BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

When the touring production of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY came to Knight Theater in the spring of 2016, I can easily imagine CPCC Theatre set designer James Duke watching the rusticated wooden bridge as it descended from the fly loft. “We can do that!” he would be thinking to himself. And nearly 17 months later at Halton Theater, he has done it, in a spare, taciturn design style that works well with the Midwest – in this case, Iowa – ably complemented by Jeff Childs’ lighting design.

One additional inverted V goes a long way to simulating the lonely Johnson homestead where roaming National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid falls in love with Francesca, a stoically transplanted Italian housewife marooned on the prairie after raising a wholesome 4H family. Scenery pieces at ground level aren’t quite as mistakable for the touring version, largely because crew and cast shuffle them in and out of the wings with conspicuously less professional polish.

Once everything is set in place, the sound of the current CPCC Theatre production consistently overachieves. I can also imagine Rebecca Cook-Carter, CPCC Opera Theatre’s artistic director, looking at the touring version of MADISON COUNTY and saying, “We can do that!!” Look down in the orchestra pit at the Halton and you won’t find brass, woodwinds, and batteries of electric guitars and keyboards. Musicians are overwhelmingly classical string players, and their conductor, Craig Estep, has made valuable contributions to both theatrical and operatic productions at CP in the past.

In adapting the wildly popular bestseller by Robert James Waller, James Robert Brown’s score does occasionally soar toward opera in its ambitions when we listen to his melodies and orchestrations, both of which won Tony Awards. But there’s a very relaxed vibe to the roving photographer that contrasts with Francesca’s operatic frustrations, swooping toward chamber and country music. When the storyline detours toward the nosy neighbors and the raucous State Fair, velvety classical violins are likely to mutate into bluegrass fiddles.

If she hadn’t been on my radar in 2011, playing a supporting role in the CPCC Summer Theatre production of Hello, Dolly! I would have thought that Sarah Henkel was a genuine Italian neophyte as Francesca. Hand movements were shy, awkward, and clichéd at first when we looked at the opening wartime scene that tied Francesca’s fate to the uniformed Bud, who pales to humdrum farmer by the time we see him again in Iowa.

With Robert’s arrival, the shy awkwardness begins to work for Henkel, and as the couple’s intimacy increases, the fumbling and tentativeness dissolve, so there’s no longer a disconnect between Henkel’s actions and her soaring mezzo-soprano voice. I still missed a lot of the lyrics she was singing, but as passion took the place of preliminary exposition, that difficulty mattered much less. Compared with the virtually indecipherable Elizabeth Stanley on the national tour, Henkel was clarity itself.

Since I raved about Andrew Samonsky as the lanky dreamboat who captivated Francesca on tour, its no small compliment to say that Ryan Deal is nearly as fine as Robert. Deal may even be better at getting into the vagabond country lean of the music. As passionately as many local theatergoers might feel that he will never surpass his previous autumn exploits in Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz at the Halton, Deal delivers here, seemingly more comfortable in this music.

While Deal is not likely to be mistaken for a lean, rugged Marlboro man, the gap between him and Samonsky might have been bridged at least partially if Deal, along with director Cary Kugler and costume designer Rachel Engstrom, had seriously considered what a hippie looked like in 1965. To get instantly labeled as a hippie by a provincial Iowan, more hair and looser, more casual clothes are required. An untucked sport shirt just won’t do.

Politeness and consideration, mixed with a heavy sprinkling of artistic intensity, are also part of Robert’s appeal, and Deal conspires very nicely with Henkel on the chemistry of the mutual seduction. Looking at how Kugler directs and how Engstrom dresses the townsfolk, you will likely think that Marsha Norman borrowed heavily from Meredith Willson‘s Music Man in crafting the Iowans in her script.

