Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Scene for June 27, 2008

The Miami Herald:

The Herald's "Critic's Pick" for this week is Shining City at GableStage. It opened last Saturday, and runs through July 20th. No review, but Christine Dolen is a faithful blogger; a story about an up and coming playwright, and an observation of young theatre patrons exhibiting daring new behavior: illicitly shooting video of a live performance.
"Then I noticed two people capturing video -- both with the chatty kids' group. An usher stopped a teenaged boy, who cooled it until the guy walked out, then resumed shooting. The other man looked to be old enough to be the kid's grandfather."
Meanwhile, the Heralds' Jordan Levin reviews CELIA: The Life & Music of Celia Cruz, and ultimately finds it wanting:
"Backed by a fine, tight seven-piece musical ensemble led by Isidro Infante, the voluptuous Gathers not only looks like Cruz but sounds like her, with a rich, gutsy voice that does full justice to Cruz favorites...

"But the music couldn't make up for the flatness of the story."
CELIA: The Life & Music of Celia Cruz plays the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through July 6.

The Sun Sentinel:

Jack Zink reviewed Pete 'n' Keely, Caldwell Theatre's summer offering. It's hard not to like anything with Connie Saloutos, but not, alas, impossible:

"The more Connie Saloutos and Alberto Stévans sing and swing, the more labored this former off-Broadway valentine becomes. Its fizz — and there is soooo much of it — foams limply over a series of killer vocal arrangements of songs by composer Patrick Brady and lyricist Mark Waldrop."
But wait - it's not all bad:
"In its defense, there are worse musicals you can wander through in
search of a laugh. It's worth continuing the search for the groove,
which can't be too far off."

The Sun-Sentinel's Stage Bill is fully loaded this week: who says these are the "dog days" of summer? First up, Dream A Little Dream opens tonight at Florida Stage. This is the "nearly true" musical biography of the popular 60's quartet The Mamas and the Papas. It runs through July 20th in Manalapan.

Also up is The Last Five Years, the acclaimed musical by Jason Robert Brown. This 2002 Off-Broadway favorite is being presented by The Tamarac Theatre. This is the musical that follows a relationship in two directions: the boy tells it moving forward from the beginning, the girl from their breakup, moving back towards their first meeting. This one is community theater, but it's a rarely produced show, and one worth seeing. You have every Saturday and Sunday from now until July 20th to do it.

Florida Atlantic University is running its Summer Festival Repertory. This week it's A Thurber Carnival, several of James Thurber's best stories brought to life onstage. Thurber is best know for his cartoons and commentary from the New Yorker magazine, and his classic story THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY was turned into a movie starring Danny Kaye. Also playing this week: Carousel. Evita arrives on July 11.

The Palm Beach Post:

Hap Erstein also saw Pete 'n' Keely at the Caldwell. But he seems to have enjoyed it just a little more than Jack Zink did:
"Nothing happens that is unexpected, but SaLoutos has a talent for making even the stalest comic gambits seem fresh. "
Hap also writes about Florida Stage's production of Dream a Little Dream, the aforementioned "nearly true" biography of The Mamas and The Papas.
Their story - or at least one version of it - is related in a jukebox musical, Dream a Little Dream, opening Friday evening at Manalapan's Florida Stage. Or maybe it should be considered as a whole new category of shows, the rebuttal musical.

"It's like anything else, if you ask four people who were at someplace to tell you the events that happened, you're going to get four different interpretations," notes (director Michael) Barnard. "This is mainly Denny's point of view of what transpired."

The New Times

This week, Brandon K Thorp writes on Shining City, which opened Saturday at GableStage - but not right away. About half the article is a diatribe on Paul Winthrop.


Because Ronald Reagan misquoted Winthrop


What can we say? It's Brandon. Even he doesn't seem to know why he does it:
'It's difficult to say what, if anything, this quote has to do with Conor McPherson's Shining City.'
Does the rest of the review have anything to do with the play? Hell if I can tell. If you figure it out, please post it in the comments section.

Me, I'm hitting the sack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spotlight: Larry Fields, for no particular reason

I don't know Larry Fields. As far as I know, I haven't seen him onstage. But I've read his bio, and now you can, too.

It's certainly the I've read in a while.

