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Established in 2008, The Candy Project has specialized in bringing little-known works of musical theatre to Omaha. They are perhaps best known for their production of “[title of show]” for which they were awarded Outstanding Musical Production of the year (among other awards) by the Theatre Arts Guild of Omaha. Other past performances include “Gutenberg! The Musical!”, “I Love You Because”, “ROOMS: A Rock Romance” and “Homemade Fusion”. They are the recipients of multiple awards and nominations from the Theatre Arts Guild of Omaha and the Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards.

Review: Spicy, spirited, hilarious ‘Disenchanted’ takes aim at the Disney princess archetype — how else? — through song

By Betsie Freeman / World-Herald staff writer Aug 11, 2016

Spicy, spirited, hilarious ‘Disenchanted’ takes aim at the archetype — how else? — through song

If it weren’t for some adult content, I would recommend that kids — especially little girls — get their information about “princesses” from “Disenchanted” rather than Disney.

The mega-studio would have you believe that classic fairy-tale heroines dance with teacups and wear double-D bras, and that an authentic figure such as Pocahontas flaunts a miniskirt and has no higher goal than to kiss John Smith.

The Candy Project’s “Disenchanted” disavows those Hollywood notions with hilarity. The Omaha theater company that stages a musical each summer opened the show Friday at Flixx Cabaret Show Bar near 10th and Pacific Streets.

The show by Dennis T. Giacino is a series of songs from characters such as Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid and Belle, loosely tied together by the three first-tier princesses: Snow White (Melanie Walters), Cinderella (Alissa Walker) and Sleeping Beauty (Katy Boone). The premise is that all these women want the public to know what’s really going on underneath their tiaras.

Walters, Walker and Boone are a great trio — they keep the show moving and really play well off one another with some recurring themes. Snow is clearly the leader, Cindy’s blonde and a bit flighty, and childlike Beauty just wants to take a nap.

“We’ve got a bone to pick with our buddy Walt,” they sing as they lament their common denominator: a princess complex.

Two women named Samantha are the show’s comic standouts. As Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” Samantha Shatley wanders onstage wearing a straitjacket, with lipstick and mascara streaked across her face. She gets increasingly unglued as she tells us that talking clocks and dancing silverware are driving her insane.

And Samantha Quintana earned screams of laughter in two bits: She’s a boozy and floozy Little Mermaid who’s sorry she gave up her undersea life for “Two Legs” and a disappointing guy, and a stern Brunhilde-like Rapunzel (with a giant unibrow) who’s mad because she’s received “Not One Red Cent” from the sales of princess merchandise, from sweatpants to diapers.

“Disney has pimped me out,” she roars.

That number also has a great audience participation element — watch for it.

It’s not all laughs, however. As Pocahontas, Alma Ramos sings the mournful and yearning “Honestly,” angry about how the cartoon film distorted her legacy: “Why can’t my life be told honestly?” Ramos has an appealing quality and a lovely, if somewhat small, voice.

Aguel Lual is powerful as the first black Disney princess, and Whitney Hansen and Therese Rennels deserve mention for their respective turns as Mulan, who thinks she might be a lesbian, and Princess Badroulbadour (aka Jasmine from “Aladdin”), who says she is the secondary princess.

The revue doesn’t have a set outside of multicolored banners on the back wall, and the costumes are functional but not memorable, except for Rapunzel’s Valkyrie hair and Jasmine’s get-up (watch for that, too). The fairly cramped bar also has its limitations, though directors Kaitlyn McClincy and Noah Diaz used every inch to their advantage. A runway with seating on each side leads up to the small stage, and characters enter and exit both there and from the serving area.

There’s no reserved seating (suffice it to say that I should have arrived earlier). But even though I didn’t have a very good vantage point, my worries that I wouldn’t be able to see were unfounded.

The adult content I mentioned is a couple of F-bombs, a few other vulgarities and some racy themes. But come to think of it, with some pre-teaching, I might consider taking older kids to “Disenchanted.”

Its subversive, sassy and savvy viewpoint is one worth sharing.

Disenchanted

What: Stage musical by The Candy Project

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday and Aug. 18 through 21

Where: Flixx Cabaret Show Bar, 1019 S. 10th St.

