors as well as youngsters with more extensive theatre backgrounds. All performers are valued and encouraged in this engaging production, as Harrelson and his company of hard-working parents and theatre supporters create potentially life-changing opportunities for young people.


Composer Sydney Porth

Simple Cindy’s script brings numerous classic tales together; children in the audience will be delighted to recognize familiar characters such as Dorothy, Snow White, Wendy, Goldilocks, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and more. With the help of an energetic Narrator and a friendly Musician who endeavor to manage the lively characters, Cindy explores “the real story” of her life. Clever revisions to the well-known tale abound, such as silver slippers because “glass is so dangerous.” Families will appreciate the gentle nature of this play that encourages kids to “make a wish with all your heart, and you will see the magic start.” The performers’ sincerity is strong and touching.


Hannah Presor plays the role of Cindy with great charm. She exudes comfortable stage presence during interactions with fellow performers as well as appreciative viewers. (My young daughter eagerly volunteered to follow Cindy onto the stage during an audience participation sequence, and was determined to give Cindy a rose after the show.) Macey Coats shares infectious energy and a lovely singing voice as both the Narrator and the Godmother; she also does fine work as the show’s choreographer. Katie Edelson creates memorable characters as the Musician and Glenda, Olivia Lesniak becomes an expressive Dorothy, and Grace Beasley plays a sweet Wendy. Emma Yankowitz is charming in three roles (Rapunzel, Young Cindy, and Old Lady), while Danielle Mejias (StepMother), Gracie May (Antasheneezia) and Mia Coats (Drowzilla) embrace their outrageous characters with gusto and flair. James Conner Rabon as the Prince communicates volumes with his humorous facial expressions while dancing with the would-be princesses.

Macey and Hanna

The cast also includes Izzie Cruea, Carrissa Mejias, Maddie Cruea, Pierce Mejias, Alana Armstrong, Dominick Campbell, Victoria Harbin, and Brianna Northcutt. Every performer appears confident on stage. Take it from this former drama teacher – that is one remarkable achievement.


Opportunities for audience interaction abound but never overwhelm. Viewers are invited on stage to help open a fairy tale book and later to fold clothes with Cinderella. The friendly Narrator thrilled my six-year-old by giving out invitations to the ball during intermission.  Participants can also join the cast photograph following the performance, which was a big deal  for my daughter. (Small children will benefit from front row seats, as the sight lines can be challenging for shorter audience members.)


Simple Cindy is a homegrown delight. Harrelson shares that “We try our best to make everyone feel special at our shows,” and the On Stage community succeeds. When the Prince quizzes her on possible identifying characteristics, Cindy responds with the simple and powerful statement  “I’m just me.” At On Stage Productions, anyone can be “just me” and feel welcomed, included,  and celebrated. During the car ride home following the performance, my daughter confided that On Stage makes her “feel the happiest.” Happily ever after, indeed.

~ Melissa Swick Ellington

Upcoming performances:

Thursday June 19 - 7:30 pm

Friday June 20 - 7:30 pm

Saturday June 21 - 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm

Sunday June 22 - 2:30pm

For more information, visit htp://www.onstagesc.com, or call 803-351-6751.  The On Stage Performance Center is located at 680 Cherokee Lane in West Columbia.

A heart-warming tour of "Second Samuel" - a review of the new show at On Stage Productions

There may be snow and ice across most of the southeast, but there is warmth to spare in the little town of Second Samuel, GA (so named after the Yankees burned the first town down) where colorful Southern eccentricity blends with a timely message of tolerance and acceptance. Pamela Parker's Second Samuel has been produced at dozens of theatres, from Wetumpka, AL, to Perth, Australia, and off-Broadway by this production's director, Robert Harrelson. Harrelson, the founder of On Stage Productions in West Columbia, has a nice little under-the-radar hit on his hands, and it only runs through this Sunday at the On Stage Performance Center, at 680 Cherokee Rd. samuel3