LARRY FIELDS (Geoffrey Duncan) is happy to be making his first appearance with Rising Action Theatre. Larry is a full-time theatre arts professional who has performed at Actors' Playhouse, Fantasy Theatre Factory, 4th Dimension of South Beach, and most recently to critical acclaim at Edge Theatre, where the venerable theatre critic Mary Damiano studiously noted his "obvious lack of comedic timing or ability to effectively deliver a line." Larry wishes to thank Mrs. Damiano for her continued enthusiastic support. In addition to being one of South Florida's most talented and unappreciated actors, Larry enjoys meeting with random tricks from the internet (if you are a random trick from the internet, please see Larry after the show), and being mean to his good Christian family in Ohio. Mr. Fields has no significant other to thank for their support, although he does have one cat (whom he abuses). Fun Fact: Larry, like Geoffrey in the play, is a bisexual. Larry realizes that all the homosexual people in the audience think this is bullshit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Name-dropping: The cast of Midlife: The Crisis Musical

Dave Arisco asked me to shoot some promo pix for his upcoming production of MIDLIFE: The Crisis Musical. I've taken a few pictures for him in the last year, and I always enjoy it. He always feels a little guilty about asking for the favor, but it gives me the opportunity to work on this kind of shot. And I've really learned a lot since the first set I did for him. I'm a much better photographer for it.

This time, I knew just about everyone in the cast, so I was really looking forward to the shoot.

Wayne Steadman and I actually appeared in a few shows together; he was El Gallo to my Bellamy in The Fantasticks at the old Actors' Rep. We were directed by Nancy Barnett, now General Manager at Florida Stage. The only other name from that production that you would know is Craig Ames, the musical director. Craig is still one of the area's best MDs. 20-some years later, Wayne is just now starting to get the recognition he deserves. Kudos, Wayne.

I first worked with Lourelene when I went on as an understudy in Minnie's Boy's at the old Florida Rep (not the new one in Fort Myers). She gave me one of my best reviews ever: during my scene as a Texas theater owner recruiting the Marx Brothers, Lourelene commented to the stage manager that "it's nice to finally see a Texan up there instead of a gay chorus boy!"

Margot Moreland and I first met at the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre. She's threatened me with bodily harm if I ever mention how long ago that was, but she was an intern. Few of her classmates have gone as far as she has in theatre.

Clockwise from Top Right: Margot Moreland, Maribeth Graham,
Wayne Steadman, Alan Baker, Lourelene Snedker, and Barry Tarallo.

I met Barry at Actors' Playhouse, and I met Maribeth through Barry. But I know so many people who know Maribeth that sometimes I feel like I know her even though we've only bumped into each other a few times over the years.

Alan Baker is the newest acquaintance: I met him when he came in to do Urinetown last year. He finally got around to the little 'greasy spoon' restaurant I recommended to him then. "What a great place! I'm going to be in there a lot! Thanks!"

Midlife: The Crisis Musical is the kind of show that David Arisco is best at. I'm looking forward to seeing how it comes out. If it's even half as good as Five Course Love or I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, it will be a great night out.

MIDLIFE: The Crisis Musical opens on July 9th and runs through August 10th in the Miracle Theater's intimate Balcony Theatre. See the Actors' Playhouse website for more details.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Scene for June 20, 2008

The reviews are in for Mosaic Theatre's production of Neil LaBute's Wrecks:

The Miami Herald's Christine Dolan praises Gordon McConnell's performance, and admires Sean McClelland's set, but doesn't think much of the play itself. She also didn't think much of the addition of "mourners," essentially extras seated on stage to fill out the funeral that is the vehicle for the plot:
"These embellishments, however, ultimately don't obscure the fact that LaBute's slender monologue isn't much more than the carefully crafted setup for another aren't-men-awful payoff.

"McConnell, who is such a fine actor that he seems to be making Carr's words up as he goes along, conveys all of the character's emotional shadings and contradictions. But sitting in a smoke-filled room just to recoil at LaBute's gimmicky payoff? Not such fun."

Jack Zink at the Sun-Sentinel also lauds sets and McConnell's performance:
" creates a top-notch environment for an extraordinary performance by leading man Gordon McConnell..."
Overall, it seems that Jack enjoyed the show more than Christine, even mentioning that the addition of the mourners as "helping" set the scene for the show.

Which brings us to Brendan K. Thorp at the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. I had to read it several times to figure out what Brandon was trying to say. Most of his...article...(I can't call it a review) doesn't deal with the production of this play so much as Brandon's reaction to what he thinks the play might be.

