CORAL GABLES, FL --Director David Arisco, producer Barbara Stein and their 25 member cast know –in no uncertain terms –how a Broadway hit should be produced on a regional stage. In fact, the current production at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre -- Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel -- –outdoes all predictions or expectations. It is one smashing musical!!!!
Firsr of all, is the original music ---- "If I Loved You," "Mr. Snow," "June is Bustin' Out All Over," "When the Children are Asleep," "A Real Nice Clambake," "You'll Never Walk Alone." Anyone who is familiar with Broadway musicals, knows what amazing story-telling lyrics are enclosed in this brilliant opus.
Secondly, is the amazing storyline .Who can forget the love affair between Julie (Julie Kleiner) nand the carousel employe (Michael Hansaker)? And, who can present the evil Jigger – played perfectly by South Florida favorite Nick Duckart!!! Or who can have the stage presence and a golden voice like Loureline Snedeker as the Carousel owner!
In fact.the entire cast deserves praise –Mark Sanders, Laura Turnbull, Peter Haig, Kevin Reilley, Alexandra Van Hasselt and Macia McGeorge plus the toe tapping ensemble Nikki Allred Boyd, Aj Cola, Diana D’Ambrosio, Austin Ryan Hunt, Kimmi Johnson, Nicole Kinzel, Brent D. Kuenning, Macia McGeorge, Victoria Lauzen, Taylor Hilt Mitchell, Hugo E. Moreno, Lauren Tepper, Brian Varela, and Kelly Ziegler--as well as the children Zakary Clausel, Carolina Garcia, Grace Hernandez, Max Lleifman, Athena Pacanins, Sofia Rubio, and Satine Sorenson.
Furthermore, let’s give credit to music director Caryl Fantel and especially to choreographer Ron Hutchins. In fact, the entire tech team should take a bow –Tim Bennett (set design), Eric Nelson (lighting), Shaun Mitchell (sound), and Ellis Tillman (costumes).
I am always amazed how a South Florida regional company can take a hit Broadway show –even one 70-plus years old – and can make it fresh and new, But that is what happened at Actors Playhouse. Carousel is the second musical by the team of Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). The 1945 work was adapted from Ferenc Molnár's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline.
It’s well worth the ride.
Call 305 444-9293 for tickets. It runs through Feb. 26
SCHOLARSHIP NAMED FOR CHARLIE CINNAMON
I recall with pleasure when I was a young journalist with United Press and receiving a call from press agent Charlie Cinnamon inviting me to the opening of Waiting For Godot as the first show at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. It seems like only yesterday. Now, Charlie –that terrific publicity agent – has passed away. But, his legacy will live on. Cinnamon was a major presence behind the scenes in South Florida’s arts community. So brilliant was Cinnamon that a mere publicity stunt in 1963 to promote a musical at the Coconut Grove Playhouse became the ongoing Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Thanks to the Florida Theatrical Association, Cinnamon’s name will remain interwoven with theater in South Florida. After Cinnamon died, the FTA announced the Charlie Cinnamon Theater Scholarship to honor its longtime board member. The scholarship will be available to Central and South Florida high school students for those majoring in theatre/drama.
February may be the shortest month of the year – but it brings doutonble pleasure at the Broward Stage Door theatre – two unique shows. a hilarious comedy about Jewish fathers and their sons (The Bris, Bar Mitzvah and Beyond); and a delightful musical comedy about one of the greatest entertainers of all time --Danny Kaye (Kid from Broooklyn)! Call 954-344 7765. ……….For those interested in American politics, look no further than Actors’ oca RTony award winning All The Way. It’s about the Viet Nam era civil S…………..it looks likr the theatre season is in full swing.
Just look at these offerings at South Florida theatres
THE FIRST STEP: DIARYOF A SEX ADDICT ISLAND CITY STAGE
ZOETIC STAGE ,SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
WEST SIDE STORY, THE WICK, THROUGH FEB. 26
GUYS AND DOLLS, THE WICK, MARCH 11-APRIL 9
Big River -, Slow Burn Theatre March 18-April 2
· Gypsy Maltz Jupiter theatre March 22 – April 9
· Dry Powder, GableStage March 25-April 23
· Arcadia Palm Beach Dramaworks March 3l-April 30
· The Caretaker, Zoetic Stage, March 31-April 16
Xanadu, Slow Burn Theatre, through March 5
Driving Miss DAISY, Chicken Coop Theatre, JCC West
Boca, through Feb. 19
Collected Stories,Palm Beach Dramaworks, through March 5
Real Women Have Curves. Main Street Playhouse, through Feb 26
Disgraced, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, through Feb. 26
Into that Darkness and Trafficking in Broken Hearts, Infinite Abyss, Feb 23-March
ZOETIC STAGE ,SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
WEST SIDE STORY, THE WICK, THROUGH FEB. 26
GUYS AND DOLLS, THE WICK, MARCH 11-APRIL 9
ANYONE WHO THINKS SOUTH FLORIDA IS A CULTURAL DESERT, LOOK ELSEWHERE!!!!!
==================================================== ( Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent was president of the South Florida International Press Club, was a Carbonell voter,is a Silver Palm Awards advisor/voter, advisor to the SouthFlorida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
GABLESTAGE REEKS OF REALISM
WITH PRESENTATION OF PULITZER
AWARD PLAY -- BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY
BY RON LEVITT
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWSB
Coral Gables, FL – It’s no wonder that Between Riverside and Crazy – the latest offering to grace GableStage –has won so many theatrical awards including the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It smacks of realism while providing the audience with plenty of humor.
It’s no wonder that in addition to the Pulitzer, it won the New York Drama Critics Award for best play, the 2015 Lucille Loriel award for Outstanding Play, the 2015 Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the 2015 Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Play. It was a clean sweep for playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis whose plays have been produced on five continents over the years.
Furthermore, the awards for Between Riverside and Crazy are richly deserved.
But what is more deserved for theatrical excellence includes the cast, direction and technical excellence of the GableStage production—the Southeastern premiere.
It is obvious from the beginning that the direction by Joseph Adler has given this play a sense of reality. And, his casting is superb particularly Leo Finne in the role of Pops, a retired New York policeman living in a rent-contolled apartment on New York’s Riverside Drive.
Finne heads an A-One cast including Beverly Blanchette, Marckenson Charles, Sara Oliva, Gladys Ramirez, Arturo Rossi and Michael Serratore. Each actor shares in the realistic storyline penned by Guirgis and directed by Adler. Both the director and author deserve credit for the unique characters in this play.
Add to the excellence are te technical aspects of the playn—lighting by Byron Kaschube, set by Lyle Baskin, sound and music by Matt Corey and costumes by Ellis Tillman. Add to this professional crew—technical director Carlos Rodriguez, props by Clara Fath and stage management by Katie Ellison and you will get a five-star offering which is the “usual” for a GableStage production.
If this particular production doesn’t earn additional South Florida awards, it may be because “excellence” rings true for too many shows
Between Riverside and Crazy will run through February 19. Call 305 445 1119 for tickets.
STALKING THE BOGEYMAN READY
TO PROVIDE WICKED FUN!!!
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
The cast alone at GableStage at the Biltmore should be a big draw. It’s like a Who’s Who in South Florida theatre. Add to this a terrific play of absorbing drama and it’s a hit in the making. Even the name of the play is catchy Stalking the Bogeyman. And director Joseph Adler is promising his loyal fans a wickedly funny time. It’s a must see production with Alex Alvarez, Patti Gardner, David Kwiat, Taylor Miller, Bill Schwartz and Barbara Sloan. Bogeyman runs from July 30 through Aug, 28 -- two months of thrilling fun and extraordinary story-telling, fresh from runs in London and Off-Broadway. It’s such an extra-ordinary play that even the authorship is a mix of playwrights and journalists. How’s this for author crediting and explanation --Stalking the Bogeyman is an American play by Markus Potter and David Holthouse with additional writing by Shane Zeigler, Shane Stokes & Santino Fontana.! In the spring of 2003, David Holthouse was an award-winning journalist. But no one knew that David had two incredibly dark secrets -- first, that 25 years ago he was the victim of a violent rape, and now, that he was planning the ultimate revenge on the man responsible. A humanising story of transformation, Stalking the Bogeyman is a tale of healing and forgiveness. Based on the true story first told in the Denver Westword newspaper and subsequently on the popular weekly radio broadcast ‘This American Life’, journalist Holthouse describes being raped at the age of 7 by a 14-year- old boy and his recently abandoned plans to belatedly kill his now grown-up attacker: “This time last year I had a gun, and a silencer, and a plan.” To tell more would spoil the fun!!! Suffice it to say it’s intriguing!!!! Call 305 445-1119 for tickets.
It always helps if you know a lot about theatre, movies and the world of show biz! Nevertheless, Buyer and Cellar currently at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in the Gables is astonishing mainly because it is a one person tour de force performance by Carbonell-winning actor Chris Crawford directed by David Arisco. This fantastically funny show has Crawford playing numerous characters including Alex More (an unemployed actor), his boyfriend (Barry), Barbra Streisand’s House Manager husband ,James Brolin and eventually Streisand herself. This play runs through August 7th. Crawford gives a dynamite performance and will amaze theatre-goers as he dons so many roles. But, it is helpful, if you are into show biz jargon and info! Call 305 444-9293 for tickets.l
Fans of the fare Florida Stage used to produce can get a taste of it again in an unexpected setting. Former Florida Stage producing director Louis Tyrrell's Theatre Lab is collaborating with the Norton Museum to present a three-part play-reading series starting Thursday at the museum.The shows will be performed during the Norton’s weekly Art After Dark series ….
AND, COMING SOON and suggested for early ticketing -- to the Broward Stage Door on Sample Road -- Blame It On The Movies Aug 10 through Sept 18 and the highly successful musical The Rothschilds Sept 7 through Oct.16 . ( Call 954 340-4078…………. And Shorts Gone Wild 4 runs Aug, 6-28 at (954 600 7113) Island City Stage
( Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent was president of the South Florida International Press Club, was a Carbonell voter,is a Silver Palm Awards advisor/voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact email@example.com)
TWO YOUNG STARS, VETERAN ACTORS
MAKE BROADWAY BOUND SO ENJOYABLE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
It isn’t often that young talented actors can play side by side with veterans of the theatre and having you cheer for both generations as you have a most enjoyable time while watching a brilliant piece on stage.
Broward Stage Door –flush with its success of the extended run of The Soul of Motor City in Theatre Two – mixes drama and comedy with Neil Simon’s final segment of his “Eugene Trilogy.”
Currently playing through August 14 is Broadway Bound.
It’s the last chapter of the prize-winning trilogy following Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. This play is about two talented Brooklyn brothers as they seek to be broadcast comedy writers. Against this comedy turn is the reality and drama of their parent’s separation.
Carbonell winner Michael Leeds keenly directs a versatile and memorable cast, including two bright young stars –Kristian Bikic and Alex Salup getting the most out of the comic elements – playing the talented brothers. Bikic and Salup both give superior performances and earn a spot in the South Florida regional theatre’s up and coming talent list!
Librach and Rosa as the parents ending their long marriage because of infidelity are superb, giving this play its dramatic element.
And Michael Small – as the aging grandfather – is a gem, providing much of the humor as he plays everyone’s fading older generation. His performance is unique.
Yes, I obviously liked Broadway Bound. (I should admit that I Have seen this play in three previous productions but this Broadway Bound is by far the best – much to the skills of the actors on stage and the directorial ability.
For tickets, call 954 -340-4078.
MUSIC BY SONDHEIM ONCE AGAIN DRAWS
LARGE CROWDS TO BROWARD STAGE DOOR
BY RON LEVITT
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
0nly a handful of theatres can generate audience enthusiasm when their season is announced, especially among Broadway musical fans. So when Broward Stage Door tagged the unusual Putting It Together – the third revue version of words and music from the library of Steven Sondheim’s Broadway hit, it generated mass hysteria. And, this production directed by Peter Lowey earns every bit of praise.
Putting It Together is the third musical revue showcasing the songs of Sondheim. It was devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie. Earlier Sondheim revues consisted of Side By Side and Sondheim On Somdheim.
All have had record runs in London. on Broadway and “on the road, “ This production of Putting It Together is a South Florida first. although its predecessor Sondheim on Sondheim had a successful run a year ago at Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables
This Broward Stage Door production --- with a unique set by Michael McCain – features five magnificent singers --- a powerful Alexandrea Lugo, versatile , Anthony Massaratto, Sondheim veteran star Darrick Penny, baritone Jason Plourde and especially the golden voice of Stage Door veteran Ann Marie Olson (her powerful The Ladies Who Lunch is a show-stopper).
David Nagy -- as music director --at the piano helps provide the music along with Andrea Gilbert(woodwinds}, Julie Jacobs (drums), and Martha Spangler (bass). Kudos. as well, to the costumer Larry .Bauman), lighting by Shekar Alyer, and sound guru Kingsley Ramondvil.
But most of all, it’s the vocalists who make this production so enjoyable. From Massaratto’s opening Sondheim song to the finale featuring all five singers,(Like It Was) it is pure enjoyment. They sing, dance – all in synch!
Putting It Together runs through June 19. Call 954 344-7765 for tickets.
‘THE ROYALE’ PACKS A PUNCH
IN ITS DEBUT AT GABLESTAGE
By RON LEVITT
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
It’s about the early years when a black boxer dares to take the ring against a white man and its consequences involving racism, race relations, family effect and professional sports.
Yet – for 70 minutes – there are no physical blows in The Royale – a play currently at GableStage written by dynamic Hialeah-native playwright Marco Ramirez. It is loosely based on the career of that magnificent boxer Jay Johnson. Nevertheless, this play packs a punch as stirring drama set against another time and real events. It packs a wallop because it allows its actors to wheel such dramatic force. It it can only help the audience imagine how sports history was being made.
Although similar in thrust to the 1967 hit play and movie –The Great White Hope, this play stands alone because of its rich dialog and dramatic force echoed by a five-star cast, re-living Johnson’s first move to center stage (or should it be center ring?).
The Royale is based on the real-life of this boxer featuring elaborately stylized direction by Joseph Adler. It is written and directed with a novel patter where timing and synch-motions take over from what seems like a more than ordinary script.
Its main character is dubbed Jay "The Sport" Jackson ( a terrific professional acting debut by Aygemang Clay), a black boxer fighting for peanuts under the watchful eyes of his veteran trainer Wynton (Andre Gainey ) and his white manager Max (an outstanding Gregg Weiner), the latter boastfully describing himself as "the world's only interracial fight promoter." Jay is reduced to fighting opponents far beneath him, including the scrappy young Fish (another star-worthy performance by Ryan George), who becomes his sparring, partner. Jay finally agrees. It also tells the story of the effect his professional decision to fight a white man has on his family. . Shein Mompremeir as the boxer’s sister gives an elegant performance as she pleads with her brother on the racial happenings such a boxing match would incur.
But, he’s desperate for a title shot against the white champion.
The set by Lyle Baskin – primarily a boxing ring -- seems perfect -- and all the tech team did well in The Royale: Ellis Tillman for costuming, Jeff Quinn for lighting and Matt Corey for sound. Because of the unique patter of this script and the reality of punches, credit also must go to Movement/Rhythm Coach Rudi Goblen.
Seems time for an historic note, captured in the play’s program. “The Royale was inspired by Jack Johnson (1878-1946) an American boxer who – at the height of the Jim Crow era –became the first African American boxing champion (1908-1915). He constantly flouted conventions regarding the social and economic “place” of blacks in American society, As a black nan, he broke a powerful taboo in consorting with white women and would constantly and arrogantly verbally taunt men (both black and white) inside and outside the ring. Racial animosity among whites ran so deep that it was called out for a “Great White Hope” to take the title from Johnson.”
Certainly fodder for a playwright……..and Author Ramirez does so with gusto!.
It reminds us just how far we have come as a nation in terms of racial acceptance in our lifetime. It’s a powerful examination of race relations not to be missed!!!
Call 305 445 1119 for tickets. The Royale runs through June 26.
INSPIRED CAST DELIVERS POWERFUL PERFORMANCES
IN “THE TIN WOMAN” AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE
BY RON LEVITT
Florida Media News
Powerful and Creative are two words seldom used to describe any play one would expect to be somber and sensitive but playwright Sean Grannan’s play The Tin Woman currently at the Actors’ Playhouse deserves both accolades.
When you learn this play is about a heart transplant and how the donor’s family reacts to meeting the recipient (and vice versa), your first response is chilling. But, in this playwright’s hand as well as in the capable hands of Director David Arisco and a cast of mainly South Florida star-quality veterans, this play stands in for more than the usual ‘think” piece. It is indeed stimulating and provocative and so well acted, it deserves praise.
In fact. one would not be far off course, in calling this production ‘superb.”
Let us not dwell on the subject matter. Rather, this is the kind of production which should be mindful of the acting prowess of those on stage.
Ken Clement is a well known South Florida actor, often in supporting roles. In The Tin Woman, he plays the deeply wounded father of the heart donor and it is an award worthy performance,. Clement --echoing Grannan’s script – makes everyone in the audience aware of his grief. It is a stunning performance!
On the flip-side, Laura Turnbull --- as the donor’s mother – shows vividly how a family member reacts to grief differently. She is perfect as the foil to Clements character. Her mother role is filled with love and remembrance. One, again, a star worthy performance,
Equally stirring are the rest of this well-directed cast -- Jennifer Christa Palmer as the depression-laden heart recipient --Joy – and Natalia Coego as the recipient’s sister and especially Lela Elam as the donor’s close friend.. Also a standout is Cliff Burgess as Jack, whose heart is the crux of this story. He is on stage most of the play as the heart itself. He slides through most scenes as the spirit echoed as the character in the Wizard of Oz, wanting someone to donate a heart. His character – despite limited dialog– is one proving acting ability.
The Tin Woman runs through June 12. For tickets, call 305-441-444-9293.
GABLESTAGE’S ADLER PRESENTS
A CHAMBER MUSIC VIEW 0F LOVE
BY RON LEVITT
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
CORAL GABLES, FL – Producing Artistic Chief/Director Joseph Adler of GableStage has done it again!!
As he has done so many times, he has shown South Florida theatre-goers that a different kind of musical can have a stirring effect on its audience . In this case -- A Minister’s Wife – is both a showcase for acting/vocalizing talent as w ell as a solid link as a classical chamber musical, mixing song and dialogue to make a point -- the power and necessity of love . You won’t exit the theatre singing songs from this show but you will have to feel the stronger emotions that a wife can have for her husband and vice versa.
But before I give away the entire plot, suffice it to say that three different forms of l o v e become entwined in this unique theatrical event based on Candide, George Bernard Shaw’s comedy about the mysteries of marital love within the concept of a verbal boxing match.
Conceived by Michael Halberstand and directed locally with finesse by Adler, this show had a positive impact Off-Broadway and in other venues. It features music by Joshua Schmidt, co-author of the musical version of The Adding Machine – the offbeat musical award which deservedly won Carbonells for both Adler and GableStage. In fact, in its 18 seasons GableStage and Adler have been The Adding Machine and the recipients of 59 Carbonell awards and 197 Carbonell nominations. A Carbonell award is the South Florida equivalent of the Tonyin New York. And, Adler has won for each of his soirees into musical theatre – The Adding Machine and James Joyce’s The Dead.
Eric Alsford – a veteran of South Florida musical theatre – is the musical director. And his creativity rings out with his piano background, aided by violin, cello and reed instruments.
The show feature intricate lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen and Austin Pendleton wrote the condensed book.
Credit must also go to the local tech team which make this show sizzle with charm – the magnificent set of a British home in 1898 by Lyle B as the young, love-struck poet,askin, the lighting by Jeff Quinn, the sound by Matt Corey, and the costumes by Ellis Tillman.
Normally, one would want to give rave reviewsto an outstanding cast early in a review. But, there is so much to admire in a chamber musical like A Minister’s Wife with its unique qualities, my regrets tothis award-worthy group as they tell the tale of a poet in love with a married woman.
Jim Ballard, normally known for dramatic roles, is superb as the robust-voiced, upstanding reverend. Laura Hodos, as his wife, shines in her part, as does Christian Vanderpas as the young, love-struck poet. Leah Sessa, as Miss Garnett, the clerfyman’s secretary, is naturally brilliant and Shane Tanner, as always, manages to charm the audience as a junior minister Tanner, fresh from Slow Burn’s production of Big Fish, is notably inspirational as a musical actor, no matter which role he plays.
A Minister,s Wife runs though April 24. Call the box office for tickets – 305 445 1119.
ZOETIC STAGE’S PASSION EXEMPLIFIES
THE BEST IN SOUTH FLORIDA THEATRE
BY RON LEVITT
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
There was a time when South Florida was a cultural desert. I can personally relate to such a time. When I started serving as Florida Asst. Sec of State some 30 years ago with my major job the demand for state support of the arts, Florida ranked 43rd in the nation in support of cultural affairs. There was hardly a local theatre at that time. Theatre was limited to a few road show productions annually. Regional productions were a zero! When I left office a few years later, Florida was in the top 10 in the country in support of the arts. I don’t mean to take credit for that milestone in change. Former governor Bob Graham and the late Sec. of State George Firestone actually deserve a bow for that change. In fact, one of the reasons and in reality for such phenomenal advancement in cultural appreciation was also the growth of T H E At R E primarily in South Florida. Those were the days of the sparkle of the Coconut Grove Playhouse and the Broward Stage Door venue and the advent of so many regional theatres in other parts of South Florida. A friend of mine recently e-mailed to me how fortunate was I to live in South Florida. He was not talking about the weather – but rather because of so many regional theatres offering such a variety of productions. These are things we take for granted but it is good to be reminded by others how fortunate we are today to have such outstanding regional theatre available.
Typical of such change is a show soon closing in Miami after a successful run --Zoetic Stage’s truly terrific musical and South Florida premiere – Stephen Sondheim’s Passion – at the Arsht. It is typical of the fantastic works we only dreamed about years ago. Passion runs through March 13 with performances so outstanding we will probably be reminded of them when 2016 awards season rolls around. Certainly we will not forget this work directed by Stuart Meltzer or the outstanding performances of Nicholas Richberg and two young ladies – Anna Lise Jensen and Jen Hacker. Richberg, in particular – --usually the star of drama or comedy – gives a remarkable performance in this musical. He may be recalled as the Carbonell Best Actor in a Play last year. And, he will certainly be a contender in the musical category this year! He is superb in a difficult role in which he only briefly is off stage during the two hour show. He is backed by an A-One ensemble –Stephen G. Anthony, Clay Cartland, Robert Fritz, David Kwiat, Casey Molino Dunn, Brian Reiff, Mark Sanders, Timothy Boehm-Manion and Kelly Gabrielle Murphy. This musical –with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by Games Lapine -- is based on the European film Passion d’Amore. Music director Caryl Fantel. costume designer Ellis Tillman, lighting designer Rebecca Montero and scenic guru Michael McKeever all deserve kudos, along with the entire tech crew. Give Passion an A-plus!!!
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS: Speaking of Sondheim, this master of theatre-dom will take center stage once again when David Arisco and company at the Actors’ Playhouse brings to the Gables Sondheim On Sondheim which as a smash hit on Broadway just awhile back. It will run at the Miracle Theatre March 18 through April 10. Expect a run on tickets, so get yours early!............Ditto for Joseph Adler and GableStage and its newest offering -- A Minister’s Wife --which will run at its Gables venue ( Biltmore Hotel) March 26- April 24……….You don’t have to be a theatre buff to appreciate Curtains – the Florida premiere of the Kander-Ebb musical – currently playing to packed crowds at The Wick. It is the ‘in piece’ musical which is currently playing at the Boca venue and will run until March 27. John Kander and Fred Ebb --both known for a string of musicals including Cabaret and Chicago -- and Rupert Holmes (along with Peter Stone who, took over when Mr. Ebb died) have put together a musical treat for those who love theatre and The Wick production helps to keep that concept alive. “Curtains” didn’t make it to Broadway until 2007, two and a half years after Mr,Ebb’s death but when it did, its star, David Hyde Pierce won the Tony Award for best actor in a musical. This tale is about how a show gets to Broadway as well as a being a mystery -- a la Agatha Christie . The star attractions in the The Wick production are Tony Edgerton, Angie Radosh ,Julie Kleiner, Michael Ursua, Mallory Newbrough, and Kevin Healey. The star names are backed by a talented group including Cliff Burgess, Brian Padgett, Peter Librach, Alex Jorth, Alan Gerstel, Emily Tarallo and Kimberly Wick.
Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent was president of the South Florida International Press Club 2000-2014, and a Carbonell voter for 11 years,. He is on the Silver Palm Executive Committee, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WICK’S SOUTH PACIFIC BLENDS CHARM, STRONG VOICES
AIMED AT A NEW GENERATION OF THEATRE-GOERS
By Ron Levitt
FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
BOCA RATON, FL – Leave it to the Wick Theatre to produce a show of shows and provide infusion into a new generation of theatre goers. That’s what is happening once again thanks to producer Marilyn Wick who selected one of America’s greatest and most charming, romantic, and thoughtful musicals -- South Pacific --aimed at a new generation and better than ever for repeat audiences.
In other words, South Pacific is for everyone who loves theatre – whether new-comers to live theatre or repeat viewers.
It is musical theatre at its best – thanks to a terrific team of actors who can sing, a director who knows the intricacies of wielding a baton, as well as costumers and a tech-team who bring out the best while charming its audience.
South Pacific – certainly one of America’s most appealing and most enduring musicals – is the Pulitzer prize winning opus of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
This particular production – a classic which runs through Feb.14th – has one upmanship on other versions across America and internationally. It has costumes from The Wick’s unique costume museum for starters. Couple this with the astute direction / choreography skills of Norb Joerder, musical director Michael Ursua, and the talent of veteran Broadway stars Nat Chandler, Adrienne Hick, Amy Jo Phillips and all the attributes of a future TV Bachelor Mark Koeck.
Nat Chandler – whom theatre goers may know from Phantom of the Opera road shows – plays the French plantation owner Emile de Becque His baritone voice adds new dimensions to Some Enchanted Evening and This Nearly Was Mine – just two of the songs from this well- known score. His comparison to Enzio Pinza is natural for the oldtimer fans!
Adrienne Hick is the young, impressionable nurse Nelly Forbush – who falls head over heels for the dashing Emile. She sparkles and is an under-stated romantic novice whose voice matches her charm.
Amy Jo Phillips is the perfect Bloody Mary who manipulates and schemes to give her daughter (Jennifer Chia) a better life. Her rendition of Bali Ha’i is a show-stopper and don’t be surprised if you come out of the theatre singing and humming it even if you don’t know the words
Marc Koeck is an instant heartthrob as the young, thoughtful Lt. Cable and his versions of Younger Than Springtime and especially the trail-blazing anti-prejudice song You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught are remembered by audiences who saw this show in 1949.
As befitting this outstanding production, comedy gets its share of time on stage equal to the romanticism. Michael Iannuucci takes center stage as a comic troublemaker, aided by his Naval sidekicks . They sing and especially dance in this topnotch choreographed show.
Let’s not not forget to give credit to the outstanding tech team – Patrick Larson’s sets, Josieu’s projection talent in bringing Bali Ha’i to life, Alan Wilson’s costumes, sound by Justin Thompson, and lighting design by Thomas Shorrock
Though this is not a new show, there is talent aplenty on stage – a musical treat especially when it tackles prejudice in script and song.
The ensemble and supporting cast – including nurses and sailors – are so good, they earn the right to be identified: Cameron Jordan, Rick Hvizdak, Richel Ruiz, Alexis Bentinganan, Daniel Font-Willets, Meredith Bartmon, Patrick A. Wilkonson, Tom Cooch. Michael Friedman, Elizabeth Morgan, Elizabeth Sackett, Jacob Titterington, Amanda Frennier, Joshua Conner, Kelly Ziegler, Samantha Leibowitz, Victoria Lauzin, Anthony Cola, Alexander Zenoz, Eric O’Keefe, and Arrow Zuurschmiede.
For tickets, call 561-995-2333
ANN MARIE OLSEN, MATTHEW KORINKO SHINE IN BROWARD STAGE DOOR’S GYPSY
By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
MARGATE, FL -- There are many reasons to see (and hear) the ultimate stage mother in South Florida’s revival of Gypsy currently at the Broward Stage Door. But, one reason definitely is the performance of Carbonell-winning musical star Ann Marie Olsen whose golden voice wows her audience throughout this production.
Olsen has a long line of stars to follow as Mama Rose -- including the original milestone marker Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daley. Bernadette Peters and Patti LaPone on stage and Rosalind Russell on film as –even if she is a younger version – Olsen’s vocal rendition keeps pace with the best of them. She is A-One in this role as the woman whose push and grind made Gypsy Rose Lee a star.
It is Olsen -- backed by a stellar cast —that makes this version so enjoyable. She gives a star-worthy performance on par with the best of her predecessors in that coveted role. Another cast member equally rises to star quality – Matthew Korinko – as Herbie, Rose’s beau – whose voice qualified him for being above the title. It seems that any show Korinko is in sparkles because of his acting ability. Herbie may not have much to sing in this show, but when he is center stage, drama takes hold in all elements of good acting. In summation, Korinko makes his character seem real.
At the outset of the musical, Rose is trooping around the country -- mostly to give Baby June (Lola Mcclure/Erica Rose Mendez ) a career in show biz. When June abandons her, then -- and only then -- does she concentrate on her other daughter (Zoe McClure/Kelley Ziegler ) as a means of filling her own star-lust. Rose is the ultimate stage mother -- even willing to lose her boyfriend to success on the stage for her children’s and her own quest for stardom.
The 1959 musical with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Julir Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim . folllows the career of how Rose Louise Hovick becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, the Minsky burlesque stripper. The songs are well known to anyone who loves good musicals –Some People, You’ll Never Get Away From Me, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Together Wherever We Go and the rousing show-stopping finale number – Rose’s Turn.
The supporting cast is excellent, especially Kelley Ziegler as the older version of Louise (a Natalie Wood look alike/act alike) , a terrific tap-dancing Brian Dorito as June’s boyfriend Tulsa, and Christina Groom, Stephanie Genovese, and Ellie Pattison as three strippers. Direction by the theatre’s artistic guru Dan Kelley moves the show along at a quick/productive pace and choreography by Chrissi Ardito are topnotch -- together making this a worthwhile pre holiday theatre visit.
No matter how many times one sees (and hears) Gypsy, this production ranks among the best! Gypsy runs through January 3rd, 2016 Call 954 344 7765 for tickets.
Constellations at GableStage
AWARD WINNING AMADEOS – DIRECTED BY JOSEPH ADLER EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITIES OF A RELATIONSHIP By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
COIRAL GABLES, FL -- Prize winning married theatre actors -- much like Lunt and Fontaine --- have a spectacular time on the stage together, especially when the audience knows in advance that the twosome are a couple in real life. So, if you know before the play begins that prize-winning thespians Katherine Amadeo and Antonio Amadeo appearing at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel’s production of the British play Constellations have been married for 12 years, it is difficult not to realize the chemistry that they illuminate on stage is real.
That is a truism especially when a play has its characters in multiple possibilities of a relationship. The actors that can make the audience realize these encounters seem real speaks volumes for the talent of these two individuals, whether a couple in real life or not, The Amadeos deliver in both scenarios in this production and emerge as a multi-talented duo – exceptional as individuals and a wow together in this two character play.
Constellations by the brilliant young playwright Nick Payne premiered in London three years ago, winning best play honors at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. The play opened in New York for a limited 10 week run run in January 2014 with filmdom’s Jake Gyllenhalal making his Broadway debut opposite Ruth Wilson of TV Showtime’s The Affair. As good as they were critique-wise in New York, it is hard to imagine anyone else quite as good as the Amadeos are in this GableStage production, directed by award winning Juseph Adler.
Actially, the Amadeos and Adler form a trio of top award recipients. Antonio won the best actor Carbonell award in 2007 for his performance in The Pillowman at GableStage. Next month, he’ll receive a Silver Palm Award for playing the lead in the Island City Stage world premiere of Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband. She just finished playing a starring role in The Mousetrap at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and holds two Silver Palms and four Carbonell nominations to her credit. Ditto for Adler – a ten time Carbonell and a double Silver Palm recipient.
In Constellations, Katherine portrays Marianne, a Cambridge University physicist specializing in “theoretical early universe cosmology,” while Antonio plays a working-class Roland, a beekeeper who sells exquisite honey. The fact that two such different characters can fall in love is the crux of Constellations. But what makes this play so different is the fact that it delves into the infinite possibilities of their relationship and questions about the potential events they could have either by choice or destiny. Constellations is a different kind of play for two reasons. First, it is a play which depends totally on the two actors connecting with one another. Secondly, it allows the audience to survey the infinite possibilities that a relationship can take. It allows the audience to question which outcome is the most possible – no easy task as a result of playwright Payne’s kaleidoscopic creativity!!! It is theatre at its most creative junction!
Technically, Constellations is picture perfect, especially the set by Lyle Baskin, the sound by Matt Corey and the lighting by Jeff Quinn. Constellations runs through Dec. 20 (no evening performance Nov. 22).
For ticket Information: 305-445-1119 or www.gablestage.org.
DEMOS BROWN DELIVERS AGAIN WITH LEGAL THRILLER “STRIPPED”
By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
MIAMI, FL – How does one juggle being a successful Miami lawyer with a second career as one of South Florida’s most prolific playwrights? That question is sure to arise when watching Christopher Demos-Brown’s latest premiere offering -- Stripped -- a thoughtful, enticing play making its debut at Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center here.
Stripped – with a remarkable cast, astute direction and all the tech attributes which makes for good theatre – marks another milestone in author Demos Brown’s astonishing double life career. He already is known for a number of thought-provoking plays including Captiva, Fear Up Harsh, When the Sun Shone Brighter -- all of which debuted in Miami under the Zoetic umbrella. Thus far his works have earned him a Carbonell award and Silver Palm citations – the two highest theatrical awards in Florida. All of this -- plus he is highly regarded for the demands of his day job as a civil trial attorney in Miami. The Dartmouth-educated attorney-playwright had an undergraduate major in Russian literature, in addition to his law degree.
This 90-minute play – Stripped -- doubles down as intriguing theatre with a Russian angle coupled with legal expertise.
This time, his play offers insight into a rather common legal occurrence. It’s about a Russian mail-order-bride who happens to be a stripper (and prostitute)as she fights to regain custody of her daughter after the state has taken her away and given her up for adoption by an educated couple. In our era of hyper-vigilant child rearing, Stripped explores what it truly means to be a “good parent,” while using a solid script to remind its audience what parenting is all about.
A lot of the credit for this play’s success must go to director Stuart Meltzer whose wand is felt in scene after scene. He gets the most out of his talented cast. This cast does star-worthy performing, especially Lindsay Corey. Corey gives an award-in-the-making performance as the immigrant from a Russian region who does every trick in the trade to make enough money to bring up her daughter. That includes some of the most realistic pole dancing to hit a Miami stage. Ditto for Makeba Pace as a child protective advocate making her Zoetic debut. She wallops the script with a volatile performance that is certain to appeal to award donors. The rest of the cast thrives, as well – a reliable accented Chaz Mena, 11 year old/sixth grader / actress Ava Riley Miles, Margot Moreland and Matt Stabile.
Technically, this Zoetic team is right on cue. Kudos are valid for Carbonell Award-winning designer Michael McClain who uses a striking visual symbolism to underscore the play’s meaning and location, including at the center of it all, the pole where the stripper works and the courthouse where the legal action takes place. Meltzer created the sound, while Rebecca Montero gets credit for the lighting and Estela Vrancovich the costumes (including the brief outfit for Corey’s excellent pole dancing). All told, you will see a lot of symbolism via the technical assists!
Stripper runs through Nov. 22. Call 305 949-6722 for tickets.
IT’S BIG TIME THEATRE AS SLOW BURN DEBUTS IN BROWARD WITH “BIG FISH.”
By Ron Levitt Florida Media News FORT LAUDERDALE, FL
Big Fish, the Slow Burn Theatre musical currently playing at the Broward Center’s Amaturo site –was not a smashing success on Broadway. The 2013 adaptation from Andrew Lippa and John August – and based on David Wallace’s 1998 novel and a 2003 film directed by Tim Burton – closed after just 34 previews and 98 performances –considered a slow starter by Broadway standards, . But, if it had been in the hands of director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater (who is at the helm of Slow Burn’s – production ) …had Shane Tanner in the lead role… had dance teams so powerful…..and had a cast as it does at the Amaturo, it might have had a different history.
Slow Burn – founded by the versatile Fitzwater and the multi-talented Matthew Korinko --got its start five years ago at West Boca High School and now is s regular at the Broward Center. Big Fish is its debut production in Lauderdale after a series of commercially challenged Broadway shows which got rave reviews locally. These include Carrie: The Musical," "Side Show," "Bonnie and Clyde," "High Fidelity," "Chess," "Bat Boy" and "Parade."
But Big Fish will astound theatre goers in South Florida even more so than Slow Burn’s other successful Florida productions. It really is a BIG production. BIG on talented casting…. BIG on scenic design …BIG on dancing…BIG on almost every facet of theatre-dom!
Told in a series of flashbacks, traveling salesman Edward Bloom (a super baritone Shane Tanner) enchants his friends and family with off the wall stories of a mermaid, a witch, a giant, even a werewolf. His wife, Sandra (Ann Marie Olson), and his daughter-in-law, Josephine (Anjane Girwarr), are enchanted by his yarns…even if they see them as tall tales. His son, Will (Justen Fox-Hall), on the other hand, is not star-struck by dad’s tales. Actually, he resents his father, particularly of the time Edward spent away from his family as a traveling salesman. There are elements of a number of famous stories within Edward’s tales, including Ulysses. Homer’s Odyssey, even the witch in The Wizard of Oz. Just let your imagination soar as Edward vocalizes regarding his encounters! This is not the kind of musical with tunes spinning in your head as you leave the theatre. However, as the stories unfold, you are ready to give a standing ovation to this cast. They sing….dance…BIG Time!
There are many special theatrical moments within Big Fish.
1.Everytime Shane Tanner is on stage singing. 2.Ann Marie Olsen’s vibrant voice. 3.Justen Fox –Hall -- as the son –proving he is a star in the making. 4.Matthew Korinko, in bright red attire as the ringmaster. 5.A song by Olsen called Two Men. It will tug at your heartstrings, 6.A finale which will bring tears to your eyes 7.Powerhouse vocalist Kendra Williams as the witch, 8.A beautiful mermaid Emily Tarallo 9.Eight year old Gabe Sklar 10.Christopher Mitchell as Karl the Giant
Obviously, we liked this production. And, let’s not forget the rest of the cast –Geoffry Short, Leah Sessa, Ben Sandomir, Josua Conner, Brian Varela, Nicole Kinzel. Corey Vega, Meagan Nagy, and James Giordano. Sean McClelland did the scenic design, Preston Bircher, the lighting, Rick Pena, the costumes and Rick Szcublewski, the sound, while music direction was by Emmanuel Schvartsman.
Big Fish runs through Nov. 8. Call 954-462-0222 for tickets.
“AVENGER” TRANSFORMS ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE BALCONY INTO A TOXIC WASTE DUMP FOR THE FUN
By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS CORAL GABLES, FL
You know this is something different as soon as you enter the upstairs balcony theatre of Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre to view the offbeat musical – The Toxic Avenger. The balcony has been configured into a toxic waste dump and the audience seems to be part of the ‘garbage ’ location so perfectly put together by the creative team.
It’s all based on a 1984 Lloyd Kaufman cult film with an ecologically motivated superhero plus the addition of a number of memorable characters (many played by the same actors), a dazzling set, fine direction, appropriate scenery and a script peppered with four letter words amidst some excellent rock opera music. Book writer and lyricist Joe DiPietro ( whose other successes include I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change ) and composer lyricist David Brian (a member of Bon Jovi) were the guys behind the smash musical Memphis and now show us another side of their creativity with Toxic!
The Toxic Avenger had a successful Off-Broadway run. Now, this musical kicks off Actors’ new season and is a shining example of the directorial talent (led by David Arisco), outstanding casting and a creative team’s ability to turn a spoofy musical into immersive theatre. Arisco has produced a strong team of musical/acting talent for Toxic. Topping the list is award winning actor Clay Cartland as The Avenger, He not only has the strong voice but looks and acts the part of this comic super-hero/mutant! It’s a role perfect for Cartland -- who is an award winning musical actor -- and one which will earn him new fans.
Laura Hodos plays his nemesis – the Tromaville N.J. mayor -- as well as his cranky mother. She is remarkable, Julie Kleiner – another musical theatre VIP is the New Jersey blind town librarian and The Avenger’s love interest -- Sarah . Again, we must use the term “remarkable.” Joshua Dogarganes and Dexter Carr are respectively White Dude and Black Dude –both playing multiple quick-changing roles including Sarah’s pals (and back up singers),as well as the town thugs, hairdressers, a scientist and other characters. The quick-changing characters are part of the fun of this unique musical. It’s hard to believe there is only a cast of five! The band --led by musical director David Nagy -- sits above the garbage-filled town, with plenty of room for the cast to belt out a number of memorable songs and throw in some vulgar language, By time intermission rolls around, the audience will be immersed in a crazy, frenzied sight gag. This is satire; throw reality aside. Just revel in the fun!
David C, Woolard’s costumes, adapted skillfully by Ellis Tillman for this production are the Off-Broadway originals And Louis Zakarian’s mask and prosthetics actually transform Cartland from meek Melvin to the Hulk-Like Avenger. Be prepared for vulgar language and sometimes tasteless jokes. Remember this is not reality – unless you believe in comic book characters. The Toxic Avenger runs through November 8th. Call 305-444-9293 for tickets and enjoy!!!.
Based on Kaufman'st film of the same name, The Toxic Avenger is also a charming and hysterical love story that has it all – an unlikely hero, his beautiful girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor and two guys who play every other character in the play; including bullies, monsters, old ladies and stiletto-wearing back up singers. “Toxie” is an unconventional contemporary love story with an environmental twist that will rock the house and leave audiences laughing out loud. In this production, which features several new songs and revised book by the Tony Award-winning creative team of Memphis, Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan and prolific playwright Joe DiPietro, Carbonell Award Winner Clay Cartland takes center stage as the righteous superhero in the title role. The cast for The Toxic Avenger also features Julie Kleiner as Sarah the blind librarian, Toxie's hot love interest, Laura Hodos in the duel role of the corrupt Mayor Babs Belgoody as well as Ma Ferd, and Dexter Carr as The Black Dude and Joshua Dobarganes as The White Dude. Based on Lloyd Kaufman's 1984 cult film of the same name, The Toxic Avenger is a charming and hysterical love story that has it all – an unlikely hero, his beautiful girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor and two guys who play every other character in the play; including bullies, monsters, old ladies and stiletto-wearing back up singers. “Toxie” is an unconventional contemporary love story with an environmental twist that will rock the house and leave audiences laughing out loud. In this production, which features several new songs and revised book by the Tony Award-winning creative team of Memphis, Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan and prolific playwright Joe DiPietro, Carbonell Award Winner Clay Cartland takes center stage as the righteous superhero in the title role. The cast for The Toxic Avenger also features Julie Kleiner as Sarah the blind librarian, Toxie's hot love interest, Laura Hodos in the duel role of the corrupt Mayor Babs Belgoody as well as Ma Ferd, and Dexter Carr as The Black Dude and Joshua Dobarganes as The White Dude. Directed by award-winning Artistic Director David Arisco, The Toxic Avenger will feature Music Direction by David Nagy, Scenic Design by Gene Seyffer, Set Dressing and Prop Design by Jodi Dellaventura, Lighting Design by Eric Nelson, Sound Design by Shaun Mitchell and Costume Coordination by Ellis Tillman. Actors’ Playhouse is excited to have acquired the Off-Broadway costumes for its production designed by David C. Woolard, along with original mask and prosthetics designed by Louis Zakarian. “The Toxic Avenger is a hysterical, hot new musical that will have the community buzzing, said Arisco. “This show is traditional Off-Broadway funny and rock-the-house contemporary, all at the same time.” Preview performances of The Toxic Avenger will be held Wednesday and Thursday, October 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. The show will open on Friday, October 16 at 8 p.m. and play through November 8, 2015. Evening performances will be held Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with afternoon matinees on Sunday at 3 p.m. A special weekday matinee is scheduled on Wednesday, October 21 at 2 p.m.
ALLIANCE THEATRE PROVIDES INSIGHT ON LOVE AND DEATH
By R0N LEVITT FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
MIAMI SHORES, FL – it is difficult to pin down a plot for The Aliens – Pulitzer Prize recipient Annie Baker’s Obie prize winning play currently being presented by The Alliance Theatre Lab at the tiny Pelican Theatre at Barry University. It is the first show in Alliance Theatre’s 10th anniversary season. And it is more about defining the characters, rather than building a plot, It is not a typical play that can be considered a drama or a comedy. It can, however, stimulate your senses and intellect as it tells a story about two angry men imparting wisdom – almost everything they think that they know – to a third person – a lonely younger man -a new generation.
And it has a sense of reality as to how we, as human beings look at art, love and death and how we, communicate – sometimes with silence, often with unintended barbs it is truthful that has a beauty seldom found on stage. If this sounds too intellectual for the average theatre goer, I apologize. It is not meant to be! Rather it is an honest look at people!. That might be a task for many people but in the hands of the capable Director Adalberto Acevedo and his likable cast of three, it works well and provides thoughtful enjoyment, compassionate feelings about friendship and truthful observation. Acevedo’s subtle and slyly intriguing direction turns an intellectual play into a delightful two hours of introspection. The fact that the conversations take place while two of the characters are into drugs is especially telling in showing love. friendship and death and how they react to them.
As Christine Dolen, the respected reviewer from the Miami Herald explains “The play takes place “ where two thirtyish men, Jasper (Daniel Gil) and KJ (whom I describe as a sensual actor --Carlos Alayeto ) , discuss music and poetry. When Evan (a talented Kristian Bikic) a high school student arrives, the men "decide to teach him everything they know, mostly about music and women. As Dolen explains, “It doesn’t matter if KJ and Jasper, two guys who haven’t managed to get their adult lives started in any meaningful way. KJ is a college dropout, while Jasper didn’t make it through high school. They’re pals who hang out behind a coffee shop, sometimes singing songs from the band they never got off the ground or named, talking about the women in their lives -- imagining scenarios that are highly unlikely to come true.”
Evan, “a soon-to-be high school senior working a summer job at the coffee shop, stumbles into the unofficial KJ-Jasper club house when he takes out the trash.” She goes on to say “The 17-year-old is jittery, as his manager has told him only employees are allowed back there. But resistance is futile. KJ and Jasper may not have much in the way of jobs or lives, but hanging out is what they do, and behind the coffee shop is where they do it.”
In Act 2, Eventually, two things — one romantic, one tragic — do happen offstage. And, that is the highlight of the play! Charles Isherwood of the New York Times compares this playwright to Chekov. (I am not sure I go that far). However. there is a sense of reality in this play, Lighting and smoking of a cigarette, sitting and looking at nothing, strumming a guitar -- these are all devices to allow for meaningful thought and make it seem real!!!! One suspects playwright Baker (and Artistic Director Acevedo) wants the audience to feel such reality , wants to make palpable the lack of human direction of her characters. The playwright obviously stipulated that one-third (I may be exaggerating) of the performance of this play be silent and that the pauses should all be uncomfortably long so that she -- the playwright -- could challenge the audience. On balance, this production of “The Aliens’’ is a challenge worth accepting.
One of the bright spots of this play is to see three such talented actors give such different perspectives in their roles. Alayeto. Gil and Bikic provide a topnotch trio ensemble, and are likely to enhance their theatre bios with this production.. The Alliance Theatre Lab (now being called The Alliance Theatre) is a Miami-based performing arts institution committed to ensemble collaboration and artistic risk. . With this production, it meets all expectations. The Aliens takes its name from a poem by Charles Bukowski, the late novelist-poet-short story writer revered by one of the characters in Baker’s play. In the poem, Bukowski draws a distinction between contented people who “go through life with very little friction or distress” and himself: “I am not one of them,” he writes.
This play runs through Oct. 4. . Call 786-587-0372 for tickets.
BROWARD STAGE DOOR’S THE FANTASTICKS HAS IT ALL: FINE DIRECTION, MEMORABLE CAST
By RON LEVITT FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
MARGATE, FL -- There are a number of reasons one should rush to the Broward Stage Door before Oct. 11th to see the classic musical The Fantasticks – all of which standing alone would make it a theatrical experience.
1. According to online information. The Fantasticks is America’s longest running musical and I add to miss it would be a loss to anyone who loves theatre. The show's original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances (that is not a mis-print……42 years)…. making it the world's longest-running musical. The musical was originally produced by Lore Noto, and was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1991. The poetic book and score, including such familiar songs as "Try to Remember," helped make this show so memorable. Many productions followed, as well as television and film versions. The Fantasticks has also become a staple of regional, community, and high school productions virtually since its premiere, with approximately 250 new productions each year. Among its many revivals, the show re-opened off-Broadway in 2006. As of 2010, its original investors had earned 240 times their original investments. The musical has played throughout the U.S. and in at least 67 foreign countries, including the now-running London production which is also setting new records.
2. With its dynamic music by Harvey Schmidt, book and lyrics by Tom Jones, It has been helpful in launching careers of many Broadway stalwarts including Liza Minnelli, Elliott Gould, F. Murray Abraham, Glenn Close, Keith Charles, Kristin Chenoweth, Bert Convy, Eileen Fulton, Lore Noto (the show's long-time producer), Dick Latessa, and Martin Vidnovic and many others.
3. Now. For the Broward Stage Door production: it ranks among the best thanks to the directing excellence of Dan Clancy. Clancy has taken the romantic tale to new vistas, thanks to adroit direction with original styling. I cannot help calling the Clancy version memorable and moving, While it would have been easy for Clancy to ape other productions, he opted for creativity with this lengthy running musical. He has given it The Kelly touch, noted for its tenderness and enjoyable entertaining. It ranks among the best in Broward Stage Door’s vibrant history.
4. The storyline for those who may have missed earlier productions. It is Romance par-excellence. An online description plays it this way It tells an allegorical story, loosely based on the play The Romancers (Les Romanesques) by Edmond Rostand, concerning two neighboring fathers who trick their children, Luisa and Matt, into falling in love by pretending to feud. The fathers hire traveling actors to stage a mock abduction, so that Matt can heroically seem to save Luisa, ending the supposed feud. When the children discover the deception, they reject the arranged love match and separate. Each then gains disillusioning experiences in parallel fantasy sequences. They return to each other bruised but enlightened, and they renew their vows with more maturity.
5. The cast: Director Kelly has put together an A-one group (ably aided by the always capable music director David Nagy at the piano and harpist Kay Kemper) to bring new vitality to this legendary romantic story. Above all is Molly Ann Ross as Luisa, a Palm Beach University grad who not only can sing but can act, as well, Don’t be surprised if some critic 42 years down the road lists her as one of the stars who got a start in this version of T he Fantasticks, Actually she appeared on Broward Stage Door previously as one of the Andrew Sisters in Sisters of Swing. She is a natural with an abundance of talent, Ditto for Alexander Zenoz who plays the other star-crossed lover Matt. Zenoz has a star-quality voice. Larry Kent Bramble and Michael Small (as the two fathers) add to the beauty of this theatrical event Both are veterans of Broward Stage Door and their appeal grows with each production. Alan Gerstel-- a one-time TV news anchor –as the travelling thespian Henry – exudes charm And Sebastian Lombardo -- as his sidekick Mortimer –also shines in his role. And, who can forget Pierre Tannous´ stage presence as The Mute who provides the magic and scene-setting! As El Gallo, –Pedro Kaawaloa seems to come alive on stage as he vocalizes. He exudes charm as one would expect in that role.
6. And finally who can forget the music! Even if your storyline memory fails, certainly you will remember some of those vital songs which make up The Fantasticks. Sing along with -Try to Remember, It Depends on What You Pay, Soon It’s Gonna Rain, Round and Round, They Were You, or the charming Plant A Radish
The Fantasticks runs through Oct. 11 at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Call (954) 344-7765 for tickets.
OUTRE THINKS OUTSIDE THE USUAL THEATRE FARE WITH BED AND SOFA -- A MEMORABLE, OFFBEAT MINI-OPERA
BY Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL—When one considers Bed and Sofa in theatrical terms, this offbeat musical (or should we say:mini-opera) being presented at the Abdou New River Room at the Broward Center by the creative Outre Theatre company is entitled to be called enjoyable and thought provoking. It’s also a different kind of musical. It certainly brings to mind a host of women’s issues including abortion, women;s sexuality, women’s place in society, promiscuity, infidelity – you name it, while still being refreshing, humorous and creative. That’s a lot to say about a musical with a limited cast of three and its pre-show bragging about it’s being based on Avram Room’s 1926 silent film masterpiece. Although this production is the Southeastern premiere, theatre insiders have already recognized its significance and value. The Polly Pen/Laurence Klavan-composed “silent movie opera” was winner of the 1996 Obie for best musical and was nominated for seven Drama Desk awards. Reviewers in New York were almost unanimous in their praise.
