Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review, Compliment: In “Johnny Johnson,” Johnny Came Home Damaged — Really Damaged — from the War to End All Wars

http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2014/11/in-johnny-johnson-johnny-came-home-damaged-really-damaged-from-the-war-to-end-all-wars/


Kenan Theatre Company guest director Serena Ebhardt and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill music professor Dr. Tim Carter succeeded beyond our already high expectations in bringing Paul Green and Kurt Weill’s1936 production of Johnny Johnson, to the stage in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the UNC Center for Dramatic Art. The show is a first-class smash. This presentation will set the standard for future productions as well as establish this script over the other versions lying around. Its anti-war theme is developed early on and just keeps on building till the last song, “Johnny’s Song,” is sung.

The story line has Johnny, a monument maker, being persuaded, eventually, by his girlfriend, to enlist in the Army when America joins the war in Europe in 1917. It is not a happy decision for Johnny, who is inept as a soldier, pacifist and strong-willed. His adventures and misadventures keep him in hot water with the brass; his heroics are misinterpreted and eventually he is discharged less than honorably. In the meantime, the girlfriend has married his rival and life pretty much falls apart for him. All of this is done with musical and dance accompaniment and hilarious anecdotes, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, whose famous “Shoulder Arms” is played in part as prologue to the show.

The song-and-dance routines involve mind-bending bodily postures emulating the wounded, and some very clever marches that manage to be whimsical and military at once. Portions of the story as well are told using projections from silent films and other art work.

Eighteen actors played 68 roles, all dressed in khaki uniforms and using over-dress costumes to identify their various parts. Costumer Sam Kate Toney has done a remarkable job of keeping it simple and expressing individual character. Choreographer Heather Tatreau has devised extraordinary, stylized dances and movements that are both heart-wrenching and hilarious, and some otherwise unreferenced stories are told within the frame of dance as well.

Set designer Julia Warren has erected a structure that serves well as Chickamauga Hill, a cannon emplacement, a church, and several different rooms, all with minimal effort to effect, and a clear understanding of their purpose. Rolling pieces establish spaces and also carry props, making for efficiency in scene changes.

Projection designer Cameron Kania places important elements of the storytelling in appropriate spots at appropriate times, enhancing the sense of technical ensemble this piece requires. The obvious teamwork, artistic, mechanical, performance, and musical is amply demonstrated. The use of a full 15-piece orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Evan Feldman, to support the cast and fill the gaps rounds out the extreme professionalism that is the hallmark of this show.

Director Serena Ebhardt has woven a formidable array of talent, discipline, and community to create this enviable feat of theater. The UNC student presentation of Johnny Johnson is wonderfully understated, showing the grit, determination, and integrity of the title character — even in his final duress. Andrew Plotnikov is the perfect model for Johnny Johnson.

Annie Keller gives us Minny Belle Thompkins, Johnny’s would-be girlfriend, who dumps him for a guy who lies to get out of the Army. Minny Belle’s absence of character is hard to accept given Keller’s beautiful voice, which soars operatically.

Among other roles, Emma Gutt glistens as the mad psychiatrist, Dr. Mahodan, so crippled with her own psychoses that she cannot keep her body in control; and Gutt creates postures and faces that seem impossible. Rachel Tuton’s marvelous voice soothes the ailing Johnny, as the French Nurse, and her accent is endearing. Caitlyn Carmean brings a gripping pathos to her role as Aggie Thompkins, Minny Belle’s mother.

Captain Valentine is simply divine in the hands of Cressler Peele, who camps up the officer’s character in great style. Matt Verner brings an appropriate priggishness to a West Point lieutenant who shows his true colors in the end. To pick out just a few like this almost does an injustice to the rest of the cast, whose performances were all delightful and heartfelt.

That is the hard side of reviewing such a well-executed show. Our hats are off to the entire cast, and we fervently wish Johnny Johnson could have a much longer run. This is the premier performance of this version of Johnny Johnson, courageously brought to us by the Kenan Theatre Company and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Dramatic ArtDepartment of Music, and Institute for the Arts and Humanities. It is a play with music that deserves to be seen by more audiences during the centennial of World War I — especially by people who enjoy theater and seek peace.

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 21st Raleigh, NC CVNC review by the Alan R. Hallhttp://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7088; Nov. 20th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by the Sindhu Chidambaram http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/11/kenan-theatre-company-lauds-veterans and Jan. 8th preview by the Karishma Patelhttp://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/01/tim-carter-feature-0109. Nov. 19th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with director Serena Ebhardt, UNC music professor Dr. Tim Carter, and actors Andrew Plotnikov and Kyle Strickenberger, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/chapel-hill-playwrights-social-commentary-world-war-i; Nov. 14th Durham, NC Herald-Sunpreview by Cliff Bellamyhttp://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x205865692/In-another-time-UNC-presents-restored-version-of-WWI-musical (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Oct. 5th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by the BWW News Deskhttp://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/UNC-Presents-World-Premiere-of-New-JOHNNY-JOHNSON-Musical-1120-24-20141005; and (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 14th Triangle Review preview by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2014/11/johnny-johnson-is-a-harsh-reminder-that-the-war-to-end-all-wars-didnt/.)