How did he feel about McConnell's performance?
"As widower Edward Carr, Gordon McConnell looks cool in his fitted suit, dark glasses and blank stare, like a 50-something James Dean, respectable but still dangerous."
Uh huh. But was it good?
"McConnell's Carr spends most of his 75 minutes saying a whole lot of not much, and you feel bad for the guy even while wishing you were almost anywhere else but the Mosaic Theatre."
But was that because of the role or McConnell's portrayal?
"All you know is that this guy loved his wife a great deal, and now she's dead."
I don't think Brandon can answer that. He doesn't discuss the acting of Gordon McConnell, or the scenery, or Richard Jay Simon's staging, or indeed anything significant about the production.

After multiple readings, I really can't decide if Brandon actually SAW the play, or if he just read the script. That's because virtually every word he wrote, with the exceptions that I quoted here, deal solely with Neil LaBute's writing.
"For a long time, LaBute couldn't help but posit humanity as a craven, self-centered species whose members had no utility except in dishing out punishments to one another in a circle of endless flogging. The man pictured in Wrecks is not of that order, nor is the woman he loved. Yes, he has done something foul, something that would make him an outcast from all the human community if it were ever revealed. It's just that, in this instance, LaBute has made it clear that neither Carr nor his wife wanted it that way."
Fine. Great. So how was the production you saw? Did Richard J and Gordon do it justice? This isn't a college playwrighting course, Brandon, we want to know about the PRODUCTION OF the play.

City Theatre's extended Summer Shorts program continues through Sunday at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, and then moves up for one weekend at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

You should be forewarned that their UNDERSHORTS program won't be playing in Broward; if you want to see the R-rated program, you've got until this Saturday, June 21.

The good news is that they will be running their Shorts 4 Kids program. See their website for details.


The Jesus Quintero Studio production of The Trials of Young Werther is running through June 28th at the Miami Light Project's space in downtown Miami. Tickets are available through TheatreMania. Theatre Row has a good write-up of the production, and a video clip.


GableStage in Coral Gables is opening the southeastern premiere of Shining City this weekend. The cast includes John Bixler, Deborah L. Sherman, Ricky Waugh, and Greg Weiner.

Rising Action Theatre Company in Fort Lauderdale opens The Sisters Rosenweig.

M Ensemble Actors' Studio in North Miami opens The Fannie Lou Hamer Story, the compelling depiction of a woman who defined he term 'freedom fighter.'

Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton is opening Pete 'n' Keely this weekend. This is a "revue-sical" featuring Carbonell Award winner Connie Saloutos and Alberto Stévans.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tony Awards: South Florida Wins!

While the Tony Awards celebrate shows playing on Broadway, one show has strong South Florida connections: that show is this year's winner for Best Musical, In The Heights.

Alex Lacamoire, who took home the Tony for his orchestrations is one of ours. So are Andréa Burns, Janet Dacal, Carlos Gomez, Nina Lafarga, Tony Chiroldes, Afra Hines and Joshua Henry.

Andréa Burns and Janet Dacal from In the Heights
Photo from the Miami Herald

Congratulations to the cast, crew, and creators of In the Heights, regardless of where you're from!

Complete list of winners:

Best Play
August: Osage County
Author: Tracy Letts

Best Musical
In The Heights

Best Book of a Musical
Passing Strange - Stew

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
In The Heights - Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Best Revival of a Play

Best Revival of a Musical
South Pacific

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Paulo Szot, South Pacific

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, Gypsy

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Jim Norton, The Seafarer

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Gypsy

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Michael Yeargan, South Pacific

Best Costume Design of a Play
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Catherine Zuber, South Pacific

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, South Pacific

Best Sound Design of a Play
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Scott Lehrer, South Pacific

Best Direction of a Play
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County

Best Direction of a Musical
Bartlett Sher, South Pacific

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights

Best Orchestrations
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In The Heights

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), in recognition of his historic
contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations,
as represented on Broadway this season by South Pacific.

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Scene for June 13, 2008

Friday the thirteenth! No wonder I'm late posting this week's "Scene!"

No surprise: City Theater is the critic's choice at the Herald. Undershorts is the mature version of Summer Shorts. A little edgier, a little more mature. Christine also recommends Neil LaBute's Wrecks, opening this weekend at Mosaic Theatre in Plantation. Gordon McConnell doing Neil LaBute solo. I'd pay money to see it. Wait, that might not have come out right....anyway, Gordon has all the lines, and is joined onstage by a rotating cast of extras filling in as mourners at a funeral, with McConnell delivering the eulogy.

The Sun-Sentinel's Stage Bill also recommends Wrecks, describing it as a "tour de force." No arguments from me! Jack also discusses Mosaic Theatre's announcement of its upcoming season.