Next door neighbors, Taffy Allen as Marge and Jeff Powell as Charlie, are exactly as you would expect. She’s unsatisfied unless she’s ferretted out every spec of scandalous gossip while, even when she’s most annoying, he can be mollified with a fresh slice of pie. Closer to the vortex of the central romance, Francesca’s family is humdrum rather than silly. Steven Martin as Bud, the husband, is a solid and confident blockhead, but we get the hint from Martin that some of his cocksureness comes from Francesca’s support.

Yet Bud is the primary reason that the kids need Mom. Gabe Saienni as Michael needs Mom to help him convince Dad that there is an alternative future for him that doesn’t include taking over the farm. Sharing the role with Olivia Aldridge from night to night, Leigh Ann Hrischenko convinces us that Carolyn’s needs are even more acute and poignant. Mom stands as buffer between Carolyn and her father’s brusqueness, and despite the fact that she may have raised a prize-winning steer, it’s Mom who must bolster the younger sib’s determination and self-confidence.

As the romance heats up, Francesca must choose between her inner drive to break free and globetrot with Robert or the tug of her loyalty, calling upon her to remain in Iowa with a family that needs her. After two hours and 18 minutes, plus a 20-minute intermission, you wouldn’t want the choice to be easy, would you?

CPCC Theatre Auditions for The Crucible

Auditions for The Crucible

September 11 & 12 7:00pm Pease Auditorium

CPCC Theatre will hold auditions for The Crucible on September 11 & 12 at 7:00pm in Pease Auditorium.

CPCC Theatre is proud to bring Arthur Miller’s classic American play The Crucible to the Pease stage. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. This exciting drama about the Puritan purge of witchcraft in old Salem is both a gripping historical play and a timely parable of our contemporary society.  “The devil has returned to Broadway with the power to make the strong tremble. Be afraid, be very afraid.”  The N Y Times

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. No appointment necessary. Performances are October 27 – November 5. Rehearsal will begin on Thursday September 14th. Our normal rehearsal process is Monday through Thursday evenings 7pm to 10pm. You do not have to be a current CPCC Student to audition. All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.

All roles are open. We are seeking 10 women 16 to 60 + and 11 men 18 to 60+.

Cast of Characters:

Ages are listed as approximate. If you are in the general age RANGE or can play a

particular age, please audition. Often the ages of characters are adjusted (within

reason) when we are casting these shows.


John Proctor (Approximately 30-40) Honest farmer forced to defend his wife and

himself against witchcraft charges. While his wife was ill, he succumbed to

temptation and was intimate with Abigail Williams, a beautiful but malevolent 17-

year-old. Although Proctor later rejects Abigail and admits his wrongdoing to his

wife, Abigail continues to pursue him.


Elizabeth Proctor (Approximately late 20’s-30’s) John Proctor’s loyal and upright

wife. She comes to realize that she may have been partly at fault for her husband’s

unfaithfulness because she was not always as warm and loving as she could have



Rev. Samuel Parris (Approximately 40’s) Salem’s current minister. A faction in his

congregation is attempting to replace him. He at first attempts to silence rumors

of witchcraft because his own daughter, Betty, and his niece, Abigail Williams,

were involved in conjuring rites. However, he later vigorously supports the witch

trials when he sees that they will work to his advantage.


Betty Parris (Approximately 10-15) Daughter of the Rev. Parris. At the beginning of

the play, she lies in a stupor supposedly caused by witchcraft.


Abigail Williams (Approximately late teens) Seventeen-year-old orphan whose

parents were killed by Indians. She lives with her uncle, the Rev. Parris, and

his daughter, Betty. In a conjuring rite in the forest, where Abigail and other

girls dance wildly around a cauldron, Abigail drinks rooster blood in attempt to

summon spirits to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Mrs. Proctor had fired Abigail from

her job as a servant at the Proctor farm because Abigail seduced her husband.


Tituba (Approximately 40’s – African-American) Slave of the Rev. Parris. The

minister brought her to Salem from Barbados, where she learned occult practices.

