Five-time Tony Award recipient, “Grand Hotel” opens at The Barn for a three weekend run, April 25 through May 5, with a strong story of pre-Depression Berlin, in a story with beautiful story, complex characters, and strong cast.
Directed by Kevin Bogan, “Grand Hotel” brings a dramatic story of Berlin in 1928 and one of the strongest casts in Barn history. The show features a story of love, lust, desperation, discontent, opportunity, and drugs with a backdrop of a European hotel where people check in and check out with regularity. The musical score and lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest (with additional music & lyrics by Maury Yeston) explodes from the stage with superior vocal talents of Kansas City’s best actors.
To enhance their performances, the orchestra assembled for this production, led by Matt Richardson, add a rich velvety texture to the musical drama. Choreography by Valerie Martin adds yet another level of enjoyment to “Grand Hotel.” Martin’s efforts created tap sequences, Charleston sequences, ballroom sequences, jazz sequences, and also group numbers where she gets the whole cast moving in unison.
Productions at The Barn just seem to get better and better with each show. The selected shows appeal to a wide audience, the Arts Asylum venue provides better seating and acoustics, and the new orchestra loft resolved the issue of where to situate the orchestra so as not to overpower the performers. Besides that, Arts Asylum increases seating capacity. The only drawback is the road construction in that area. Hopefully, that will improve with each new production–a city problem.
“Grand Hotel” presents a unique story in the same time frame of “Cabaret.” It’s pre-Depression Era in Europe in Berlin, at one of the most classy hotels in Europe. The rich and famous come to play, inter-mingle, and escape. But the in and out trade of the hotel brings some strange encounters because everyone has his or her own agenda to follow. And, even the best plans fail to generate the desired outcome or happiness.
“It Is 1928. The World Is Between Wars, the Stock Market Is Booming, Berlin Is the Center of High Life and Optimism Rules the Day,” The Barn said. “However, Underneath it All, Much Is Happening with the Grand Hotel’s Illustrious Clients. Inspired by Vicki Baum’s Period Novel, Issues of Life and Death, Financial Ruin, Love and Murder Converge as People and Come and Go Through the Lobby of the Grand Hotel.”
Sex, prostitution, ambition, greed, theft, drugs, and murder make for a wonderful witches’ brew for this production. Take that story line and add a beautiful musical score, choreography, and fabulous voices. No one will be disappointed.
As for the acting and singing, no one could have selected a better, stronger, perfect cast. Credit Kevin Bogan for excellent choices, direction, and staging. Costumes also played a huge part of taking the audience to a different era and telling a gripping drama.
Difficulty comes in naming those to watch in the cast. They all work so well as an ensemble that the piece is seamless and flawless. Stand outs in the cast include a shocking narrator, Graham Fairleigh as a Doctor Feelgood character. Erica Baruth as an ageing Prima Ballerina needing a reason to put an end to her continued “farewell” tours creates a touching love story with the help of Brian King as a flat broke Baron in desperate need of cash. King will astound with his powerful voice and deliver the fire and sex that drives the love story.
Playing very much against type, Brian Larios plays an unsavory character trying to buy happiness and find financial security. As a “typist,” Ramsey Self delivers a heartfelt story of a platinum blonde who dreams of a Hollywood career. And, probably the most enticing story is that of Otto Kringeleim, played by Daniel Wolhberg, as a man who comes to the hotel to find a glimpse of the real world prior to his death.
Surprises come in the joyous dance sequences created my Valerie Martin and performed by a bevy of actors including Ramsey Self, Brian King, Mark McNeal, Raheem Fielder-Bey, and Daniel Wolhberg. They provide the “happy dance” numbers that use tap and jazz to lighten up the show. On the more serious side, JC Dressler and Rob Reeder couple to create the more serious motif for the show in several sequences that provide different styles of a more classic ballroom style of dance. Congratulations to all the dancers in “Grand Hotel” for using dance moves to further the story.
“Grand Hotel” tells a complicated, dramatic story that unfolds slowly and methodically as it entangles more and more characters in its web. The audience will follow along as the story continues to delve deeper into the needs, motivation, and character types in this story.
Stunning, melodic, power-packed, dramatic, romantic, touching–“Grand Hotel” covers all spectrums of entertainment. This is a musical that’s bound for sold out performances. Get tickets now.
The cast is: Dr. Otternschlag – Graham Fairleigh, Erik – Paul Brennan III, Jimmy 1 – Raheem Fielder-Bey, Jimmy 2 – Mark McNeal, Chauffeur – Michael Scahill, Zinnowitz – Christoph Cording, Witt – Tony Francisco, Sandor – Sharon Johnson, Madame Peepee – Kathleen Marx, Hermann Preysing – Brian Larios, Flaemmchen – Ramsey Self, Otto Kringelein – Daniel Wolhberg, Baron Felix von Gaigern- Brian King, Raffaela – Joy Richardson, Elizaveta Grushinskaya – Erica Baruth, Bell Boys – Miles Wirth, Nathan Le; Telephone Operators – Rachel Adcock, Valerie Knott, Nancy Seeman; Guests, Scullery, Staff – Ashley McGuire, Andrea Hobley; Scullery – Spencer Thompson, Matt Runnells; Bellhop – Ryan Stevens, The Countess – JC Dressler, The Count – Rob Reeder, Rohna – Brad Dowdy.
The Orchestra Is Lead by Musical Director Matt Richardson. Orchestra Members Are: Jonnie Brice – Keyboard 1, Deana Wagoner – Keyboard 2, Kim Ico – Violin 1, Theo Wren – Violin 2, Andrew Bonci, Jr. – Viola, Kieran Ojakangas – Cello, Kaytee Dieterich – Reed 1, Jim Vinkenberg – Reed 2, Ron Mundt – Reed 3, Danielle Mays – Reed 4, Charles Hooper – Horn, Andrew Beckstrom – Trumpet 1, Chris Kohl – Trumpet 2, Austin Skat – Trumpet 3, Ryan Holtz – Trombone 1, Ken Theistic – Trombone 2, Frank Annecchini -Bass, Zee Bockelman – Drums.
The Production Team Is: Kevin Bogan, Director; Matt Richardson, Music Director; Valerie Martin, Choreographer; Bernna Mcconaghey, Stage Management; Jonnie Brice, Rehearsal Accompanist; Mary Caitland Williams, Costume Design; Frank Gentile & Kevin Bogan, Set Design; Bill Wright & Frank Gentile, Set
Construction; Betsy Sexton, Properties Design; Alex Perry, Lighting Design; Sean Leistico, Sound Design; Jerod Rivers, Sound Operator; Kevin Fullerton, Graphic Design.
“Grand Hotel” runs April 25-may 5, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2p.m. at the Arts Asylum, 1000 E. 9th, Kansas City, Mo 64106. Tickets can be purchased online through The Barn Players website.
Tags: “Grand Hotel” review, The Barn Players, Arts Asylum, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment