Webb’s RVC Studio winter full of love stories

By Richard S. Gubbe

Director Mike Webb is spending his 30th consecutive winter indoors at the Rock Valley College (RVC) Studio Theatre, and despite the impending cold, he is calling this his “Season of Love.”

The beloved A Christmas Carol opens Dec. 3, followed by A Little Night Music and finishing with Agatha Christie’s The Verdict. A Flea in Her Ear opened what is also the 30th season for the quaint Studio Theatre inside The Barn at RVC.

With A Christmas Carol (G), Webb applies his adaptation based on the novel by Charles Dickens.

In the studio with 26 people in the cast, it’s a huge play on a postage stamp,” Webb said. “The special effects are genius, and this is a unique opportunity to see the whole play.”

Ebenezer Scrooge, the greedy London businessman whose coldness is matched only by winter itself, is taken on a journey across time and possibility by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim and all the rest of Dickens’ unforgettable characters tell this memorable story of light, joy, warmth and transformation.

Scrooge will be played by Jin Cichock, a Rockford Boylan grad who will appear with his two sons. Eric Wilson will play Bob Cratchit.

The show runs Dec. 3-14, but tickets remain only for the Dec. 2, Dec. 4, Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 performances (at press time). The number of shows has doubled since the last run in 2000.

A Little Night Music (PG), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim from the book by Hugh Wheeler, runs Feb. 4-14, 2015. Auditions are Dec. 15-16, and casting calls typically include between 11 and 20 strong singers.

Sondheim created a stunning tour de force with Ingmar Bergman’s comedy of manners, Smiles of a Summer Night, and turns it into a sophisticated musical. Winner of four Tony Awards and set in 1900 Sweden, A Little Night Music explores the tangled web of affairs centered around actress Desirée Armfeldt and the men who love her: lawyer Fredrik Egerman and the Count Carl-Magnus Malcom.

When the traveling actress performs in Fredrik’s town, the estranged lovers’ passion rekindles. This strikes a flurry of jealousy and suspicion between Desirée, Fredrik, Fredrick’s wife, Anne, Desirée’s current lover, the Count, and the Count’s wife, Charlotte. Both men — as well as their jealous wives — agree to join Desirée and her family for a weekend in the country at Desirée’s mother’s estate. With everyone in one place, infinite possibilities of new romances and second chances bring surprises.

The story is full of moments of adoration, regret and desire. The music more than equals the plot in its complexity and features what may be Sondheim’s most popular song, “Send in the Clowns.”

Webb says this is “one of his (Sondheim’s) most beloved” creations. He added that the stage will be set with birch tree trunks created on set.

The Verdict (G) runs March 18-28, 2015, with auditions Feb. 16-17, 2015. The cast features six men and four women.

Karl Hendryk, a brilliant professor, flees his home country to care for his invalid wife, Anya, in England. Her suffering continues as her disease progresses, and she despises their new life. Karl, however, has made a name for himself at the local university, where he is respected and admired by faculty and students alike. Tensions between Karl and Anya continue to build, especially when Karl’s cousin Lisa moves in to assist in caring for Anya.

The situation is intensified when one of Karl’s young, rich students, Helen Rollander, begins to take private lessons from the professor. Feelings are quick to develop. The Christie murder plot ensues, built around a dangerous love triangle.

Webb first put on the production in 1990. He has directed all but a few of Christie’s 30-odd works.

They’re real fun,” he says of Christie scripts. “Back in the day, we were doing six performances, and now we are doing 14 performances. The Verdict is her best play.”

For tickets, call (815) 921-2160.

From the Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014, issue

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