Tickets: $18 adults, $15 students and Theatre Arts Guild members

Information: info@thecandyproject.com or 402-957-2827

Contact the writer: 402-444-1267, elizabeth.freeman@owh.com

‘Disenchanted’ is hilarious musical on 10th Street

Loyal Fairman For the Nonparel Aug 11, 2016

I went to the opening of a new musical at a new venue on South 10th Street in Omaha. The venue is just south of KETV Channel Seven Burlington Station. Location is 1019 South 10th Street at the Flixx Lounge. They put a sign out on the sidewalk so you can’t miss the lounge. “Disenchanted” is a musical play presented by The Candy Project, which is a production company that has done several musical productions the last few years. Producers are Debbie Krambeck and Cathy Hirsch.

Do you remember the cartoon series “Fractured Fairy Tales?” This is an “R” rated version with songs. The all-female cast disagrees with the Disney version of fairy tales. The songs are incredibly funny and extremely adult. This is not a show for children. As a matter of fact if you are under 19 you have to be with an adult. The cast is marvelous with nine talented and experienced actresses. They all have great voices and are extremely funny.

Snow White is played by Melanie Walters. She is one of the main ladies who takes us on this journey straightening out the myths created by Disney and others. Cinderella is played by Alissa Walker. She is a contrast to Snow White. You might say that she is a ditzy blonde. And let’s not forget Sleeping Beauty played by Katy Boone.

There are silly songs to go with the craziness taking place on stage. The first song was “One More Happily Ever After,” sung by Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Then we get the chance to meet Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” In this case Belle is wearing a straight jacket. She is played by Samantha Shatley in a little different role than she had as Mary Poppins at Chanticleer in May. She sings a very funny rendition of “Insane” with Sleeping Beauty.

One song is called “Without a Guy” sung by the fairytale character Hua Mulan, played by Whitney Hansen. She sings about being a lesbian. There are not many fairytales about that. Samantha Quintana plays The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel. Alma Ramos plays Pocahontas. Aguel Lual plays “The Princess Who Kissed a Frog.” All of the ladies are funny as are the songs.

One particular segment was the highpoint of the night as far as craziness. In this segment there was knocking on the front door of the Flixx Lounge. It was Therese Rennels, who came into the stage area as Princess Badroulbadour from “Aladdin.” She is so funny and her props are indescribable in print. There are 13 songs, some of which I can’t tell you about in a G-rated review. Ladies, if you want a great “Ladies Night Out” make your reservations now. The 95-minute production with no intermission went by at the speed of light. I highly recommend this show. There is a full bar there so you can have a great night of fun entertainment with refreshments. Guys you will enjoy it just as much as the ladies, although men do get picked on in the show. Kaitlyn McClincy and Noah Diaz directed the production. Jenn Tritz was musical director for this fun show. Ticket prices for adults are $18. For tickets call (402) 957-2827.  Just two more weekends at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

BWW Reviews: DISENCHANTED! Does Not Disappoint!

by Christine Swerczek Aug. 5, 2016

What do you say about a 95 minute long musical parody about Disney’s favorite princesses? A lot. The Candy Project’s production of the Dennis T. Giacino DISENCHANTED! combines his clever lyrics and energetic musical score with their talented cast and crew to create a fun, satirical romp through the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and all their princess pals.

Co-directed by Kaitlyn McClincy and Noah Diaz with musical direction by Jenn Tritz and accompanied by Sara Collins, the cast is blue blood. Each princess is completely different. Each is likeable. Each is talented. By the end of the show, I am fond of them all. This is a pack of princesses I can appreciate.

Melanie Walters, veteran Omaha actor and well-established choreographer, takes the lead as Snow White. Her ability to, as she says, ‘boss gently guide and nurture the creative spirit,” comes through as Snow White directs this ensemble of disenchanted princesses. She is a powerful presence on any stage, no matter how large or tiny.

And speaking of tiny stages, the venue Flixx Lounge, is worth a visit. It is a quaint little bar in downtown Omaha that probably has a lot of stories to tell of its own. The Candy Project set up a runway down the center lined with chairs and headed by a small platform up front. Draped fabric in the well-known colors of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty hangs from the ceiling as a makeshift backdrop. Rope lights line the stage and runway. The effect is simple, but the stuff of fairy tales.

Alissa Walker as Cinderella is delightfully sweet, happy, and dippy. Midnight, according to Cinderella must be about 9:10 because that’s halfway through the night. A smile never leaves her face and it coerces us to smile with her. Her voice is lovely. She’s light and fragile like her glass slippers.

Katy Boone, the narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty, cracks me up! Something about her makes me burst out laughing with her slightest facial expression or awkward move. She has a tremendous gift for humor, but also has a strong voice.