She presides at a conjuring session involving teenage and adolescent girls from



Thomas & Ann Putnam (Approximately 40’s) Wealthy husband and wife who use

the witchcraft frenzy to implicate rivals and enemies.


Rev. John Hale (Approximately 40’s) Expert in detecting spirits. Well educated, he

takes pride in his knowledge of the occult, but he is fair-minded. Although he first

believes townspeople may be practicing witchcraft, he later defends accused

persons, in particular Mr. and Mrs. Proctor.


Rebecca Nurse (Approximately 60’s-70s) Charitable Salem resident whom Ann

Putnam accuses of witchcraft.


Mary Warren (Approximately late teens) Eighteen-year-old servant of the Proctors

who took part in the conjuring rite in the forest. She first agrees to testify against

Abigail and the others. But, under pressure from her peers and the court, she

renounces her testimony and sides with Abigail.


Deputy Governor John Danforth (Approximately 60’s) Presiding judge who conducts

the witchcraft hearings and trials. He admits spectral evidence (testimony of

witnesses who believe they saw townspeople in the presence of the devil) but

refuses to accept a deposition presented by John Proctor. The deposition, signed

by Mary Warren, is intended as evidence that could lead to the exoneration of

Elizabeth Proctor and others.


John Hathorne (Approximately 40’s-60’s) Associate Judge.


Giles Corey (Approximately 70’s-80’s) Innocent citizen accused of witchcraft after

he attempts to defend his wife, Martha, and expose scheming John Putnam. A

courageous 83-year-old who defies the court, he is pressed to death with heavy

stones. Martha Corey is hanged.


Mercy Lewis (Approximately late teens) Teenage servant of the Proctors who took

part in the conjuring rite in the forest.


Susanna Walcott (Approximately late teens) Teenager who took part in the rite

in the forest.


Sarah Good (Approximately 60+) Poor, homeless woman accused of witchcraft.


Francis Nurse: 70 – 85. A wealthy, influential man in Salem. Nurse is well respected by most people in Salem, but is an enemy of Thomas Putnam and his wife.


Ezekiel Cheever: 30 – 60. Clerk of the Court

Hopkins. A guard at Salem Jail.


For questions or information contact Tom Hollis by email or call 704-330-6835.

Single Tickets on Sale for CPCC Theatre 17/18 Season


Single tickets for all productions of CPCC Theatre’s 2017/18 season go on sale Friday September 1st.


For tickets call the SunTrust Box office at 704-330-6534 or go online 24/7 to

Season Tickets on sale through Oct 1st.


Season Tickets Now On Sale for CPCC Theatre 2017/18

Season Tickets are now on sale to the general public for CPCC Theatre’s 2017/18 Season. CPCC Theatre will present an award winning season of shows from September 22nd to April 15th showcasing the finest in theatre available in the Metrolina area. Contact the SunTrust Box Office 704-330-6534 or purchase online at

Season Tickets to CPCC Theatre represent the biggest savings for all around entertainment value in the Charlotte area. Call today before the best seats are gone.

The Bridges of Madison County September 22 – October 1 Halton Theater

The Crucible October 27 – November 5 Pease Auditorium

Evita February 16-25  Halton Theater

On Golden Pond April 6 -15 Pease Auditorium

Regular Season Ticket  $ 57.00

Senior Season Ticket $53.00

Single Tickets on sale September 1st.


CPCC Theatre Holds Auditions for The Bridges of Madison County

Auditions for The Bridges of Madison County

August 14 & 15 7:00pm Halton Theatre. Possible call backs on Thursday Aug 17th.

Auditionees will need to prepare a song from the show. See list below for downloadable pdf files of required songs. Roles available for 25 actors 14 to 60+. Age ranges are playing range and may not be the actual age of the actor.

You do not have to be a current student to audition. All ethnicities encouraged to audition.

