Inside the Production

Here you will find articles, interviews, and information about the people and shows coming up in central Iowa.

  • James and the Giant Peach

    33ec41c2 0930 4adc 84a9 1f922ca7a063The stories of Roald Dahl have delighted brave children and their loving families for over half a century, and many of those stories have been made into stage plays and musicals. In addition to DM Playhouse productions of Willy Wonka and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang presented a few years ago, and the upcoming Matilda this summer, the Kate Goldman theatre now presents the non-musical version of Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, opening this Friday.

    Told with whimsical style and just a bit of dark comedy, James and the Giant Peach concerns the journeys of young James Trotter (played by Carson Klein). After the unfortunate demise of his parents, James must live with his Aunt Sponge (Kristina Linnane) and Aunt Spiker (Kerrie Lee), who are horrible caretakers. Through a series of somewhat magical encounters, he meets a number of friendly insects inside a Giant Peach, who accompany him on adventures through land, sea, and air. James discovers his own strengths, and thanks to his friends finds a world far beyond what he ever knew.


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  • Brilliant Traces

    F887df7a d129 485c 9553 bd16e5c63ac0Earlier this year, TheatreMidwest joined the ranks of area theatre companies with their first show, The Friendly Hour. In January, they start their second season of full productions with a presentation of Brilliant Traces, a comedy/drama that takes place in an isolated Alaskan cabin, where two strangers each discover there are better ways to live than just hiding from the world... and where emotional truths can finally be confronted.

    The character of Rosanna (played by Jami Bassman Ahart) stumbles into the remote cabin, after having runaway from her own wedding. It’s now been days, her car has finally broken down, and yet she’s still in her wedding dress, blindly just trying to escape her potential life and future. She meets Henry (played by Jami’s real-life husband Tom Ahart), the loner occupant of the cabin who has escaped his own life for the solitude of the wilderness. After more than a few struggles, the two seem to come to their own understanding, and perhaps their own version of love....


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  • Winter Dozen for 2020

    4d0448f1 42c9 4baa 8db0 d939c7d7f5f2Here we are again, with the Gentle Guide’s list of shows to look forward to coming up in the next few months. There are a few special things, including some regional premiere productions and a wide variety of show styles to choose from. Please, take advantage of the myriad possibilities provided by so many area theatre groups, and if something looks interesting to you, make the time to attend and support their efforts. The weather may be cold, but it’s a warm and inviting season of theatre up ahead. (Plus, a special announcement at the end of the list, featuring the return of a favorite event!!!)

    12 - BKLYN - the Musical

    Adb043ed 06c7 4171 93f6 f11d373c1fe9Road trip for the first show on the list, but I can’t skip this one (and it’s the only one that starts up in December!) History Boy Theatre in Jefferson always presents shows we don’t typically see very often here in Des Moines, so I want to make sure their production of BKLYN is noted. It’s an urban tale about a group of street performers, both telling their own personal stories, plus one about a woman who comes to the US to find the father she never knew. All performances are dinner shows, running the last weekend in December and the first weekend in January, with a special New Year’s Eve performance.

    11 - Baggage

    Bb17f6cd 39ac 45ed b11a 3facebf18bddSome relationships are just destined to be. And some are destined to be destructive. Sometimes people can’t decide which one they happen to be in at the time, let alone how it affects everyone else around them. Grand View College brings this comedy about trying to connect despite your history to the Viking Theatre for one weekend only, starting March 5.


    10 - Wonder of the World

    A2d7a6c2 b106 45ee 9617 2008cf120b65The final production of Tallgrass Theatre’s season is a visit to Niagara Falls, complete with a crazy cast of characters searching for answers and purpose. Laughs are as plentiful as the water for those met along the journey towards finding out what might have been. You never know what’s around the next bend, whether it’s the falls or something uplifting. Shows run at the Rex Mathes Auditorium from March 27 through April 13

    9 - Eurydice 

    C6ab2756 aaa4 41af bbd7 8dff506827daCarousel Theatre in Indianola presents this new version of the Orpheus myth for the first two weekends in March. The love story is brought into the modern day for an examination of its heroine and all the different ways her life and death are pulling in different directions. Carousel just keeps getting better and better, and this choice allows them to show yet another color to their dramatic palette.