It’s the Moscow-based 1920s story of Kolya (Elvin Negron) -- a poor stonemason and his wife, Ludmilla, (Rebecca Diaz )who live in a basement apartment. She’s a young housewife who stays at home dreaming and yearning for romance and what she feels are exciting things. With Moscow in a housing shortage, Kolya’s army buddy Volodya (Noah Levine) arrives with nowhere to live. When Kolya invites him to share his small apartment. Volodya must sleep on the sofa and then when Kolya leaves town for work , the trio’s lives are turned upside down and complicated. When Kolya returns, his friend is sharing the bed with Ludmilla. So now the musical asks the question who will now sleep on the bed and who will sleep on the sofa?
Whitcomb’s astute direction and an A-one cast turns this small show into a big crowd-pleaser This “silent movie opera” is based on the 1927 Soviet silent film Tretya meshchanskaya which was banned by the Soviets and other European nations for being so openly sexual in its content.
Outre’s Bed and Sofa will run through Sept. 13. For tickets, call 954-462-0222 .
SHORTS GONE WILD: ENTERTAINING AND THOUGHTFUL
By Ron Levitt Florida Media News
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Now that gay marriage, gay rights and other LGBT issues are rightfully considered part of society’s norm, it is especially welcome to have a series of short plays that will resonate with all audiences. That is the underlying message of Shorts Gone Wild3 – a co-production of City Theatre and Island City Stage and an outgrowth of South Florida’s renowned Summer Shorts, a series of short plays currently at Empire Stage through Sept. 6 and then moving to the Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach Sept. 10-13.. Although this year’s offering of the adult version of the annual summer theatre offering is gay-centric, it has enough human appeal to resonate with all adult audiences. Theatre has always been gay friendly in its history, but the current eight playlets in this 2015 version are such good productions and so interesting in concept and so well acted, they will appeal to an entire audience without preaching. Rather they are a quick but biting look at our evolving society where gay marriage is recognized as legal along with other civil rights issues.
There are several plays which are definitely adult recommended so keep the kids at home. Among these are I’m Going First , authored by Michael Leeds and directed by Kevin Black. It’s the most humorous playlet as two gay men jokingly discuss(just outside a funeral) if they can tell by looking at someone whether he is a “top” or a “bottom.” It stars Larry Buzzeo and South Florida’s most versatile actor Antonio Amadeo – both of whom give stellar performances, including sober discussions about long term relationships and mortality. The most graphic presentation is Hands, authored by Becca Scholsberg and directed by Gail S. Garrison. It stars Amadeo and Craig Moody –each performing monologues in sensual detail, encompassing the relevance and sensitivity of sexual pleasure. It is definitely the most X-rated of the plays due to its frank dialog. The Oldest Living Chorus Boy Tells All or The Last of Billy Button, authored by theatre guru Tony Finstrom and directed by Black, is a creative piece on the subject of “theatre” delivered as a commencement address to a dance school by Buzzeo. It is an ‘in” piece which theatrical buffs will love. Buzzeo, in commencement attire, delivers this monologue with sense and sensibility. Finstrom’s short play is incisive and interesting.
This year’s roster includes – In addition to Moody, Amadeo and Buzzeo – Niki Fridh, Gladys Ramirez and Christina Groom.. These six actors – are guided by four directors. four designers and two producers -- john Manzelli of City Stage and Andy Rogow of Island City Stage The presentations are played in no particular order. A member of the audience pulls a number out of a hat to determine which play is delivered next. Thus, no performance is done in the same order—a Summer Shorts tradition.
Other playlets include: My Husband written by humorist/actor Paul Rudnick. It’s about a classic Jewish mother (Groom) and her gay son (Moody). She wants her son to be married like all of her friends’ gay sons. The Agenda written by South Florida’s award-winning actor/playwright Michael McKeever and directed by Rogow -- is the most humorous (Let’s say HILLARIOUS) of this year’s production. It’s about how a group wants to change its name to be politically correct – from LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTQATTAT etc. It is typical McKeever humor which translates into rich laughs! The Anthropology Section, written by Patricia Cotter and directed by Manzelli, depicts two former lovers (Fridh and Ramirez) meeting in a bookstore. Fridh is stunned to learn that Ramirez is back from her honeymoon. The two examine what went wrong with their own relationship. Quiche and Quinoa, written by local director Stuart Meltzer and directed by Rogow, started with two old friends (Buzzeo and Fridh) awaiting a third buddy (Groom)and trying to figure out why she called them with “special news.” It is funny, especially Fridh who not only has the best lines but uses them with gusto.
The One, authored by Sheri Wilner and directed by Garrison is about two pals (Amadeo and Fridh) -- a couple their in their youth – who find gay lifestyles as they grew older. Amadeo and Fridh are perfect in their roles. Their acting sparkles!
This is the final show Island City Stage will produce at the Empire Stage – its home since it was founded in 2012. Its first show of next season starts in November. It will be in larger space at Infinite Abyss at 2304 N. Dixie Highway, in Wilton Manors. For ticket information call 954 519 2533.
CORAL GABLES, FL -- If you are a fan of film stars of the late 1960s and 70s -or are truly tantalized by the theatre talent of that time, you will love the current production teasing the throng at GableStage.
And, if you like biographical banter: “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers” -- Is your cup of tea. (Or should we say bourbon?)
Just who is Sue Mengers? You may ask!
According to playwright John Logan she is the outspoken, hard drinking, pot smoking , witty, to hell-with-political correctness screen / talent agent who represented some of Hollywood’s most famous actors and directors in the film business.
What Sue said often made headlines or at least trash talk among Hollywood insiders. She was outspoken, and the insiders loved it. As an example, about a certain gay singer/musician, she quipped – according to the playwright --“Elton’s the easiest dinner guest ever. He’ll eat anything but pussy”
It’s such profane, humorous and colorful comments that make Logan’s script so tantalizing and memorable – and made it big-time on Broadway in 2013 with Bette Midler.
Now, at GableStage, that enviable role is in the hands of one of South Florida’ s major talents – that award winning actress Laura Turnbull. And, Turnbull delivers Big Time! She tantalizes the audience with one-liners and quips as she dominates the stage for some 90 minutes in this one woman show.
This is no ordinary one-woman show. In several instances there is audience participation, during which, Turnbull must play opposite an audience member. Once again, Turnbull is right on target!
Basically, it’s a play evolving around a soliloquey with the super-agent in her own living room – a home previously owned by .Zsa Zsa Gabor. Much should be noted about the direction of guest director Michael Leeds. It isn’t often that Production Chief Joe Adler turns the director’s chores over to someone else, but – in this case -- he made a good choice in Leeds. In fact, the entire tech team deserves credit for a fun-filled, realistic Broadway-worthy show. The set by Lyle Baskin overlooking Beverly Hills is magnificent. Ditto for sound by Matt Corey, lighting by Jeff Quinn, costuming by Ellis Tillman and the others on the tech side of this production.
Turnbull as Mengers makes the audience aware of several big name stars, describing one client –while in her living room as she smokes weed and drinks – as a “big, ugly potato face with the soul of a poet.” That was her description of Gene Hackman. She’ll also dish Barbra Striesand, Julie Harris, Steve McQueen and other clients or super stars, saving the most memorale lines for those stars she liked least and those she considered “family. This play is a lovely tribute to a big talent scout just a generation aFter she and her family escaped Germany during the reign of Hitler.
The late talent agent certainly would have enjoyed Turnbull’s portrayal of herself. And, so will the audience. This one woman show is extraordinary in every regard. (Even younger theatre goers will rush home to Google this talent agent icon.)
This production run s throuugh . August 30. Call 305 445 1119 for tickets.
ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE PROVIDES NON-STOP LAUGHTER IN ITS SUMMER PRODUCTION – UNNECESSARY FARCE
By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
CORAL GABLES, FL – Most of the time one goes s to the theatre where the producers promise you that you will be inspired and/or you will ”think” about some important issue. But, the latest offering at Actors’ PLayhouse at the Miracle Theatre offers you none of that. Instead, it is proud to provide several hours of non-stop laughter and fun –filled performances. And, it delivers!!! There is no pretense at seriousness. And, it’s about cops!!! So, it is appropriately named “Unnecessary Farce” And, it has a terrific cast composed of seven talented actors to make one laugh throughout the production. As the name implies, it is a comedic farce. That means there are precision slamming doors, taking off and exchanging clothes, several people hiding in the same bed, all perfectly timed under the able direction of Director David Arisco, as written by playwright Paul Slade Smith. Unnecessary Farce takes place in a cheap motel room, where an embezzling mayor is supposed to meet with his female accountant, while in the room next door two cops are waitng undercover to videotape the meeting. Mayhem occurs as there is a mixup in the rooms, who’s being videotaped. who’s taken the money. who has hired a hit man, and why the accountant keeps taking off her clothes. It’s silliness and a farce to the nth degree! The cast includes the lovely, award winning Katherine Amadeo, Allan Baker, Jim Ballard. Cliff Burgess, Chris Crawford, Elizabeth Dimon, Jessica Brooke Sanford. This production runs through August 9th. Call 305 444 9293 for tickets.
CULTURALLY SPEAKING GEORGE M. AND DANIEL’S HUSBAND SPEAK TO PATRIOTISM, CIVIL RIGHTS
By Ron Levitt FLORIDA MEDIA NEWS
Two distinct productions – one a “now-playing “bio-musical; the other, a record breaking drama torn from the headlines about gay marriage, may not seem to have much in common, but when seen within days of one another, they invoke patriotism and the American dream.
As one theatre goer said to me, they tell what America means to us while making us aware of patriotism while another friend compared the American psyche with the recent decision in South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag. Now, that may seem somewhat farfetched, the reality of comparing these very different pieces of theatre draws a similar conclusion – how great it is to be an American Here is a critique of these two productions. GEORGE M. AT WICK THEATRE HAS A PATRIOTIC CHORD
There aren’t many in most generations who do not recognize songs like Yankee Doodle Dandy and Give My Regards to Broadway. Both were penned, of course, by that great song and dance man George M. Cohan. This bio-musical which had a relatively short New York run in 1968 is done in a concert at the Wick in Boca Raton. And, even though the story of the egotistical showman has some flaws, nevertheless the rousing, nostalgic, patriotic songs inspired, written and sung on Broadway by Cohan cannot help shifting its pride at being an American. It is an inspirational story about the man who said he was born on the Forth of July and gave America songs like Over There and You’re a Grand Old Flag.
This summer concert version skims over his marriages to Ethel (Amelia Millar) and Agnes (Kelly Ziegler)and his first successful shows and concentrates on the singing/dancing of this cast of 21, led by narrator Susan Powell (Miss America 1981).
If we must be the least bit critical would be over the extensive attention this version has to the vaudeville sketches so popular in the early part of the 20th Century and in Cohan’s early career. I would opt for even more of the patriotic songs which Cohan is remembered. Yet, this show is inspirational led by an outstanding cast headed by the versatile Scott Leindecker as the veteran showman.
The entire cast rises to the occasion as a terrific ensemble sings and dances to these famous tunes. (A special tribute is due choreographer/director Norb Joerder)
When talented youngsters are involved in a musical, it is difficult not acknowledge such stage presence. Young Megan Sell and Ryan Sell ( whom Wick audiences may recall from Mame last season at the Wick) are standouts as the young Cohans. How can one ignore such youthful talent!! Ditto for the elder Cohans (My Father Thanks you, My Mother Thanks You, etc.) ---played by James Young and Aaron Bower. George M runs through JulY 19. Call 561-995-2333 for tickets AND, REPEATING IN NOVEMBER DANIEL’S HUSBAND IN WEST BOCA
South Florida playwrightMichael McKeever's 'DANIEL'S HUSBAND' is coming back, due to overwhelming popular demand! That’s the word from Island City Stage and West Boca Theatre Company who will partner to revive the smash hit this fall at the Beifield Auditorium on the campus of the Levis JCC, in Boca Raton. 'DANIEL'S HUSBAND' -- Island City Stage's most successful production to date -- prompted an extension during its original, just-completed run at Fort Lauderdale's Empire Stage. Unanimous critical acclaim and sensational word-of-mouth made this play the most sought-after ticket of the summer, with shows selling out weeks in advance, according to director/producer Andy Rogow. Last December these two theatre companies had enormous success partnering to revive Island City Stage's production of Dan Clancy's Holocaust-era 'THE TIMEKEEPERS,' winner of six Carbonell Awards. This was one of the extremely rare instances when South Florida audiences were given the opportunity to see the winner of the 'Best Production of a Play' trophy with its entire original cast and artistic team still on board. The revival of 'DANIEL'S HUSBAND' will see most of the original cast return, led by director Andy Rogow, featuring Laura Turnbull, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic, along with Carbonell nominee John Manzelli taking over the role of Mitchel (Antonio Amadeo who was in the original cast will be appearing elsewhere). This production will open Saturday Nov. 28 and run through Dec. 20, 2015. The theatre is located on the campus of the Levis JCC, 21050 95th Avenue S., Boca Raton. Tickets range from $30-$40. For more information, .Call 561-558-2512
================================================================= Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent was president of the South Florida International Press Club 2000-2014, and a Carbonell voter for 11 years,. He is on the Silver Palm Executive Committee, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact email@example.com
BELL BOOK AND CANDLE AT BROWARD STAGE DOOR REVISITS THE MAGIC OF LOVE
By Ron Levitt Florida Media News Margate, Fl-
Some plays are strictly written to make you think. Others are merely to entertain, It seems director Michael Leeds – who has lately become one of Florida’s most sought after creative leaders – seeks to do both in his resurrection of the hit 1950s play Bell, Book and Candle by John VanDruten. And, he succeeds!
Those who are old enough may recall the 1958 movie of the same name with Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novack and Jack Lemmon, Those who are even older may recall the Broadway version (1950) with Rex Harrison, his then-wife Lilli Palmer and Larry Gates, This version of the original stage play – which praises one’s ability to break out of a shell to find love – is drawing record crowds to the Broward Stage Door on Sample Road. It runs through June 21.
It’s a fun fantasy show to watch and one to make you think of the strength of love. The plot relies on fantasy and the believability of a small circle of friends. During the holiday season, Greenwich Village witch Gillian (an outstanding portrayal by Melisa Macleod Herion), a free spirit with a penchant for going barefoot, has been unlucky in love and restless in life. However, she admires from afar her neighbor, publisher Shep Henderson (Nicholas Wilder), who one day walks into her apartment to complain about a tenant ( Gillian's aunt , a charming Janet Weakley) who has put a spell on his phone. When Gillian learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, she takes revenge by casting a love spell on Shep, and she eventually falls for him herself. She then must make a choice, as witches who fall in love lose their supernatural powers. When she decides to love Shep, Gillian's cat and familiar, Pyewacket, becomes agitated.
Young actor Thomas Karner who plays Gillian’s warlock brother (The Jack Lemmon standout role in the film) provides memorable moments and should be a natural for other roles in South Florida role while veteran actor Ken Clement as a publisher on witchcraft adds to the fun. He is a long-time favorite in local tri-county theatres. The title "Bell, Book and Candle", incidentally, is a reference to excommunication, which is performed by bell, book, and candle. It is opened with "Ring the bell, open the book, light the candle," and closed with "Ring the bell, close the book, quench the candle."
The “tech team” is admirable, especially the comfortable apartment set designed by,Michael McClain. For tickets, call now 954 344 7765.
FIERSTEIN SCRIPT, ADLER’S DIRECTION,
PERFECT CASTING MAKE FOR A POWERFUL PLAY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL Who but powerful playwright Harvey Fierstein -- whose name is synonymous with La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray, and Torch Song Trilogy -- could write a play –CASA VALENTINA -- about cross dressing and make it both humorous and philosophical?
Who but GableStage’s Artistic Producing Director Joseph Adler –who has a record 197 Carbonell nominations to his credit and is rightfully known as South Florida’s foremost director -- could tackle such an intimate subject as living as a transvestite, and make it into one of the most thought provoking plays to hit the boards locally in years?
Who but a talented cast can provide such insight and humor to provide two hours of enjoyment and a rare amount of time to question just what did the author mean?
All of the above is why Casa Valentina currently at GableStage makes it a “must-see” for those interested in “theatre which makes one think.’
It all takes place at a rundown Catskill guest house named Chevallier d’Eon in the yesr 1962, Now,this is no ordinary guest house! This one caters to men who enjoy putting on makeup snd women’s attire. Proprietors of this resort are Rita (Irene Adjan) and her husband George (Wayne LerGette) who enjoys, like all of their patrons –dressing up in feminine garb. Both are among the perfect casting.
In fact, the gentlemen in this play are not drag queens or female impersonators. They are—for the most part,-- married men with children. Alhough their outward behavior links them in the makeup/dress behavior mode, each dresses-up for individual reasons. For some, it is gender identity; for others it is sexual. None are dressing up for frivolous attention. In all cases, they consider themselves “straight.”
Visiting this 1962 weekend are a variety of “guys. (Keep in mind, that date and compare it with today after you’ve seen this play).
Among this weekend guests are;
Bessie (Roland Rusinek), a plus-size married man, father of three, who seems to have a proverb or famous saying for every situation and provides for some fun amidst the serious moments..
Miranda (Ryan Didato), a young first-timer, recently a bridegroom by the real name of Jonothan. Didato ‘s character opens the door to the audience’s sympathy.
Gloria (Cliff Burgess) a photogenic model-type who recently was on the cover of a magazine catering to the cross-dressing crowd.
Amy (Peter Galman), a judge who has left aside his judicial robes for more feminine attire
Charlotte ( an outstanding Kevin Reilley) a transvestite activist from California
Terry (Howard Elfman) a senior citizen who seems to go with the flow
And one unexpected guest
Eleanor(Patti Gardner) – the daughter of the judge (Amy).She is only In one scene, but her appearance becomes memorable as she represents those who do not understand and never will allow such behavior.
As good as this acting ensemble is. It is equally matched by the superior ‘tech’ crew –set (by Lyle Baskin); lighting (by Jeff Quinn), sound (by Matt Corey), and especially the costumes of 1962 (By Ellis Tilllman).
Casa Valentina runs through June 28, Call 305 445 1119 for tickets.
A WELL-DESERVED MUSICAL SUPERLATIVE GOES TO
ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE PRODUCTION OF RAGTIME
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL – There may be a shortage of well-deserved superlatives due to Actors’ Playhouse regarding its latest new production – Ragtime . Suffice it to say it is its most ambitious musical – and finest production in the 17th season – (and in every regard) the most endearing show to please its growing audience in many years.
This new production shines in every possible way – outstanding direction (David Arisco), topnotch musical direction (David Nagy), unbelievable and stunning choreography (Ron Hutchins), A-One tech team , sound by Mitch Furman, lighting by Patrick Tennent, scenic design by Tim Bennett, costumes by Ellis Tillman) – and a marvelous cast of 40 to sing the opera-quality, Tony award-winning numbers.
Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow --which became a Broadway hit musical in 1998, Ragtime is a rarely done regional musical due to the huge casting requirement. The musical by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens with playwright Terrence McNally requires not only a large cast but opera-worthy voices and a dancing ensemble to tell the story of multi-cultural America in the early 1900s.
It is a story with both real life characters and those invented by Ragtime’s / creators. Realism mixes well as Ragtime tells the story of three American families whose lives are intertwined.
This sweeping musical portrait of early 20th century America tells the powerful tale of a white, upper-middle class family, an African American couple, and an Eastern European immigrant escaping to America with his daughter, as they all confront the timeless contradictions of wealth, poverty, freedom, prejudice, hope, and despair in pursuit of the American Dream. Unfolding through the fiery rhythms of Harlem and Tin Pan Alley, and the vibrant klezmer of the Lower East Side, this vivid and unforgettable Tony-winning score bursts onto the stage in what is the largest and most epic production ever staged at the Miracle Theatre.
Based on E.L. Doctorow’s award-winning book of the same name, Ragtime features music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Terrence McNally. Directed by award-winning Artistic Director Arisco, Ragtime features a cast of 40 professional actors.
The cast for Ragtime includes: Broadway actors Tally Sessions and Melissa Minyard, Reggie Whitehead, Ken Clement and Dominique Scott returning from National/International Tours, and Actors' Playhouse veterans Irene Adjan, Nick Duckart, Mark Sanders, Gabriel Zenone and George Schiavone. Miami natives – both with superb voices --Don Juan Seward II and Sarah Nicole Batts make their leading role debuts at Actors' Playhouse as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. and the woman he loves, Sarah. The children's cast for Ragtime includes Miami HEAT National Anthem singing sensation Julia Dale, Athena Pacanins, Max Leifman and Julian Gorelick.
Ensemble members (an important element in this sweeping production) include Lauren Bell, Hannah Benitez, Dexter Carr, Anne Chamberlain, Diana D’Ambrosio, Marcus Davis, Mark Della Ventura, Sean Dorazio, Justen Fox-Hall, Deidra Grace, Noel Harris, Jr., Walter Kemp-Edwards, Nicole Kinzel, Michael Leyte-Vidal, Maha McCain, Cindy Pearce, Elizabeth Sackett, Kaylin Seckel, Johnathan Shepherd, Asher Makeba Timmons, Brian Varela and Ray Yanez.
The thrilling title song that opens the 2 hour 45 minute show introduces the invented and real-life characters and repeats itself throughout the show, You cannot help but to hum the title song as you leave the 280 Miracle Mile theatre.
‘Ragtime’ runs through Feb. 22 --8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday (additional 2 p.m. matinee . Feb. 4th. Cost $59 Friday-Saturday $52 other shows. Call 305-444-9293 for information/reservations. ,
MCKEEVER’S LATEST PLAY NOT ONLY TIMELY
BUT PERECT FOR AUDIENCE APPROVAL
By RON LEVITT
Florida Media News
Usually, a “reading” of a play is done prior to its full production
so the author/playwright can make adjustments, tweak the plot and
update the dialog.
Michael McKeever’s latest work – Daniel’s Husband – is an exception,
It had a reading the other night st the Jan McArt’s New Playreading
series at Lynn University --but was so perfect in every aspect, it
needed not a single word changed or plot tweaked for it to open at
Island City Stage in Fort L auderdale May 28-June 28.
I advised McKeever (although he did not ask me for advice). “Don’t change a word.”
My prediction is that this play will be produced all over America – in
fact, worldwide – and, even though it is early in 2015 (and the
Carbonell awards for theatrical excellence for 2014 won’t be voted
upon until Saturday), this play will be the frontrunner for “best new
work” (possibly “best production”) of 2015. In addition,I will go out
on a limb only two weeks into 2015, that Antonio Amadeo, will be
considered for best actor and Alex Alvarez and Barbara Bradshaw for
“best” in supporting roles. In fact, the rest of the cast –veteran
actor L arry Buzzeo as a writer’s agent and newcomer Kristan Bikic as
a health care worker are superb.
Daniel’s Husband is th e story of two men who have been together seven
years -- Mitchell (Amadeo) who does not believe in gay marriage
(in fact, any kind of marriage) and his parner Daniel (Alvarez). who
does. The play explores the consequences of their points of view.
It does so in such a manner that the audience is moved to tears.
Several members of the audience could be seen crying in the waning
moments of the play. It is that emotionally charged.
Andy Rogow, Artistic Director of Island City Stage, deserves a lot of
the credit for dramatically moving this work, while fitting in the
comic relief. It is theatre at its best!
THOUGHT-PROVOKING COMEDY AT GABLESTAGE
HAS ALL THE INGREDIENTS OF A MAJOR HIT
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL -- As much as I was personally turned off by the title, I finally had to admit that Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon -- currently at GableStage has got to be the most thought-provoking, darkest comedies to open in South Florida in many years.
That’s because of the playwright’s keen use of words and tenacity of wit, the intense baton-wielding of director Joseph Adler, and one of the best quartets of acting to tackle a combo of reality, truth and poignancy seldom seen on a local stage.
It all takes place the evening after their grandfather’s funeral as three cousins engage in a verbal battle over a family heirloom -- a gold ornament of the Hebrew word “chai (life ) which “Poppi” had saved while in a concentration camp during the Holocaust .
You will meet all of the characters and will probably recognize in them people you already know, no matter what your religious affiliation. There’s Daphna – a “Super Jew” ( a terrific performance by Natalia Coego ). She is an unpredictable, self-assured, and unbending. Individual who prefers her Hebrew name. rather than Diana. She is fierce in her beliefs and in upholding tradition. Then there’s cousin Liam (a bombshell performance by David Rosenberg ) secular, entitled, and just as stubborn as the others in his family. . And in the middle, you will meet Liam’s brother Jonah ( the always reliable actor Mark Della Ventura ) who tries to stay out of the fray and honor his grandfather’s memory. Liam’s girtlfriend (Lexi Lange ) is also present.
Symbolism abounds in heaps in this dark comedy. The now deceased grandfather kept the family heirloom safe during his years in a concentration camp by holding it beneath his tongue. It is this memorable ornament with such deep meaning that is the topic of this family’s debate. But this is much more than a play or debate about an ornament. It’s a play about family values and its impact on the future. The result of meeting these grandchildren is a savage comedy about family, faith, and legacy.
There’s nothing like a death in the family to bring out the worst in people, and this unhappy truth is displayed with delectable force by this versatile cast
Meanwhile, observers including Liam’s girlfriend (beautifully played by Lange ) desperately hope not to take sides in this conflict. Liam’s arrival just after his grandfather’s funeral has put Daphna on edge already, as has the reason behind Liam’s absence: He dropped his iPhone from a ski lift in Aspen and was trying to find it. So he missed the funeral.
It may be difficult not to relate to members of one’s own family as you watch these actors let loose with a verbal barrage. It is obvious that the actors have been choreographed to get the most out of every line of this well-made script. That’s why so much credit must go to Adler, one of South Florida’s most honored directors. He selects plays which have meaning and directs his cast to get the most out of every line. Bad Jews is a comedy but it leaves with a powerful , thought-provoking message.
Technically, this play Is near perfect with a set by Lyle Baskin, lighting by Jeff Quinn, sound by Matt Corey, and costumes by Ellis Tillman. But the real show-stoppers are the playwright’s use of words, the excellent direction and an ensemble cast which becomes more powerful as the audience gets to meet them.
Bad Jews will run through Sunday, Dec. 21. But we suggest you call for tickets now. This looks like a hit show. Bad Jews was the 2014 Lucille Lortel Award Nominee for Outstanding Play and 2012-2013 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominee for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play! 2014 Lucille Lortel Award Nominee for Outstanding Play! ! Call 305-445-1109 for tickets.
BRILLIANT CASTING OF RADOSH AND MCKEEVER, ADLER’S DIRECTION
MAKE TERRENCE MCNALLY’S SCRIPT SHINE AT GABLESTAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL – Rarely does a group of characters mouth words which are so relevant to changing times. than those which sparkle from the pen of playwright Terrence McNally in the brilliant play entitled Mothers and Sons currently thrilling audiences at GableStage.
Certainly, it is understandable why McNally’s play was a Tony nominee. Absolutely, it is an award-waiting-in-the-wings for the sensitive direction of Joseph Adler. And, positively actors such as Angie Radosh and Michael McKeever will be remembered for a long time for their haunting and moving portrayals as evidenced by the title of this play.
Radosh’s character Katherine is a lonely suicidal mom trying to envision what her late son Andre’s life would be like if he had not been gay and had not died of AIDs complications. Radosh – as the angry, widowed Texas mom Katherine – is meeting Cal (McKeever )– her son’s one-time partner. They had last seen one another, at her son’s memorial service 20 years ago. In the ensuing decades, Cal has become economically successful in the world of finance (as evidenced by his luxurious apartment near Central Park), has a “husband” some 15 years younger (they are married; an option which didn’t exist when Cal and Andre were a couple), and have bore a child. Katherine (Mom) believes a myriad of falsehoods – even that Cal had turned her son gay and was perhaps responsible for his death.
She had come to visit New York to return her son’s journal and, when she does, she opens it amid some haunting moments and remarkable scripting.
The chemistry between Radosh and McKeever is undeniable – only enhanced by the stirring direction of Adler. Radosh is exquisite, using McNally’s script to self-describe a lonely mother whose life did not turn out as she wanted and McKeever shines as a gay man spanning two generations.
The rest of this relatively small cast is equally spectacular and realistic, especially as Cal’s new partner – an aspiring novelist Will – (a talented newcomer to Florida Jeremiah Musgrove ). Others in this superb cast include two child actors Max Leifman and Gabe Sklar who alternate performances as Call and Will’s nine year old son (who can resist watching talented youngsters act along with veteran performers?) Leifman played the role when I saw this show and was a scene stealer – and playing opposite the likes of Radosh, McKeever and Musgrove is no easy task . Adler’s stamp of outstanding direction is obvious, highlighting his final show of GableStage’s 16th season.
The set by Lyle Baskin is perfect to explain Cal’s success and the lighting by Jeff Quinn and sound by Matt Corey are A-One perfect, as are the subtle costuming by Ellis Tillman and the overall tech team effort led by Carlos Rodriguez. It is GablesStage’s team effort which once again shows why it ranks in the upper tier of South Florida’s premiere theatrical companies.
This outstanding version of Mothers and Sons and the reconciliation amid grief and misunderstanding it envisions is its first production since its success on Broadway and the script bearing a Tony nomination for McNally could not have been put in better hands than Adler and this cast.
Mothers and Sons runs through October 19. Call 305 445-1119 for tickets.
MADCAT SPARKS MUSICAL REMINDER
OF A FORGOTTEN U.S. DISASTER
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
MIAMI SHORES, FL -- It is a rare experience indeed when a theatrical piece is filled with song and dance, but – in fact – is not a typical musical, but actually a slice of reality about an American disaster. However, one would expect nothing less from Florida’s most unique stage company. Of course, that means Mad Cat and its latest production – Centralia.
Yes, it has song and dance. And, it could also be called a drama. And, it is based on fact!
Please note that Centralia is a small town in Columbia County , Pennsylvania (current population 10). This borough had lost so many residents that, according to Internet research, the U.S. Postal Service revoked its zip code. The problem was that the town -- year by year –was being destroyed by an underground fire.
The reality is scorchingly (if there is such a word) brought to life in this unique mixture of music, dance and story-telling. The core of the tale erupted as the last of the residents tell their reasons for remaining. Centralia -- founded primarily as a mining town of 1,000 . It was in 1962 that a coal fire underground erupted.Its effects continued nearly two decades later, when a 12-year-old boy fell into a sinkhole -- the final straw. A few years later, Congress allotted nearly $42 million for relocation efforts, and Centralia's population dwindled. By 2013, 10 residents remained.
Their story – certainly a strange one for the stage – is told in song and dance as scripted by of all places, England.where a group called Superbolt wrote, produced and acted in it. . It was a perfect match for Mad Cat Artistic Director Paul Tei and company who are brave enough to re-create enjoyable theatrical moments. This definitely is theatre at a new level -- yet satisfyingly enjoyable,
The Superbolt Theatre version at the Miami Theater Center (Mad Cat’s home) is composed of four actors — composites of the town's last remaining citizens — who never left their homes in Centralia. The cast is -directed by Tei. Using a mixture of comedy, cabaret, dance and music, this brave new play explores the relationships that can only be formed through such a unique disaster.
The stimulation takes many forms in Centralia, and it's up to the cast of Troy Davidson, Theo Reyna, a lovely Bonnie Sherman and musician Steph Taylor to keep the energy up. This foursome inevitably pushes the right buttons.
Tei met the original Superbolt quartet at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival and knew he had to redirect (and direct) this group of actors with a Miami cast. Though Centralia is not the usual musical, all of the actors sing and dance, and Davidson and Sherman play the ukulele and banjo, respectively.
The production and design team for Centralia consists of the co-sound design of Matt Corey and Elayne Bryan, with original music by Darin Gray, currently on tour with TWEEDY, lighting design by Melissa Santiago Keenan, costume design by Karelle Levy, an set design by Paul Tei.
Shows are Thursday thru Sunday at 8:00 pm and all general admission tickets are $30. Through Aug. 31. Student tickets $15 with valid ID. Applicable service charges apply. Tickets may be purchased online at www.madcattheatre.org OR https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/937310 OR by calling OvationTix at 866.811.4111
BRITT MICHAEL GORDON MAKES FOR PERFECTION
IN BROWARD STAGE DOOR’S BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL SPRINGS, FL -- Every so often a young actor “nails” a role so perfectly that you feel the part was written for him or her. That’s the case of Britt Michael Gordon who is playing the oft produced role of Don Baker,the lead in the oft-produced late - 1960s Butterflies Are free - a dramady by Leonard Gershe, brought to life again under the direction of Michael Leeds at Broward Stage Door.
Butterflies Are Free is one of those feel-good plays to hit Broadway in the early 1970s and was later made into a movie for Goldie Hawn, Eddie Albert and Eileen Heckart (who won an Oscar for a supporting role),
But this latest revival is a made for Gordon role who deserves the curtain call applause for the realistic manner in which he plays a young blind man who has moved into an apartment to be on his own. Gordon -- a recent graduate of Florida State University in Acting) plays the role so honestly that you hardly believe he is sighted. He definitely has the talent to move upward as an actor.
Don (Gordon’s character) – who was born blind has lived all of his life until now with his mother (Brook Packard). He has made a pact with his domineering mom that she will not see him for one month, so that he can prove he can get by alone
In the meantime, he meets his free spirited wanna-actress neighbor Jill (a delightful Gina Marie Jamieson) who does not realize he is blind until he drops ashes on the table. Within a short time, they become friends and lovers. While both are in their underwear, his mother shows up unexpectedly and tries to talk her out of Don’s life.
In a minor role as a play director vying for Jill’s attention is South Florida favorite (Andy Quiroga). In any other play Quiroga woud be a lead character because he is so good as an actor
Bu t this play belongs to Gordon and is an indicator of good things to come.
Butterflies Are Free runs through September.
A BOOST FOR BROWARD AS OUTRE THEATRE MOVES;
CONTROVERSY FUELS FUNNY SHORTS GONE WILD 2
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
It’s common knowledge that most of the major regional theatres in South Florida geographically (and some would say artistically ) are in either Miami-Dade county or farther north in the West Palm Beach/Jupiter area. That – with a few exceptions – leaves Broward County In the desert as to regional theatres geography. (I should note that I do not consider the Broward Center nor the Parker Playhouse ”regional” theatres as they are primarily known for road shows. So, the news this past week regarding Outre Theatre Company’s upcoming move to the Fort Lauderdale area – in secret negotiations for weeks – caught a lot of theatre and art enthusiasts by surprise and acclamation. The Outré Theatre Company announced that the majority of its 2014/15 season will be performed at the Broward Center. The transition begins with December’s production of Othello, directed by guest director Christina Groom, which will be performed in the Abdo New River Room. In March, Outré continues its signature concert and reading series with Joel Gross’ Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh, performing in the new JM Family Studio Theatre in the Broward Center’s new education wing. Finally, May sees the return of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as a full production, again in the Abdo New River Room. Outré’s first production of the season, Back of the Throat by Yussef El Guindi, will still be in Boca Raton, but is being graciously hosted by Sol/Evening Star Productions. This move by Outre is significant, It is the first good news theatre-wise in Broward since the days of Mosaic in Plantation and to some extent, some of the shows coming to the small but vibrant Empire Stage by the railroad tracks. Incidentally, Outre’s talented Artistic Director Skye Whitcomb ia the man behind the Broward move and county arts leaders are already patting him on the back!
DRAMATIC EPISODE OFF STAGE, ON-LINE
It’s a tossup whether the drama off-stage matched the drama on-stage at Empire Stage this past week. However, it will probably help sell tickets to the funny eight short plays dubbed Shorts Gone Wild 2 inasmuch as controversy usually signals success. It got underway a few days ago when self-described lesbian playwright Kim Ehly complained publicly on the internet that she was furious because a local theatre cut her 10 minute play which was supposed to be part of (the LGBTshow )-- Shorts Gone Wild 2.—a joint production of Island City Stage and CitY Theatre. The public controversy went viral when a local blogger posted Ehly’s remarks online and then was picked up by the Gay News in Wilton Manors. As a, result the rant by Ehly became the BIG NEWS throughout the South Florida theatre community. According to Ehly, she wrote and directed a short play, representing the lesbian viewpoint and had been accepted in the first reading by the producers.
According to Ehly, the producers said her play was “very funny and has an important point to make” plus fits” the mission to entertain”. Ehly -- now in New York for production of another of her plays -- Baby Girl -- went on:to complain “Less than two weeks later I was informed via email by that same producer that my play will need to be pulled, because two of the individuals involved (in the lesbian oriented play) won’t do the piece, citing personal issues with the play and assumptions that they think they may know a source of inspiration for the play.”As the emails made their rounds from individual to individual, it finally prompted Artistic Directors Andy Rogow of Island City Stage and John Manzelli of City Theatre to respond online: Here is their response: ‘we feel it is our duty to respond to the disparaging and completely false accusations made by Kim Ehly about her 10 minute play that we chose to drop from Shorts Gone Wild 2. Ms. Ehly has chosen to represent herself as a victim of some heterosexual attack on the Lesbian community. She would have her readers believe that Island City Stage and City Theatre censored her play because it was somehow too edgy and controversial for us to produce and that two straight actors refused to perform in it because of this purported edginess. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that whether intended or not, Ms Ehly wrote a play that strongly mirrored well known local events and contained several characters that could easily have been recognized by members of our own small and tightly knit theatrical community. After the first reading of the play, multiple members of the company’s producers, directors, writers, and actors expressed immediate concern as to the play's seeming locally “inspired” characters. In that local context, the plays “truth” and valid universal message (the elements of the work that we praised Ms. Ehly for writing) were immediately transformed into a seemingly bitter and mean-spirited attack on several people’s character and even sexual orientation. On it's own merits it's a good 10 minute play, and should have a life in other communities. However, the Producers of the show believed that piece was not in the interest of inclusion that Shorts Gone Wild was created to foster and chose to remove the well written, but deeply questionable, play after more than 2 weeks serious and respectful contemplation of Ms. Ehly’s work. It is a shame Ms. Ehly wants to further divide the LGBT community by implying that we somehow are censoring a lesbian voice. Shorts Gone Wild 2 includes lesbian, gay, transgendered, bi-sexual and straight characters and themes as well as a diverse cast of straight, gay, lesbian, African American and Hispanic cast members, directors, playwrights and designers. Those who are familiar with our work will recognize that we strive to present plays that speak to our diverse community and that we have never shied away from controversial subject matter or sexual content. “
Incidentally, Ms. Ehly promises that her own theatre company –Kutumba Company -- will produce this controversial 10 minute play (Clit Tease) in South Florida later in the season. (There is nothing like controversy to sell seats).
In the meantime, the onstage drama at Empire provides an X-rated version of funny and realistic 10 minute works which has wide audience appeal. Six multitalented actors, five savvy directors and seven playwrights bring to life eight interesting plays entitled Shorts Gone Wild 2. The eight plays run in no particular order .Audience members pick numbers out of a hat to decide the playing position. Although the subject matter is geared to LGBT themes, each play stands on its own merit – often hilarious, some with a hint of tragedy.. The actors are Craig Moody, Larry Buzzeo, Matt Stabile, Gladys Ramirez, Niki Fridh, Renee Elizaabeth Turner. Directors are Michael Leeds, Margaret M. Ledford, Teddy Harrell, Gail S. Garrissan and Andy Rogow. Playwrights include Michael Leeds, Michael McKeever, Christopher Demos-Brown, Carey Crim, Tony Finstrom, Fielding Edlow, and Gary Garrison
Leeds” opus –The Emperor is Naked – launches the eight plays. It includes a running gag about real life spouses Stabile and Fridh in a state of jealousy and Moody’s character -- stark naked –successfully covering up his private parts. Stabile and Fridh give maxi-good performances, Finstrom’s play – The Last Time I Saw Bathhouse Betty -- hit a chord with the audience, as well. It’s about Bette Midler and her accompianist Barry Manilow doing a Halloween gig at a well known gay bath house, the Continental. All six of the actors are in this funny playlet by one of South Florida’s leading playwrights and arts supporters – Finstrom.
Demos Brown’s I Alone has Buzzeo and Moody as former high school pals with Stabile and Ramirez as their alter egos several distances in the past. McKeever – South Florida’s most prolific playwright – has two of the eight play slots. Lion in a Bear Bar features an extremely funny Buzzeo as a Cowardly Lion (yes, the one from Oz); Stabile as his cheating boyfriend and Moody as a bartender. McKeever also penned , Sarah Stein’s Sends a Selfie, about a hungover bride to be (Fridh) her best pal (Ramirez) who had a past relationship. It is the evening’s show stopper (as one would hope to get from the genius of McKeeever.
Fridh and Turner play long-time buddies in Edlow’s A Bump Between Friends, while Grim’s Glamping features Moody and Ramirez on a camping trip to celebrate a lesbian wedding ,In Gary Garrison’s Game On – the most realistic of the eight plays – Buzzeo and Stabile are outstanding as they have a deep discussion on gay relationships. I noted several men in the audience squirming during this particular play. Shorts Gone Wild 2 runs through Sept. 7. Call 954 519-2533 for tickets. ========================================================= Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent is president of the South Florida International Press Club, a Carbonell and Silver Palm voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
RICH DIALOG AND A SENSE OF REALITY
MAKE GABLESTAGE’S THE WHALE COME ALIVE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES – Each of the five actors in GableStage’s latest production –Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale – has their own story to tell on stage -- and does so with such richness of dialog and reality , one cannot help remind one’s self that ‘I knew someone like that.”
That sense of reality is displayed in this nearly two-hour intermission-less production so admirably directed and staged by Joseph Adler, the recipient of 55 Carbonell Awards and 187 Carbonell nominations. It would be difficult to envision his trophy shelf without space for the latest of his works to garner critical applause.
The play runs over five days in short scenes.
v At the center of The Whale is Charlie (Gregg Weiner) – a nearly 600 pound, quite clever recluse who teaches expository writing online and who knows his gluttony will lead to his imminent death—but not before he resolves some personal business. Charlie hides away in his apartment eating himself to death. But he is desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter. He reaches out to her, only to find a wildly unhappy teen. Big-hearted and fiercely funny, The Whale tells the story of a man's last chance at redemption, and of finding beauty in the most unexpected places.
Costume designer Ellis Tillman transforms Weiner into this huge character via a”wet suit” which nearly doubles his real-life weight.
Amy Miller Brennan, usually cast in award-winning musicals, becomes Charlie’s dearest friend Liz, -- an enabler who cares deeply for Charlie’s friendship, but helps continue his feeding frenzy.
Deborah Sherman, is Charlie’s boozing ex wife whom he left for an unseen character -- except for a photograph on a coffee table his deceased lover named Alan.
Weiner, Brennan and Sherman have Carbonells to their credit – and their portrayals here are testaments to their talents.
Arielle Hoffman (as Ellie), the estranged daughter of Charlie, is a pot-smoking, vulnerable and acid –tongued teenager while Karl Skyler Urban plays a 19 year old a Mormon missionary with more than one secret is his past. Both young actors meet the challenge of working with veteran thespians and perform admirably in this drama. They have all the ammo to earn acting awards on their own.
It might seem this play covers everything—but it does so surprisingly well – including a plot full of flawed. vulnerable characters, religion, fractured families , drugs and alcoholism, the consequences when two men fall in love, and of course, the ramification of obesity. All Of these subjects intertwine beautifully and realistically, in The Whale. Of course, as its title implies, there are pointed references to Moby Dick.
But don’t let the title fool you. This is much more than a play about obesity, nor a Biblical narrative. No one seems to capture the essence of flawed human beings quite like playwright Hunter. You will not only feel the reality of these characters but the author does his utmost in showing their blemished personalities as part of life experiences. After all, these characters are not merely fiction. They can be realized as real people. The dialog as written by Hunter, performed by this cast, directed by Adler, envisions realism.
Technically, as usual, the GableStage’s tech crew comes off in top form. That includes set by Lyle Baskin, lighting by Jeff Quinn, sound by Matt Corey, most notably costumer Ellis Tillman and tech director Carlos Rodriguez.
The Whale runs through Aug, 17. Call 305-445-1119 for ticket information.
MALE PERFORMANCES GET
CRITICAL ATTENTION EARLY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
It’s early in the season (and early performances tend to be forgotten when awards-time comes around) but several high—testosterone performances this past month have gotten special attention from the major South Florida critics. You may recall that – usually – the critics fawn over the female actors, but 2014 may well be the time when the male thespians get our special attention If you read the online reviews –and, if you are a theatre-lover you should – it should have caught your attention of just how much the critics adored three performances in particular:
1.Matthew William Chizever as the male lead in August Strindberg’s provacative Miss Julie at Naked Stage at Barry University’s Pelican Theatre. Although flanked by two dynamite performances by Katherine Amadeo and Deborah Sherman, the critics were especially explicit in their delight by Chizever’s performance, hailing it as “riveting.” The play –directed by Margaret Ledford – was a spellbinder of acting prowess for Chizever as the rebellious and passionate footman. Christine Dolen of the Miami Herald praised his performance this way: “Vocally and physically, the commanding Chizever is an imposing presence as he squares off against Amadeo’s slender, luminous Miss Julie. Yet the actors and director Ledford keep the sadomasochistic sexual tension crackling, as the cautious Jean gives in to the manipulative Miss Julie’s commands (watch as he kisses his way upward from the toe of her boot), then dominates her verbally and physically.” Wow, that’s an impressive review!!
2. Jim Ballard as the unscrupulous suitor in Karoline Leach’s spellbinding Tryst at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Directed by J. Barry Lewis, the handsome Ballard -- always a show-stopper – goes the extra mile in male appeal opposite Claire Brownell. Using a British dialect, Ballard goes the extra distance in appealing to his audience with a brilliant performance as a cunning, sly man who knows how to seduce a shy woman. John Thomason of Boca Raton Magazine best describes Ballard intellectually as the “ very picture of vulturine avarice.” Check your dictionaries of just how good that is!!!!
3 Nicholas Richberg – in a wow of a performance in The Great God Pan the latest offering of Zoetic Stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. Richberg – one of South Florida’s favorite actors, does it up in knots once again in this role teamed with an equally alluring Mike Stabile, David Kwait, Aubrey Shavonn Kessler and those goddesses of South Florida theatre Angie Radosh and Barbara Bradshaw. Under the guidance of directing guru Stuart Meltzer, it is an A-One production in the round. Bill Hirschman of On Stage Theater South Florida noted Richberg’s excellent portrayal…..” fresh off Zoetic productions of Assassins and All New People and GableStage’s Cock. He starts out so normal, so recognizable as the guy in the next cubicle. He and Meltzer calibrate in millimeters the insidious progress of the poison, making his transformation totally credible.” That’s the kind of acting description any actor would relish!!
( Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent is president of the South Florida International Press Club, a Carbonell voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact email@example.com)
“Vania and Masha and Sonia and Spike”
Provide Memorable Acting Moments
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Every so often in a theatrical production there is a scene so notable and so outstanding for its intelligence and creativity by the author and delivery by an actor, one cannot help but recall it fondly as a memorable moment in a well-played-out absurdist satire. Such a rarity occurs in Christopher Durang ‘s Vania and Masha and Sonia and Spike , delivered in the second act of by veteran actor AvI Hoffman, currently playing at GableStage.
Hoffman, one of South Florida’s most beloved actors, plays this comic scene to the hilt, as he manages to please the audience – as does the five other performers in this funny two-act play which tests the audience’s familiarity with a dozen remarkable authors, films, and theatrical moments – from Chekov’s Three Sisters to TV’s I Love Lucy to lines from cinema’s Casablanca, as well as more philosophical axioms such as self esteem and has one’s life had meaning!
But Vania and Masha and Sonia and Spike is no entertainment catalogue nor ego-bending. Hoffman’s soliloquy is about how things were yesterday and how they are now It is writing and acting genius, played as absurd comedy and delivered to the audiences brilliantly by Director Joseph Adler.
Playwright Durang allows his characters to dwell on the meaning of life in various ways with a wide range of neo-theatrical characters:
Grecian namesakes Vanya (Hoffman) and Sonia (Laura Turnbull) as siblings, who have spent their entire adult life living in the same home and caring for their elderly parents.
Masha (Margarita Coego) _another sister who is a self-centered film and theatre actress who has provided the funds to care for this house as well as for giving stipends to her siblings She is a big time celebrity with five marriages to her credit and a string of lovers, as evidenced by her latest boy-toy conquest, a wannabe actor( Spike).
Spike, played by New World junior and musical veteran (Domenic Servidio), a hunky guy whose good looks and torso as well as the ability to show how an airhead would react) are exactly what the author must have had in mind.
Then there’s Nina (a lovely Hayley Bruce), an exuberant ingénue who throws herself into this household’s life and most importantly -- Vanya’s play in which she will be a molecule.
Then there is Cassandra (Jade Wheeler), the voodoo-inciting house cleaner.
Sounds like the perfect roles and actors to turn a serious subject – the meaning of life – written as absurd characters straight out of a book, movie or tv show. Not sure what Durang or multi Carbonell- award-winning director Adler wanted to inspire in this comic piece – but it certainly gave his actors the ability to elicit audience laughter and for his actors to act absurd while showering the audience with intelligence.
Although Hoffman has the most “showy” role, he is backed with talent. Laura Turnbull is a wow as the frumpy, adopted sibling who can emulate a famous British moviedom star and finally discover a way out of her barren life. Margarita Coego, making a GableStage debut, is a winning personality and both Domenic Servidio and Haley Bruce both show signals of bright acting careers. Jade Wheeler – already an award nominee at the Carbonells for previous GableStage shows, does it up just right in Vania and Masha and Sonia and Spike
Lyle Baskin provides a lovely setting -- a Bucks County farmhouse --to show off people who are well off financially (No matter how life has treated them) and Ellis Tilllman has done a yeoman’s job in costuming these characters. The rest of the technical crew –particularly Steve Walsh for lighting, Matt Walsh for sound – are also on the Topnotch list!
This production runs through June 15. For tickets call 395-445-1119.
ARTS GARAGE SHOWS OFF CREATIVITY
IN ITS LATEST --‘THE TROUBLE WITH DOUG’
Bt Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
DELRAY BEACH, FL -- Clay Cartland for best actor in a musical? Shane Tanner for best supporting actor? Add in Patti Gardiner, Barry Tarallo and the dynamic AlIx Paige and call it best ensemble or the authors Will Aronson and Daniel Mate for best new work? How about Margaret Ledford for best director of a musical or consider the the excellent musical direction of Paul Reekie? or the entire production for most creative work ? Whatever theatrical, acting or technical awards seem plausible this early in the 2014 season, the early-out-of-the-box 2014 production of The Trouble with Doug at the Arts Garage here begs for consideration.
‘Creative” seems the best word to describe the premiere of The Trouble with Doug – a two -act musical which at times seems like an opera but reeks for an opportunity for a run on a Broadway or at least a dozen regional stages. With an unusually blistering score, Aronson and Mate --(Mate may be recalled as the creative force behind The Long and the Short of It last season ), this new effort at musical theatre tells a moral tale while giving its acting crew an opportunity to share the spotlight.
The Trouble with Doug is loosely based on a contemporary re-imagining of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis but -- with a stretch of symbolism -- tells the story of “letting go” of someone -- who has achieved adult-hood --by both parents and siblings. This lofty goal – expressed in music and story-telling by Aronson and Mate – reeks with creativity, led by Cartland who undergoes a dramatic change into a slug. This may seem like a difficult turn for any actor but Cartland – oozing with personality and charm – achieves this goal with apparent ease. He dominates his every appearance on stage.
Basically, it is the story of a family which truly loves one another and struggles to understand and respond to this strangest of crises.
Tanner, too, as the bungling older brother, uses his strong vocalizing to capture his character’s every nuance. Like Cartland, he seems to be on the “busy” list (understandably) for South Florida actors. And, the rest of the cast lives up to career expectations.
Arts Garage – in an extremerly short time -- has become a home for creative new works, thanks to artistic director guru, the energetic Louis Tyrrell-- and -- nowhere does that exemplify the spirit of theatrical excellence better than in this new production.
The Trouble with Doug is well worth the drive to this tiny Delray Beach theatre – and its comfortable parking garage -- to see and visualize theatre at its best. It’s a short drive to see a production long on vision!
The Trouble with Doug runs through May 11th. Call 561-654-8151 for tickets.
THE WICK'S VERSION OF STEEL MAGNOLIAS
ELICITS APPLAUSE FROM AN APPROVING AUDIENCE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
BOCA RATON FL -- Steel Magnolias-- Robert Harling's 1987 play -- about
the bond a group of women share -- may be familiar to a lot of
theatre and movie-goers - however, this theatrical presentation
currently at The Wick seems as fresh and new thanks to sharp
direction, a terrific set and a cast of women who make the play come
alive. There is no question that the audience loved this production
for its old fashioned charm and tart humor !
As the title suggests, the female characters can be both as delicate
as the magnolia, and as tough as steel. And, somehow or other, this
newest production shows off those images to perfection.
Many theatre goers may recall this play at an earlier time - during
its 1987 premiere and a lot more remember the all star cast in the
1989 movie . What a cast that was!! Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine,
Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Darryl Hannah !!
However, The Wick revival of this drama-comedy earns its own merit
badge. It's cast of six is a standout whose curtain calls are well
deserved -- Linda Farmer, Patti Eyler, Allyson McCartan, Aaron
Bower, Robin Proett Olson and a wonderful scene-stealing Sally Bondi
(as Clairee). It's an ensemble cast any director or producer (Marilynn
A. Wick) could believe in!.
Directed by Norb Joerder with an assist from Missy McCaredle, The Wick
version moves along at a quick pace on an especially vibrant set by
Sean McCllelland, unique costuming by Robin Buerger, sound by Don
Hannah and crisp/bright lighting by Thomas Sharrock. The technical
excellence of this crew --- with the talented hands of stage manager
James Danford -- goes a long way in making this production work so
But, it is basically the six women cast that make this version of a
small Louisiana town beauty parlor and its ladies so believable, and
enjoyable. Kudos to the six actors for eliciting their lightly
Southern accent with such charm.
