The Omaha Community Playhouse has produced only a handful of world-premiere shows in its 93-year history.

In the coming season, it will present two, both created by local talent.

A new show from a longtime Playhouse performer will open the 2017-2018 season on July 12. “Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist” will feature classic rock tunes in a big-band style and big-band standards with a rock ’n’ roll tinge. The Steve Gomez Band, including a full horn section, will accompany McGuigan, who’s known for his portrayal of rocker Buddy Holly and his popular Beatles show each season.

And “Eminent Domain” by Omahan Laura Leininger-Campbell will be the season’s first show in the Howard Drew Theatre, opening Aug. 25. The play is the story of a Nebraska farm family that’s in conflict over construction of an oil pipeline. It was a finalist at the 2016 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.

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  The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP), the nation's largest community theatre, announces the lineup for its 93rd season, the 2017-2018 season.
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The hair, the attitude and the sound of ‘80’s rock are still alive in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “Rock of Ages.”

The jukebox-musical follows young dreamers Sherrie and Drew, played by Mallory Vallier and David Ebke, both Playhouse newcomers, as they awkwardly (and adorably) fall in love. The LA dive-bar at which they work is being closed by evil German developer Hertz Klinemann, played by Joey Galda. The simple story stays out of the way of the show’s 24 musical numbers.

The song list doesn’t have any surprises, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. A full band lives on stage, led by music director Jim Boggess. Each song rocks hard by pushing the story forward and featuring most of the cast. Act I closer “Here I Go Again” featured especially impressive performances from everyone on stage.

Warning: audience members were urged to sing and clap along to more than one song.

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Music in Omaha is on an ’80s kick right now.

Last weekend, the Omaha Symphony gave a concert based on the music of Journey, the band responsible for the 1981 earworm that is “Don’t Stop Believin’.” An Omaha cover band, ReCaptured, played to a sold-out crowd at the Holland Center. The real Journey — at least the latest permutation of it — will appear at Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena on March 25.

And several Journey hits — amid a score that includes songs from Twisted Sister, Europe, Poison and other glam metal bands — have a prominent role in “Rock of Ages,” onstage at the Omaha Community Playhouse until early April.

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Friday night, the Omaha Community Playhouse used a musical time machine to take the audience back to the 1980s. “Rock of Ages” is a musical that takes place in sunny California on the Sunset Strip. The action uses music taken from famous rock bands of the era.

Director and Choreographer Kimberly Faith Hickman has assembled a very talented cast of singers, dancers and actors for this fun romp through rock n roll in 1987 Los Angeles. Veteran Stage Manager Jeanne Shelton is the captain of the large crew and cast that makes this show a hit.

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There's a party at the Bourbon Room and you're invited. Get out that 1980's gear you've got stuffed in the back of your closet and head over to ROCK OF AGES. This show is the most fun I've had in a long while! I've seen it on Broadway and more recently in Las Vegas, but the Omaha Community Playhouse production is not only on par, it exceeds them both in heart and personality. I liked it more. Read More »
“Love Shack” by the B-52s was playing on the car radio as I drove to see “Rock of Ages” on Thursday night at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and I was jazzed. The 1989 hit is one of my favorites.

It was an interesting coincidence, given that the musical uses 1980s hits to supplement its razor-thin plot. Would the show include that song?

Not likely. In press material, I learned that its ’80s soundtrack was way different from my ’80s soundtrack. And I was pretty sure that the show’s songs weren’t going to be my thing, given my “Love Shack” love: The score is a heavy rotation of hair bands such as Twisted Sister and Def Leppard, plus Joan Jett, Journey (not a fan) and similar artists.

If, like me, you’re more new wave than hard rock, you might be having the same apprehension about “Rock of Ages.”

Worry no more. Some great vocal work, super dancing, a captivating set and spot-on costumes elevate the Playhouse production — directed and choreographed by artistic director Kimberly Faith Hickman — no matter what kind of music you like. For me, the sum of all those things made up for the hair-band classics. It was a surprisingly good time.

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Romping, stomping, swooping, bumping, grinding, leaping, jumping, hopping, bopping. Yes. Uh-huh. They do it all. Non-stop. A dynamic version of the musical Rock of Ages  owns the stage at The Playhouse.

Kimberley Faith Hickman has directed and choreographed this zinger to a fare-thee-well. And her great cast does justice to her moves, her interpretations and to the 28 songs from the 80s which keep on comin’.  The cast has got the voices to do it all, the energy to keep the non-stop movement alive and kicking plus plenty of personality. Knock-out costumes too, from Georgiann Regan.

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Three performers based in Chicago will bring “Girls Like Us: The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell” to the Omaha Community Playhouse this summer.

The show is inspired by the book “Girls Like Us” by Sheila Weller. It stars Laura Freeman, Beckie Menzie and Marianne Murphy Orland.

It will run Thursdays through Sundays from June 15 to 25 in the Howard Drew Theatre. Tickets, $40 general admission and $32 for current Playhouse subscribers, go on sale Tuesday. For more information, go to omahaplayhouse.com or call 402-553-0800.

