Tag Archives: charleston stage

“Inga Binga” explores a Pre-Camelot JFK

Julian Wiles, the founder and artistic director of Charleston Stage and author of Inga Binga, brings the young Jack Kennedy to life before our very eyes, with the help of New York stage actor Phil Mills, but more on him later.

Anyone who has ever been remotely intrigued by the dashing, enchanting life and times of JFK will enjoy Inga Binga, playing at the Dock Street Theatre through March 25th.  An original play, based on actual events that happened right here in Charleston, Inga Binga is the story of a weekend tryst between Jack and Inga, a Danish beauty queen who caught the young ensign’s eye in Washington.

Jack has been transferred to Charleston, where fear of German u-boat attacks, spies and sabotage have prompted the locals to install air raid sirens and black out shelters all over the city.  Any one of foreign descent is suspect.  Jack’s amour, the beauty queen to the silver screen Inga Arvad, is just such a one.

We won’t tell you much more of the story, (go see it for yourself!) but it was wildly entertaining.


Phil Mills stars as Jack and Gardner Reed as Inga, both imported from Manhattan for this production.  They were engaging and a refreshing change up in the leads, supported by Charleston Stage vets.  Reed is as lovely as Mills is handsome, and they had excellent chemistry.  Reed’s accent wasn’t quite as consistent as Mills’, but it did not distract from her performance.  She has an amazing ability to showcase both Inga’s vulnerability and bravado, even in the same moments.  Mills swagger and smile seemed so natural, so part of him, that it was hard to believe you weren’t watching the man himself.

Brian J. Porter stars as Lem, Jack’s best friend since prep school.  What. A. Guy.  Porter has played everything from chorus (Chicago, the season opener for Charleston Stage) to star (anyone else remember What If? ProductionsHedwig last year?!), and he positively shins in Inga.  He has the ease of someone who feels so very at home on stage, and it makes his performance fantastic.

Beth Curley and her Hair.  The woman is spot on as Betty, a ballsy reporter after her story.  We loved her scheming, plotting, do-anything-to-get-the-scoop nature, but special mention should also go to the best head of hair on stage in Charleston!  She looks like she’s straight out of a salon commercial.

In summation, this is a worthy night at the theatre, whether you are a JFK enthusiast, want a comedy with a little love too, or a sucker for the inevitability of doomed romance, Inga Binga will satisfy audience members of any age, Yankee or Charlestonian.  Kudos to the entire cast and crew and particularly playwright and director Julian Wiles.

words: Stacy Huggins


A Christmas Carol at Dock Street Theatre

Charleston Stage has done it again. Their adaptation of A Christmas Carol is brimming with originality and Christmas cheer thanks to a fabulous musical score composed by Charleston Stage’s Director of Music Education Amanda Wansa. Songs such as “Pay No Attention To Mister Scrooge” and “Spread a Little Christmas Cheer” breathe new life into the classic Dickensian tale, with the help of a multi-talented 33-member cast and a little directorial magic from Marybeth Clark.

Adapted for Charleston Stage by the company’s founder, Julian Wiles, A Christmas Carol stays true to the original storyline while presenting the tale of fiction’s most well known miser from a fresh perspective. As Scrooge (Nat Jones) travels through his past, present, and future, the changes in his heart are seen through the opinions of those around him. Parts of the play are decidedly tongue-in-cheek, with Tiny Tim (Luke Shaw) quoting several of Dickens’ other works, including the well-known “Please sir, can I have some more?” from Oliver Twist.

And of course, we can’t forget to mention the intricate set, complete with several different backdrops and lots of spooky fog. Complemented by a phenomenal cast performance, A Christmas Carol is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season with your loved ones.

Performances run through the 18th. Be sure to call the box office today to get your ticket!

Charleston Stage at Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church Street, 843.577.7183.  www.charlestonstage.com

words: Callie Smith

Roxie Rocks Chicago: One of the Best in a While

Chicago playing at Dock Street Theatre through Sept 18

Charleston Stage opens their season with a well-done production of the award-winning musical Chicago with a solid cast, choreography and vocals.

Vanessa Moyen shined as Roxie Hart, the adulterous dame who is quick on the draw when her lover tries to end their affair.  Gives new meaning to the phrase ‘love her or leave her.’  Josh Harris, playing her adoring, cuckold husband Amos, got lots of love from a sympathetic audience.  He had a big song to sing with Mr. Cellophane, and we all agreed that he did it justice.

The classic opening song All That Jazz, sung by Jillian Kuhl as Velma Kelly, and the company, had audience members dancing along in their seats, which is probably the best thing a cast could hope for.

Velma, Matron Mama Morton, Bill Flynn all played up their characters, although Flynn could have let a little more time pass before delivering some of his cutting punch lines.  The script is good.  Give it time to be heard.

The Six Merry Murderesses were entertaining, and the Cell Block Tango a treat, especially ‘Pop’ who sang about her husband Bernie’s grating bubblegum snapping habit.  She fired two warning shots.  In his head.  Hey, he was warned.

We would have liked to see the costumes a little snazzier.  However, we must admit that we’ll be trying to recreate our own fringed hot pants like the pair that graced Roxie’s bottom half.  What outfit is complete without tassels on your derriere?!