Performances September 22-Oct 1. Rehearsal will begin August 20th. For more info contact Tom Hollis 704-330-6835 or


Song requirement; To Build a Home and duet with Robert, Before and

After You/ A Million Miles beginning at measure 27 HIGH NOTE G♯5/A♭5

LOW NOTE G3 A beautiful Italian woman, generous, luminous, and

funny, now married to a farmer and living in Iowa.

Gender: Middle-aged Female


Song requirement; Home Before You Know it HIGH NOTE F4 LOW NOTE C3

Francesca’s husband. An Iowa farmer, a good guy, diligent and

dependable, but always exhausted and irritated that things

haven’t gotten easier.

Gender: Middle-aged Male


Song requirement; Wondering and duet with Francesca, Before and

After/A Million Miles You beginning at measure 27 HIGH NOTE A4 LOW

NOTE B2 A ruggedly handsome, worldly, visionary photographer.

Gender: Middle-aged Male


Song requirement; Another Life




Robert’s former wife, a musician.

Gender: Female


Francesca’s sister still living in Italy.

Gender: Female


Francesca and Bud’s son

Gender: Male




Francesca and Bud’s daughter

Gender: Female




Song Requirement; Get Closer/Falling Into You Francesca’s neighbor,

sassy and nosy

Gender: Older Female

Vocal range top: C5

Vocal range bottom: G3


Marge’s husband.

Gender: Older Male

Vocal range top: C4 (Middle C)

Vocal range low E3

Ensemble/Townspeople (8-12)includes State Fair Singer;Waitress;Ginny etc.

Follow the links below for sheet music to be sung at the audition.



To build a home_NEW




CPCC Summer Theatre Opens Mamma Mia


July 14 – 22

Halton Theater


Fresh from the Broadway stage, CPCC Summer Theatre presents the local premier of ABBA’s Tony Award winning musical Mamma Mia! on the Halton stage. Using the hit songs of ABBA, Mamma Mia! tells the hilarious story of a teen’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise. On stage and in the movies over 54 million people all around the world have fallen in in love with the characters, the story and the music that make Mamma Mia! the ultimate feel-good show! A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. And a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget! The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show. Non-stop laughs and explosive dance numbers combine to make Mamma Mia! a dancing in the aisles hit for CPCC Summer Theatre 2017.

Get your tickets at the door, online at or by calling the SunTrust Box office 704-330-6534.

Comedy of Tenors Has Plenty of Doors and Plenty of Farce – Review

THROUGH 7/9: CPCC’s Comedy of Tenors Has Plenty of Doors and Plenty of Farce

Event  Information

Charlotte — Wed., Jul. 5, 2017 at 7:00 PM ( Fri., Jun. 30, 2017 – Sun., Jul. 9, 2017 )

Central Piedmont Community College: A Comedy of Tenors
$22-$18; Children $10 — Pease Auditorium, CPCC , (704) 330-6534 ,

June 30, 2017 – Charlotte, NC:


Ken Ludwig has written over 20 plays and musicals over the past quarter of a century, nine of which have now been presented in Charlotte. While the books for his two Gershwin musicals, Crazy for You and An American in Paris, display his craftsmanship, Ludwig’s most enduring comedy is undoubtedly his first Broadway hit, Lend Me a Tenor. First produced in 1989, Tenor was converted to a London musical in 2011, after a Broadway revival the previous season. So why shouldn’t the playwright entertain the notion of recycling his Tenor characters into a sequel? The idea evidently seems so natural to Central Piedmont Community College Summer Theatre, an organization that rarely produces a musical or a comedy that isn’t at least a decade old, that it has brought A Comedy of Tenors to Pease Auditorium less than two years after it premiered in Cleveland.

Ludwig brings back the arrogant and flamboyant Italian tenor Tito Merelli and his wife, Maria, both highly passionate and usually squabbling. Impresario Henry Saunders, formerly the GM of the Cleveland Grand Opera, is now bringing the greatest concert in the history of opera to Paris, still as nervous, domineering, and hot-tempered as before. Saunders is provoked, but it isn’t by his son-in-law and former assistant, Max, whose singing prowess was discovered in Cleveland a farce ago. Max is now on the bill as one of the four tenors who will wow Paris, but his father-in-law feels free to yank him out of rehearsals anyway to deal with the crisis du jour.

