Jesus Christ Superstar gets a modern makeover

The Omaha Community Playhouse has given Jesus Christ Superstar a makeover. The 1970 musical from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber will forgo its usual robes and sandals in favor of business suits and Converse. Director and choreographer Kimberly Faith Hickman, known for work on such Tony Award-winning Broadway shows as Clybourne Park (assistant director to Pam McKinnon) and The Assembled Parties (assistant director to Lynne Meadow), answered a few questions about the upcoming production.

What's your relationship with Jesus Christ Superstar? Have you worked on it before?
This is my first time working on Jesus Christ Superstar. I knew many of the songs already, but somehow I have never had the opportunity to work on the show prior to now. 

What aspects of the musical speak to you? 
I really love these characters, particularly Judas and Pilate (I know, I know...the "bad" guys!) I have always been drawn to characters whose life choices aren't always similar to my own. I welcome any opportunity to learn what makes a person tick. I think this musical does a fantastic job of exploring not only Jesus, but also Judas and Pilate. Why did Judas betray Jesus? Why did Pilate ultimately go along with the decision to crucify Christ? I also love that this musical explores the idea of purpose. What are we put here on Earth to do? Will we accomplish it? With Jesus Christ Superstar, we get to explore answers to those questions.   

Costume renderings by Costume Designer Lydia Dawson

What inspired the modern take?
Many theatres are starting to approach this story through a modern lens. It makes the story more accessible for today's audiences. The themes of this story are absolutely timeless: love, hope, forgiveness, betrayal, jealousy and most of all, purpose. All of these characters ask themselves, “How will I be remembered when I am gone?" We all ask ourselves that question at some point in our lives. There are fragments of these characters that can be found within ourselves if we look close enough.

How have rehearsals been? Any interesting stories and/or discoveries with the cast? 
Rehearsals have been a blast. The talent in this show is unbelievable. There are some faces in our show that will be familiar to OCP audience members and there are many new faces as well. What continues to astound me is the age range of our actors. Our youngest cast member is 13. Our oldest cast member is 63. That alone is a testament to the power and popularity of this musical and how it has maintained its relevancy for over 40 years.   

Jesus Christ Superstar set designed by Jim Othuse
What key elements have gone into the new retelling? 
The costume and set design were the key factors to approaching this in a contemporary way. Lydia Dawson (costume designer), Jim Othuse (scenic and lighting designer) and I spent a lot of time looking at photographs that reflected the political landscape of the last 10 years. We combed through images of cities where various rallies took place and these provided a lot of inspiration for our staging of Jesus Christ Superstar. Similar to our politicians of today, King Herod and Pilate are wearing suits. Similar to our activists of today, Jesus is a guy in a t-shirt, jeans and Converse sneakers. We wanted this production to look like the world we are living in now.     

How has the new spin influenced the way you've approached the text and music? 
Though the characters do not look as if they are living in a Biblical time, we haven't changed the lyrics or music in any way. Finding modern day parallels to the stories in the Bible has been quite interesting, and incorporating modern day behavior (use of cell phones and technology for example) has been very exciting. Anyone and everyone can be a celebrity these days. We are living in an age of social media where we "share" everything that we do whether it is through a photo, video or status update. As we have rehearsed with this modern day approach in mind, we discovered that while many things have changed since the time of Christ, many things also remain the same.

How do you think the audience will react to the departure from the classic 1970s-era depiction of JCS
I think it may surprise some people. There may be expectations of Jesus having long hair and wearing a white tunic. Instead he has short hair and wears blue jeans. But once they get past the visual surprise, I think they will find that the story, the purity of these characters and this amazing rock score remains fully intact. I can't wait for the work of this amazing cast and production team to be introduced to audiences. 

You can see the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, running March 6–April 4, 2015 (no performance on Easter, April 5); Wednesday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.

Story by Noah Diaz

Who will drive away with the American dream?