Steel Magnolias runs at The Wick, 7901 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton, FL
33487 through May 4 Call (561) 995-2333- for tickets,
ISLAND CITY STAGE'S PRODUCTION MOVES QUICKLY
ON JOSH MESNIK'S ADULT BIOGRAPHICAL COMEDY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- Have I Got A Girl For You. Sound like every mother's wish. But. to the contrary, this title has nothing to do with family values. It's the title of the adult comedy currently playing to large crowds in the tiny Empire Stage - a delightfully funny offering by the Carbonell-winning Island City Stage company.
It's a world premiere of a play written by (and about) Josh Mesnik who has become a Pompano Beach transplant.
It's an adult themed play, with a terrific cast - led by Mike Westrich in the demanding, fast paced role as Josh. Westrich, one of South Florida's busiest young actors (The Timekeepers, Tick Tick Boom) is superb in the lead role. H e proves he can do well at comedy -just as he's done in musicals and drama.
In fact, the entire cast - under the masterful guidance of Carbonell award-winnning director Michael Leeds - moves this funny 85 minute play - shifting scenes quickly on the demanding actors - an unforgettable Christina Groom in several vibrant roles, a voluptuous Sharyn Peoples as a tough Madam, and the always capable Larry Buzzeo, playing several roles including some classy and not too classy "Johns."
Have I Got A Girl For You looks at the possibility of a newly sober, gay musical theatre actor getting his life back on track. He does that by working for the largest female escort agency on the East Coast! The play is conceived out of a real life experience by playwright Mesnik. After a sold out run and extension in the New York International Fringe Festival, as well as winning the coveted TheatreMania Audience Favorite Award out of 189 shows, this comedy is making it's regional theatre debut right where the true story actually happened: South Florida!
Island City's Carbonell winning producer Andy Rogow explains that Have I Got a Girl For You is the hilariously true story of a young man fresh out of rehab, in debt, and in a land far-removed from the chorus calls of New York City - Boca Raton, where he soon finds an unlikely career as a Sondheim-quoting pimp.
It is fast-paced and full of laugh provoking moments. It has the audience bellowing with laughter! Yes, it's subject matter is for adults only, told with authenticity - thanks to the keen workmanship of Island City Stage Associate Artistic Director Michael Leeds, and four excellent actors.
The production performs Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 5:00 PM through April 27. Tickets are available at islandcitystage.org, or by calling the box office at 954-519-2533.
PROVIDES A THOUGHTFUL MESSAGE ABOUT TODAY'S LONELY CHILDREN
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
BOCA RATON, FL - Mr. Marmalade - the latest offering by the relatively new Outre Theatre Company - is about a rather lonely four year old girl and her dysfunctional relationship with imaginary friends - but it is strictly for adults in the real world.
This two-act play at times is outrageous and yet a provocative look at loneliness through the eyes, ears and thought processes of a small child. It is being staged at the Cultural Center in Mizner Park (201 Plaza Real) through April 13 where the language would be more in line for an X-rated movie than a pre-school kid.
It is obvious from the beginning that this play is primarily an exercise in versatility by the actors either playing youngsters or imaginary characters. The entire cast - especially Laura Ruchala as the youngster Lucy --- get the opportunity to act out what appears to be a fantasy. The only real characters one envisions are Lucy's divorced mother, her mother's boyfriends and the men Lucy sees on various television shows,
The play by Noah Haidle originally was presented off Broadway as a showcase for the daughter of a famous actress and got mixed reviews. However, this production so adroitly directed by Skye Whitcomb is an especially vivid look how a group of actors can take over characters which either are not real or children. In addition to Laura Ruchala as the main character, the supporting cast includes Jim Gibbons as Mr. Marmalade - a make believe busy businessman with a personal assistant (Christopher Mitchell). Mr. Marmalade is an amalgamation of TV characters and Lucy's mother's dates. The imaginery title character also has anger issues and an addiction to cocaine. But,remember he is "unreal."
Alvaro D'Amico also plays a child - about the same age as Lucy - and is a standout in this role.
Also in the cast are Cindy Thagard, Brianna Mackey and Giordian Diaz.
If this black comedy achieves its goal, it will instill in the audience some thoughts about children who are brought up in a less than perfect environment. This superb cast - obviously directed with skill by Whitcomb - drives home a message of too many kids becoming the products of divorced parents who must depend on television shows and Imagination rather than real human beings. If this play can deliver this message, it becomes a thoughtful piece on the Americana family today!
David Hart who handles the sound and Stefanie Howard -- in charge of lighting - are especially noteworthy on the technical side of this production.
But, if one is looking to give credit for a "think piece" , let the actors and director know they have done an A-One job with Mr. Marmalade.'
For tickets and information call 954) 300-2149.
MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE'S "THE KING AND I":
A FRESH, NEW LOOK AT THIS ROMANTIC MUSICAL
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
JUIPITER, FL -- Move over Broadway! There is no longer a question. You have competition from - of all places - Jupiter, Florida.
That has been apparent for the past several theatre seasons at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. And, if there were any naysayers still around, the current production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I should have solidified the theory that this venue can match up with any New York production.
Who gets the credit for such a professional and excellent production? Perhaps it is the producing artistic director, the amazing Andrew Kato. Or the show's Carbonell winning director Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Or who can forget music director Helen Gregory? Certainly the technical team of superb scenic designer Narelle Sissons, sound designer Marty Metz. lighting guru Matthew Richards and costume designer Leon Webber must share in the credits. So, must Eric Wright and The Puppet Kitchen for the most enjoyable re-telling of the Siamese version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, so much a part of The King and I's storyline.
And, if that isn't enough of praise, let's not forget Bob Kline's A-One casting, particularly in the major roles - Anna (Michele Ragusa) and the King (Wayne Hu). Both bring their operatic as well as Great White Way theatrical talents to this very new and exciting version of The King and I.
What gives this production such superlative praise is its "newness:" Those who had seen The King and I in its multi-runs in New York or London's West End or one of its many road show renditions or especially recall with fondness the 1956 Yul Brynner/ Deborah Kerr classic film - may find this Maltz production vastly different. Yes, the same songs survive and the story (Anna and the King of Siam) by Margaret Landon is in tact. But, the unique, abstract (almost surrealistic) scenic design and the puppet sequence make it seem almost like a new show,
Along with Ragusa and Hu, there is a supporting cast that would make any production proud! Christine Toy Johnson as the primary royal wife Lady Thiang, Kay Trinidad as Tuptim and J.P. Moraga as Tuptim's young lover are all breathtaking in their portrayals, as are the many royal children, and Anna's son, eighth grader Leandre Thiviege and Quinn Weis (another 12 year old), as the royal prince.
However, let there be no doubt this production really works because of the charm and voices of its two stars, Regusa and Hu. They make Rodgers and Hammerstein music and lyrics seem as if they were written just for their voices.
The King and I can best be described as a " romantic musical." The boy-meets-girl plot is woven into the historical context of British Imperialism in Asia. Thus it is also the story of a clash between cultures and the dynamics between Great Britain and "oriental" peoples.
The 1951 stage plot and film version are already quite known. The King of Siam invites an English governess to come to his country and teach the children of his many wives about the modern world in hopes of bringing his country into the political mainstream. Yet he himself resists changing his traditional role as benevolent patriarchal dictator until the attractive and bold young governess wins his heart and his respect. The musical 's basics are the relationship between the King and Anna. It is marked by conflict through much of the piece, as well as by a love that neither can admit.
This production runs through April 8. Call 561 575 2223 for tickets.
THE MOUNTAINTOP AT GABLESTAGE SEEPS
INTO REALISM DESPITE ITS FICTIONALIZED ACCOUNT
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL - As soon as you learn this play - The Mountaintop -- by Katori Hall --currently at Gablestage -- is set in Room 306 of the the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, one knows where this story is going! Or, does one?
Of course, the time and place lead you to the eve of the assassination of Martin Luther King - a watershed moment in American history. But, if you expect a biography of the civil rights leader, guess again! This is no biographical play. It is strictly a fictional depiction. And an eerie fictional account, at that!!.
You see this is the Reverend Martin Luther King's last night on earth-- set on the eve of his assassination on April 4, 1968. And - according to this playwright - the entire night was spent in the hotel room, where the civil rights leader an impressive (C. Anthony Jackson) is having a conversation with a maid (Karen Stephens.)
As the play begins, Dr. King is returning to his hotel room after giving his now-famous I Had a Dream speech. He's tired and disappointed by the turnout for his appearance and plagued by the habitual threats on his life. He paces, peers through the curtains and checks the room repeatedly for listening devices.
Then Camae (the maid) comes by to deliver coffee and the verbal intrigue begins. Where that chemistry leads them and what forms it takes give "The Mountaintop" its structure.
And, foremost, it gives Karen Stephens another opportunity to show why she is one of South Florida's most talented female actors (She already has won two Carbonell awards and is a nominee again for the March 31 awards ceremony). She uses words, gestures and every-day speech (sometimes foul-mouthed) to depict a fictional character who commands your attention!
A sleeper hit in London, where it won the 2010 Olivier Award for best new play, "The Mountaintop" came to Broadway attended by great expectations in 2009 and then went on to become one of American regional theatre's biggest draws. Playwright Hall -- a journalist and actress --was still in her 20s and unknown when "The Mountaintop" took off in London (at a fringe theater for new playwrights in Battersea) and her success since that time seems right out of Cinderella.
GableStage Artistic Director Joseph Adler - another multi-Carbonell award recipient - does another A-One job in wielding his dramatic baton to put his unique professional touch on the 90 minute, intermission-free play. The banter between the two actors moves along quickly and surprisingly, thanks to Adler's leadership.
In fact, everything about this production of The Mountaintop sparkles with professionalism. The set by Lyle Baskin seeps in realism, even to the rainstorm outside of the motel. Lighting by Jeff Quinn and sound by Matt Corey keep pace with the excellent set and the phenomenal script.
This production runs through April 1, 2014. Call 305 445-1119 for tickets.
ARTHURIAN SATIRE - SPAMALOT - AT ACTORS' PLAYHOUSE:
CROWD-PLEASER RUNNETH OVER WITH LOCAL MUSICAL TALENTl
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Take some of South Florida's leading musical talent and put them in the same funny and often silly show and you've got a pleasant, invigorating day at the theater. That's one fair summation of Monty Python's Spamalot - currently having an appreciative run at the Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables.
After all, Spamalot is a goofy look at King Arthur's mythology--as interpreted by the Monty Python crew -- and is played for laughs (a mixture of Arthurian legend and musical theatre) - but in between the many laughable moments is the realization that the stage at the Miracle Theatre is loaded with local talent.
It may be difficult to give credit to any single actor inasmuch as they are all so charmingly funny and still so vocally on target, but as an ensemble , it is rare to find so much musical talent in one production. Much of the credit, of course, must go to its director David Arisco for putting together such an array of talent and the musical chief David Nagy for his skill in making them so appealing to the eardrum.
Just look at this cast listing of locally recognizable names : Gary Marachek the wow performer leading off the pack as King Arthur, a golden voiced Lindsey Forgey as the The Lady of the Lake, the hunky Jim Ballard, the strong voiced Shane Tanner, the versatile Wayne LeGette, the remarkable Henry Gainza, a spectacular Gabrielle Zenone,multi-talented Paul Lewis, the amazing (I am running out of adjectives and superlatives ) Jose Luaces,and additionally -- a striking ensemble of local dancers/singers that South Florida theatre-goers will instantly recognize despite the costumes and even -- gender. The costumes, by the way, are picture perfect as designed by Ellis Tillman with an assist from Costume World Theatrical.
Anong the highlights of this Spamalot is the excellent choreography at every level directed by Ron Hutchins. The choreography is so in step, it easily can be compared to the crew which made this show a must-see when it opened on Broadway 10 years ago. So, here's to the rest of the ensemble - Nicolette Violet Sweeney, Lauren Bell, Colleen Campbell, Alexandra Kathryn Dow, Nicole Kinzel, Shain Stroff, Nikki Allred, Clint J, Hromsco, Christopher George Patterson, Cannon Starnes and Marcus Davis, easily identifiable, even dancing in a nun's habit.
Monty Python's beautifully costumed Spamalot -- as played on Broadway and in road shows and regional theatre all over America -- is a musical comedy "lovingly ripped off from" the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like the film, it is a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian Legend.
What makes this Spamalot so appealing are the combination of music and comedy. It is a crowd-pleaser.
The original Broadway production, won three Tony Awards, including the one for Best Musical of the 2004-2005 season and received 14 Tony Award nominations. Its initial run was more than 1,500 performances.
Technically, this production rings true with sound by Sean Lawson and lighting by Luke Klingberg,
Spamalot - with book and lyrics by Eric Idle -- will run at Actors' Playhouse through March 30th. Call 305 444-9293 for tickets.
SENIOR CITIZENS LOOK BACK AT THEIR LOVE LIFE
IN "FIGHTING FOR BEVERLEY" AT ARTS GARAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
DELRAY BEACH, FL - What could be more interesting in the romance department!! A love triangle between three septuagenarians certainly fills the bill.
Thus is the premise of Fighting over Beverley, the latest offering by one of America's most popular, prolific and acclaimed playwrights Israel Horovitz currently playing to appreciative audiences at the Arts Garage in Delray.
The premise is simple enough - a love triangle. But, what makes it so interesting is that this involves three 70 year olds. It begins when Horovitz's character Beverley (a dynamic Sandra Shipley ) finds herself in a dilemma. Her ex-fiance Archie ( Dennis Creaghan ) arrives unannounced at her Gloucester, Massachusetts, home. He intends to marry her and take her to England with him. The catch? She's still married to Zelly (Paul O'Brien ) , the Yank she left him for at the end of World War II.
"He's had you for 53 years," Archie says, "Enough is enough."
Fighting Over Beverley is one of Horovitz's popular series of North Shore Massachusetts-based plays that includes 2013 Carbonell nominee Gloucester Blue, as well as Park Your Car in Harvard Yard and Sins of the Mother. This time, however, the subject matter is a bit lighter than Horovitz's usual fare, as it tells the story of a love triangle among three senior citizens. An added tidbit is the relationship between the parents and their daughter (a never-better Erin Joy Schmidt), who comes unannounced with the news that she has left her husband.
Directed by Louis Tyrrell with keen wit and understanding, Fighting over Beverly is a sophisticated soap opera creation, penned with wit and comprehension. . There is no question that Israel Horovitz has a gift of gab. His characters seem real, talk with authenticity and have the audience cheering from the sidelines.
As intersting as is the premise of Fighting Over Beverley, the real charm of this production is watching four seasoned actors perform. Shipley and O'Brien have acted together many times and take on these roles with a sense of honesty and realism. Creghan gives his English accent a giant step toward charm and acceptability and Schmidt gives an A-One performance as a daughter, standing up for all women! All four actors are perfect in their roles and one cannot praise playwright Horovitz enough for his adept ability to script with such brilliance and realism.
David Nall doubles as production stage manager and lighting designer, while Michael Kelly handles the sound design, Richard Crowell does well in creating the Gloucester home set, and Erin Amico, the costuming.
This production runs through March 23. Call (561) 450-6357 for tickets.
RAGS BRINGS ENLIGHTENMENT, ENJOYMENT
AND ENERGY TO PLAZA THEATRE IN MANALAPAN
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
MANALAPAN, FL - If one is to truly enjoy the thatrical experience of Rags, the 28-year-old musical currently creating excitement with an excellent cast at the Plaza Theatre just east of Boynton Beach here, it would help to know the history of this musical.
1. It opened on Broadway on Aug. 21, 1986. to lukewarm reviews and closed after 18 previews and four regular performances, yet went on to be nominated for four Tonys (winning one) and five Drama Desk awards,
2. The score became so popular, it was released as a studio recording in 1991 and became a cult favorite among theatre goers coast to coast.
3. The musical was rewritten and streamlined, making the rounds of many large regional theatres nationwide, including Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse, in the 1990s and has reappeared with additional script changes from time to time.
4. Now, this cult favorite has returned - with a new producer Alan Jacobson and a "new look" by dynamic director Andy Rogow - with a stellar cast - an amazing Gail Byer, a topnotch singer in Melissa Boher Jacobson, the multi-talented James Cichewicz, talented South Florida performer Mike Westrich, standout vocalist Sheira Feuerstein, Randy Charleville, Larry Kent Bramble, Troy Stanley, Eli Jacobson, John Lariviere,Abigail Perkins, and a versatile ensemble cast, who turn a small set into a large-scale choreographed company (thanks to Kevin Black).
The story centers on a young immigrant mother (Boher Jacobson) who escapes to the lower east side after a pogrom, and her love affair with Saul (Cichewicz), an American labor organizer trying to unionize a sweatshop, and her friendship with another immigrant family.
This production is enjoyable, enlightening and full of energy!
Among the treats in this revitalized production is the wide range of music. The score is influenced by opera, Middle Eastern, Irish, Scottish, folk and obviously, ragtime and jazz. The kaleidoscope of music plus an entertaining play within a play (a Yiddish version of Hamlet) is a show-stopper (with Troy Stanley) providing the laughing moments as the Danish(?) prince.
Rags is a must-see show. And you have until March 16th. Call 561 588 -1820 for tickets.
A word of advice: Manalapan is on the ocean side (A1A) - just east of the Boynton Beach-Delray area - a relatively short drive for a unique, most enjoyable show.
BETSY GRAVER, MARK DELLAVENTURA SHINE
IN "THE LAST SCHWARTZ "
IN MIZNER PARK'S PARADE PRODUCTION
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
BOCA RATON, FL - If there is anything to learn after seeing Parade Production's of Deborah s Zoe Lauder's The Last Schwartz currently having a successful run at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, check this list:
1.There's a thin line between comedy and drama - and it makes one wonder which of the two emotions the playwright hoped to deliver to her audience.
2. South Florida has many wonderfully talented actors and two of them shine particularly in this play -Betsy Graver as an airhead girlfriend attending her boyfriend's family gathering and Mark Dellaventura as a brother who may be autistic or possibly a genius.
3.Director Kim St. Leon has taken 6 actors ( add Candace Caplin, Ken Clement, Kim Ostrenko and Matt Stabile to the two mentioned above) and turned them into today's hottest subject in theatre - a dysfunctional famly.
4.The only criticism I heard was from one woman theatre-goer regarding the use of five gentile actors playing a Jewish family . (For some reason, the casting might have been better, but I personally . thought it was fine).
Nevertheless, this oft-produced play hits the mark and proves to be a drama filled with laughable moments. Insiders may recall this play premiered at the former Florida stage in Manalapan and it has been staged in several regional venues, ran 6 months in Los Angeles,and has been queried several times regarding a showing Off-Broadway.
Basically, it's the story of a New York family getting together in the family vacation home upstate for their father's Yahrzeit and dedication of the headstone on the one year anniversary of his death. It is the backdrop where the audience meets the mid-aged children of this family patriarch. There's Norma (Candace Caplan) who recalls the many years this rustic home has been in the family, despite prejudice by neighbors. Then, there's the oldest son (Ken Clement) who wants to sell the mostly - unused family enclave. His wife Bonnie ( a dynamic Kim Ostrenko) is a convert to Judaism who desperately wants a child Then there is the middle brother, Gene (Matt Stabile) who is a TV commercial producer who dreams of making it big time in Hollywood and who brings along a gorgeous but little in the real-life department (the perfectly played Kia, a pot-smoking model ( Betsy Graver), who admits to being pregnant by Gene and in need of an abortion,
The youngest brother is the telescoped gazing "scientist" Simon (Mark Dellaventura ) . with a knockout performance, despite hardly saying too many lines.
Despite the dynamics of the internal family matters (which includes infidelity with a brother-in-law) there are moments that are truly funny such as Garvey's character lighting a marijuana joint with a Yahrzeit candle.
Despite all the shenanigans played out in this wonderful script, you know this family truly loves one another. Credit must go tp the director Kim St, Leon for making this family believable!
The technical crew - headed by lighting designer Evan Narlinger --also deserves attention . Jodi Dellaventura for the set design; David Hart for the sound design' and the versatile Dan Kelley (mostly known as a director and actor) for his costume design.This show runs through Feb, 23. And remember curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on line at: www.paradeproductions.org, or by calling 866-811-4111. For Group Sales please call: 561-291-9678.
ALL POWERFUL CAST TURNS ZOETIC’S ‘ASSASSINS” INTO A SHOWCASE FOR YOUNG SOUTH FLORIDA TALENT
By Ron Levitt Florida Media News
MIAMI -- Assassins, the politically incorrect Zoetic Stage musical which opened at the Arsht Center’s blackbox Carnival stage Friday night,scores as a winner on several levels: 1.It is a lesson in democracy and a rebuttal to the National Rifle Association regarding the use of firearms. If anyone seeing this show doesn’t envision the need for gun control, he or she must have been seeing another show or wearing heavy earmuffs.
2, It is – in Broadway terminology – a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, which uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate Presidents of the United States. The music varies to reflect the popular music of the era as depicted.
3. This particular production, so brilliantly directed by the multi-talented Stuart Meltzer , is a showcase of young South Florida theatrical talent rarely seen in the same show. By all counts, there are a dozen men and women -playing -mostly unsavory characters who left their mark on U.S. history only because of their hateful action.
The musical first opened Off-Broadway in 1990, and the 2004 Broadway production won five Tony Awards. It is by any standard a totally different kind of musical. Except for the closing reprise Everybody’s Got the Right, one does not come out humming one of the show’s songs, even though the ballads are of historical elements and are noteworthy for their Americana interpretations and liberal philosophical lyrics. Nevertheless, it is such an original musical – much in the style of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd – it is hard to forego its message emblazoned on a carnival flipboard in this production –Take Your Shot.
Assassins begins as the Proprietor of the game (a noteworthy Shane Tanner) entices a host of unsavory characters to play, promising that their problems will be solved by killing a President. ( that’s when "Everybody’s Got the Right" comes in) . Leon Czolgosz, John Hinckley, Charles Guiteau, Giuseppe Zangara, Samuel Byck, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, and Sara Jane Moore are given their guns one by one. John Wilkes Booth (a vibrant portrayal by the talented Nicholas Richberg) enters last and the Proprietor introduces him to the others as their pioneer before he begins distributing ammunition. The assassins take aim as "Hail to the Chief" heralds Abraham Lincoln's offstage arrival. Booth excuses himself, a shot rings out and Booth shouts, "Sic semper tyrannis!" Meanwhile, The Balladeer (a memorable Chris Crawford) portrays the personification of the American Dream -- as well as Lee Harvey Oswald ) as a host of characters are unveiled whose claim to fame is their firearm attack on a President. There are so many memorable moments and star-quality actors participating in this musical, one can easily be distracted recalling a school history lesson when a teacher named a President and the assassin who either tried to kill or did assassinate one of our country’s leaders. Among the standout performances (including Balladeer Tanner) are Nick Duckart, Clay Cartland, Gabriel Zenone, Henry Gainza, Chaz Mena, Lindsey Forgey, Irene Adjan, Nicholas Richberg, Chris Crawford and ensemble members Kristian Bikic, and Stephanie White. It is the kind if show with so many standout moments, one would have to rewrite history to describe Assassins in full. Cartland’s describing a John Hinkley and his obsession with Jody Foster (and his attempt to impress her by attempting to kill Ronald Reagan) while strumming his guitar is such a moment!
Nick Duckart’s interpretation of Czolgosz (who killed President McKinley) is a constant in this production, as are Irene Adjan and Lindsey Forgey who have spectacular moments as would-be killers Sara Jane Moore and Squeaky Fromme ( both after Gerald Ford) respectively (but not respectfully).
Chris Crawford – fresh off his successful Florida debut in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ Carbonell-nominee The Lion in Winter) comes on as a South Florida wannabe star in his double role as the Balladeer and Oswald (who left his mark on the death of President John F. Kennedy) Henry Gainza, Chaz Mena and Gabriel Zenone also all shine as actors playing real-time gun-obsessed characters one would hopefully forget!
Assassins is three year old Zoetic’s first musical and puts it on par with several other companies musically inclined. When you Google Assassins – and, well you should – you will discover you can see the entire show on a DVD and that there is even an online action game so entitled to give one the thrill of being part of similar action -behind all the carnage and mayhem which the title implies. Although it is set in another century, it implies we all have the same DNA to execute the carnage as echoed in this production.
Assassins will run through Feb. 23. Call 305- 949-6723 for tickets
ISLAND CITY’S SECRETS OF THE TRADE GIVES A LOOK
AT WANTING A MENTOR TO BREAK INTO SHOW BUSINESS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - Secrets of the Trade - a production of Island
City Stage currently enjoying a successful run at EmpIre Stage here -
has two distinctive descriptions. It is both a coming-of-age story
built around “I want to be in show business mentoring” plus a coming
out play geared toward a youthful audience. Both of these images come
out strongly in this wonderfully acted script by Jonathan Tolin,
running through Feb, 9.
The play is built around an ambitious, talented kid from Long Island
(Alexander Zenoz) who wants a career on Broadway and hopes that a
stage legend (Bill Schwartz) will mentor him and open doors for a
career. Backed by two strong , helpful parents (wonderfully played
by Niki Fridh and Peter Librach), this stage-struck young man
endures what looks ike a complicated relationship with his idol. Larry
Buzzeo as the idol’s long-time assistant plays a significant role in
understanding the plot. He is at times snippy and then
“understanding.” He shines in this supporting role,Andy Rogow directs the quintet of fine actors in what could be an obvious finale by keeping the audience attuned to liking thesecharacters - even Schwartz’s persona who could come off harsh and uncaring.
Secrets of the Trade is getting its South Florida debut here and its
a mixture of comedy and drama which seemed to resonates with many
in the audience. One could not help feel the audience was relating
on a personal level with the author’s words. That, perhaps, is the
strength of this play.
The rather difficult role played by Schwartz gives his character
sophisticated charm, as his interest in the young man elevates, then
disappears. Nonetheless, Schwartz plays his part to the hilt,
somewhat reminiscent of Monty Wooley in one of his urbane,
The Island City technical team—Michael McClain (set), Preston
Bircher (lighting), David Hart (sound) and Peter Lovello (costumes) --
help give this production a sense of honesty, as in agreeing that “I
know someone just like that.”
Tickets are available at 954 519-2533.
SLOW BURN THEATRE GOES COURAGEOUS
WITH GUTSY PRODUCTION OF “PARADE”
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
BOCA RATON, FL -- Producing a show like Parade—currently amazing
audiences at Slow Burn Theatre --and pushing the envelope on just
what musical theatre can be -- should be awarded several adjectives;
courageous, challenging, thoughtful, unconventional . They all seem
To put it simply, the original musical Parade deserves all of these
praiseworthy accolades – and this production likewise is entitled to
rave notices, because it is a gutsy show for any theatrical company
to present. The story of Parade -- unlikely as it is for musical
theatre -- is the drama of a Jewish-American factory superintendent
Leo Frank accused of murdering a 13 year old female employe Mary
Phagen at the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. The time is 1913
and Frank was murdered by a lynch mob planned and led by prominent
citizens in Marietta, Georgia, drawing attention to anti-Semitism in
the United States. I
It is the kind of script which will send its audience to their
computers to Google and learn more about this horrendous event. The
production only deals with the trial, imprisonment and lynching of
Frank. Researchers on Google will learn Frank was subjected to vile
anti-Jewish prejudice and was posthumously pardoned in 1986 on
perjured testimony and other technical grounds.
However, as fascinating as this real-life drama is, it is an intrepid
and plucky subject for a musical.
Parade with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason
Robert Brown. was first produced on Broadway on December 17, 1998. The
production was directed by Harold Prince and closed February 28, 1999,
after 39 previews and only 84 regular performances. Its Broadway run
was called “lackluster.” Despite Prince’s valiant efforts to bring
back this dark musical, it has only been in recent days that it has
become a favorite of many regional theatres – many of which have been
called courageous in attempting to produce a musical about such a sad
Slow Burn’s audience will see and hear a magnificent cast bring this
story to life in what could be termed an American opera.
The cast of 16 is ably directed and choreographed by Slow Burn ‘s
multi-talented co-founder Patrick Fitzwater -- with music direction
by Manny Schvartzman.
It is the kind of show one does not like to pinpoint one actor over
another, because it is such an ensemble-oriented production.
Nevertheless, Tom Anello as Leo Frank is subdued and stirring; so is
the golden, soprano voiced Ann Marie Olsen as Mrs Frank. Credits too
to Jerel Brown as a janitor and Renee Turner as a housekeeper who
bring down the house with their explosive A Rumblin and a Rollin.
Kudos too to testifier Rick Pena and the other Slow Burn co-founder
Matthew Korinko whose voice is powerful and memorable as he plays the
ambitious wanna-be-governor. When Korinko sings, the audience is
Others in the cast and ensemble are equally impressive: Murphy
Hayes; Kaitlin O’Neill, David Klein, Kaela Antolino, Dan Carter,
Erica Mendez , Lindsey Johr, David Michael Sirois, , Christian
Valdepas, and Kristina Johnson.
Technically, Parade is right on target with sound by Guy Haubrich,
lighting by Lance Blank, set by Sean McClelland and costumes by Rick
Parade runs .through Feb. 9, performing at West Boca Performing Arts
Theatre inside the West Boca Community High School, 12811 West Glades
Road. Tickets are $25 for students, $35 for seniors and $40 for
BOCA RATON, FL -- If you truly love “theatre” and want to keep
current regarding what is on Broadway, there is no need to hop on an
airline to see the solid hit, the revival of Pippin. It’s happening
nearby at the Willow Theatre -- a production of the Boca Raton
True, it’s a scaled down version but only because it is played on a
simple set without a huge budget for acrobatics and magicians. But,
the two leading characters -- Reggie Whitehead and Mike Westrich –
give outstanding performances, aided by their thrilling baritone
voices. And, the direction by Keith Garsson, music direction by Paul
Reekie and –choreography by Ron Hutchins -- - despite a smaller
dancing ensemble than one would see on Broadway -- are topnotch.
The costumes, by Alberto Arroyo transport the viewer back to the Holy
Roman Empre (around 780 A.D.), as a cast of 18 tickle one’s fancy as
they revive the dark and existential musical – originally staged in
1973 and then revived in 2013.
Led by the charismatic Leading Player (Whitehead(, the ensemble cast
tells the story of Pippin, a young prince (Westrich) who longs to
find passion and adventure in his life. To prove his loyalty to his
father, King Charles (read that as possibly Charlemagne), Pippin goes
to war. But when the Leading Player convinces the prince to fight
tyranny, instead, Pippin slays Charles and takes over the throne.
Realizing the royal head-job is more than he believed. Pippin begs
the Leading Player to bring his father back to life, and he obliges.
The prince later falls in love with Catherine (Leah Sessa), a widow
with a young son, and (much to the Leading Player’s chagrin), Pippin
struggles to decide whether he should settle down and pursue a
peaceful life or continue to make magic with the dazzling troupe of
Director Garsson gets the most out of his 18 actors, all of whom
sing, dance with amazing exuberance , look enchanting, and with just
enough pizzazz to keep the audience entranced with the brilliant score
– music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It would be hard to miss
the lovely Patti Gardner as the wicked stepmother, Sue Kaplan who
brings down the house belting “No Time At All,” or the hunky Conor
Walkon, as a wild-dancing, scheming stepbrother. Add to the perfect
casting: Troy Stanley looking every bit the king, and the youngster,
Justin Cooke. Add to that a terrific ensemble – Randy Charleville,
Lauren Governanti, Nate Lazar, Chelsea Lee, Jaime Leigh, George
Macia, Ben Solmor, Micha Scoggins and Nicolette Sweeney.
Don’t expect the huge Broadway version with its acrobats and magicians
popping up all over the stage, but – even if you saw the original
version 50 years ago, the music is still special. In fact, several
of the numbers ring especially valuable as time passes – including
‘Magic To Do” and the inspiring ‘Spread A Little Sunshine.” (a
wonderful vocalizing-dancing duet with Patti Gardner and Conor
Pippin runs through Feb.9. But, get your tickets now. We are told
that several performances are sold out. Call for tickets 561- 347
BROADWAY-QUALITY “A CHORUS LINE”
SHARES ITS EXCELLENT CAST IN JUPITER
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
JUPITER, FL - It’s called regional theatre! But, don’t be misled
The current production of A Chorus Line, now at the Maltz
JupiterTheatre is wisely a gifted reincarnation of that brilliantly
timeless Broadway hit .It proves once again that Producing Artistic
Director Andrew Kato knows that a locally produced musical can be
just as wonderful in Jupiter as the original one which was so
professionally done in New York,
This current production – running through Feb,,2 – deserves all of the
wonderful adjectives given the original back in 1975. It follows
in the Maltz Jupiter tradition (Last season, it received more
Carbonell nominations than any other South Florida theatre.)
A Chorus Line is a musical conceived and developed by the great
Michael Bennett with music by the late Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by
Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante.
It’s a simple tale of a group of Broadway dancers auditioning for
spots on a chorus line. The musical is set on the bare stage of a
Broadway theatre during an audition for a musical. A Chorus Line
provides a glimpse into the lives and personalities of the performers
as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their
decisions to become dancers.
The Maltz-Jupiter version -- ably and honestly directed and
choreographed by Josh Walden—fortunately follows the original
format, with its memorable staging and choreography, aided by such
notable and local talent as Bob Avian ( co-choreographer) and Eric
Alsford (music director).
A Chorus Line opened on Broadway on July 25, 1975, directed and
choreographed by Bennett. The musical received 12 Tony Award
nominations and won 9 of them, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize
for Drama. The original Broadway production ran for 6,137 performance
-- at that time a new NYC record. Then came a movie version and
countless road tours and other regional productions. Then there was a
successful Broadway revival in 2006.
But, insiders say this show in Jupiter has to rank among the best of
those venues which have spawned this popular musical and deserves
many of the accolades given the original production. Not only did it
give patrons a delightful show but it was staged, scripted and
choreographed to honor the original. And, the original had dynamic
choreography , lyrics that are basically honest and a mix of
mid=-20th century jazz, pop music, classical and Broadway sounds.
Along with the dynamic choreography (after all, it’s a story about
dancers), there are special moments as the characters explain to the
story-with-a-story-director Zach (Brian Ogilvie) about their lives and
how they got to be dancers. This included Zach’s former girl friend
Cassie (a wonderful Elizabeth Earley) whose dance routine The Music
and the Mirror) is a showstopper worthy of the extended applause.
There are other songs shared by several of the 26 in the cast which
are particularly memorable.
We heard and saw patrons weeping as Paul (Jordan Fife Hunt) touchingly
reveals his sexuality and tells of his troubled adolescence including
his career start in a drag show and its impact on his parents.
And there’s Diana (Camden Gonzales) who tells about her
non-supporting teacher as she belts out Nothing and later What I Did
For Love. And, of course, there’s the sex-kitten dancer Sheila
(Jennifer Byrne) who with Jessica Dillan and Michelle Petrucci
discuss their childhood as they sing and dance At The Ballet.
Recognizing just a few of this talented ensemble cast seems unfair. A
Chorus Line is very much an ensemble production. So, adding to the
pleasure, there’s a masterful dance and song cast –Noah Aberlin,
Alexander Aguilar, Nikki Alred, Becca Andrews, Lindsay Bell, Anne
Bloemendal, Jennifer Byrne, Michael Callahan, Demarius R. Copes,
Jessica Dillan, Elizabeth Earley, KC Fredericks, Camden Gonzales,
Laura Guley, Jordan Fife Hunt, Logan Keslar, Adam Lendermon, Nick
Lovalo, Gillian Munsayac, Brian Oglive, Jessica Periera. Michelle
Petrucci,Kiel Peterson, Emily Rynasko, Shain Stroff and Brian Varela.
Adding to the excllence of this Maltz Jupiter production are the
continuous lighting talents of Paul Black, the sound design by Marty
Metz and the costuming by Anna Christine Hillbery.
Over all, this production Is a treat – a terrific example of just how
marvelous a regional musical can be! For ticket information, call 561
JULIE KLEINER, RON HUTCHINS MAKE 42ND STREET
AT THE WICK A TAP DANCING, HUM ALONG FESTIVAL
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
BOCA RATON FL -- Julie Kleiner is a gem. So is the rest of the cast of 42nd Street, the latest reincarnation of a classic Broadway musical currently allowing The Wick patrons to hum old-time favorites and tap their feet as they watch a classy revival.
What appeals to the theatre-goers is the excellent choreograpy, organized by Ron Hutchins,. the direction of Norb Joerder, themusical direction of Michael Ursua, along with the vocalizing and tapdancing of Kleiner, Jim Ballard, Aaron Bower, and Alex Jorth and 20others in this all-star cast .
One can hardly resist humming or singing along with such 1930-ish hitsas You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me, Lullaby of Broadway, We’reIn The Money and, of course, 42nd Street. all a part of this showwhich many will admit they have seen dozens of times. It doesn’tmatter, though. With this cast, this production seems fresh off thebooks – a delightful musical romp which deserves praise on every level.
Kleiner, in particular, shows her creative tap dancing and vocalizing,as a newcomer trying to earn her first job in musical theatre. Kleiner – who only recently starred in White Christmas at The Wick, adds to her prestige in this follow-up role. Backed by a standout cast, she is pure delight.
Let’s give equal praise to Aaron Bower as the aging actress, JimBallard as a director, an amazing dance-man Alex Jorth as the lead ofPretty Lady ( the show within the show), as well as Missy McCardle, Jeffrey Bruce, Alan Gerstel, Allison McCartan, Janet Wiggins, Christopher G. Patterson, Alexandra Kathryn Dow and the dozen dancers/singers who make 42nd Street at The Wick really click!
Oh, heck, let’s name the ensemble of tapping feet and lovely voices -- Sophia Ludovici, Lindsay Nantz, Casey Weems, Brooke Martino, Lauren Bell, Abby Perkins, Stephen Petrovich, Sean Zia, Sean McGee, FrankZomero James M. Hansen, and Elliot Peterson. Here’s my suggestion to lovers of good musicals. Come and meet those dancing feet. Even if you've seen 42nd Street 42 times, the energy and freshness of thiswell done production willhave your own feet dancing. It truly is a musical ensemble treat.
The quintessential '30s musical debuted on Broadway in 1980 and lasted for almost 3500 performances. A 2001 revival was also successful, with a 1500-performance run, and the show is a regional favorite. Based loosely on the 1933 film of the same name (which was in turn based on a novel by Bradford Ropes), the plot seems ages old: neophyte dancer Peggy Sawyer (Kleiner) , fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pa. landson Broadway looking for her big break. Despite her awkward introduction to producer Julian Marsh (Jim Ballard) , she is cast inthe chorus of his new, hopefully career-reviving musical Pretty Lady. The show's star is aging prima donna Dorothy Brock (Aaron Bower), whose sugar daddy is bankrolling the production. Of course, Peggy gets her bit break and all ends happily.Along the way, we are treated to period songs by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, stunning dance numbers (originally done by Gower Champion) and a charming book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble
Contributing to the enjoyment of this production are the handsome sets designed by Gateway Playhouse,the lighting by Thomas J. Shock and sound by Adam Pitts. Needless to say, the costumes were” reimagined” by Kimberley Wick and Costume World Inc 42nd Street continues at The Wick through February 9th.
PAUL TEI’S MAD CAT THEATRE MIXES PLAYLETS AND FILM
IGNITING LAUGHTER, THOUGHTFULNESS FROM THEATRE GOERS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
MIAMI SHORES, FL --- When you enter the tiny Mad Cat theatre and see
a set filled with dozens of paper cartons, a few chairs, a single
bottle of wine, a bicycle, a cell phone, a laptop and other
smart-generation materials, you just know something unusual is about
to happen. And, that is just what you’ll get as the one-of-a-kind
theatre opens its 14th season with an unpredictable, avante garde
piece entitled Mixtape 2 – an eclectic mixture of film and short
stories making one think and laugh – usually at the same time.
Actually, the title is Mixtape 2: Ummagumma Forza Zuma (at least
partially from a Pink Floyd title) and Artistic Director Paul Tei has
somehow or other lumped the 16 pieces of film and theatrical playlets
into the shortened name which somehow or other merge into a couple of
hours of fun – particularly for the twenty-something and above theatre
goer getting his or her first taste of the performing arts. In any
case, Tei works his magic just as he always does to create Mixtape 2
-- using the works of the multi- playwrights, seven wonderful actors,
dozens of local personalities on film and a large group of directors
and technicians. It might seem as too much for the small theatre in
its new home in MiamiShores but somehow Tei puts them all together –
and lets the fun begin.
It’s the kind of progressive show which will lure first-time theatre
goers to come back for the next production. You cannot help getting
hooked with its intelligence and energy. Although some older theatre
goers may find some of the plays an enigma, even they will admit this
is one-of-a-kind theatre.
A mixtape, of course, is made up of several works – and this
production has many which will tickle one’s taste.
The most intriguing one for my taste is the one called “The Scottish
Play” written and directed by one of the cast-members – the
multi-talented Theo Reyna. It is a dialog about the breakup of a
couple with a teenage daughter (Jessica Farr). The wife is called
Scotland (a marvelous Erin Joy Schmidt) while the husband ( an
electrifying Noah Levine) is England. Their young daughter is Oil).
There, of course, is the geopolitical story in the making, The
problems of this couple increases when a boyfriend named America (the
dynamic Joe Kimble) shows up to woo Oil. But, that romance is
short-lived when another unseen beau (named China) shows up. It is
filled with innuendos and geographic word-play and can only be
described as hilarious.
Those five actors plus Carey Briana Hart (who, with wig, becomes an
exaggerated movie goddess ) and Troy Davidson are the mainstay
thespians in the plays while others show up on film vignettes – all
in the name of fun.
The plays do not cast social blame, but there is one that will bring
total recall to the tasering of a hooded teenager, under the guise of
Stand Your Ground. Another will be a racially sensitive piece on
two unrelated siblings watching each of their mothers dying. Another
– the one which seems to tie all the film and playlets together
revolves around a guy (Reyna) living in a storage shed in MiamiShores
while fighting city hall. Politics takes a hit as well as two well
known local personalities seek to be an elected ombudsman. Obviously,
there is something in this mixed bag for everyone!
Mixed Tape 2 – complete with all its symbolism – runs through Jan. 19
at the MiamiTheatreCenter, 9816 N.E. 2 Avenue in Miami Shores, For
tickets, call Ovation ticketing 1 -866-811-4111.
FLORIDA PREMIERE OF GRENNAN’S “MAKING GOD LAUGH”
AT ACTORS PROVIDES FUNNY BUT POIGNANT MOMENTS
IBy Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES,FL -- Take six outstanding South Florida actors, mix them in a two-act play which starts out as a comedy but becomes a meaningful drama about how family members treat one another and you have a recipe for an enjoyable outing at the theatre. That’s an overview of Making God Laugh, a vibrant play by Sean Grennan currently at Actors” Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.
The play follows Ruthie and Bill (Angie Radosh and Peter Haig),as they celebrate the holidays over three decades -- Thanksgiving 1980, Christmas 1990, New Year’s eve 2000 and finally Easter 2010 – as their three children – Richard, Maddie and Thomas (Gregg Weiner, Deborah L. Sherman and Michael Focas) come home.
Richard is a former high school football hero who still has unlikely dreams of making it ‘big” somewhere. Maddie is a wannabe actress; Thomas – his mom’s favorite – is on his way to becoming a priest. How they end up and the parent’s reaction to their lifetime progress is told in the ten year cycles. Are they as dysfunctional as they seem? The audience will have to judge!
But, along the way, one get’s a bird’s eye view of what is going on during those decades and a look back at some highlights of life during those time.
The scene in which Richie (Weiner) prepares for Y2K (earth’s end) is priceless and shows this actor – mostly known in dramatic roles – has a funny, lighter side, too. He’s an actor who can obviously play any role – comedy or drama – and make it a socco performance. He is perfection as the buffoon who is trying desperately to become an entrepreneur.
Sherman, too, gives the audience a special treat, especially in the final moments of the play, in which she (Sherman as Maddie) realizes the true feelings of her aging mother and provides a poignant moment as she proves she can be a great actress delivering a Shakespearian monologue. She will tug at your heart-strings!
And Focas --playing “”the favorite son” -- returns, with one of his infant children, as the audience learns he has left the priesthood. . His down to earth portrayal in this Catholic family may remind the audience of someone they know. Focas plays this role honestly – but with a subdued attitude,
Let’s not forget the actors playing the parents. As always, South Florida favorite Angie Radosh dominates any stage in which she appears. In this play, she is the matriarch who shows her favoritism and hurts two of her children with obvious “digs.” And, Peter Haig as the father -- shines as the subdued head of the house until he explodes in a convincing word- lashing to show his strength He, after all, is the guy who keeps it all together!
It is obvious that the multi-talented director David Arisco tuned this dramady by playwright Grennan into a funny yet poignant production. By fine-tuning his excellent , A-One cast, Arisco has delivered a poignant human comedy in its Florida premiere.
This production uses pop-culture references plus musical renditions to get the audience ready for each decade. One will recognize the musical references opening each scene -- the Jet Song from West Side Story, Everything’s Coming Up Roses from Gypsy, et al, plusthere are script references to some period-specific failures (Yugo / Enron), Depending on your age, you’ll understand these references, but – no matter what your age – you’ll smile as these six actors tell a story about an unusual family.
Scenic designer Gene Seyffer provides this cast with a realistic living area with an assist by the rest of the technical crew – Luke Klingberg (lighting designer). Elmo e Lanclos lll (sound designer), and Ellis Tillman (costume designer).
Making God Laugh runs through Dec. 29. Call 305-444-9293 for tickets
MALTZ JUPITER’S PRODUCTION OF ANNIE IS “BROADWAY QUALITY”
WITH SHARP DIRECTION, TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE, TOPNOTCH CAST
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
JUPITER, FL -- Broadway Quality! Those are two words one does not toss around freely. But, what better way to describe Annie, the holiday season musical currently at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre from now until December 22?
Annie is a production obviously conceived and scheduled by multi-talented Producing Artistic Director Andrew Kato and he made sure this assembly was equivalent to an opening on the Great White Way in New York in every regard. That includes the astute direction/choreographing of Mark Martino, the scenic design by Paul Tate Depoo lll, costume design by Gail Baldoni, sound by MartyMetz, lighting by Donald Edmund Thomas, musical direction by Helen Gregory, associate choreographer Lauren Kadel, and, of course, the 28 actors who are so perfectly cast in what has become an American musical treat.
Driving to Jupiter to see this show – for some indistinct reason – is like flying into LaGuardia, catching a cab into Manhattan, and being dropped off at a mid-town theatre to see a show which is fast becoming an American legend. And then, the curtain goes up and one witnesses 28 wonderful actors – including Annie (a charming Clara Young) and her fellow (or should that be “sister”) orphans.
This production of Thomas Meehan’s book based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip is perfect in every sense of the word – making the comic heroine created by Harold Gray come to life with the memorable music of Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Onecomes away humming Tomorrow, Maybe, Easy Street or one of a dozen other songswhich are captivating to the delight of audiences of this two-act family show. There’s a good reason. It was a multi-Tony-award musical which has become a pop culture phenomena since its six year Broadway run starting in 1977. Annie is considered one of the top musicals of all time. It’s been on the road or the subject of many regional theatre productions for nearly four decades.
Of course, much of the praise for Annie goes to those younger talents playing the orphans. In addition to Clara Young, the Maltz cast includes these young actors – Jenna McCoy, Emma Wallach, Juliana Simmone, Olivia Henley, Sophia Liano, and Charlottte Kreiger. They are adorable and the audience lets them know it with a thundering curtain call approval.
Speaking of audience approbation, the starring part of Miss Hannigan was an opening night near show-stopper as the simply wonderful Vicki Lewis gave her own interpretation to the well-known role. And, she wowed the audience with the same vocal chords which got her a Carbonell award for Hello Dollyl last year. It will be difficult for -Carbonell judges to miss her come nomination time. Her lead number Little Girls was unforgettable, giving her own (or the director Martino’s) praiseworthy rendition.
In fact, Director Martino’s stamp is everywhere. It is a pleasure to see such synchronized choreography in every scene. Equally strong is Christopher Carl, who makes the perfect Daddy Warbucks. He not only looks the part but has the commanding voice to make one believe he’s the man in charge.
In fact the entire cast deserves notice as they are standouts in this five-star production – veteran Maltz vocalist John Scherer gives a knockout performance as the shady Rooster; Elise Kinnon as his ditzy girlfriend couldn’t be better; Emily Ferranti as Warbuck’s secretary has a golden voice; and Barry Tarallo is a credible FDR.
The rest of the cast is versatility-talented including Lauren Kadel ,Alex Jorth , Jay Johnson , Mary Elizabeth Rich, Julie Kavanagh, Irene Adjan, Jo Patrick, Mason Roberts, Curt Denham, and Schuyler Beeman .. They play several roles and shine in all of them plus give sparks in their ensemble roles.….,and can they dance!!!
Annie is s the story of an optimistic 11 year old orphan during the depression.who is terrorized by matron Miss Hannigan. Annie—who escapes from the orphanage -- finds a companion in a stray dog, Sandy (who also deserves APAWS) and eventually an unlikely adoptive father in billionaire Warbucks, who manages to become a likable, positive guy, thanks to his encounter with Annie. Even the president of the United States becomes enamored by Annie and her positive outlook….”The sun will come out tomorrow.”
Annie plays through Dec. 22 at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road in Jupiter. Call ahead for tickets - (561) 575-2223.
THE BOOK OF MORMON: MUSICAL COMEDY AT ITS BEST
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- There are road shows which come and go but do not necessarily remain in one’s memory. And then there are those few national touring companies that defy definition because they are absolutely unique , such as The Book of Mormon currently packing them in at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts.
The Book of Mormon could possibly pass for the perfect Broadway musical comedy. It provokes laughter, warms the heart – even as it provides inventive satire – all the ingredients of a roof raising show.
The Book of Mormon also manages to offend while – at the same time – appeals to one’s sensibilities – literally speaking to this generation while bringing a smile to those of another era. In other words, it is excellent at every level -- a unique Broadway experience. That is why it is still on Broadway. It opened in New York in March, 2011 and continues- to be one of the major money makers on the Great White Way, topping the “playing to capacity” list weekly. Now, it is on the road, capturing supporters all over America.
The Book of Mormon should best be described as an old style musical and/or a religious satire musical. It came to fruition with book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, -- the trio best known for creating the animated comedy South Park. Parker and Stone co-created the music with Lopez, a co-composer/co-lyricist of Avenue Q.
The show lampoons organized religion and traditional musical theatre, reflecting the creators' obvious fascination with Mormonism and musicals. They may offend – but it is all in the name of entertainment. It has thus been hailed by critics nation-wide.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young missionaries. One is an enthusiastic go-getter (they travel in pairs) named Elder Cunningham (Mark Evans). His partner is an awkward but well meaning nerd (Christopher John O’Neill ). They are sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share their scriptures—which only one of them has read—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, poverty, famine, and AIDS than about religion. This seemingly is an almost impossible scenario for a Broadway musical – but it works manifold. You will be mezmorized as song and script define what “baptism” is to some people. There, of course, others in this 35-plus cast who are stand-outs -- the lovely and golden-voiced Samantha Marie Ware, Grey Henson, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Ron Bohmer, Derek Williams,and Colin Bradbury.
The songs for the most part (with the exception of I Believe ) are not the ones you will come out of the theatre singing – but while watching the production you will be floored at the brutal honesty of the lyrics. The humor and language sparkles. And, the choreography by (Casey Nicholaw and dance captain Colin Bradbury ) is phenomena l . It is the dance management at its best. The dance ensemble deserves to be called .”praiseworthy-plus.”
Online you will be told that The Book of Mormon plays “fast and loose with explicit language.” It is suggested parents check out the cast recording to get an idea of “the show’s humor and language.” I doubt the slang terms – even four letter words -- are ones that a teen –(and possibly pre-teen) hasn’t heard before.
This blockbuster production – directed by both Nicholaw and author Parker -- will be around the Broward Center of the Performing Arts through Dec. 22, Call 954 522 5334 or 1-866-820 4553 for tickets.
“MY NAME IS ASHER LEV” AT GABLESTAGE OFFERS
A VISION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ARTIST
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
CORAL GABLES, FL -- It’s a mitzvah (a worthy deed) to spend 90 minutes with My Name is Asher Lev, a play by Aaron Posner, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Chaim Potok, currently being embraced by audiences at GableStage . It presents a heartbreaking, yet triumphant vision of what it means to be an artist.
This adaptation – handsomely directed by Joseph Adler -- provides haunting performances by three totally amazing performers -- Etai Benshlomo, Avi Hoffman and Laura Turnbull – as it tells the story of a boy prodigy who must become an artist despite the will of his family and his Hasiditic (Ultra Orthodox ) Jewish community. The audience sees this boy grow to manhood and watches him battle his inner talent against his family’s timeless tradition.
It is a work of art to see this young star – Benshlomo – play a character growing into manhood, suffering the torture that offends the world into which he was born. The title character – played with feeling and honesty by this Israeli-American actor -- explores with truth the struggle of any man or woman who defies family tradition. The play shows his love of family and why it would have been easier if he didn’t. It is thought-provoking theatre at its best!
