Greater Tuna: North Country Public Radio Review

[This theatre review of “Greater Tuna” by Connie Meng was aired and published by North Country Public Radio as “Theatre Review: ‘Greater Tuna’ at the Depot Theatre in Westport NY” on August 04, 2014. Listen to the story.]

The two-man comedy “Greater Tuna” opened Off-Broadway in 1982 to rave reviews. It’s been an audience favorite ever since. It runs at the Depot Theatre through August 17.

Chan Harris as Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Trip Plymale as Jody & Charlene (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Chan Harris as Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Trip Plymale as Jody & Charlene (Photo: Depot Theatre)

“Greater Tuna” by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears is a show that provides the opportunity for a tour de force by the two actors involved.  Amidst the laughs and giggles it has some pithy things to say.  Although it’s set in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas, similar characters exist in rural areas throughout the country.  They just may not have that Texas drawl.

The framework for the piece is a local radio show hosted by Arlis Struvie played by Tripp Plymale and Thurston Wheelis played by Chan Harris, who also directed.  Through call-ins, interviews and commercials we meet several Tuna residents.  The two actors play town big-wigs and the members of a dysfunctional family – young, old, male, female, and even a very noisy dog.

Bonnie Brewer’s simple set of two tables with chairs and a big cabinet radio up center is backed by a nice three-part painting of east Texas fields.  Margaret Swick’s lighting is just fine.  I assume the multitude of costumes were a group effort and work very well.  Kudos to whoever’s backstage helping with the lightning fast changes.

Chan Harris is very good as Pearl Burras, local chicken farmer and dog poisoner.  I love the scene in the funeral parlor with Pearl’s serenade to the dead Judge and the comment, “You look so…waxy.”  As the energetic Reverend Spikes he gives a very funny eulogy made up entirely of platitudes and song lyrics.  He’s also excellent as Bertha Bumiller, harassed mother of three.  We know exactly how she feels about her husband when we watch her chop vegetables. By the way, he also plays her husband.

Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Jody & Charlene onstage (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Mr. & Mrs. Bumiller, Jody & Charlene onstage (Photo: Depot Theatre)

Tripp Plymale is terrific as snippy Vera Carp, head of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order who plan to clean up the high school dictionaries. Her reactions to Reverand Spikes are hilarious.  He’s excellent as gentle Petey Fisk, protector of lost animals including ducks.  Mr. Plymale gives all his characters unexpected depth and three-dimensional humanity.  This is especially so with the three Bumiller children: forlorn young Jody whose only friends are the dogs who follow him around, overweight Charlene, shy amateur poet and failed cheerleader, and fresh out of reform school Stanley, his edgiest character.  Stanley’s powerful scene with the dead Judge takes a sudden twist and ceases to be funny.

The juxtaposition of prayers in Act II is funny, chilling and touching by turns.  That of Elmer Watkins, NRA member, reminds us that bigotry isn’t always to be laughed at, while that of Petey Fisk is very moving.  Director Harris has also chosen great songs that perfectly set up the atmosphere.

“Greater Tuna” is a very funny play with some wonderful serious moments.  Mr. Harris and Mr. Plymale have brought out all the nuances of the piece.  Its mixture of affectionate comment and dark satire provides a solid evening’s entertainment at the Depot Theatre.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre’s production of “Greater Tuna” gets four and five-eighths box cars.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

(Theatre review via North Country Public Radio)

Texas-size Laughs Roll into the Depot Theatre with “Greater Tuna” on August 1

Greater Tuna

Depot Theatre presents “Greater Tuna” August 1-17

Westport, N.Y. – The Depot Theatre 2014 season continues August 1-17 with “Greater Tuna,” the now-classic comedy about the small town morals and mores of Tuna, Texas (Texas’ 3rd smallest town!).

The show is directed by Texas native Chan Harris (Broadway Tours: “Evita,” “Big River,” “Into the Woods”) and stars both Harris and Trip Plymale (Broadway: “The Robber Bridegroom.”) The production is sponsored by Emmet Carter Green Design.

Chan HarrisCHAN HARRIS is originally from East Texas, Chan Harris studied music at Juilliard with classmates Renee Fleming, Audra MacDonald and Laura Linney. As an actor, he was cast in several national Broadway tours Broadway including “Evita,” “Big River,” and “Into the Woods” and worked in regional theatres across the United States. In 1999, he directed the national tour of “Forever Plaid.” “Greater Tuna” marks Harris’ acting and directing debuts at the Depot.

Trip PlymaleTRIP PLYMALE has appeared on Broadway in “The RobberBridegroom,” and Off-Broadway in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “House of Blue Leaves,” “Music Man,” and others. This is Trip’s second performance on the Depot stage, having first performed in “Damn Yankees” in 1997.