Samantha Quintana, doubling as The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel, is not just a princess…she is Queen of the Stage. Her vocals are exceptional. Her acting is excellent. I am a huge fan. Whether she is glittery in her mermaid garb or dressed as the Germanic Rapunzel, she rules. The Little Mermaid (aka Ariel) is a beer drinking aquatic who regrets having two legs, and muses about serving her pal Flounder as sushi. Her voice was definitely not surrendered to Ursula, because she is full force. As the intense Rapunzel with the unibrow and the riding crop, Quintana is at her funniest! She leads the best number of the night, “Not V’One Red Cent” by Rapunzel, Snow White, and Cinderella, a hilarious number with audience participation thrown in. I was crying.

Aguel Lual, captivates as The Princess Who Kissed the Frog. When she sings “Finally,” she takes on the big “W.D.” for finally going Black…holler! I had previously enjoyed her performance in the Omaha Community Playhouse production of “CAROLINE OR CHANGE.” This young actress seems to have everything going for her.

Whitney Hansen, Hua Mulan, delights the crowd with her rendering of “Without the Guy,” a song wondering why she is the only Disney princess who does not end up with the guy. Although it’s very funny, the ending made my throat catch; maybe because there was too much truth in it. But a little salt always sweetens the sugar.

Samantha Shatley- a crazed Belle; Therese Rennels- Princess Badroulbadour also known as Jasmine; and Alma Ramos- a beautiful Pocahontas, round out this superb nine woman ensemble.

Shatley’s interesting quirks are emphasized by her misapplied red lipstick. Who would have thought Belle to be insane? Yet, this innocent princess who formerly kept her pert nose in books, marries a beast and picks up his poop. No wonder Belle has lost it. Keep your eyes on Shatley’s facials.

You won’t miss Rennels’ entrance! Upon her rather unconventional appearance, she complains of being assigned a secondary role to a street rat, and mentions political correctness (you don’t want to offend anyone.) Her costume is clever and Rennels uses it brilliantly.

Alma Ramos as Pocahontas is the gentler, quieter princess. Although she isn’t quite up to the silly over-the-top antics of the others, she is a striking presence and I would love to see her in more productions. Walker’s Cinderella provides the laughs in Pocahontas’ number through her introduction of some woodland creatures.

DISENCHANTED may be a social commentary on the men who “make films with their flies” or design female characters with big breasts and small aspirations, but it is still music to the ears and laughter to the bones. I highly recommend an evening at the Flixx Lounge with these enchanting people!

Missed Musicals Make Way for Song Cycle

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21 & Over Offers Another Winner

By Warren Francke, The Reader 05.13.2012

Robbie Burns told me there would be weeks like this when the best-laid plans of mice and men would fall victim to the unexpected. And some lesser mortal made the point that the show and the weekly column must go on.

The plan? Review Spring Awakening Thursday at the Blue Barn, then catch Happy Days at the Chanticleer Community Theater in Council Bluffs. Troubled teens, than back to the ‘50s, as the headline promised.

Well, a cast member’s illness knocked out the Thursday performance at the Barn, and instead of catching either musical on Friday, I caught a cold accompanied by a cough that would have ruined the evening for anyone near me. Same problem Saturday, exacerbated by the fact that the Barn didn’t schedule a Sunday performance.

The big beneficiary turned out to be Chanticleer which won a daily review on Saturday instead of the expected review of the Barn musical.

And Cold Cream prospects that would be been pushed aside for reviews of Spring Awakening  and Happy Days now make the column. For example, I’d felt some frustration that I wouldn’t have room to again celebrate the 21 and Over series at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This time resident director Amy Lane turned the Howard Drew space over to Cathy Hirsch and her Candy Project for Homemade Fusion, a song cycle by Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond. I’m writing this on Mother’s Day and that may be the reason that I’m reminded of my mother’s regular amazement that performers could remember all those lines.

In this case, it was my amazement on hearing so many songs I’d never heard before and understanding all the lyrics first time around. Thanks to director-singer Hirsch and 10 other vocalists, all 15 songs, from the opening “I Will Be Me,” to the finale, came across lucidly, allowing full appreciation of both the art and the artists.

It’s a great mix of bawdy humor—especially “To Excess,” with Steve Krambeck as a cheerful stalker, and Homero Vela with the title tune about self-pleasuring, and just plain funny material such as Megan McGuire’s “Oh Henry!” and DeAnna Langabee’s “Random Black Girl.”  But the more dramatic songs, from Sam Hartley singing “Lucy’s Laugh” to Roderick Cotton’s “Walking Without You” made even greater impact.