The Kenan Theatre Company, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Departments of Dramatic Art and Music, and the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities present JOHNNY JOHNSON at 5 p.m. Nov. 24 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the UNC campus. 

TICKETS: $10 ($5 students with ID). 

BOX OFFICE: http://drama.unc.edu/johnnyjohnson/

SHOW: http://drama.unc.edu/johnnyjohnson/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/278207785711227/

PRESENTERS: 

Kenan Theatre Company: http://drama.unc.edu/ktc/ and https://www.facebook.com/KenanTheatreCompany

UNC Department of Dramatic Art: http://drama.unc.edu/

UNC Department of Music: http://music.unc.edu/

UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities: http://iah.unc.edu/

CAST BLOG: http://drama.unc.edu/2014/10/29/johnny-johnson-cast-blog/

VENUE: http://playmakersrep.org/aboutus/kenan

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo.

OTHER LINKS: 

Johnny Johnson (1936 Broadway musical) http://www.kwf.org/kurt-weill/weill-works/28-weill-works/weill-works/160-j6main (Kurt Weill Foundation for Music), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=4921 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Johnson_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia). 

Kurt Weill (German composer, 1900-50) http://www.kwf.org/ (Kurt Weill Foundation for Music), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7112 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Weill(Wikipedia). 

Paul Green (Lillington, NC-born dramatist and lyricist, 1894-1981) http://www.paulgreen.org/ (official website), http://www.paulgreen.org/foundation.html (Paul Green Foundation), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8043(Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Green_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia). 

Serena Ebhardt (director) http://www.ebzb.org/serena/ (EbzB Productions bio). 

A Year-Long Conversation: World War I — The Legacy: http://iah.unc.edu/news/newsarchive/2013/WWI (UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

Compliment, Review: Johnny Johnson at Kenan Theatre Company

“Johnny Johnson” was a great production all around, for many reasons. The show is certainly not one that plays itself and must have a creative vision and understanding to get it across. Your direction made it feel all of a piece with each segment part of defined arc. The pacing was astonishingly tight and so satisfying to see the actors understand what it takes to make a show vibrant. And the actors were on the same track, all so wonderfully aware of the need to stay focused and keep to the established world of the show. In such a large cast, it was significant that, no matter the size of the part, everyone contributed at the highest level.

The physical production added so much to the enjoyment of the production, not only from the historical perspective but in the clever use of certain photos for commentary and others for artistic and spacial impact. The orchestra was a show on its own, so marvelously right for Weill’s special musical world. The choreography had an intriguing layer of commentary on its own. And the idea of everyone being in military garb with just costume pieces added for non-military characters was brilliant.

It’s rare to say that there’s nothing wrong with a production but I’d be sorely pressed to find something. You and the whole cast and crew deserve high accolades for this impressively committed endeavor, especially with such non-standard material. Thanks for a fine afternoon of theater.


Roy Dicks
Triangle Theater Critic

Night Before Christmas Carol, The Cary Theatre, December 12, 2014

‘The Night Before Christmas Carol’ Presented by EBZB Productions
Where and when: The Cary Theater, Cary, NC Dec. 12
Target audience: Older teens and adults
Description: Actor David zum Brunnen portrays Charles Dickens in his study on Christmas Eve, 1843, the night the author dreams up the tale that will become a holiday classic.
Watch for: The creation of 17 different characters merely through hats, scarves and shawls, as well as a wide variety of accents.
Tickets and info: $10 (seniors $8). 919-462-2051 or  thecarytheater.com


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/11/29/4362893/holiday-stage-shows-for-triangle.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: Johnny Johnson, Directed by Serena Ebhardt

http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2014/11/in-johnny-johnson-johnny-came-home-damaged-really-damaged-from-the-war-to-end-all-wars/


JohnnyJohnsonPOSTER-KenanTheatreCompany2014

Kenan Theatre Company guest director Serena Ebhardt and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill music professor Dr. Tim Cartersucceeded beyond our already high expectations in bringing Paul Green and Kurt Weill’s 1936 production of Johnny Johnson, to the stage in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the UNC Center for Dramatic Art. The show is a first-class smash. This presentation will set the standard for future productions as well as establish this script over the other versions lying around. Its anti-war theme is developed early on and just keeps on building till the last song, “Johnny’s Song,” is sung.