“Greater Tuna” is followed by the musical comedy “Pete ‘N’ Keely” which caps the season with performances from August 22-31.

Tickets for all 2014 performances are $29 with discounts for seniors, groups and students. Evening, early-evening and matinee performances are available. Additional information and tickets are available online at depottheatre.org, or by contacting the box office at 518.962.4449.

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PHOTOS: Chan Harris and Trip Plymale star in the fast-paced comedy “Greater Tuna” at the Depot Theatre.

GREATER TUNA

By Jaston Williams, Ed Howard, and Joe Sears

Aug. 1 – 17, 2014

Sponsored by Emmet Carter Green Design

ABOUT THE DEPOT THEATRE

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”  The Depot Theatre’s 2014 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra – North Country Public Radio Review

[This theatre review of “My Way” by Connie Meng was aired and published by North Country Public Radio as “Theatre Review: “My Way” at the Depot Theatre in Westport” on July 14, 2014. Listen to the story.]

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is a lively journey through the Sinatra song-book. It runs at the Depot Theatre overlooking Lake Champlain in Westport NY through July 27.

Tiffan Borelli, Paul Binotto, Erik Keiser, Maggie Politi in "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" at The Depot Theatre, July 2014 (Photo: Bonnie Brewer)

Tiffan Borelli, Paul Binotto, Erik Keiser, Maggie Politi in “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” at The Depot Theatre, July 2014 (Photo: Bonnie Brewer)

The Depot Theatre in Westport has opened their 36th season with a tuneful production of “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra.”  Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, the show contains over 50 songs out of the nearly 1400 Sinatra recorded.  Most of the songs are familiar, but there were a couple I hadn’t heard.  With having had only five days of rehearsal, even this old “lyric Nazi” can overlook a couple of slips.

The four cast members, ably accompanied by Joe Schermann in a pianistic marathon, are all very good singers with sparkling stage presence.  Erik Keiser is an appealing song and dance man and does a specially nice job on a duet with Maggie Politi of “Nice and Easy.”  They do justice to the frisky staging of Director Evan Pappas.  Miss Politi is a natural comedienne and had me giggling with her take on “South of the Border.”

Tiffan Borelli is just an all-round good singer, who is particularly fine on various ballads.  Last but certainly not least is Paul Binotto, not only a good singer but an excellent actor who plays a mean guitar.  He’s especially strong on “One for My Baby,” “Young at Heart” and “Summer Wind,” all very different emotionally.

Music Director Joe Schermann has done a fine job on the many group vocals and the vocal blend is great on “My Way” and the encore, a lovely 4-part arrangement of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Bonnie Brewer’s simple set of draperies upstage, a grand piano, a short bar and a couple of small tables works extremely well for the show.  Her lighting is effective, complete with stars and a mirror ball.

Debbi Hobson’s costumes for the men are fine and allow for some versatility, while the dresses for the ladies, while well-designed and colorful, aren’t particularly flattering.

Director Evan Pappas has done a terrific job of staging a show that could easily have become static.  Especially clever are “It Was a Very Good Year,” “My Way,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “That’s Life” and the tour of the cities.  Perhaps my favorite was “I Only Have Eyes for You,” in an unusual arrangement, with great lighting and inventive staging.

If you like Frank Sinatra’s choice of songs this show is for you.  There are some snippets of dialogue, but it’s really about the music.  Sinatra was part of the music scene for so long that these songs will take you back no matter your generation.  “My Way” is solid entertainment – perfect fare for a summer afternoon or evening.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre’s production of “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” gets four and one-third boxcars.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

(Review via North Country Public Radio.)

Depot Theatre Receives NYSCA Grant for 2014 Season

Westport, N.Y. – The Depot Theatre has received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to support its 2014 Season. The funds are designated for general operating support in the amount of $9,960.

“All of us at the Depot are grateful to Governor Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and, especially, the folks at NYSCA for this vote of confidence in our mission and the work that we do,” said David Howson, President of the Board of Trustees. “We thank NYSCA for its continued support of the arts in the North Country.”

This summer marks the Depot Theatre’s 36th season. More information, subscriptions and tickets are available on the Depot Theatre website, depottheatre.org

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ABOUT THE DEPOT THEATRE

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”  The Depot Theatre’s 2014 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Start Spreadin’ the News! Sinatra hits the Depot Theatre Stage on July 11

Depot Theatre presents My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

The Depot Theatre 2014 season begins July 11-27 with “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra,” a fresh, entertaining evening of great music that distills the nearly 1,400 songs that Sinatra recorded down to 56 selections.