The consistency of this series bodes well for its season finale, Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl on June 18.

Meanwhile, you have more chances to catch the Barn and Chanticleer musicals, and I’ll write about them later. But this Thursday at 8 p.m. will be your only chance to see Skullsketch the Musical, an Andrew McGreevy creation at the Pizza Shoppe in Benson.

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com.

‘Our Town,’ ‘I Hate Hamlet’ lead awards nominees

By Bob Fischbach, Omaha World-Herald 07.01.2015

The Blue Barn Theatre’s production of “Our Town” is a clear front-runner for the Theatre Arts Guild’s best-drama award, and the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “I Hate Hamlet” leads comedy nominees for the 2014-15 season.

The award nominations, announced Tuesday night, indicate a tight race for best musical, with four shows receiving 10 or more nods.

 Award winners, to be chosen in balloting this month by the guild’s nearly 400 members, will be announced at a gala Aug. 2.

The Playhouse’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” has a slim lead among musicals. Its 13 nominations include best musical, director and choreographer, along with eight acting nods and two in design categories.

“Spamalot,” also a Playhouse show, is close behind with 12 nods, including best musical, director, music director, choreographer, five for acting and three for design.

Creighton University Theatre’s “Cabaret” earned 11 nominations, including best musical, director, music director, choreographer, four for acting and three for design.

The Rose Theater’s “Mary Poppins” snagged 10 nominations: best musical, choreographer, five for acting and three for design.

The fifth best-musical nominee, The Candy Project’s “Gutenberg! the Musical!,” earned five nods, including for both actors, director and music director.

Among dramas, “Our Town” earned 10 nominations: best drama, director, six for acting and two for design. Other best-drama nominees include SNAP Productions’ “We Are Proud to Present …,” the Shelterbelt Theatre’s “The Other Sewing Circle” and the Playhouse’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with four nods each, and the Blue Barn’s “Walk the Night” with one. The Playhouse’s “Enron” got six nods, though not for best drama.

“I Hate Hamlet” earned its favored comedy status with 10 nods: best comedy, director, five for acting and three for design. Other best-comedy nominees include three SNAP shows, “Calendar Girls” with five nods, “Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike” with three and “Harbor” with two. The Blue Barn’s “Bad Jews” also earned two nods.

Of the 147 total nominations in 29 categories, the Playhouse totaled 54, the Blue Barn 17, SNAP and the Rose 15 each and Creighton 11. The Playhouse and SNAP each have four best-show nominees.

The awards cover shows that opened from late June 2014 to mid-June 2015. TAG members chose nominees, and ballots were weighted by how many shows and theaters each voter attended.

Dan Chevalier wins Best Actor award for Gutenberg! The Musical!

The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards were held on 01.10.2016. The Candy Project’s Production of Gutenberg! The Musical! Was nominated for Best Musical, Best Director (Randall T. Stevens), Best Music Director (Tim Vallier), and both Steve Krambeck & Dan Chevalier were nominated for Best Actor with Dan taking home the honor.

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Theater

Best musical: “Cabaret,” Creighton University

Best drama: “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Best comedy: “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best premier of a new, original, local script: “Prince Max’s Trewly Awful Trip to the Desolat Interior by Ellen Struve,” Great Plains Theatre Conference

Best director, play: Susan Clement-Toberer, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Best director, musical: Amy Lane, “Cabaret,” Creighton University

Best actor, play: Daniel Dorner, “An Illiad,” Brigit St. Brigit

Best actress, play: Kaitlyn McClincy, “Harbor,” SNAP Productions

Best actor, musical: Dan Chevalier, “Gutenberg! The Musical!” The Candy Project

Best actress, musical: Melanie Walters, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best supporting actor, play: Noah Diaz, “Harbor,” SNAP Productions

Best supporting actress, play: Julie Huff, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Best supporting actor, musical: Matthias Jeske, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best supporting actress, musical: Judy Radcliff, “Cabaret,” Creighton University

Best youth performer: Ryleigh Welsh, “Harbor,” SNAP Productions

Best dance production: “A Nightmare’s Holiday,” Creighton University

Best performance poet: Zedeka Poindexter

Best comedian: Rachel Ware

Best comedy ensemble: The Weisenheimers

Outstanding lighting design: Carol Wisner, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Outstanding prop design: Amy Reiner, “American Buffalo,” Blue Barn Theatre

Outstanding scenic design: Steven L. Williams, “Hedda Gabler,” UNO Theatre

Outstanding costume design: Sharon Sobel, “Freakshow,” UNO Theatre

Outstanding sound design: Martin Magnuson, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Outstanding choreogrpaher: Melanie Walters, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Outstanding featured dancer: Matthew Carter, “Giselle,” Ballet Nebraska

Outstanding music direction: Stephen Sheftz, “Cabaret,” Creighton University

The best theater of 2015

By Betsie Freeman and Bob Fischbach, Omaha World-Herald 12.31.2015

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 3.29.03 PMThis year, we were moved to tears and laughter. We were left thinking for days about complex topics and humming a classic showtune or two.

