News Column

SummerStage kicks off with 7 shows in just 3 theater spaces

June 13, 2013



Seven different shows, from full-scale musicals to world- premiere dramas, from jazzy cabarets to stand-up comedy.

And they all have to fit into three separate theater spaces in the course of a single weekend.

In other words, it's just another opening weekend of SummerStage Tulsa, the annual celebration of the performing arts sponsored by the Tulsa PAC Trust.

When SummerStage Tulsa began in the mid-1980s, it was a way for local theater companies to expand their regular season with shows during the months when the Tulsa PAC's three Second Street theaters were typically empty.

The first year featured only four shows. The 2013 edition of SummerStage Tulsa has 24 events being presented by 19 different organizations.

SummerStage Tulsa officially began Tuesday, with Tulsa Shakespeare in the Park's production of "Much Ado About Nothing," being staged at the Guthrie Green. It's the first SummerStage Tulsa event ever to be presented someplace other than the Tulsa PAC.

Beginning Thursday, it will be business as usual in the lower level of the Tulsa PAC, as the Williams, Doenges and Norman theaters play host to a diverse array of theatrical fare.

Dale Sams plays the title role in "Jesus for the Defense," one of two plays Theatre Pops is presenting as part of SummerStage Tulsa. Courtesy 'OLD RED ON THE HEAD' & 'JESUS FOR THE DEFENSE'

By R. Dobie Langenkamp. Presented by Theatre Pops.

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Doenges Theatre $10- $15

(NOTE: For mature audiences)

Theatre Pops' first production of SummerStage this season (its annual monologue show, "Tinkerbell is Dead," will be in July) came about as a result of a guest at "Dinner."

"Dobie Langenkamp came to our production of 'Dinner with Friends' last season," said Theatre Pops artistic director Randall Whalen. "We got to talking, and he mentioned that he had written some plays.

"And I told him what I tell everyone who says they've written a play," Whalen said.

"I told him we didn't have any money, but if you want to hear them read, we'll get some actors together and do that."

Langenkamp, a Tulsa native, has been an attorney, a college professor, an oil man and a member of the Carter and Clinton administrations.

Writing has been a hobby since his retirement.

Whalen said of the plays: "I was pretty impressed by them, and I asked Dobie if I could work them over a bit. He agreed, and we decided to stage them for SummerStage."

"Old Red on the Head" is a oneact work about two friends who first meet in the Navy, then meet again 50 years later, where a casual conversation uncovers a betrayal that threatens the bond between them.

The title character in "Jesus for the Defense" is a lawyer who takes a job as a pro bono attorney for an Indian tribe. His first case is to defend a woman accused of murder, and Langenkamp uses the story to explore the inequities and injustices in the American legal system. THE CHERIL VENDETTI EXPERIENCE

8 p.m. Friday

Norman Theatre

Show is sold out

(NOTE: For mature audiences)

Comedian Cheril Vendetti has toured the country playing high- class clubs and lowclass dives, appeared on television, written a couple of books, and has been a regular performer at the Los Angeles Comedy Store.

So how did she end up living in Tulsa?

"I'm in the witness protection program," Vendetti said. "How else do East Coast Italians end up in the middle of the country?" Actually, Vendetti is here because her partner, Tonya Glass, is from Tulsa. They met several years ago when Vendetti was performing at a now defunct club in town, and following the birth of their daughter -- an event documented on the OWN network show "Deliver Me" -- Glass suggested they spend a year in her hometown.

"She still has a lot of family here, and all my family is either dead -- or in witness protection," Vendetti said. "I never know if I'm going to meet somebody I shouldn't know out here."

Vendetti's comedy has taken many forms, from stand-up routines to her book, "Mistress of the Mob Cuisine" (one explanation for all the witness-protection jokes).

For her first SummerStage Tulsa show, she plans to mix up ingredients from a number of different sources.

"I'm going to have my band, the Pasta Fazools, with me, so it will be a little like an old-style variety show," Vendetti said. "I like to say it's a combination of Totie Fields, Dame Edna and John Gotti -- kind of Vegasy, kind of dangerous.

"I got nothing against the 'Last Comic Standing' kind of comedian, someone who can stand there and reel off the jokes," she said, "but that's not me. I like to work with audiences, I like to go off on tangents -- to me, it's a compliment when people walk out of one my shows and say, 'What was that?' "

And although living in Oklahoma "definitely wasn't on my bucket list," Vendetti has grown quite fond of Tulsa in her time here.

"The thing is, I feel very creative here," she said. "Something about this place really stimulates that impulse."

She's finished a second book that she's shopping around, titled "From Diapers to Botox," done some acting jobs and is working on a show that would mix cooking and comedy.

Vendetti has also been able to experience Oklahoma weather -- a subject that confounds some of her friends on the coast.

"What they know about tornadoes they got from 'The Wizard of Oz,' " Vendetti said. "They think they last for days, like hurricanes."


With Cynthia Simmons

7 p.m. Saturday, Norman Theatre $18-$25 (save $3-$5 with Festival Pass)

Cynthia Simmons has performed a number of times at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, but this will be the Oklahoma City native's first solo cabaret show, being presented under the umbrella of Rebecca Ungerman's Spinning Plates Productions. The concert will follow the musical path that led Simmons to become a devotee of the Great American Songbook, with songs made famous by Aretha Franklin, Patti Austin, Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. 'QUEEN CLEOFIS COMES HOME'

With Rebecca Ungerman

9 p.m. Saturday, Norman Theatre $18-$25 (save $3-$5 with Festival Pass)

(NOTE: For mature audiences)

One of Tulsa's most popular entertainers takes on the persona of an aging chanteuse, Queen Cleofis, whose interpretations of the popular songs of the day were so outrageous that American audiences spurned her. So the Queen decamped to more welcoming places, most of them containing the word "east" in their names. But now the time has come for Queen Cleofis to return to her native land to rip and roar her way through songs by Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, The Eagles, The Commodores, Elton John, El DeBarge, Depeche Mode, Michael Jackson and Fountains of Wayne. 'HELLO, DOLLY!'