    8 - The Cake

    77a86622 f541 4e0a b90e 80e837e52f1aFrom one of the writers of the TV drama This Is Us comes a new play about a wedding cake, promises made, and what marriage really means beyond the initial event. Iowa Stage returns to the Stoner inside the Civic Center from March 27 through April 5 to present this topical and moving production for the first time in the area.

    7 - Circle Mirror Transformation

    A85e5938 bc98 4956 8330 db762ddf1e24They say that theatre is a window into the soul. For a quartet of strangers, a drama class becomes a journey of self-exploration and conflict in this comedic drama from DMACC Ankeny. Searching for expression can also turn into a search for common ground. The free performances begin February 28 at their Black Box theatre on the Ankeny campus.

    6 - Wild Widow Poker

    72c95f23 09bd 4ed9 9462 03b79c7edf10A brand new play written by A’ndrea J. Wilson at Grand View University, this combined production from Grand View and Pyramid Theatre Company is guest directed by Tiffany Johnson. In 1963, four Chicago women must confront the rapidly changing outside world and decide how much they can ignore... and how and when to decide to do something courageous. Presented in the Viking Theatre at Grand View for 4 performances only starting February 20.

    5 - Brilliant Traces

    B24245df 87a1 407d 8d7f dd8cfc00d5b3TheatreMidwest brings its second full production to Des Moines with the two-hander Brilliant Traces. Appropriate fare for a frozen January, a runaway bride finds refuge in a remote and snowbound cabin. The owner of the cabin (and reluctant host) is also a runaway, from life and people... and these two isolated individuals must now try to find some common ground and understanding in the Alaska wilderness. The 2020 theatre year starts at the Viking Theatre at Grand View January 3 through 12.

    4 - The Boy at the Edge of Everything

    15f37364 bffa 4d15 a0a7 2c2606cda316The Iowa Premiere of this imaginative story comes from DM Young Artists’ Theatre. Young Simon becomes obsessed with discovering the Edge of the Universe, the dividing line between nothing and everything. But what he finds there is not what he expects... and his adventure will change more than just his own life. See the heartwarming story at the Stoner Studio Theatre beginning on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

    3 - Singin’ in the Rain

    5490af26 0925 4904 bcd9 ff6674a1ecc2Recognized as one of the great song-and-dance movies of all time, the MGM film has been reimagined as a stage musical. It graces the DM Playhouse mainstage opening March 13, with all the familiar tunes along for the ride. It’s a fun-filled romp sure to make you tap your toes and sing along, so grab your umbrellas and enjoy it all!


    2 - Other Desert Cities

    4585e327 b2f1 429b a0a3 28d2f9f666a6This year’s Dream Project from Tallgrass Theatre Company is Other Desert Cities, starring Kristin Larson. As the head of Grand View’s theatre program, she seldom gets to stretch her own acting muscles, but she’s taking the lead in this production about family secrets and what happens when they are revealed. This tight drama runs for three weekends beginning January 17 at the Rex Mathes Auditorium.

    1 - Adore Us! Line

    F2c98162 f3ec 43d0 a0f9 b77bd571949dRobert John Ford once again returns to the political arena, after his previous success with Caucus!-the Musical. Adore Us! Line is a song-for-song parody of A Chorus Line, with the numerous candidates “auditioning” for the typical Iowa caucus voter. With an all-star cast of many of Des Moines best and brightest musical theatre performers, this Iowa Stage production is sure to be an amazing treat (and there are rumors that a candidate or two might show up to see it as well!) Shows are at the Stoner Studio Theatre for the two weeks leading up to the actual Iowa Caucus, opening January 24 and running through February 2.


    Musical Theatre Karaoke is back in January!!!