It was a banner year for Omaha-area theater.

 We called upon retired theater reviewer Bob Fischbach to help current reviewer Betsie Freeman to craft our list of the year’s best on stage.

10. “The Singularity,” Shelterbelt Theatre

You know a play has achieved at least one goal when it makes you think, and I thought about this one for a long time afterward. Its biting satire had me laughing at the same time I was examining the ethical and moral implications of one woman’s desperate quest to have a baby, thanks to director Elizabeth Thompson and actress MaryBeth Adams.

9. “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” Performing Artists Repertory Theatre

Tiffany White-Welchen, a gifted actress and singer, gave an amazing performance as blues singer Billie Holiday, who basically has an emotional breakdown over the course of one booze-soaked night. Director Gordon Cantiello’s new space at Crossroads Mall seemed to be made for the play.

8. “Man of La Mancha,” Omaha Community Playhouse

This musical, an old favorite, deserves a place on the list. The sets were spectacular, Cork Ramer was practically perfect as Don Quixote, and Jennifer Gilg, John E. Jones and Samantha Quintana were vocal standouts. A winner for director Hilary Adams.

7. “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Ralston Community Theatre

Innovative staging and sets, fast footwork and some standout vocals made this summer musical sparkle. At one point, a couple characters even sang “Mammy” in authentic Mandarin. Director Todd Uhrmacher and music director Chris Ebke created fun for cast and audience alike.

6. “Beertown,” Omaha Community Playhouse

This play from dog & pony dc in the nation’s capital is interactive in the best sense of the word. Audience members become invested in the plot when they get to help Beertown decide what to keep in its time capsule, and the result was natural and organic theater. The local cast was great — featuring Christopher Scott, Kim Clark-Kaczmarek and Brennan Thomas, among others. By the end, it seemed like we were real neighbors.

5. “Gutenberg! The Musical,” The Candy Project

Director Randall Stevens cast two of Omaha’s most talented comedic actors, Dan Chevalier and Steve Krambeck, as amateur playwrights pitching their musical to producers. As the two enthusiastically played all the parts in their so-bad-it’s-hilarious show, audiences barely caught their breath between laughs.

4. “The Other Sewing Circle,” Shelterbelt Theatre

Omaha playwright Marie Amthor’s story of HIV-positive women who bond while quilting featured great character development and moving storytelling. Director Elizabeth Thompson’s strong all-women ensemble made the most of Amthor’s finely honed dialogue, creating a satisfying emotional arc.

3. “Calendar Girls,” SNAP Productions

Proof positive that ladies of a certain age retain real grrrl power. Audiences loved this funny and poignant story of Brit ladies who bond over a fund-raising calendar for which they pose semi-nude. Sally Neumann Scamfer and Sue Mullin led a true ensemble effort that earned peals of laughter and a few tears as well. Director Todd Brooks handled the nudie bits with tasteful discretion.

2. “Mary Poppins,” The Rose

The year’s best family musical brought the Rose well-deserved award nominations. Sue Gillespie Booton’s choreography, Adam Rowe’s scenic design, Sherri Geerdes’ costumes and Kyle Toth’s lighting design were all outstanding, while Leanne Hill Carlson charmed packed houses as the title character.

1. “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Director Susan Clement-Toberer and a powerhouse cast made the theater’s last show in its 11th Street performance space an indelible memory for those lucky enough to get a seat. With Toberer’s innovative staging, Thornton Wilder’s ode to the beauty of everyday life soared. Great performances from Moira Mangiameli, Julie Huff, Nils Haaland, Kelsi Weston, Dennis Collins and more.

The next best

“Spamalot,” “Hands on a Hardbody” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at the Playhouse.

“Bad Jews” and “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” at the Blue Barn.

“Cabaret” and “Sunday in the Park With George” at Creighton University.

“Prince Max’s Trewly Awful Trip to the Desolat Interior,” Great Plains Theatre Conference.

“The Secret Garden,” Chanticleer.