Local theater fans can still catch a rarely performed Kander and Ebb musical tonight, along with a fast-moving British farce and a love story by William Shakespeare:
Plucky heroine in ‘Flora’
What: The musical “Flora the Red Menace”
Where: Carthage College’s Wartburg Theatre, located in the David A. Straz Jr. Center on the north end of the campus, 2001 Alford Park Drive
When: The final performance is 7:30 tonight.
Cost: Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for senior citizens (55 and older) and $8 for students. Tickets can be purchased online at www.carthage.edu/tickets or at the door.
What’s it all about: “Flora the Red Menace” — a 1965 musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb — is not nearly as well known as their other Broadway shows, “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” For Carthage College theater professor Neil Scharnick, who is directing the show, that was part of the appeal, to offer a show that’s not so well known to the theater students or to the audience members.
The original 1965 production starred Liza Minnelli in the title role in her Broadway debut, for which she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Like “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” this show also features a headstrong heroine in Flora, a high school graduate who heads to New York City to make it in the fashion world. The show also has a strong dose of political content. Flora falls in love with Harry, a dedicated member of the Communist Party, though she herself is apolitical.
Though Minnelli won a Tony Award, at age 19, for the show, it closed after 87 performances and lost all of its $400,000 investment.
The musical was revived at the Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre in December 1987, with a new book by David Thompson. This time, the story was told as though it was a presentation by the Federal Theatre Project, part of the Works Progress Administration established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A company of actors played all the roles, with obvious props and scenery, not trying to hide the “amateur” look and feel of the show.
Carthage is performing the 1987 version of the show.
“As a theater historian,” Scharnick said, “this is interesting and exciting. The Federal Theatre Project really shaped American theater, and our students have the opportunity to step into that period.”
In the revival, he added, the story “is a lot stronger; in the original version, it is a bit scattered. They removed songs that weren’t working and rearranged some of the action.”
Ultimately, he said, “Kander and Ebb were trying to make a show about celebrating the individual over party and ideology and everything else. They don’t give answers to the questions they raise, but they do examine how the Communist and capitalist systems both beat down and degrade the individual workers. If you know and admire their shows ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago,’ you’ll recognize this point of view.”
Battle of the sexes
What: Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
Where: The University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Black Box Theatre on the west side of the campus, 900 Wood Road
When: Performances are 7 tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday, continuing at 7 p.m. May 10-11 and 2 p.m. May 12.
Cost: Tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for senior citizens and faculty/staff and $10 for students. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 262-595-2564 or go online to www.uwp.edu.
What’s it all about: In this story, the king of Navarre convinces his three best friends to swear a three-year oath of chastity and contemplation, which is designed to help them focus their minds on academia. Immediately after making the pledge, however, the four men meet the princess of France and her ladies in waiting and instantly fall in love.
The young men’s studies soon give way to secret letters and amorous promises as the women set out to teach the men a thing or two about love.
Brian Gill, a UW-Parkside theater professor, is directing the show, which he say is, in the end, all about “that joyful feeling of being stupidly in love.”
Laughs, laughs, laughs
What: The fast-moving farce “Noises Off”
Where: Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St.
When: Performances are 7:30 tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday, continuing at 7:30 p.m. May 10-11.
Cost: Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and students. Tickets are available at www.rhodecenter.org or at the door.
What’s it all about: “Noises Off” — a 1982 play by Michael Frayn — takes place behind the scenes of a play. (The show’s title refers to a stage direction indicating sounds can be heard coming from offstage.)
The play’s three acts each contain a performance of the first act of a play within the play, a farce called “Nothing On.”
As the action progresses, everything that can go wrong in the performance does go wrong, including actors missing cues, grabbing the wrong props (including several plates of sardines) and flubbing lines of dialogue.
The first act is a rehearsal of the play-within-a-play; act two is a performance a month later; and act three is a performance near the end of the show’s 10-week run.