Just as remarkable are the performances of the husband-wife team of Hoffman and Turnbull, two of South Florida’s leading actors. Although they are seldom in the same production, their multi-character performances, including those of Asher Lev’s parents, are award worthy.
Adler has used his baton wisely, directing his three person cast with humor and sensitivity. One can almost feel the guilt Asher’s mother (Turnbull) delivers or the manner in which the parents are shocked by the fact that people would actually pay huge sums of money for their son’s paintings or that a museum would actually display his creations.
The artistic gift of Asher Lev and its effect on his mother, his father, another passionate artist, a successful gallery owner and Asher himself is a literary truth. Playwright Posner and novelist Potok use words to entrance…verbiage to question the conflict between religion and art.
Lyle Baskin’s set design -- the Lev’s apartment and a studio – is a spare but a comforting 1950s Brooklyn living space, and Jeff Quinn’s imaginative lighting and Matt Corey’s sound design including his fiddler music add to the beauty of this production. Ditto for Ellis Tillman’s costumes and CarlosRodriguez’s technical work on this production.
A major hit both off and on Broadway, My Name is Asher Lev is produced for its Southeastern premiere by GableStage in association with the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Jewish Studies at the University of Miami
The show --- a blessed event certainly -- will run through Dec. 22. Call 305-445-1119 for tickets.
DIRECTOR J BARRY LEWIS RECREATES 1954 HITCHCOCK THRILLER
--DIAL M FOR MURDER -- AT THE MALTZ JUPITER THEATRE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News
If you are old enough to remember the original Alfred Hitchcock film in 1954 which starred Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings, saw the original stage version in 1954, or caught it on late night TV or Netflix, you will still appreciate the stage version of Dial M for Murder, currently keeping audiences riveted at Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Even if one knows the outcome of this thriller/ melodrama, it is still fascinating to watch because of the fine acting, astute direction, perfect set, and a myriad of other technical knowhow in this production.
The stage play – like the movie – was written six decades ago by British playwright Frederick Knotts. This time it is directed by the brilliant J. Barry Lewis who makes his formidable cast seem the embodiment of its original ‘52 West End production,
The play is set in the magnificent living room created by Michael Amico – a perfect locale for the woman (Claire Brownell) who innocently becomes the potential victim of a sinister plot hatched by her husband ( a truly dynamic performance by Todd Allen Durkin), who devilishly arranges to have her murdered.
Also stand outs in the cast are Jim Ballard as the one-time boyfriend of this well-to-do woman, a noteworthy portrayal by Gregg Weiner as the man enticed to kill her, and Colin McPhillamy, --who brings down the house in Jupiter and the apartment (excuse me: flat) at 61A Charrington) in the play – with his exceptional performance as the detective. Dan Leonard also appears briefly as a police officer,
Director Lewis has single handedly reinvented this compelling drama of suspense and intrigue and makes it seem fresh for today’s audiences. It’s the perfect murder gone wrong and the lighting by Paul Miller and sound by Marty Metz plus the dazzling costumes by Robin McGee only add to the spell in this whodunit.
Who cares if you know the outcome? It’s the kind of show that seems fresh and real, It is a popular mystery that seems to get better every time you see it. And seeing it live on stage only adds to the suspense and intrigue. Add to the brilliantly scripted play this A-One cast and you are seeing what is potentially one of the best straight plays of the South Florida theatre season. Don’t be surprised if you see the names Lewis, Durkin, Weiner and McPhillamy on one of the many awards lists for 1913-14.
Many “best of” lists deservedly place Dial M in the Top Ten list of film mysteries of all time. The stage production is equally intriguing.
Dial M for Murder runs through Nov. 10. Call 561-575-2223 for tickets.
GABLESTAGE PROMPTS DISCUSSION ON PAIN
BUT DOES IT IN A SERIO-COMIC MANNER
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Telling one’ readers that Sons of the Prophet – currently taking GableStage audiences on a relevant ride toward reality – is about the suffering and pain of individuals and their families and still do it in an explosively funny way, may seem like a contradiction.
But the message of this play by Stephen Karam is no oxymoron.
Armed with a sure-footed cast and brimming with the directorial knowhow of South Florida’s prize-winning Joe Adler, Sons of the Prophet is a nearly two-hour examination of how we all share pain – how one calamity after another can befall one family while others may find only sadness in limited quantities,
Fortunately, Karam’s script – though overflowing with sadness for one family—is filled with ferociously funny moments while still leaving theatre-goers with empathy for the many people who suffer for a variety of reasons. It Is thought provoking.
Welcoming Mr, Karam’s insightful script to Coral Gables is a return visit. His Speech and Debate was a smashing success at GableStage two seasons ago. But, Sons of the Prophet comes along with a string of accolades –a successful Off-Broadway run and as a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
One might want to coin a new phrase for a script such as Sons of the Prophet --either a “serio-comIc or humorous tragedy. Take your pick….and enjoy!!
This play is about a tragedy-plagued Lebanese-American family from Pennsylvania – fictional distant relatives of renowned The Prophet author Khalil Gibran . The family includes two brothers: Joseph ( Michael Forkas) and Charles (Michael Kushner) and their elderly, cantankerous uncle Bill (George Schiavone).Their father has recently died, following a heart attack which may have been brought on by a high school prank of teenage high school football star Vin (Edson Jean). Meanwhile, Joseph has a painful, chronic ailment, but he has health insurance thanks to his boss, emotionally failing Gloria (an effervescent Patti Gardner) who has her own plans for his family which includes bringing her back to the top of the heap in the publishing business. If that isn’t pain enough, Joseph --(who, like his brother, is gay) -- has an affair with a reporter Tim (a handsome Jose Urbino) who is in town to cover the trial of the football player who put the decoy deer on the highway which may have caused Joseph and Charles’ father’s death. Multi-talented Barbara Sloan and Carol Caselle play multiple roles in this soul-searching, modern family show.
Director Joe Adler has tuned this production into a gold star for pathos and a similar award for humor. It makes one think why some families seem to breed misfortune while other people may only have a little sadness. Who wills which ones live with grief and calamity while others might have minor pains? Philosophically, it will provoke some serious discussion!
As always, the GableStage tech team proves it fits the script admirably. That includes the set by Lyle Baskin, lighting by Jeff Quinn, sound by Matt Corey and costumes by Estela Vrancovich, and tech director Carlos Rodriguez.
Sons of the Prophet will be around until Oct. 20. Call 305 446-1116 for tickets.
WICK’S SOUND OF MUSIC IS SIMPLY WONDERFUL
AS FLORIDA’S NEWEST THEATRE ENTRY FLOURISHES
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
BOCA RATON, FL -- When any regional theatre produces a well-known show, it must be ready for comparison. And, it is an especially gutsy truism for a theatre which is holding its Grand Opening and must prove itself.
So, everyone in South Florida’s tight-knit theatre community had their spyglasses tuned to the new Wick Theatre – formerly the Caldwell – and its initial offering, the popular The Sound of Music.
After all, the Oscar-winning Richard Rogers-Oscar Hammerstein songfest on film (which starred Julie Andrews) has become familiar to millions via TV movie channels and for several of its songs which even youngsters know – even some who never may have seen the motion picture. If that isn’t enough for comparison, the brilliant musical was a showstopper at Maltz Jupiter two seasons ago and is an oft produced show.
Nevertheless, this The Sound of Music at the Wick has nothing to apologize for. In one word, it can be described as “wonderful.”
Not only does one get to see a topnotch theatrical production, but you will be treated to a premiere of the Wick Costume Museum. Marilynn Wick – whose bid took over the Caldwell site – is, after all, not only a savvy entrepreneur, but she is well known in the theatrical industry as the ownerof Costume World, one of the country’s major suppliers of theatrical costumes since 1976. So, there will be a 10,000 square foot museum at the theatre site within a few months. And, if that isn’t enough to whet one’s appetite for future theatre-goers, they can see the original outfits worn by famous Broadway stars, have lunch in the soon to open Tavern-on-the-Green room, then catch a matinee and maybe take home memorabilia from the gift shop. Did we mention, complimentary valet parking?
All of this is the combined creative juices of Marilynne Wick and her two daughters --Kimberly Wick and Kelly Wick Kigar — Kimberly is the Costume Museum’s curator, while Kelly – the business guru –reportedly negotiated the deal for the theater. Marillynn, it has been suggested, is the dreamer behind the programming to bring Broadway to Boca.
The inaugural season at the not-for-profit theater is driven by big musicals — The Sound of Music through Oct. 20, Irving Berlin’sWhite Christmas Nov. 14-Dec. 25, 42nd Street Jan. 9-Feb. 9, The Full Monty Feb. 20-March 23 — plus the comedy Steel Magnolias April 3-May 4 and the Fats Waller revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ May 15-June 15. Everyone who is a theatre expert has noticed the change in direction from the previous Caldwell staff who scheduled more “artsy stuff.”
But let’s get back to the inaugural production – The Sound of Music.
Superb married actors -- a wonderful ,golden voiced songstess Krista Severeid as Maria . the nun turned governess, and deep voiced baritone Tony Lawson, -- as Captain Von Trapp are a perfect couple – and – except for the charming seven children in the cast, manage to keep everyone’s undivided attention and inspire admiration . The only other primetime (i.e equity) actress in the cast --triple Carbonenll owner Lurelene Snedeker, appears as the Mother Abbess. Snedekerknocks the socks off with her vivid interpretation of the song Climb Every Mountain. It is a refreshing close to Act I and a reminder you will want to hear her again.(and you will in the spectacular wedding scene, so creatively staged by the dynamic Director Michael Ursua to make the audience feel they are part of the congregation.
It seems everyone in this cast was selected as “to feel real” ” for the roles, including Mia Matthews, as the devilishly beautiful Elsa Schraeder, the charming Jeffrey Bruce (as Max Detweiler) as well as the striking Joshua S.Roth,(as Rolf) and Katie Hensley as the oldest von Trapp daughter Liesel ( They both sing and dance beautifully to I am 16 going on 17) and the other children played to perfection by Avrumie Spindel, Megan Sell, Emily Elizabeth Kirschner, Alexander Lawleess, Savannah Lawless, and six year old Alexa Lasanta.
Plus, let’s add to this successful casting Gail Byer, James A. Skiba, Ann Marie Olsen, Renee Elizabeth Turner, Alan Gerstel, Meredith Bartmon, Margarita Bernal de Santana, Randy Charleville, Angela Miller, Leah Sessa, Elizabeth Sackett, Marsh Shugart, Leslie Ann Wolfe , Erin Pittleman and Bianca Matthews. In all there were some 28 actors in this premiere show. That alone may be some sort of record for South Florida regional theatre – an auspicious start for Wick!!
Everyone agrees the directorial effort and musical staging of veteran theatrical exec Michael Ursua is a singular reason this production moves along so well and so professionally. And, he is supported by an excellent “tech” team– scenery by Tom Hansen, costumes by Robin Burger, lighting by Tom Shorrock, soundby Gerald Michaels, choreography by Shana Sell, properties by Elizabeth Turner, and the combined talent of veteran stage manager James Danford and tech director Bobby Brinson
.The 333-seat Wick Theatre is located at 7901 N. Federal Hwy, Boca Raton. The Sound of Music will run through Oct. 20. For ticket information, call 561-995-2333.
THE SMILES WILL BE REAL AS MOON OVER BUFFALO SHINES
IN THE BROWARD STAGE DOOR PRODUCTION OF THIS FARCE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL SPRINGS, FL -- if one is searching for a simple definition for Moon Over Buffalo, currently offering laughs at Broward Stage Door in Coral Springs, one might throw out “farce,” “comic play”, “situation comedy,” “madcap fun” – and he or she would be right on target. it is all of the above!
Or if one is familiar with playwright’s Ken Ludwig’s best-known hit – Lend Me A Tenor --one would find numerous similarities -- a fast-paced script – characters bickering or frantically trying to resolve some confusion, and let us not forget the drinking and womanizing star, a jealous wife, a desperate stage manager and a character presumed to be missing. Let us also mention a similar locale -- a Northeastern city, actors who drink and that it has as its basic theme – actors and “THEATRE.”
But , this Moon Over Buffalo is not a carbon copy of “Tenor.” As one lady put it upon leaving the theatre in Coral Springs; “this was a one of a kind show ……just adorable.”
There is little question that the entire script – devilishly directed by Michael Leeds to engulf the theatre with laughter – succeeds in doing just that. Plus, Leeds has convened a stellar cast to more than do justice to this silly comedy. It is after all, a farce, and it is played to induce amusement. And, the gifted, awards-laden Leeds knows well how to induce laughter
Moon Over Buffalo, by the way, stars – among others – one of South Florida’s preeminent comedians Ken Clement, who plays George, a ham actor, with the uncanny ability deliver a highly physical performance. The troupe—in this story -- is currently engaged in repertoire presentations alternating between Cyrano and Private Lives, and when Clement imbibes too much, it becomes hilarious and much more than the swinging open and shut doors we expect from a farce.
George engages in a mock fencing match with a reliable scene-stealing Charlotte, ( Michelle Foyteck) his wife and the female lead to whatever show the troupe is delivering. Their action and dialogue are fast and furious, as their characters attempt to bring sanity to end the confusion. (Thankfully, they don’t!!)
George and Charlotte have grandiose dreams of becoming Hollywood film stars and when it is believed that the famed director Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life) is on the phone and then in the theatre audience to possibly audition them for a major film-- The Twilight of The Scarlet Pimpernel originally a vehicle for an ailing Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson, all hell breaks loose, The chaos involves their daughter (Susan Slotoroff, her fiancé (Edward Miskie), her ex-fiance and the troupe’s love-struck stage manager (the always reliable (Andy Quiroga), a lawyer with eyes for George’s wife (Glen Lawrence), and Charlotte’s hard-of-hearing mother (an endearing Miki Edelman.
Charlotte, however, doesn't believe George when he gives the Frank Capra news. She has just learned that George has had an affair with one of their actors, Eileen (Jessica Carmen ) and that Eileen is pregnant with George's child. Charlotte tells George she plans to leave with Richard, the successful lawyer. George, despondent, gives up hope and turns to alcohol to drown his misery—And then the fun really begins. If one is familiar with Cyrano and/or Private Lives, then the fun becomes immense. In any case, the farce explodes with frantic abandon from reality.
Costumes by Peter Lovello, lighting by Ardean Landhuis plus the perfect set design and sound by Broward Stage Door co-founder/producer (with Derelle Bunn) David Torres give this production the technical know-how to add to its light and wacky moments.
Moon Over Buffalo runs through October 6th . Call for tickets -- 954 344 -7765
With An Outstanding Quartet Ensemble
TALENTED ERIN JOY SCHMIDT DOMINATES WITH GUSTO
MAD CAT’S LATEST OFFERING IN MIAMI SHORES – BLOW ME
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI SHORES , FL -- There are moments on stage when an individual actor is so stirring and realistic, one cannot think of anything else when leaving the theatre. That’s the image projected by Erin Joy Schmidt ,who once again proves she ranks among the finest actresses in South Florida.
This time it’s her characterization as the one-of-a-kind Isabella Blow, the fashion icon who cut her life short by suicide as dramatized in Jessica Farr’s Blow Me, currently exploding at Mad Cat Theatre Company. Blow, as a magazine editor, garnered an undisputed reputation as a kingmaker in the competitive world of fashion.
Directed stylishly by Mad Cat’s founder and artistic chief Paul Tei, Blow Me has an excellent supporting cast playing multiple roles, all the right costuming, sound, lighting and scenic design -- just about everything –to highlight the fashion world notable.
But, the play is more about her personal rather than professional life. Suffering from Bi-Polar disorder, Isabella attempted suicide seven times before finally succeeding. And, Schmidt evokes every nuance in portraying this troubled lady. One could not help day-dreaming that this onstage character will not succeed in destroying her life. She is a quirky, intelligent and unique character (and Schmidt manages to capture all these qualities.)
This is Mad Cat’s 13th production year -- with a reputation of offering creative and thought-provoking theatre -- but the first at its new location – the intimate Sandbox at the Miami Theatre Center.
Here’s a press release description of the play: “In Blow Me, we follow Isabella down the rabbit hole as her life comes to an end, which is only just the beginning of the ride.” Isabella retells her own story in this serious, yet humorous two-act play, including her relationship with her parents, husband, lovers and those men and women she helped in their careers . Blow Me is the full length version and the world premiere of what was previously a one act play-- Charming Acts of Misery-- which had its debut at the 2013 South Beach Comedy Festival. Congratulations to playwright Farr and artistic guru Tei for creating this story in a new dimension.
In addition to Schmidt, the cast features a quartet of outstanding company members including the dynamic and funny, award-winning actor Gregg Weiner (another major South Florida talent), joined by an ensemble of onstage ability – NoahLevine, Matthew Glass and a beautiful Emilie Paap .
It would be more than an error of omission to forget the technical team which is so important to this play -- sound by Matt Corey, lighting by Melissa Santiago Keenan,costume design by Karielle Levy and scenic design by Mad Cat director extraordinaire Paul Tei himself.
Blow Me runs through Sept. 1 – Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets may be purchased online at www.madcattheatre.org. or by calling OvationTix at 866-8111.
Palm Beach Dramaworks Does It Again
Concert Performance of Company Is Topnotch;
Summer Shorts Gone Wild At Empire is Fun
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
My hope is that the summer concert series at Palm Beach Dramaworks continues well into the future – but frankly it will be difficult to receive as many superlatives as is deserving for its current production (with music and lyrics by my favorite theatrical mastermind Stephen Sondheim) -- the brilliant concept musical Company.
It is difficult to pinpoint who should get the most credit for such a brilliant piece of theatrical enjoyment, besides the best casting of a musical in South Florida in some time,
Let’s start with the top brass – Palm Beach Dramaworks’ own producing artistic director Bill Hayes, It is Hayes who put together the team which decided to present the concert series begun at another now-shuttered company. Hayes deserves credit for knowing his audience would appreciate such an adult complex piece as Company, the winner of 14 nominations and six Tony awards and one of Sondheim’s most acclaimed shows. It was a stellar follow-up to last year’s Camelot and this summer’s extended hit Man of La Mancha.
Also, at the top of the list for praise is another local theatrical whiz --- Director Clive Cholerton. One cannot find as many adjectives as needed to denote superiority as this man deserves. Recall just a few years back when Cholerton took over Caldwell company in Boca Raton. The company was already in financial crisis, when CC took over management. Then the most recent economic depression took hold and it was a double barreled knockout for the theatre, but not before CC gained national attention for his crowd-pleasing plays and summer concerts, Into the Woods and Follies, both incidentally by Stephen Sondheim..
The cast of Company – all 10 of them – reek of perfection, led by QuInn VanAntwerp,who just completed a long run on Broadway in Jersey Boy, before heading here to play Bobby, the main character( in search of a wife) and taunted/haunted by his married buddies. His voice and acting prowess are akin to laudatory statements due for the other nine actor/vocalists in this contemporary story, Nick Duckhart, Katherine Amadeo, Leah Sessa, Natalia Coego, Wayne LeGette, Laura Hodos, Maribeth Graham, Barry Tarallo and Alexandra Hale. All of them should put “multi-talented” next to their names.
It would certainly be appropriate to single out a couple of this talented ten. Laura Hodos gives an award-worthy performance as Joanne. She literally brings the show to a halt, singing The Ladies Who Lunch (the zinger of a song created in the 1970 Broadway premiere of Company by Elaine Strich). Ditto for newcomerAlexandra Halewho got the audience’s attention with Getting Married Today.]
Other memorable numbers include Being Alive, Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You, Barcelona and, of course, the title song, Company .They are all given A-1 treatment by music director Paul J. Reekie.
Kudo,s too, to Stage Manager Alicia K. Scott and the projection design of Sean Lawson. This team–along with lighting designer Michael Burris and costumer guru Brian O ‘Keefe—should share in the praise of this concert presentation which the audiences seem to adore.
Company is a musical based on a book by George Furth plus the Sondheim musical input. The plot revolves around Bobby (a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship) (let alone marriage), the married couples who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends.
Company is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular order, linked by a celebration for Bobby's 35th birthday. As described on the Internet, it is among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationship. And, it remains one of my favorite all-time musicals for its creativity. Is there any doubt that I love this show (or does my wife)?.
Company runs until August 18 so get your tickets now. Call 561 514 4042 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
FOR LAUGHS & GAY-THEMED PLAYS
Take six actors, seven recognized playwrights, four capable directors, two strong management teams and you have Shorts Gone Wild, the funny, eight-short play festival which is an outgrowth of Summer Shorts. Only this production -- at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale--is different from the recognized short play festival, earlier this summer in Miami. This production is a team effort of two outstanding companies – the combined endeavor of City Theatre’s John Manzelli and Island City Stage’s Andy Rogow and the result is an evening of fun as the authors primarily explore a number of LGBT issues while providing laughter amid provocative subjects.
There’s eight plays by accomplished playwrights -- Tony Finstrom, Kim Ehly, Mark Della Ventura, Christopher Demos Brown, out of towners Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright plus two by prolific Tony-nominated Michael Leeds.. Each play has its moments of laughter amidst important themes.
Tony Finstrom’s short farce – Mr. and Mrs, Smith, adeptly directed by Andy Rogow, gets the most laughs, exploring the realities of an important current subject, gay marriage. While paying homage to the screwball films of the 1930s. Finstrom depicts a closeted film star who wakes up in a hospital with another man beside him, learning that they were married the night before. The subject is so current and so meaty, the audience wanted to see more. It’s one of those plays so timely, so well written that it has the makings of a full-length play. It may be a farce but it borders on reality. It is directed handsomely by Rogow.
Michael Leeds offered two plays to the festival. The cleverly written first one (with Leeds also directing) , A Lyrical Fable, features dialogue using familiar song lyrics. It is hilarious. His other short play, Read This Play – directed by Rogow --is a twofer about the relationship between a playwright and an artistic director. who has ignored the writer’s script. It is an “in” kind of play to which any writer or playwright can relate.
Christopher Demos Brown gives us the most serious of the eight plays –Mallory Square – directed by Kim Ehly. It is about straight parents and their reaction to close gay friends requesting the wife to be a pregnancy donor. It questions just how far one goes for one’s pals as it discusses the hope for a child through artificial insemination, However, Demos-Brown provides much more in this festival “think Piece” by admirably and wisely creating a discussion on the importance of parenthood. It is the standout play for this festival, beautifully written to csapture any audience.
Mark Della Ventura’sUnexpected, directed by Manzelli, explores how two men( at a party) realizimg they are attracted to each other. It is a sympathetic portrayal and well constructed playwriting,
Ehliy – an actress in real life – displays on how well she can write and direct , as a follow-up to her full length playBaby Girl last year.. This time she writes and directs The Happy Ones (with a standout performance by Niki Fridh). It’s a tale of a woman who puts the make on her gay neighbor and does so with gusto!
The closing playlet is a reprise of Doug Wright’s On Facebook, a humorous discussion via social media with the major input from a determined homophobe and her facebook “friends”, including several gays and a lesbian. It is supposed to be a real-time thread on FB. Leeds directs the piece by playwright Wright (author of the Tony award vehicle, I Am My Own Wife)
The ensemble cast includes Nikki Fridh, Rayner Garranchan, Andy Quiroga, Gladys Ramirez, Matt Stabile and Janet Weakly, familiar faces in South Florida’s regional theater community.There are so many stand-out performances in this ensemble, one would be careful in singling out but as critics say “go for it.” So, most impressive are veteran actor Quiroga, hunky newcomer Stabile and especially Janet Weakly in a repeat from the earlier Summer Shorts -- The Gay Agenda, by Paul Rudnick, the nationally known writer of Jeffery It is dominated by Weakly as a homophobic housewife, her speech to explain her prejudices, and her interraction with a gay couple. It is straight out of the GOP tea party playbook , displaying the prejudices of a certain element of society. Directed by Leeds, it is timely and well done.
Unlike Summer Shorts which draws from a national pool of submissions, the plays in Shorts Gone Wild are most homegrown. They showcase just how much talent we have locally.
Shorts Gone Wild may be only slightly wild but it is a pleasure to watch so much local playwriting, directing and acting. Makes one want even more next season!!}
Shorts Gone Wild runs through Sept, 1. Call- 954 519-2533 for ticket inform
AND HERE’S ANOTHER UNIQUE PLAY
Mad Cat Theatre Company – in its 13th year of offering creative and thought-provoking new plays -- is back with a world premiere play Blow Me written by company member Jessica Farr and directed by Mad Cat’s founder and Artistic Director, Paul Tei. Blow Me is an unbridled take on the life of fashion icon, Isabella Blow. Blow, previously a fashion editor at Vogue, left an indelible mark on the fashion world, having discovered numerous supermodels and designers. But the play is more about her personal rather than professional life. Suffering from Bi-Polar disorder, Isabella attempted suicide seven times before finally succeeding. Here’s the press release description of the play: “In Blow Me, we follow Isabella down the rabbit hole as her life comes to an end, which is only just the beginning of the ride.” Isabella retells her own story in this serious play. Blow Me is the full length version and the world premiere of what was previously a one act play-- Charming Acts of Misery-- which had its debut at the 2013 South Beach Comedy Festival. The cast features company members including the multi-talented Erin Joy Schmidt as Isabella and award-wining actor Gregg Weiner, as well as Noah Levine and Emilie Paap .
( Ron Levitt, of Florida Media News and ENV Magazine, is an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent is president of the South Florida International Press Club, a Carbonell and Silver Palm voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist.He was a prize-winning Naval
“GOOD PEOPLE” AT GABLESTAGE PRODUCES
SUPERB ACTING, DIRECTING, ‘GREAT THEATRE’
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
GableStage – that unflappable institution adjoining the Biltmore hotel which continually offers outstanding plays --– has done it once again. No surprise, but the latest production – Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire, can only be described as ‘theatre at its best” – with superb casting and acting, professional direction, outstanding technical and scenic status. It’s the kind of play an audience usually refers to as GREAT THEATRE.
Good People takes the audience to Southie, a Boston neighborhood where recreation means a night out playing bingo, where people live from paycheck to paycheck and where those who do make it to the suburbs and become middle-class-Americans are a contrasting segment of society with their own problems.
Margie Walsh (a magnificent portrayal by Laura Turnbull) has just been let go from yet another job in her Boston neighborhood. Facing eviction and desperate for a new job, Margie thinks an old high school fling who made it out of Southie might be her ticket to a fresh start. But can this apparently self-made man (Stephen G. Anthony) be secure enough to face his humble beginnings or does he have his own demons to deal with? Margie risks what little she has left –including her dignity - to find out.
This play is funny, insightful, adeptly scripted, and a wonderful , microscopic look at people stuck in an an economic swamp, those who succeed, and the few GOOD PEOPLE who help them do it.
There’s the couple who made it professionally and now live in upscale Chestnut Hill—a doctor with a thriving practice (Anthony) and his wife ( the lovely Renata Eastlick )a Boston University literature professor who just happens to be black.
On a different economic level, there’s Turnbull’s character Margie -- mother to the offstage character Joyce, an adult, disabled daughter. The audience also meets Barbara Bradshaw (Margie’s’ landlady and Joyce’s not-always-reliable caretaker) and Elizabeth Dimon, (a plain-spoken buddy from the Southie bingo hall ).
Clay Cartland is a dollar store manager backed into a corner by Margaret’s tardiness who must fire her – the latest in a string of economic crises for the South Boston native and a difficult decision by his character.
Turnbull, Bradshaw, Dimon and Anthony are all Carbonell Award-winning South Florida actors – and their portrayals in Good People are testaments to their talent. Ditto for Silver Palm recipients Cartland -- South Florida’s busiest young actor -- - and Carbonell-nominated/Silver Palm recipient Eastlick. This production is a rare glimpse at six of South Florida’s finest actors interacting on stage.
If the name of playwright Lindsay-Abaire sounds familiar, recall that he won the 2007 Pulitzer prize for his play RabbitHole (about a couple mourning the death of a young son.). It was a big hit on Broadway and in its brief run in South Florida at Mosaic Theatre. As insightful and well-conceived as that play is, Good People is even better.
Director Joseph Adler’s stamp of excellence (he’s a multi-award winning producer/director) is apparent in Good People, _Do not be surprised if this South Florida production captures a string of awards for its acting prowess , directing and technical knowhow. It truly is a gift to South Florida’s audiences.
LyleBaskin delivers a realistic set. And, Matt Corey for sound, JeffQuinn for lighting, Ellis Tillman for costumes are – as usual—right on target, A special praise should go to Dialect Coach Mariah Reed for unveiling the South Boston accent and to the actors for learning from her so well.
Good People will be on GableStage through August 18. . Call (305) 445-1119, for tickets.
SUMMER FARE INCLUDES RATED P FOR PARENTHOOD
AND A CONCERT RENDITION OF MAN OF LAMANCHA
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENVMagazine
What does a producer do during the summer in South Florida when the snowbirds return home for cooler weather and when there are fewer ticket purchasers? The usual answer is bring in some “light fare” or do a reading to keep production costs as low as possible.
Somehow or other, that works in the unique theatre atmosphere of the Sunshine State.
Actors’ Playhouse does its usual summer fare with a surprisingly entertaining series of vignettes entitled Rated P for Parenthood. It deserves an “A” for Amusing. It’s part musical-part vaudevillian sketches, with the use of computer-like technology to entertain the audience which can reflect on what it is like in bearing and bringing up a child in this high-tech age.
Jim Ballard, Amy Miller Brennan, Henry Gainza and Julie Kleiner compose the quartet which sings, dances, kibitzes with one another and acts out the time from childbirth to puberty and being parents who must endure all of the trials and tribulations which go with those age variations.
Rated P for Parenthood is an adults-only show as it covers lust, sex, condom usage – along with other topics,, including applying to an exclusive school and embarrassing a child on her first job – all done with either comedy or music – and sometimes, both. Among the more amusing sketches are the opening number-- Push It Out -- showing realistically child-bearing and an amusing tale about a gay couple entertaining the idea that their triplets may be straight as evidenced by their fascination with breasts.
Director David Arisco moves along at a brisk pace the 14 individual scenes and musical numbers, doing justice to the production – with music and lyrics by Sandy Rustin (an actress, playwright and mom) and music and lyrics by longtime collaborator Dan Lipton and David Rossmer. Ellis Tillman deserves credit for the many costume changes while Alexander Herrin uses the sound and Patrick Tennent the lighting to pace the 90 minute show. Gene Seyffer does double duty as the scenic and technical director and a special nod of congrats goes to musical director Manny Schvartzman.
The entire team – led by Actors’ PLayhouse Executive Producing Director Barbara Stein – provides a delightful P for Parenthood through August 11th. Call 305 444-9293 for tickets
MAN OF LAMNCHA AT PB DRAMAWORKS
Meanwhile, if you drive further north to West Palm Beach, you will encounter a delightful concert edition of Man of LaMancha. Due to critical acclaim and overwhelming box office demand, the beloved musical that follows the adventures of the eternally optimistic, Don Quixote, will extend its run through Sunday, July 28th, at Palm Beach Dramaworks' Don & Ann Brown Theatre (201 Clematis Street).
Often referred to as “America’s Baritone” as well as a regular on Broadway, William Michals is cast as the production's “Don Quixote” along with Alix Paige as “Aldonza” and South Florida favorite Oscar Cheda as “Sancho.” Ken Clement, Rodrigo De la Rosa, Nick Duckart, Joshua Grosso, Leah Sessa, Barry Tarallo and Cassandra Zepeda complete the acting company.The production is directed by multi-talented Clive Cholerton, with musical direction by Caryl Fantel.
PB Dramaworks patrons have even more to look ahead to this summer. Stephen Sondheim’s Company follows from August 7 through August 18.
Dubbed Palm Beach Dramaworksl Theatre Masters Series. the summer events features concert versions of classic musicals, with limited instrumental accompaniment and minimal staging and design. But, don’t be fooled; this is the full production, complete with its wonderous score. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042.
GableStage should have a big, big winner in its next production directed by the talented producer/director Joseph Adler. It’s David Lindsay Abaire’s acclaimed play Good People, which got rave reviews in NYC including the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award for best play in 2011 and a Tony nomination. It has been described as “a tough and tender play about the insurmountable class divide between those who make it out of South Boston's blue-collar Irish neighborhood and those who find themselves left behind.” As always, Adler has put together a topnotch cast including Stephen G. Anthony, Barbara Bradshaw, Clay Cartland, Elizabeth Dimon, Remata Eastlick and Laura Turnbull. It’s a cast full of enough Carbonell and Silver Palm recipients and Carbonell award nominees to fill a complete stage! Good People – for its Southeastern premiere – runs July 20 to August 18. Call ahead for tickets 305 445-1119 or gablestage.org. Performances: Thursday, Friday, Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 2pm & 7pm. GableStage is located in the eastern section of the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables………….. You can now get a look at Jim Brochu’s new one-man show, Character Man, currently at Broward Stage Door. He’s the same versatile actor who wowed audiences a season ago as Zero Mostel in Zero Hour, a smash hit here and on Broadway. The veteran New York actor/-playwright is easily recognizable as Zero Mostel from his award-winning previous run here. In Character Man, he recreates a string of show-biz characters. He recalls in song and quips a number of Broadway favorite shows. Anyone who loves “theatre” will adore the reminiscence of Brochu in this original presentation. Character Man plays through Aug. 11 at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, Call 954-344-7765 for tickets. …………There’s a call for auditions from Entr’Acte Theatrix – the new company which had a successful run of Monty Python’s Spamalot this past season, Now, it is looking for musically-inclined actors to appear in The Who’s Tommy. The show will run October 17-27 at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts’ Crest Theater in Old School Square. The classic rock opera, with music by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff will begin rehearsals in early September. Those wishing to audition should get info at http://entractetheatrix.org.............. This should be a hoot! It’s Short’s Gone Wild an X-rated, adults-only version of Summer Shorts, It will run August 8- September 1 at the Empire Stage – a joint production of City Theatre and Island City Stage. It’s labeled as a Short Play fest tailored to LGBT audiences. The production involves 6 actors, 7 playwrights, 4 directors and “lets them loose with 8 short, provocative, funny and thoroughly entertaining plays that are tailored to explore the values, issues and humor that are relevant to the LGBT and Progressive communities.”Shorts Gone Wild is produced and conceived under the Artistic Direction ofSouth Florida’s Andy Rogow and John Manzelli. The company of Shorts Gone Wild will include South Florida playwrights Mark Della Ventura, Chris Demos-Brown, Kim Ehly, Tony Finstrom & Michael Leeds. Directors include Rogow, Manzelli, Michael Leeds and Ehly. Actors include Nikki Fridh, Rayner Garranchan, Andy Quiroga, Gladys Ramirez, Matt Stabile and Janet Weakly. Set Design by Michael McClain, Costume Design by Peter Lovello, Sound Design by David Hart and Lighting Design by Preston Bircher. For tickets, call 954-519-2533
LERNER,SALUP SHARE SPOTLIGHT WITH VETERAN ACTORS
LOCAL AUDIENCE GETS TO KNOW 1937 BROOKLYN FAMILY
IN BROWARD STAGE DOOR’S BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL SPRINGS, FL -- When you go to the Broward Stage Door theatre to see Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs – and you should -- focus your attention on the second floor bedroom on the left of the magnificent set designed by Sean McLelland.
That’s where two young actors beautifully re-create the 14 year old Eugene Jerome (Josh Lerner) and 18 year old Stanley (Alex Salup) – brothers whobring us back to 1937 Brooklyn. It is in this location in which – through action and dialog – where they go through the trials and trepidations of growing up. They discuss topics such as whether their father (Matthew Korinko) ever masturbated, what their lovely teenage cousin Nora (Mary Sansone) looks like naked, how their mom (Merry Jo Cortada) and widowed aunt Blanche (Elizabeth Simmons) treats them, how the asthma of their 12 year old cousin Laurie (Hannah Wiser) affects the household. In fact, it is in this shared bedroom where they recount almost everything from the risks of gambling to the fears of a world war.
This coming-of-age comedy focuses on Eugene, a Polish-Jewish American teenager who experiences puberty, sexual awakening, and a search for identity as he tries to deal with his family. Simon’s realistic writing provides the audience with the feeling they are eavesdropping on an entire family.
Director Dan Kelley has put together an excellent cast. The entire ensemble – both veteran actors like Cortada, Korinko and Simmons are praiseworthy,
And, so are the younger actors, particularly Lerner (a high school junior at Boca Raton’s American Heritage), who recites Simon’s zingers so well they seem real, Also kudos go to Alex Salur who is a college senior. His portrayal of the older brother is prize-worthy. He has the handsome looks and know-how of an actor waiting to be discovered.
Congrats, too, to the technicians on this production compiled by director Dan Kelley – costumes by Larry Baumann, lighting by Ardean Landhuis and particularly for the nostalgia-recalling two floor set created by Sean McClelland.
However, author Simon is the star hovering atop this show. It is his words which allow the audience to retreat back to 1937 where mom dominates, dad provides the wisdom and brothers learn from and lean on one another. Most of all, it is about the importance of family!
Brighton Beach Memoirsis a semi-biographical play by Simon, the first chapter in what is known as his Eugene trilogy. It precedes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. This production will make you want to see the others! Let us hope Broward Stage Door’s producers Dee Bunn and David Torres put more Simon’s plays on their “upcoming schedule.”
Brighton Beach Memoirs runs through June 30. For tickets, call 954 344 7765.
SUMMER SHORTS-2013 GIVES DIRECTORS MANZELLI AND AMADEO,ACTORS ADJAN, DURKIN A CHANCE TO SHINE IN DELIVERING COMEDY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
For most of its 18 years, City Theatre has lured South Florida theatre goers to its venues, promising and delivering small but laughable versions of comedy by ensemble casts --- entitled “Summer Shorts.” This year, it follows tradition – with an 11 mostly comedic, roughly 10-minute -each collection of fun scripts performed by six talented actors.
What makes this year’s summer theatrical funfest so alluring are the distinguished approach of two of the directors and the special acting skills of two of those actors whose performances can only be described as “stand out.”
Four directors shared responsibility for the 11 “shortlets.” –John Manzelli, Antonio Amadeo, Margaret M. Ledford and Mcley France. And, they all manage to provide perfect timing and imaginative productions, but Amadeo’s workon IZombie by Kendra Blevins and Manzelli’s’s deliverance on The Gay Agenda, written by the brilliant Paul Rudnick are particular theatrical moments. Ditto for their combined effort in co-directing the amusing comedy about a married couple, Feel the Tango by Susan Westphall.
At the same time, credit must go to the six professional actors – with special notice to two of them. Irene Adjan is a standout in her monologue in The Gay Agenda, in which she plays a conservative Mid-West housewife who says she is not prejudiced but shows in every spoken word just the opposite. Adjan is masterful, perfectly attired by costumer Ellis Tillman.
And, the brilliant usually - dramatic actor Todd Allan Durkin shows a flair for comedy, as well, Durkin –in several roles – proves he can take on any role, even silly ones, and make them unforgettable. As several of the Summer Shorts characters, Durkin provides fascinating portraits and steals the spotlight.
The rest of the cast also delivers characters designed to keep the audience amused – Ken Clement, Renata Eastlick, Vera Varlamov, and Rayner Garranchan, aided by a group of college student interns.
Along with Rudnick, Westphall and Blevins, other playwrights in Summer Shorts 2013 include Rick Park, Holly Hepp-Galvan, Steve Yockey, Matt Hoverman,Sheri Wilner, Leslie Ayvazian, Nina Mansfield and David Bar Katz. Some of the plays are hilarious, some are outright silly and some seem like they are looking for a reason to exist or scream that they are works in progress. Even a short play can seem unfinished!
But, overall, watching how these shorts play to an audience is a pleasure.
Summer Shorts runs through June 30 at the Carnival Studio Theatre in the Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami. Call 954 462 0222 for ticket information.
They will be followed up by an adults-only presentation-- Shorts Gone Wild at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage Augus t 8 –September 1.
DANCING AT LUGHNASA IS A POWERFUL VISIT TO 1936 IRELAND
AS PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS PRODUCES THIS TONY-WORTHY PLAY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – One might want to understand the sad economic conditions of 1936 Ireland and the strict Catholicism of the island nation which considered dancing as akin to immorality to better view Dancing at Lughnasa currently in production at Palm Beach Dramaworks.
The Tony-award-winning play, byBrian Friel, was first produced in 1990 and is loosely based on the lives of the author’s mother and aunts during the summer of ‘36 when love seems like a possibility for three of the five spinster Mundy sisters. These include his unwed mother (Gretchen Poro), his religious school teacher aunt Kate (Julie Rowe) and Rose who has a developmental disability (Erin Joy Schmidt). The household also includes aunts, Maggie – the homemaker (Meghan Moroney) and Agnes (Marjorie Lowe) who knits gloves to help with household funds until a knitware factory moves into their town on the west coast of Donegal.
The story in Dancing at Lughnasa take place in the family cottage with events dramatized with the arrival of brother Jack, a priest returning after 26 years in Uganda. Jack is stricken with memory loss and malaria plus he has “gone native” in his preaching (John Leonard Thompson).In addition, there are the visits by the charismatic Gerry, (Cliff Burgess) a travelling salesman and father of Chris’ illegitimate son, narrator Michael (an impressive Declan Mooney) whose solo reminiscence fills in the story of what has become of this impoverished family.
It all takes place during the harvest season, symbolically a bitter harvest for the Mundy sisters,
Palm Beach Dramaworks director J. Barry Lewis has put together an exceptional ensemble. The outstanding scenic design by Jeff Modereger, costumes by Brian O’Keefe, lighting by Ron Burns, sound by Steve Shapiro all set the earthy tone displayed by this excellent cast.
Dancing at Lughnasa (some of you may recall the movie with Meryl Streep) will run through June 16. Call (561) 514-4042 for tickets.
DIDATO, RICHBERG SPARKLE IN PERFECTLTY SCRIPTED COCK –
THE LATEST OF ADLER’S PRODUCTIONS AT GABLESTAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL --- With such a provactive title, Cock – the currentproduction at GableStage -- will either intrigue theatre-going audiences that they are in for some X-rated material or preclude it by saying “no-no.”Both are wrong.
Instead they will get an intelligent, astutely directed production with some of the finest acting seen in South Florida in many years. Cock could have been named “cockfight”due tothe unusual staging in a partial boxing ring. It is the appropriate site to mouth the words of young British writer Mike Bartlett as a quartet of actors battle with verbage to determine just what “love” is.
In its simplest terms, Cock is the story of a young man John (Ryan Didato) who has had a long-term gay relationship with the older M (Nicholas Richberg) before his world is turned upside down when he has an unexpected affair with a woman W (Julie Kleiner). He is put in the position of choosing to continue his gay relationship or accept the reality that he is bisexual and capable of a loving future with this woman, even with the objection of M’s father--F (an explosive Peter Galman).
But there is nothing simple about this script nor the plot And, certainly, nothing simple about this production of a play which was a big hit in London and New York. This is Joseph Adler’s 92nd production at the Biltmore site and his adroit direction is apparent as the four actors dominate the stage. It is by no means a simple reminder of why Adler has the most production and directing Carbonells of anyone else in South Florida. Once again, his mark of excellence is apparent.
Lest we ignore the dominant characters, let us heap praise on both Didato and Richberg. Both obviously have anchored their characters with English accents that seem real. There is no sense that the accents or dialects are for stage use only. Richberg, in addition, fills every pre-conceived and stereotypical movement of the effeminate homosexual as envisioned in Bartlett’s extraordinary script. Richberg is truly brilliant as the deeply hurt partner – joining with the superb performance of Didato as the confused John – a frustrated fellow who doesn’t seem to know what he wants!!. What a topnotch twosome!
The writing of Cock is witty, filled with truisms, and words which tell more about these characters’ premise of love than any action might produce. It is a delicious script peppered with language one would expect of some twenty-somethings in urban London. What a pleasure to witness such reality!!
Kleiner, whose attire is somewhat dowdy for such a bright character, and New York actor Galman, are up to expectations in their supporting roles, as well. Adler obcviusly chose this cast with care. It would be half as much fun in lesser hands.
Lyle Baskin uses symbolism in his set design – one half of a boxing ring in which the characters battle. Matt Corey handles the sound; Jeff Quinn the lighting, and Ellis Tillman, the costumes.
Cock runs through June 16th, Call 305 445 1119 for tickets.
SIX COMIC PERFORMANCES, ASTUTE DIRECTION ARE A HOLE IN ONE
DESPITE THE PREDICTABLE OUTCOME OF THE FOX AND THE FAIRWAY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES,FL -- When you pack the stage with six top-of-the-line actors, put them together with a sharp director and a plot reminiscent of the farces of the 1930s, you hope that you are in for laughs That’s the challenge of The Fox and the Fairway currently taking over the balcony theatre at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre.
Yes, there are laughs and it is fun, Plus, after all, it is a pleasure to watch so much talent. But --like so many farces -- the outcome is much too predictable and in back of your mind is the question “can this latest work by Ken Ludwig, author of the successful Lend Me A Tenor go anywhere beyond regional theatre? “ It is not your typical Broadway fare!
Despite what could be called Ludwig’s latest silliness, however, The Fox and the Fairway does hit the green in the acting category and direction. It is pleasurable to watch the superb comic timing of the six people one sees on stage plus the knowledge that you know someone (David Arisco) put together what has the making s of an admirable comic piece.
There is plenty to offer the audience, despite the predictability of what is going happen next! The Fox and the Fairway offers six of South Florida’s favorite actors -- many of whom are known for their dramatic ability -- a chance to show how well they can handle comedy. Ken Clement, Clay Cartland. Todd Allen Durkin, Betsy Graver, Amy McKenna and Margot Moreland all deliver superior comic performances.
Here’s a short version of this play, courtesy of the Internet. Bingham (Clement, president of the Quail Valley Country Club, is in a difficult position, less by finding out that his newly hired hand, Justin ( a terrific prat-falling Cartland), is in love with Louise (the lovely Garvey) , the waitress at the club house, but by the discovery that the golfer he thought would play for his club has switched sides recruited by his counterpart and opponent, the cocky and arrogant Dickie (the multi-talented Durkin), and the huge bet he had foolishly wagered is now likely to be lost. Fortunately, he discovers that Justin is actually quite a good golfer and finagles his nomination. Justin does not disappoint and has a huge lead, when close to its end the tournament is interrupted by bad weather. When Justin learns that Louise has lost the engagement ring he gave her - she accidentally flushed it down the toilet - he becomes unglued. The game resumes the next day, but Justin loses the lead, and, upset, takes an unfortunate swing breaking his arm. Bingham is desperate, and the appearance of his wife (Moreland) complicates the matter, as she catches him much too close to Pamela, his sex-starved vice-president (a stunning McKenna). Can Bingham find a replacement for Justin to win the game, win the wager, and get his life in order?
Somehow or other, we think you know the answer well into the two-act script by Ludwig, But, after all, it is a farce, so who cares? Just don’t take this plot too seriously and you will enjoy the performances. Those six actors are reason enough to see The Fox and the Fairway.And, if you are an avid golfer, you will find lots of on-course humor to keep you entertained.
Gene Syfer’s set is a tribute to any golf country club. It looks comfortable, and Ellis Tillman’s costumes (especially Durkin’s outlandish golf attire) is reason enough to see this show.
runs through June 2. Call 305 444-9293 for tickets.
“WAR HORSE”ALLOWS ONE’S IMAGINATION
TO BE SET FREE AS PUPPETRY REIGNS IN
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE This is what theatre is supposed to be about -- creativity, ingenuity, imagination and powerful surprises. And, to think we have to learn that from horses!
Of course.we are referring to War Horse, the brilliant National Theatre of Great Britain production, currently capturing the imagination of the crowds heading to the Broward Center of the Performing Arts. And, it appears this bit of theatrical magic will continue to draw big crowds through its run on May 19th.
War Horse is a two-act play, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel intended originally for young readers and a theatrical script by Nick Stafford. It became a Broadway sensation after the British-bred production premiered at the Lincoln Center in New York to rave notices. Armed with a cast of 34 and featuring the life-sized horse puppets whose movements are mysteriously in synch – played by humans depicting the equine species.
The story follows the relationship between Albert (Alex Morf). a young man in agricultural Devon, and a stallion which he names Joey. Joey is part thoroughbred and part draft animal. Joey comes into Albert’s life when his drunken father (Todd Cerveris) outbids his brother (Brian Keene) for the foal at an auction. When Britain enters World War l, the father – much to the chagrin of his mom (Megan Loomis), and Albert—whose closeness between him and Joey – exceeds far beyond the norm -- sells Joey to a miitary man (Jason Loughlin) for 100 pounds and the horse follows his lieutenant into battle in France. Meanwhile, Albert – despite his age (16) – enlists and eventually re-connects with his beloved animal, in thanks partly to the sketchbook of this valiant horse captured in print by the lieutenant. It is a story based on loyalty and betrayal while exhibiting the horrors of war.
The amazing human-footed horses in this production are the creation of Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of the Handspring Puppet Company. These sure-footed puppets are simply remarkable. While it is easy to praise the work of the “horses” on stage, it in no way demeans the work of the many human actors in this production. It is an outstanding ensemble of American actors, directed by Bigan Shelibani.
Among the many talents on stage is actor/singer John Milosich, whose Irish tenor voice weaves throughout the two hour 20 minutes of story-telling.
Technically, once again, this crew is exceptional, You will feel the horrors of war thanks to Rae Smith’s simple but effective settings, drawings and costumes, the sound by John Owens and Christopher Shutt, the lighting by Paule Constable and Karen Spahn, as well as background music by Adrian Sutton. It is difficult to seperate the technical superiority from the puppetry skills and excellent acting in this extremely special story for all age groups.
War Horse is a play you will long remember.
STAGE DOOR SCORES BIG TIME BOTH IN MIAMI BEACH, CORAL SPRINGS WITH TOPNOTCH PLAYS, PERFORMANCES BY CHIZEVER, CARTLAND
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News /ENV Magazine
One has to give credit to producers Dee Bunn and David Torres for knowing their audiences and plays but also for A-One casting which really works! A lot of the credit for the latest superlatives must go the casting at their two venues. No t only have they produced shows in class-A form at their original Coral Springs location but also at their new venue-- in Miami Beach. At the Broward Stage Door in Coral Springs, the hilarious Beau Jest is packing in huge crowds, anxious to see Matthew William Chizever and a strong ensemble cast in this delightful comedy. And, on its 71st Street location in Miami Beach at the Byron-Carlyle , the terrific Clay Cartland is getting rave notices as he leads a topnotch cast in the gay-oriented play, Jeffrey.
Beau Jest is not a new play but this cast makes it seem like a season opener, with all the positive buzz it deserves. It is funny. It has great appeal to the Broward Stage Door regulars and especially to the ove-65 crowd which seems to relate to this original script by James Sherman and directed by the always-reliable Michael Leeds.
When Sarah Goldman (a lovely Sara Fetgatter), a charming young school teacher in Chicago, wants to please her parents, she drops the handsome Chris (Justin Lawrence) and she invents a boyfriend whom she believes will be the man of her mother's dreams. When her parents (Sally Bondi and Larry Kent Bramble ) and brother Joel (Mark Levy) insist on meeting the man, Sarah hires Bob (Chizever), an actor working for an escort firm, to pretend to be her "beau". The masquerade works almost flawlessly for a time including a Sabbath dinner and Passover seder) and brings comic situations, but in the end, their lives are irrevocably changed.
The set design by Torres, coupled with the lighting of ArdeanLandhuis, sound by Nancy Clay and costumes by Peter Lovello, turn Beau Jest into a must-see show, but, it is the charisma of Chizever whose program bio shows he is a Jewish guy, playing a Gentile guy – playing a Jewish Guy as the charming Bob and/or Dr. David. Chizever reacts to every line wth a grimace, smile or shrug and shows he is as adept at comic turns as he has been in Broward Stage Door musicals (remember My Fair Lady and La Cage Aux Folles) - two of his three Carbonell nominated performances.
Beau Jest runs through April 28. Call 954-344-7765 for tickets.
And, if you want to see Clay Cartland in Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey, head to Miami Beach. Cartland, as well, has a terrific supporting cast,–including Daniel Rosenstrauch. Dan Kelley, Shane R. Tanner, Randy Charleville, Larry Buzzeo, Frank Vomero and Niki Fridh
This Beach location has been described as the perfect venue in which to enjoy a show! Bunn and Torres, co-founders of the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, bring 20 years of successful theatre production experience to Miami Beach, and their talent shows off in the newest production.
Jeffrey may seem dated by today’s standards but Rudnick’s script makes it a worthwhile venture. The story takes place in Manhattan during the height of the AIDS epidemic and revolves around the title character (Cartland), a gay man who has sworn off sex because of it. Almost immediately thereafter he meets Steve (Rosenstrauch), a hunky, charming HIV positive man. He then experiences an emotional conflict as he must face his fear in order to accept love.
Jeffrey runs through May 5. Call 305 397-8977 for tickets.
We would b remiss if we didn’t mention Broward Stage Door’s Theatre 1. In the same locale as Beau Jest. It already has held over until May 5 – Brad Zimmerman in My Son – The Waiter – a Jewish tragedy which I am told is a comedy!!)