Presented by LOOK Musical Theatre

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and June 22, 25, 27; 2 p.m. June 23 and 29; 7 p.m. June 30 Williams Theatre

$20-$32 (save $5 with Festival Pass) Paula Broadwater is a little -- just a little -- reluctant to admit there is a character trait she shares with the character of Dolly Levi.

"I have a feeling some of my best friends would say that I have a tendency to meddle," Broadwater said.

"Of course, I only do so because I just want to help out my friends any way that I can. But I suppose they might not see it exactly in that way."

Still, it's in keeping the self-assessment Dolly Levi makes early on in "Hello, Dolly!" -- "Some people paint, some sew ... I meddle."

Broadwater is making her debut with LOOK Musical Theatre in the title role of its production of "Hello, Dolly!" that opens its 2013 season. It's also Broadwater's first time to perform outside her home of Mobile, Ala., in many years.

She's been a popular cabaret artist for many years and has also performed with the city's orchestra and its opera company.

It was through Mobile Opera that she became aware of LOOK Musical Theatre, when LOOK artistic director Eric Gibson directed the Mobile Opera's production of "The Light in the Piazza."

"I played the role of Margaret, and Eric and I hit it off quite well," Broadwater said.

"Still, it was a little surprising when he called me earlier this year and asked if I would come to Tulsa for 'Hello, Dolly!' But the minute he asked, I said 'I'm in.' " Based on the play "The Matchmaker" by Thornton Wilder, "Hello, Dolly!" is about a turn-of-the-20thcentury widow who makes her living bringing people together for the purposes of matrimony.

Only this time, Dolly's machinations are to convince one of her current clients, a wealthy merchant named Horace Vandergelder, that the only person he should marry is Dolly herself.

"Dolly is one of those people who is motivated entirely by good intentions -- regardless of the outcome," Broadwater said. "She thinks of herself as a problem solver, someone who just wants to help everyone she knows to see the positive things in life."

The role has been performed by a number of larger-than-life actresses, from Carol Channing, who originated the role on Broadway (and performed it in Tulsa in 1996) to Barbra Streisand, who played it in the 1969 film.

"I really tried to start from scratch in creating Dolly," Broadwater said.

"I've never seen Carol Channing do the role. I've seen the film, but that was years ago. I really didn't want to have anyone in my head when I set about coming up with this character."

"Hello, Dolly!" is also a dance-heavy show -- something of a challenge for someone used to performing in cabaret settings.

"Vocally it's a good fit, but when you add all the choreography and costumes, it's quite a workout," she said.

"Since we're not using amplification, you have to be aware of your breath control, so you can move as you're supposed to and still deliver the music with gusto."

If Broadwater had to pick a favorite moment in the show, "It would probably be 'Before the Parade Passes By,' " she said. "It's such a lovely song, and I love the sentiment it contains, where Dolly realizes that she really needs to get back into the human race again.

"That's probably my favorite moment, but then again," Broadwater said, "nothing can really top the 'Hello, Dolly!' number, where you're being sung to by 25 or so handsome young men. That'll send chills down any girl's spine." 'SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM'

Presented by LOOK Musical Theatre 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. June 23, 28 Williams Theatre

$20-$32 (save $5 with Festival Pass)

Many of the best shows LOOK Musical Theatre has presented have the words "Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim" below their titles.

Songs from those shows and many more make up "Side By Side By Sondheim," a musical revue that provides something more than a couple dozen memorable tunes. It also provides some insight into some of the themes that Sondheim explores in his work, as well as stories about how the songs worked in their original contexts, and the diverse musical styles Sondheim and his collaborators used.

T.J. Bowlin will serve as the Narrator, with Andrea Leap, Alixe Ward, Samantha Woodruff, Pete Brennan, Derick Snow and Sean Stewart as vocalists. Cathy Venable and Amy Cottingham will accompany on pianos. 'STEVE LANCASTER'S FAMILY MAGIC SHOW'

2 p.m. Sunday, Norman Theatre


Creating a new illusion or devising a new sleightof- hand trick isn't work for Steve Lancaster.

"That's the fun part for me," Lancaster said. "I always like to find ways of making a given trick or illusion my own -- to put a distinctive stamp on it.

"The work, though, is the refining of the routine," he said. "It's more than just practicing the physical action of the trick. It's getting all the details just so -- including the words you say.

It's all a part of the misdirection that makes magic work, leading the audience toward one conclusion before revealing that something else entirely has been going on.

"I like to do routines where people think they've caught on to what I'm doing because people like to try and figure a trick out," Lancaster said. "So they think they know where a trick is going, and then I'm able to come up with something they don't expect.

Lancaster's show is family-friendly magic, with a good deal of audience participation for young and old.

"We don't make fun of anybody, we just have fun with them," he said.

For this year's show, Lancaster will have an opening act: Deputy Du-Dah.

"He's a friend of mine from Oklahoma City who has been doing magic and clowning for about 30 years," Lancaster said. "It's kind of hard to describe his act because there's a lot of interaction with the audience. But he's done up as this Old West lawman, hence the name.

Festival Pass

SummerStage Tulsa offers a Festival Pass, which gives discounts when one purchases tickets to any three participating shows. Festival Passes can be purchased only at the PAC ticket office or by calling 918-596-7109. For more information: When: Through July 27

Where: Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St.

Tickets: Varies by show. 918-596-7111,

Originally published by JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer.

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