Our narrator and tour guide is B-Flat (Sam Edelson), an appealing, innocent young man (or older teen) given his ironic nickname by piano teacher Miss Gertrude for his lack of musical ability. (His actual surname is "Flatt," first initial "B.") B-Flat is just a little slow, or what they used to call "simple" in the play's 1949 setting. Think Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies, or Eb from Green Acres, just more loveable. As played by Edelson, one imagines that B-Flat is probably just awkward and perhaps dyslexic, with minimal education. His description of his hometown's quirks is fairly eloquent and insightful, in the manner of Big River's Huck (another under-educated outcast thought to be simple), and one local accurately observes that the boy may have more sense than anyone else. Plus his big heart makes up for any intellectual shortcomings. Like Steel Magnolias, the local ladies gather to chat at the beauty parlor, while the men convene at "Frisky's Bait and Brew," the kind of place where you can get a Nehi and a Moon Pie as easily as a cold beer or a shot of whiskey. Every character would be at home in Mayberry, Hooterville, or Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. I mention these iconic rural settings from fiction not to imply that author Parker is necessarily influenced by them, but rather to note that she is working in an easily recognizable tradition, with all the stock character types - archetypes even - that we expect. What she does with them, however, is quite creative, and caught me completely by surprise.

the cast of Pamela Parker's "Second Samuel," down at Frisky's Bait and Brew.

1949 was the summer that the beloved Miss Gertrude died, and the play's action commences with preparations for her funeral, as everyone recalls how she touched so many lives in some way. Assorted plot twists transpire, taking the broad, southern-fried comedy of the first act into slightly more serious and meaningful territory in the second. Hilarious characters still are funny, but they face decisions that will define just who they are, both as individuals and as a community. A good parallel might be socially conscious sitcoms from the 70's like All in the Family, or warm family-themed shows from the 80's (e.g. Family Ties or The Golden Girls) where outrageous characters engage in outlandish antics, but there's still an "Awwwww" moment at the end.

A friend noted that everyone seemed perfect for his or her role. A few of the cast are clearly newer to acting, while some have been shining in lead roles for decades, especially at community theatres in Lexington and Chapin, but everyone plays a specific type convincingly. Parker's dialogue flows very naturally, and all the cast has to do is go where the words take them. Debra Leopard and MJ Maurer are especially convincing as histrionic ladies with big hair, while Courtney Long as pretty young Ruby has fewer lines, but is always enaged in the action on stage. As Leopard and Maurer squabble with the town troublemaker (Anne Snider) Long is giggling silently at every word, indicating how seriously the audience should take them. David Reed as the local funeral director has some inspired comic moments. Full disclosure: he and I did a show together 20+ years ago, and so I am familiar with his real voice and mannerisms. Here he affects the soft, high voice of a prim Southern gentleman, and creates a very believable character. Some of the show's biggest laughs come from physical comedy where Reed is drinking, while the beauty parlor ladies are screaming: everyone's pace and pitch is perfect, while Brandon Moore's split-second timing on light cues makes everything flow at a lively pace. Also deserving of praise is the sincerity that A.T. Marion brings to the pivotal role of "U.S." In rural 1949 Georgia, the challenges faced by U.S. as a person of color are obvious, and Parker never sugar-coats the historical context. U.S. wisely explains to B-Flat that each of them is different, but then, who isn't in some way? The charm of the town, and the play, is the way in which the town's residents ultimately look out for their friends. (They even pretend to believe the man who swears he was kidnapped by Nazis from a U-boat off Myrtle Beach , when everyone knows this was a story concocted to explain a week-long bender.)


The space at On Stage, a former retail shop that probably specialized in country-western attire, is limited, and director Harrelson does an excellent job of blocking, given the close quarters. More importantly, he has cast the right types to bring out the depth and nuances of the work, which can be enjoyed at face value as a variation on Mayberry or Vicky Lawrence's Momma's Family, or taken at a much deeper level.

On Stage Productions is now in its fourth season (see the current print issue of Jasper - vol. 3 no. 3 - for some details on its origin) and is a wonderful little gem that's not nearly as out of the way as you might think. From downtown Columbia, you simply cross the Blossom St. bridge and head out Charleston Highway, veering on to Airport Blvd. Cherokee Lane is the right just before I-26, which it parallels, and you're there in not much more than 5 minutes. When my friend Melissa saw and reviewed their last production, her young daughter told her "This looks like a fun place to do a show," and I heartily agree.

Second Samuel runs through Sunday, Feb. 16th - visit http://www.onstagesc.com for ticket information.