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS: It is rare indeed for “readings” of new plays to outshine some regional productionS in luring record audiences. The reading series at Lynn University in Boca Raton, however, touting the name of its best known leader—Jan McArt -- is doing just that Crowds numbering more than several hundred have been the norm for the “reading” endeavors so far this year. Now, with a play by South Florida’s favorite local author on hand and online promotion at a new level, the crowds may be even larger. Carbonell Award winning playwright Michael McKeever's latest work, 'Finding Mona Lisa,' will be presented as a “Staged Reading” for one night only, at 7:30 PM on Monday, April 22nd, 2013, in Lynn University's Performing Arts Center. Directed by the always busy Michael Leeds, the cast includes Alex Alvarez, Lindsey Forgey, Maribeth Graham, Peter Haig, Matthew Korinko and Scott Douglas Wilson. McArt is in charge of theatre development at Lynn University, where this reading is the fourth in a series of Staged Readings presented this winter/spring; part of 'Jan McArt's New Play Reading Series,' to develop new plays and musicals by Florida playwrights. It’s been so successful that the 2014 seriesalready is being promoted.Next season's staged readings will include Glamour Girl by TonyFinstrom (Jan. 13th, 2014), Desperation by Marj O'Neill-Butler (Feb. 10th), Shooting Star, The Musical by Mildred Kayden and Ed Bullins (Mar. 10th), and Verdun , One Day by Christopher Demos-Brown (Apr. 28th. Now, that’s what one must call “advanced planning” for single night “readings.” However, it seems to be what the audiences like!!! ………… The Maltz Jupiter Theatre has broken ground on its planned expansion! This summer, the Theatre is adding 62 luxurious new seats in the existing second floor space to create an upstairs club level lounge. This second floor renovation will include a private entrance, glass elevator, expanded lobby, bar and restrooms, all adjacent to the 62 new seats. Additional executive offices will also be added to this floor, bringing the majority of the staff together. The Theatre will also be expanding and upgrading the downstairs lobby, increasing restroom capacity and adding a much-needed standalone family restroom.Construction is expected to be complete in early October. While the Theatre’s building is currently closed, the Conservatory is open for summer camp and the box office is available by phone and online. Egin In the meantime, the ‘Season” will begin with Dial M for Murder OCT, 27-Nov, 10, to be followed by Annie in December and everyone’s favorite A Chorus Line in January. Maltz artistic chief Andrew Kato sure knows how to give the audience what it wants!!!!......
AVI HOFFMAN HITS A HOME (R) RUN
IN A SOLO PERFORMANCE FOR OUTRE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine’
BOCA RATON,FL -- Avi Hoffman is accustomed to doing solo performances. He has a television and theatre history with three separate versions of his humorous Too Jewish. But, he has taken strictly a dramatic turn as re does a modern-day retelling of the ancient Greek classic by Homer –this time byDenis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson, in an Outre theatre production at the Mizner Park Studio Theatre. It’s called AN ILIAD.
But, don’t be fooled. This is no comedy nor is it the exact retelling of THE Iliad. This is a modern-day version which dramatizes in a convincing way how wars over the centuries have been waged by those in power (often for ridiculous reasons) with the burden being carried by individual soldiers, their wives back home and their children.
It’s a powerful message aimed at the audience in this Southeastern premiere. And, the Outre Company chose wisely in selecting Hoffman as the poet to spread the anti-war message. Hoffman, utilizing his years of stage experience – is backed by the outstanding direction of Skye Whitcomb and an excellent technical staff. Hemoves to every point of the destruction-obvious set - even involving some of the audience -- to make his valid points. He gives a simply majestic performance to show the individuals suffering in wars covering generations, including the “wails of women.’ In the final moments, he rips off a liturgy of every war imaginable, providing the thinking men and women a reason they are watching this unique bit of theatre
The production team deserves special mention – sound by Denny Butler, lighting by Stefanie Howard, stage management by Sabrina Lynn Gore, and especially the vivid set design by double Carbonell honoree Sean McClelland.
Homeric purists may find plenty to quibble with this adaptation. It is not the same storyline or emphasis that you may have been taught in high school or college, This piece focuses primarily on Hector and Achilles, with only a glancing mention of Odysseus, Helen, Menelaus and Paris. But it does give credit to Helen as the most famous war fought over a woman .The concentration – aptly portrayed by Hoffman – are the dozens of wars over the years fought by thousands of nameless men and women because of some tyrant, inept leader or dictator.
This unique shows runs through April 21. Call for tickets -- 954-300-2149.
PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS BRINGS ON
ABSURBIST THEATRE WITH SUPERB PERFORMANCES
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
For the uninitiated and or uninformed, absurdist theatre is a strange technique, not easily understood. However, for some fans, it is filled with symbolism and moral lessons which the typical stage production cannot emulate. That is why most regional theatre companies shy away from producing absurdist plays even though many outstanding playwrights have adopted (some temporarily) this art form. The dictionary explains “theatre of the absurb as “ (French: Théâtre de l'Absurde) a designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of playwrights in the late 1950s”, including such playwriting giants as Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and Edward Albee and – of course -- Eugène Ionesco Their work expressed the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. “There is usually irrational and illogical speech, hopeless situations or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are either a parody or dismissal of realism.”
One can understand why only a brave producer will bring an absurdist play to its audience. It takes a love of theatre and a boxful of chutzpah to produce an absurdist show and hope it clicks with its audience.
So, cheers to Palm Beach Dramaworks for its bravery in bringing Ionesco’s Exit the King to its South Florida fans. PBD – which (in my rankings) is one of the two best venues in the State in bringing straight plays, comedy or drama,to production -- takes a big chance that its patrons and audience will understand the symbolism and meaning of such an amazing bit of playwriting.—This play, brilliantly directed by Producing Artistic Director William Hayes, certainly fulfills PBD’s mission to inspire by scheduling thought-provoking theatre .
The play is about death coming to all people – the fact that even a king eventually must face that reality. Yet, it sounds a positive note that explains that life can be meaningful when one does the right things. Unfortunately, this king created wars and destruction during his reign as well as treating those around him with disdain.
In addition to being thought provoking theatre, what Hayes has also brought to this stage are several of the most notable performances seen locally in many a day. Colin McPhillamy is masterful as Berenger The First, the king. He struts around the stage in his pajamas (with crown on his head) looking a lot like CharlesLaughten in the Hunchback of Notre Dame -- dying but still feeling he owns the world. Then there is Carbonell-winning actress Angie Radosh -- once again a standout as the King’s first wife and his foil. She dominates your attention in the climax of this 90-minute play.
The rest of the cast is equal to the absurdity of this script with A-One acting: the lovely Claire Brownell, South Florida favorites Elizabeth Dimon and Jim Ballard and a memorable portrayal of the king’s physician (by Rob Donahue).
Not to be overlooked is the colorful and regal scenic design by Michael Amico, lighting by John Hall and sound design by Matt Corey.
Exit the King runs through April 28. Call 561 514-4042.
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS: ….the word that floated around the Carbonell awards on April 1st that Richard Jay Simon (founder of the now closed Mosaic Theatre) would open a new venue in Miami was appropriately an April Fool’s joke. However, some theatre fans left the awards thinking the joke was really true (talk about the absurb!!!)…….There was also plenty of talk about Carbonell winning director Joe Adler being ready to take over a new Coconut Grove Playhouse. That may be premature. There are a dozen or so legal entanglements and financial problems dating back to 1980 that must be solved first. That date is when the State asked federal authorities to put the Playhouse on the list of historic venues…….Insiders are saying that Cock coming May 18-June 16 to GableStage is a show which dozens of locals wanted on their resumes but director Joe Adler still has not gone public with the casting.…….It may not be news anymore that Costume World’s Marilyn Wick will take over the now defunct Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton but the new name of the venue will probably be the Wick Theatre. Why not??? Who would you name after--- John Wilkes Booth? ……Body Awareness by Annie Baker, the coop venture of Island City Stage and Empire Stage.has been extended through April 20 but it will be without one of its four stars. Clay Cartland – who got rave reviews -- had to bow out of the successful run due to a previous commitment. but the rest of the cast is in tact --Janet Weakly, Merry Jo Cortada and David Gordon. Substituting in the Cartland role is Eric Rodriguez…..Carbonell show producer and award recipient (best new work)—the prolific Michael McKeever, as always busy as a beaver, has his new play The Savannah Disputation set to go April 12 atthe Arsht Center, while still writing a new play for a staged reading at Lynn University April 22nd.The play at Lynn is called Finding Mona Lisa and will featurean all-star cast, including Alex Alvarez, Lindsey Forgey, Maribeth Graham, Peter Haig, Matthew Korinko and Scott Douglas Wilson…Playwright/arts activist Tony Finstrom is coordinating the staged readings with this one being directed by Michael Leeds. Incidentally, McKeever and Stuart Meltzer got rave reviews for producing/directing the Carbonells this year, which had some outstanding stand-alone musical numbers, beginning with a duet by Shane Tanner and Carbonell awardee Maria Elena Garcia …..The oft-produced Jeffrey is set for the Miami Stage Door theatre. April 19 through May 5, while Beau Jest, a familiar comedy, will be staged at the Broward Stage Door in Coral Springs for an open-ended run starting April 19…..Road Through Heave n– the long awaited play by artistic chief Ricky J. Martinez is set for New Theatre April 20 through May 5…… Avi Hoffman stars solo in An Iliad at the OutreTheatre in Mizner Park. For those who recall high school days, it should be reminded that this show is An Iliad -- not the much longer THE Iliad. Skye Whitcomb directs.
EXCELLENT ACTING, FINE DIRECTING, ARE MATCHED
WITH REALITY DIALOUGE IN “LUNGS” AT ARTS GARAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
DELRAY BEACH, FL – Most theatrical presentations depend on just the acting skills of its featured players and astute direction. Then, there are those unique shows which are triple- barreled – fine acting, good direction plus a dialogue which is so sharp and crisp that it makes you wonder where this playwright has been hiding
Lungs the current offering at the Arts Garage falls into this second category. It doesn’t need scenery, costumes, sound cues or any of the other technical support which has become so much a part of modern theatre. It is obvious from the get-go that – with fine directing by Lou Tyrell and super acting by a wonderful team -- Betsy Graver and Cliff Burgess,-- here is a production which stands alone—primarily by the words which the author has given his characters. So, we must give an extra bow to playwright Duncan Macmillan! All too often, the playwright is ignored, but the language skill of Macmillan is hard to overlook. The bare bones set allows special emphasis on the words. There is no distraction. Macmillan, a London-based writer, director and lecturer, obviously has a keen ear to today’s generation.
Garver plays W…..Burgess is M. There is no dispute who they are. With such crisp dialogue, it is clear that they are a couple of 30-somethings, extremely professional and typical of today’s young adults living together without the bonds of matrimony,. They are discussing the subject of procreation —having a baby. Their response – Macmillan’s words – are funny, challenging, glib – as they give the pros and cons of bringing a child into what the describe as the personal and global mess since the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
This play spans days, months, years – and may remind one of the all too familiar as they move ahead in their lives. It may even remind you of yourself! G-d forbid! All we know, is the fact that you will be cheering for them them to find happiness with one another, despite their obvious differences. They obviously are not a marriage made in heaven!
The words have it! So much depends on the words of these characters. You will hardly notice the lack of scenery, costumes and sound. Their monologues and interaction are rides unto themselves! All you can think of is just how real their words are. They may be mouthed by excellent actors, but the sting is just how real and truthful they are!!
Lungs runs through April 14. Call 561 450 6357.
BODY AWARENESS IS PURE DRAMA REGARDING JEALOUSY
WITH AN EXCEPTIONAL CAST AT ISLAND CITY STAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- It is rare indeed when a new, young theatre company introduces itself to its growing audience with such a crowning achievement – but, Island City Stage in cooperation with Empire Stage here does not follow the norm. It erupts with one of the most intriuging presentations this year, with a dynamite four character acting ensemble on par with older, more-established theatrical companies.
With its latest production –Body Awareness (the other—Twentieth Century Way -- was nominated last season for a Carbonell as best ensemble), this company shows it’s ready to match up with other, older companies in South Florida.
Body Awareness by Annie Baker was a 2009 Drama Desk nominated play – and, with this regional cast and director Michael Leeds at its helm, one can understand why it is has reached such an accolade.
In part, this praise must go to actor Clay Cartland, as Jared, who steals many of the scenes when he portrays a smart young man who may or may not have Aspergers Syndrome . When Cartland is on stage, it is difficult not to give him your full attention.
But, this play is not just about one, strange young man who is smart and reads the dictionary, wants to have sex and wants to be understood. It’s also about relationships –and a lot more!
An excellent JanetWeakly and Merry Jo Cortada portray Joyce and Phyllis, a lesbian couple who live in A New England college town. Cartland’s character is Joyce’s grown son.
David Gordon – a photographer of mostly nude women -- is invited to their home during a college week illuminating body awareness. He becomes a suspect of a romantic involvement with one of the ladies – Joyce, a high school teacher who was at one time married to Jared’s father. Sound confusing? It is not., But it is raw drama involving many attitudes – jealousy, assurances of loyalty, understanding, devotion, being protective and defensive –a jam-packed wonderment nowadays in theatre. That’s a lot to put in 95 minutes, but it seems to work
If this is the caliber of drama that Island City Stage artistic director AndyRogow and Empire Stage head producing honcho/actor David Gordon intend to bring to South Florida, that location by the railway track looks like a winner!
The show runs through April 7. Call 954 678-1496.
4000 MILES AT GABLESTAGE FILLED
WITH HEART, HUMOR AND HONESTY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Let’scall Amy Herzog’s Southeastern premiere of 4000 Miles at GableStage a gently comic drama which – if you are fortunate – may remind you of conversations you may have had with your own grandmother. It is one of the most truthful commentaries about the relationship of two generations that has come along in many years.
This unique production not only can stir emotions for its realism but also gives to two generations of actors – Harriet Oser and Michael Focus – an opportunity to shine on stage as they allow their characters to explore hidden truths.
It is a play filled with hearts, humor and honesty, brought to life under the sensitive direction of JosephAdler, whose attention to detail and emotion will be with you long after you leave the theatre.
In this play, Leo (Focus) is a grieving young man who visits his feisty grandmother (Oser) as he reengages with life after a cycling tragedy involving his close friend. They are a left-leaning duo who are re-establishing a relationship. The interaction between the two on a variety of family and non-family complexities is the basis of this reunion. The play takes place over several weeks – with Oser painting a magnificent portrait of the fading widow of a once-celebrated radical, living out of her solitary life until her grandson appears.
But, as brittle as Oser’s character, grandson Leo is even more fragile—at least emotionally. Both actors give performances that defy description. You will end up feeling you know both of them personally and, perhaps, remind you of your own relationship with an aging relative. This play’s honesty about these delicate human beings smacks of realism one seldom gets in the theatre. You cannot help care about these people you see on stage, sometimes forgetting they are only characters.
Leo’s girlfriend who is about to break with him (an excellent Kate O’Phelan) and sexy Wei-Yi Lin ( as a girl he meets at a bar and brings home only for sex ) add to the grandson-grandma character study. They bring humor at a time when one also wants to express sympathy.
4000 Miles is a small story, brilliantly acted – one which will allow us to be intimate with the characters – and stirring us into compassionate reflection – forgetting this is only a play, not real people, That reality , perhaps, makes it great theater!
Oser and Focus are perfect in their portrayals. They both give topnotch performances. If there is any criticism of the play, It is that the ending is abrupt. We wanted more of the interaction between these interesting characters.
As always, =Director Adler has an A-One technical team a set by Lyl e Baskin, lighting by Steve Welsh, sound by Matt Corey, costumes by Ellis Tillman,
4000 Miles runs through April 15. Call 305 445-1119 for tickets.
IN THE HEIGHTS AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE:
A BROADWAY-QUALITY PRODUCTION
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
South Florida is one of the nation’s unique theatre venues. It is the destination for many road shows plus it is blessed with a lopsided number of regional theatres, many of which produce Broadway-quality productions.
That is just one of the many reasons In TheHeights currently at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables is drawing huge crowds for its 25th anniversary season highlight musical. It is Broadway-quality in so many respects – its scenery, lighting, sound, costuming, music – but most of all the direction by David Arisco plus the enviable casting. This cast -- led by the narrator – the fiery Nick Duckart—is outstanding. They sing and dance in an extraordinary manner to the music and lyrics of Lin-Manuel Mirande and tell the story of a neighborhood so beautifully phrased by author Quiara Alegria Hudes.
This production Ii of In The Heights has 20 musically-talented actors in the cast, including nine who have either appeared in the actual Tony-award-winning show on Broadway or in the touring production, which played in South Florida two years ago. One of the reasons this production is so exceptional is that it is the first time ever that members of the original Broadway and national tour casts have joined with Miami’s homegrown talent to reach a growing audience. And, the results are spectacular.
It is the story of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York and its mostly Latin traditions where life is beginning to change – along with its new generation Americans. The hopes, dreams and pressures of these neighborhood people is expressed with the rhythm of their generations. The singing and dancing is a feast for the audience,
So many of the cast deserve praise including the multi-talented Carbonell and Silver Palm recipient Duckart as well as the popular Oscar Cheda, Marcus Paul James, Sarah Amengual, Rayner G. Garranchan, Jose Luis Lopez, Alicia Taylor Tomasko, Elise Santora, Denise Sanchez, Christie Prades, the talented Miamian Renata Eastlick, the amazing voiced Doreen Montalvo from the original Broadway cast as “abuela.” and another South Florida favorite Henry Gainza , the strong-voiced baritone as a street peddler.
The ensemble also includes Jimmy Arguello Dexter Carr, Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Rebecca Kritzer, Javier Munoz, Erika Navarro, and Ivore Rousell.
Director Arisco has a veteran tech team for this production: Scenic design by Sean McClleland; costumes by Ellis Tillman, lighting by Patrick Tennent; sound by Alexander Herrin; and musical direction by Manny Schvartzman. Add to this the talent of choreographer Stephanie Klemons, also from the original NYC cast.
In The Heights will be around until April 7. Call 305 444-9293 for tickets.
FUN, FRIVOLITY, FANTASY EXPLODE AT MALTZ
AS THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE ENTERTAINS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
JUPITER, FL -- If most musicals are known for their attempted realism set to song, then Thoroughly Modern Milllie – currently playing to packed crowds at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre must get an award for its stupendous silliness. That’s what makes this crowd pleaser so enticing and one of the Tony award winning Broadway treats which regularly appears nowadays as a high school production.
But, this classy rendition of Millie is no high school production. Despite its popularity by teenagers this Millie – a joint production of Maltz and New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse -- is a professional standout for fun, frivolity and fantasy.
Thoroughly Modern Millie originally was a 1967 film vehicle for Julie Andrews, and was adapted for the stage in 2000 when it racked up numerous awards. Since then, it has gone on to win accolades in London, touring cities – and, of course, high school auditoriums.
Millie has a little bit of everything – a story about girls moving to New York to find a rich husband during the 1920’s flapper era, a subplot about the white slave trade, speakeasies where jazz is king, not to mention a Chinese version of Al Jolson’sMammy. A number of the songs may seem familiar, even though they may have new lyrics by Dick Scanlan, who wrote this book along with Richard Morris and new music is by Jeanine Tesori.
This musical starts out slowly despite the dancing feet, beautiful women, handsome men, terrific costuming (by Gail Baldoni) but picks up steam as Act II gets underway where the comedy comes in, along with the best toe-tapping numbers. The young ensemble of actors let loose to get your attention in almost every number.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in 1920s NYC, when the wide-eyed heroine of this musical (a golden-voiced Laurie Veldheer) shows off her stuff as a “new woman.” She proudly looks for a rich husband rather than love! She hopes to marry her boss (Burke Moses) a stuffed shirt business type who explodes in comic moments in Act II. It’s a musical battle between reality and romance!
Millie moves into a hotel for actors run by a dragon lady and the mysterious head of an international slaveryring ( Lenora Nemetz) and gets a new best friend and would-be roommate (Ashley Kate Adams) as well as a suitor (a strong-voiced, charismatic tenor Jeff Kready)-- a paper-clip salesman who is – reall… but –you’d-never-know-it —rich. Meanwhile, young wanna-be actors who happen to be orphans – mysteriously disappear to China. We also meet two terrific musical actresses (Jessica Sheridan) as the steno-pool boss at an office and ( Brenda Braxton), who owns a popular speakeasy club with family secrets and connection to most of the lead cast members. And, can she sing!!!! It sounds confusing –but it is fun!
Helen Gregory –the music director – deserves special mention, fueling Millie with several dynamic numbers, the ninth production she musically brings to life at Maltz. Ditto for choreographer Denis Jones – a double Carbonell winner for shows at Maltz, while Mark S. Hoebee, the producing artistic director at Pepper Mill Playhouse proves in the directing category that coop efforts between geographically separated theatres really works. A special bow should go to Andrew Kato, the brilliant producing artistic director at Maltz, who has been the guiding light at the theatre for seven years and brought it to national prominence,
Kudos also to Michael Schweikardt for the creative set design, Marty Metz for sound excellence and Kirk Bookman for lighting. Once again, Maltz delivers an A-One technical team.
The entire ensemble is young, talented and noteworthy – and that includes Carleigh Bettiol, Giovanni Bonaventura, Colleen Broome, dance captain Barry Busby, Billy Bustamonte, Leslie Donna Flesner, Charlie Johnson, Brian Padgett, James Seol, Jessica Sheridan, Kelly Skidmore, Amy VanNorstrand and John T. Wolfe. They all are gifted and make Thoroughly Modern Millie thoroughly enjoyable.
This charming and funny musical runs through March 24. Call 561-575-2223 for tickets
DIRECTOR GARSSON INSPIRES TOPNOTCH
CAST IN BOCA RATON PRODUCTION OF CHICAGO
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
BOCA RATONL FL -- ‘Chicago” is one of my all time favorite musicals. Apparently, the general audience concurs. In 1975, -choreographer Bob Fosse and the composer-lyricist team of John Kander and Fred Ebb hit Broadway big time with their musical. It returned to Broadway as a Tony Award-winning production in 1996. Chicago has been running ever since (somewhere), making it Broadway’s longest-running revival – and set an all-time record in England, as well. Then it became an Academy Award-winning movie in 2002.
It’s a roaring success story for a tale originally told in a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal." The characters are so noteworthy that theatre afcianados everywhere recognize their names. After all there is only one Roxy and Velma.
And, thanks to the acute casting and sharp direction by Keith Garrson, it now is playing to the delight of packed crowds at the Boca Raton Theatre Guild’s production at the Willow Theatre.
Kudos to the music team put together by Garsson (choreographer Ron Hutchins and music director Eric Alsford) but mostly for his casting, the Boca version of Chicago gets three Es ---excellent ,entertaining and enjoyable. It is a not-to-be -missed event.
Krisha Marcano, a lovely lady who got top billing in The Color Purple on Broadway, is a perfect Velma Kelly, the fame-hungry killer who shot her sister and her husband. When she sings My Own Best Friend, it will remind you why Catherine Zeta Jones received an Oscar for the same role. And, can Marcano dance – and sing ! She is perfection.
Local favorite Patti Gardner – seen so often in comedies and dramas – shows her versatility singing and dancing as Roxie Hart, the gal who murders her lover when he announces he’s dumping her. Gardner is A-One in this role and proves in advance why musical producers in South Florida have a gem in their midst for future song and dance roles.
Avi Hoffman drew applause the moment he walked on stage. It is obvious he has lots of fans in Boca. His character, Billy Flynn, is a publicity seeking lawyer who delights and inflates fees to represent the tabloid sensational female killers. He’s funny yet on target with such show-stopping numbers as Razzle DazzleandAll I Care About is Love.
Sally Bondi, as the prison matron, is another showstopper as she connives with When You’re Good to Mama. And, her duet with Marcano -- Class -- is one of the production’s highlights. She certainly looked good enough for a supporting role trophy.
Ditto for Ken Clement as the MisterCellophane -- husband of Roxy – Amos – who is another standout in this entertaining musical.
The rest of the cast seems more than adequate. Despite no major or fill-the-stage production numbers as in the original, this cast nonetheless makes music one can appreciate and deserves praise -- -- the excellent narrator Matt Korinko, Natt Lauar, Mike Westrich, Del Marrero, Lauren Bell, Francisca Munoz, Ann Marie Olsen, Marcella Corbellini Duarte, Jacqueline Laggy, Jerel T. Brown, George Macia and Conor Walton.
Sharyn Peoples is masterful and powerfully-voiced as the 1920s tab-journalist Mary Sunshine, but – to purists – this is a major change in casting from the original, the revival and the movie. That role is usually played by a guy in drag. That’s revealed after Billy (Avi) says that things aren’t always as they seem.
Every number – from All That Jazz to the closing Hot Honey Rag will seem familiar --but still enjoyable to hear again.
Chicago runs through Feb, 17th. Call for tickets: 561-347-3948, www.brtg.org
THE ROVER IS PROVACATIVE AND SEXY
AS THINKING CAP UNVEILS ITS DOZEN ACTORS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
One has to be enthused when the invitation notes that a particular play at a South Florida theatre has a cast of 12. Nowadays, with an eye on the economy, theatrical producers/directors are usually looking for scripts which employ one, two or three characters. Four would be a windfall. So, when Nicole Stoddard, founding artistic director of Thinking Cap Theatre, put together a vintage play employing a cast of a dozen young actors in a small space, The Empire Stage, one has to be impressed,
Stoddard not only produced/directed but also adapted The Rover, written in 1677 by Aphra Behn, Britain’s most prolific woman playwright of the Restoration period. The Rover not only fascinates literary scholars because it was penned by a woman at a time when men – and only a few of them – wrote plays, but also because it is a play filled with sexual innuendo. social satire, prostitutes, and mistaken identities. What fun for a group of people living in Naples in the 1600s—and bringing it here with a funny and funky update.
The whole concept is a testament to Stoddard’s gutsy approach to theatre – who put together a cast equal to the job of providing a couple of hours of fun. Lela Elam -- as an expensive lady of the night –has never been better. She literally sparkles in this role and Scott Douglas Wilson and Noah Levine -- two other South Florida favorites capturedthe essence of this sex comedy.
Adding to the fun are a group of young, talented, handsome actors --Mickey Javien, an especially funny Mark Duncan. the lovely Nori Tecosky, Yevgeniya Kats, and Emilie Paap, Theo Renya, Gordon Diaz, Carey Brianna Hart, and Desiree Mora. The casting could not have been better!
Thinking Cap wa s founded in January, 2010 – devoted to “experimental, provocative and socially conscious work.” This production certainly proves it is living up to its goals!
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS: Here we go again – and a reason to fill theatre seats with local women. This one is called Waistwatchers The Musical and its running through March 21 at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. It’s the brainstorm of Jeannie Linders who earlier wrote Menopause The Musical. This one, produced by Plaza’s Alan Jacobson features –Missy McArdle, Shelley Keelor, and Jeanne Bennett as three women who meet at the gym and discuss girlie stuff like food, sex, relationships and some medical problems which send them to the ladies’ room. For tickets 561 588 1820……..Theatrical readings are becoming the big thing this year. And, the ones at Lynn University (where Jan McArt holds court, are especialy successful. It all started a few weeks ago there with a reading of Tony Finstrom’s new play and now continues with a musical –Champagne & Bosom Buddies - a Tribute to Jerry Herman on March 18. The staged reading of the new musical revue by Jay Stuart, isdirected by Wayne Rudisill and choreographed by Shari Upbin. For reservations, call 561-237-9000 or go to http://events.lynn.edu... ..and if you are around Boca onMonday, March 11, you won’t want to miss the David Michael Finklestein’s Bar Mitzvah, a new musical written by Sue Fabish, author of Motherhood the Musical. and just look at this casting for a “reading” --Katherine Amadeo, Blanca Bassion, Jeffrey Bruce, Clay Cartland, Lindsey Forgey and Vance Viasek. Paul Reckie is the musical director and this one will be directed by Shari Upbin– and it all takes place at (appropriately) B’nai Torah Congregation, 6261 S.W. 18 Street in Boca Raton …And, it is free!! ….,,,,A Raisin in the Sun has been held over for another week (until March 9) at Palm Beach Dramaworks after a huge demand for tickets. Call 561 514 4042 and select a date now.
FAMILY IN “OTHER DESERT CITIES” AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News ./ ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Wow! What marvelous writing! What a terrific cast to mouth those words! Yes, I really liked it!
We are talking about Other Desert Cities, the Pulitzer Prize finalist /Tony Award nominee by Robin Baitz, currently making waves at the Actors’ Playhouse.
In theatrical subjects, there is nothing specifically new about dysfunctional family members, nor even about secret family truths being unveiled, yet the combination coming from a mixed liberal/conservative family does make for high drama/comedy, particularly when so creatively directed by David Arisco and an all-star cast.
First of all, the Wyeth family so well described by author Baitz (of TV’s Brothers and Sisters fame) are a gripping mix of Republican parents and liberal children who are ready to to hash out their differences over the holiday season at their upper-class Palm Springs compound.
The entire family is composed of intelligent, professional, upper middle class folk (that is the wrong word to describe them – nothing folksy about them!) who use cutting remarks to devastate one another while trying to make points. There is daughter Brooke (a magnificent Erin Joy Schmidt) who brings as her post- George W. Bush-election victory , a Christmas gift-- a candid new manuscript detailing an older brother’s suicide, among other things,. Then there are dad – a former Ambassador and Reagan-era Hollywood insider (J. Kenneth Campbell); mother Polly -- a former movie scripter and gal-pal of Nancy Reagan (the outstanding Barbara Bradshaw); brother Trip/a TV reality show creator ( a volatile Antonio Amadeo) and, finally, Aunt Silda (Lourlene Snedker), an erstwhile writer and alcoholic member of the family, practicing sobriety.
It seems Brooke has produced a second novel – actually a memoir, after a mental breakdown. The memoir, not only involves the death of a brother but how the family is involved. This A-One script by playwright Baitz reveals the hypocrisy and callousness of the subsidized / politically involved upper class.
Brooke’s potential manuscript could make matters unlivable, embarrassing her parents, possibly ending their sense of luxurious entitlement and their country club way of life.
What is exceptional about this script is that every character has his or her “moment’ onstage. It is difficult to forget Schmidt’s tirade against her parents. Bradshaw’s tragic appeal to her daughter, or Amadeo’s bombastic request for sanity amidst this crisis. In fact, the five person, five-character ensemble is just plain “amazing.”
This show runs through Feb.10. Call 305 443-9293.
CHOREOGRAPHY MAKES THIS “DAMN YANKEES”
A TWO HOUR FUN VISIT TO BROWARD STAGE DOOR
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL SPRINGS, FL – One might want to boast that we have discovered a new talent – Rocky Duvall, the guy who handled the choreography in the Broward Stage Door’s current production of the 1995 hit musical Damn Yankees.
Actually, “discovered” is not quite the right word inasmuch as Duvall has made Florida I his home for 15 years and he has been the owner and artistic director (for 10 years) of the Dance Arts Conservatory in Wellington and is the executive director of the not for profit Wellington Ballet Theatre, but to theatre newcomers in South Florida, he now seems like a recent addition. In fairness, the choreography in Damn Yankees is so impressive, one should also send kudos to Director (and the man responsible for the musical staging) Dan Kelley, music director David Nagy as well as singer/dancer Allison Maldonado and the entire dancing ensemble who made Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo such a brilliant and memorable choreographed segment midway into Act One. The same funky choreographic excellence is followed in other numbers throughout the show.
Bottom line --- in addition to the dancing and acrobatic prowess of the cast -- this sexy little musical is one of the most enjoyable since producers David Torres and Dee Bunn overwhelmed everyone two years ago with its Carbonell winning Mack and Mabel. This production, let us add, is strictly for having a good time.
The story – with the Yankees as the unbeatable ball club – may seem somewhat outdated, but who cares when such a talented cast sings and dances, allowing its audience to thoroughly enjoy a bit of traditional musical theatre for a couple of hours.
The plot as envisioned by George Abbott and Doug Wallop – with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross -- is a reproduction of the Faust legend – selling your soul to the devil (in this case the multi-talented Matthew William Chizever).
Damn Yankees takes place in the mid-'50s, when the Yankees were unbeatable. It's the story of Joe Boyd (Mark A. Harmon),a die-hard Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the Devil (Chizever) and becomes Joe Hardy (played by a golden voiced Regan Featherstone). The devil gives him the chance to become a young baseball l “magic-hitter” who can win it all for the Senators. But their “contract” allows Joe to have an “out”so he can return to his wife (ElizabethSackett who also has quite the voice) .Turns out the Devil is untrustworthy and has other ideas. The Devil sics seductress Lola ( a beautiful bombshell named Sabra Michelle) on Joe to distract him from the game. But in the end all Joe wants is to be his old self (he misses his wife) and he ditches the-ball-player-high-life to go home. Silly plot! We admit it! But who cares just as long as the dancers keep dancing and the cast keeps singing (Whatever Lola Wants, Heart, Near to You, etc.)
This light hearted musical runs through Feb. 10. Call 954 344-7765 for tickets.
FIVE MINUTES OF FAME AS A SINGER
CAN PRODUCE AN AUDIENCE FAVORITE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News /ENV Magazine
Every so often in regional professional theatre a supporting role – even if only on stage for a matter of minutes -- can so ingratiate himself with the audience that it becomes the unique reason that the play gets more than casual attention. Last season, such was the case with Kevin Reilley in The Birds at Mosaic Theatre. He was only on stage about eight minutes. Yet, it was such a chilling performance, who can possibly forget it? It happened again recently when Singing In the Rain opened its run at the Maltz Jupiter. Only this time it was a musical moment which only lasted five minutes.yet, the individual’s voice – singing only one song and from then on as part of the vocalizing/dancing ensemble— left an indelible mark on the production. it was when Nathan Meyer sang Beautiful Girls as the company tenor. It isn’t often when one young man with such a uniquely gifted voice gets so much attention. The applause was a show-stopping moment well deserved. However, one doesn’t want to forget the entire lead cast of this comic adaptation of the famous 1952 MGM movie. But please do not compare them to Gene Kelley, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds which made the musical flick so entertaining. The plot is easily the same as the movie with some comic interludes including a real rainfall complete with ponchos for those in the first four rows. When silent flicks give way to “talkies,” the superstars of a series of silent swashbucklers, Don Lockwood (Curt Dale Clark) and Lina Lamont (Emily Stockdale) must try to face the new technology -- talking pictures. Lockwood has it nailed, but Lamont has a voice that screeches. Cosmo Brown, the studio piano player and Don’s best pal ( a dancing sensation Brian Shepard)), suggests that Lina be dubbed by novice Kathy Selden ( a lovely-voiced Lauren Blackman), who happens to be Don’s wanna-be love interest. The trio sings admirably and dances to numbers reminiscent of the cinema version –even to an overturned couch and dancing on a wall, all played to remind those old enough to have seen the original movie. All three shine in the singing/dancing numbers. Director Marc Robin moves the production along and insures the audience that this is played to entertain --- no deep thinking allowed! There is still time to see Singing in the Rain through Sunday. Call 561-575-2223.
DELIGHTING IN AND DISCOVERING THE WAY TO MANALAPAN.
When Producing Director Alan Jacobson took over the financially doomed Florida Stage location in Manalapan and renamed it Plaza Theater, some in South Florida were dubious that the new company could make it. When it produced the brilliant Driving Miss Daisy with John Archie and the amazing Harriet Oser, the attitude changed – at least from an artistic standpoint. Now Plaza Theatre – under Jacobson’s guidance and an A-One director Michael Leeds, comes another Broadway-caliber production, Neil Simon’s Chapter 2, starring Wayne LeGettte, Mia Matthews and real-life husband and wife Kenneth Kay and Kim Cozort. It – like many of Simon’s work -- is autobiographical. It was written as a tribute to Marsha Mason – Simon’s second wife. Since writing this dramatic comedy, he has been using his own life as a gag-fest with reality thrown in for mass appeal. It was written – according to those who know them best -- as Mason’s “ tolerance with his long-lasting grief over the death of his first wife” while starting a new life with the young, up and coming actress. This cast is terrific, both with Simon’s gags as well as depicting two people in love who have a barrier in a former situation. (one of the many mysteries which hit me was the use of a huge portrait of LeGette’s real-life ex-wife and still good friend ( Stacy Schwartz)). Yes, this kind of excellent production with a beautiful/lived in/realistic set by Michael McLain, lighting by Glen Rovinelli, costumes by Jerry Sturdefant and sound by Director Leeds, received applause throughout the unusual 18 scenes which compose this 1970s play. It has received such an ovation that Jacobson will do another Neil Simon play next season – BrightonBeach Memoirs. Incidentally, on Feb. 12, there will be a $50 champagne reception and silent auction to benefit this company (complete with entertainment) . It’s a 6:30-9:30 event. Go to www.plazatheatre.net for more details. Incidentally and of utmost importance is how one gets to this theatre, since the Ocean Avenue bridge is gone due to construction which may take two years: Take the Lake Road on the north or Boynton Beach Blvd. or Woolbright Road on the south.and you will get to A1A and eventually to the shopping plaza where the theatre is located, It is worth the ride!!!
It isn’t often that a Florida play gets a review in the Wall Street Journal, but GableStage’s Hamlet isn’t just an ordinary production. Shrunk to 90 minutes by Tarell AlvinMcCraney and his co-worker/writer Bijan Sheibani , it is the perfect vehicle for school-age childen to learn about the unhappy Dane . The review noted that the play will be seen by hundreds of Dade children, following its run at GableStage (through Feb. 10). The five paragraph article by Terry Teachout was especially kind (as he should be) to actor Edgar Miguel Sanchez and took note of the multi-racial cast as being unique. He must not know GableStage’s chief Joe Adler who usually does things one does not expect. This was an unusual but highly deserved review by the usually conservative/not-arts-known publication as WSJ……..Shockwaves went through the theatre community when the two-tiered Carbonell system did not recommend Other DesertCities , the Pulitzer Prize finalist with an extraordinary cast – Barbara Bradshaw, Antonio Amadeo, Erin Joy Schmidt, Lourlene Snedeker and J. Kenneth Campbell at the Actors” Playhouse,. Some Carbonell nominators and judges are calling for a revamping of the system Up to six nominators see each new show opening weekend, then the 11 judges must see all Recommended shows. The nominating process currently is like this: “Either 4 of 6 nominator ballots have mutually agreed on at least one category, or 3 of 6 have mutually agreed on at least two categories.”……..Plenty of theatre openings the next few weeks: “Damn Yankees” at Broward Stage Door, January 25 through February 10: “Gloucester Blue” at Arts Garage, January 25 through February 13: “The Whole Caboodle” by Michael McKeeever at Parade Productions, February 1-24; “A Raisin in the Sun” at Palm Beach Dramaworks, February 1 through March 3; and “Agnes of God” at New Theatre, February 2-17.
HARRIET OSER AND PATTI GARDNER PROVE REALISM
WORKS IN LATEST EDITION OF “THE INTERVIEW”
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
BOCA RATON, FL – Every so often in critiquing a play, one finds two such realistic performances that he must give equal credit to both actresses. That is much the feeling that overcame me after seeing The Interview -- a production of the Women’s Theatre Project at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park.
Both Harrriet Oser and Patti Gardner give suchauthenticity to their characters that it can easily bring a tear to one’s eye-- a true test of theatrical reality.
Oser provides a knockout performance, even equating her memorable appearance as the lead in Driving Miss Daisy, at the Plaza Theatre recently.
And, Gardner – one of South Florida’s busiest actors – is a pure delight as the journalist, interviewing a Holocaust survivor.
Both Oser and Gardner have done these roles before – several years ago, in fact, in Fort Lauderdale, also for WTP -- but the time has been kind to them, allowing them to grow even deeper into their characters and in allowing the playwright to to do some script mending.
Note:There’s still time to see these poignant performances as they are unveiled by Director Genie Croft of theWomen’s Theatre Project. There are performances Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. This show runs through Jan. 20. But, be forewarned. There are only 155 seats in this theatre so book your ticket now -- 561-347-3948
Oser delivers a one-two punch in the touching story about a mother's and daughter's reaction to the Holocaust. The tale unfolds on the day a Holocaust survivor meets her interviewer – a dynamic Gardner -- who is also the child of a Holocaust survivor. Oser and Gardner are so realistic, it hardly seems like acting!
The Interview by Faye Sholiton is a deeply moving memory play about the legacy of human suffering -- written with clarity and feeling. It resonates on all levels. Sholiton drew inspiration for her play from her real-life experiences as a journalist and interviewer of Holocaust survivors.
Along with Oser and Gardner is the versatile and stunning always-a-winner Irene Adjan and newcomer Christopher Mitchell
There has been plenty of material written about the Holocaust and its effect on the victims, but rarely does a play consider what a survivor’s child -- the next generation -- feels or how it affects the relationship of the different succeeding family members.
It’s a somber subject but author Sholiton, a Cleveland, Ohio, writer, tackles it with intense yet pragmatic fashion. The issue plays out as Ann ( Gardner) is working on a project to record the video testimony of the horrors of Nazism and meets her subject Bracha Weissman (Oser). What the interviewer meets, however, is more than she expects. The character Bracha has endured so many losses in the camps of Hitler’s German. Thus, she has problems in expressing motherly love towards her daughter (Adjan), and the interviewer has her own struggle accepting a relationship with parents who refused to discuss the horrors of World War II.
“We awakened a lot of memories," the interviewer tells her subject."They were never asleep," the survivor replies.
The reality of this story is that both of these characters have a lot of baggage in recalling the past; one who wants to forever close the door on this historic horror but doesn’t quite know how, and the other, whose memory turns into self-blame, silence and an inability to connect with family.
The Interview is a play which depends heavily on the interaction of the two main characters and Director Croft once again makes them interesting enough even before the Q and A session begins.
Adjan, another South Florida favorite, is Oser’s daughter whom we meet long distance, basically in the mind of her mother ((she lives in California). She is estranged from her angry mother. . Who wants to applaud a character who cannot get close to her mother? Talk about the guilt factor!! Yet, don’t blame the daughter entirely. Oser’s character says “There is no happy ending after Auchwitz” and procedes to live her life under that cloud.
But as good as the entire cast is, this show is primarilyl Oser and Gardner. Oser’s eyes project the horror of Auchwitz and Gardner’s explosion of anger toward family and the All-Being are the final bridges in the understanding that only by facing the past can anyone move beyond it. This subject could be heavy-handed but there are moments of humor to reduce the intensity.
FOUR PLAYLETS ADD UP TO BRITISH FUN
IN AGATHA CHRISTIE’S BBC MURDERS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – -- Who knew a murder mystery could be so much fun? Who would have thought a play starting with a serious audience rendition of God Save The Queen could turn into a spree of comic proportions? Who would have thought a murder mystery would even contain memorable music? Well, if it carries the name of Agatha Christie, one can be sure that anything can happen – and does!
That’s what is taking place these days at the Parker Playhouse where impresario Zev Buffman has produced what many writers would call an “historic” re-awakening of hidden stories and putting them all together as the Agatha Christie BBC Murders.
Just how this play evolved is almost as intriguing as the play itself. Buffman – whose name was linked historically with the venerable Coconut Grove Playhouse during the 1950s and with Parker in succeeding years, actually rescued four of mystery writer Christie’s radio plays from oblivion in a London archives. He put four of these playlets together under the name Agatha Christie BBC Murders. Except for a brief tryout period in Clearwater, this version is the Broadway Across America premiere of this solid mystery, ready to lure fans of the world-famous and long-running Mousetrap, Christie’s most famous theatrical offering. The playlets which make up this most enjoyable mystery are Butter is a Lordly Dish, Three Blind Mice (from whence Mousetrap evolved), Personal Call and Yellow Iris. Although they all could stand on their own, the mixture is pure delight for the wide range of mystery/theatre fans
BBC Murders is adapted for the stage and ably directed by Judith Walcutt and David Ossman. The copyrights for all four mysteries are held by Agatha Christie Limited, in London, England
The cast of this play is vintage perfection. Special nods deservedly goes to the entire cast – TV-super-actor Gary Sandy, Lauren Allison, Alex Jorth, Phil Proctor, Tony Brewer, Orson Ossman, Christopher Swan, Amy Walker, Richard Fish, Cassie Post, Lesley Staples, as well as Melinda Peterson as Agatha Christie and two South Florida favorites – Angie Radosh and Elizabeth Dimon – all of whom compose this talented ensemble.
We won’t go into the details of these four murder mysteries. That would only spoil the fun and the intrigue of these playlets covering 140 minutes. However, it is only fitting that we recall the four playlets which, except for the BBC radio broadcasts a generation or so ago, are generally unknown to audiences today.
The BBC Murders historic origin was initially at BBC radio Mystery Series, just before & after World War II. The manuscripts were lost for more than 50 years due to the London Blitz & post war reconstruction.
Mathew Prichard, Grandson of Dame Agatha & the President of the vast Agatha Christie Estate, when contacted by Buffman about staging the lost Murders in the US, received the following response: “I am delighted that Zev’s team is putting together my grandmother’s wonderful BBC Plays which number some of her best works. I am sure that the USA live audience will enjoy them enormously.” –He was right!
Here is how the descriptions are aired on the Internet. And, we quote:
Butter in a Lordly Dish was first performed on the BBC on Tuesday, January 13, 1948 in a strand entitled Mystery Playhouse Presents, The Detection Club. The play title comes from the Bible: Judges, 5:25: “He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish”. “He” refers to Sisera and “she” is Jael. In the Bible Jael kills Sisera by hammering a nail through his head (This work was never published before).
Three Blind Mice was part of a May 30, 1947 evening program in honor of Queen Mary’s Eightieth birthday The BBC approached the queens some months prior and asked for her special favorites. Among a selection of music and variety, she requested a new mystery by Agatha Christie, a writer the queen deeply admired. The world’s longest running play The Mousetrap was based on Three Blind Mice.
Personal Call mixes a strong drink of delicious deception into a haunting story of lies and betrayal. Superstition will take you on a murderous adventure through London train stations and give you a ghostly encounter. Presented on the BBC, Monday, May 31, 1954, the play reuses the character of Inspector Narracott from the 1931 novel The Sittaford Mystery.
Yellow Iris was first presented on the BBC National Program in 1937. The main part of the story takes place in a London Cabaret. The play is unusual in that the production intersperses the action with the live musicians and performances of the cabaret artists who were on the bill at the restaurant where the murder is committed. It introduced the character Belgian Inspector Hercule Poirot,(laughably portrayed by Phil Proctor) later to become one of Christie fans’ favorite detectives. Composer, singer-songwriter Tony & Grammy winning Rupert Holmes wrote several original songs specifically for this play and they are topnotch chords.
The technical aspects of this production are outstanding. Special note should go to Steven B. Weise for sound design as well as Miles Hanson, Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard for carrying out the sound moments which add so much to the fun.
The show runs through Feb. 3. Call 954 764 1441 for tickets.
YOUTHFUL VIGOR DOES HAMLET WELL
AS IT STIRS GABLESTAGE ENROUTE TO SCHOOLS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- I have never enjoyed a production of Hamlet more than the tightened, 90-minute one put together by the brilliant director /adapter Tarrel Alvin McCraney and his editing cohort ( Bijan Sheibani), currently holding court at GableStage. And that includes my own high school reading presentation (in which I played Hamlet’s best buddy (Horatio), several 224 minute professional presentations – even the visionary movies starring Sir Laurence Olivier (1948),a full length version featuring Kenneth Branagh ( 1996), even the 2000 modernized adaptation produced for Ethan Hawke (2000). In fact, there have been some 50 film versions and dozens of stage productions made since 1900, ranging from a five hour stage version to movies starring the astonishing Richard Burton to the ridiculous action-hero Mel Gibson.
But, what makes the GableStage version so enjoyable is that it has a youthful vigor, perefect for showing to high school students (which it will do in Miami area schools following its commercial run here). It isn’t just the superiority of the shorter version -- envisioned by McCraney -- that makes it so student-proof but it will give everyone a new appreciation of Shakespearian theatre. In the retelling of The Bard’s most famous play, it introduces students perfectly to the mostpowerful and influential tragedies in all of English literature.
Another reason to adore this Hamlet is the casting – an arrray of youthful talent one might expect from a more experienced company.
Edgar Miguel Sanchez, who-like many in the cast grew up in South Florida – is an intense Hamlet. His performance is outstanding. In taking on one of the most difficult roles in theatre and risking comparison with so much talent in the play’s history, Sanchez could easily have failed. It is a difficult role, which he admirably enthrones. He is a memorable Prince of Denmark!
The rest of the cast, as well, is perfect and will be a guide (whether they realize I or not) towards a learning tool as they perform Hamlet free for the Miami-Dade school children.
In addition to the noteworthy Sanchez, the rest of the impressive cast shimmers. Among those remarkable performers are Dylan Kammerer (Horatio), James Samuel Randolph (King Claudius/Ghost), Alana Arenas (Queen Gertrude), Ryan George (Laeretes/Rosencrantz), a lovely Mimi Davila (Ophelia), veteran actor Peter Haig (Polonius), Arielle Hofman (Guildenstern/Orsic)and the others in this ideal ensmble – Laura DiLorenzo, Michael Napoles and Alfie Ramirez.
Despite is cutting edge shortened 90 minutes, this play (and thus McCraney) is able to explore the varous themes which Shakespeare built into this masterpiece -- treachery, revenge, incest, moral corruption and family. The main themes and language sustains in this version,
Set in the Kingdom of Denmark (yet modernized with current dress codes) , the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering the king -- Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow -- Prince Hamlet's mother (a noteworthy performance, we must add, by Alana Arenas).
The final fight scene, complete with swords, will keep one on the edge or his or her seats. It is choreographed with dynamic realism by Bruce Lecure.
Hamlet runs though Feb. 10. For ticket information, contact 305 445-1119.
IN “ALL NEW PEOPLE” AT ARSHT
RICHBERG, DURKIN, GRAVER, MCKENNA
PROVE TO BE A ZOETIC PRIZE ENSEMBLE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI -- It is quite early in the theatrical season, but one would be hard-pressed to find a better acting ensemble than the richly-talented quartet which make up All New People, the charming Zoetic Stage production currently drawing large crowds to the Arsht Center here.
It is enough to note the standing ovation given the cast of this comedy opening weekend, but rarely does one hear such overwhelming comments about the entire staff --director StuartMeltzer, the technical crew but, mostly, about the superb acting foursome – Todd Allen Durkin, Betsy Graver, Amy McKenna and Nicholas Richberg.
Zoetic Stage -- only in its third season -- is to be congratulated for bringing to South Florida such an enjoyable and thought –provoking 90 minutes of sheer delight. All New People is a 2011 black comedy by actor/playwright Zach Braff(the star of Scrubs). It has played primarily in England where it got rave reviews. It probably has the makings of a film, so Hollywood agents may want to get a healthy look at this comedic script. It also bodes well for Zoetic which promised to be a collaborative artistic ensemble of directors, actors, playwrights, musicians and designers This kind of production delivers on its mission. Zoetic Stage is also a proud Arts Partner with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
This play is set on Long Beach Island, N.J. (recently in the news because of hurricane damage) and centers on Charlie (Nicholas Richberg) , a 35-year-old who is obviously quite distraught. The play is set in a rich friend’s beachouse and begins with Charlie's interrupted suicide bid. Emma (Amy McKenna), an “illegal alien” from Britain and part-time realtor, arrives in time to save him. She is there to show the property to prospective tenants and infers that her arrival was divine intervention, and sets about trying to rescue Charlie. She calls in Myron, a Long Island fire-fighter (and drug dealer) (a splashingly brilliant portrayal by Todd Allen Durkin) to help. Finally, Kim (Betsy Graver), a super -escort girl provided by one of Charlie's friends at $15,000 a night, joins the trio.
Charlie tells the group that he has slain six people, as an explanation for why he was trying to commit suicide. As the play ensues, the reasons of how each of the other people came to be there are revealed. This is achieved with a series of projected “filmed interludes”.on a wide screen TV. Will Charlie reveal why he really want to kill himself; will the other new found friends tell more about themselves revealing hidden secrets?
The message is quite forward: You are not alone on this earth(or planet and “kind strangers make life worth living.” It plays homage to the fact that unexpected and accidental friendships can arise in life’s most trying moments. Author Braff provides that perspective in a comedic but heart-wrenching manner
Technichally, this production gets four bells as well. As assistant to director Meltzer is popular young starlet JackieRivera, who is joined by the perfect scenic design creator Michael McKeever, plus lighting by Luke Klingberg, and the overall technical direction by Bombshell Productions. They all must be doing something right to create such a harmonious work.
This is a show worth seeing and you have until Jan. 27 to do so. Call 305 -949-6722 for tickets.
THREE-ACT “A DELICATE BALANCE’ POSES
SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT FRENDSHIP
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
WEST PALM BEACH FL – It is a rarity nowadays to see a production with three acts /two intermissions. However, this is 2012, nearly 2013, And Edward Albee’sPulitzer and Tony winning play A Delicate Balance – currently at Palm Beach Dramawokrs –was written in 1966 at a time when three act plays were more accepted, more the norm.
Nonetheless despite the play’s length, today’s theatergoers are in for a treat and the necessity for a philosophical discussion after viewing this remarkable production directed by William Hayes and held together by a strong cast consisting og Maureen Anderman, Dennis Creghan, Angie Radosh, Ann Bates, Laura Turnbull, and Rob Donahue.
It all takes place in the living room - well-stocked bar-- expensively wood paneled –library of an upscale, contemporary suburban home belonging to Agnes (Maureen Anderman) and Tobias (Dennis Creghan). Despite their own personal horrors, their home is an immaculate setting. They are a well-dressed couple. She is a lovely lady, noting somewhat cheerfully that some day she may go mad. He is a a gentleman, quite content to listen, offer an occasional comment, while mixing drinks, apparently the custom for this upscale couple. In a long soliloquy by Agnes, we learn of frigid marriages, infidelities, lost children and, eventuallh, lifelong friendships.
Also in the house is Agnes’ sister Claire who admits to alcoholism (a splendid performance by Angie Radosh) and then comes home the four times married-now separated Julia (Ann Bates), their daughter. If that isn’t enough, along come best friends Edna (Laura Turnbull) and Harry (Donohue) who decide to move in because of some unknown fear or terror. It asks the question on the depth of a 40-year-old friendship. Just what a good friendship means should provide fodder for an after-show dialog, based on this blend of theatrical fireworks.
For those who think they know the works of Albee, this production of A Delicate Balance may open the door for further discussion, as well. It may not be as explosive as his Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But it certainly is more humane as it asks so many profound questions regarding real life, while it makes Albee’s Three Tall Women – another of his “best-known” plays-- seem rather bland and obscure. A Delicate Balance , by far, is more of a personal horror story, asking questions one can only imagine.
This production – obviously “talkie” – is superb. The scenic design by Michael Amico, in particular, is a dramatic backdrop to the family-and –friendship questions. The setting is a drawing room in which comedies usually flourish. But here we get a taste of upper class American conversation and living drama.
What is best about this production are the classy performances of the entire cast and the particular way in which they allow for commentary. Anderman and Creghan provide the initial fireworks, followed by the explosive renditions of the other live-ins (Radosh and Bates) while it climaxes with superb supporting roles as the “longtime friends” played by Turnbull and Donohue (each of whom are remarkable in the final act).
This show runs through Jan. 6. Call (561) 514-4042 for tickets(if you can get them).
SISTER ACT ROCKS BROWARD CENTER
WITH POWERFUL MUSIC, COSTUMES AND GAGS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – With a group of nuns rocking to raise the Gothic rafters and a message ranging from hilarity to humanity, Sister Act – currently at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts – is a heavenly musical treat for the packed audiences expected at this theatre for its Florida run.
Yes, it is a Broadway re-creation of the 1992 Whoopie Goldberg movie and Broadway hit of the same name (with a whole lot of new music), but this is one heck of an original production – a treat for the entire family.
The storyline is much the same as the movie, when a night club singer is forced to hide out, after witnessing a murder. She finds solace with a group of Philadelphia-based nuns and, in turn, forges the nunnery into a haven for budding, religious rock stars. It’s all in fun – and there is plenty of reasons for the audience to snicker, laugh and applaud while listening to some heavenly music and theatrical gags.
Sister Act was a treat on Broadway – and this road show production has nothing to fear by comparison in this local run,
Deloris, the heroine of Sister Act seeking asylum in the nunnery, is played with comic finesse and a powerful voice by Ta’rea Campbell. Other notable voices are those of the Mother Superior (Hollis Resnik) and a church novice ( Lael Van Kuren).All three plus a dozen golden-voiced nuns help perfect Alan Menken’s music and Glenn Slater’s lyrics and keep the moments speeding by under the able direction of Jerry Zaks.
The music and comedy are both routed in some of the best choreography seen on a Florida stage in some time. Credit that to choreographer Anthony Van Last. At the same time, give glowing kudos to costume designer Lez Brotherston for creative work to clothe the cast.
In a show like Sister Act it is easy to find excellent female performances but, in this cast, one must give special attention to manly E. Clayton Cornelious -- who as a down on his luck police officer smitten with the heroine -- mesmerizes the audience with one number I Could Be That Guy. It is a show-stopping performance, aided by some of the most unique costume changing one could expect on stage. Cornelious belts out this tune , almost asking for a standing ovation. Add to the fun is a number featuring Todd A. Harmon, Ernie Pruneda, Jason Simon and Charles Barkdale and throw in Kingsley Leggs as the bad guy looking for the good girl in the convent and you have a masterful crew of vocalizing men to match the women.
This production runs through Dec.30 For tickets, call 954-462-0222
JANET DACAL, CHRISTOPHER KENT VOCALIZE
A FIVE YEAR LOVE PACT AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Love is always a topical subject in musical theatre. The Last Five Years –an 85 minute musical (the kind one usually finds Off – Broadway or on the regional circuit) – takes a different interpretation of that four-letter L word in its current run at Actors’ Playhouse. Tony-award winning author/composer Jason Robert Brown spins a musical tale about a five year relationship, taking it from beginning to end. What makes this musical playlet so absorbing are the guy’s songs being spent -- from courtship to divorce – while the female lead vocalization begins at the breakup and works in reverse to the first fatal attraction.
This might be confusing in lesser hands, but fortunately Director David Arisco has two excellent voices/performers to tell the Drama Desk winning-story from the various perspectives. The only prerequisite for the audience is to listen closely to every lyric or spoken line inasmuch as it is herein that composer Brown has sculpted his musical journey of flirtation- to-marriage-to-divorce
Broadway star Janet Dacal and South Florida favorite Christopher Kent are two great choices for the couple who go from romance to relationship-finale in this 2002 musical. They are the classy duet to capture the complex orchestrations and challenging vocals presented by the author/composer. There are rumors other producers want to take this show to Off-Broadway in NYC next year and – if they indeed do so—they have to look no further than this particularly charming twosome for formidable casting.
Dacal has done the NY scene many times, She starred in Broadway’s Wonderland as the lead role of Alice and also had a lead role in In The Heights. She has done other Broadway and Off-Broadway shows as well as displaying her talent numerous times at Actors’ Playhouse. Kent is a multiple Carbonell award nominee in more than 30 shows at Actors Playhouse.He literally grew up some 20 years ago using his musical skills here. He may find himself with another nomination in the music category for 2012-13.
The creative team for this musical includes musical director Emanuel Schvartzman, set designer Sean McClelland, Costume designer Ellis Tillman, lighting guru PatrickTennent and sound designer Alexander Herrin.
The Last Five Years is described as a contemporary song-cycle musical exploring the relationship between a successfully rising novelist -- Jamie Wellerstein (Kent) – and Cathy Hiatt (Dacal)—a struggling actress. Their effort to keep love alive can be funny and uplifting – but, be forewarned, to totally understand the story, you must pay attention to all the lyrics. They form the prototype of what some may term --a modern romance.
The Last Five Years runs through Dec. 30. Call 305 444-9293 for tickets.
HOFFMAN, CARROLL, GARDNER MAKE US LAUGH
IN PLAZA THEATRE’S REVIVAL OF 1960’S “LUV”
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MANALAPAN, FL -- Get ready for some laughs. Get set for some absurdist comedy.. Get in the mood to have a good time. It’s the latest reincarnation of the comedy, Luv, by Murray Schisgal, currently offering a multitude of vaudevillian-style humor at the Plaza Theatre.
Luv is a two-act comedy about mismatched lovers, soulmates and matchmaking, beautifully directed by Andy Rogow and acted by a classy trio consistingofthe unique and laugh=provoking Avi Hoffman, the lovely Patti Gardner, and the unpredictable, amazingly funny Steven J. Carroll.
If the name sounds familiar, you must be a theatre/movie buff. The two-act play was a 1964 Broadway hit, winning three Tony Awards plus the honor as a nominee for best play. It later became a movie, then a musical. The stage version was translated into French and was a smashing success.
But, this version stands alone -- thanks to three outstanding performances, When Hoffman curls his lips, he makes a statement, evoking audience delight. Gardner is a vision of lovliness and a comedienne extraordinaire., And, Carroll –a relative newcomer to South Florida audiences, grimaces and holds his face in silent form to induce hilarity He deserved the ovation opening night.
Luv is about a man named Harry Berlin (Caroll) standing on a bridge, ready to jump into the water below. A passerby named Milt Manville (Hoffman) recognizes him as an old college buddy. Although they haven’t seen each other in 15 years, the two enter into an intimate dialog – each explaining why their lives are so horrible. Including brutal childhoods, The conversation eventually leads to Mitt’s suggeston that he has the right person to make Harry happy – his own wife, Ellen Manviile (Gardner) -- whom he tries to foist on his old pal so he can run off with his mistress.
The absurbist script allows all three actors to use their comic talent. Hoffman is the perfect foil for Carroll, using facial features as he delivers a one-two knockout comic punch . Noone delivers a slapstick comic performance better than Avi Hoffman. Both he and Caroll are hilarious, realizing this play is more like vaudeville than reality. And Gardner, one of South Florida’s busiest actors, keeps the momentum going at a comic pace. She is a delight,
The original play on Broadway starred Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach and Ann Jackson. The 1967 film version starred Jack Lemon, Peter Falk and Elaine May, The trio at Plaza Theatre can stand comparison with any of the above casts.
Sean McClelland deserves special mention for his scenic design – a New York City bridge..
Some may find certain parts of the dialog dated. Subjects like homosexuality, women’s rights, infidelity, depression aren’t handled today as they were 50 years ago. But the 1964 script makes up for its time-lines by delivering very funny -- though absurd -- dialog.
(The only thing not fun is trying to get to the theatre. The Ocean Blvd. bridge is being repaired so one must be on 95, then go east on Boynton Beach Blvd. to A1A and then head north until one reaches the shopping center in which the theatre is located—on Ocean Blvd.) However, it is worth the ride.)
Luv runs through December 30. Call 561 588-1820. for tickets.
Playwright Robert Caisley’s Latest Funny Offering
SCOTT DOUGLAS WILSON, MARIA RAMIREZ
TEST AUDIENCE ON HAPPINESS AT NEW THEATRE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
Miami -- Emotionally disturbed? Quite satisfied with one’s life? Devious or honest? Suppressed feelings? Happy or unhappy?
Playwright Robert Caisley tackles all these subjects and leaves open the question of “what is happiness?” and “am I missing something in my life?”
All this takes place in the studo/living space portrayed in Happy, a 90-minute premiere exercise in how people react in given situations, having its latest audience test /playwright revision at New Theatre
Caisley, a college professor in real life, is writing about a fictional college teacher (Alfred portrayed by an energetic Scott David Wilson)who believes he is quite happy in his job, marriage of 14 years, life-in-general. Even though he has a daughter with cerebral palsey, he seems happy with everything.
During the play, a 22 year old bohemian artist Eva(Maria Cortina Ramirez) – girlfriend of his best pal –is a lovely young lady bent on becoming pathological manipulator who can get any man to adore her.
Though this is a four-person play, it is mostly about these two characters.,
Alfred arrives at a dinner party (early and completely wet seemingly on purpose ---- splashed by an SUV driver) to meet his fellow teacher’s newest heartthrob live-in, Eva. He is greeted by Eva, wearing a towel and turban and a distinct personality geared toward making him uncomfortable. and – above all --questioning his happiness.
Alfred’s wife Melinda ( JessIca Marion Welch) and fellow teacher/best pal Eduardo (ErnestoMiyares) also arrive for the dinner party. And, from then on, the evening becomes a drunken, bloody scenario, culminating with Alfred in his underwear having young Eva open her bathrobe to show him her hidden tattoo. Alfred is at an emotional crisis, pondering if he really is happy and secure or does he seek more! It is also a questioning play about how vicious and envious some people can be.
Playwright Caisley, who teaches at the University of Idaho , has had two other plays produced at New theatre – Kissing and Winter. Happy is the second of a four-venue National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere exercise. It started in Montana, then this production in Florida at New Theatre, then on to California and New Jersey. Each production allows the author to re-work snd refine his characters and plot.
If that is the case, only a little tweaking will be necessary. The only items to make this better would be to have versatile Wilson and the luscious Ramirez play these roles in all two remaining U.S. locations.. Wilson, in particular, sparkles as the nebbish professor whose lust and happiness come into question. One gets the feeling the audience is pulling for Wilson’s character. He makes Alfred likeable and quite human.
Author Caisley has an obvious sense of humor and his funny script evokes plenty of laughs within the seriousness of the plot.
Ricky J, Martinez does an A-One job o directing this play and assuring that all four characters seem realistic and elicit their individual feelings. Martinez also created the excellent set, highlighted by original art work created by Theresa Marie Callouri.
Lighting is by Eric J. Cantrell and sound by R. Kent Wilson.
New Theatre is located in the Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 S.W, 107 Ave. in Miami. For tickets call 305 443-5909.
MATT LOEHR, TOE-TAPPING CAST CHARM
IN MALTZ’S DAZZLING “THE MUSIC MAN”
BY Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
JUPITER, FL - TheMusic Man has been touted and promoted for years as America’s favorite musical show. Whether that is true or not, we shall leave for future argument – but there is no doubt that the current production of Meredith Wilson’s classic 1957 story at Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a heart-warming, dazzling show filled with top talent, amazing choreography, classy scenic design and powerful costuming – turning it into an A-One musical experience to launch this theatre company’s 10th season.
When a production has the makings of a sensational hit, the kudos must go to the visionary Producing Artistic Director Andrew Kato for putting together such an extraordinary array of talent both behind-the curtain and before the audience -- a regional dream team consisting of:
Matt Loehr-- A Carbonell-winning leading man who sparkles as he dances and sings as he plays the part of the legendary Harold Hill, the con-man with a heart.
Mark Martino –an accomplished director whose timing and musical leadership is fantastic.
3, Shea Sullivan and her associatedance captain Dennis O’Bannion for some of the finest choreography seen in South Florida.
4... Paul Tate DepooIII for scenic design which astounds every time the curtain opens (particularly the opening scene on a train).
5. Ann Shuttlesworth who gives the Musical Direction needed for a cast of 25 (including nine children),
6 Jose M. Rivera -- designs more than 100 different costumes for his sixth show at Maltz.
7.‘Mandy Bruno – the charming librarian with the lovely voice.
8. A supporting cast every director dreams of having.
Of course, everyone involved with this outstanding production deserve praise . It is regional theatre at its best – the kind of company show which could transplant itself to Broadway with ease.
The Music Man is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Wilson,(based on a story by Wilson and Franklin Lacey.). The plot concerns con man Harold Hill (a superb Matt Loehr ). He poses as a boys' band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk before skipping town (River City, Iowa) with the cash. In River City, prim librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo (Mandy Bruno) sees through him, but when Hill helps her younger brother overcome his lisping, Marian falls in love with Harold. Harold, in turn risks everything for her.
In 1957, this musical won five Tony Awards, and ran for 1,375 performaces. The cast album won the first Grammy Award for "Best Original Cast Album" and was number one on the Billboard charts for 245 weeks. The show's success led to the 1962 film adaptation (With Broadway’s Robert Preston )and a 2003 television version.
And, this production has some of the best in toe-tapping and romantic numbers, including Seventy Six Trombones, Till There Was You, Goodnight My Someone –even11 year old Evan Carlson singing a show-stopping version of Gary, India with Bruno and local favorite Elizabeth Dimon,
Other recognizable South Floiida actors in this fun, family musical include Irene Adjan, John Felix, Jay Johnson, Dennis O’Bannion, and , if you have a good memory of previous Maltz productions you will note a number of familiar faces dancing and singing in this entertaining show –Richard Costa, Paul Castree Shayla Benoit plus newcomers to Maltz -- Brittany Congiati. KC Fredericks, Skye Friedman, Tegan Kahn, Daniel Karmidas, Abbie Levasseur, Emily Levasseur, Amanda LaMotte, Rachel Lomax, Piper Macarhur, Ann McNelly, Gillian Munsayac, Nico Ramirez, Claire Oberlin, Don Rey, Mary Elizabeth Rich, Aaron Simons, Michael Stern, and Joshua Woodie.
With lightingby Donald Edmund Thomas, sound by Marty Metz. this production is technically perfect., as well.
This show runs through Dec. 16. Call 561-575-2223.
SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS
BUZZEO, SPEAR CHARM AUDIENCES
DURING BROWARD STAGE DOOR COMEDY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL SPRINGS, FL -- If the title befuddles you and you think you are about to see a musical, think again! Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks currently at the home of delightful musicals --- the Broward Stage Door Theatre -- is a two character comedy.drama about the growing relationship of a 72-year-old widow/retiree who wants people to think she is younger and an a mid-age/gay dance instructor who speaks his mind, no matter how it comes out.
It is a comic look on how difficult it is for individuals to relate to one another.
Lily Harrison ( Phyllis Spear) is the uptight senior living in a condo in St Petersburg, who books a series of private dance lessons from Michael Minetti (a delightful Larry Buzzeo)and in seven scenes(the last being a “bonus lesson), they become extremely close.
That may be an over-simplification of the plot written so beautifully by playwright/actor Richard Alfiere and directed by Dan Kelley, however it pretty well describes the blooming relationship by two very different people. Alfiere presents Lilly as the widow of a minister and Michael as a self-censuring, one-time chorus boy who somehow or other connect after getting off on the wrong foot .
This production of a successful comedy may be a prelude to it being made into a movie. The play has already become a smash since it debuted on Broadway with Uta Hagen and David Hyde Pierce and – since then – has been translated into 22 languages for stage versions internationally. Now, it is being touted as a possible film to be shot in 2013. (casting -- yet to be determined).
Buzzeo plays the ex-chorus boy with gusto as he dresses up for each type of dance ( tango, cha-cha, swing, Viennese Waltz, fox trot, contemporary dance) while Spear plays the laid back widow who eventually finds a compatible /understanding human being. . The play ultimately shares great gifts of loyalty and compassion. The opening weekend audience welcomed the moral lessons amidst the hysterical moments of this play.
Here is a script and dialog which is razor-sharp/ thoughtful and genuinely moving. There is something for everyone – even a bit of dance music for those who misinterpret the title and expect more than two-people choreography (well executed thanks to Dan Kelley).
This play runs through Dec. 9. Call 954 344-7765 for tickets.
THE BIRDS GIVES DIRECTOR MANZELLI
THE OPPORTUNITY TO SET THE MOOD
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
PLANTATION, FL -- Years ago, a Miami High school drama teacher admonished her class of fledgling actors that – no matter how good the thespians are, it is the director who deserves much of the credit for creating the mood of a play or movie. She cited Alfred Hitchcock as an example.
If that is a truism than John Manzelli, the guest director at Mosaic Theatre for Conor McPherson’sThe Birds should take some of the bows for this psychological thriller. The Birds is a staged version of the 1952 Daphne du Maurier short story which inspired the scary Hitchcock movie that spooked so many cinema fans in 1963.
While it is true that this 2012 play is less scary than its earlier versions. the play is tense enough to induce some psychological soul-searching while turning the 85 minute production into a series of short scenes in which we meet four interesting characters (possibly the last four humans on earth). They are thrown together in an abandoned house on an unnamed coastline where –when the tides are in – they are attacked by a variety of birds. A dynamic Kim Cozort is a writer who narrates this story. Her real-life husband Kenneth Kay (as a volatile individual) sharesthis safe-zone with heruntil others intrude in their space— Vera Varlamov as an alluring younger woman with an agenda of her own and a creepy farmer(Kevin Reilly) – who has indecent proposals on his mind. All four actors are memorable, obviously taking their scary cues from director Manzelli,
This is not Irish playwright McPherson,s first foray into Mosaic-land. Mosaic producer/founder Richard Jay Simon seems to like McPherson’s works. The Carbonell-winning production of The Seafarer (in 2008) is another McPherson-Simon collaboration and GableStage produced Shining City four years ago and New Theatre, gave us McPherson’s The Weir in 2002.
Set designer Douglas Grinn’s provides a perfect location to wait out the feathered killers but it is sound designer Matt Corey who adds to the psychological illusions with his cooing sounds and flapping seagull wings (the scariest moments in this show) while lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones adds to the consistent mystery.
Mosaic Theatre is located at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation. The show runs through December 9. Call 954-577-8243 for tickets.REVIEWS
VENUS IN FUR SEEKS INTELLIGENT DISCUSSION
ABOUT THE WRITING OF A PSYCHOSEXUAL PLAY
BY Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Filled with emotional and comic performances by two excellent actors, Venus in Fur is s a one of-a-kind production at GableStage that will call for an intelligent discussion about theatre once the curtain calls are ended.,
It is that kind of show – one that makes you think! What was this all about? Is there a hidden message?
Simply put (if, in fact, there is anything simple about this play), Venus in Fur – admirably directed by Joseph Adler, is about a writer/director (Matthew William Chizever) who is casting his play and an actress (Betsy Graver) who arrives late for the audition but seems to know the entire script. You see the script is a psychosexual play that raises many questions. Graver plays an actress, desperate for an acting job, while Chizever is tired after auditioning inept actors for his play, which is based on a novella by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Yes, he’s the author whose name spawned part of the term sadomasochism, the other coming from the Marquis de Sade.
"Venus in Fur" is about this strange audition to cast this play within the play in which the author talks about a fondness for fur ever since an aunt whipped him with a birch switch while servants held him down, bare-bottomed, on a fur throw when he was a child. The experience obviously marked him for llife and as an author!
In the meantime, this young attractive actress comes on as a sex goddess , a ditzy blonde who seems intent on dominating the director.
Venus in Fur, at times confusing, asks a multitude of questions – but thoroughly intrigues its audience. thanks to the extraordinary acting of Chizever and Graver. They are an astonishing acting twosome --and the main reason to see Venus in Fur.
Venus in Fur by David Ives was a a major hit off-Broadway and on the Great White Way and got A-One reviews and acting awards..
The GableStage version is so well directed by Adler and so perfectly acted that it will certainly get the attention of local acting awards. Graver is outstanding and Chizever is a wonder -always on the top of his game. ( In this gig, never better!)
Lyle Baskin delivers a realistic set, Jeff Quinn adds with his lighting skills and Matt Corey provides electrifying thunderstorm sounds to heighten the drama. Ellis Tillman adds to the erotic sense of this production as he costumes Graver .
The show runs through Dec. 9. Call 305 445 1119 for tickets.
TWENTY-SOMETHINGS WILL RELATE TO THE CHATTER
AND REALITY OF MARK DELLA VENTURA’S "ROOMIES”
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI LAKES, FL -- Once again, it is a generational play. Roomies by Mark Della Ventura is the latest production written and geared for those in the generation of twenty-somethings – which happens to be a large grouping in our growing-young population.
There is nothing wrong about that. Any worthwhile playwright should write about what he knows best, and Della Ventura who was praised for his honesty for his one-person show earlier this year– SmallMembership – has done it again with Roomies, this time his first full-length, multi character play.
What makes it even more interesting is the fact that it is about a group of young people – fresh out of college – who either want to be actors or playwrights – anything just so long as it is part of “theatre.”
Does that sound like reality or is this fiction? The audience may find a little of each in this Alliance Theatre Lab production, currently at the Main Street Playhouse.
Roomies seems brutally real and honest because it is produced at Alliance which has been featuring plays by him and his buddy and fellow playwright/actor David Siriois, all under the stern but effective hand of director Adelberto Acevedo, who has created miracles with his relatively young company.
This show features Della Ventura, Sirois, Ann Chamberlain, Ashley Price and Gabe Hammad as five college buddies, now roommates in a two bedroom, bath and a half apartment. Ventura (as Andy) has been commissioned to write a play and seems to be having a tough time of it. But, his conniving pays off as a series of secrets involving the five-some unveils.
Roomies is a well-written, interesting play, a thoughtful vision of five distinct personalities coming to terms with adulthood. Della Ventura comes off in reality as a significant young playwright and actor whose words – though sometimes raunchy – seem to fit well for those under 30. There are numerous nouns and verbs used to describe sex, masturbation, -- even bowl movements -- (but perhaps that is how 20-somethiongs talk!). Della Ventura’s characters seem to be the epitome of those seeking careers and love in a crazy society of wanna-be theatre people and those who use derogatory terms for those they even care about.
All of the actors give A-One performances, especially the supposedly timid characterization of Della Ventura and his sidekick, Sirois, who seems to have some of the best lines and makes the most of it. Siriois has an explosive role (as Jake) and one can only wonder whether Della Ventura wrote the part to show off Sirois’ obvious talent as a gung-ho actor. The vivacious Chamberlain, Hammad and Price also come on strong in their roommate roles,
Jody Dellaventura (Mark’s sister) designed the set, using her two-part linkage of her family name. Howard Ferre is the sound designer, and lighting is by Natalie Tavares. And all should be congratulated for technical excellence in this small space.
Roomies runs through Nov, 25, excluding Thanksgiving. Call 305-259-0418 for tickets.
MALTZ’S DARK AMADEUS STANDS UP WELL IN COMPARISON
TO THE FAMILIAR OSCAR-WINNING 1984 MOTION PICTURE
BY Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
When one knows the story of the 1984 Oscar-winning film, Amadeus, it is difficult –fairly or unfairly – not to make a comparison to the dark production playing with a live cast in the season opener at the always-reliable Maltz Jupiter theatre,
The film not only captured the Best Picture prize but the acting trophy for its star F. Murray Abraham . It was such a memorable screen version that film buffs often refer to it as one of the giant productions in cinema history.
However, the stage version and original script of Peter Shaffer’s brilliant play ( written in 1979) loses nothing in comparison —especially the Maltz version directed by Michael Gileta. In fact, even if you know the story of Mozart and Salieri, it is hard to resist the intellectually stimulating, and richness of language in this theatrical version.
Produced very much like an opera, this Amadeus may at times seem dark (the lighting seems overly murky, even shadowy ), but its uniqueness -- in telling the story of Soliari’s battle with madness brought on by his obsession with the more-talented Mozart – is an overwhelming theatrical experience. It is a literate story, with language that overpasses the norm. There are moments in Shaffer’s script when one must lust for the author’s ability to use such elegance of language.
Thiis play –like the film – is about composer Salieri whose music never surpasses mediocrity, especially in comparison to the genius of the hedonistic young protégé Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who creates music apparently without effort. It also is about whether great talent is divinely inspired and the jealously of one artist when compared to a greater talent.
Veteran Broadway acrtor Tom Bloom does well as the obsessed Solieri who recognizes Mozart’s genius while making every effort to ruin him -- - perhaps even poisoning him. (He died at age 35 under suspicious circumstances).
Ryan Garbayo – another New York-based actor – plays Mozart, in a more restrained interpretation of the boorish Amadeo, as compared to the loony characterization of Tom Hulce in the film version
Amadeus is an especially dramatic and original choice for Maltz to launch its 10th season, But, thanks to Producing Artistic Director Andrew Kato, recognized by many as one of the great new voices in South Florida theatre, this version of Amadeus really works well in getting audience approval. It is Kato’s 45th production at Maltz – actually his seventh season. He already has been referred to as the genius behind Maltz’s success.
Whoever did the casting of this Maltz production deserve a nod of approbation. In addition to the talents of Bloom and Garbayo, the cast includes Traci Bair, Alexis Bronkovick, Jeffrey Bruce, Gail Byer, Michael Brian Dunn, Leon Howard, Richmond Hoxie, Gannon McHale, Rowan Meyer, Keil Peterson, Stephen Pilkington, and Ric Stoneback. All add to the reality of 18th Century Vienna – so elegantly set by scenic designer PhilipWitcomb.
Amadeus runs through Nov. 11. Maltz Jupiter Theatre is located at 1001 East Indiantown Road Jupiter,. For tickets. call(561) 575-2223
And, makes it look easy
SUPER STAR ANTONIO AMADEO DOES IT ALL – PRODUCES,
WRITES, ACTS, DIRECTS, BUILDS A SET -- AT NAKED STAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI SHORES, FL – South Florida super-star Antonio Amadeo actually makes it all seem so simple!
That is because
He – with his large student crew – actually build a set before your eyes
He is brilliantly honest in the truism which most “theatre folk” already know, it is difficult to prioritize your on stage life against your personal family existence.
He actually produces, writes, acts and directs the entire show -- A Man Puts On A Play –his latest foray into multi-faceting at his Naked Stage theatre
He then writes a short play which by everyone’s estimate could be a pacesetter in best new work, if the last 20 minutes of this opus could stand alone in a short play contest.
That may seem as a lot to accomplish in a couple of hours – but Amadeo proves anew he is at the top of his game as an actor, playwright and scenic designer. Furthermore, he is gutsier than most in the crazy business of theatre, in producing such an avant-garde work as he has done at the Pelican Theatre at Barry University. If I were a little freer with certain words, I might say this work smacks of genius.
A Man Puts On A Play follows Amadeo and his company as they frantically race against the clock to put up a show before the crowds arrive on Opening Night. Just when you think the building of the set (with background music) is over, the audience is asked to take a 10-minute break before they actually see a brilliant one-act, short play starring Amadeo, Andy Quiroga and newcomer Kathleen Roubiou. (working, of course, on the set that had been built by the three primary actors plus Shawn Burgess, Stephanie Meskauskas, Ricardo Redd, Victor Rodriguez, Kaitlin Sarnacki and Jake Tompkins ).
The play withinin this play is about two brothers who have been alienated for years until a daughter of one of them uses her ingenuity to get them (and a third brother, by phone) together. Carbonel l winner Amadeo and Quiroga give two walloping performances. It makes one want to see more of Quiroga who appears in productions much too infrequently. He and Amadeo play strong characters in this snippet of a short play. You may find yourself wanting more dialog so that this short play could be a full-blown production. It has that much dramatic appeal. Roubiou – as the daughter –holds her own with these two acting heavyweights.
Stage Manager is Kaitlin Sarnacki, who cannot be given enough credit for the fast-paced set construction , and kudos to Master Electrician Stephanie Meskauskas.and Head Carpenter , Jake Tompkins. who double as actors in the opening scenes, as well. Costumes are by LeslyeMenshouse
It was several years ago that Naked Stage won a Silver Palm as the Outstanding New Emerging Theatre Company. This particular show should indicate just why it earned and deserves such respct.
This unusual production runs through Nov. 18. Tickets: 1-866-811-4111.
SCENIC DESIGN GETS SPECIAL NOTICE AS TALLY’S FOLLY
INITIATES 13TH SEASON AT PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
There are rare moments in the theatre when one first walks into the arena and becomes in wonder at the scenic design of the play he is about to see. Such is the case with the 13th season opener at Palm Beach Dramaworks -- the 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner – Tally’s Folly. Lest, this critic be misunderstood, this – in no way—detracts of the praise earned by the two actors – New York-based Brian Wallace and South Florida’s own multi-talented Erin Joy Schmidt, They give award-worthy performances,
But, most theatre-goers will be awe-struck when walking into this production They will see a gigantic, aging boathouse in mid-America – a deteriorating location, towering with louvers, latticework – a rundown site which eventually is filled with symbolism as the play progresses.
As meaningful as the play is and as exuberant are the performances, it is difficult to keep focus off of this decaying, riverside boathouse so brilliantly designed by Michael Amico. It is a truism that the best sets s enrich a play in a subtle way!
It is against this creatively degenerating scenery that these two fine actors tell the story of Matt Friedman and Sally Talley as they once and for all settle their feelings for each other, Matt is a Jewish accountant, who emigrated from war-torn Germany to St. Louis, and Sally is an “old maid” from an anti-Semitic family in the rural mid-West. The 1979 play by American playright Langford Wilson, the second in his cycle, the Talley Trilogy, takes place in the deterorating boathouse near rural Lebanon, Misssouri. It is 1944. The romantic comedy unravels in 97 minutes of intense dialog between these two lovers of violently different backgrounds. Their come-and-go verbiage is a treat.
Directed with skill by J Barry Lewis, this version of the oft-produced Tally’s Folly is an A-One production.
Ron Burns provides the most effective lighting; Matt Corey, the sound, and Brian O’Keefe the costumring.
Tally’s Folly runs through Nov. 11. Call (561) 514-4042 for tickets.
DRIIVING MISS DAISY
When director Michael Leeds e-mailed friends that Harriet Oser was “born to play the part “of Miss Daisy in the Plaza Theatre’s production, one would think it was part of the usual spin that anyone would give to his latest undertaking. But, Leeds is right on this one! Oser is superb as the aging Southern lady made so famous a quarter century ago (1987) in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer prize winning play and the Oscar choice for best picture of the year in 1989.
Oser’s award-worthy performance in this play is matched by two other powerful actors – John Archie and Ken Clement . As critical as I have been to plays with small casts, this production by producer Alan Jacobson for his Plaza Theatre in Manalapan really works. It is akin to watching a series of vignettes marking the growing friendship between a simple black man who is hired as the chauffeur to a cantankerous, aging, accident-prone Jewish lady set in Atlanta during the rise of the Civil Rights era. Oser – aided by costumer Jerry Sturdefant -- is-perfectin what many will say is the best acting gig of her long-time career, which included nine Carbonell nominations.
Oser’s elegant Miss Daisy is met head on by Archie,ideal in the role of the fun-loving chauffeur, and headliner Clement as Boolie, her son who originally hires a driver after the 72 year old woman wrecks another car. Both Archie and Clement help take Miss Daisy on the journey of emotional growth that takes place from 1948 for 25 ,years. This acting trio is what some will say is a “wow” ensemble.
It may be difficult for some to want to compare Oser’s Miss Daisy with those of Academy Award winner Jessica Tandy or The Off-Broadway Vanessa Redgrave, but Oser is the real McCoy. She is simply elegant in this role.
One note of caution: Please – if you are driving –please leave extra time to get to this theatre inasmuch as the Ocean Blvd. bridge is closed for repairs. You can get to the Plaza Theatre just as fast by taking the Boynton Beach Blvd, Bridge and then go north on A1A. it is worth the drive.
This show runs through November18. Call 561-588-1820 for tickets.
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS: It’s busy time for the Amadeo family. Antonio Amadeo – one of South Florida’s finest actors – does double duty as the playwright, as well, in Naked Stage’s world premiere of his A Man Puts On A Play. In addition to Antonio Amadeo, just look at the size of this supporting cast, the topnotch Andy Quiroga, Kathleen Robiou, Shawn Burgess, Stephanie Meskauskas, Ricardo Redd, Victor Rodriguez, Kaitlin Sarnacki & Jake Tompkins. It is written, produced, directed and designed by Antonio Amadeo with costumes by Leslye Menshouse.The show runs Nov, 2-18. Get your tickets by contacting www.nakedststage.or by calling Ticketmaster 1(866) 811-4111….meanwhile, his wife -- brilliant actress Katie Amadeo – is full of activity , putting together the 24 Hour Theatre Project.—its annual fundraiser, this year Monday, Nov. 12 at GableStage. It’s a fun event when 50 local actors, directors, playwrights pen, act and deliver a number of short plays –all overnight. Participants –which seem to change daily, depending on schedules, gigs, jobs, etc. will hopefully include Alex Alvarez, Jim Ballard, Nan Barnett, MeredithBartman, Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Sally Bondi, Amy Miller-Brennan, Barbara Bradshaw, Clay Cortland, Anne Chamberlain, Marckenson Charles, Oscar Cheda, Matthew William Chizever, Lela Elam, Andre Conte, Dave Corey, Christopher DePaola, , Patti Gardiner, Arielle Hoffman, Avi Hoffman, Dan Kelly, Julie Kleiner, Christopher A. Kent, Michael Leeds, Dan Leonard, Mcley LaFrance, Margery Lowe, John Manzelli, Hunter McConnell, Amy McKenna, Lisa Morgan, Francisco Padura, David Perez-Ribada, Erin Joy Schmidt, Deborah L. Sherman, Adam Simpson, Barbara Sloan, Barry Tarallo, Laura Turnbull, Adam Simpson, Andy Quiroga, Shane Tanner, Clive Cholerton, Todd Allen Durkin, Margaret M. Ledford, Amy London, Stuart Meltzer, Hugh Murphy. Andy Rogow, Andie Arthur, Chris Demos Brown, Tony Finstrom, Elena Maria Garcia Lucas Levya, Michael McKeever, Andrew Rosendorf, Juan C. Sanchez, Marjorie O’Neill Butler and Mark Swaner……Speaking of GableStage, all eyes will be on the South Florida premiere of Venus in Fur, the Broadway hit, which opens on Nov, 10 with Joseph Adler directingand celebrating its 15th anniversary. The hit play will star a South Florida favorite Matthew William Chizever and a very busy young actress Betsy Graver.
AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE
GODSPELL OVERFLOWS WITH YOUNG TALENT
IN THIS FEEL--GOOD 25TH SEASON OPENER
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL – Some may find Godspell a positive religious experience. Others may see it as just another smash theatrical hit by the same author as Wicked, while a few ardent zealots and others may find the 40 year old musical based on the Gospels blasphemous and repititous. Ever since it first appeared Off-Broadway in 1971, Godspell has evoked censure and admiration, depending on one’s viewpoint and cultural background.
The latest version -- directed with stunning results and quick, sharp pacing by David Arisco -- debuted at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre and is basically a G-rated version of Hair -- a 40 year-old attempt to recapture the hippie era with a religious fervor. But, leave your prayers and cynicism at the front door, if you are expecting a revelation. This Godspell is actually rather sweet and feel-good-- enjoyable, but seemingly drawn from another era.
However, this adaptation of Godspell is one thing certain – a chance to display and for the audience to see some of the best young talent of today. As a showcase for musical comedy ability, one does not have to go any further than this theatre at 280 Miracle Mile.
The structure of Godspell is that it is a a series of parables, drawn from the New Testament, interspersed with modern music, which elicit the words of traditional hymns. It follows Jesus (in this case, a boyish leader), his relationship with others in this unnamed urban American setting, his moments with John the Baptist, Judas and the others. It is a timeless story of friendship, loyalty and love set to music, comedy – even audience participation, One could easily find this musical effort by Stephen Schwartz and Michael Tebelak as a religious offering during the period of the hippies in America’s urban sprawl circa 1970. It may at time seem old fashioned. Nevertheless, Schwartz’s score is brilliant.
This long running success (it was brought back to Broadway a year ago) is funny by featuring pop culture references including everything from Lindsay Lohan to presidential TV commercials. These get laughs but it is the vibrant young talent that gets the most applause.
Remember these names. They are the mainstay of this energetic production.
JoshCanfield – as Jesus, he projects the purity and virtue one would expect., He is endearing,
Nick Duckart -- A South Florida talent, he is remarkable whether singing, acting, dancing. He is a powerful performer whose musical ability coupled with his acting prowess make an indelible impression. Prediction: He will be a major theatre star.
Henry Gainza shows remarkable singing skills while performing as the one “convert” who gets most of the funny lines. He grimaces, sneers, smiles and is a mainstay in this production. He is a scene—stealer who can sing!
Jeni Hacker not only can sing but moves on the dance floor like a pro. This Actors” Playhouse regular is a home-grown talent.
Shea Hess – She hails from New York, but will find many new fans here, as well, after her gig in Godspell.
Kareemah Khouri – Here is a young lady who can belt out a song in an overpowering manner.
Heather Kopp – when this blonde beauty sings Day by Day, it is a showstopper. It is a memorable moment in Godspell. The audience may still be applauding.
Clay Cortland – Who knew that this A-One dramatic actor could also sing and be so attuned to the choreography? Clay is a winner!
Cindy Pearce -- Homegrown talent who can belt out a number in a savaging way, She is terrific!
Don Seward – Don is a theatrical wonder – acting, singing, moving around any stage.
A special nod goes to choreographer Barbara Flaten and Musical Director David Nagy.
This Godspell is the 25th Anniversary season opener for Actors’ Playhouse and it once again provides a a stepping stone for a huge array of talent. It is rare to find so much young , theatrical flair on one stage!,
Godspell – easily one of the best ensemble casts in years - -runs through November 4 (and one can bring the entire family) . Call 305 444-9293.
Palm Beach Dramaworks presents Pulitzer Prize-Winning Talley’s Folly Thirteenth Season Begins October 12 at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre
Lanford Wilson’s romantic comedy, Talley’s Folly, will launch Palm Beach Dramaworks’ 2012-13 season on Friday, October 12 (8PM) at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre (201 Clematis Street). The production will play a strictly limited engagement through November 11, with specially priced preview performances slated for October 10 and 11. For twelve years, West Palm Beach’s only professional, multi-award-winning resident theatre has brought to the Palm Beaches a distinguished roster of plays under the guidance of Producing/Artistic Director William Hayes.
Talley’s Folly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Lanford Wilson, follows the unlikely sweethearts, Matt Friedman and SallyTalley, as they once and for all settle their feelings for each other and grab their last chance at love. Set in 1944 in Lebanon, Missouri, Talley’s Folly is part of the trilogy of Talley plays that also includes Fifth of July and Talley & Son.
Resident Director J. Barry Lewis will direct the production, which featuresErin Joy Schmidt and Brian Wallace. Set design is by Michael Amico, costume design by Brian O’Keefe, lighting design by Ron Burns, and sound design by Matt Corey.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Lanford Wilson was one of the most renowned American playwrights of the late 20th century. He had a penchant for characters who were downtrodden or on the fringes of society, and through them explored big and small themes of love and loss. A co-founder of Off-Broadway’s celebrated Circle Repertory Company, Wilson initially gained recognition Off-Off-Broadway, and quickly became a regular presence on Broadway. Among his other heralded, widely performed works are Balm inGilead, The Hot l Baltimore, and Burn This.
Palm Beach Dramaworks’ season will continue with A Delicate Balanceby Edward Albee (December 7 – January 6), A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (February 1 – March 3), Exit the Kingby Eugene Ionesco (March 29 – April 28), and Dancing at Lughnasaby Brian Friel (May 24 – June 16).
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Southeastern Theatre Conference, Florida Professional Theatres Association, Florida Theatre Conference, and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council.
The performance schedule is as follows: Evening performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8PM and Sunday at 7PM. Matinee performances are on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2PM.
Individual tickets are $55 for all performances. Student tickets are available for $10. Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, open Monday from 10AM to 5PM, Tuesday through Saturday from 10AM to 6PM, and Sunday from 11AM to 5PM, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.
WAHL’S SOLO PERFORMANCE, MELTZER’S DIRECTION
MAKE I AM MY OWN WIFE A SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT
By Ron Levitt
Florida a Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI -- There are only a handful of South Florida actors who can pull it off, depending only on their own talent, lighting, sound, set and artful direction to do a one-person show. Michael McKeever, Ken Clement, Lela Elam, Barbara Sloan come to mind for recent fantastic single actor performances. Now, one can add the name of Tom Wahl to that esteemed list. Wahl accomplishes that one-must-rave-about solo performance in Zoetic Stage ‘s season opener at the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts in Miami – I Am My Own Wife.
Anchored by comfortable cabaret seating,the audience gets to see Wahl --for the most part in feminine attire -- charm, beguile and earn the respect as he takes us to East Germany during both the Nazi era and Communist takeover and the political and human effect these regimes have on a trans-gendered real individual,.
For the most part, the audience is tuned into Wahl’s magnificent performance, and his ability to go from one character to another in seconds – 40 characters in in all. It is theatrical knowhow at its best, ably directed by Stuart Meltzer who also is responsible for the amazing sound design. Meltzer – along with the scenic design by Zoetic’s Michael McKeever and the lighting by Luke Klingberg and costuming by Alberto Aroyo add to this special achievement. All of these technicians – aided by the Technical Direction of Bombshell Productions (Meredith Lasher) make I Am My Own Wife such a unique theatrical encounter.
I Am My Own Wife is a play by Doug Wright based on his conversations with German Charlotte von Mahlsdorf -- the real transgendered individual. The one-man play premiered Off-Broadway in 2003 It opened on Broadway later that year. Wright received the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. It has played before in South Florida but Wahl’s performance take it to a new level.
I Am My Own Wife (or I Am My Own Woman) is also the English title of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf's autobiography, first issued in 1992, translated in 1995. The play. meanwhile, has received numerous awards including the 2004 Drama Desk Award for Best New Play,The Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Solo Show, the2004 Tony Award and numerous honors for acting, direction and dramatic literature.
Simply, I Am My Own Wife is an examination of the life of German antiquarian Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, who killed her father when she was a young child and survived the Nazi and Communist regimes in East Berlin as a transgendered person. But, there is nothing simple about Wahl’s role or Meltzer’s direction. They make this character and production as real as he (she) really was in this era of recent German history.
I Am My Own Wife runs through Oct. 21. Call for tickets 305 949-6722.
BOCA GUILD BOW (WOWS) ITS AUDIENCE
AS IT PRESENTS SYLVIA BY A.R. GURNEY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
BOCA RATON, FL – You have to use a lot of imagination but The Boca RatonTheatre Guild’s rendition of the acclaimed comedy Sylvia about a couple who adopts a shaggy, stray dog and its effect on their marriage is a silly look at anthropomorphism (yes, there actually is a word for over-doting on one’s dog).
The attribution of human feelings to one’s pet is at the heart of this unusual production and the effect it has on an empty nester’s marriage, and a quartet of South Florida actors, directed by Genie Croft allows its audience at the Willow Theatre at Sugarland Park to have a good time in the process.
Middle-aged Greg (a realistic Keith Garsson) finds Sylvia (the dog played laughingly by a human -- Jacqueline Laggy) and brings her home to his wife Kate (the lovely Patti Gardner), who reacts negatively to the canine pet. As time goes by, much to the wife’ s despair, Greg spends less time on his hated job and more time in the park with the female dog he has grown to love. The couple go to a therapist (Mario Betto), who is ambiguously male and female, depending on the patient’s state of mind, to discuss their plight, Greg also meets another dog-lover (Betto again) which ends up as a reason to spay Sylvia, and finally a friend stops by with advice (yes, Betto in drag). Meanwhile, the trio sings “Everytime I Say Goodbye,” one of the highlights of the A. R. Gurney play.
Sylvia was first produced in 1995 with Sarah Jessica Parker as the cute canine. It won numerous Drama Desk nominations. This play is often confused with a similar themed work by Edward Albee, about a man falling passionately in love with a goat. In that story, the goat was also named Sylvia. This Gurney play is often said to be a tribute to Albee’s genius. This play, however, is best described as a “male menopause moment,” according to the script.
A special note of praise goes to actress Laggy, who has a most difficult role—that of the dog. She begs, rolls over and reacts to her owner’s commands and shows the affection that a pet can have for its owner. She even shows the pain of beng spayed but still in love with her master. Laggy turns in a sublimely funny interpretation.
Betto, too, tackles his/her three roles with giant steps. He is an actor not seen enough in local productions.
The uncluttered set of a Manhattan apartment in the 1990s deserves praise for Sean McCleland and costumer Alberto Arroyo gives Sylvia her “growing up” look.
PLANTATION,FL --- It’s a two-hour audience look at a Russian civil servant’s life as he goes from pushing papers and mending writing quills to utter escape from reality and madness, but most of all Diary of a Madman currently at Mosaic Theatre is a virtuoso performance by actor Ken Clement who manages to enhance his already brilliant reputation on stage.
Clement rules the stage whether daydreaming as a penniless minor bureaucrat in 1830s St. Petersburg or exploring his self delusion that he belongs on a Spanish throne. He goes from living in squalor to a madhouse, which can only be described as the settings for his tour-de-force. Clement already has a Carbonell, SilverPalm and other tributes to attest to his acting prowess, but here -- once again --he dominates the stage with a spellbinding, radiant performance where his comic timing dazzles with pratfalls or other hyper antics.
This time, Clement charms the audience as Poprischkin who lives in tatters and becomes a prisoner of his own delusions. It’s a role Geoffrey Rush captured on Broadway but Clement comes into his own. This is no copy-cat performance.
Clement’s antics are beautifully directed by Mosaic’s chief arcitecht/founder director Richard Jay Simon as its 12th season opener, and gets an assist from a beautiful Betsy Graver as three of the women in Poprischkin’s life, albeit sometimes imaginary. Graver is absolutely luminous as Sophia, beautifully costumed by K Blair Brown and charms with her humor as a Finish transplant to Russia.
As notable as Clement, Graver and director Simon are, special tribute goes to designer Doughlas Grinn who provides scenic magic in creating two locations, to lighting designer John Hall for making time-elapses so credible, and to Sound guru Matt Corey, who uses Russian music so effectively in this enticing play. The technical aspects – led by Grinn – are notable indeed.
This staggering Diary of a Madman is based on an 1835 short story penned by Nikolai Gogol, adapted by David Holman with an assist from Neil Armfieild and prize-winning actor Rush. All deserve credit but it is Clement who deserves the extra bow. Only a versatile, talented actor would attempt to play such a demanding role and do it with such gusto!.
Diary of a Madman runs through Oct,14. For tickets, call 954 577-8243.
REALITY OF CONGO WAR ON WOMEN
EXPOSED IN “RUINED” AT GABLESTAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL – It is understandable why Lynn Nottage’s Ruined won a Pulitzer Prize for drama. It is gut-wrenching, gripping theatre.
It is also without argument that Joseph Adler has directed a superb version of this prize-winning play at GableStage – a production which will keep its audience enthralled, even if it will look away from the stage occasionally to purposely miss the violence.
Simply (and there is nothing simple about this play), it is about war. But, even more so, it is about the horrors of war against women – where rape and genital abuse are forever a part of a civil war and its struggle. Despite the hell which dominates this play set at a whorehouse in the Congo, there is a glimmer of hope that a better day may be ahead.
This production – played on an expansive and impressive set by Lyle Baskin –is about how Mama Nadi (a brilliant Lela Elam) courageously runs her cat house in today’s raging battle in the Congo. Her rules are simple, All of the johns entering her establishment (with its cold beer, American whiskey and entrapped girls) must remove the bullets from their guns. The basic concept is that if you want to survive, you don’t take sides in this African civil war.
Also, Mama makes it clear. She is in charge. All money and valuable trinkets (diamonds) received belong to her . Unspoken -- but very much known --is that Mama will protect her girls.
The fact that such a “war” can continue asks each of us wanting to hold a moral high ground is how can we (or anyone) allow this to go on. This play is an eye-opener (written after Nottage visited the Congo). It is sincere, passionate, real – truly a theatrical accomplishment, one geared to raise the consciousness of the horrors of war against women now going on in the African continent. It asks the question -- How can we allow this to happen?
This production which includes live music and shows off visually the sensual pleasures of both soldiers and rebels --strangely is sometimes funny, always intriguing and – to explain it theatrically --mostly contains several memorable performances. The women in this play are unforgettable: Elam, in the dominant role, is superb; a gorgeous and multi-talented Renata Eastlick (as Josephine, a gyrating whore who seems to enjoy the profession heaped on her; Jade Wheeler as Sophie and Trenell Mooring as Salima, the two teens who are brought to Mama’s for her care and to work as prostitutes. Wheeler is a standout as she belts Congo music provided by guitarist Verdi M, Mayer Jr, and percussuionist Marajuca.
Although the women dominate this story, there are exceptional male performances as well,especially Robert Strain as the travelling salesman with a crush on the mistress of the house, Other notables are David Kwiat as s diamond merchant: Marckenson Charles; Sheaun McKinney, and a cast of men playing soldiers who seemed to overflow the GableStage.
Let it be noted that Ruined is a brilliant production on two levels. Theatrically, it is a dazzling; story which belies fiction. Realistically, it is amoral question: how can anyone stand by and have young girls raped by bayonets?
Director Joseph Adler deserves our applause for bringing this kind of theatre and this unfortunate holocaust to our attention and for finding such an awesome cast to deliver the message.
Technically, Ruined is perfect . L ighting by Jeff Quinn, sound by Matt Corey and costuming by Ellis Tillman add to the reality.
Ruined runs through Oct. 7. Call 305-445-1110 for tickets.
EIGHT AUTHORS PUT IT ON THE LINE
AS YOUNG WRITERS TAKE ON DEATH
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI -- The idea smacks of artistic and theatrical ingenuity! Get eight playwrights, a handful of actors and two directors together; give them an overall subject – Home Sweet Funeral Home – and turn them loose to provide an evening’s entertainment produced by the far-ahead-of-the-pack Alliance Theatre Lab at Barry University’s Pelican Theatre and its visionary artistic director Adelberto J. Acevedo
Actuallly, actors/playwrights and Home Sweet Home creators/co-directors David Michael Sirois and Mark Della Ventura made the eight-short-plays assignment even a little more creative. All of the writers had to set their plays in the viewing room of a funeral home, must use the line “Why did it have to be that book?, “ had to incorporate a toothbrush in the scripts and keep all characters in their late teens/20s.
Somehow or other, it worked! Home Sweet Funeral Home becomes an instant hit, especially among the younger generation, although even a few in the blue haired age bracket had to admit to the creativity, humor and inventiveness of the 90-minute theatrical presentation and their mostly young authors. It was obvious from the get-go, this production was built to energize an audience of 20-somethings.
Obviously, some of the eight playa garnered special praise (although to be fair, most of the playwrights had family members in the audience to lead the cheering sections).
However, Many agreed the producers saved the best for last – Sirois’ Catapault Confection, which satarred Sirois and Della Ventura along with Alexandria Iona, and Della Ventura’s Mr. Ross’s Loss with Anne Chamberlain, Breeze Zeller, Natasha Wasfield and Rayner Garranchan -- both looked back at not-particularly endearing people who have left this earth. In both cases, it produced laughs and thoughtful retrospection.
Another laugh-provoking ten minutes came with Venus and Vodka by popular local playwright Tony Finstrom. Starring Ann Chamberlain and Natasha Wasfield, it was a bird’s eye look at a selfish widow and a one-time mistress and their rationale toward the death of a man.
Christopher Demos-Brown, another prizewinning author, took the artistic route with a conversation between an author and the character whom he is creating, It was the “theatre In” piece of this unique show, starring Sirois as a playwright (believable) and his protagonist played by an impressive RaynerGarranchan.