The story line has Johnny, a monument maker, being persuaded, eventually, by his girlfriend, to enlist in the Army when America joins the war in Europe in 1917. It is not a happy decision for Johnny, who is inept as a soldier, pacifist and strong-willed. His adventures and misadventures keep him in hot water with the brass; his heroics are misinterpreted and eventually he is discharged less than honorably. In the meantime, the girlfriend has married his rival and life pretty much falls apart for him. All of this is done with musical and dance accompaniment and hilarious anecdotes, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, whose famous “Shoulder Arms” is played in part as prologue to the show.

The song-and-dance routines involve mind-bending bodily postures emulating the wounded, and some very clever marches that manage to be whimsical and military at once. Portions of the story as well are told using projections from silent films and other art work.

Eighteen actors played 68 roles, all dressed in khaki uniforms and using over-dress costumes to identify their various parts. Costumer Sam Kate Toney has done a remarkable job of keeping it simple and expressing individual character. Choreographer Heather Tatreau has devised extraordinary, stylized dances and movements that are both heart-wrenching and hilarious, and some otherwise unreferenced stories are told within the frame of dance as well.
Set designer Julia Warren has erected a structure that serves well as Chickamauga Hill, a cannon emplacement, a church, and several different rooms, all with minimal effort to effect, and a clear understanding of their purpose. Rolling pieces establish spaces and also carry props, making for efficiency in scene changes.

Projection designer Cameron Kania places important elements of the storytelling in appropriate spots at appropriate times, enhancing the sense of technical ensemble this piece requires. The obvious teamwork, artistic, mechanical, performance, and musical is amply demonstrated. The use of a full 15-piece orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Evan Feldman, to support the cast and fill the gaps rounds out the extreme professionalism that is the hallmark of this show.

Director Serena Ebhardt has woven a formidable array of talent, discipline, and community to create this enviable feat of theater. The UNC student presentation of Johnny Johnson is wonderfully understated, showing the grit, determination, and integrity of the title character — even in his final duress. Andrew Plotnikov is the perfect model for Johnny Johnson.
Annie Keller gives us Minny Belle Thompkins, Johnny’s would-be girlfriend, who dumps him for a guy who lies to get out of the Army. Minny Belle’s absence of character is hard to accept given Keller’s beautiful voice, which soars operatically.

Among other roles, Emma Gutt glistens as the mad psychiatrist, Dr. Mahodan, so crippled with her own psychoses that she cannot keep her body in control; and Gutt creates postures and faces that seem impossible. Rachel Tuton’s marvelous voice soothes the ailing Johnny, as the French Nurse, and her accent is endearing. Caitlyn Carmean brings a gripping pathos to her role as Aggie Thompkins, Minny Belle’s mother.

Captain Valentine is simply divine in the hands of Cressler Peele, who camps up the officer’s character in great style. Matt Verner brings an appropriate priggishness to a West Point lieutenant who shows his true colors in the end. To pick out just a few like this almost does an injustice to the rest of the cast, whose performances were all delightful and heartfelt.

That is the hard side of reviewing such a well-executed show. Our hats are off to the entire cast, and we fervently wish Johnny Johnson could have a much longer run. This is the premier performance of this version of Johnny Johnson, courageously brought to us by the Kenan Theatre Company and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Dramatic ArtDepartment of Music, and Institute for the Arts and Humanities. It is a play with music that deserves to be seen by more audiences during the centennial of World War I — especially by people who enjoy theater and seek peace.




SECOND OPINION: Nov. 21st Raleigh, NC CVNC review by the Alan R. Hallhttp://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7088; Nov. 20th Chapel Hill, NC 

Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by the Sindhu Chidambaram http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/11/kenan-theatre-company-lauds-veterans and Jan. 8th preview by the Karishma Patelhttp://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/01/tim-carter-feature-0109. Nov. 19th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with director Serena Ebhardt, UNC music professor Dr. Tim Carter, and actors Andrew Plotnikov and Kyle Strickenberger, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/chapel-hill-playwrights-social-commentary-world-war-i; Nov. 14th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamyhttp://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x205865692/In-another-time-UNC-presents-restored-version-of-WWI-musical (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Oct. 5th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleighpreview by the BWW News Deskhttp://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/UNC-Presents-World-Premiere-of-New-JOHNNY-JOHNSON-Musical-1120-24-20141005; and (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 14th Triangle Review preview by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2014/11/johnny-johnson-is-a-harsh-reminder-that-the-war-to-end-all-wars-didnt/.)
The Kenan Theatre Company, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Departments of Dramatic Art and Music, and the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities present JOHNNY JOHNSON at 5 p.m. Nov. 24 in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the UNC campus. 
TICKETS: $10 ($5 students with ID). 
PRESENTERS: 
UNC Department of Dramatic Art: http://drama.unc.edu/
UNC Department of Music: http://music.unc.edu/
UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities: http://iah.unc.edu/
OTHER LINKS: 
Johnny Johnson (1936 Broadway musical) http://www.kwf.org/kurt-weill/weill-works/28-weill-works/weill-works/160-j6main (Kurt Weill Foundation for Music), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=4921 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Johnson_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia). 
Kurt Weill (German composer, 1900-50) http://www.kwf.org/ (Kurt Weill Foundation for Music), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7112 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Weill (Wikipedia). 
Paul Green (Lillington, NC-born dramatist and lyricist, 1894-1981) http://www.paulgreen.org/ (official website), http://www.paulgreen.org/foundation.html (Paul Green Foundation), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8043 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Green_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia). 
Serena Ebhardt (director) http://www.ebzb.org/serena/ (EbzB Productions bio). 
A Year-Long Conversation: World War I — The Legacy: http://iah.unc.edu/news/newsarchive/2013/WWI (UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities).
EDITOR’S NOTE:
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WUNC Radio Interview on Johnny Johnson with Serena Ebhardt, Tim Carter, and cast members.



