The trio of topics presented in today’s column share little in common other than the fact that they have occurred or are about to occur within the same time frame. What makes them similar, however, is that they all represent the constant variety and top notch caliber of Central Indiana’s performing arts which this writer joyfully covers on a regular basis.
One artist this writer has been privileged to report on is actor Lisa Ermel, who for the past five years has been a familiar face on Indianapolis stages. Her impressive credits include those earned at the Phoenix Theatre where she appeared in the recent hit “American Idiot,” as well as in “Miles & Ellie,” “Seminar” and others; the Indiana Repertory Theatre in “Becky’s New Car” and“Dracula”; and at Actors’ Theatre of Indiana (“The 39 Steps”). Ermel is also familiar to local television audiences from the commercials she appears in for Tru Worth Auto.
But it is with mixed feelings that Ermel will leave her many friends and admiring colleagues Monday when she departs Indianapolis to relocate to L.A. where she will pursue an M.F.A. degree in acting at the prestigious University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts.
In order to facilitate her momentous move; however, Ermel is reaching out for financial assistance. Due to some delayed funding from U.S.C. and other unforeseen circumstances, she has organized a fundraiser to take place Sunday, Aug. 2, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Tin Roof, 36 S Pennsylvania St. in downtown Indianapolis. Joining her will be her special guests Eric Olsen, Brent Marty, Graham Brown (of United State of Indiana), Ryan O’Shea, Andrea Heiden and Defiance Comedy’s girl band, Girlz On Top. The suggested donation per person is $10.
Those unable to attend can contribute to Ermel’s fundraising efforts at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lisa-s-quest-out-west-for-grad-school…
Summer Stock Stage, a program co-founded by Emily Ristine Holloway, which provides theater training for teenage students in Central Indiana, once again proved its fearlessness when it comes to producing musicals that other theaters might regard as too ambitious. They demonstrated as much with their production of “Mary Poppins,” a musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney Film about the Banks family, headed by a cold and distant father, whose lives are transformed by a mysterious Nanny with magical powers. The show, which was presented at the Park Tudor School June 22-26, was seen by atombash.com Sunday.
Realizing the limitations of community theater and considering that this reviewer has seen the film and professional productions of the musical numerous times, it was all the more satisfying to experience this impressive Summer Stock Stage version.
Director Holloway expertly guided the cast of promising young singers, actors and dancers with the strongest performances turned in by Elizabeth Hutson as the kind but firm Mary Poppins, Matt Conwell as Mary’s affable best friend Bert, Hope Fenning as the long suffering Winifred Banks, Cynthia Kaufman as Jane and Thomas Bowling as Michael, the Banks children. The production featured a cast, ensemble and extras divided into a “red team” and a “blue team” of children that switched off for the show’s five performances which numbered over sixty participants.
In terms of the aforementioned ambitiousness of Summer Stock Stage, nowhere was its payoff greater than in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time,” with tap dancing chimney sweeps and Bert’s precarious proscenium walk. Deserving of high praise for her superb choreography is Cherri Jaffee. Kudos as well to the rigging company hired by Summer Stock Stage who made Bert’s walk and Mary’s flying possible and Troy Trinkle for his “aerial” choreography.
Also contributing to the production’s outstanding quality were artist Kyle Ragsdale’s sets which followed his distinctive style, Michael Moffatt’s always effective lighting design, Jeanne Bowling’s arresting costumes and Ben Dobler’s impeccable sound design.
For more information about Summer Stock Stage visit www.summersstockstage.com.
“Darrian Ford: The Music of Sam Cooke”
Broadway performer (“State Fair”), dancer (Alvin Ailey), television actor (HBO’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”) and recording artist Darrian Ford made his Cabaret at the Columbia Club debut Friday, July 24, the first of two night engagement. Accompanied by his music director John Cicora on guitar, Kael Myboa on piano, Tim Ipsen on bass, Aflonzo Jones on drums and Jaymes Osborne on background and additional vocals, Ford presented “Darrian Ford: The Cooke Book: The Music of Sam Cooke” to a sold-out crowd.
Cooke (1931-1964) was a singer-songwriter and recording artist, known as “The King of Soul.” He had 30 U.S. top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964 and was known for his distinctive vocals and his importance to popular music.
Ford, a non-stop ball of energy as evidenced by the heavy sweating he did throughout his show, did not impersonate Cooke but rather captured his essence through a more than worthy interpretation of many of the late singer’s best known songs. Infusing each song with his own dynamic stylings, Ford’s set list included “Another Saturday Night,” “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang,” “The Best Things in Life are Free,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Bring it on Home to Me,” “Cupid” and “A Change is Going to Come.”
Along the way, Ford, who projected a warm and charming personality, introduced songs with background about each as well as information related to Cooke’s career and his impact on popular music.
Ford’s encore consisted of his own original tune “Brother’s Keeper,” which will be on his first CD, “The New Standard,” which will be released in August, as well as two more Cooke hits, “You Send Me” and “Ain’t That Good News.”
After seeing Ford’s show, it occurred to this writer that if James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, then this gregarious, irrepressible performer wasn’t far behind.
For tickets and information about the remainder of the 2015-2016 Cabaret at the Columbia Club summer/fall season call (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.