Other authors in this unique theatrical anthology are Marjorie O’Neill-Butler whose Scavenger Hunt was the romantic work (yes, romantic in a funeral home) which opened the eight play program, and Andie Arthur’s Performance Review with Jovan Jacobs and Stephanie Meskauskas, which some might say was one of the moat thought provoking on how one lives his or her life. Arthur was able to use comedy to make points, as did the other playwrights Mariah Reed and Alexandria Iona.
Artistic chief Adelberto J. Acevedo promised 2012-13 would be a season of new works, He delivered on his promise with this one!
This show runs through Sept, 23. For ticket reservations:
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- Mix in two of the finest performances of the year with a disturbing-but challenging production, astute direction and an adult script built on historic fact aimed at a particular segment of society, and one should have a winner. That’s exactly what appears to be the potential for The Twentieth Century Way making its Florida premiere here as the initial offering of the restructured Island City Stage in cooperation with Empire Stage.
It is easy to focus on the stunning performances of its two stars, Clay Cartland and Michael Westrich , (each of whom are praiseworthy), but the historic significance behind this 85 minute play by Tom Jacobson becomes even more awesome and thought-provoking as one begins to ponder and learn of its importance historically.
Cartland and Westrich play muiltiple personifications of out of work movie actors apparently auditioning for the Long Beach(California) Police Department in 1914 as decoys to entrap gay men in public restrooms and private clubs. But, it is much more than the proverbial “based on a true story.” It asks the questions “are these actors the tools of injustice?” Are these actors traitors to their craft? Plus other more subtle questions: Is an actor more than the character he plays? What is the responsibility of the artist? How can one sell out his profession?
Director Michael Leeds – with gusto -- takes his audience on this historic trip with so many questionable stops.
One does not have to be gay to appreciate this play or the historic significance it details. Actually, in 1914, two actors (it never describes if they are gay or straight) hire themselves out to the police to entrap gay men. Thirty-one men were initially arrested, with each getting 15 years in prison. (The actors were paid $!5 per arrest), As a result of this, California became known as the notorious locale for such invasions of privacy. Under the California code of law, there were hundreds of sterilizations, a huge black mark not only for what is now the LGBT community but for all of those who believe in personal freedom.
Jacobson’s script unveils all of this social trauma, extending it even further – what it should mean to the theatrical community!
One cannot possibly question the intent of the author. It is intelligent drama at its best – plus beyond the script itself with such topnotch casting, direction, and production. it is intelligent theatre with a message. But, is The Twentieth Century Way, asking too many philosophical questions. Does it lean too much on theatre and not as much on society in general? Is it right to blame theatre – even in a small way -- for the ills of society? This script, based on a real sting operation – for all its brilliance – asks so many unanswerable questions. To its credit, it makes one think!
The new Island City Stage is an outgrowth of the now defunct Rising Action Theatre, which catered to the gay community. This particular production was done in cooperation with David Gordon of Empire Stage, thanks to the ingenuity of theatre veteran producer Andy Rogow, now the guiding light of Island City Stage.
This show runs through Sept, 9. It is for adults only (full frontal nudity the last five minutes) Call 954 578-1496.
And, How about those actors; Katherine Amadeo and William Matthew Chizever!
SCENERY, LIGHTING TURN PELICAN BLACK BOX
INTO A SCARY MANSION AT NAKED STAGE
By Ron Lev itt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI – One would think that after years of reviewing shows, it would be impossible for an acting group to actually chill this writer (In addition to a much improved new air conditioning system). WRONG!!
Somehow or other, set designer Antonio Amadeo and lighting designer/director Margaret Ledford and two fantastic actors make life so eerie and creepy, one actually forgets this is all happening in a theatre. Goosebumps are the order of the day!
The audience won’t need much of an imagination to feel the creepiness around them as it visits the Naked Stage at Barry University ‘s haunted mansion where Jeffrey Hatcher’s theatrical adaptation of Henry James’ ghost story “The Turn of the Screw” takes place. Amadeo – with the major assist from his wife/ lovely actress Katherine Amadeo and the versatile leading man, Matthew William Chizever -- have transformed the black box theatre into the scariest fun house since Halloween was inaugurated.
The Naked Stage promotional material literally sets the stage….. “a young governess journeys to a lonely manor house to care for two recently orphaned children”: She learns that there was another governess beforehand who drowned herself when she became pregnant by a sadistic valet, who is also now deceased. Is Ihis house haunted by their apparitions or are they just make-believe ghosts of the children’s imagination?
Two actors create an intensely creepy world that lures the audience into its chilling tale with great use of theatrical magic. It is a superb ghost story and a vivid entertaining experience..
Making sense of the stylized language of 19th century England alone is a daunting task for the acting duet , but –along with the spread of fear --the two actors are perfectly in synch….. never leaving the stage or playing multiple characters. One must give credit to both actors plus the dialect coach Kathryn Johnson. In any case, the audience is left with a massive lump of scary moments. Despite the inguistic challenge, The Naked Stage has found a way to make this piece accessible to its made-in-Miami audience. Katherine Amadeo and Chizever tell this story with a reality twist which seems totally plausible for1870. It transcends what one expects in theatre. Katherine; Amadeo evokes a ghost-like presence as she turns mad. Chizever, one of the area’s most admirable actors , switches hauntingly between three roles – the sinister bachelor, a compassionate caretaker and a 10 year-old boy.
To support these two magical performances, Director. Ledford has shaped this work beautifully. Her lighting design works hand in hand with Antonio Amadeo’s amazing grey-toned set and the fine-tuned scare-the-hell-out-of-them actors. Whether it is the interior of the house of Bly, the garden or a nearby river, this company has a brilliant way of making the audience see ghosts and images that are only in someone’s mind or befitting this valuable script. !
The Pelican Theatre is located on the campus of Barry University in Miami Shores. “The Turn of the Screw” runs through August 12th. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.nakedstage.org.
BRUCE, ENTIN AND KENNEDY HEAD A POWERFUL CAST
IN “THE BEST MAN” PRODUCTION IN WEST BROWARD
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
PEMBROKE PINES FL --- Presidential nominations and elections -- as we well know nowadays-- can be filled with name-calling and seamy political maneuvering. Just turn on your TV and catch a few of the 2012 commercials . One would be hopeful that some day such smear tactics would be unacceptable.
However, the reality of such political smearing was and is endless and has become just the same and indelibly highlighted theatrically --at least for some 50 years.
No modern play tells the political-slinging mud situation better than Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, currently gripping its audience at the Pembroke Pines Theatre of the Performing Arts and no production could be more timely, even though it was first performed in 1960. Since then, it has become a hit movie with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson (1964) a memorable Broadway revival (2000) and currently is back on the boards with an all-star cast in New York.
But, as timeless as it is juicy, this Tony-award nominated play is especially endearing to see as such an A-One production packing in audiences in a South Florida venue at the same time it is a sell-out again on Broadway. A great part of this production’s charm and humor obviously is because of the directing skill of Peter Librach and the classy acting of JeffreyBruce, Alvin Entin Sean Patrick Kennedy and a topnotch ensemble in supporting roles.
This production is set in Philadelpha on the eve of the un-named party’s convention. Two politicans – the capable Secretary of State William Russell (a charming /thoughtful portrayal by Bruce) and a made-for-TV Senator Joe Cantwell (Kennedy) are the leading contenders for the presidential nomination. Both desperately want the endorsement of the ill resident of the White House –President Hockstader ( a realistic, knockout performance by Entin).
Cantwell will do anything to win the nomination, including the release of Russell’s personal mental health information but then is confronted himself by “gay outing” information which falls into Russell’s hands. Russell –a morally high individual – must decide whether to use that info or just stop Cantwell’s bid in another way.
It is difficult to think Vidal wrote this 52 years ago. It is so timely on personalities and issues, one would think it was written in 2012. Just add some Internet terms and computer chat and it could be one of the political conventions this very year.
The low-key but dominant acting prowess of Jeffrey Bruce is evident whenever he speaks, One would think he had studied TV interviews with former contender Sen. George Mc Govern. Some similarities are notable. The comparison was noted prominently by several audience members, who hailed this performance.
The supporting cast also measured up, particularly the roles of the contender’s wives -- Elli Murray (as Mrs. Russell) and Wendi Librach (as the spouse of handsome but sometimes shallow Sen. Cantwell). There is general agreement that Wendi Librach sparkled in this role, as did the rest of the cast – Hannah Sims, Lori Reyes, Bob Boyer, Mark Ashton, Jay Maxwell, Bernard Lawrence and notable portrayalsby Ted Dvoracek and Jeff Canary. Another dozen local actors and theatre supporters filled in as reporters, photographers and convention delegates. It is rare – but pleasurable – to see such a large local cast in a single stage production.
The Best Man will run through August 12 at the Susan B. Katz Theatre of the Performing Arts at the River of Grass Arts Park, 17195 Sheridan Street (one mile west o I75 and Sheridan) For tickets, call 954 437-4884, 877 477-8672 or for more info, visit pptopa.com.
THEATRICAL, INTELLECTUAL INSIGHT COLLIDE
IN MAD CAT'S CREATIVE LOOK AT HAMLET 2012
By Ron Levitt Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI-- There are several words which come to mind in order to fairly critique Mad Cat Theatre's world premiere of The Hamlet Dog and Pony Show, the 2012 version of Shakespeare's great tragedy brought to life here by playwrights Jessica Farr and talented South Florida writer/actor Paul Tei. The first is "theatre" and the second is "intellectual."
As "theatre" this two and a half hour show meets a lot of the criteria to entertain with a galaxy of unexpected items - music, sound, video projections, irreverent lingo, the use of cellphones, puppets; -- you name it! Tei , who also directed and Farr, who has a major role among the acting crew, utilize just about everything theatrical as they deconstruct Shakespeare and attempt to bring the Bard's hero from Elsinore into the current decade. From, the very beginning, the audience is aware that all ofthe action is taking place in a big tent, reminiscent of a circus. Even, the final moments of the play are unexpected and laugh-inducing as a movie show lists the "screen credits." There is little doubt the playwrights are attempting to put the Great Dane into our Century and amidst American politics with references to Bush's "NO (insert a word) BE LEFT BEHIND," the second amendment guarantee allowing anyone to carry a gun, other u.S. Constitutional and legal rights, the Cuban influx to Miami and a variety of euphemisms and local connections. Yes, theatrically The Hamlet Dog and Pony Show has something for almost everyone!
On the other hand, comes the subject of intellect. Just how much of Hamlet must one recall from his or her high school or college literature class? You may recall the characters' names, even some ofthe plot, but is this enough to keep its audience in memory mode? And even if you recall the Bard's character, do you know anything about Heiner Mueller, who (along with Shakespeare) inspired Farr/Tei to write The Hamlet Dog and Pony Show. The playbill actually spelled his name Muller (without the Eor simple EWITH A DOUBLE PERIOD ATOP -rare on most American typewriters to be fair),ls it a possibility they purposely misspelled the name of their inspiration? Mueller (with an E) was a lending 20th century German writer/essayist/dramatist who wrote the mind-bending The Hamletmachine, and gained fame among the literary/political set for his power packed resistance to what was happening in his homeland some 30 years before the reality ofthe pre-world war Eurostate.
Certainly, some knowledge of Mueller would be helpful in understand what Farr/Tei had in mind when they created The Hamlet Dog and Pony Show. (Mueller also used music, sound, double and triple entendres, and references to make his points explosively while using the Hamlet connection.) Credit Farr/Tei for following in such respected feet, But, seriously, will the audience get it? Maybe I underestimate the intellect ofthe local aUQience! .... The Hamlet Dog and Pony Show wraps up Mad Cat Theatre's 12th season since its founding by the irreverent genius TeL His press material says this play asks the age old question - To Be or Not To Be? - how valid is today's society in dealing with its problems, What is certainly valid is most of the 13 member cast (actually nine on stage plus the voice of Hamlet's ghostly father (James Samuel Randolph) and Dave Corey as OJ Yorick (if the voice is familiar, we "know him well" from local theatre) plus special video appearances by Erik Fabregat and Ralph de la Portilla, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But, it is the onstage acting crew which provides the laughter. Insight and intellectual stimulus package to the audience at the Miami light Project at Goldman Warehouse (404 N,W, 26 Street). The ensemble includes Farr as Mueller, the copy-cat /narrator mumbling her important lines usually in a thick German accent; and the always reliable Ken Clement as Mr. President/Claudius who murdered Hamlet's father and then married his widow Gertrude (Carey Brianna Hart.). Of course, there is the rest ofthe Bard's band including Hamlet(Troy Davidson), the get-thee-to-a-nunnery Ophelia (Emilie Paap); her smitten brother Laertes (Gordon Diaz); Hamlet's pal Horatio (Theo Reyna;) the drummer (Brian Sayre) and, playing several roles (all well done) Christopher Kent. Kent's singular moment s as an actor with egomania and his turn as the gravedigger with an impeccable accent are prize-worthy supporting moments Vice President Palonius is actually a puppet (can you imagine any office holder as a puppet?) handled ably and humorously by the versatile Ken Clement. Nods should go to the creative team st the black box theatre, as well. Set designer Sean MCClelland, sound guru Matt Corey, lighting designer Melissa Santiago Kennan, costumer Leslye Menshouse and the rest of the technical talent.
This production runs through August 12. Tickets may be purchased online at www.madcattheatre.org or by calling Ovation tix 866-811-4111.
(A final note; In the script, Horatio advises one goes to the theatre to "use his brains: What an opportunity this play provides!
At Actors’ Playhouse
IT’S A MAN’S WORLD ON-STAGE (FINALLY)
AS A MALE TRIO SINGS ABOUT MASCULINITY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- It’s about time that a musical or production was strictly for the guys! (Even though 75 percent of the matinee audience at the Actors’ Playhouse were women)
Anyhow – after the successful Vagina Monologues, Motherhood The Musical and the likes of Menopause, here comes a wacky muisical penned by Miamian Paul Louis and his California buddy Nick Santa Maria entitled “Real Men Sing Show Tunes….and Play with Puppets,” currently having its world premiere at the Miracle Theatre ‘s upstairs stage.
Lewis and Santa Maria are joined by the multi-talented South Florida favorite Stephen G. Anthony vocalizingabout the many things that only men can encounter and understand. The trio gets a major assist by music director/pianist Manny Schvartzman.
It’s mostly telling about encounters that men have with the their testosterone brothers via musical renditions, with some comic turns reminiscent of the Three Stooges thrown in for additional laughs.
The singing trio covers a host of items, including Look Straight Ahead (a clever tale of public bathroom urinal etiquette), That’s My Boy (a rhythmic tribute to one’s offspring), to a musical acknowledgment of their aging fathers (A Real Man)and other milestone events in the life of a man maturing.
Amidst these musical moments which most men will understand, the actors bring in puppets – designed to evoke more laughter.
Award-winning David Arisco (no novice to directing musicals)once again waves his magic wand in putting this new show together.
Louis and Santa Maria are credited with book, music and lyrics of this adults only show, but it is their vocalizing and puppet-mastery which one also remembers. The writing/acting duet cover fatherhood, mid-life crisis, dating, love, marriage, potency, sexuality growing old – all with memorable music and material to make both men and women laugh.
If their names sound familiar, it is because Louis is the former director/writer/composer of the children’s theatre in Miami Shores and Santa Maria is a published author, screenwriter and composer.
The puppetry should be credited to both Louis and costume designer Ellis Tillman. Patrick Tennent handled the lighting design while Alexander Herrin, the sound.
This “mainly musical revue” runs through August 10. Call 305-444-9293 for tickets.
AUTHOR KIM EHLY’S BABY GIRL AT EMPIRE STAGE
REEKS WITH REALISM AS SHE SEARCHES FOR SELF, FAMILY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – One would expect Baby Girl -- the story of a young gay woman coming out and also searching for her birthmother currently at the Empire Stage here - to be a drama. it has has all the makings of high excitement expected in a tear=jerking presentation!
But, this play written and directed by multi-talented Kim Ehly takes its audience on a rather funny side of life’s experiences as she creates a semi-autobiographical work under the guise of being the first production of her new company, Kutumba Theatre Project. Kutumba is a word with several linguistic meanings, mostly to “strut proudly.”
It lives up to its name in this initial production -- in which Kutumba partnered with Empire Stage for its world premiere.
Ehly could well be the star in this production, though she is not on stage. The playwright – known locally as an outstanding young actress – lets loose with a pack full of comic moments while writing a play about one’s identity, only to find her “family” may be closer than one expects. Her language as a playwright is outstanding,
A powerful Lindsey Forgey plays Ashley ( the notable narrator /alter ego of Ehly) in this tear- and smile inducing two act play and is the center of attention from the first moment the stage lights go on. However, off to the right, we see a young couple having sex in a car and thus the unplanned conception by a 16 year old girl and 21 year old father in 1968. On the other side of the stage, the audience meets another older couple (also copulating) who desperately want a child but must try the adoption process to fulfill their needs.
The sidelight – and strength of this scenario -- is that – in addition to her search for her birthparents while she is in college – is her realization that she is gay. (She dislikes the word “lesbian.) What she eventually finds is that her closest friends and an unexpected finale finally leads her to what ‘family” really means.
Amid the chuckles and smiles of Ehly’s realistic language is enough pathos to bring a tear to one’s eye.
Baby Girl is filled with acting prowess as a seven-person cast take on some 26 roles admirably.
Sally Bondi , as both the birth-mom and adoptive parent , has some of the most telling moments. She beams with energy in both roles, alongside husbands played by David R. Gordon, Empire’s producer who proves he is an adept actor as well as entrepreneur /businessman.
Clay Cortland and Noah Levine shine in several roles as hunky males, providing some of the X-rated, intimate moments on stage. Cortland, who won a Silver Palm award as an up and coming actor last year, and Levine, who has been seen frequently in local productions, are perfect fits for the male roles in Baby Girl. They could well compete against one another as male leads in future productions,
Add to the above, veteran actress n Miki Edelman and newcomers -- a comedic talent named Jessica Welch and especially charming Nori Tecosky, who has her own Outre Theatre Company -- and you have the makings of an A-One ensemble tackling a right-on-target situation representing life accurately.
Ehly takes us through several decades, notably the 70s, 89s and 90s at several locations including Fort Lauderdale, Seattle and Jacksonville – times and areas in which the heroine Ashley discovers herself while seeking ‘family.”
Sound-man David Hart deserves special mention as he inserts melodies of each decade as the actors tell this vibrant story of self-discovery.
Baby Girl runs through Aug. 5, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m, and Sundays at 5 p.m. Call 954 678-1496.
Empire Stage is located at 1140 N. Flagler Drive, just east of the railway tracks. It is worth the drive!
THE FANTASTICKS AT PB DRAMAWORKS
IS 52 YEARS YOUNG TO EVERYONE’S ENJOYMENT
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Time is supposed to change everything. Wrong!
It was in the Spring of 1960 – 52 years ago – when the musical The Fantasticks opened off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Theatre . It became the longest running production of any kind in the history of the American theatre.—17,162 performances. It was a simple production which wowed the critics and its audience alike.
This week, The Fantasticks was revived as the summer production at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Now, there is nothing new about that. After all, it has played in high school auditoriums, and theatrical venues in every state and every nation -- with more than 11,000 productions worldwide over five decades. And, guess what?? It is still charming because of its simplistic sensitivity plus its soul of sophistication.
Time has remained kind to this musical wonder. In the right hands, it is a delight,
That does not necessarily mean that every production of The Fantasticks automatically becomes spectacular entertainment. In lesser hands or novices, it can be a disaster, a boring couple of hours despite the memorable music of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt and its tender love story .
Fortunately, Palm Beach Dramaworks” director J. Barry Lewis put together a talented ensemble with stage presence and rich voices for an A-One production to tell this wonderful tale about a young man and a young woman whose love is tested and triumphs. It is Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending and a pocketful of delightful music – Try to Remember, Soon It’s Gonna Rain, Plant A Radish,They Were You
If you’ve seen The Fantasticks before, it won’t matter. Seeing this production is like watching a new show, thanks to astute direction, a cast with golden voices who seem to be having a good time in their roles, plus the artristry of musical director Craig D. Adams, at the piano with an assist from harpist kay Kemper
But, as good as pianist Adam s is at getting one’s attention, it is the quality of the singing by the talented cast which makes this Fantasticks so unforgettable. Hunky Jim Ballard turns his Narrator gig into a memorable moment as he kicks off the music as a baritone-headliner singing Try To Remember. He appears made to play this role.
As the two young lovers – Jennifer Molly Bell and Jacob Heimer – both display rich voices and believability as actors seeking realism. Their duets are emotionally fulfilling.
The rest of the cast, as well, is played to perfection: Barry J. Tarallo and Cliff Goulet as the two fathers who plot the romance, South Florida favorites Dennis Creghan and Tangi Colombel who appear to having ball hamming up their roles as aging actors, and Cliff Burgess as a mute who becomes a prop-master, without saying a single line of dialog.
It is the cast which beckons recall of the original production (yes, I was there!). However, it is the technical team which also must be praised: JohnHall’s lighting, costumer Brian O’Keefe; andforthe simple but effective set --Michael Amico, and sound by Rich Szczublewski,in particular
The Fantasticks will continue to endear itself to its fans through Aug 5. Call 561-514-4042 for tickets,
SHAME AND GUILT FORM AN IMPORTANT CENTERPIECE
OF DAVID MAMET’S “RACE” CURRENTLY AT GABLESTAGE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Several things occur as the final moments of Race descend at GableStage – David Mamet’s play with inspired direction by producing artistic guru Joseph Adler and a superb ensemble cast headed by South Florida favorite Gregg Weiner.
It is obvious that this is the kind of production which is a perfect fit for GableStage which has a reputation for touching on subjects which make one sometimes cringe but always think!
It is the kind of Mamet script which gets and deserves a standing ovation from its mostly white audience which then will be free to discuss self-consciously how they feel about American black people while black audience members can dig deep and find their own prejudices against whites.
One will have to admit, however, that the most important element of Race is its intelligent discussion of the ethnic varieties of “shame” and “guilt” and its emphasis on “hatred, fear and envy.”
One can readily admit this production is the kind which offers ample ammunition for a post-theatre discussion. (What better reason than that to go to the theatre?)
The four member cast – including Weiner,low-key veteran actor Joe Kimble, a dynamic Ethan Henry and newcomer Jade Wheeler –have a no-holds barred discussion of race as it affects a particular legal case. – from the vantage point of a law firm’s office overlooking the Big City, a sprawling conference room filled with law books created by set designer Lyle Baskin,. It’s the case of Charles Strickland (Kimble) , a wealthy and well-known white individual accused of raping a black woman. His defense team of attorneys include white and black law partners (Weiner and Henry) and a newcomer to the firm, a young black female (Wheeler) who proves to be much more of an activist than her earlier naivety appears.
Mamet’s Race is filled with the amoralities of the legal profession and the sensationalism which could develop in today’s press (which, according to Mamet, feeds on these types of cases like a parasite. He’s right on that one!!! Check your local papers on their repetitious handling of current crime stories.)
There are plenty of platitudes in Mamet’s script, but they all prove necessary as he weaves a tale which is part detective story and part morality theme. From its opening line by the black attorney (Henry): ‘You want to tell me about black people!”, you know this play is about African-Americans and Caucasians and how they think (and act accordingly) about one another . However, the most interesting and ultimately confused) character proves to be the other lawyer Jack (played by Weiner) who spouts “I think all people are stupid…….and….I don’t think blacks are exempt.” Weiner’s gestures and spunk make him so real that you may be ready to hire him for legal representation.
For those who saw one of Mamet’s earlier work at GableStage – Speed the Plow, they will find some similarities, even though one was about Hollywood movie moguls rather than legal experts. Also, in both plays, it is a woman who seems iinitially naïve but turns tables on the other characters in a most disturbing way.(I have dubbed these feminine parts as “Mamet Women.” In addition to the excellent set by Baskin, the rest of the tech crew also deserves praise: Lighting by JeffQuinn, sound by Matt Corey, and the best dressed legal team in town, thanks to costumer Ellis Tillman.
Once again, Adler’s company has produced an important play – one which makes it s audience think, Still on the agenda for the rest of GableStage 14th season is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Ruined by Lynn Nottage. It will open September 8 until October 7.
In the meantime, Race runs through Aug,. 5. Call 305. 445-1119 for ticket
CABARET VERBOTEN AT ARTS GARGAGE
SHOULD OFFER A LESSON ABOUT BIGOTRY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
DELRAY BEACH, FL -- It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, straight or gay, believer or non-believer, you will get a lesson in politics, history and tolerance by spending 75 minutes at The Theatre at Arts Garage here , watching its musical summer production, the updated Cabaret Verboten.
Despite it’s obvious title, with songs and sketches from and about the Weimar German Republic – the time between the two World Wars -- this edition of Cabaret Verboten by its creator/writer/director Jeremy Lawrence is a modernized version of the musical satire he wrote 16 years ago.
Lawrence and producer Lou Tyrell – with an excellent ensemble of four vocalizing performers – somehow have managed to take the music of Germany’s years leading up to Hitler and have given it a modern twist. We encounter attack ads, political shenanigans, discrimination in various forms, tax and spend issues –even “stand your ground” legal issues – items which seem to be more pointed references to pre-election/ nowadays America.
It was 1996 ---when Tyrell was at Florida Stage (then known as the Pope Theatre Company—that he first produced Lawrence’s’ creative satire which then went on to play world-wide and become recognized as one of the most original revues to come out of America, a forerunner of such Broadway hits as Cabaret and Chicago. Instead of recreating the original version at the Arts Garage. Lawrence has found contemporary issues such as gay rights and a woman’s right to equality as well as maintaining the overt anti-Semitism of pre World War ll Germany. And the transition, works well as both entertainment and a teaching mechanism in its 2012 version.
A good part of Cabaret Verboten’s oomph must be credited to an outstanding ensemble – award0winning vocalist Lourelene Snedeker (who was in the original edition in 1966). The multi=talented Wayne LeGette (a veteran leading man who also must get some energy from his Florida Power and Light commercials), and dynamic newcomers Pierre Tannous and Alexa Green, all of whom look vivacious and alluring in costume by Erin Amico.
Michael Yannette is the musical director, with dozens of songs and spoofs originally written – appropriately – by Jewish-German composers in the 1920s and 30s.
There are memorable numbers throughout the show, especiallyTannous doing a transsexual striptease and you will find yourself -- if you are old enough -- comparing Snedeker to Marlene Dietrich.
The entire show is captivating and you will ask yourself how could such awful things happen in a civilized country? There’s a lesson of understanding and tolerance under the charade of blatant bigotry. And, that is what makes Cabaret Verboten so important.
It may have had three productions in South Florida in recent years, but there is little doubt that David Auburn’s prize-winning play, Proof, is still a compelling and intelligent theatrical experience, especially when one has director William Hayes at the helm at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Even a veteran critic will admit that this production of Proof is an especially sharp and intellectual endeavor, no matter how many times it hits the boards. There is good reason that Proof won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award and Drama Desk Award. And Dramaworks lives up to expectations, thanks to its mostly excellent casting: Kenneth Kay, Kathleen Michelle Tanner, Cliff Burgess, and Sarah Grace Wilson. As produced here, it is a showcase for the acting prowess of Tanner (as Catherine) who comes off as the perfect replica of her father (Kay). a one-time brilliant mathematician/ educator - who now has aging mental problems. Tanner , who appeared earlier in Private Lives at PB Dramaworks, takes the lead in this production and turns it into her show. Supporting roles, particularly Kay as Robert, (the father, and Burgess --as the young mathematician whose doctoral work was supervised by the aging mathematican and becomes a skeptic about Catherine’s inherited talent -- a doubt shared by her sister Claire (Wilson. Although this production starts off slowly, the second act is so strong, one sees it for why it has garnered so many awards, Under Hayes’ guidance, the Dramaworks cast delivers a Proof unlike its previous productions at Mosaic (in 2004) and the now shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse. It may not be as electrifying emotionally but its excellence proves the play’s staying power and why Auburn is hailed for his playwriting skill which has led to a motion picture writing career. Auburn, whose The Columnist is currently on Broadway, had his first major success with Proof, which ran 917 performances on Broadway, became a regional hit and a successful movie. The new Dramaworks production serves as proof of the play’s enduring power. Proof runs through June 17 at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call (561) 514-4042, ext. 2, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org. It will prove to be a worthwhile theatrical experience. And, while we’re at it, let’s give a nod to the scenic design of Michael Amico. His backyard of a suburban Chicago home smacks of realism. And, the other tech talent shows little doubt for their abilities: Ron Burns for lighting; Rich Szczubleweski for sound and Erin Amico for costuming…. PB Dramaworks – also has a sure-fire winner for its summer offering The Fantasticks will be opening Friday, July 13th (8PM) for a strictly limited engagement at the new Don & Ann Brown Theatre. It’s Broadway’s longest running musical and a family treat!
MOSAIC PREVIEWS AN ACTRESS OF MERIT
IN A PLAY THAT IS PROVACATIVE, CONFUSING
It could be a play within a play. It might be a solo performance of a 16 year old wanna be short story writer who reads aloud from her diary. It possibly is a coming of age tale of a young woman (either in reality or fictional) talking about going to New York to confront her boyfriend with the fact that she is pregnant. Or it might be a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood fixating on various forms of sex to prove she is an adult. Playwright Adam Rapp – who has earned a reputation as a contemporary genius in writing plays which allow the audience to decide what the plot means – has done it again with this 2011 Humana Festival hit . The Edge of Our Bodies currently having a South Florida premiere at the Mosaic Theatre in Plantation through July 1. Even the title is confusing,
And, leave it to Mosaic chief Richard Jay Simon to select an emotionally intelligent play to close its season and Margaret Ledford to slickly do her magic and turn this intellectually provocative play into a showcase of directorial elegance.
But, one thing certain. Anyone who knows anything about theatre should agree that actress Lexi Langs, giving close to a solo performance, has a bright future behind the footlights. She is an experienced actress currently working towards a degree at Tisch School of the Arts in New York. If I were grading her performance, she’d receive an A-plus.
As Bernadette, Langs is an articulate teenager on a train to see her boyfriend and give him the news of her pregnancy. She tells of her not seeing him, of meeting with the prospective grandfather who is dying, and her encounter with an older man and the experience of some offbeat sex.
It is Langs’show for the 90 minutes. Only Jim Gibbons intrudes on her monologue as the school maintenance man who must strike the set. This is a relatively short moment, giving the impression or questioning “is this reality or a play within the play?”Author Rapp uses Jean Genet’s The Maids, as a high school production starring Bernadette, questioning whether this is all just make believe.
There aren’t many playwrights who can allow his or her audience to determine whether their play slides into fiction or is it truly happening,
You should see The Edge of our Bodies and decide, for yourself. Call 954-577-8243,
Suzanne M. Jones provides some of the magic with her lighting skills and Douglas Grinn’s scenic design and Matt Corey’s sound experience deserve credit in this A-One production.
While we are on the subject theatre, here is news of Mosaic’s next season. The lineup which features the theater’s first rep project, highlighting the work of playwrigh t Rajiv Joseph. Die-hard theater fans will be able to see two completely different shows at Mosaic, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo ( a recent Broadway hit) & Animals Out ofPaper on the same day! Also, Season 12 will include a new play The Birds from the writer of Mosaic’s award winning hit, The Seafarer Tony Award nominee Conor McPherson. Kicking off this season will be the Southeastern Premiere of the recent New York sensation, The Diary of a Madman
NILO CRUZ’S A BYCYCLE COUNTRY
PLAYS TO ITS CUBAN AUDIENCE
The New Theatre, at its current location at the Roxy Theatre near FIU In heavily populated South West Dade may have a built-in audience. According to statistics, it is one of Miami’s most heavily Cuban-American populated neighborhoods.
And, New Theatre’s current production of Pulitzer winner Nilo Cruz’s early work -- A Bicycle Country – is one which not only is geared toward the Latino audience but has several reasons to make Cuban Americans proud. It also gives this theatre bragging rights. It is a play for Cuban Americans that all Americans whose forefathers emigrated to this country will inspire
It is the third time A Bicycle Country – a stirring look at Cubans wanting to raft to a safe haven in the U.S. -- has been produced in South Florida – first at Florida Stage and then at the old Coconut Grove playhouse’s Encore Room.
2. It was New Theatre – in its former Gables digs -- which commissioned Cruz and staged the world premiere of his Anna in the Tropics, which led to a Pulitzer and literary-world renown. New Theatre has done other world premiere Cruz plays – Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams and Beauty of the Father.
3 A Bicycle Country -- actually one of Cruz’s earliest plays -- has a trio of a cast whose passion for this work is evident. Ricky .J. . Martinez, Evelyn Perez, and Charlie Sothers. Martinez, best known as New Theatre’s artistic director, put the directorial baton in the capable hands of Stephen Chambers. It is Martinez first acting gig in six years but the hiatus has only sharpened his skills as a strong performer. Perez also shines and Sothers positions himself once again as a potential stage heartthrob.
4. This play records a fictional trio of Cubans who are enduring the hardships following the Castro takeover of the island nation. It’s about Julio (Martinez) who is disabled and cannot work; his friend Pepi (a standout performance by Sothers) and Julio’s caretaker/nurse Ines (Perez). It is the story of how they brave the ocean on a raft to find freedom in the U.S. the play has a religious finale, offering hope for the future.This play was written and produced in 1999, a time when rafters from Cuba made headline news throughout the United States.
This play runs through June 24. Call 305 443-5909 for tickets
The Naked Stage – which got off to a good start a few years back and then went quiet – has announced its return to the boards. It will beJuly 20 through August 5 withThe Turn of the Screw by Jeffrey Hatcher from the story by Henry James. It will star SouthFlorida favorites -- Naked Stage Artistic Director Katherine Amadeo, and Matthew William Chizever -- and will be directed by Margaret M. Ledford………. As is usually the case, Broward Stage Door on Sample Road in Coral Springs has a double header on its stages, Newly opened this week (both closing after July 1) are the musical based on Ginger Rogers-- Backwards in High Heels and a delightful comedy, The Immigrants.. Call ahead for tickets 954-344-7765……Gablestage – which always provides sensational productions under the leadership of artistic chief Joseph Adller – has a provocative play on its agenda. It is the play, Race, which opens July 7…..Looking for a last-minute treat for Father’s Day? Take him to see Summer Shorts which runs through June 17 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami. It’s a laugh-fest with nine short plays.
ALLIANCE’S “SMALL MEMBERSHIP” ALLOWS MARK DELLA VENTURA TO GIVE US AN UNPRETENTIOUS LOOK AT WHAT MANHOOD MEANS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI LAKES, FL -- Boldly and Brutally Honest! That’s the four word description which so aptly fits Small Membership, a one-man, 75-minute creative work by playwright/actor Mark Della Ventura, produced by Alliance Theatre Lab and stagedat Main Street Playhouse here.
What makes Small Membership so appealing is that the audience captures its realism and creativity, while trying to discern which parts are biographical and which are fiction. And, Della Ventura – who wrote a shorter version for his college thesis, which inspired this full-length play --has the perfect setting for this piece – a multi-purpose classroom where group therapy is being held. Actually, the audience is listening in as our hero (Della Ventura), going by the name of Matt, details his childhood and twenty-something insecurities, starting physically below the belt(thus, the title) as well as his relationships and his struggles with puberty, sexual orientation, his first love, heartbreak/rejection and yes, even self-imposed celibacy.
A billboard outside the theatre sets the tone for this unique production: “Are you a man? It asks, “Are you insecure? Join us for group therapy” and “Take back your manhood.” Della Ventura shows us how he answered these questions as he moves around the stage, popping on the appropriate wardrobes and giving us reasonable and candid examples, events and conversation on issues related to his manhood.
No, this is not a stand-up comic recitation on sex. However, there are plenty of moments when laugh-inducement just happens.
No, this is not minutes of drama. However, there are moments of such openness and frankness, it will test your feelings about the sincerity of the man on stage who also authored this tribute to normal maturity and the feelings that go with it. And, when Della Ventura takes to the mike in a flashback at a karaoke club and sings “What Kind of Fool Am I” (from Stop the World, I Want To Get Off”), he makes a valid point of his most sincere and straightforward feelings. As one theater goer noted, “I didn’t want that segment to end.”
It’s a man’s play that women will love!
The taut acting/writing skills exposed in this production is coupled by the vital direction of another playwright/actor David Michael Sirois. Small Membership has what I might term “showmanship pedigree – fine acting and writing by Della Ventura, smooth and professional direction by Sirois and A-One production spurred by Alliance’s founder Adalberto Acevedo.
All three – Della Ventura, Sirois and Alliance were Carbonell nominees for 2011.
Credit must also go the lighting skill of Natalie Tavares, the sound design of Howard Ferre, and the scenic classroom setting skillfully designed by Jodi Dellaventura (yes, one of Mark’s sisters).
Small Membership runs through June 24.
“LION KING”MAY SET BOX-OFFICE RECORDS
IN MIAMI AS WELL AS ON BROADWAY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
Give them a show that has weathered time and they will come. If anyone has doubt about that, check with the box office at the Adrienne Arsht Center where tickets to The Lion King are in hot demand. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this show may soon set new attendance records in South Florida. Even on opening night for this successful musical, one could hear some locals touting the fact that this was their first time at the Arsht, (and, they usually had some pre-teen with them, introducing a new generation to Broadway-quality theatre).
It is, of course, the near sell-out quality that The Lion King gets no matter where it plays during its latest road show schedule. Such popularity is expected for the current and long-standing possession of the Disney TheatricalGroup. This producing group is used to such attendance records, whether it is The ,Lion King or its two current Tony nominees on Broadway – Newsies and Peter and the Starcatcher.
The Lion King is not new to South Florida. It played to record audiences at the Broward Performing Arts Center in 2002 and 2007 and only recently became the highest grossing Broadway run, surpassing Phantom of the Opera.
Normally, a musical production is scheduled in Miami and Broward for a couple of weeks but local Broadway Across America and the Arsht Center -- the producers -- in their wisdom, slated this road show version for four weeks – until June 10.
This version of the Elton John-Tim Rice masterpiece lives up to the expectations – even if one has seen it before or grew up watching the movie which inspired this award-winning theatrical musical. The choreography (by Garth Fagan) is rousing and Julie Taymor’s original direction and costuming may be copies but are Broadway quality. Listening to the Circle of Life or Can You Feel the Love Tonight brings back memories and watching the actors as lions, cheetas, giraffes, hyenas,--even an elephant – is thrilling. The huge cast has stirring voices to match the worthiness of this production, notably Dionne Randolph, Buyi Zama, Tryphena Wade, Mark David Kaplan, J. Anthony Crane, Keith Bennett, Robbie Swift, Nick Cordileone, Ben Lipitz, Jelanie Remy, Syndee Winters and the youngsters who alternately play young Simba and Nala (Zavion J. Hill and Adante Power and Kailah McFadden and Sade Phillip- Demorcy)
For tickets, call 305 949-6722.
LAURA TURNBULL DRIVES IT HOME WITH HUMOR
AS BECKY’S NEW CAR ARRIVES AT ACTORS’ PLAYHOUSE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Becky’s New Car: It’s one those plays in which the heroine hardly ever is off stage, thankfully in this case because it is Laura Turnbull as Rebecca, the leading lady of this production by playwright Steven Dietz and handsomely directed by Actors’ Playhouse veteran DavidArisco.
Few actresses regionally can make such a realistic presentation as Turnbull ( a happy Mrs. Avi Hoffman and multi-Carbonell honoreein real life) does in her depiction of a middle aged woman – busy with her home, her roofer husband (Ken Clement), her grad school son (Ryan Didato) who won’t move out of the house, her career at an automobile dealership – who just happens to be a woman on the verge of a mid-life crisis.
This may not seem much like comedy, but Turnbull and her supporting cast, especiallyClementas her husband, a nice, regular guy (of course named Joe) go for the jugular to make their audience laugh. And, that is exactly what they do, It’s witty, humorous and, yet, ends with a dramtic leap emphasizing understanding and forgiveness.
Turnbull (even though it is tough thinking of her as middle aged) begins the comedy by interacting with the audience (whom she tries to explain her activities and her typical day while getting first row patrons to empty a waste basket catching water from her dripping ceiling and other odd jobs). Did s we mention her spouse is a roofer?
She explains and flashbacks how she is approached by a rich and generous widower (who else would give all his nine employees new cars?). She doesn’t explain to this widower Walter (Allan Baker) that hubby Joe is still alive, thinking that this just might be a momentary fun-fling fantasy with the billboard millionaire, who lives on one of those for-the-rich-only-islands near Seattle.
But, things get out of hand when Becky finds herself embroiled in a hot romance with widower Walter who is kept in the dark that her ever-loving spouse Joe is very much alive.
Then, the author gives the audience a minor version of Noises Off with slamming doors, characters just missing one another, etc. That’s when the audience gets to know the widower’s daughter (Anne Chamberlain) who is having her own serious fling with Becky’s son, and a down-on-her-luck heiress who wants Walter for herself (a delightful, scene-stealing Kim Ostrenko).
As the two hour play comes to fruition, it has some serious moments. All the romantic duos comically get together – even Becky’s auto firm supervisor (Francisco “Pancho” Padura) , who is obsessed with his own personal losses.
If there are any dents in Becky’s New Car , It is because, in the final moments, everything is predictable. But, who cares? It is 120 minutes of escapism in which you hope your spouse does not take seriously.
Author Dietz does give a warning sign in his mostly funny dialogue .It is when Turnbull explains that her fellow employee’s late wife told her…”When a woman wants s new pair of shoes, she really wants a new job….when she wants a new car, she really wants a new house and husband.”
One cannot get by without mentioning the ‘timing” of actor Ken Clement. In Act II --, as the cheated-on husband -- he becomes wonderfully sarcastic yet funny…comedic yet poignant. One is not sure if that comic timing is strictly the versatile Clement on tap or possibly driven by Arisco’s artful direction. Whatever it is, it is the stuff that makes Becky’s’ New Car such a remarkably fun ride for the audience.
Technically, this-show passes all tests: Gene Seyffer for his versatile scenic design; Ellis Tillman for his rich costuming, highlighted by Turnbull’s hot red outfit (changing – with the help of some female audience members – on stage behind a raincoat ); Patrick Tennent for his lighting skills and Alexander Herrin for his sound techniques.
Becky’s New Car runs through June 3. Call 305- 444-9293.
I liked the way Actors’ Playhouse PR Manager Brooke Noble explained the unique back-up story to this production, so let us repeat her words here:
“Becky’s New Car comes complete with a unique back-story of how the production came to life. Searching for a “major” gift to give his wife Benita for her 60th birthday, Seattleite Charles Staadecker happened to meet a local woman who had commissioned a tuba concerto from the Seattle Symphony in memory of her husband. Charles latched onto the idea and brought it to ACT Theater (the Staadeckers are longtime supporters), and artistic director Kurt Beattie liked it so much he hired award-winning playwright Steven Dietz to pen the work. The Staadeckers now travel throughout the country visiting each production of Becky’s New Car, and educating arts patrons on the importance of commissioning new works and funding arts organizations along the way. “ The Actors’ Playhouse welcomed the couple to the Miracle Theatre during the opening weekend performances.
We think it was worth the trip!
DELLA VENTURA, SIROIS INTERACTION PROVES TO BE POWERFUL
IN SECOND HALF OF THINKING CAP’S PRODUCTION OF LOVE BURNS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News ./ ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – There are a couple of especially good reasons to see Love Burns, composed of two one-act comedies, by New York playwright Cherie Vogelstein at the Empire Stage (produced by Thinking Cap Theatre) here: and, their names are Mark Della Ventura and David Michael Sirois .
These two young actors (known locally as part of the Alliance Theatre Lab and for their playwriting / acting skills) take Vogelstein’s words and turn them into a spectacular verbal joust in the second of these two plays, sub-titled All About Al. It’s about two sort-of friends both interested in the same girl Allyson (played by Ashley Price). It gets especially testywhen one(Sirois) plans to dump her while the other (Della Ventura) hopes to win her over. The inter-play between these two actors is a comedic look at two men trying to prove which of them is the “real man” while testing their fears, possible rejections and intimacy.
All of this (and the first one-acter, Date With A Stranger ) as well, takes place at the Hip Sip Café, a New York coffee shop (marvelously staged by scenic designer Chastity Collins, whose Manhattan backdrop is a fitting locale for these plays about infatuation and seeking love (possibly in all of the wrong places). Director Nicole Stoddard has updated these two comedies and added appropriate music (even some mandolin/guitar themes played by the coffee house employe (Shiira Abergel). The familiar music throughout the two plays – are all “love” inducing and add to this production company’s unique comedy debut.
But the first of the two plays is definitely for a young adult audience. The experience of an accidental meeting is pegged toward the under-30 crowd, who will better understand whether someone you just met is possibly one you might want to know better. It’s witty and a bit crazy, with the same cast of four in the second playlet. The characters are exaggerated (especially Ashley Price’s role -- the author’s fault!))-a generational mishap. It does not score as well for older members in the audience. Some re-rewriting would serve the playwright well.
However, it is the go-for-it , faceoff of Della Ventura and Sirois which smacks of realism and provide the most memorable moments in this production targeted for a young-at-heart audience.
Stoddard added another feature to allure and target younger audiences. During intermission, the set becomes a real coffee house, offering java, cappuccino, muffins, cookies and the best Danish imaginable from Eten (Food Company) on Las Olas and some vintage drinks from the Naked Wine Bar in Wilton Manors
And here’s a twist to local performance scheduling, In addition to hosting Love Burns, Thinking Cap is also producing Radio Plays at Empire Stage, a series of scripts from the golden age of radio, including material from Fibber Magee & Molly, The Bickersons and Burns and Allen, performed by four local actors – the popular Elayne Wilk, Berry and Fern Katz and Jerry Weinberg. This hour and a half show, which will run Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings and alternating with Love Burns, was the brainchild of Thinking Cap company member Wilks, and should awaken nostalgia for the pre-TV crowd.
Here’s your Thinking Cap Theatre timetable:
Love Burns: Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.through May 26; Tickets $25
Radio Plays Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m.Through May 26 / Tickets $15
Thinking Cap / Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler St., Fort Lauderdale / Call 954 678-1496
REALISM FOR THE CHOICES EXPRESSED
IN “TIME STANDS STILL” AT GABLESTAGE
By Ron Levutt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL GABLES, FL -- Time Stands Still: Here is a thoughtful drama which explores relationships, much like a camera catches a glimpse of an individual at any given moment. It’s two hours of humorous, stirring, adult-peppered dialogue by Pulitzer Prize playwright Donald Margulies. In fact, this is his finest play since winning the 2000 PP for Dinner with Friends. Much of that praise , of course also, goes to this production --GableStage Director Joseph Adler and a stellar cast Deborah Sherman, Steve Garland Gregg Weiner and Betsey Graver - who take Margulies’ words and spout them out with powerful sensitivity and reality.
Sarah Goodwin, marvelously played by Sherman, is a complicated photo journalist who has just returned home from an assignment in Iraq where a roadside bomb killed her translator and seriously left her with a broken leg and scarred face. Her live-in boyfriend of eight years, James – (Garland) -- had returned to the U.S. before the accident after suffering a breakdown, which he termed “shell shock.” He also has a sense of guilt for not being with her when the war accident occurred.
The first visitors to their Brooklyn apartment are Sarah’s editor, the middle-aged Richard Ehrlich (Weiner) and his much younger girlfriend Mandy Bloom (a charming Graver), who shows her naivety and lack of intellect as she attempts to ingratiate herself to Richard’s two old journalism pals. Sarah sarcastically finds her “darling” and “adorable” while Weiner’s solidly performed character insists – despite the age difference – this is the real thing. Sarah’s –a sophisticated, well-travelled war photo journalist, says “There is young… and there’s embryonic.”
The crux of this drama is Sarah’s remarkable need to play into the chaos of a roving war correspondent, while her long-time boyfriend wants to have a more conventional relationship, as his wife and starting a family. Just how that desired relationship evolves is the core of this 60-minute intrusion into two extremely real individuals.
Although this solid production has more to do with relationships than with the world of communications, anyone in the turf of journalism or a related enterprise will find this production of special merit because Margulies, characters happen to be in the field of communications. And, it asks a moral question involving choices between one’s career and one’s private life.
As always, Deborah Sherman – who most recently won the Carbonell for best actress, shows her versatility in this role. She makes Sarah so realistic, one will immediately want to take sides in her onstage relationship. And, Steve Garland, a newcomer to South Florida audiences, has shown what a fine actor he is as his anger and guilt explode in protecting Sarah. It throbs with pragmatism. Gregg Weiner– a multiple Carbonell recipient – proves once again why he is considered one of South Florida’s major actors. And Betsy Graver, has never been better as her portrayal of a kindly but uninformed young lady becomes a supporting role of superior dimension.
Of course, the talent wand of Director Joe Adler is evident in this production of a play which seems certain to end up some day on the silver screen. It is filled with the kind of achievable flashbacks, a script filled with wit and drama so many film producers value. One can easily see this Tony nominated play re-scripted for the big screen. But, it is more than worthwhile to see it first on stage here!
Lyle Baskin’s set with its NY backdrop is the perfect locale for this drama to unfurl, Jeff Quinn’s lighting, Matt Corey’s sound and Ellis Tillman’s wardrobe all show the reality of today.
This production runs through June 3 . Call 305-446-1116.
Add all these superlatives together and throw in a few more and one might find the best way to describe Death and Harry Houdini, Nathan Allen’s superb theatrical achievement currently at the Carnival Studio Theatre at the Adrienne Arsht Center here.
It’s best described as a show-biz mixture of song and dance coupled with lots of “death-defying” magic and a unique biography of that famous stunt performer and escape artist who captured the world’s fascination with magical moments during the late 1800s.
But, this is no simple biographic effort. Storyteller/Director Allen has written a mixture of choreographic excellence, distinctive story-telling, seemingly impossible magical moments plus the drama of a superstar escape artist who apparently had issues which tied him forever to his mother’s apron strings.
One doesn’t know where to begin to give credit to this impressive play written for and originally produced by the House Theatre of Chicago, the Windy City company’s second offering to be transplanted to Florida under an agreement with Arsht. The earlier play was The Sparrow, an excellent work but nothing like Houdini.
In fact, one would have to go a long way to find anything like this Houdini.
Above all, there is actor/magician Dennis Watkins, for whom Allen wrote this tribute piece. It is unthinkable that anyone but the enigmatic, charming, charismatic Watkins could possibly have the skills and artistry to take on such a demanding role. Watkins – as Houdini – is introduced to the audience while hanging upside down with his feet chained to an overhead hoist. And that is only the beginning.There’s the many tricks with Houdini handcuffed while in a straight jacket, the water-torture box escape mechanism, and the walking barefoot on broken glass which will keep the audience amused, confused and enthralled.
Although it is primarily Watkins’ show, the entire cast is superb, whether singing, dancing to the excellent choreography of Tommy Rapley, appearing in a barber shop quartet, or scaring the audience with an eerie stilt-inspired symbolic scarer known as Death (Kevin Stangler),
Notable are tap-dancing pro Carolyn Defrin (as HoudinI’s loyal wIfe Bess), Marika Mashburn (as his stern and spooky mother Cecilia Weiss ), Shawn Pfautsch ( aremarkably likeable Shawn Pfautsch as his inventive brother Theo) and the rest of this cast: Johnny Arena, Abu Ansari, and Trista Smith.
Several of the cast plays multiple roles but, as in magic itself, one would think the cast consisted of many more than the obvious eight performers listed in the program. It is a dream ensemble backing up Watkins.
Lee Keenan deserves special praise for her distinctive costuming.
The magic takes priority but writer Allen brings in reality with the biographic moments. Houdini (born Erik Weisz, later Ehrich Weiss or Harry Weiss) in 1874 and lived until 1926, when death caught up with him finally. His official biography – realized throughout this play -- shows he was a Hungarian-born American stunt performer,” noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice as Handcuff Harry, on a tour of Europe, where he would sensationally challenge different officials and police to keep him locked up. This talent for gimmickry, for audience involvement and even in the cinema would characterize his work. Soon he was extending his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to hold his breath for multi-minutes.”
Although it is not necessary to enjoy this play, I would recommend that you can enhance your pleasure by going online and learning more about Harry Houdini. He was remarkable and unique.…and, so is this production.
Death and Houdini runs through May 20. Call 305 949-6722.
LOTS OF GOOD REASONS TO RE-VISIT
‘HORRORS’ AT BROWARD STAGE DOOR
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
CORAL SPRINGS, FL -- It’s a matter of choice as to what particular element makes the latest creation of Little Shop of Horrors, a half-century old musical comedy – currently at Broward Stage Door Theatre – such an intriguing and likeable production:
(A) The Dan Kelley-directed version is just so much fun to watch that you somehow get lost into this version of the clumsy young man nurturing a plant and discovering that it's bloodthirsty, forcing him to kill to feed it.
(B) You keep watching and listening to see when each of the seven characters played by musical super-talent Matthew William Chizever will appear.
(C) You are entranced by the beautiful voices of two of its young lead characters – Seymour (played by newcomer Michael Linden ) and Audrey (played by Erica Lustiig) and the charm of the flower shop owner Mushnik (veteran performer Bob Levitt).
No matter what the reason, this replay of the Broadway hit and 1986 Rick Moranis movie is strictly for fun and enjoyment – and delivers on both counts.