The Hands on a Hardbody competition is right around the corner, and we here at the Floyd King Nissan dealership in Longview, TX couldn’t be more dog gone excited! The rules of the competition are simple: don’t take your hand off the truck. The last man – or woman – standing will drive away with a new pickup truck. Or as we like to call it…the American dream. A Nissan Hardbody would be a valuable addition to any Texan’s life. We asked a few of the selected contestants what they plan to do with that shiny new Hardbody if they win.

Rebecca Noble as
Norma Valverde
Norma Valverde
About Norma: I have an associate's degree and work as a paraprofessional at Longview Elementary. My goal is to go back to school and get my teaching degree so that I can teach 3rd grade. I am married to Ramon, who came to this country as a teenager. We have four children, ages 14, 12, 10 and 8. We struggle financially, but I know that God will always take care of us and will provide for us. We laugh a lot as a family and, though we do not have a lot of material goods, we have a wonderful time together! We attend the Missionary Baptist Church in Longview. It is my family church where I was baptized and all my children were baptized. Ramon was raised in the Catholic Church, but he now attends Missionary Baptist.

Why are you competing for this truck, Norma?
We have a very old Chevy Blazer that does not always start. Ramon lost his job about three months ago, and it has been difficult for him to go out and look for a new job without a working car. This truck would enable Ramon to go out and get a job, and that would help our family immensely.

Michael Castillo as
Jesus Peña
Jesus Peña
About Jesus: I was born in Loredo, TX - American by birth.

Why are you competing for this truck, Jesus?
The truck is nice and all, but I honestly want the truck so I can sell it. I'm trying to get in Veterinarian school and grants only pay for so much. If I win then I am guaranteed to enroll in Texas A&M. My future rides on this contest.

Janis Curtis
About Janis: Me and my husband Don have six kids, almost grown and out of the house–Whew! The fights for the bathroom–Hoo doggie!

Why are you competing for this truck, Janis?
I will win this truck because believe you me I finish what I start! I think I will look real pretty in this red beauty and then we can have the kids fight over the junker we currently have. Don will be my support crew and has promised that he will be there to see me to the end. He is real handy and is looking for work pretty much anywhere! So someone hire him as he is a good man and a hard worker. He is my rock. I look forward to a clean, fair contest. I can't stand cheaters.

Megan Ingram as Heather Stovall
Heather Stovall
About Heather: I'm currently working as a hostess/waitress at the Rib Shack. I grew up in Longview, TX and only moved away for a short bit to go to college, but I came right back!

Why are you competing for this truck, Heather?
I don't have a car of my own, so I have to ride my bike anywhere I want to go. I want the freedom the truck will give me. I never want to ride my damn bike ever again! Nothing will be able to hold me back from doing what I want, when I want.

Chris Ebke as Chris Alvaro
Chris Alvaro
About Chris: I grew up here and went to Longview High School. Right after graduation, I joined the United States Marine Corps. I trained at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. After graduation I moved back to Texas and met and married my wife, Mia. I was called to duty for the Afghanistan Civil War. I left Mia, pregnant with our son Cole, and served my country. After three years I am back, and trying to figure out my life after the military.

Why are you competing for this truck, Chris?
I need a distraction. The USMC strained my relationship with Mia, and I came home to a son who doesn't know me. The thoughts of war are still fresh in mind and Mia will never understand what it did to me. I'm hoping I can use this opportunity to gain clarity on how to become a better man, husband, and, most importantly, father to Cole. He deserves the best I can give, after I haven't been there for him early on. I hope to use the truck as reliable transportation for my job (whatever that may be) and spending more quality time with Mia and Cole to build a solid family.

Do you want to cheer on your favorite contestant? Tickets for Hands on a Hardbody (Feb. 13-March 22, 2015) are available by calling (402) 553-0800, visiting the OCP Box Office or by clicking here. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. If you visit the Box Office after noon the day of the show, tickets are half price.