    0ea80d04 effe 474b bf34 392781a29344And now, the announcement. There’s a new venue in the Drake area called xBk Live (named because co-owner Tobi Parks is an “ex-Brooklyn” native). Along with many local and regional singers and artists, she’s helping bring back my favorite night of the month, Musical Theatre Karaoke!!! It’s being combined with some of the features of the Cabaret nights formerly featured at Noce, with the help of local performers Charlie Reese and Madison Ray. The best news is that it will be held at a more accessible time, on Wednesday evenings starting at 7:30pm. We’ve got accompanist Francine Griffith on board, and it will be open to all ages. While xBk Live will sell alcohol as well as other drinks, they are licensed as a theatre and not a bar, so everyone is welcome. So, go find that sheet music and start practicing!! Beginning in January, Musical Theatre Karaoke will happen on the last Wednesday of every month (with the first one being January 29! Mark your calendars and come join us!!!!)

  • A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas

    E841833e b40b 45d4 8acc a1a502d88e41That’s a bit more of a title than you might be used to seeing for the yearly Iowa Stage production of A Christmas Carol. But even for a classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, things sometimes change, and that’s what’s happening with this year’s presentation. Opening next weekend at the Stoner Studio Theatre inside the Civic Center, A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas is an entirely new production of the traditional story for Iowa Stage.


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  • A Christmas Story - the Musical

    Ce729960 5ede 42cf 97fc 5a5f396032abIt’s holiday time, and we all have fond (and occasionally not so fond) memories of family gatherings. Sometimes it is about gifts we give or gifts we want, other times dealing with those we’d rather avoid. But no matter what, Christmas brings out events both thrilling and memorable, the type of thing that is celebrated in A Christmas Story - the Musical, opening next week and running for the month of December at the DM Playhouse.


    Based on the stories of author Jean Shepherd (which were turned into the beloved holiday movie A Christmas Story), this stage version now also adds a delightful Tony-nominated score and songs by the acclaimed team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Presented as a series of short memory vignettes, all the well-known moments from the movie are here, just as so many of us remember them.


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  • Theatre Thanksgiving 2019

    Aa994517 9af1 468b 98c2 73b90eed0374Last year I started a tradition here on the Gentle Guide that I’d like to continue. Since the weekend of Thanksgiving is typically devoid of theatre events (unless you call Uncle Joe falling asleep at the dinner table a “performance”), I’ve decided to just list a number of things that I’m personally thankful for in the Des Moines theatre scene over the past year or so.


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  • Pippin

    6749ebcb 3a90 480b a6bc 40a3bec3bde7Something extraordinary is happening at Drake next week, as the wonderfully talented musical theatre department presents Pippin! Starting next Thursday, Pippin is a timeless musical exploring the journey towards a fulfilling life, and how that search sometimes leads to incredible places... but what are you really searching for?


    It’s hard to believe that the original version of Pippin premiered on Broadway almost fifty years ago, from composer Stephen Schwartz and featuring the amazing choreography of the legendary Bob Fosse. A critically acclaimed and very different revival won four Tony awards when it brought a circus atmosphere theme to the musical in 2013, and every version of Pippin is new and unique. Ostensibly the story of young Pippin, the eldest son of King Charlemagne, the show is very much more an allegory about finding a purpose, and perhaps that one single shining moment we all desire.


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  • The Manic Monologues

    B5effa33 248b 4646 a15a e9ceedcca601Open Door Rep returns with a topical pop-up show that’s being performed for only the second time ever. The Manic Monologues is a series of scenes (developed at Stanford University in California) about the pervasive and often misunderstood topic of mental illness, and how it affects both specific individuals and the people around them. Open Door Rep is proud to be only the second group in the country to present this brand new show. A large and diverse cast has been assembled to tell these stories, and to share with the audience the many variations in mental illness (often unseen) that exist.

    Mental illness (and those who suffer from the various ways it manifests itself) is often spoken about in whispers, with uncertainty and suspicion. After all, most of us would like to consider ourselves “normal” people, and since the symptoms can represent many other things, the actual process of identifying mental illness, let alone going through any process to deal with it, is fraught with uncertainty and stigma. That’s why The Manic Monologues was created.


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