In fact, from the very moment the musical begins and three young ladies start singing the prologue and Downtown (skid row), you know you are in for a treat This chorus consists of Kassiopia DeVore, Jasmin Richardson and Amber Hurst-Martin – and their wide-ranged voices are a major element throughout this production.
Little Shop of Horrors is a comedy horror rock musical, by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, about a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood. The musical is based on a low-budget 1960 black comedy film. The music, composed by Menken in the style of early 1960s rock and roll and early Motown, includes several well-known tunes, including the title song, as well as "Somewhere That's Green", and "Suddenly, Seymour.”
In addition to the original long-running 1982 off-Broadway production and subsequent Broadway hit , the musical has been performed all over the world. The musical’s 1986 film of the same name, was a smash hit and is still a favorite in the CD rental circuit.
Chizever, a Broward Stage Door regular is an obvious favorite of the local theatre crowd. He plays several characters in this Little House of Horrors version, most notably as Orin, a mean-spirited dentist who delights in abusing people, particularly his girlfriend Audrey. It is a long way from his charming, awards-worthy Henry Higgins role which he slam-dunked earlier this March in his gig in Broward Stage Door’s My Fair Lady. But,Chizever is such a musical giant locally, thrilled by his vocal chords, even his role as the “bad guy” gets unanimous applause.
Relative newcomer Linden personifies the nerdy Seymour and captures many new fans with his portrayal. Ditto for the lovely Lustig, whose golden voice thrills in several numbers Veteran performer Levitt (no relation to this critic) is the best he has been in many shows , especially in the humorous number Mushnik & Son.
Director Dan Kelley has put together an enviable crew – David Nagy for musical direction; Ardean Landhuis for lighting and set design; Luis Marin (sound) and Larry Baumann (costumes). Also lets give credit to the design and building of the plant – Audrey ll), Jeff and Christy Brigman and the duo responsible for bringing it to life -- Voice (Marcus Davis) and manipulation (Curtis Roth).
This show runs through May 20. Call 954-344-7765 for tickets.
Todd Allen Durkin Stars
MOSAIC-COMMISSIONED PLAY RECOUNTS
A HORRIBLE CRIME IN BROWARD COUNTY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
PLANTATION, FL -- When author Joe Calarco was commissioned by Mosaic Theatre to write a play – A Measure of Cruelty -- about the dousing and setting ablaze of l5 year old Michael Brewer of Deerfield Beach , he wisely wrote about a fictional family who owned a bar there in the aftermath of this crime rather than the tragedy itself.
It only strengthen the drama of this horrible offense as we see the last of the perpetrators hiding out there while the bar owners – father and son—have to live out their own hurt caused by bullying – the suicide of their son/brother, years before.
It is a drama that will stir one’s emotions, especially as we learn more about Buddy, the physically and emotionally damaged former Army veteran, played with strength and determination by one of South Florida’s finest actors, Todd Allen Durkin.
This is a world premiere event, a production made possible by a grant from Funding Arts Broward/Knight Foundation. It will run through May 13.
Director Richard Jay Simon moves this drama along at a stunning pace, with the prowess of Durkin and two other award-worthy performances -- Dennis Creaghan as Teddy (the father) and Andrew Wind (as Derek, one of the young criminals). Both Creaghan and Wind give A-One performances, even though the intense dramatic role goes to Durkin. Both Creaghan and Durkin --- as well as Simon – have been awarded Carbonells for their theatrical knowhow. And, Wind won’t be far behind with his excellent premiere performance at Mosaic.
A Measure of Cruelty is the story – ripped from the real-life Broward County headlines – of the quiet South Florida neighborhood .which becomes the center of drama by a horrific crime.– The intermission-less play is well-crafted by prize-winning playwright Calarco.
And, there is extended dramatic impact when Creaghan --as the local bar owner struggles to keep peace with his son, recently discharged from the Army. Their years of pain explode as we learn of their family’s loss as a result of bullying, Center stage is packed with passion.as these characters explain what they think manhood is!
Technically, this production is in an A-class, with set designer Douglas Grinn providing a realistic neighborhood bar for the action, and lighting and sound by the creative team of John Hall and Matt Corey respectively.
Call 954 577 8243 for tickets.
KEGS OF LAUGHTER ABOUND AS TECH CREW
OVERWHELMS AT TERRI GIRVIN’S LAST CALL
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
FORT LAUDERDSALE, FL -- We know it’s a bit corny, but for this one review, let’s define excellence in terms of bottles of beer, with ten bottles out of ten as the highest standard.
With that criteria in mind, here’s our take on the one-woman show – Last Call – currently underway as a world premiere at the Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, a one-woman, intermission-less show starring and written by comedienne Terri Girvin .
Technical excellence: 10 bottles of beer. Give a rousing salute to Tony and Carbonell-nominated Drector Michael Leeds, sound designers Phil Pallozzalo and David Hart and stage manager /lighting guru Christopher Michaels, for the dizzying numberof cues , including ringing cash registers, pouring drinks, slicing fruit and a myriad of other sounds whIch buzz by in the 80-minute show.
As for Girvin herself, let’s toast at least nine bottles of beer . We’d give her ten, as well, if she wasn’t so dependent on the technical skills of Director Leeds and Company in pulling off this especially well-timed comedy of her late night shift at a New York neighborhood bar (We can count on our fingers and toes the number of actors we know who are working part time in Manhattan taverns or bars to meet their economic needs and career aspirations).
In Girvin’s case, her work as a bar-tender extraordinaire with a memory (almost as good as her tech crew’s cue ability) only gets interrupted when her mom (whom we get to know from the endless phone calls to Terri’s cell, including the ones from an LA area jail) and Terri’s colorful recollections of growing up in an eccentric home.
That alone would be interesting enough, but this intricately choreographed piece slips into deep autobiographical waters as Girvin's character wrestles with her -needy mom – on the the verge of homelessness and the fact that none of her siblings can come to the rescue. All have their problems with a free-spirited, one-time hippie mother.
Girvin pulls off this one-person show, but it is her technical crew which cuts into her spotlight as clinking glasses, and the constant ringing of the cash register (mysteriously sliding in and out of Chastity Collins’s painted scenery).
So, in consideration of the entire show – writing, acting, technical – let’s be fair and give an entire case of lager to the crew of Last Call. As word of this outstanding production peaks and spreads around the theatre circuit, it will not be its last call.
Last Call –a joint venture of Empire Stage with First Step Productions -- will run here through May 6. Call 954-383-1896 for tickets.
RACISM , BIGOTRY SLIDE BY SYMBOLICALLY
IN “MASTER HAROLD” AT PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
WEST PALM BEACH –To its credit, it’s been more than 28 years since Athol Fugard’s intellectually stimulating “Master Harold ….and the Boys” first appeared on stage ( with numerous awards, Including a Best Play Tony), birthed a study-guide used to scrape data for university students of drama and literature, and unveiled a string of regional performances produced world-wide.
Yet, even if the calendar moves on, this play about the effect of racial segregation (apatheid) in South Africa, is as relevant today, as it was in 1982. The importance of its subject and message has not diminished over those years.
That’s what makes the current Palm Beach Dramaworks production such an intriguing ticket nowadays. It’s message of social justice and its intent to spawn a frank discussion of bigotry is loud and clear.
Master Harold premiered in 1982, nine years before the final apartheid laws were stricken in South Africa, but – its relevancy – is clear Racism never goes out of style, unfortunately, and Producing Artistic Director William Hayes allows that message to sink in without preaching. His three actors provide the message as the playwright intended.
It’s basically about the relationship of 17 year old student Hally (Jared McGuire) with the two black men who work for his family’s tea room – Sam (W. Paul Bodie) and Willie (Summer Hill Seven. Sam, in particular, is almost a surrogate father to the young man. The trio have somewhat of a bond, that has flourished as time goes with each respecting boundaries of that friendship. But, keeping that friendship at arm’s length, becomes impossible when a certain situations evolve. That’s when the hidden racism comes to fruition – and the social extremes come into play.
Symbolism is fluid throughout Fugard’s work. One black man is satisfied with the status quo, while the stronger of the two (Sam) is open to the changes in society, At the same time, the white teenager is caught in the middle, where he is confronted with impossible choices that will affect his adult life.
This play is a resounding indictment of racism and offers the audience a positive spin to wonder if possibly there is hope for reconciliation in the future. Director Hayes gives his audience a hope that there may be a positive sign in the future….or as Fugard writes it symbolically that it won’t ‘rain” forever.
Actor Bodie, in particular, is a standout in his role of the dominant character, Sam. His sense of realism is so strong , it becomes more and more apparent as the play evolves and his emotional depths are perceptible.
Michael Amico’s set of St. George’s Tea Room in Port Elizabeth, South Africa also smacks of realism, (and symbolically , its black and white flooring) and the production is aided by Erin Amico for costumes, Ron Burns for lighting and Rich Szczublewski for sound. Dialect coach Ben Furey may have worked overtime with his actors. The one criticism I overheard was that “Can’t these actors speak English?”
“Master Harold ….and the Boys” will run through April 29. Call (561) 514-4042 for tickets.
SOUTH PACIFIC PROVES ONCE AGAIN
IT IS ONE OF BROADWAY’S FINEST MUSICALS
BY Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
If there was even the slightest doubt, South Pacific – currently at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts – proves once again, it is still one of the best musicals to reach Broadway and beyond.
With a superb cast, artfully-crafted scenery, stirring direction and retaining its operatic style, – but, most of all, with its Richard Rodgers, / Oscar Hammerstein II music and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, South Pacific shows off once more that there are few musicals which rank at the top and deserve the highest accolades possible.
It can only be described as “musical theatre at its finest.”
And, this production lives up to its illustrious past.
The plot draws from James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific, combining elements of several of the stories in that book. First of all, there is an American nurse Nelly ( Jennie Sophia) stationed at a Naval base during World War II who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner (a superb operatic star Marcello Guzzo) but struggles to accept his mixed-race children.
A second romance concerns a U.S. Lieutenant (Shane Donovan ) who falls in love with a young Asian woman.( Hsin Yu Liao). The issue of racial prejudice is candidly explored throughout the musical, most pointedly in the song, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught".
One cannot totally appreciate the sweeping history of this musical. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950 and swept the Tony awards with ten wins, including Best Musical, It is the only musical production ever to take home all four Tony awards in the acting categories. It ran for nearly five years, originally starring Mary Martin and Italian opera star Ezio Pinza.
The years have been kind to this amazing story and this road show cast proves it is up to taking on such an historic path and making the producers (and the audience) proud..
This road show production follows without a mis-cue the critically acclaimed and box office hit and that has enjoyed many successful revivals and tours, including a 1958 film (who can forget Mitzi Gaynor and
Rossano Brazzi?:) The 2008 Broadway revival was a strong success, winning seven Tonys including Best Musical Revival.
And, several generations still know most of the music including "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Happy Talk", "Younger than Springtime" and "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy", most of which have become popular standards. And, who can forget Bloody Mary (played here by CathyFoy Mah) , quietly vocalizing “Bali Ha’i,” These songs are so meaningful to those who love musical theatre as this production proves!
It would be remiss if one failed to mention an audience favorite who plays the sailor Luther (Christian Marriner) who gets the spotlight in several numbers including “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.”
Professionally directed by Bartlett Sher, this version of South Pacific seems, at times, to be re-worked as an opera, but its message of tolerance comes through beautifully with its musical numbers still as emotional as the original decadesago.
It runs through April 22 Call for tickets 800-764.0700
MCKEEVER’S MOSCOW RE-VISITS THE MIAMI AREA
WITH RICH, NTERESTING CHARACTERS AMID THE 1960S
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI -- Anyone old enough to remember the Miami area --during the pre I -95 days when Cuban exiles arrived, the Cold War was on everyone’s mind, and desegregation was the news of the day –will reflect anew after seeing Michael McKeever’s brilliant new play, Moscow, currently at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Theatre.
This offering by the relatively new Zoetic Stage Company – the prolific McKeever’s 22ND full-length play -- covers that time frame,(the early 1960s) with a whole bunch of interesting and rich characters, comic situations and enough laugh inducing yet dramatic moments -- to make its audience recollect the city it knew 50 years ago. That’s a mighty difficult goal to achieve but thanks to McKeever’s keen sense of observation, able direction by Stuart Meltzer , a gorgeous set by Sean McClleland and a talented ensemble cast,it becomes one of the wittiest yet realistic shows to premiere here in many years.
Moscow – as a title – may be a misnomer. Yet, it does illuminate the time when the West vs Communism was the most talked about theme of everyday life. However, the playwright presents a made-in Miami version of the 1960s which an audience in any city could recall as ‘the days when…”
Although the setting recreates a time period, using the MiamI area as the locale, this two hour, 15-minute play is mostly about people – and how they were affected by the events of the day.
There’s Lucy Montefiore (Marjorie Lowe) – who tries franticly to achieve success in various art endeavors but fails miserably.Her current project is to become an actress in a local theatre production of a Chekov play. In addition to her lack of talent, she is under-minded by her sister Lorelei Montefiore Porter (Irene Adjan). Their discussion on what is a classic in theatre is a gem. Lowe refers to Anton Chekov’sThree Sisters as a classic, while Adjan’s character – in her sibling rivalry best – says My Fair Lady is the epitome of a classic because it is meaningful. In their give and take. Lorelei refers to Samuel Beckett’sWaiting for Godot as “that play ahout two bums under a tree. ” Theatre aficionados, as well as myself personally, loved this give and take about professional theatre inasmuch as Godot was the first play I ever reviewed for United Press and the New York Times at the now-shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse).
Characters we meet in Moscow include Lorelei’s husband --Clayton Porter (Tom Wahl), who brings in the changing community as he strives to build a superhighway (I-95?) amid the political controversy of the day (also building a bomb shelter during the Bay of Pigs invasion). Then there is the family’s longtime housemaid (and family confidante) Olivia (a wonderful Lela Elam) who must return to “colored town” (Overtown) to care for an ailing father despite the despair of her adopted family.
And, who can forget the comic turn by Elena Maria Garcia as Inez ? She nails the comic performance of the Cuban immigrant who has never cleaned a house and knows no English as she becomes Olivia’s replacement in the plush Coral Gables home. As time goes by, Inez also helps Hector, a Cuban refugee (Luis Restrepo) by hiding him in the never-used bomb shelter.
As character studies, McKeever’s Moscow is priceless. He has written a play in which all members of the ensemble become necessary to tell his story. Their inter-action – sometimes comic and sometimes dramatic – keep this audience intrigued. He is at his best developing characters, using rich and endearing dialogue.
Zoetic Stage is a relatively new company founded by McKeever, Meltzer, playwright Chris Demos-Brown (author of Captiva, another wonderful play which launched the company last year)and his wife Stephanie. Zoetic is partnering with the Arsht Center (Kerry Shiller, producing director).and boasts a company of some 20 of South Florida’s most talented actors.
Moscow runs through April 15. Call (305) 949-6672 for tickets.
Prejudices Take A Heavy Toll
In Sanchez Play at New Theatre
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI – Playwrght Juan Sanchez covers a lot of territory and subjects in his world premiere offering at New Theatre, but, Property Line primarily is a dark and edgy dramatic comedy which takes to task all the prejudices one might find in both the Cuban-American and Anglo-American communities in Miami.
Property Line shows both sides of urban Miami, with its backdrop seemingly pulled from the headlines as it verbally diagnoses prejudices from all sides, discrimination that is blatantly subtle and then showing overt gestures of hatred.
Armed with a strong cast and theatrical direction from the able Ricky J. Martnez, this production has the makings of a birds eye view of Miami from several vantage points but has enough intense drama and laugh-inducing script to make it a theatrical gem in any part of America. The geographic locale of Property Line should not give any indication that it is just for Miamians. Sanchez covers a variety of subjects – prejudice, middle aged wanderlust and crisis, the fragility of relationships -- just to name a few. This play at New Theatre’s home at the Roxy Performing Arts Center was commissioned by the company where Sanchez has a day job as Box Office Manager. But, Sanchez is no newcomer. His plays as resident playwright at the soon-to-be-closed Promethean in Broward -- Buck Fever, Red Tide and A Bearded Lover, all got good receptions. But Propety Line, in my estimation, has the most comic elements, while still taking on serious subjects.
The basic elements of the story: Charlie (Bill Schwartz) , whose biking and pot smoking are priorities of a man unable to cope with growing old, feels something is amiss when his widowed neighbor, Blanca (a fiery Evelyn Perez) shouts a vile name at him and gives him a fingered gesture of disapproval.
That sets the wheels in motion for the comic drama that unfolds.
It seems Blanca feels that her property should be expanded some 15 feet, into the home site of Charlie and her former good pal, and passionate liberal Charlie’s wife Mag (a dynamic Barbara Sloan). The legal battle goes into the hands of real estate expert Joe (a throw away part for the talented Scott Douglas Wilson).
Meanwhile, in addition to the property dispute, both homes have their own share of internal problems. Blanca has a generational and cultural gap with her troubled teenage son Danny (Javier “Javi” Cabrera) while Mag’s husband Charlie wants to keep going at a younger man’s pace while she wants to stay quietly at home.
There’s a lot of symbolism in Sanchez’ latest work but – if you pay close attention – you will get it easily. He leaves the audience on an understanding of the heavy toll caused by intolerance and the depth of angst in relationships.
Sound by Ozzie Quintana and lighting by Andrew Rodriguez-Triana are both key elements of this work and production stage manager Jerry Jensen o oversees the stage maneuvering.
This production runs through April 8 and then has a short stand at the South Dade Arts Center in Homestead in mid-April. Call (305) 443-5909 for tickets.
At Broward Stage Door
MY FAIR LADY HAS MANY REASONS
TO KEEP ITS AUDIENCE ENTERTAINED
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
There are a number of reasons to compliment the production of My Fair Lady currently drawing crowds to the Broward Stage Door Theatre In Coral Springs.
First and foremost, it’s a gutsy call by the producers to tackle such a popular, well-known show which millions have seen in theatres and, most handsomely on the big screen with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.
But, no apologies necessary!.
1, Matthew William Chizever, is in topnotch form as Professor Henry Higgins,. Chizever does more than do justice to the role of the phoneticist who plans on turning a Cockney flower girl into a well-born lady. The two-time Carbonell-nominated musical star captures the Higgins’ personality completely and sparkles as he sings I’m An Ordinary Man, I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face and other number.
2. Diana Rose Becker, a recent grad of the Eastman School of Music, tantalizes the audience with her stunning voice as she recreates the role of Eliza Doolittle. It is not easy stepping into Julie Andrews’ skin, but Becker is “loverly” and a voice that indicates a glowing future on stage.
3., Director Michael Leeds – a Carbonell-nominated director, shows inspired workmanship at the helm of this worthy production. He uses multiple actors in a keen manner and has the same touch of direction that earned him an award nomination for Mack and Mabel, which was named best musical at the Carbonells last year. Leeds, at the helm of My Fair Lady, shows the same diligence again this year.
4. Dave Campbell –Even the harshest critics will boast on the choreography of this show. Although My Fair Lady is not known for its dance numbers usually, Campbell uses this ensemble in so many wonderful ways, it sparkles in this colorful production.
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza , the Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Higgins so that she may pass in society as an educated lady.
The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a hit, setting what was then the record for the longest run of any major musical theatre production in history. It was followed by a hit London production, the popular film version, and numerous revivals. It has been called "the perfect musical” and it lives up to its reputation at Broward Stage Door for producers Derelle W, Bunn and David Torres,
Credit, of course, goes to the supporting roles, particularly Regan Featherstone, whose voice dominates when he is on stage as the love-smitten Freddy, Also thumbs up to Bob Levitt as Colonel Pickering; Michael Douglas as Alfred Doolittle, and the rest of the ensemble company. Such pleasurable dancing and vocalists add to the luster. So give a cheer to the other actors and musical ensemble Margie EIisenberg, Miki Edelman, Gail Byer, Christopher Michaels, Addie Tomlinson, Courtney Chilton, Vance Vlasek, Sally Bondi, Ryan Braun, Larry Buzzeo, Tim Osgood, Christian Teague, Laura Lacara, Elizabeth Worley and Victor Aponte. Again, a cheer for director Leeds who magically makes it seem there are even more people onstage.
The show runs through March 25. Call 954 344-7765.
MARK DOWN THE NAME DAVID MICHAEL SIROIS
FOR PLAYWRITNG EXCELLENCE, A BIG FUTURE
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI LAKES, FL - David Michael Sirois smacks of genius! The South Florida playwright unwrapped his second full-length play -- Off Center of Nowhere – with a world premiere at the Alliance Theatre Lab here and it displayed once again that he is something special in the realm of theatre.
Sirois had already given a hint of his brilliance as a playwright last year when he premiered his first full-length play Brothers Beckett – also at Alliance’s temporary home at the Main Street Playhouse and that went on to be nominated for a Carbonelll as best new work of 2011 (he’ll find out April 2 if he won the coveted trophy).
But, no matter the outcome of the April 2 ceremony, Sirois has – in just his first two full length plays – established himself as one of the most luminous talents in the art of playwriting in our midst. It isn’t often one sees a 20-something with such a sophisticated flair for contemporary drama. When the word spreads beyond the border of Florida, (he has already been nominated for a national writing award), the name Sirois has the potential for big things!
Siriois – a graduate of the New World School of the Arts less than four years ago – also has shown early on in his professional career that he also can act and direct, but our prophecy is that – as an author – he has a distinctive voice and it is there in which he will gain national attention.
Although Off Center of Nowhere is basically a serious play, tackling subjects such as racism, abortion, teen pregnancy, family secrets – all with somber undertones, it is filled with humor, well-written comedy which will gain the attention of all ages in the audience. When Sirois premiered his first full-length wor, Brothers Beckett, the audience noted his understanding of his generation’s voice. That play was best understood by the young. It was about young adults, in language they recognized as their own. Off Center of Nowhere, on the other hand, stunningly portrays characters which span the generations.
In Off Center of Nowhere’, we meet a boisterous , blue collar Italian-American family, ardent Catholics, who have recently moved into a Brooklyn apartment. Mom (Lavonne Canfield) is a nurse, Dad (a vibrant Andy Quiroga) is a postman and their 17 year old daughter Jackie (Breeza Zeller) is a very, very pregnant young lady. . Her secret boyfriend is a 23year old recent college grad (Mclley Lafrance), who just happens to be black. That – plus the consideration of an abortion and other family secrets – explode in sitcom –worthy proportions. This family, by the way, does not talk; they scream (often using four letter words to make their poiint).
Just how the New England-born, Florida-educated Siriois is able to display such a keen understanding of this Brooklyn family merely enhances his writing talent.
This cast is excellent, obviously well-paced by Director Adalberto Acevedo, who gives his actors the freedom to move and yell with spontaneity. Each scene is a wonderment, begging the audience to know what is coming next.
Sirois’ four characters are totally believable and the actors spew reality. It is perfect casting , perfect direction by Acevedo for a perfect play.
I have a hunch that years from now, when the name Sirois appears on cinema credits or TV screens as the scribe responsible for “written for TV,” people who have seen this enjoyable bit of theatre will say “I remember him when he just got started.”
Just so you can recall who we’re talking about (for future consideration), here is canned press material about this talented writer:
“David Michael Sirois is a Connecticut born theatre artist who wrote and directed his first play, 3 for Lunch, at Broward College in Davie, Florida. At Broward, he would successfully act, write and direct many more of his full lengths and one acts. David submitted his work to the Kennedy Center Playwriting Competition where he was a finalist in both the 10 minute play and the short play categories. His first world premiere, Brothers Beckett, was produced at Alliance Theatre Lab and has won the Miami New Times Best New Play Award for 2011, Best of MiamiArtzine, Best of Florida Theatre on Stage, The Silver Palm and is recommended for the ATCA/Steinberg Award. He's acted, written and directed at many schools and professional theatres including: Broward College, New World School of the Arts, Barry University, Lynn University, Frenchwoods Festival, Coral Springs Institute, New Theatre, Promethean, Mosaic, Gablestage, Caldwell, Florida Stage, The State Theatre Project, Lake Worth Playhouse, and is an acting ensemble member and the resident playwright at Alliance Theatre Lab.”
The Alliance Theatre Lab of Miami, has announced that its entire 2012 Season will be dedicated to solely presenting original works. Next up is Small Membership by Mark Della Ventura, June 1st through June 24th, 2012. It will be directed by Sirois and then Roomies, also by Della Ventura, November 9th through December 2nd, 2012, and Sirois will act in that one -- . and what is that about -- five 20-somethings, who all just graduated from a four year acting conservatory, in a two bedroom apartment. The four of them are trying to write a play, documenting their lives in this apartment. Siriois will play one of the playwriting foursome. Does art imitate life?
In the meantime, see Off Center of Nowhere. It runs through April 8. Call 305-259-0418.
The Alliance Theatre Lab -- in its sixth season – has bragging rights for three Carbonell nominations coming up on April 2. Is at home nowadays at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes. 6766 Main Street, Miami Lakes, FL 33014. Check it out at www.thealliancetheatrelab.com
THIS “HELLO DOLLY” SMACKS
OF ELEGANCE AT MALTZ JUPITER
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
JUPITER, FL -- It doesn’t matter if you know the storyline, have played a 78, 45 rpm, or a CD of the songs, own an original cast album, or know the names of those who have made this American fictional character an icon of the theatre and cinema. No matter what your connection, the Tony winning Hello Dolly – as presented at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre -- is a gem, a high spirited and colorful production which only enhances the already solid reputation of this venue for its excellence.
Maltz Jupiter, under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director Andrew Kato, has grown in stature over the past ten years, culminating in 2011 with 25 Carbonell nominations for its musicals, the most of any regional company. And, if that isn’t recognition enough, here comes Hello Dolly, already a near sell out for its three week run and a sure-fire contender for awards season 2012..
This Dolly is Vicki Lewis, veteran stage and TV personality…and can she sing!! She is the epitome of talent as she belts out the numbers written by Jerry Herman for the 1964 Broadway opener. Lewis, packed with youthful exuberance and star quality, floats around the stage in showy costumes designed by Gail Baldoni for this Maltz production.
Lewis sounds a lot like the Barbara Streisand whio starred in the memorable 1969 award winning movie, but is no copy cat. Lewis’s Dolly is an original, in the same impeccable style of those who played the “meddler” Dolly in other productions on Broadway or on the road -- Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Michelle Lee, Alice Faye, Eadie Adams, Yvonne de Carlo – all of whom brought their own individual style to the role. Lewis is a match-up for any of them vocally as the brassy matchmaker! When she sings Before the Parade Passes By, she has you in her hands!
Directed by Marsha Milgrom Dodge who also helmed the choreography, this Hello Dolly boasts a terrific cast, including Gary Beach, as the grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the shop-owning, half-millionaire who is the target of Dolly’s affection.
Supporting Lewis and Beach are a handful of talented performers, led by Daniella Dalli as Mrs. Malloy, the hat shop owner, whose operatic voice (singing Ribbons Down My Back ) is a wonder. Add to that the acting, dancing and singing of Matt Loehr ( who as Cornelius sings It Only Takes a Moment, and Put on Your Sunday Clothes, and you have another winner). Loehr (competing for a Carbonell on April 2) , has a voice and personality which is catching for its show-stopping appeal. Ditto for Chris Brick (as Barnaby), a young man with talent. Plus, there is Shayla Benoiit, Kara Curtis, Katie Emerson, Timothy Grady and an A-One ensemble of singers and dancers.
As a play, Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker --from whence Hello Dolly was born – was vibrant. When Michael Stewart wrote the book and teamed with Jerry Herman and choreographer/director Gower Champion, they produced a musical with enchanting results. No where is that more evident than in the Maltz version.
Maltz Director Choreographer Dodge not only allows Lewis to dominate the stage with such numbers as I Put My Hand In and So Long, Dearie, but she lets the buffoon-like clerks , Barnaby and Cornelius (Loehr and Brick) to sing and dance with appropriate gusto. Then, for the 14th Street parade and in the scenes at the Harmonia Gardens , the ensemble of parading musicians and waiters takes over with exuberance. One of the audience’s favorites is the lightly satirical "Elegance," in which Loehr, Brick Dalli and Emerson tear down the house with their singing and dancing.
There is so much to like about this Hello Dolly, but one has to be impressed especially with the versatile scenic design – two large staircases that are moved around to configure a host of locations. Credit Paul Tate Depoo III with that set effort.
We won’t go into the entire story. You know it well enough, The widow Dolly Levi -- who has a business card for just about everything – conspires to marry shop-owner Horace Vandergelder. Meanwhile, his two employes Cornelius and Barnaby pretend to be rich and leave Yonkers for the big city to meet some women. For more details, test your memory, rent the DVD of the movie, or –better yet -- get one of the few remaining seats at Maltz from now until April 1.
Call (561) 575-2223 for tickets.
MOSAIC’S “DEATH AND THE MAIDEN “ HAS
A POWERFUL TRIO OF ACTORS, TOPNOTCH DIRECTON
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
PLANTATION, FL -- Is there any justice when evil exists? Is private vengeance ever justified? Is any dictatorial society ever blameless when time changes the balance of political power? Is there a judicial framework to cope with the evil of a repressive regime?
Certainly, all of those topics are timely, especially when one keeps up with the news. Lybia? Egypt? How about what will happen in Syria? Or what might happen in a post-Castro Cuba?
In Ariel Dorfman’s 1991 thriller – the oft-produced Death and the Maiden, the playwright opens all sorts of questions – even though his locale seems to be a South American country, probably his native Chile,
No matter what the locale, these subjects aptly dominates the current production at the Mosaic Theatre with a trio of outstanding acting, directorial excellence and inspired technical knowhow.
One becomes involved from the moment the verbal action lets loose. Paulina (an award-worthy performance by Laura Turnbull) is married to a human rights attorney Geraldo (Stephen G. Anthony) who has just been named by the President of this fictional country to look into the abuses of the former dictatorship. Paulina, who obviously has a mental problem, waits for her husband when a car pulls up to their beach house. Geraldo’s vehicle has broken down and he has been given a ride by a doctor named Roberto (Oscar Cheda). Paulina – who has a gun stashed in a table nearby, is convinced (by the sound of his voice) that this physician is the individual responsible for her torture and rape 20 years earlier.
Dorfman is an adept writer who needles you to take sides with the victim, her husband who wants to do the right thing and this doctor – who may or may not have been --in the previous dictatorship - the perpetrator of human rights violations. Those in the audience may feel somewhat as jurors, deciding who is the good guy – bad guy. All sorts of issues are put to the test. Can this lawyer believe that his wife is just imagining that this neighbor is the state agent responsible for her being violated? Can this civil rights attorney sit by and see this neighbor held at gunpoint, bound and gagged, as he protests his innocence?
Only, in the final moments, does the audience – becoming part of a jury – get to review the decisive arguments.
Death and the Maiden, is a he-said, she-said encounter where your sympathies will change as the drama evolves.
It is brilliantly directed by Avi Hoffman whose technical crew also become key elements to the suspense – technical director and scenic designer Douglas Grinn, lighting chief Suzanne Jones, sound designer Matt Corey, and costumer K. BlairBrown
But, first and foremost, are the actors. All three exemplify great skill in their performances. Turnbull lis extraordinary as the disturbed wife, Anthony is impressive as the husband –attorney wanting to believe his wife’s private horrors, and Cheda is a standout as the enigmatic individual who protests his innocence but has more and more actions to make us believe, he may have been the torturer, now getting a taste of his own medicine.
Death and the Maiden, was a hit originally in London, then in 1992 on Broadway with GlennClose, Richard Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman, directed by Mike Nichols. It was then made into a movie in 1954 by Roman Polanski with Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Stuart Wilson. It has been produced regionally over the years including in South Florida.
But this Mosaic cast, director and overall production can match up in excellence with any of the above.
Once again, Executive Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon has chosen a play which enhances Mosaic’s reputation as Broward County’s outstanding showcase for good drama.
This show runs through April 1. Call 954 577-8243 for tickets.
WEINER, DURKIN GIVE GREAT PERFORMANCES IN GABLESTAGE’S
TOPNOTCH “A STEADY RAIN” DIRECTED IN STYLE BY JOSEPH ADLER;
“WORKING” IS A MUSICAL CELEBRATION AT CALDWELL
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
It is the sounds of music at many of South Florida’s theatres this week, but the one-two punch for drama excellence goes to director Joseph Adler’s version of the Broadway hit A Steady Rain, the powerful melodrama written by Keith Huff about two Chicago cops. It is at GableStage until April 1.
Two seasons ago, A Steady Rain did 12 sell-out, limited run weeks on Broadway, with the two-hander fueled by the star power of Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. It was a smashing success artfully and financially and then Adler became one of the first producers to get the rights to bring it to life regionally. Fortunately, Adler – a multi-Carbonell Producer. Director at GableStage also knows how to cast like no one else. – He got two of South Florida’s best – also Carbonell recipients -- Gregg Weiner and Todd Allen Durkin – to take on the roles as the completely believable Chicago cops who have been pals since childhood.
The result of this well-written 90 minute play is a journey down Chi-town’s inner city street as these two friends – both of whom who have been passed over for promotions to detective because of racist remarks expand on their personal relationship and their dealings with the people whose life they are to protect. This eventually tests their loyalties and changes their lives forever. As their lifelong friendship is put to the ultimate test, both men must deal with honest relationships, out of control criminal events, jeopardizing one’s family, and trusting one another. It is a brutally uncompromising script seemingly taken out of yesterday’s headlines yet intimately personal about the relationship of two men who really care about one another.
Actually, the horrendous crime at the crux of this drama is taken from the real-life sin of Jeffery Dahmer, the serial killer/sex offender whose crimes involved rape, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism. Although Dahmer is not even mentioned in this dynamic script, it becomes the key to ripping apart the relationship of these two fictional cops. Playwright Kerr uses this criminal’s action to alter the lives of these two men. This script is brutal but not sensationalized and Kerr uses language totally realistic as one would find in the inner city where cops and criminals collide.
Despite the entire play being a duologue between the Italian-American Denny (Weiner) and his best buddy, the low-key Irish cop Joey (Durkin), it is filled with a plot as seen through both their eyes. The drama they discuss – including the reasons for their eventual split – seem much like a movie scenario. In fact, there have been reports in several publications that motion picture giant Stephen Spielberg is trying to get the film rights to this play.
Weiner plays the role of Denny with gusto. He’s the ruler of his small kingdom – a good buddy who is somewhat of a kindly, control freak in trying to run his friend’s life. it is a most robust role, as compared to Joey, the quiet, shy pal who hides his hidden desires. But Durkin spares nothing in his interpretation of Joey, a quiet, good-natured guy hungry with his own hopes, including being in love with his best friend’s wife. It is just one of the many conflicts the author has in store for his audience.
‘A Steady Rain” at GableStage has all the gritty drama about wayward working stiffs one would expect from a play which scored so highly in its limited Broadway run. And, you’ll find this cast in Coral Gables as equal to the task of excellence in entertaining and making one think as did the ones in NYC.
Call (305) 446-1116 for tickets.
AND, NOW, WORKING STIFFS SET TO MUSIC
AS CALDWELL ENTERTAINS WITH SIX VOCALISTS
Meanwhile, in a lighter mood but equally entertaining – and little to think about except to sit back and enjoy is the current Working, a long-time-in-coming musical, with a storyline by the late Chicago journalist Studs Turkel, who died in 2009 at age 96. Actually, this musical was first written and produced in 1977 when Turkell’s book swept America by storm in a time – much like today -- when work or the lack of it -- made daily headlines. But, this Working is an entire new version. It is brand new, created originally by Godspell and Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz, along with composer Nina Fasi. The other composers include Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) as well as music by Craig Carnella, Miki Grant, Mary Rodgers Birkenhead and James Taylor. If that sounds like a lot of musical talent for one show, do not despair. It works.
Caldwell’s multi-talented Artistic Director Clive Cholerton has put together a cast of six actors/vocalists who introduce us to some 26 working stiffs around the country, even detailing where they are from geographically, using a visual map created by veteran award-winning scenic designer Tim Bennett
And, can they sing!
It is a 95 minute treat as the audience meets the array of workers in the forms of South Florida singing/acting talent – Jim Ballard, Michael Focas, Laura Hodos, Kareema Khouri, Mellisa Minyard and Barry J. Tarallo.
These six plusthe keyboard expertise of Caryl Ginsburg-Fantel (also music director), Rupert Ziawinski on bass and Joel DeRuggiero on drums and the sometime-alternate musicians Rick Doll and Doug Mazzola make for an enjoyable evening or matinee of music at its most creative moments.
The people (Workers, we mean) whom we meet vocally are a cross-section of society…a long-distance trucker, a steel worker, caretakers for the young and elderly, retirees, a teacher, a waitress, a factory worker, a mason, a cleaning woman, even a lady of the night who isn’t doing that well and a cop who gives up his career to be a firefighter so he can help people (law enforcement veterans in attendance might not like the idea) , even an unemployed (my wife might argue with this) homemaker, just to mention some of the Working careers manifested in song.
It would be a disservice to single out any one of the six actor/vocalists. They are a terrific musical ensemble, who give their all in this delightful program.
It would be an error, however, not to mention Sean Lawson, who adds to the scenic allure of Working with his projections, That is one of the many elements that makes Working work!!
Working will be at Caldwell in Boca Raton through April 1. Call (561) 241-7432 for tickets.
MARGO MORELAND’S VOICE MAKES
THIS CHARITY SWEET IN BOCA RATON
Let’s be charitable. This is not a Shirley MacLaine motion picture nor is it a reprised Gwen Verdon dancing away in her Broadway hit. But, it is Margo Moreland and her excellent vocal chords doing her utmost to recreate Sweet Charity.
Moreland and her fellow actor Jeffrey Bruce are the two elements which make the visit worthwhile to the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park (Boca Raton Theatre Guild). ( In all fairness, the Lake Worth couple seated next to me who had never seen this musical before said they loved it!!!) . On a personal level, I silently wished Director Keith Garrson had a larger stage and more highly trained ensemble members to put on such numbers as Big Spender, There’s Got to be Something Better Than This, and Baby, Dream Your Dream. (And, did I doze off or did they cut one number from the original—Rich Man’s Fuge)?
Moreland. a Carbonell-winning star, does her utmost to capture the essence of the lovable dance hall hostess made famous in film and on Broadway. Director Garrson had the good sense to let her portray an over-30 character (and Bruce to be cast as a middle-aged man). He gave this version of Sweet Charity a sense of reality not a re-tread of an older version on film or on stage.
Sweet Charity is a musical with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. It was directed and choreographed for Broadway by Bob Fosse starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon. It is based on Federico Fellini's screenplay for Nights of Cabiria. However, where Fellini's black-and-white Italian film concerns the romantic ups-and-downs of an ever hopeful prostitute, in the musical the central character is a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, where it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and also ran in the West End as well as having revivals and international productions.The show was adapted for the screen in 1965 with Shirley MacLaine as Charity and John McMartin recreating his Broadway role. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed that film.
Give credit to Choreographer Stacey Einhorn and Music Director Roger Blankenship for using a small stage to its fullest.
If you are planning to see this show to compare it to its Broadway or cinema counterparts, don’t!! But, if you have never seen Sweet Charity before or just like to be entertained with spirited Broadway theatre music, join Moreland, Bruce and company at the Willow theatre.
Call (561) 948-2601 Tickets are $20. It runs through March 18.
MISCELLANEOUS MEMOS & HELLO DALI!
Don’t miss Billy Elliot at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. This hit Broadway musical runs through March 11. And, he word is out that the revival of South Pacific – not opening until April 10-22 – is already a hot ticket item. So, call 954.462.0222. Thus far, Billy Elliot has been settting road show records…Hello Dali!!! (I couldn’t possibly miss the chance to say that)-Aficionados of the acclaimed surrealist artist Salvador Dali will, for the first time in South Florida, have an extraordinary opportunity to view an extensive collection of work, Wednesday, March 7 through Sunday, March 11 when DALI MIAMI will bring more than 200 works of his expansive artistic repertoire to the Design District’s iconic Moore Building. DALI MIAMI is being produced by Michael Rosen, president and CEO of Colored Thumb, a driving force behind many of the area’s top art exhibits including Art Basel, Art Expo, and RedDot Fair. Curator of the show is Reed V. Horth President and curator of Robin Rile Fine Art, a specialist in Dali’s prodigious output. There will be a lavish opening night reception Wednesday, March 7: 7-10:30 p.m. ( $80 online ; $90 at the door). General Admission otherwise is $20 on line; $25 at door-- www.dalimiami.com. Further information, 720-771-0600……… Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 6, 2012 ( 11 A.M) at the .corner of N.E. 13th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, Miami for a special event: Judy Drucker, who has for more that 40 years been internationally renowned as South Florida’s major impresaria of classical music and dance and who continues to lead as Artistic Director of the Great Artists Series, Inc. will be honored at a formal dedication designated by the Florida Legislature as a roadway to be known as “Judy Drucker Boulevard…..Unfortunately, no more time to prove South Florida audiences are more perceptive than those in NYC. It’s too late to catch the distinctive voice of Kathleen Turner and see her as a different kind of nun trying to help a young gay addict give up drugs. It is a play which lasted but one week on Broadway (which I don’t understand because the play is well-crafted, especially for the strong-sounding Turner.) The play, High, by Matthew Lombardo is interesting and tackles a serious subject with humor and reality. There is the use of foul language, full frontal male nudity and a simulated rape which may have left squeamish audiences cold, but good drama is hard to find and deserves an audience. If not in NYC or Lauderdale,WHERE? -
( Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State,overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent is president of the South Florida International Press Club, a Carbonell voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
EXCELLENT ENSEMBLE AT PALM BEACH DRAMAWORKS
SHOWS ART AS MEANS OF UPWARD SOCIAL MOBILITY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
British playwright Lee Hall obviously has a proclivity for writing about the families of coal miners and their desire to express themselves individually and collectively through art and to step up on the social scale. In the musical Billy Elliot which opens this week at the Broward Center), Hall expresses the jump in status via a young coal miner’s son and his desire to dance. In Palm Beach Dramaworks’ latest production – The Pitmen Painters, he dramatically tells the factual story of five miners, grown men, who have worked in the mines since childhood but – in order to better themselves – enroll in an art appreciation class. This class expands its vision and we find the miners actually painting and sketching themselves. It is all based on a true story which got attention in the 1930s. It is an ensemble dream team as the five (scaled down from 11 in real life) who are mentored by an urban teacher ( John Leonard Thompson) who provides these men with brushes and canvasses so they can learn about art by creating it. Director J. Barry Lewis has scored another casting coup with the selection of the five miners – played astutely and with individual excellence by Dennis Creaghan, Declan Mooney, Colin McPhillamy. Rob Donohoe and Joby Earle. It is such an excellent ensemble that to single out any one performance would be an injustice. All five have perfected the Northern England dialect and seem as natural as one can expect onstage. Reality thrives in this production These five do not look like actors Instead they seem to have been physically brought up from the mines with the inherent desire to better themselves. They are inspirational. Betsy Graver as a model and Kim Cozort as a wealthy art collector (and painter collector) add to the A-One casting. The scenery by Michael Amico, along with lighting by Ron Burns, sound by Matt Corey and costuming by Erin Amico add to the authenticity. This show has received such glowing reviews and audience reaction that Producing Artistic Director William Hayes has already extended its run until March 18. Call ahead for tickets ( 561) 514-4042.
RED AND JOSEPH AGAIN
Art is also the subject of an inspired production of Red which recently closed a successful run at Maltz Jupiter theatre, starring NY actors Mark Zeisler and JD Taylor. If that sounds familiar, it is understandable. Through some sort of mis-communication or a fluke in scheduling, the same play –with a South Florida cast – Gregg Weiner and Ryan Didato – hit a high mark several months ago with its outstanding production at GableStage in Coral Gables. It was the end of 2011 and the Gables production was Carbonell eligible, nabbing nominations for both actors and director Joe Adler. Most people will argue rationally that GableStage and Maltz target different audiences, even if they are just 90 minutes /miles apart. Still South Florida is such a large megalopolis it would be nice if producers got together and discussed their seasons – at least for the real theatre aficionados who will go almost any distance to see a good show. The scheduling duet (or is it duel) continues again this coming week when Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opens at Actors’ Playhouse for a March 7-April 8 run. It closed a hit run in December at Maltz Jupiter. At Actors” Playhouse, the oft-produced Andrew Lloyd Webber- Tim Rice musical will be directed by David Arisco and has a large cast including such mostly familiar faces such as Josh Canfield , Amy Miller Brennan, Nick Duckart, Carl Waisanen, Sarah Amengual, Phillip de la Cal, Renata Eastlick, Henry Gainza, Christopher A. Kent, Celia Louise Merendi, Eric Michaud, David Perez-Ribada, Nikki Allred, Colleen Amaya, Clay Cartland, Aaron Goldenberg, John Hensley, Walter Kemp, Leslie McQueen, Ivore Rousell, and Nicolette Sweeney. With a cast this large, all Joseph needs is family members of those onstage to purchase theatre tickets for an automatic sell-out……… Meanwhile, Maltz artistic chief AndrewKato is kvelling over his record number of Carbonell nominations, especially for a Maltz’s production of Joseph last December, less than 3 months ago. Among the Carbonell nominations for Joseph are Best Production of a Musical, Best Director/Musical (Mark Martino), Best Actor/Musical (John Pinto), Best Supporting Actor/Musical (Ryan William), Musical Direction/Musical (KIm Douglas Steiner), best costume design (Jose M. Rivera), Best Sound Design/play or musical (Marty Mets), lighting (Paul Black), and Choreography ( again the multi-talented Mark Martino).
HERE COMES MICHAEL MCKEEVER
South Florida theatre-goers have great expectations when they hear that prolific, award-winning playwright Michael McKeever has written a new play. McKeever. without a doubt, is Florida’s best known and most liked playwright and, though his plays are now produced world-wide, his hometown audience still flips when the author of Melt, South Beach Babylon, Stuff and now, Moscow unveils a new project. Despite its name, Moscow, like many of McKeeever’s writing, takes place in Miami. It is set in 1963 when the world was changing – the Kennedy assassination, the Cold War, the influx of Cubans and how they all collide – in a comic manner. Director Stuart Meltzer and McKeever -- in days when small casts have set the style, primarily for economic reasons -- have put together an outstanding list ready to perform. That includes Irene Adjan, Lela Elam, Elena Maria Garcia, Margery Lowe, Tom Wahl and newcomer Luis Restrepo. Moscow is set for a March 29-April 15 run by Zoetic Stage at the Carnival Studio Theatre (at the Arsht Center). For ticketing, call 305 949-6722.
ONE MORE TIME FOR THE COUCH WITH LAUGHTER
It’s familiar because it has been done so many times by different comics. The title alone draws one into beieving this is going to be a night of humor – and it is! Only, this time it will be delivered by the author himself -- playwright/comic Steve Solomon. Brooklyn born, Boynton Beach resident Solomon will perform in his award winning show My Mother’s ’ Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts for a limited 2-week engagement, March 14th through March 25th. In 2011, Solomon delivered his comedy to audiences throughout the country but he says “There’s nothing like a South Florida crowd…. After the show, you ask the audience how they’re doing and they all tell you. “ His show, however, will reach a production milestone in 2012—two thousand performances spanning dozens of states, Canada, South Africa and (in October) Australia. According to his press aide, Solomon has added a lot of new material to spice up the Coral Springs production. Described as “One part lasagna, one part kreplach, and two parts Prozac,” you don’t have to be Jewish or Italian to love this show. All you need is to know what it feels like to leave a family dinner with heartburn and a headache, ” Solomon says. Tickets can be purchased at www.ItalianJewish.com or www.coralspringscenterforthearts.com or by calling the Box Office at 954-344-599
AND, NOW THE BAD NEWS
Thetheatre community got the news on the front page of the local section of the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Theatre critic and stage guru Christine Dolen finally reported what had been rumored for days – “Money Troubles to close curtains of another theatre.” This time it is the Promethean , the eight year old company at Nova Southeastern University . It will shutter down after the March 9-25 run of its final production, Craig Wright’s mystery, The Unseen starring Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez and Andrew WIind. Promethean is the second Broward company to announce it was ceasing operations. Earlier, Women’s Theatre Project a 10-year-old company announced it no longer had its downtown Lauderdale space and was reshuffling its efforts to reopen. Promethean – which gained a reputation for excellence --- was founded by super-actress Deborah Sherman and fellow thespian Beth McIntosh – and has also been the home of resident director Margaret Ledford. It had gained a reputation for quality productions. The loss of such troupes follows the heels of Florida Stage’s closure in Palm Beach county, the expected bankruptcy proceedings of Caldwell in Boca and hints/rumors of more bad news to come, especially for smaller and newer companies, without strong donor support.
Casting in South Florida gets better all the time. Within the coming days,there will be a spurt in casting assignments which will knockout the industry. Carbonell winners and 2011 nominees Gregg Weiner and Todd Alan Durkin will share the billboard at GableStage from March 3 to April 1. The play is Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain – the hard hitting Broadway smash which ‘chronicles love and rage on the streets of Chicago.’ A domestic disturbance call sends two cops, friends since childhood, on a harrowing journey that will test their loyalties and change their lives forever With those two South Florida favorites in the cast, it should be a sell-out, Award-winning director Joseph Adler is in charge,…….Boca residents should flock to the newest version of Sweet Charity , starring the multi-talented Margot Moreland. Also in the Tony Award-winning musical is South Florida favorite Jeffrey Bruce. Sweet Charity will be presented by the Boca Raton Theatre Guild at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park from March 2.-18, 2012. Director is KeithGarsson…Artistic Director .Richard Jay Simon has some winners ready to take the stage at Mosaic in Plantation for another Broadway hit -- -Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman. It will run from March 8 to April 1. This play was a big hit in London and NYC. The Mosaic cast includes several South Florida favorites – Stephen G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull and Oscar Chedaa
( Ron Levitt, an entertainment/travel / political writer, served as Assistant Secretary of State, overseeing cultural affairs. The former United Press Correspondent is president of the South Florida International Press Club, a Carbonell voter, advisor to the South Florida Theatre League and WLRN Public Radio & Television, as well as a syndicated theatre columnist. To reach this column, contact email@example.com).
WORLD PREMIERE OF WINTER
IS A-ONE AT NEW THEATRE
By Ron Levitt
Florikda Media News / ENV Magazine
MIAMI -- Ever since Cain and Abel, writers have been scripting about sibling rivalry, troubled families and dysfunctional children. But, it gets a new twist -- with some intelligent and humorous dialogue at the New Theatre with the world premiere of Robert Caisley’s Winter
It seems simple enough! There’s a long-standing blood feud between fraternal twins, Peter (Scott Douglas Wilson) and Christina (Annemaria Rajala), both of whom find it “inconvenient” for their careers (as a college professor/wannabe author and successful international pharmaceutical sales rep respectively) to attend the funeral of their widowed mother. But, they show up for the final rites (a cremation) only to discover that the mysterious, young live-in caretaker (Nicole Quintana) of their neglected mom has a relationship which deeply affects the siblings in more ways than one can imagine.
Only the audience gets to also meet the ghost of the mother (the lovely Barbara Sloan), whose phantom-like exposition sheds more light on this witty yet dramatic situation
Director Ricky J. Martinez obviously has moved the author’s words and action to display a realistic (however, uncomfortable) troubled family scene. This is an extraordinary play which thanks to Martinez and the author, it moves along at a quick pace in its 90 minutes, one-act premiere. Author Caisley has a classic style of writing which has major impact in understanding the characters. He is Associate Professor of Theatre and Film at the University of Idaho whose plays have received national attention. Winter is a testament to his writing skills.
It should be noted that actor Nicole Quintana was also set designer – an upper-crust London home. Eric
Cantrell handled the lighting and Alexis Bonilla, the sound. K Blair Brown did the costuming.
The entire cast deserves attention and applause, especially 2011 Carbonell nominee Scott Douglas Wilson), who makes the most of a showy character. Ditto for Annemaria Rajala, the Finnish beauty, now living in San Francisco (unfortunately) but returning often to Miami for stage appearances,
Winter runs through February 19. Call (305) 443-5909.
BROOKLYN BOY WITH AVI HOFFMAN:
A FUNNY, INTELLIGENT PLAY LAUNCHES NEW COMPANY
By Ron Levitt
Florida Media News / ENV Magazine
BOCA RATON, FL -- The play – Brooklyn Boy -- would be a misnomer to some who will tell you it is not about a borough in New York nor about a youngster. It is a funny, intelligent story of a successful middle-aged writer without a place to call home.
It is also a fitting and perfectly selected drawn-from-life comedy to initiate Parade Productions here – a new company debuting at the Studio in Mizner Park, a 230-seat theatre on the site of what once was the Cartoon Museum, but, despite the constant laughter heard during the run of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies’ Brooklyn Boy, this is serious theatre, strongly produced to kick off this new not-for-profit company. Hoffman and his supporting ensemble now gives Parade Productions bragging rights as a legit theatre in its most professional form as it readies for its coming season, a limited play reading in April and a yet to be announced show for its second production.
The producers could not have picked a better play to debut Parade Productions. Despite its dramatic impact, it is a feel-good, entertaining play which had a successful Broadway run in 2005 (on the heels of Margulies’ Pulitzer smash Dinner With Friends). It was introduced to South Florida the same year by GableStage in Coral Gables But from the reaction here in Boca, it seems like a brand new play, with a standing ovation.
Hoffman is in top form as Eric Weiss, a writer struggling with his new found fame while trying to diminish