Listen to WUNC's State of Things Interview with the artists from the UNC Production of Johnny Johnson by Paul Green and Kurt Weill...

http://wunc.org/post/chapel-hill-playwrights-social-commentary-world-war-i




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kenan Theatre Company presents restored version of ‘Johnny Johnson’ Nov. 20-24, 2014

Directed by Serena Ebhardt, Guest Professor. http://uncnews.unc.edu/2014/10/14/kenan-theatre-company-presents-restored-version-johnny-johnson-nov-20-24/


Paul Green, Jr. and The Cast of KTC's Johnny Johnson

Kenan Theatre Company presents restored version of ‘Johnny Johnson’ Nov. 20-24

For immediate use

Kenan Theatre Company presents restored version of ‘Johnny Johnson’ Nov. 20-24

Musical play written by UNC playwright Paul Green and German composer Kurt Weill and performed by UNC students is part of a year-long conversation on the legacy of World War I

(Chapel Hill, N.C.—Oct. 14, 2014) – The world premiere of the restored version of “Johnny Johnson”by Paul Green and Kurt Weillwith text and music not heard since 1937, will be staged at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Nov. 20-24.

Performances will take place in the Kenan Theatre, Center for Dramatic Art, on Nov. 20 at 8 p.m., Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. (with a post-show discussion), Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. (with a pre-show symposium), Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10; $5 for students. For reservations and information, visithttp://drama.unc.edu/johnnyjohnson/.

The musical play is set during World War I, and the cast is composed of UNC students, 18 to 22 years old — the same age of soldiers who sacrificed their lives “over there” 100 years ago.

In the play, lowly tombstone cutter Johnny Johnson is persuaded to enlist in the U.S. Army both by his sweetheart, Minny Belle Tompkins, and by President Woodrow Wilson’s promise of “a war to end all wars.” But Johnny is outraged by the absurdity of trench warfare and, by using laughing gas, fools the Allied generals into calling a cease-fire. Johnny is arrested, shipped back to America and locked up in a lunatic asylum for his “peace monomania.” Released some 20 years later, he makes a living selling handmade toys as war threatens again.

“Johnny Johnson” originated in the summer of 1936, when German-Jewish composer Kurt Weill visited Chapel Hill to team up with prominent North Carolina playwright and Carolina faculty member Paul Green. The play opened on Broadway on Nov. 19, but its acting company made drastic cuts before the premiere. Green and Weill restored those cuts when “Johnny Johnson” was picked up by the Federal Theatre Project, with productions in Boston and Los Angeles in May 1937. However, subsequent performances used the shortened text while the more complete version lay hidden in archives.

Some of this archival material survives in the Southern Historical Collection in UNC’s Wilson Library, some in the National Archives (College Park, Md.), and some in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University. These newly uncovered sources provided the basis for the critical edition of “Johnny Johnson” prepared by Tim Carter, David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at UNC and recently issued by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. The edition won the Claude V. Palisca Award of the American Musicological Society for an outstanding scholarly edition or translation in the field of musicology published during 2012.

The play is directed by Paul and Elizabeth Green Scholar and UNC alumna Serena Ebhardt.

Louise Toppin, professor and chair of the UNC music department, serves as musical director with Evan Feldman, also from the music department, as conductor. Heather Tatreau of the department of exercise and sport science is the choreographer. David Navalinsky, director of undergraduate productions for the department of dramatic art, serves as producer.

“Johnny Johnson” is part of a year-long conversation during 2014-2015 focused on the legacy of World War I. For more on The World War I Centenary Project, visit www.iah.unc.edu/WWI.

-Carolina-

Department of dramatic art contact: David Navalinsky, (919) 962-1557, dbnav@email.unc.edu
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr (919) 962-4093, spurrk@email.unc.edu

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