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The Omaha Community Playhouse will present Girls Like Us: The Music of Carole King, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell as its summer show June 15 - 25, 2017 in the Howard Drew Theatre. Girls Like Us is inspired by the book of the same name by Sheila Weller and features performers Laura Freeman, Beckie Menzie and Marianne Murphy Orland. Tickets for Girls Like Us go on sale to the public Tuesday, March 7 at 10 a.m. through the OCP box office. Read More »

With a couple of weeks left in its 1890s show, the Omaha Community Playhouse premieres a 1980s show Friday.

“Rock of Ages,” a jukebox musical about a young couple falling in love on the Sunset Strip in 1987, joins “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” an old-time Western, at the theater. The musical will be on the Hawks Mainstage through April 2 (with no performance March 31), while “Liberty Valance” remains in the Howard Drew Theatre through March 12.

In “Rock of Ages,” small-towner Sherrie (Mallory Vallier) and Detroit boy Drew (David Ebke) both are trying to make it big in Los Angeles during a time of bands with big egos, big hair and big guitar solos. The show was nominated for five Tony Awards, including best musical.

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Are you ready to rock?

The upcoming production at the Omaha Community Playhouse, “Rock of Ages,” is a jukebox musical that was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

It will run Friday through April 2 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

“Rock of Ages” is set in L.A.’s infamous Sunset Strip in 1987. It tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, both in L.A. to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love.

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Yay verily, true believers could conclude that a musical called Rock of Ages  is about asking for the Lord’s protection, sheltered by the Lord. Nay actually, it’s a 2005 L.A.-origin show which became a Broadway smash running for nigh onto eight years, getting five Tony nominations. On view at The Playhouse.

Rock? Oh, yes. Jukebox rockin’ kinda, celebrating hit songs of the 80s by such as Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

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Set in L.A.’s infamous Sunset Strip in 1987, Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, both in L.A. to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love. The show kicks off on stage at Omaha Community Playhouse this weekend!  We'll find out more about the story, the songs and the cast! Read More »
Rock of Ages, running March 3 - April 2, 2017 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre at Omaha Community Playhouse, is set in L.A.'s infamous Sunset Strip in 1987. It tells the story of Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, both in L.A. to chase their dreams of making it big and falling in love. This jukebox musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It uses the hits of the 1980s to tell its story, including "Sister Christian," "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Dead or Alive," "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Here I Go Again," "Don't Stop Believing" and many more. Rock of Ages takes you back to the times of big bands with big egos playing big guitar solos and sporting even bigger hair! Contains mischievous behavior, suggestive and adult dialogue and comedic reference to drug usage. Read More »
The Omaha Community Playhouse is holding its fundraiser, Bubbly with Barbra: A Tribute to Barbra Streisand, on Friday, March 31, 6-9 p.m. The event, featuring local singer and actress Camille Metoyer Moten and Friends singing the songs of Barbra Streisand, will benefit the productions and programming of the Omaha Community Playhouse. Honorary chairs are Bruce and Gerry Lauritzen.

Tickets are $125 per person, which includes a cocktail hors d'oeuvres reception, performance, a coffee and dessert bar and $80 tax deductible contribution.

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 The staccato chirping of crickets ranks right up there with that of a needle being ripped across an LP when it comes to clichéd sound effects used to denote an emphatic FAIL. But to John Gibilisco, a cacophony of crickets is never a cliché … it’s an art form.

“When Ablan [Roblin] directed To Kill a Mockingbird earlier this year,” the Omaha Community Playhouse sound designer said, he had a specific soundscape in mind. We went with a symphony of sounds in all of the outdoor scenes — crickets, swamp frogs, tree frogs, cicadas.

“I wanted the audience to be right there in the action,” Gibilisco added, “so we installed tiny speakers under every fourth seat — we’d never done that before — so you got everything that you would hear if you were right there on the porch with Atticus and Scout. But I didn't want the audience to be overtly aware of sound. I didn't want them to be consciously thinking, ‘Wow, those crickets are awesome.’ I only succeeded in distracting you if that would have happened. I failed if you left here thinking about crickets."

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From now on, people taking classes at the Omaha Community Playhouse will be enrolled in a program that honors a great American thespian.

They will be studying at the Henry Fonda Theater Academy, recently named after a man whom critics have called one of the best actors of all time.

Fonda, who grew up in Omaha, got his start at the Playhouse and supported it throughout his life with money and time. He went on to star in numerous movies, but the stage always was his first love, his widow, Shirlee, said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

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“Beauty and the Beast” will be the summer musical at the Omaha Community Playhouse next year.

The show, which premiered on Broadway in 1994, will be the first Disney musical at the theater, said interim artistic director Susan Baer Collins. Based on the animated 1991 film, it’s also the first Disney movie to be made into a musical.

For contractual reasons, Playhouse officials couldn’t announce the title when they revealed the rest of the season lineup several months ago.

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A classic story that’s become more timely in recent days will launch the 2016-2017 season at the Omaha Community Playhouse. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” based on the novel by the late Harper Lee, will run from Aug. 19 to Sept. 18 on the theater’s intimate Howard Drew stage. Read More »