~ August Krickel

"Yes Virginia - The Musical" at On Stage Productions - a review by Melissa Swick Ellington


The On Stage Productions performance of Yes, Virginia The Musical offers plenty of heartfelt holiday spirit.  Drawn from an animated television special, the stage musical (with music by Wesley Whatley, lyrics by William Schermerhorn, and book adapted by William Schermerhorn from the animated special and storybook by Chris Plehal) has been developed by Macy’s as a performance opportunity for young people.

the cast of "Yes Virginia - The Musical" at On Stage Productions; photo by Rob Sprankle

Based on a true story, the action unfolds during the year 1897 in New York City. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon questions whether Santa Claus is real. The search for truth takes her to the library as well as through the holiday bustle in the city, where Virginia encounters a bell-ringing “scraggly Santa” who reveals gifts for friendship and wisdom. Since she has been told “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,” Virginia writes a letter to The New York Sun, asking “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” While the answer to her query is well known, the journey to that answer provokes curiosity.

Olivia (L) and Liberty Broussard as

Highlights of the performance feature the lovely singing voice of Liberty Broussard as Virginia, the clever timing of Rachael Sprankle as the whimsical Librarian, and the dynamic exuberance of Olivia Lesniak as Virginia’s best friend. Zach Tenney as Scraggly Santa exudes strong stage presence and communicates believable character development. JoJo Wallace conveys the mean girl role of Charlotte with vigorous energy, supported by her snooty cat Mrs. Whiskers (Mia Coats). Sincerity and sweetness emanate from the entire cast, particularly in the closing reprise of the title song. Additional cast members include Ella Johnson, Grace Beasley, Emma Cathryn Eubanks, Pierce Mejias, Perry Raines, Zavery Johnson, Paul Woodard, Heyward Moak, Cameron Eubanks, Turner Carson, and Major McCarty. The capable and dedicated production team includes Robert Harrelson (Director), Ryan Rogers (Youth Director), Rebekah Cheatham (Youth Choreographer),

Rachael Sprankle as Miriam the Librarian;  photo by Rob Sprankle


Michelle Cheatham (Choreographer Coordinator), Debi Young (Rehearsal Music Coach), Brandon Moore (Stage Manager), and Tony Vaccaro (Stage Design and Props). April Wallace and Gina Moak Cotton designed costumes, Harrelson and Rogers planned lighting and sound, and Jill Larkin and Niane Szalwinski shared producer responsibilities. Production design establishes numerous locations effectively, such as Virginia’s home, the Sun office, the library, and the streets of New York City. Projections of images featuring different Santas from around the world emerge in the library sequence. Younger viewers will benefit from front row seats, as the audience arrangement can obstruct the view of little ones. The intimate performance space creates a cozy and welcoming environment; carol-singing and piano-playing plus a hot chocolate “bar” (and the delectable dessert offerings for sale) make intermission feel like a friendly holiday party.

JoJo Wallace (R) as mean girl Charlotte, and Mia Coates as her snooty cat; photo by Rob Sprankle

The focus on youth engagement at On Stage Productions is commendable, as evidenced by inclusion of the student directing intern in the opening remarks, and the production’s involvement of an eleven-year-old choreographer. The young actors appear comfortable and confident on stage. The audience’s enjoyment of the performance is buoyed by the children’s delight in performing. (My six-year-old daughter confided after the first act, “Mommy, this seems like a GREAT place to be in a play!”) The earnest ensemble entreats in song: “Believe in joy. Believe in love. Believe your whole life through. Keep bright the light of childhood.” The light of childhood shines brightly at On Stage Productions this holiday season.

Want to learn more about the script and score? The website yesvirginiathemusical.com provides production resources which will delight young theatre artists. Interested in attending the On Stage performance? Visit www.onstagesc.com for tickets and further information. Yes, Virginia The Musical will be presented at the On Stage Performance Center (680 Cherokee Lane in West Columbia) at 7:30 pm on December 7, 12, 13, and 14, and at 2:30 pm on December 7, 8, 14, and 15.

~ Melissa Swick Ellington


A World of Wealth, Becky Shaw, Bark! The Musical, King Lear, and My First Time - all this weekend!

There is a world of theatrical wealth this weekend (in addition to Artista Vista, the Columbia Museum's Artist of the Year event, FOLKFaulous at the McKissick Museum, and a dozen other cool happenings. Indeed - no less than FIVE shows are opening, or continuing their runs.

