Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mikado Madness!

The Mikado with Milwaukee Opera Theater has been an incredible success! JillAnna Ponasik, artistic director of MOT and my co-director, and I worked with the cast to devise the new arrangements for the score and stage. We filled the stage with percussion instruments, and re-imagined the entire score with drums, gongs, trombones, guitars, and toy pianos. We tweaked the script and Jason Powell, our amazing Ko-Ko, updated a few of the songs. We jumped deep end into this crazy concept and had a blast creating it. We very much hoped that the audiences would come on board and enjoy it as much as we did.

It turns out that they did, and more! We have had packed houses and flattering reviews, and we could not be more thrilled with the response.

Steve Spice from Shepard Express compliments "Even those who are not enamored of Gilbert and Sullivan’s brand of Anglophile musical theater may find Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s new production of The Mikado, which literally leaps beyond the stage at Next Act Theater, a complete delight from beginning to end. The 1885 comic tour de force is hailed as a harbinger of modern musical theater, but this new production takes a much needed poke at the traditional English approach to light opera."

Elaine Schmidt from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  states "The veritable yard sale of musical instruments and noisemakers strewn across the set ofMilwaukee Opera Theatre's"The Mikado" might give the audience a clue that tradition has been left at home. If not, perhaps the rubber chickens will do the trick. MOT, playing in the Next Act Theatre space under the stage direction of Jill Anna Ponasik and Catie O'Donnell, has created a delightful evening of, well, what does one call it, experimental operetta?"

Paul Kosidowski from Milwaukee Magazine  says "the cast of MOT’s fizzy production have no problem asserting that lineage. Using a variety of way-out instruments–including toy pianos and trombones—and a loose, improv-ish acting style, they’ve created a show that is nothing like your grandfather’s Mikado, but is still gloriously true to W.S. Gilbert’s comic spirit."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Klingon Christmass Carol takes Chicago by storm

Klingon Christmas Carol was one of the most exciting and challenging productions I have ever had the pleasure of directing. I was very happy to have an extremely talented and hard working cast and production team working with me on this wonderful show. It truly was a whole group effort, and it would not have been a success without everyone giving their all. We had two months of rehearsal, including language lessons, fight choreography, music rehearsals, and regular blocking rehearsals.

All of our hard work paid off, because not only did we sell out 80% of our performances, we also have been getting fabulous reviews from around Chicago. New City Stage says "RECOMMENDED If you haven’t had the chance to see Commedia Beauregard’s “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” well now is the time. The current incarnation of the show, its fifth, will apparently be the final production in Chicago. Happily, this version is lively, appropriately violent and anchored by a wonderful leading performance from Philip Zimmermann as SQuja’. Oh and if you are wondering what exactly “A Klingon Christmas Carol” actually is, it’s… well… it’s a version of “A Christmas Carol” that’s done entirely with Klingons. 

Chicago Reader also recommends the show and says "There's humor throughout, but the two-act show takes itself more seriously then you'd think. Costumes are top-notch, and improvements over the years- a new set, a script overhaul...-make this production directed by Catie O'Donnell a fittingly polished final voyage".

Thursday, June 12, 2014

You're The Flop Is a Hit!

You're The Flop opened last weekend, and audiences loved it! It was truly amazing to work 

on a show from its inception to its opening. The cherry on top is that audiences also enjoy 

the production! Aaron Conklin from Madison Magazine gives us a few nice compliments, 

like "Music Theatre of Madison’s original production You’re the Flop—playing June 12–14 

in the Bartell Theatre—is full of clever and creative touches" and "you realize you’ve learned

 as much as you’ve been entertained. And it’s not every show that can say that." in his blog 

review. In The Isthmus' review  Gwen Rice writes "Perhaps the most surprising thing about 

the hour-long production is how well all the music flows together to tell a coherent story. 

The tuneful numbers, from such diverse composers as Marvin Hamlisch, Stephen 

Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, and Boy George, seem perfectly chosen for 

the slight narrative and work together as a harmonious score." and finishes with the

 perfect statement, "At the end of the show, we're no closer to determining the elusive X-

factor that separates success from failure on Broadway, but it's easy to see that You're the

 Flop is anything but." 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

You're The Flop is almost here!

About one year ago my partner with Music Theater of Madison, Meghan Randolph, came up with an idea to write a show about flop musicals. After sketching up with a few ideas, we brought in my friend Robby Sandler to help flush out a story. He and I worked for months on putting together songs that fit with our story idea. We wanted to tell the story of a group of theater artists who try to put a show up on Broadway, but it becomes a flop. After the songs were in place, Meghan put together the facts that she wanted said about shows that were flops. About a month ago we started rehearsals, and the actors helped shape the exact wording of the monologues, and the script was complete! After three and a half weeks of hard work, we are in tech. The show is really delightful, fun and touching. It is more then we ever expected it to be! It is thrilling to work on a production from its inception to its completion for the first time ever. Madison Magazine wrote a nice article and interviewed Meghan about the process. One note, the article list me as the music director of MTM, but I am in fact the associate artistic director.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Amadues was a great success!

Amadeus closed last night, and the show was an absolute hit in Milwaukee! We had numerous sold out preformances, standing ovations and great reviews! Russ Bickerstaff wrote a really amazing review in The Shepard Express, saying "the production as directed by Catie O’Donnell does a tremendous job of bringing forth the very real visceral emotional side of the story of this man's life and the lives of some of those he came into contact with." 

We were also honored to have Mike Fischer from the Journal Sentinel give us an amazing review with the headline "McDaris' Mozart his right notes in World's Stage Amadeus". 

In the end this has been one of my most successful productions!  I am so thankful that I was able to cross off one of my top shows from my bucket list, and with pride! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Amadeus Has Begun!

I am thrilled that tonight I get to open a show that has been on my "bucket list" for years, Amadeus! Third Coast Digest wrote a great article about the show, including an interview with myself and a few of my cast. I have to say this has been one of the best casts I have ever worked with. Our rehearsals were productive and fun, and they all went above and beyond for this show.
Besides the cast, the next best part about this production is the setting. We get to stage this show in the beautiful and magical Villa Terrace in Milwaukee. I was truly inspired by this setting for the show. It is an old mansion on the lakefront that was built in the style of an 18th century villa. It is now an art museum filled with antiques and art, all approperate for the Amadeus setting. We are preforming the show in the main hall, and we are using the antique furniture as our set pieces. The audience will be seated in the hall an arms length away from the actors, which is my favorite way to stage a show.
Overall, I am truly excited about this production! What a great way to start the spring!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hostage Song Reviews are fantastic!

Hostage Song was a great success! We had a great run, and we had the audiences and reviews to prove it. Madison Magizine's Aaron R Conklin said "Director Catie O’Donnell artfully deploys clever details to amp the mood, like the actors delivering the microphones to the blindfolded leads in a tender way when they’re playing loved ones, and ripping them away rudely when they’re dressed as terrorists." and more. Sarah Marty from Four Seasons Theater says "The indie rock approach to musical theatre and the subject matter fit well in the small back room of The Frequency. It's a very different experience as an audience member." in her blog review. Finally Jeff Turk from Fresco Opera had some wonderful things to say about Hostage Song here, including " I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in theater to take the opportunity to see this unique work, in this unique setting. Music Theatre of Madison’s “Hostage Song” demonstrates how powerful and moving modern theater can be."