Local Generosity Brings Improvements to OCP

The Omaha Community Playhouse may be 90 years old, but it is anything but dated. Examples can be found in the constant change and innovation to our facility. If you visited recently for A Christmas Carol or Yesterday & Today, you may have noticed there is a new entrance/exit between our Scott Lobby outside the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre and the Drew Foundation Plaza.
OCP's Scott Lobby with the new doors to the Drew Foundation Plaza
In 2004, OCP opened the beautiful Drew Foundation Plaza, and to date, the most frequent comment when patrons see the Plaza is, “Wow, I had no idea this was here.” While the Plaza was designed to intentionally provide shelter from the noise and traffic of Cass Street, its lack of visibility both from outside and within OCP has served as a barrier to its use. Not only have we created a more visible doorway but this project has also transformed the Drew Foundation Plaza into a place for our patrons and our community to gather and connect with one another, provide a space for pre- and post-show events and act as an additional exit for patrons in case of emergency.

OCP is thankful for the generosity of Marshall and Mona Faith, who made this project possible. Enjoy the Plaza!

Little Women, the musical cast and crew relate to the characters

Little Women is a classic tale that has impacted many including the cast and production members of the Omaha Community Playhouse’s upcoming musical production. Those involved with the production discovered similarities with the characters, found friends in the novel and felt the bond of sisterhood as strongly as the March sisters.

I read ‘Little Women’ growing up and have always loved it! It is such a classic story, and I continue to be inspired by it. I have always related to Amy (the character that I am playing) because I am the youngest in my family (I have two older brothers). I definitely understand her feelings of being left out and always following in the footsteps of her older siblings. I wanted to be a part of this production because I am thrilled to FINALLY have some "on-stage" sisters.” – Jen Morris (Amy March)


Back row: Leanne Hill Carlson as Meg and Hilary Williams as Jo (stand in); Front row: Jen Morris as Amy, Camille Metoyer Moten as Marmee and Carly Schneider as Beth
I read the book as a child, followed by reading ‘Little Men.’ I loved the book. It was very endearing and at the time, seemed like a young girl’s best friend. I did watch the movie, the 1949 version. It made those wonderful characters seem like real sisters, real friends, filling my teenage mind at the time with long lasting friendships. It’s a lovely production that takes you back to your childhood: a life of innocence and the dreams of being an adult, let alone taking you back to a romantic time period that most of us wish we could visit." – Lara Marsh (Nebraska Theatre Caravan company manager)

L-R: Jen Morris as Amy, Hilary Williams as Jo (stand in), Tim Abou-Nasr as Laurie, Leanne Hill Carlson as Meg and Carly Schneider as Beth
 I have been a voracious reader since I first began to string together sentences with ‘Dick and Jane.’ ‘Little Women’ was a beloved stop on my journey with books. I've read it dozens of times over the years identifying with a different character as I grew, but never falling less in love with the words. I had the paper dolls; I watched the old film version with my grandmother; and my love affair with the book will never end. My favorite connection to Little Women, however, is the relationship I have with my own little sister. We are extremely close; not your ordinary loving sister relationship. When people ask me about my sister, for years the only way I've been able to give justice to the way I feel about our special bond is to say, ‘We are the March sisters. Courtney is my Beth!’ The first time I listened to the musical soundtrack, I came across the song ‘Some Things are Meant to Be.’ It instantly became one of my favorite musical theatre songs, always ending in a tearful, 'I love you so much!' call with my Courtney. I was so tickled to be cast as Beth in the OCP production; I have the best inspiration a girl could ask for in my baby sister!” – Carly Schneider (Beth March)

I tried to read ['Little Women'} when I was young, but got impatient. About a year later, I saw part of the movie on cable - the really sad part. My best friend growing up had died of Leukemia just a few months earlier, and watching the sisters grieve like that was just too much for a fifth grader. It was years before I was even vaguely interested in the story again, but I've always loved historical fiction. And I'd had a thing for Christian Bale ever since Newsies, so some time in high school, I gave it a second chance, and I loved it! I'm so looking forward to another opportunity to engage with this great story of love, family, independence, and of course, passion of language.” – Suzanne Withem (stage manager)

See the musical Little Women at the Omaha Community Playhouse Jan. 23-Feb.22, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets for adults are $30 and tickets for students are $20. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, click here or visit the Box Office located in the southeast corner of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St.