OnStage Productions presents A World of Wealth, a new musical by Robert Harrelson and Gloria VanDalen.  That's right - a world premiere of a new musical, right here in town!  The cast includes Christy Shealy Mills, Zanna Mills, Emma Imholz, Liberty Broussard, Tracy Davis Davenport, Charlis Wright, Gene Davis, Kristen Kimery, Zach Tenny, and Corin Wiggins.

the cast of "A World of Wealth"

From press material:

When a wealthy family decides to move uptown NYC from the south to bring the family closer together the chaos begins. Love and Money have always appeared to the forces opposed to each other as we find out that Money is more than dollars and cents. The show is a funny but dramatic look at family values and believing in friends to make life exciting. Songs such as A Spanglish , Forever Friends and I Don't Want to Grow Up and More proves the show to be a sure hit! This dramatic, comedic and  heartwarming production will run April 26th 7:30pm   , April 27th 2:30pm  and 7:30pm , April 28th  2:30pm , May 2 and 3 , 7:30pm  , May 4 , 2:30pm and 7:30pm , May 5th, 2:30 PM -  at The On Stage Performance Center,  680 Cherokee Lane, West Columbia, SC 29169. For questions please call Robert Harrelson at 407-319-2596 or check On Stage Productions website at www.OnStageSc.com

world of wealth

Stage 5 Theatre meanwhile is producing Bark! The Musical, which opened for a preview run last weekend, and officially opens tonight. The theatre is located at 947 S. Stadium Rd., near Williams-Brice.

Bark! The Musical

The entire show is presented from a dog’s point of view. Through song and story, the audience is exposed to the tenderness, aggression and frustration of these beings as they share personal stories of past and present, owners and friends, and their desire to be loved and part of a family. For more details see www.mbfproductions.net .


- Robert Bullock as King, the older and wiser Labrador and leader of the pack
Crystal Leidy as Golde, the rugged, sarcastic, take-no-guff, tell-it-like-it-is female bull dog
- Brock Henderson as Rocks, the Jack Russell Terrier puppy that is full of spunk and energy
- Avery Bateman as Chanel, A French poodle,a diva former show dog with attitude aspiring to be an opera singer
- Charlie Goodrich as Sam, A grey pit bull mutt that is  sexy, handsome, street tough and macho to hide his insecurities
- Britt Jerome as Boo, a sock-a-holic Cocker Spaniel, a bit frantic, but protective and caring mother figure

Directed by: Michael Bailey Assistant Directed by: Crystal Leidy Musical Direction by: Brock Henderson Choreography by: Mandy Applegate Produced by: Charles Chavers

Music by David Troy Francis, Lyrics by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, Robert Schrock and Mark Winkler, Additional Lyrics by Jonathan Heath and Danny Lukic, Book by Mark Winkley and Gavin Geoffrey Dillard.

Show Dates: April 19- May 5, Shows- Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 3 PM.


USC's Lab Theatre is presenting Becky Shaw, by Gina Gionfriddo for this weekend only.

From press material:


Performances are at 8pm nightly, April 25-28, 2013. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. The Lab Theatre, the university's intimate "black box" performance space, is located in the Booker T. Washington building at 1400 Wheat Street, across form Blatt PE center. Becky Shaw contains adult themes which may not be suitable for children.

A 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Becky Shaw tells the tale of a blind date (from hell) that opens a Pandora's box of familial and romantic entanglements. Newlyweds Andrew and Suzanna fix up two romantically challenged friends, but when scathing Max meets anxious Becky, it's obvious that the evening will not go according to plan. "Blithely cynical and devastatingly funny…witty observations on the emotional damage inflicted by neurotic people in the name of love…Gionfriddo is some kind of genius." – Variety

Director David Britt, a USC Theatre Instructor and Production Manager of the Lab Theatre, was inspired to stage Becky Shaw after seeing the play in New York a few years ago. He recalls that after seeing the play he and his friends got into a heated discussion about dating and what they were willing to tolerate in terms of "baggage." Britt says, "It was a wonderful discussion that was sparked by a wonderful play…I hope that audiences who see this show will have similar conversations."