Fresh blood stirs up the fresh complications and misunderstandings. Back in Cleveland, it was Saunders’ daughter who was the victim of mistaken identities. Now she’s back in Cleveland, married to Max, and on the verge of delivering his first child. Instead, it’s Tito’s daughter, Mimi, who is our ingénue, embarking on a similar path of confusion. She’s in love with the third tenor on the bill, Carlo, but they haven’t yet summoned the nerve to divulge their marriage plans to her parents. In the hurly-burly of evading discovery by the Merellis, Carlo tells Maria of his plans to marry her daughter, but the eavesdropping Tito gets a vivid impression that his wife has become Carlo’s sex slave. On the flipside of this specious reason for jealousy, a real one happens to be in town, Russian soprano Tatiana Racon, Tito’s old flame. Almost forgot: on the day of the performance, the fourth tenor, Jussi Björling, cancels to attend his mother’s funeral. They will need to replace him.

Besides the repeating characters, the hotel suite setting, performer dropouts, and the last-minute frenzy of preparing to go onstage, there are other holdover motifs that link Ludwig’s Tenor farces. Both of them have pesky bellhops, both have fast-forward mash-ups of the entire show before the final bows, and whether your access route is Shakespeare or Verdi, there are comical uses of Othello to watch out for in both pieces – more subtly done in this newer farce. Under the direction of Carey Kugler, that’s about all the subtlety you will find, for the script offers an abundance of physical comedy. Slapping, frantic hiding, broad suggestions of sexual activity, and a plateful of tongue are all on the menu. There is scurrying galore during the countdown to the concert, and Biff Edge’s scenic design provides four doors plus a patio looking out on the outdoors for farcical entrances and exits.

This is 1936, so Ludwig could easily be forgiven for making his operatic saga all about the men. Yet, the women aren’t altogether objectified, and they certainly aren’t marginalized. The Russian temptress Racon can carry herself like an established diva, and we sense that Mimi isn’t destined to be a hausfrau either, since she is embarking on a movie career – a happenstance that enables costume designer Rachel Hines to expand the fashion gallery beyond eveningwear, formalwear, and lingerie. Nor is Maria, Ludwig’s Desdemona, the same pure and worshipful seraph we find in Shakespeare. In addition to the vamping, it’s the women who have the lionesses’ share of the slapping and straddling.

Drugged and suicidal in the previous Lend Me a Tenor, Tito emerges as our hero in the sequel, supplanting Max. Surely this is Craig Estep‘s finest hour in straight comedy as Tito and his lookalike, the pathologically talkative bellhop, though a couple of provisos might be added. First, he does sing here, since the three tenors are destined to rehearse the “Libiamo!” from La Traviata, and Estep’s previous hookup with James K. Flynn in Monty Python’s Spamalot was certainly a CPCC Summer Theatre gem in 2013. Flynn could have been eyeing the Tito role for himself, yet he’s perfectly cast as Saunders, just sympathetic enough in panic mode to prevent us from finding him loathsome in his overbearing moments. Winston Smith doesn’t have as much to do as Max as he would have had in Lend Me, but when it came time to sing the trio, he proved capable of holding his own with Estep. As it turns out, Max isn’t in total eclipse. Eventually, he’s the one who untangles all the twists that Ludwig has put in the plot. Gabe Saienni got far more of a workout as Carlo, hiding from his future in-laws and fleeing from Tito’s deluded jealousy, so he had to sustain his terror of Tito while remaining worthy of Mimi’s love. The only real problem in Saienni’s performance was in the trio, where he was vocally a weak link.

