Starting off this New theatre Year with Xanadu, ‘Foxfire,’ ‘The Women’

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Ellie Krug (left) as Kira and Desmond Thomas as Sonny Malone in Dayton Playhouse’s Xanadu, Jan. 20-Feb. 5; photos: Tina McPhearson

Have we recovered from all the celebrations yet? Our local theatres are doing all they can to help us wear cheerful expressions as winter continues in its fine Ohio mode! Well here we go, off to a new year, ready to be refreshed and entertained with community theater. Light-weight musicals and a folk tale-like offering, the season eases into entertainment that isn’t too serious or demanding. Seems like an appropriate beginning to get us in the mood for some of the very challenging programming yet to come.

Skating with Greek gods in Xanadu at Dayton Playhouse, Jan. 20–Feb. 5

The Playhouse is certainly feeling playful with its presentation of Xanadu, an unlikely combination of roller blades and Greek gods. The musical, with book by Douglas Carter Beane and music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, is just pure fun. The creators must be full of imagination and a good helping of goofy.

There are people on skates—roller skates. They interact with actors portraying gods, Greek gods or one who acts as a muse to Sonny Malone, played by Desmond Thomas. He’s a hapless chalk artist who has misplaced his creativity while retaining his heart of gold, and the best of his half brain. Clio, played by Ellie Krug, appears to have plenty of creativity or appears, literally having donned leg warmers and skates then assumed an Australian accent.

The remainder of the cast includes Ellie Krug again as Kira, Amy Askins as Melponeme, Tamar Fishbein as Calliope, Adee McFarland as Euterpe, Shanna Comacho as Erato, John Nussbaum as Thalia, Richard Waldeck as Terpsicore, and David Shough, a clarinet player who has become a real estate big wig. (No good can come of that.) Tina McPhearson directs with Judy Mansky as musical director, and Annette Looper as choreographer.

Xanadu runs Fridays through Sundays, Jan. 20–Feb. 5 at The Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. in downtown Dayton. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m. and the Sunday show begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for seniors, military, and students. To buy tickets or for more information, please visit DaytonPlayHouse.com or call 937.424.8477.

Beavercreek Theatre takes a trip to Appalachia in ‘Foxfire,’ Jan. 27–Feb. 5

When you enter the Beavercreek Theatre, Director Saul Caplan says, “I want you to feel like you’re just goin’ to visit some mountain folks sittin’ on the front porch.” Set designer Chris Harmon, always creative and inventive, has done everything he can to create that world. Hans Unser is in charge of set construction.

It takes sophistication to think simply while visualizing the complications of ramshackle old wood, classic in its own way. Caplan is that thinker, and he’s wildly enthusiastic about his presentation.

Susan Cooper and actor Hume Cronyn, worked together to create the play after the death of his wife Jessica Tandy. Cronyn and Hume were renowned icons of the golden years of Broadway stage and pictures of sophistication. “Foxfire” was based on interviews with real people, first done by high schoolers of the region and preserved in a magazine of the same name. The enormously popular Broadway play, that made its debut in 1982, was created from the wisdom gathered in those stories.

There is so much charm and appeal in the characters and their stories that people from all backgrounds simply fall in love with the honesty and directness they encounter.

“There’s a story focusing on family” Caplan says, “but probably not like any family you’ve visited before. We take the audience to a place most people have never been before: a forgotten corner of America.”

The cast is Julie Hauwiller playing Annie Nations, Dave Nickel as Hector Nations, Skyler McNeeley as Dillard Nations, Mary Snapp as Holly Burrellis, Shawn Hooks as Prince Carpenter, and Peter Wallace as Doctor.

Cronyn and Cooper wrote the lyrics and Jonathan Holtzman, the music. Mike Rousculp is the music coordinator. Gary Thompson designed the sound and John Falkenbach designed lighting. Kerry Simpson is assistant director and the stage manager is Shannon Fent, with Anne Heitker producing.

‘Foxfire’ runs two weekends, Jan. 27 to Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Beavercreek Community Theatre, 3868 Dayton Xenia Rd. in Beavercreek. For more information, please visit BCTheatre.org.

Ladies night at the Playhouse for ‘The Women’ auditions, Jan. 23 and 24

Robb Willoughby will direct this wry, funny depiction of women who have too much money and power (and time on their hands) to be produced come the weekends of March 10 and 19 at 7 p.m.  It’s an old play written in 1936 by Clare Boothe Luce, a master of gossip and innuendo. Have women basically changed? Of course times have, but we may be in for hearing and seeing more “upper crust denizens” in the near future. A play with no males on stage is bound to be interesting! Ten of the 30-some-odd women’s roles will be double cast.

‘The Women’ auditions take place Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 23 and 24 at the Playhouse in the Garden at 1301 E. Siebenthaler in downtown Dayton. Readings start at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit DaytonPlayhouse.com.

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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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