Chicago opens the 34th Season of Charleston Stage at the Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church Street.  Remaining performances: September 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, & 1 7 at 7:30 pm, September 11 & 18 at 3:30 pm.  Visit www.CharlestonStage.com for tickets.

Peter Pan Flies Us Back to Neverland

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Saturday night we strolled over to the Dock Street Theatre to see The Original Peter Pan, produced by Charleston Stage.  Keeping very close to J.M. Barrie’s novel, The Original Peter Pan was a fun and funny evening of theatre with some touching moments.

People sometimes mistake “children’s theatre” as little kids dressed up in contrived costumes putting on a school play.  This was much more.  The Original Peter Pan had every child spellbound, but it was fun for the grown ups too.

They fly.  Who doesn’t want to fly?  Cable wires hoisted the cast high into the air, a little awkwardly at times.  Considering it was the last weekend of the run, I thought they’d be more adept at it, but it does look challenging.

Hook.  Kyle Barnette reprises a role he’s filled several times before.  This Hook was a preening, prancing one, alternately fearsome and cowardly, sending his crew to deal with his dirty work.  When not sword fighting or sending people to walk the plank, The Captain sauntered about the stage, polishing his hook and fluffing his hair.  Priceless and hysterical.

Peter.  “I just want to be a little boy and to have fun,” the petulant Pan says repeatedly.  He is stubborn, whiney and quick to anger, but also quick to be jovial and lighthearted.  Seriously, Peter might have been bipolar.  Jordan Ellis did a great job of keeping the audience, especially the children, engaged.

The Tear Jerker Moment.  When the sassy and loyal Tinkerbell drinks the poison Hook poured into Peter’s medicine, which Wendy has made him promise to take, Peter appeals to the audience for help to heal her.  “If every child believes in fairies, she can get better.  Do you believe in fairies?”  Every single child in the theatre cried out YES!  They didn’t miss a beat.  It was the sweetest thing.

Clever Staging.  Tinkerbell was a sparkle green light, just the right shade, and tinkling music served for her voice.  The crocodile was a fascinating contraption on wheels and Lee Hollis Bussie gave the tick-tocking, crotchety old croc a lot of personality.  The Nursery set had some very clever rigging, from the drawer that Tink gets trapped in to the little wings where flying wires could be attached.

The Original Peter Pan was the last show of the 2010-2011 season of Charleston Stage, but never fear.   The already have an exciting line up for next season.  The Piggly Wiggly Family Series will be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day and The Wiz.  Check the full lineup and buy your season tickets now at www.charlestonstage.com.

Good Tidings for Charleston Arts

It’s been a big week in Charleston.  The beleaguered Charleston Symphony Orchestra announced that, after some intensive restructuring, it is back in business and resumes operations this month.  They had to do some serious downsizing, and cut their operational budget in half.  The smaller core orchestra of just 24 musicians will be augmented periodically by ‘freelance’ musicians, if you will, and the former CSO musicians will get preference for those jobs. It sounds like the board of directors did their best to take care of the musicians who were let go, especially right before Christmas.

We are so pleased that the CSO will continue, and applaud them for taking the big steps they had to to keep the organization sustainable–but at the same time mourn the loss of jobs for many fine musicians and the passing of long time director David Stahl, who lost his battle with cancer this fall.

The CSO’s first performance will be in conjunction with the CSO Chorus on December 18th.  Visit www.charlestonsymphony.com for more information and tickets.

The late David Stahl directing the CSO in 2004


PURE Theatre opens Waffle Haus Christmas tonight.  Written by co-founder Rodney Lee Rogers, and starring Rogers, wife Sharon Graci, and Graci’s children Sullivan Graci Hamilton and Tripp Hamilton.  Should be a tasty little holiday snack.  Check out the P&C’s preview.

Sharon Graci plays a pissed off waitress stuck working on Christmas Eve in "Waffle Haus Christmas"

Tonight, I will be attending Charleston Stage‘s production of A Christmas Carol.  As I am always a sucker for a good ghost story and Christmas is my favorite holiday, second only to my birthday four days later, I am looking forward to this very much.  Will report back later!

A Christmas Carol playing at Dock Street Theatre

The 39 Steps to a Successful Play

1. a newly renovated theatre

2. a who done it by Alfred Hitchcock

3. actors who can change characters at the drop of a hat

4. 4 trunks

5. humorous references to other famous Hitchcock films

6. excellent directing

7. well that’s all well and good, but who would really read to 39?  The most important thing I can tell you is this play made my non-theatre loving boyfriend laugh out loud.  Yes, he literally LOL!  I enjoyed every moment of this hilarious and fast paced script.

It was a fabulous production by Charleston Stage’s talented and professional cast and crew.  I was incredibly impressed by the resumes of each of the actors, their ability to manage demanding day jobs and put on a play of this caliber.  Plus any excuse to visit the Dock Street Theatre, America’s first theatre, is a treat.

The Cast:

Richard Hannay – the dashing Kyle W. Barnette

Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret – Beth Curley

Clown/Man 2 – Brian J. Porter

Clown/Man 1 – George Younts