By Nancy Curtis
NKU Marketing + Communications Intern
Looking for dinner and a show?
Then the Commonwealth Theatre Company’s main stage in NKU’s Robert and Rosemary Stauss Theatre is the thing for you.
The Commonwealth Theatre, which is headed by the chair of NKU's Department of Theatre and Dance, Ken Jones, began as NKU’s summer dinner theatre. It has since grown into NKU’s very own premier professional theatre featuring top talents from the region, talented undergraduates and NKU professors.
The main season is presented on campus each summer as a dinner and performance combination. This season will feature mystery comedy The Game’s Afoot and musical revue Route 66.
“Both shows are a great summer event, because you’re gonna laugh at both shows, you’re going to walk out smiling, you’re going to walk out knowing you had a really fun and entertaining evening,” said Corrie Danieley, assistant professor and director of The Game’s Afoot.
The Game’s Afoot was written by Ken Ludwig and tells the story of a group of actors in 1936 who attend a remote castle party hosted by actor Ken Gillette, who is known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. The guests are forced to solve the stabbing murder of one of the other party guests.
“I hadn’t read the show when Ken (Jones) asked me to direct, but as soon as I read it I knew it was going to be a lot of fun,” Danieley said. “The playwright is really great and his shows are really tight, fast and funny.”
The show began its run on June 11 and has been having a successful stage presence, according to Danieley — nearly selling out every night.
“Opening Night was great,” Danieley said. “Everyone was talking about how charming the show was.”
Danieley loves the show, especially the time period in which it’s set, and hopes that audiences are challenged intellectually in solving the whodunit case.
The cast is filled with “heavy hitters,” according to Danieley. The cast includes Mike King, Christine Jones and Sandy Foreman — all professional actors and NKU professors. There are also locally known talents and two undergraduates, including one from NKU.
Danieley said that the range of talent has made the whole process smooth.
Past performances of the Commonwealth Theatre Company have included (from top) 1940's Radio Hour, Forever Plaid, The Taffetas, and Make Someone Happy. The company performs The Game's Afoot and Route 66 this summer.
“It was so nice during the rehearsal process to say, ‘this is what I want to do,’ and then they did it,” Danieley said. “It was a very easy process with such a great cast.”
The Game’s Afoot will run on the main stage through June 29.
The second show of the summer season is Route 66, directed by NKU theatre professor Jamey Strawn.
Route 66 follows a group of singing friends on its 1960s cross-country trip from Chicago to California. Throughout the show, the men transform in their musical styles going from 50s doo-wop to Beach Boys hits. The show also looks at the history of the hot rod, the classic route itself, and the towns along the way.
“If you were to take Grease and Pump Boys and Dinettes and mix in doo-wop like a show like Jersey Boys, that’s what this show is,” Strawn said.
As the men played by actors including Josh Steele and NKU undergraduate Wes Carmen travel down the road, large postcards set the scene for all the quaint towns they pass through.
“What I love about it is that it does really take us along that nostalgic route of Route 66,” Strawn said.
Currently Route 66 is in the rehearsal process. Strawn said they’ve learned all the music and he is now witnessing the actors discover their characters.
“It’s interesting because when you’re doing a revue, there isn’t a book to the show, no scripted play…it’s song after song with a couple of lines to string them together,” Strawn said. “So the actors really have to invent who these people are and discover their path.”
Strawn hopes once the show debuts that audiences will enjoy it as much as he does.
“We’re hoping that they’ll have a memory of some trip they took or at least have that memory of what it was like in that time period,” Strawn said.
Route 66 will run on the main stage from July 9-27.
For more information on both shows and ticket prices, check out the Commonwealth Theatre Company's web page.