Paul BinottoThe show will be directed and choreographed by Evan Pappas (Broadway: “Parade,” “My Favorite Year,”) and stars four seasoned and enthusiastic professional actors. It is sponsored by the Westport Marina and The Galley Restaurant & Bar.

Paul Binotto most recently played Peter in The Pittsburgh Public Theater production of “Company.” Paul’s Broadway credits include: “Dreamgirls,” “Hair”, “Starlight Express,” “One Night Stand,” “King of Schnorrers” and “It’s So Nice to be Civilized.” Off-Broadway credits include: “Enter Laughing”, and “Forever Plaid”, for which, along with his fellow cast mates, he gave a command performance at The White House.

Tiffan Borelli

Tiffan Borelli

Tiffan Borelli is delighted to be making her Depot Theatre Debut. Her credits include Goldie in “Two By Two” at The York Theatre with Jason Alexander, Martin Charnin’s “Something Funny’s Going On at 54 Below”, Kate in “Kiss Me Kate” with The Staten Island Philharmonic, and as Sondra Lee in “Far Out!” at Minetta Lane.

Erik Keiser

Erik Keiser

Erik Keiser will also be making his Depot Theatre debut! He recently originated the role of Keith Partridge in “The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge & Brady” at the NY Fringe Festival and for the show’s recent Off-Broadway run this past spring. Other past credits include the NYC production of “Mama & Her Boys”, Ren McCormack on the 10th Anniversary National Tour of “Footloose”, “How to Succeed in Business” at Theatre-by-the-Sea, “Legally Blonde” at STAGES St. Louis, “Sail Away” with Musicals Tonight!, “Hairspray”, and “High School Musical” (Troy).

Maggie PolitiThe musical production also serves as an Adirondack homecoming for Maggie Politi, who is grateful to be back in the mountains where she grew up. Favorite past roles include: Daphne in the world premiere of “Gay Bride of Frankenstein” in NYC, Roxie Hart in “Chicago” (West Virginia Public, Prather Entertainment) and Mayzie in the “Seussical” tour.

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is followed by the fast-paced, costume-changing hilarity of “Greater Tuna” from August 1-17. The musical comedy “Pete ‘N’ Keely” caps the season with performances from August 22-31.

Tickets for all 2014 performances are $29 with discounts for seniors, groups and students. Evening, early-evening and matinee performances are available. Subscriptions for the three-show season are $78. More information, season subscriptions and tickets available online at depottheatre.org, or by contacting the box office at 518.962.4449.

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“MY WAY: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”

Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson

Book by Todd Olson

Original Production Directed by David Grapes

July 11 – 27, 2014

Sponsored by the Westport Marina and The Galley Restaurant & Bar

ABOUT THE DEPOT THEATRE

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”  The Depot Theatre’s 2014 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Depot Theatre welcomes Broadway veteran Jonathan Hadley as Interim Producing Director

DTHadleys

Broadway veteran Jonathan Hadley joins the Depot Theatre this summer as Interim Producing Director

WESTPORT, N.Y. – The Depot Theatre is pleased to welcome Jonathan Hadley as its Interim Producing Director for the 2014 season. A popular and accomplished actor and director from New York City, Jonathan has accepted the challenge with grace and enthusiasm, according to Depot volunteer Karen Lewis.

“Recent restructuring at the Depot Theatre necessitated finding an Interim Producing Director to take the reins this summer,” said Lewis. “Jonathan’s knowledge, his skills – both with all things theatrical and with people – gave him a definite edge in the search for an interim leader. We were looking for more than someone to guide the productions, we needed a people person who loves the chance to interact with audiences, and wants the best for everyone connected to the Depot as well as all the other theatre groups in the North Country.  Thus the new reading series Jonathan hopes will blend local actors with those up from New York City.  Wherever Jonathan has worked he’s always proved himself a great ambassador for the arts.  And, luckily for us, he’s no stranger to the area having appeared on the Depot Stage in 1999’s production of Born Yesterday.”

Jonathan most recently appeared on Broadway as “Bob Crewe” in the hit musical Jersey Boys, a role he then played for five years on the First National U.S. Tour, as well as in Seoul and Kuala Lumpur. He was previously seen on Broadway as Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Bennett in A Class Act and Off-Broadway in Finian’s Rainbow and Peg O’ My Heart at New York’s acclaimed Irish Rep. Tours include Into The Woods (with Cleo Laine), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (with Donny Osmond), Fiddler on the Roof (with Theo Bikel) and Forbidden Broadway in the US and Australia.

When recently asked to provide some insight into his choice to come aboard at the Depot this summer, Mr. Hadley wrote the following from Korea where he was then appearing:

“Having spent a lot of time in regional theatres and on national Tours, as well as on Broadway and Off, I always second guessed my decision to leave NYC for a job. What if Broadway calls while I’m in Des Moines?  Or Spielberg?  Or BOTH?!

But years ago when I stepped off the Amtrak train into Westport and got my first glimpse of the Depot Theatre where I was to be performing  “Paul” in the classic comedy Born Yesterday, I knew I had made the right decision.

What could be better than making art in a charming historic theatre situated in the most idyllic setting in all of upstate New York?  And what could be better than getting to do Summer Theatre again – where pressure is low but the quality is high, where not everything is perfect (un-air conditioned rehearsal spaces, the occasional bat visiting the stage…) but where perfect memories are made.  Could a call from Spielberg be better than that?  I think not.

Since I last appeared on the Depot stage my life has taken me to all corners of the globe working as a Director, Artistic Director, Teaching Artist, and Actor.  But every so often it is important to come home from your travels, and for me, home is a good quality, professional Summer Theatre, a place where audiences and artists can share the experience of theatre together, as a community.

That’s what I look forward to most this Summer; being a part of the strong, vibrant Westport community that has supported the Depot Theatre for an unprecedented 36 seasons!  I can’t wait to get back to the shores of Lake Champlain where together with the devoted board, staff and volunteers, and, of course, 2014’s outstanding artists we’ll continue the strong tradition of quality professional theatre in the Adirondacks.  I’m sure I’ll see a few familiar faces, become reacquainted with friends from years ago, and meet many more: the dear friends who come to see what the Depot has to offer Westport, NY, Essex County, and beyond!”

The Depot Theatre is offering a rollicking program of two musicals and one comedy this summer.

   MY WAY – A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA     July 11 – July 27

   GREATER TUNA     August  1 – August 17

   PETE ‘n’ KEELY    August 22 – August 31

As part of its strategic planning process, the Board of the Depot continues to explore sustainable staffing models that will best support the organization’s mission for the future. The board anticipates launching a leadership search this fall.

All are invited to experience this summer’s lineup for laughs, finger snapping with cool classic pop tunes, and to say hi to Jonathan!  Season subscriptions are now available online. Prices for 2014 subscription packages range from $72 to $78. Single-tickets range from $26 to $29. For more information, visit depottheatre.org or contact the box office at 518.962.4449.

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ABOUT THE DEPOT THEATRE

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”  The Depot Theatre’s 2014 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The Depot Theatre Announces 2014 Main Stage Season

Westport, N.Y. –  Old Blue Eyes takes the stage, a singing duo from the 50’s reunites, and humor ensues in a small Texas town for the Depot Theatre’s lively 2014 Season lineup.

“It’s a terrific season of fun and laughter at the great quality our audiences have come to expect,” says Depot 2012 Volunteer of the Year Karen Lewis, who has guided the season planning process.

The season opens with “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”, a musical that distills the nearly 1,400 songs that Sinatra recorded down to 56 selections. The show promises to be a fresh, entertaining evening of great music, beautifully and brightly delivered by a cast of four.

Old Blue Eyes is followed by the fast-paced, costume-changing hilarity of “Greater Tuna”, a send-up of small town morals and mores in which two actors portray an entire group of upstanding citizens in the small town of Tuna, Texas.

The musical comedy “Pete ‘N’ Keely” caps the season. Pete and Keely are a now-bitterly-divorced chart-topping singing duo from the 50’s and 60’s who reunite for a 1968 television special celebrating their careers. This bright and happy show features a nostalgic and clever mix of golden oldies sure to have audiences laughing and tapping their toes.

“We can’t thank our loyal audiences, donors, sponsors and volunteers enough for investing in the future of this important component of the Adirondacks’ arts experience,” said David Howson, president of the board of trustees. “All aboard for our exciting thirty sixth season of professional theatre at the Depot!”

About the Season

MY WAY

“A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”
Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson
Book by Todd Olson
Original Production Directed by David Grapes
July 11 – 27, 2014

GREATER TUNA

By Jaston Williams, Ed Howard, and Joe Sears
Aug. 1 – 17, 2014

PETE ‘N’ KEELY

Book by James Hindman
Original Music by Patrick Brady
Original Lyrics by Mark Waldrop, Patrick S. Brady and others
Aug. 22 – 31, 2014

Prices for subscription packages range from $72 to $78. Single-tickets range from $26 to $29.

Box Office: 518-962-4449

Website: www.depottheatre.org

ABOUT THE DEPOT

The Depot Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre located in a historic, functioning 1876 train station in Westport, N.Y., and operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. In addition to its volunteer board of trustees, the theatre depends on the support and generosity of its loyal donors, volunteers and community members. Committed to promoting and providing exposure to the performing arts in the Adirondacks, the Depot Theatre invites all to “Take a journey without leaving the station.”

For more information contact 518-962-4449 or visit depottheatre.org.