Britt has assembled an exceptional cast of actors whose challenge is to portray the subtle nuances in Gionfriddo's characters. "I needed intelligent and sensitive actors who would enjoy the raw humor of these characters but would also be able to play their vulnerabilities."

Playing the title role of Becky is sophomore theatre major Grace Stewart. Also starring are undergraduate students Katie Atkinson, Stephen Canada, Hunter Bolton, and graduate acting student Catherine Friesen. Undergraduates Amanda Alston and Kasey Beard are the stage manager and assistant director, respectively.

"Most of our neurotic behavior is fairly common," says the director, "we just don't know it. I want the actors working on this show, as well as our audiences, to discover how much alike we all are. If you are an individual who thinks you are isolated in your problems…well, you aren't."

For more information on Becky Shaw or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, please contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at bushk@mailbox.sc.edu.

becky shaw


My First Time continues at the the Trustus Side Door Theatre through Saturday 4/27. From press material:

The Trustus Side Door has been taking patrons on a “Sexploration” this season, and audiences have responded by packing houses nightly. The Side Door’s current production My First Time is sure to thrill and titillate as four actors relay hundreds of stories about real people’s first times. My First Time opens in Trustus’ intimate 50-seat Side Door Theatre on Friday April 12 at 8:00pm, and runs through April 27, 2013.

In 1998 - a decade before blogging began - a website was created that allowed people to anonymously share their own true stories about their first times.  The website (www.myfirsttime.com) became an instant phenomenon as over 40,000 stories poured in from around the globe that were silly, sweet, absurd, funny, heterosexual, homosexual, shy, sexy and everything in between. Producer Ken Davenport adapted hundreds of stories from the website into an acclaimed 90 minute evening where these true stories and all of the unique characters in them are brought to life by four actors. The show was such a hit in New York that it enjoyed a two and a half year run Off-Broadway before it closed in 2010.

Trustus’ founding Artistic Director Jim Thigpen had wanted to bring My First Time to the Capital City many times throughout the past 3 seasons; however the opportunity never presented itself. This season, with all of the Side Door shows under the umbrella of “Sexploration”, My First Time was an obvious choice.

Company member and director Jade Johnson cast four talented actors to relay the hundreds of stories that comprise My First Time. Trustus company member G. Scott Wild (Next Fall, Avenue Q) joins Trustus alum Shane Silman(Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Motherf**ker With the Hat) in reliving the men’s first times. Trustus welcomes two new talents to the Side Door as Jennifer Moody Sanchez and Brandi Perry give us the scoop from the women.

My First Time runs through Saturday, April 27, 2013.  Shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays start at 8pm. The Sunday matinee on April 14 will be at 3pm. The doors and box office open thirty minutes prior to curtain. All Trustus Side Door tickets are $15. Reservations can be made by calling the Trustus Box Office at (803) 254-9732 or online by visiting www.trustus.org.

Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady Street and on Pulaski Street. The Trustus Side Door Theatre entrance is through the glass doors on the Huger St. side of the building.

For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit www.trustus.org for all show information and season info.

My First Time1

You can read Susan Levi Wallach's review of the show here, and James Harley's review at Onstage Columbia.

King Lear continues at USC's Drayton Hall.  You can read a Q+A with lead actor James Keegan here, and August Krickel's review of the show here.  From press material:

Theatre South Carolina will stage Shakespeare's revered tragedy King Lear, the epic tale of a ruler's loss of power and descent into madness, April 19-27 at USC's Drayton Hall Theatre.

Show times for King Lear are 8pm Wednesdays-Fridays, 7pm Saturdays and 3pm on the first Sunday.  There is an additional half-price late night performance on Saturday, April 27 at 11pm.   Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, April 12.

Shakespeare’s gale-force drama rips back the curtain on a family torn by greed and an unquenchable lust for power.  The aging King Lear decides to split his kingdom between his three daughters, but tests their loyalty first to finalize the arrangement.  When his most devoted daughter, Cordelia, refuses to flatter him, Lear disowns her, paving the way for a venomous plot to usurp the throne concocted by his remaining heirs.  The King flees, leading him on a spiraling descent into madness as he fights to regain control.  King Lear is a riveting story about the corruptive nature of power and a broken man’s agonizing struggle for redemption.

Photo by Jason Ayer. — with James Keegan and James Costello.