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Published: Friday, 4/1/2005

Masters of the stage inspire community theaters

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Matthew Orser, Ruthann Huffman, and Bob Walls in a scene from The Mousetrap.
From left, Matthew Orser, Ruthann Huffman, and Bob Walls in a scene from The Mousetrap.
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

Two community theaters celebrate three masters of the stage with productions opening this week.

The Waterville Playshop has opted for Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, and the Williams County Playhouse presents the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb in The World Goes Round.

The Mousetrap opened on Nov. 25, 1952, in London, where it is still running. John Oster, who is directing the whodunit for the Waterville Playshop, says there is an easy explanation for the longevity: "It's a very well-written murder mystery. Agatha Christie's craft speaks for itself. She still appeals to many people."

Despite the fact that the work appears on community stages quite often, Oster says room remains for innovation. "I have my own unique way of interpreting the story. I've put twists and spins into the production, and the cast is doing it justice."

Ruthann Huffman and Bob Walls star as Molly and Giles Ralston, who have just opened a guest house outside of London in the early 1950s.

Brad Riker, a veteran of Toledo Repertoire Theatre (Born Yesterday) and Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater (Polish Joke) productions, plays Christopher Wren, a friendly but snoopy guest. Other guests are Deb Riser as the overly critical Mrs. Boyle; Mike Willinger as Major Metcalf, an easygoing military man who is interested in architecture, and Grace Engle as Miss Casewell, a mysterious young woman.

Showing up at the manor unannounced are Mr. Paravicini (Ken Cahoo) and. after a murder is committed, Detective Sgt. Trotter (Matthew Oster). Clara Engle is heard but not seen as the radio announcer.

Matthew Oster is also the assistant director as well as being the son of the director. Jennifer Oster, wife of the director, is the stage manager, and to complete the family's role in The Mousetrap, "My daughter even helped with dragging a bunch of construction stuff in," John Oster said.

Oster said he has been involved in the Playshop for at least 18 years, and his wife, a native of the area, has been involved even longer.

The couple who play the guest house owners are new to the Playshop.

"This is the first time Bob's ever done a full-blown production other than church skits," Oster said. He's doing really well, according to the director, and is not shy about asking for explanations.

Huffman has appeared in other community productions, and Oster said he's delighted she finally made her way to the Playshop.

The Mousetrap marks the second time the Playshop has presented a show in the Millennium Theatre at Maumee Valley Country Day School; last year's Honk! was the first. It's a smaller venue than the auditorium of Anthony Wayne High School, where the troupe usually performs, but there is a feeling of intimacy that works really well with this play, Oster said.

The show is also family-friendly. The dialogue and plot may be too complex for very young children, but for 7 or 8-year-olds, the show would be perfect, he said.

"The Mousetrap" is scheduled at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Millennium Theatre at Maumee Valley Country Day School, 1715 South Reynolds. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for student and seniors, and $5 for children. Information: 419-878-8067.

In Bryan, Ohio, the Williams County Playhouse is presenting a musical buffet, serving up the work of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who created the music and lyrics for such shows as Chicago, Cabaret, and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Directed by Brent Blalock, a cast of 18 will work its way through about 25 songs, including "Class" and "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago; "But the World Goes 'Round" and "New York, New York" from New York, New York, and "Maybe This Time" and "Isn't it Better" from Funny Lady.

The show generally features five performers, Blalock said, but for the WCP production, he is following a format that showcases a lot of talent.

"The songs are performed more chorally than a cabaret act," he said. "We're focusing completely on the music of Kander and Ebb," with minimal sets and a large cast drawn from Bryan, Stryker, West Unity, Hicksville, and Montpelier.

Blalock, originally from the Hicksville area, used to direct in Williams County on a regular basis, but he now lives in Fort Wayne, and this is the first time in about 10 years that he is directing for the Playhouse. It's also the first time that most of these songs are being performed on the Williams County stage, he said.

"It's a very different experience, doing a revue with songs that people aren't familiar with. Not only am I teaching the cast, we'll be teaching the audience."

Blalock said The World Goes 'Round isn't for everyone. "It's a naughty revue, due to the subject matter. Kander and Ebb wrote more of the darker, seedier shows, perfect for a nightclub environment. If I had to rate it, I'd say it was a PG-13."

The Williams County Playhouse presents "The World Goes 'Round" tonight through April 9 in the Little Theater Off The Square, 208 West Butler St., Bryan, Ohio. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15. Information: 419-485-3861.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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