Story by Madison Denkinger

Hands On A Hardbody Cast Announced

Production:        Hands On A Hardbody
Show Dates:       Feb. 13-March 22, 2015
Director:              Hilary Adams
Character                            Actor
JD Drew                              Don Keelan-White
Kelli Mangrum                   Huma Haq
Benny Perkins                    Jeffrey Pierce
Greg Wilhote                     Benjamin Allgire
Jesus Pena                          Michael Castillo
Chris Alvaro                        Chris Ebke
Ronald McCowan              Nik Whitcomb
Heather Stovall                  Megan Ingram
Virginia Drew                     Marguerite Bennett
Mike Ferris                         Matt Bross
Cindy Barnes                      Sarah Query
Norma Valverde                Rebecca Noble
Janis Curtis                          Sara Planck
Don Curtis                           Patrick Wolfe
Frank Nugent                     Christopher Scott

Tickets:                On sale Jan. 27, 2015

Jesus Christ Superstar Cast List

Jesus Christ Superstar
March 6-April 5, 2015
Tickets on sale Feb. 17, 2015

Roderick Cotton               Judas
John Gajewski                 Jesus
Roni Perez                       Mary
Joey Galda                       Simon
Jimmy Nguyen                 Peter
Jerry Van Horn                 Herod
Mike Markey                     Pilate
Cork Ramer                      Caiphas
Zach Kloppenborg            Annas

Cale Bracker
Kelsey Burns
Jason DeLong
Erin Florea
Adam Haverman
Angie Heim
Emma Johnson
Doriette Jordan
Maria Naylon
Samantha Quintana
Kelly Schlott
Alia Sedlacek
Hannah Segura
Nora Shelton
Emily Smith
Scott Van Den Top

Director/Choreographer: Kimberly Faith Hickman
Music Director: Jim Boggess

A Christmas Carol cast list

A Christmas Carol
Nov. 21-Dec. 23, 2014
For tickets, call (402) 553-0800, visit the OCP Box Office or click here.

Cale Bracker: FRED                       
Don Harris: JAKE/MAN AT CART                   
Sara Planck: NELL                           
Steve Krambeck: BOB CRATCHIT/DICK WILKINS               
Ian Hill: PETER CRATCHIT               
Addison LaFrance: FRANCIS CRATCHIT   
Morgan Ryan: BELINDA CRATCHIT           
Mackenzie Reidy: TIM CRATCHIT               
Don Keelan-White: JACOB MARLEY/MAN AT CART               
Kole Rowan:1ST SCHOOL BOY       
Grant Schneider: 3RD SCHOOL BOY       
Henry Wisneski: EBBY/MARLEY MINION               
Evelyn Hill: FAN                       
Adam Haverman: YOUNG SCROOGE               
Maria Naylon: BELLE FEZZIWIG               
Emily Mokrycki: MRS. CRATCHIT               
Sierra Lancaster: MARTHA CRATCHIT           
Lauren Anderson: MILLIE                   
Kathleen Pohlman: LUCY                       
Sean Michael Hill: TOPPER                   
Grayson Longe: BOY WITH SLED/MARLEY MINION           
Alexis Reynolds: LITTLE BO PEEP               
Natalie Reynolds: LITTLE BOY BLUE               
Joe Mokrycki: POULTERER
Jason DeLong: BEGGAR                   
Samantha Brown: CHESTNUT VENDOR           
Jenna Hager: ENSEMBLE
Josh Davis: ENSEMBLE               

Emma Gould        
Hannah-Kate Kinney
Anna Reilly
Isabella Reilly
Amina Teri
Grace Titus