If I could have heard them better, I would probably find myself saying that Taffy Allen as Maria and Amanda Becker as Mimi were marvelous. Loudness wasn’t the issue. I’m leaning toward my wife Sue’s theory on Allen: the thickness of her Italian accent was probably the main barrier between Maria and me. Allen has crossed over into midlife just enough to make her credible as Tito’s wife, and her aggressive attempts to reconcile with her husband were even funnier than her previous fawning on Carlo. Deep into Act II, when sexual activity runs rampant, Allen got a chance to be jealous that she definitely didn’t waste. Becker’s audibility problems seemed to stem from a rush to adhere to Kugler’s snappy pacing. But I found her attitude delectable, both as a daughter and future bride, and her jealousy, punctuated by right-handed and left-handed slaps, could hardly have been better when Mimi suspected Carlo of carrying on with her mom.

Caroline Renfro didn’t enter the fray as Racon until Act II, but it was pretty funny when she did, since the glamorous diva instantly devoured the incredulous bellhop with her pent-up passion, mistaking him for Tito. Old flame or not, Renfro had the moves and the looks to make that old flame new. Still in a generous mood, Racon agrees to add her soprano voice to the concert, presumably because the bellhop will be a new-made star after it’s over. I’m not sure that this extra episode was as savvy as the rest of Ludwig’s script, since it required a pair of hurried scene changes. At Pease Auditorium, this final segment literally hit a snag when the curtain that had been drawn over the hotel suite to simulate the backstage scene at the opera house got stuck before we reverted to the hotel for the fast-forward rehash of the entire play. When frantic actors and stagehands finally freed to curtain so it could slide back into the wings, the audience burst into applause. More laughter ensued as Kugler’s recap, even faster than the pace that had previously prevailed, was tossed off with an overacted style truly befitting a silent film.

A Comedy of Tenors continues through Sunday, July 9

A Comedy of Tenors Opens at CPCC Summer Theatre ’17

Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors

June 30 – July 9

Pease Auditorium

One hotel suite, four tenors, two wives, three girlfriends, and a soccer stadium filled with screaming fans. What could possibly go wrong? It’s 1930s Paris and the stage is set for the concert of the century—as long as producer Henry Saunders can keep Italian superstar Tito Merelli and his hot-blooded wife Maria from causing runaway chaos. Prepare for an uproarious ride, full of mistaken identities, bedroom hijinks, and madcap delight.  Ken Ludwig does the impossible in A Comedy of Tenors he has created a sequel to the his 90’s comic hit Lend Me Tenor that is just as much fun as the original.  “From conception to execution, everything about A Comedy of Tenors hits on all comedic cylinders and, as advertised, is laugh-out-loud funny.” – The News-Hearld,

Tickets at the SunTrust box office 704-330-6534 or online at CPCCTix

State of the Arts June 2017

CPCC State of the Arts June 2017

Summer Theatre 2017 is going strong. Click on the banners below to order tickets online for any show. Or call the SunTrust box office at 704-330-6534 fro 10:00am to show time.


CPCC Summer Theatre 17 Opens with Fiddler on the Roof

CPCC Summer Theatre opens its’ 44th season with Fiddler on the Roof in the Halton Theatre. Show runs June 2nd to June 10th.

CPCC Sumer Theatre brings a musical theatre tradition to the Halton stage for the first time with

Fiddler on the Roof.  Tevye the Dairyman, tries to protect his daughters and his way of life from a changing world.Top of FormBottom of Form Winner of nine Tony Awards when it debuted in 1964, Fiddler on the Roof is the brainchild of Broadway legends. Touching audiences worldwide with its humor, warmth and honesty, this universal show is a staple of the musical theatre canon. Rich in historical and ethnic detail, Fiddler on the Roof‘s universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness. With iconic and beloved songs such as “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” Fiddler on the Roof is the perfect mix of audience-pleasing humor and heart.

Get your tickets at the SunTrust Box Office 704-330-6534 or online at