The Palm Beach Post's Hap Erstein didn't care for The Great American Trailer Park Musical at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, calling it "An amusing notion stretched beyond its welcome point into a two-hour evening..." Ouch! Anyway, it plays for another week in West Palm Beach.

Hap also alerts us that
New Vista Theatre Company is opening Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Its very talented cast features Avi Hoffman, Oscar Cheda, Samara Dunn, Wayne Legette, and Stacy Schwartz. But best of all, we learn that the critic is stepping up onstage. He will be one of the mourners in Wrecks at Mosaic Theatre. And if you're a member of the stage actors' union, you get into this Sunday's matinee for free. For the rest of us, this might be the best show to see!

Jesus Christ Superstar loaded in today at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. This very limited engagement runs tonight through Thursday, June 19th, and features Ted Neely as Jesus. Yes, THAT Ted Neely!

Nothing in the Miami New Times, but Brandon K. Thorp covers The Exceptional Theatre Company for the Broward/Palm Beach edition. Never heard of them? It's a company dedicated to teaching theater to those with special needs. That's right, all the performers have been diagnosed with mental retardation, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, or some other developmental disability.

It's not the kid of story you'd associate with Brandon, but he carries it off well. Definitely worth a read.

The critically acclaimed production of Benefactors closes this week at Palm Beach Dramaworks, as does Ordinary Nation at Florida Stage.

As always, check for more complete theatre listings.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Year Anniversary!

It was one year ago today that I launched the South Florida Theatre Scene. I had high hopes back then:
"I'm trying to foster a deeper exposure to theater than just "here are the shows we're doing." I want to create an environment where people can get excited about the theatre happening in our community. I want to get butts in seats."
My original intent was to get a bunch of contributors from many different theaters and disciplines within theatre to each put up one story a month. I sent out emails to dozens of friends and colleagues. In the first few weeks, I was up to eight other contributors!!

But of those eight, only two posted anything; one audition notice a piece. Since then, it's been all me.

Early on, I was doing more mini-articles. Since I was working at Actors' Playhouse at the time, there was an admittedly high number of Playhouse related stories. But I'm still proud of them; I still like this piece on Tomfoolery. The shot of Dave Arisco demonstrating a dance move to the cast is exactly the kind of peek behind the scenes I wanted.

But if I had intended to do an Actors' Playhouse blog, I would have done one. But while it would have kept me endlessly entertained doing the job of the Playhouse's PR department (whoever she is this month), frankly, even I don't think that I could have made a one-theatre-blog interesting to anyone outside the company.

I've done a lot of tweaking; the links to the theaters was an obvious beginning, but the RSS feeds make the page genuinely useful. Even if you don't read anything I post, you can always find links to articles and reviews here. Frankly, it's probably easier to find a Herald or Sentinel review here than their own website.

After all, that's why I was inspired to add them.

From there, I realized that what would REALLY be useful was a round up of what's playing each week. The first edition of The Scene appeared in January.

So every week, I basically re-created my own version of the listings at

Which I did eventually realize, since I consulted it for leads. The current format of The Scene is an aggregation of all the news stories about what's opening or what's being discussed, and the occasional show that I am aware of through personal contacts.

The Theatre Scene gets between 30 and 50 visitors a day, peaking on Thursdays, which is when I usually get The Scene posted.

The most popular post of all time? I don't know why, but it's a story from December. I have no idea why it has had so many visits, and I find Google Search hits on it every single week. The story is "Mosaic Partners with Barnes & Noble Tonight!" (I've recently removed this story to prevent further dead-end hits)

I also get people looking for Coconut Grove Playhouse stories and auditions, but you expect that.

It's not the blog I envisioned, but I'm proud of it nonetheless. I think it's becoming a touchstone for people who are interested in theater.

So thank you for your interest! Keep going to the theatre!

And if you're interested in contributing, email me at cljahn AT netscape DOT net.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Notice of Change

I am going to be removing some past posts that are no longer relevant; audition notices, special tickets deals, and things of that nature.

A lot of people searching for auditions on Google keep landing on last year's auditions notices, and I've realized that it's a disservice to keep time-sensitive data active on the blog.

Let me know if you are looking for a past article that's gone missing, I do have them archived.

Carry on!

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Theatre Blog!

There are now TWO blogs covering the South Florida Theatre Scene; this one, and Theatre Row.

Theatre Row started back in April, but had 11 posts up in May, which is better than two posts a week.

So far, the Theatre Row seems to publish mostly promotional material about shows gleaned from the websites of their various producers. I did something similar for awhile, but found it took a lot more time than I had available for the activity. I pared it down to the weekly "The Scene" posts, which is a recap of shows in the press instead of extensive blurbs about each show. They describe the shows in detail, and have complete cast lists for many shows. It's nice that someone has the time for the fuller approach at Theatre Row.
I do have two nitpicks:
  1. They have a soundtrack going; not exactly office friendly. If there's a way to mute it, I couldn't find it.
  2. They don't have any active links in any of the articles. This is the internet; you should be able to click on a link to visit the page of the theatre or production in question.
But those are minor issues; it's a new undertaking, and I'm sure they're still developing the site.
I wish them the best of luck: there's lots of theatre to cover. It's nice to know there's someone else out there. So for your convenience, they've been added to the sidebar; clicking on an article title takes you directly to their blog.
Break a leg, Theatre Row!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Scene for June 6, 2008

Two more weeks until it's officially summer in Florida, but it's close enough; City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival is now playing.

Christine Dolen's review in the Herald leads the pack of critical praise.
"Under new artistic director Stuart Meltzer, the 13-year-old festival is consistently good, and some of the pieces are riotously funny, deeply disturbing or undeniably touching."

Sun-Sentinel's Jack Zink finds Summer Shorts awakening his sweet tooth:
"Summer Shorts is entertainment by the bagful, like jelly beans ranging from those spicy cinnamon reds to the fruity pastels and the tart licorice blacks."

Brandon K. Thorp's column in the Miami New Times continues the Summer Shorts love-fest;
"Last year, I stupidly tried reviewing every single Signature Shorts play, but fuck that."
Oh, sorry, that's Brandon reviewing himself again. Sorry. I couldn't resist. This year he doesn't go on to review every single play, but he does single out more of them than was probably strictly necessary for a review of the overall festival. Not that's it's not worth reading.

Here's something Brandon wrote about the entire Summer Shorts Festival:
"... the actors are probably the best thing about this year's Summer Shorts. This has nothing to do with any shortcomings in the bulk of the plays. It's just that Tei, Garcia, Stephen Trovillion, Kim Ostrenko, Antonio Amadeo, Terry Hardcastle, Nick Duckhardt, and especially Laura Turnbull are giving some of the most committed, vibrant performances in recent South Florida theatrical memory."
But Brandon also covers the offerings from the new kid on the block, the Pinecrest Repertory Theatre. PRT arises from the site of the old Parrot Jungle, using the ampitheatre left behind when that venerable institution left Pinecrest Gardens for its current location on the causeway.

Pinecrest Rep is a classic outdoor theatre, in that they only perform under daylight. And their one-acts aren't new and untested pieces, but two classic pieces by masters of their craft: Tennessee Williams's 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and A. R. Gurney's The Golden Fleece.

Brandon reports that while romantic, the current format has some...drawbacks:
"(1) the light is at its least dramatic, (2) the mosquitoes are out in force, and (3) several large nearby animals begin cawing for their supper (or whatever it is they're cawing for), often drowning out the unamplified actors."
But it's not all bad:
"Even as-is, the company's two one-acts — Tennessee Williams's 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and A. R. Gurney's The Golden Fleece — are worth seeing.

Edge Theatre's Jim Tommaney guest-directs the former, and although I've said before that Tommaney is a director with too broad a stroke, maybe he has simply been waiting for a decent cast. Or maybe he needs a venue this large to be appreciated."

We don't get a lot of outdoor theater in Florida; but it was good enough for Shakespeare. Best to see it before summer REALLY kicks in.

Moving slightly northwards and to the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, Brandon reviews Judy Garland's Back at the Rising Action Theatre in Fort Lauderdale. Brandon found Tommy Femia's impersonation of Judy Garland personable enough, but seems to have some mixed feelings about it:
"Sit in the audience at Rising Action Theatre for an hour or so, and you may look around at the almost entirely gay crowd surrounding you, and wonder: Why are these people here? "
Well, it's not for lack of choices.

I do want to mention The Sorrows Of Young Werther, re-mounted by the Jesus Quintero Studio at the Miami Light Project. This was a widely praised production, and we're fortunate to have another chance to see it. Christine Dolen blogs about it in Drama Queen; see the side bar on the right to click through to any of the stories on her blog.

Benefactors has another week to go at Palm Beach Dramaworks, and Ordinary Nation continues at Florida Stage.

As always, check for more complete theatre listings.